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.
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.”
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.
Radical Acceptance means completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart, your mind, and body. You stop fighting reality. When you stop fighting reality you suffer less. That means you don’t feel hot anger in your stomach whenever you see the person who got the promotion you deserved and you don’t seethe with resentment when you see your best friend who is now dating your boyfriend. You accept that what is, is. You learn and you go forward. Radical acceptance is easier to understand than it is to practice. There are many obstacles to giving up the suffering of resentments and anger, particularly for emotionally sensitive people.
1. But I don’t want to let them off the hook. Holding on to your anger can seem like you are punishing the offending person, whoever did a wrong to you. As long as you are angry then they aren’t getting away with whatever they did to harm you. Your anger serves as a marker, a memorial almost, of their actions. If you let go and radically accept then it is like it never happened and you don’t want it to be that easy. When your feelings are deep and intense, you want the other person to understand they hurt they have caused. Plus your resentment is pretty intense too and difficult to manage.
That sounds good. The problem is that it doesn’t really work that way. When someone has treated you unfairly, he either knows it or doesn’t know it. If he recognizes his actions were unkind, then your anger serves only to distract from his facing his own failings and guilt. If he doesn’t recognize his unkindness (or worse), then your anger changes nothing. Your anger will not teach another person …
There seems to be a strong stigma about loneliness. Many people will admit to being depressed before they’ll talk about being lonely. Fearing being judged as unlikeable, a loser, or weird, they don’t discuss their sense of aloneness, alienation, or exclusion. That horrible experience of being the last one chosen for teams in school seems to continue into adulthood, though the reasons are different. If you don’t have friends, then there must be something wrong with you. Headlines that describe the Unabomber, John Hinckley, the mass murderer at Virginia Tech and other criminals as loners add to the fear of being judged if you are alone.
I’m no talking about solitude. Loneliness is a different experience than solitude. Solitude is being alone by choice and wanting that aloneness or being comfortable with it. Loneliness means there is a discomfort– you want to be more connected to others.
Researchers in positive psychology tell us that we are more content when we savor the positive that happens in our lives. But focusing on the positive isn’t natural for many people. We tend to see and think about what we dislike, fear and what has hurt us more than we recognize and replay what we cherish. So maybe the end of the year is a great time to remember what you are grateful for about 2012. I suggest we declare December 31 as Gratitude Day.
If you are grateful for events that happened, find a way to remember them. Maybe share stories about these events with friends or family members. Look at photos of trips you took or celebrations you had during the year. Maybe you took a big step in your life dring 2012. Let yourself feel proud of that step. Maybe you were a good friend to someone or got through a tough time. Acknowledge yourself for what you achieved. If you are grateful to friends for support or for being your friend, let them know. If some have gone the extra mile for you, maybe send them a gratitude note.
I’m grateful for so much that happened in 2012. I’m grateful to everyone who has read the posts in The Emotionally Sensitive Person and to everyone who contributed through completing the surveys. Thank you.
Soon large crowds will gather in hotel rooms and toast the New Year. Others will party in Times Square and still others will ring in 2013 with a small group of friends. New Year’s Eve is generally viewed as a time for celebrating with friends and can be a particularly lonely time for those who struggle with relationships.
Your survey responses show that for some people loneliness (which is different from being alone) can be static and chronic, a heaviness that doesn’t lift. For others, loneliness varies in intensity and is triggered by certain situations, such as holidays, can make the aloneness worse. When others are making plans with friends or family and you are not, you may feel left out. Television shows emphasizing activities for families and friends can remind you of what you wish for and don’t have.
I don’t know who wrote the following words of wisdom about stages of recovery. It’s been around as long as I can remember and this is just one version.
Stages of Recovery
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I fall in…it’s a habit…but my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down a different street.
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go and not be questioned.”
Home, in my mind, is about a feeling. That feeling can come from people, a place or yourself. It is serenity, laughter and authentic acceptance. Authentic acceptance from others means they know my faults and love me anyway. They don’t point out my ongoing shortcomings to improve me or change me, they see those quirks as simply part of me. It’s not the politically proper acceptance of keepng their thoughts to themselves. It goes beyond that. Their acceptance comes from deep within, the acceptance of those who truly love without qualifiers or caveats.
Many of those who make up my “home” would make different choices than I have, including the paths I would take all over again. Yet they accept my choices, love me anyway, and sometimes urge me to reconsider my current choices. They give information, saying what they believe is true without judging or threatening. When I trudge on with decisions they don’t understand, they become my cheerleaders. They may not approve and they still love and accept. People who are your home don’t leave. When you have these people in your life, you know you’re not alone, whether they are physically present or not.