Are you cringing with dread about the deliveries of red roses that will come to the office to what seems like everyone but you? Are you hoping to sleep Valentine’s Day away and avoid all the celebrations of romance that will be everywhere you turn? With hearts everywhere you turn, avoiding reminders is impossible.
In 1965 Martin Seligman “discovered” learned helplessness. He found that when animals are subjected to difficult situations they cannot control, they stop trying to escape. They become passive. Human beings are the same. If you have experienced devastating defeats, a persistent situation that you couldn’t change, or experienced terror and been out of control of escape from that terror, then you may have lost hope for your ability to change your life or to change painful situations.
What is your reaction when someone causes you harm of some kind? Do you forgive and forget so easily that you keep letting the same person insult, hurt or otherwise damage you over and over? Or are you the person who never forgives so that one mistake is remembered forever? Perhaps good relationships are lost over one mistake. Maybe you aren’t spending the holidays with people you love because you haven’t forgiven actions that happened many years ago. Either style can be a way of protecting yourself.
Creating interesting stories is a time-honored skill and entertainment for many. A good storyteller can keep the attention of small children as well as antsy, busy businessmen. Unfortunately, your mind is also a great storyteller. Sometimes you may not realize what is truth and what is fiction created by your mind.
Your mind is always creating explanations and possibilities about the world you live in. It will interpret and make assumptions in creating its stories, about the past and the future as well as the present. It rattles on and on and is rarely even close to quiet. Your mind may have a favorite genre–suspense, drama or horror. It may also have favorite themes such as victims, persecutors or helplessness. The mind’s stories are about how you see the world.
There’s a lot of talk about happiness these days. In some ways, the message from the media in general is that happiness is the goal of life and that attaining happiness is the ultimate success. We look around at our friends and wonder what’s wrong with us that we can’t find happiness. We seek that golden emotion through whatever means we can. We use drugs, we drink, and we buy lots of possessions that we often can’t afford. Sometimes we fake being happy, “All is wonderful, couldn’t be better.” In the current push for happiness, some truths about the downside of happiness may be overlooked. In other words, there’s a down side.
There are many ways of connecting with people. An emotionally safe, equal, and emotionally intimate relationship is likely the scariest and most challenging relationship to build, yet is also the most likely to decrease your sense of loneliness and help with your well-being. Let’s call it a Soul-Fulfilling relationship. This type of connection may be a romantic but doesn’t have to be. In a Soul-Fullfilling connection, you share your deepest emotions with someone in an honest, accurate way and your experiences are accepted without judgment. You can count on honest, loving feedback and give and take. You support and love in equal ways over time. Soul-Fulfilling relationships take time and nurturing to build.
We often act consistent with how we feel. If you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel like talking with people, maybe you don’t answer the phone. If you don’t feel like going to the grocery store, then you don’t go. If you don’t feel like networking then you cancel the luncheon. If you don’t feel like being kind, you may talk gruffly to your friends and co-workers. Perhaps you even justify your actions, or attempt to, by saying, “I’m just in a bad mood.”
We all have days that everything seems to go wrong. We get a speeding ticket, the dishwasher stops working and your zippers splits when you’re already late for a dinner engagement. Sometimes what goes wrong is bigger and more difficult. Maybe your best friend is moving away or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer. Those times are particularly tough and may lead you to wonder what life’s all about.
Actually, what is your life all about? One of the most effective ways of coping with daily ups and down is to know your purpose, your contribution to the world. What is it that you contribute to the human race or to our world? Knowing your part in the world can help you see the forest when the trees all seem negative. Every contribution to a better world counts. Every person can make a difference. Do you know what your purpose is?
Conflict with others, especially perceived and actual rejection, can be quite painful. Calling a friend after you’ve repeatedly made and cancelled plans may seem as difficult as piecing back shattered glass. Giving in to the urge to just avoid conflicts and let friendships go may cost you relationships that you don’t really want to lose. Being connected with others involves some form of conflict, whether it’s about you letting the other person down or the other person not coming through for you in some way.
One of the first steps to stopping the avoidance is awareness of ways you may justify or talk yourself into not facing upsets, anticipated criticisms, disagreements, or other conflict. Here’s a few statements that you might be using to support your avoidance of what could be a relationship repair or relationship building interaction, cause that’s what constructive convict actually is.
How do you see yourself and your world? The way you view both affects the way you live your life. You may be quite secure about who you are and your safety in the world. Or not. Let’s call the basic way you look at yourself and the world on an everyday basis your self-scape. It’s like your emotional landscape. Do you wake up in the morning and see a full, lush emotional world? Do you focus on the people who support you? Or do you tend to see a barren world? Or perhaps even a landscape full of aggression and hostility, with people ready to destroy you when actually you are safe, it just doesn’t feel that way?
If you are in a situation that is physically dangerous, your situation is different. Your self-scape of fear is based on reality. A distorted self-scape is when someone feels undue fear of daily life events that most people experience.