Archives for Psychology
No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. - C.S. Lewis When I was a little girl, I sometimes tried to imagine what it would feel like to lose somebody I loved. I could imagine only the sketchiest approximation, though. I knew I would be very sad, but had no weight or measure of that sadness and couldn’t imagine its nuances. All I knew is that it was likely to be a grief so enormous, I might not survive it. A lot of years have passed since then, and I’ve lost a brother, several close friends, and my parents. And in a way, I’ve been granted one of the secrets of the universe: the knowledge that as terrifying as grief is, we almost always survive it. We fear grief as much as we feel it, which only makes our burden heavier. But grief cannot kill us (without our cooperation) so we don't have to add to our pain with fear. What we might fear when we feel grief: That we will never emerge from it. That the pain will always be as intense as fresh grief. That the feelings are irrevocably changing us. That we will never feel safe again. That we will be haunted by regrets. That the new void in our life will never be filled.
It’s the thought that counts. Here is the gift-giving credo that has given a pass to all manner of disappointing gifts, from “what were they thinking?” garments to “oh good, something to dust” tsotskes. Our smiles might freeze on our faces as we rip the wrapping from a package, but whatever is within, we think, “It’s the thought that counts,” because that’s the nice thing to do when someone is nice enough to give us a gift, no matter how ill-conceived—or, frankly, how little thought appears to have actually been put into a gift. For me, “it’s the thought that counts” has another meaning as well, which traps me in gift-giving OCD. “It’s the thought that counts,” so you have to put a lot of thought into every gift, strive for some sort of gifting nirvana. You have to peer into the souls of friends and loved ones and find the gift that will, if not complete them, at least set them on a path to happiness.
Don't get trouble in your mind. “Don’t get trouble in your mind” is the cheery refrain of a bluegrass chestnut, performed in the video below by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I’d never heard the song until a friend posted this video on Facebook the other day, and it just hit me in a sweet spot. Since then, it’s been an earworm. But unlike most earworms, this one could prove useful.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. – Epictetus I bought a new car yesterday. This is a BFD because I drive my cars until they crumble around me. I've been driving a 1994 Accord since 1997. (Those babies go forever.) By the end of our relationship, the bumper was held on with tape and it was in the throes of a two-year death rattle. Most of my friends had experienced some sort of breakdown adventure with me. But I drove my jalopy with pride. It was my badge of anti-consumerism. (Plus, no car payment. I loved that.) OK, I was a little embarrassed valet parking it at the Ritz-Carlton the other day, where I went for a business lunch, but at least when they brought it to me, the side with the taped-on bumper was facing away from the crowd. But otherwise, I don’t need no fancypants car. I'm not a particularly high-wants person when it comes to possessions. I’m greedy about experiences, but ho-hum about stuff.
The truth will set you free. – John 8:32 I’m not one to quote chapter and verse often (ever), but this tidbit is too wise to ignore. I am taking it entirely out of context here so if you want to tell me where it fits into Scripture, please feel free. But aside from all that—yes, yes, yes. And I’m not talking about that tangled web we weave when we lie to other people. That’s a whole other mess. I’m talking about the lies we tell ourselves—the most powerful, potent, and difficult to address lies. Lies like, “I’m happy.” Or, “I have a great job that I love.” Or, “If I had a different relationship, I would be happy.” Or, “If I do things this way, I can keep everyone happy.” Or, “I’m OK as long as you’re OK.” Lies, lies, lies.
What goes around comes around. Yeah, if only. This comforting quote suggests that revenge is not necessary because karma is a bitch. That person who did you wrong? He'll get his eventually because, you know, what goes around comes around. So just sit back and wait because it’s only a matter of time. I want to buy it, but I don’t. I've seen plenty of people do plenty of crummy things and get off without so much as a psychic bruise. Well, OK, maybe they’re crying on the inside, but on the outside, they’re just going blithely along doing more crummy things.
Living well is the best revenge. A fine credo to live by. Noble, even. And win-win. You get your fine life, and you don’t debase yourself with some sort of tawdry act of revenge. And the other guy doesn't have vengeance rain down on him. I am not by nature a vengeful person. Which is not to say that I don’t hold grudges and fantasize about vengeance. But I don't do anything about it. Instead, I say, “Living well is the best revenge,” and stay honest. And smug. I'm taking the high road. I'm keepin' it healthy. But “living well is the best revenge” is like fruit for dessert. It’s tasty and it's good for you, but it’s not chocolate. Chocolate is desert. Fruit is a mere stand-in. Unless it has chocolate on it. Then, it's sweet revenge.
I would rather regret the things I have done than the things I haven’t. –Lucille Ball I’m taking the Internet’s word that Lucille Ball said this, although surely someone must have said it before her. I did find a similar (typically verbose) quote from Henry James: “I don’t regret a single ‘excess’ of my responsive youth—I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.” When I last wrote about regret, the shorter sentiment was mentioned by several readers as a favorite quote to live by. I see the appeal. It’s so…active. So devil may care. So make it happen and caution to the wind.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. -- Susan J. Jeffers This is the title of a self-help classic I read in 1987, when it first came out. I don’t remember much about the book, but the title stuck with me because it's such a useful concept. Now I’m reading a helpful book called The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher G. Germer that, at least what I’ve read so far, puts a yoga-esque, Buddhist-ish, new millennium-like spin on a similar concept. The gist of both books is to feel what you feel. You can’t run or hide from emotions and so you might as well just have them. Accept them. Let them course through your body. And don’t hate them. Emotions aren’t bad or good. They just are. They might be comfortable and uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable never killed anyone.
At least I’m not internally decapitated. Thanks to my husband for this one. I remember exactly the context in which we first heard the term “internally decapitated,” but out of respect, I will leave that out of this discussion. I don’t mean to be flip. But wouldn’t you agree that internal decapitation sounds like a huge, gigantic, monumental bummer? I mean—you’re alive, yes. And that’s good. Your story isn’t over, as it would be with external decapitation. But still… Internal decapitation. Yikes. Makes a regular crappy day sound like happyfacerainbowsallthetime, don’t it?