THE FIGHT

Standard

Do you relate to this familiar scenario?

You get into a spat with your partner, or it could be a family member, friend, or other.

The other person becomes angry and either communicates angrily, withdraws, or both.

You are angry, and maybe hurt.  There is distance between the two of you, and you feel that you are owed an apology.  You are focused on the other person’s angry behavior, words and withdrawal. How could they be so difficult? And you didn’t deserve any of this. Right?

As long as both you and the other person stay in this place, there continues to be distance between you.  Sometimes through no bad intention this painful distance can go on for hours. Or days. Or even can go on so long that you both forget why you a had a fight in the first place. Wow.

How can caring people climb out of this cold, miserable place?

What is needed is for you to step back and look at the situation more objectively rather than just from your own point of view. Look at the whole situation from the perspective of an impartial outside observer.  Try to imagine what the other person’s experience might have been like.  You need to be able to appreciate that both you and the other person are likely feeling very similarly.  The fact that you too have been angry and you also have something to apologize for can come as a revelation, and may be hard to accept initially.

Everyone has their own experience, and each person can legitimately see how they have been egregiously wronged. But why does each of us struggle to see the other’s painful experience? How can something so obvious remain so hidden from us?

The ego can be very good at focusing on the other person’s bad behavior, feeling wronged, and feeling self-righteous anger. That self-righteous smugness can feel pretty good.

And it gets worse.  Even when you start to see that it might be a good idea to apologize for anything on your part and take away the distance between the two of you, the ego can fight the idea.  It can make you feel that that would be a mistake, and that you would be giving in and losing something.  It can make you feel that you’re betraying yourself.

But the self-righteous smugness and the distance may not sit well with another part of you.  In actuality, in bridging a gap between yourself and someone you care about, you are actually being mature and self-aware.  The shift to being more objective, being able to see things more impartially and compassionately, gives you a more accurate perspective.  What you will likely achieve by apologizing for your part is feeling better about yourself for being more mature and coming from a bigger part of yourself, restoring the peace and harmony between you, and perhaps even prompting an apology from the other person.

So: practice mistrusting your ego, that part of you which tends to be one-sided, feel hard done by, and prone to self-righteous anger.  Practice shifting into an objective observer, calmly looking at the whole situation from the outside in order to gain the objectivity that you need to handle the situation with maturity.  You will be left feeling better about yourself, as well has having more harmony in your life.

JUST TURN AROUND

Standard

JUST TURN AROUND

Imagine you are in the midst of a cycling trip from Lake Louise to Jasper, Alberta. This is, by the way, reputed to be the most beautiful and rugged stretch of road in Canada. It has spectacular mountain views and wide shoulders, and I am thrilled to have cycled it with my family. Being a mountain highway, while it is undoubtedly beautiful, it is also full of long, steep hills, and is hard work.

Imagine that you have travelled one fifth of the way there.

Notice how you feel as you face forwards toward Jasper: You are probably aware that you have a long way to go, with many hills and two major mountain passes in front of you to conquer. You may feel daunted, or unsure of your capabilities. The distance might make you feel tired, discouraged, or even hopeless, wondering if you’ll ever make it. You may feel some anxiety about the road ahead, and what challenges it might bring.

Now turn around, and face where you have come from: Lake Louise. Acknowledge the distance that you have already travelled, and notice how this feels. You might feel well deserved pride at what you have accomplished. You might also feel relieved that you were able to cover that distance, and that you are no longer at the start of your trip. You probably feel a growing sense of self-confidence, knowing that you can cover ground on this journey. You know that whatever you have learned on this journey so far is now a part of you, and cannot be unlearned.

Wow, simply turning around can sure make a huge difference in how you feel!

Now, face sideways, so that Lake Louise is to one side of you, and Jasper is to the other, and again, notice how you feel. You may notice that you now have a quiet confidence about the rest of your journey, knowing that what brought you this far and what you’ve learned and will continue to learn, will surely take you the rest of the way.

All of the above is true of the journey of personal growth. Many people focus too much energy on facing forward and being all too aware of how they are not where they want to be. They feeling anxiety, dissatisfaction, self-judgement and self-doubt. The journey ahead is daunting! At times like these it is wisest to simply turn around, and instead face where you have come from. Acknowledge the growth and learning that has already taken place. Appreciate your accomplishments to date. And then face sideways: celebrate how far you have come, while still being aware of where you would like to go. Feel the faith in yourself, and motivation, energy, and hope for the future. You realize that the desire for being the best you can be and to suffer less, which has brought you from where you were to where you are, will always be there to take you further and further along your journey.

You may then even realize that you are now just where you’re supposed to be.

HOW DEEP IN THE HOLE ARE YOU?

Standard

If you have ever been out walking or hiking in nature, you will know that your view changes depending on where you are. The same mountain can look very different from one side compared to the other, and whether you’re at its base, its summit, or partway up.

Likewise, if you think of being ungrounded or depressed as a hole, with the depth of the hole reflecting the degree of ungroundedness or the severity of the depression, obviously your perspective is going to be very much affected by how deep in the hole you are.

The reason that this is so important is that people have a natural tendency to trust themselves. Normally, of course, self-trust is a very important and healthy thing. The problem is that when we are ungrounded or not well, it is the upset or the depression, the anxiety, or the hypomania, etc. that is giving us cues, and not our true grounded selves. And the illnesses or ungrounded state give distorted cues that are not to be trusted.

For example, someone with severe depression, who is very deep in the hole, is going to likely have strong and frequent or constant feelings and thoughts of hopelessness. Down so deep and far away from the surface, he can perceive no light. In fact, on the surface the sun can be shining brightly. But deep in the hole it is pitch darkness. Likewise, there is hope for this individual’s life, but he cannot feel any hope these days because of the severity of his depression. If he trusts the profound hopelessness and believes that there is no hope, he may end his life. This is very tragic, because his life would have improved if he had continued to live and gotten the help he needed. When people are better, they report that the suicidal thoughts disappear, and that it’s hard to relate to how they used to feel.

People who I see who are suicidal will inevitably admit that they had felt like that before and it had passed, so I remind them that it will pass this time too.

Hopelessness and despair are not the only negative feelings that are more prevalent with being deeper in a hole. All negative feelings are more prevalent and more intense with greater severity of depression. So when one is very fearful or worried, pessimistic, mistrustful, guilty, or feeling not got enough, these too are because one is too deep in the hole. Because one can’t see clearly there, one shouldn’t be too trusting of these negative feelings and thoughts, and make decisions based on them. One needs to be logical, and trust what he knows to be true even though he cannot feel it. He can trust that he will be able to feel it when things are better, and he’s no longer so deep in the hole.

The Anxiety Hole

The main untrustworthy negative feelings with anxiety are fear, worry, and guilt. I saw a man with OCD who was too scared to start medication to treat it even though he had had a positive experience with it in the past. Despite us working on his fear, starting the medication was delayed by the fear. After he started the medication and was feeling better, he had no concerns about taking the medication, even though he was on a higher dose by then. Of course, his other fears were also no longer a problem. The same is true of pregnant women with anxiety. Once they are responding to the treatment, they are OK, but the challenge is to get them started when the anxiety is making them too fearful.

Knowing that the fear is untrustworthy because one is deep in the hole, one can mistrust the fear and make good decisions.

The Hypomania Distortion

When one is in a state of hypomania or mania, the untrustworthy distortions go along with overly positive and unrealistic feelings. Rather than a hole, we might liken this to being above the ground, and not being able to clearly see the real dangers that exist on the ground. A person in this state might be overly optimistic and carefree, and feel overly confident, superior, impulsive, and invincible while having impaired judgement. Obviously this can cause problems because of bad decisions, whether it’s spending more than one can afford, or not being concerned about breaking the law.

The Human Hole

Even without any illness at all, as humans we all get ungrounded. Everybody has a personality that has issues, sensitivities, or buttons. The more we grow and heal, the more we shrink them, and the less easily we get “upset” or worked up. The more self-aware and honest with ourselves we become, the more we can recognize our patterns, and when we are ungrounded. We can get feeling inappropriately afraid, angry, hurt, guilty, overly suspicious, overly responsible, judgemental, judged, defensive, lonely, victimized, ashamed, attacked, and so on. All these types of feelings indicate being ungrounded, unless one is afraid because an actual danger exists. In this case, the fear is adaptive. Also, calm sadness due to some type of loss, and compassion, are grounded. It is important to be aware of how grounded or ungrounded we are so that we know how much to trust our reactions, and so we can make wise choices about our behavior.

It’s very important to adjust our driving and speed to very blizzardy or foggy conditions.   Likewise if we are irritable because of some pain or stress, it is good to be aware of it and not take it out on our partner. Knowing ourselves and our sensitivities helps us discern when our reaction might be exaggerated and wiser to handle with some inner work rather than asking others to change their behavior. When we are very angry, it is wisest to reflect on our feelings, needs, and requests then talk calmly to the person involved when we are able to do so. This results in much less damage all around then blasting them with our rage, which usually leads to escalation, with everyone and the relationship getting hurt and needing repair.

LOOK AROUND!

So take the time to look around and see where you are before assuming that your vision is clear and your perceptions are to be trusted. That way you can be more in control of yourself and your life rather than being led around by all your reactions, regardless of how untrustworthy they are. By all means accept all your feelings without judgement. But NEXT ask yourself honestly whether they are trustworthy or not. Don’t be ashamed to admit to yourself that your feelings are untrustworthy. That only makes you human. And being honest with yourself, and others, is something to be proud of. Your humility and honesty will be appreciated by others, and will result in respect, not judgement. They will invite others to trust you more, and you will enjoy more harmony in your relationships.