Archives for May, 2012
The lies we remember most are those that go with a complete betrayal, or that result in a feeling we've been conned. Those lies can destroy relationships. But the most frequent lies are those white lies we hear on a daily basis, the ones that are almost automatic and seem socially acceptable as long as they aren't revealed. People will say you look wonderful when you don't, that they had a great time when they didn't and that they would never have guessed you've gained weight when you are twenty pounds heavier. In "The Liar in Your Life," Heldman says there is probably no one in our lives who is strictly, exclusively honest with us - who always tells the truth. He believes that everyone lies, including you and me. And we lie to ourselves as well. He suggests that the issue really is how we deal with deception.
Not too long ago, a reader sent an email asking why emotionally sensitive people lie. Her question suggested that the emotionally sensitive lie more frequently than people who aren't emotionally sensitive. Her email made me curious. What are the reasons people lie? Do emotionally sensitive people lie more than others? People Lie Without Thinking Robert Feldman, who wrote "The Liar in Your Life," and has studied lying for more that four decades, said in an interview, "Not only do we lie frequently, but we lie without even thinking about it. People lie while they are getting acquainted an average of three times in a 10-minute period. Participants in my studies actually are not aware that they are lying that much until they watch videos of their interactions."
In the book, "Why We Make Mistakes," Joseph Hallinan relates an amazing story about a 1972 airplane crash. When Captain Robert Lofe, the pilot of Eastern Airlines Flight 401, was making his final approach to Miami International Airport, he noticed something was wrong. He had put the landing gear down, but the indicator light didn't come on. He circled around and decided to level off to determine what the problem was. He didn't have a clue, so he called in the first officer. The first officer didn't know either so they called in the flight engineer. Pretty soon no one was flying the plane, which was going lower and lower. The captain's last words reportedly were "Hey! What's happening here?" The plane crashed into the Everglades and burst into flames, killing ninety-nine people, including Captain Loft. The reason for the crash was because the crew became so engrossed in a task that they lost awareness of their situation--all because of a $12 light bulb.
Kelly's weekdays are filled with pain. She's a caring friend; one who takes on the pain of the people in her life. Her college student niece whose heart is broken, the young wife next door who feels empty and hollow despite having the life she once dreamed of and the middle-aged friend whose life hasn't met his expectations. All their emotions, and those of others, stay with her in one way or another until she replenishes herself and lets them go. Being an emotionally sensitive person and an introvert, time to recoup through solitary activities like reading is crucial for her to live a contented life. It's the first chapter in her owner's manual for herself.
Emotionally sensitive people are often creative and able to think outside the box. When it comes to solving problems though, their emotions can get in the way of using their strengths. Problems can be upsetting, and emotionally sensitive people tend to get easily discouraged, so they avoid problems or spend so little thinking about solutions that they have little hope the solutions are out there. Others have the idea that problems are easier to solve than they are and so they blame themselves when they aren't able to come up with solutions quickly and easily. They may see the difficulty they are experiencing as a reflection of their being broken or inadequate in some way, such as being too inconsistent or not smart enough or too lazy. Usually, the character flaw the emotionally sensitive are certain they have comes from people telling them that negative events happened in their life because they are a certain way. When you're told that at a young age it often becomes true at such a deep level you don't question it. Others don't face problems because they don't want the tension or fear that comes with problems.
Many of us might wish there weren't so many problems in life. "If only" keeps us stuck, just like, "Why me?" We'd rather have a life that flows effortlessly. Given that life is full of problems, maybe the best option is to get really good at solving them. Sometimes problems come because we make bad decisions. Some come because of our relationships with others and some come through the thoughtlessness of others. Some of our problems come from our own feelings and ways of looking at life. Effective problem-solving improve your sense of well-being, your mood, your hope and self-confidence. Learning how to solve problems can improve your overall health. Moreover, problem-solving skills can be taught. People aren't born knowing how to solve problems.
"He's a stupid idiot," "I'm a total loser," or "I've just had a horrible day" are common statements we make when we are frustrated, tired, overwhelmed or embarrassed. Such statements often serve to express intense feelings after difficult events. So what's the harm? In general, the main issue is that judgmental statements tend to increase our emotional upset. But there are other concerns as well. Judgements Hide Consequences We label events and actions as good or bad as a shorthand way of talking. We say getting a traffic ticket is bad or not paying the rent is bad. We say getting a raise is good. But we forget that we're using shorthand. What we're really saying is that events and actions have consequences that are desirable or not desirable.
Describing the experience of emptiness to individuals who have never experienced it is difficult. How is it that some emotionally sensitive people, who feel so many emotions so intensely, also struggle with emptiness? I asked for wisdom from those who have experienced emptiness*. Kendra said emptiness feels like a cold shell. Imagine feeling like a shell of a person with no insides, nothing there. Lynn said, "[experiencing emptiness makes me feel like] I cannot breathe. And I have no where to go for refuge. Suffocating." Emptiness doesn't seem to be about loneliness, though it is an alone feeling. Emptiness seems to be the absence of you. Not knowing who you are, what you feel, or what you want. It's a hollow, nothingness feeling. Like a puppet just responding to what is expected or what string is pulled. And then not responding at all in any real sense. Feeling blank and then hiding the blankness until you can't.
In a recent article, Jeff Wise looked at what he called "deadly mind traps." He included a cognitive trap called redlining. In activities that could be dangerous, you have safety limits, such as not climbing a mountain above a certain level or diving deeper in the ocean than a certain number of feet. When you are far away from the safety limit, you may think you would never risk going above it. The problem is when you are right there at the limit, you are more likely to think that just going a bit further will not matter. That's redlining--when you push the limits of safety and endanger yourself. Wise gives the example of divers who see an interesting coral formation just below the maximum limit the rules say they can go. Will one foot more really make a difference? In mountain climbing, will staying at a too high altitude just a minute longer really matter? Or a minute after that?
While it's not true for everyone, many emotionally sensitive people tend to use food as self-comfort. Eating is one of those strategies that works in the short-term but can have long-term consequences that add to your stress level. When you go into your closet and nothing fits, that's a miserable feeling. When your chest is tight and you feel so stuffed with food you can't move, that's miserable too. One of the reasons that emotionally sensitive people use food as comfort is likely due to cortisol. Cortisol's job is to get you all prepared to fight that tiger lurking outside your cave. It gets your energy up by increasing your heart rate and the blood pumping to your muscles. Cortisol tells the body to release sugar to bloodstream, which is why when you're upset about your boss criticizing you at work, your body is all on alert to fight, as if there were a tiger about to attack. You just want to calm down and get rid of this tension and agitation, so you stop at the grocery for cookies, potato chips and dark chocolate ice cream. One of the reasons for this is that high levels of cortisol can create cravings for high fat and sweet foods. High cortisol reactors have been shown to eat more food.