What Did You Expect? Let Me Guess…A Rose Garden?

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Insecurity also comes in the form of disillusionment. The following are examples of disillusionment, complaints with subsequent reactions:

Complaint: He doesn’t talk to me.
Reaction: I’ll nag until he does talk.

C: My life is stressful.
R: I will let stress control my quality of life.

C: He didn’t do the laundry like I asked him to.
R: I’m going to tell him he’s lazy and no good.

C: She won’t stop nagging me.
R: I’ll make her wish she hadn’t nagged me.

C: I didn’t get the job.
R: I probably won’t get the next job I want.

C: I told him how I felt; he said he doesn’t care.
R: I must not be loveable.

C: They said my idea wasn’t good enough.
R: I have no talent.

The above statements sound as if they are laced with disappointment, frustration, and resentment, because the expectation of the person did not match up with reality; they were not mentally or emotionally prepared for what life might bring them. Now I’m not saying that the complaints were not valid. No one likes to feel disrespected, devalued, or stressed out; however, there will come a time when things won’t go the way we would like for them, too.

In the above examples, these people were not prepared for the possibility that things would not go their way and since it is a common thinking mistake for all people who believe that things better go my way or else they were overwhelmed with self-defeating thoughts — which results in self-defeating emotions and then self-defeating behaviors. This chapter is about how to face life with realistic expectations, so that self-defeat does not happen to you.

Expectant Thinking

The act of “expecting” is passive. It is unnatural for a person to actively think, “I’m going to say this and he or she is going to do this” or “I’m going to do this and this is going to happen for me.” It is typical that we go along with our “doing” and our “saying” thinking that life will be the way we want it to be or people will be the way we want them to be.

The fact is that when we expect something:

• We set ourselves up for the possibility of failure and…

• We don’t realize that we set ourselves up for failure because we “expect” that things are going to go our way.
The fact is that until we take personal responsibility for our expectations:

• We can expect to have negative reactions and negative feelings of inner turmoil.

Personal Responsibility …

… is the willingness to know that your actions — and only your actions — are the direct cause of your consequences. Fulfilling the obligation of personal responsibility is a common problem with all people; it was a problem with me and I experienced this phenomenon while counseling juvenile offenders.

Personal responsibility was a principle I preached to my clients and to my joy these boys more often than not would rise to meet the challenge, but sometimes when they met their obligation they did not get the response they expected.

The following conflict between a client and his peer illustrates the dilemma of failed expectations:

Client: I apologize. It was disrespectful of me to call you anything other than your name.

Peer: [rolls his eyes, looks away] Whatever.

At this point, the client looks at me with frustration.

Client: Ms. Heather, I apologized and he was disrespectful.

Me: You are right. What can you do?

Client: Before I came here I would cuss him out, hit him.

Me: What is a self-respecting way you can handle it?

The client looks at me with expectancy.

Me: Can you control what your peer says or does? [client shakes his head “no”.]

Me: Can you control the global situation? [client shakes his head “no”.]

Me: What can you control?

CLIENT: I can only control my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Me: Knowing that, what can you do?

Client: I can decide to be okay that I acted with respect, although I was disrespected.

Me: And what do you now know about your peer regarding control?

Client: It’s now his problem, not mine, because I did all I could do to make it right.

This client learned something most people in civilized society never learn, which is that:

• Sometimes things don’t go the way we prefer.

• When reality is in conflict with our expectation we have no right to respond with disrespect.

• Self-defeat is counterproductive.

This was a hard concept for me when I first became aware of it and I only began teaching my clients this concept after I had a similar encounter.

One day I was walking through the room when a co-worker made a condescending comment:

Co-Worker: You know you don’t have to do that.

Me: [It’s procedure and I’m doing it.]

Co-Worker: Hey! Why did you do that?

Me: [It’s none of your business why I did that.]

Co-Worker: [laughing and not sounding so superior] Hey! Why did you do that?

I did not respond to my co-worker, because to do so would have fulfilled one purpose — amuse him. I chose to remain silent because the co-worker’s question was not relevant and it served no purpose. Also, in the minute that this event transpired, I weighed my options:

1.) I could respond to him with respect (passive)

2.) I could respond to him with disrespect (aggressive)

3.) I could not respond (assertive)

The reason I list the first option as “passive” is that I almost responded out of a sense of obligation, but then it dawned on me that just because he expected me to answer didn’t mean that I had to do it. By electing to ignore his remarks, I affirmed my independence.

After I asserted myself to my co-worker — and it was the first time I had ever asserted myself — I felt empowered. I was not harmed. The co-worker was not harmed. Life went on.

Since that time, I have talked with others about the obligation to fulfill expectations. One woman told me that she feels guilty if she doesn’t return a voice mail or text message immediately:

“Sometimes I don’t have my phone with me or I’m busy or I forget; and then when I do return the caller’s message I am met with frustration because I didn’t respond in a timely manner.”

It seems that we live in a culture that demands for reality to meet personal expectations.

When it comes to our personal expectations, the fact is:

• We need to prepare ourselves by factoring in the various outcomes — which is called prescience — instead of taking for granted that the outcome will be ideal.

• If the situation has passed, we need to develop the ability to analyze the situation in retrospect as a safeguarding practice against future mishaps.

• We can’t control anything or anyone beyond ourselves.

• We have no right to disrespect others when we don’t get what we expect.

• Failed expectations are no reason to give up.

• Negative thinking reaps nothing but stress.

• Positive thinking reaps calm — even during storms.

Should or Shouldn’t?

The negative emotions of failed expectations are preceded by thinking mistakes or irrational thoughts. A common mental mistake people make is to think that something or someone “should” be. A friend of mine said recently about her husband:

Friend: He ‘should’ put the load of clothes in the wash when I ask him to.

Me: Well, maybe he ‘shouldn’t’ and before you object let me explain why I suggest this:

1. He was raised by parents who believe that women should do all the housework and childcare.

2. His actions and words have indicated that he is apathetic to your needs.

3. He did not believe he needed to put the clothes in the laundry.

Me: Now, I’m not saying that his actions are respectful; however, I am saying that he does not currently believe what you               believe.

Friend: Well, I have needs, too …

… Right here I want to interrupt the vignette and introduce the thinking mistake of “needs vs. wants,” which is a concept I first learned from Dr. Aldo Pucci.

Me: The only “need” any person has is food, water, shelter, and sometimes medication. I know that it feels like you need him to help you, but what you really feel is a desire for him to help you. If you do not have one of your “needs” met, you will die; if you do not have one of your “desires” met, you will surely live; there is a difference.

The reason why I mention the importance of using words with accuracy is because inaccurate words skew our perception. If I call someone a pig, I will begin to think of them as a dirty, sloppy thing. If I call someone a “person who is not tidy and does not value cleanliness”, then that is how I will envision him or her. When we think of someone as less than human, we treat them accordingly … and it is wrong to treat a person anything less than human.

More about “Should”

When the obstacle is a person

Thinking that someone “should” do something is an unreasonable expectation — I say this because no one has the right to tell another person how to live life … no matter what the relationship. When faced with the obstacle of expectations versus reality in regard to a person, you can make the healthy choice to either:

1. Accept who the person is and find healthy ways to relieve stress.
or…

2. Don’t accept who the person is — without infringing upon the person’s right to retain basic respect, you may try solutions like:

a) Respectfully ask the person to discuss the issue; make an effort to understand the person’s perspective, convey your perspective with respect, and try to reach a compromise.

b) Attend counseling.

c) Discontinue the relationship.

When the obstacle is a situation

Thinking that something “should” be different is an unreasonable expectation and this is an occasion where you can make the choice to either:

1. Accept the situation for what it is and find healthy ways to relieve stress
or …

2. Don’t accept the situation; make the effort to change it by:

a) Thinking of alternative solutions to meet your goal (e.g. organizing, delegating, evaluating, exploring other opportunities)

b) Telling yourself that the situation does not have to be permanent and make a plan to change it.

More about “Needs vs. Wants”

As for “needs vs. wants”, if you think that you “need” something your brain will read it as lacking something to survive; As Pucci has stated, your brain is your humble servant and it will think whatever you want it to think and cause your body to respond accordingly, such as acquiring a physical ailment (e.g. depression, anxiety).

Be careful to understand the difference between a need and a want, so you can make the right choice of how you want your body to feel and behave.

In conclusion, to be realistic about expectations:

1. Become aware of thinking mistakes.

2. Choose to think rationally.

3. Prepare for alternate realities before they happen…

… then you will not experience the insecurity of disillusionment.

What Goes Around Comes Around, So Play Nice

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In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.
We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
— Albert Schweitzer

I love the movie, “Pay It Forward” and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest it. The theme is “acts of kindness” and it is a self-esteem boosting idea. What is more spiritually lifting then giving to someone in need of emotional encouragement?

I know, our lives are busy; there are bills to pay; homework to be done; the boss wants the portfolio in two hours; finances are tight; you’re chauffeuring two kids to two different sporting events; it’s time for your bi-annual month long cruise to Majorca; why should I give away my hard-earned money?

Well, well.

I’m not talking about time-consuming or money-consuming acts of charity. I’m talking about little gestures that remind us, “He’s a person, too”…or she.

What I am talking about are acts that have the potential to remind others that they are worthy of care.

Right now I’m stealing a stellar list from Oprah.com, which I think is fitting because Oprah Winfrey appears to be one of the greatest humanitarians of the 21st century (and I added some ideas of my own):

• Saying ‘good morning’ to a person standing next to you
• Pay the toll for the driver behind you
• Pay for a random diner’s meal
• Take a moment to direct someone who is lost even though you are in a hurry
• Write a letter to a child who could use some extra attention; kids love getting mail
• Offer to pick up groceries for an elderly lady, especially in extreme weather
• Give a homeless person a gift certificate to the grocery store
• Put a coin in an expired meter
• Help a mother carry her baby stroller up the subway stairs, or hold the door for her
• Each time you get a new item of clothing, give away something old
• Bring your assistant coffee
• Out of the blue, send flowers to a friend
• Say “please” and “thank you” and mean it
• When you’re on a crowded bus or train, offer your seat to someone who is elderly, disabled, or pregnant
• Give a genuine compliment to a stranger
• If the server is at the end of a shift, ask him or her to join you and then buy them a meal
• Call or write a teacher who changed your life
• Bring a box of doughnuts to share at the office
• Say “I’m wrong” when you “are wrong”
• When you’re wrong, apologize
• When you say, “How are you?” be prepared to listen

To me, there is nothing more self-esteem boosting then giving a part of yourself to someone else; in fact, I think the giver gets more than the getter.

I think one of the most beautiful acts of kindness is focusing on another person’s humanity. Have you ever watched a stranger sitting at a table alone, talking to a friend, serving other people, feeding the birds, hurrying across the street. For me, it feels good to know that the person I am watching exists and it is humbling to me that I get to be a part of their history if even for a moment. The reason I list these actions as “acts of kindness” is because they train our mind to care for other people so that when we do encounter other people we instinctively focus on them with interest.

Compassion is …
… the greatest act of kindness.

Just now I am thinking of a client who needed much compassion …

When one of my juvenile offending clients was confronted for making a mistake, he would put up an emotional wall of defense. I can see him now standing in our group circle with a sullen expression, red-faced, clenched hands, rigid posture, and a look that could kill. For someone who is unwilling or untrained to pull back the emotional layers of this client to see the origin of his problem, it would have appeared that he was belligerent, uncaring, and self-absorbed, but that is not the case. The fact is that the idea that he was wrong had been reinforced throughout his life. He was physically and verbally abused. He was shamed of his mistakes. His father beat him. His mother belittled him. Beatings and harsh words were a dominant form of communication in his home life. Later, he was involved with gang members who communicated the same way and worse. As I talked with this boy and as he was taught to communicate his feelings appropriately, it was discovered that he felt like he was “not a good person” and “inferior.” He actually made these statements.

It pains me to think that anyone is ever made to feel this way. It hurt to watch the pain on my client’s face, to watch his anger knowing so much hurt was behind it. It hurt to watch his eyes tear up as the anger melted and his personal hurt surfaced. At that point, I made it a personal goal to remind my clients — at the time they made a mistake — that they were good, they were worthy, the problem could be worked out, and they were accepted no matter what.

My ultimate goal is to teach the people I meet how to “care” for the existence of others, especially the belligerent person who’s anger is directed at you; these people especially need compassion and the only way you will teach angry people how to communicate respect is with the tool of compassion.

Act with kindness. I promise, you won’t regret it.

In what ways have you acted with kindness? In what ways has kindness been shown to you? I’d like to know. Please share.

When Emotional Reasoning Disturbs Your Zen

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Did you know that you have an emotional base line? Anything above the base line is positive or “good,” while anything below the base line is negative or “bad.”

Positive emotions are helpful. They impassion us to reach beyond the bubble in which we live, to embrace living, to embrace ambition, to embrace others; however, even happy emotions like euphoria can skew our ability to make healthy decisions. For example, the initial phase of a romantic liaison is often times wrought with poor decisions due to positive emotions that easily and readily lead to irrational emotions thus irrational decisions. I know. I got married. And then I got divorced.

Negative emotions — such as despair, worry, bitterness, guilt — a re not helpful. They incite the darker version of our self. These emotions cause us to commit regretful acts, such as self-disrespect and disrespect of others; they are undoubtedly irrational and lead to poor decision-making.

So what is the base line? Calm is the base line. Calm is the state of being to maintain even as we experience joyous and unpleasant situations. Peace. Serenity. Lacking disturbance. When we are calm we are able to make better choices. When emotions disrupt our ability to achieve calm, an emotional imbalance is created.

Emotions Usurp Reason

The key to maintaining calm is learning how to assess your emotions before responding to a situation, which is “easier said than done.” In the past, when I felt hurt or fear — of rejection, of failure — my learned self-defense mechanism entered attack mode and that is when I became a self-fulfilling prophecy and lost — my credibility, a cherished relationship. I don’t want that. I don’t want that for you, so these are ways I keep my self-defense mechanism in check:

1.) Assess the other person’s body language and tone

2.) Try to understand exactly what others are saying

3.) Investigate by asking specific, non-threatening questions

4.) Actively listen

5.) Take notes

6.) Seek advice — not gossip — from a knowledgeable person such as a pastor, counselor, or a trusted individual who is non-related to the situation

7.) Assess the situation in retrospect — weigh pros, cons, morals, and ethics

8.) If needed, readdress the issue with the conflicting person at a later date if it is still valid

*9.) If all else fails, walk away before regrettable words are uttered — and then apologize later for the unusual disruption

10.) Think of a key word or phrase that will help you stay focused on your goal (remaining calm) when your self-defense mechanism begins to activate; mine is “What has happened in your life to make you react this way?”

11.) Practice, Practice, Practice. You need to practice activating your phrase until it is second nature. Other areas to practice are: seek advisement, respect others, respect yourself by maintaining dignity

13.) Relax. Do healthy things that make you feel good about yourself (e.g. exercise, sports, write, read, scrap booking, meditate, auto mechanics, motor bikes).

14.) When the stressor is a situation, tell yourself that “it’s temporary and I will live.”

15.) Above all, when the stressor is a conflicting person see him or her as a vulnerable person. Just. Like. You.

*Tip #9 is discretionary in the workplace; it may not be the most prudent course of action to walk away from your employer if you want to be viewed as a person who is rational and capable of functioning under stress.

Don’t Let One Situation Affect Another

• Have you ever woke up on the wrong side of the bed only to take out your irritability on your partner, which ended up in hurt feelings, which ended up in resentment, so on and so forth?

• Have you ever snapped at your friendly co-worker because your boss irritated you and it was easier to unload your frustration on an innocent person rather than get fired right away — because let’s face it; if you continually explode at work you will get fired.

• Have you ever felt frustrated because your child was dragging his or her feet, which caused you to be late for an appointment, and as a result you chose to snap at the receptionist who was dragging her feet and just so happened to look like that girl who teased you in high school?
I have and that’s not fair, don’t you agree? This unfair reaction is emotional reasoning or when emotions affect thinking.

Emotional Reasoning

I first became aware of the concept, emotional reasoning, while studying Dr. Aldo Pucci’s text on rational living skills (2009). The concept opened a new perspective for me. I began relating the concept to real world scenarios. I made correlations between the concept in his text and other psychology-driven concepts, such as personality types that are emotion-based. I observed this phenomenon in my past behaviors that were emotionally driven. Last, but not least, I observed the behavioral interaction between my clients. As a way to prevent the ills of emotional reasoning and to instill a healthy form of expression in my group, I established the following pattern for myself when interacting with my clients*FYI: I spent 16 hour days with my group, so there was no hiding my moods:

1.) I told my clients when I was feeling irritated the moment I realized I was irritated

2.) When I was irritated, I let them know my irritation had nothing to do with them

3.) I apologized in advance for eliciting sharp tones or impatient gestures if I thought I might exhibit any

4.) I helped them feel comfortable admitting what they were feeling by asking questions, affording unconditional acceptance, compassion, and attempting to understand how they felt and what they meant

There were several benefits to my experiment:

• Communicating my emotional disposition improved my counselor-client relationships

• I established a greater sense of trust among my clients

• I experienced increased self-awareness of my mood and emotions

• I found a desire to practice having a composed, calm demeanor

• I adopted increased willingness to think in degrees, rather than in “black and white”

Best of all …

… my clients began “checking in” or letting their peers and counselors know when they were experiencing a negative emotion; sometimes a client took space away from the group in order to regain his sense of calm, sometimes a client’s peers were able to give encouragement, empathize, and offer solutions.

Pucci (2009) also offers a solution for emotional reasoning, which is to ask yourself the following question when you are aware that an extreme mood is either on the rise or has peaked. The question is:

Do I think this way about (current situation) when I’m not already upset about something else?

In other words:

• If I wasn’t tired, would I be annoyed that my husband used up the toilet paper?

• Would I have picked on the receptionist if my child had not dragged his or her feet and I had not been late?

• Would I have snapped at my co-worker if I had not been angry with my boss?

My point is that one situation — no matter how justified we feel at the time — is unique from another situation and we should treat ‘situations’ individually — with reason and without bias — because it’s in our best interest to do that. Why is it in our best interest? Because respect reaps respect and disrespect reaps disrespect.

Now.

Will you be able to harness the ability to remain calm and rational in stress situations, right away? Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I say ‘heck no’, but you will be surprised at the progress you can make when you put the idea to practice.

Do You Want to Be a Slave?

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts,
And you are the slave to your emotions.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert

Instead:

I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions.
I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.
— Oscar Wilde
, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Fallible Human Beings … I’m Talking About You, Too

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Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and best known for rallying his troops to victory during World War II; he was also known to suffer from Depression. I begin with his quote:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

Good vs. Bad

Is there good and bad? I like to think of this concept in terms of morality. There are degrees of “moral” and degrees of “immoral”, but no one is good or bad — I use “inner good” as a label in reference to morality or integrity. The individual and society need “inner good” to create emotionally healthy and self-confident human beings who are capable of creating more emotionally healthy and self-confident human beings. In this context I want to help you understand who you are, who the people in your family are, who the people in your world are, which is nothing more than a…fallible human being.

About Fallible Human Beings

• To be fallible is to be capable of making an error

• A human being is a member of Hominidae characterized by superior intelligence, articulate speech, and erect carriage.

Who is capable of making an error? Go look in the mirror. Look at the next person you meet. Walk through the neonatal ward and observe all the innocent, new born babies. Think of the person you love and respect the most. Think of the person you dislike the most.

We all have at least one thing in common, don’t we?

Mistakes

We were born to make mistakes; it’s easier to make mistakes than it is to, well, not make mistakes. In particular, I remember the way my clients reacted to making mistakes — withdraw into silence, erupt in anger, argue, make excuses, deny, evade, minimize, accuse, and sometimes run away. Why is that do you think? I realized it was because they were experiencing emotional pain and then I realized something else; I had the same reactions when I made mistakes. I realized I was no different. This is when I began teaching them the concept of fallible human beings.

It hurts to make mistakes.

On a regular basis, parents guilt and shame their children. Why is this? It’s because people, in general, don’t know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Guilt and shame are damaging to the self-image. Children carry guilt and shame into adulthood at which point they become blaming adults, because who wants to own up to a mistake when the emotional pain of condemnation is so great?

Guilting and shaming are negative control mechanisms. Most people do not admit to committing this type of emotional abuse, because they usually do not realize they are committing the egregious acts. As a result of this ignorance and denial, the maleficent actions as socially acceptable. As a result of this mentality, we live in a society that condemns anyone who makes a mistake even as those who condemn have made and are making mistakes. It is a mistake to condemn. It is a mistake to judge a person as good or bad. For the sake of your relationships — all the relationships in your world — I want you to take “good” and “bad” out of your vocabulary. The terms “good” and “bad” are for rotten fruit and movie reviews, not people.

Don’t Be Disrespectful

Disrespect is the biggest mistake human beings make and to compound that mistake we often continue to disrespect in a feeble attempt to correct the mistake. We do it by running from our mistakes, blaming our mistakes on other people, or denying that we are capable of making mistakes. So how can we stop making mistakes?

Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

The silver lining of mistake-making is that every mistake is a learning opportunity. Working with my clients I adopted this mentality of “It’s okay to make mistakes.” After a client made a mistake, I reminded him that it is okay to make mistakes, then we worked together — as a team — to find a better solution should the mistake occur again. My clients were fast to accept and use this technique. I watched — in amazement — as they began to counsel each other. I began to see their self-confidence grow; and do you know that I began to see them make the same mistake less and less? We can learn to do things differently when we realize that our actions or words have caused an adverse reaction. All it takes to make less mistakes — in number or by degree — is:

• Be willing to improve your nature
• Be aware of your behavior
• Be willing to believe that it is okay to make mistakes
• Be forgiving of yourself and others who make mistakes
• Strive to act with respect toward yourself; you deserve it
• Strive to act with respect toward everyone you encounter everyday
• Apologize when you act toward someone with disrespect even if the apology is belated
• Watch movies and listen to music that inspire respect and self-confidence

Don’t Be Afraid 

… to admit your mistakes. For some, it is easy to say “I’m fallible”; for some it is not. For some, it easy to admit specific mistakes; for some it is not. It is my experience that it is more difficult to admit specific instances of fallibility. For example, I have no problem saying, “I am human; I make mistakes”; however, it is more difficult for me to say, “I was impatient with my friend. I snapped at her instead of having compassion and attempting to understand her motivation for error.”

An Instance of Error

In an instance like this, my mistakes toward my friend were impatience to have my peace restored; emotional abuse via yelling; selfishness because I cared more for my peace than hers; and indifference toward her emotional problem thereby creating my own emotional problem. That’s four specific mistakes at which the root is disrespect, because I chose not to respect my friend’s humanity. In addition, the only thing I accomplished was exacerbating an already tumultuous situation. My sub-conscious goal was to restore peace and I failed, because my motivation was self-serving.

Justification for Retribution

You might say, “But she was being disrespectful, too, so your actions are justified.” I say, “You are wrong.” Like one of my clients stated, “Two frowns don’t equal a smile.” My actions taught my friend how to disrespect others. My actions taught her that it is okay to treat others with disrespect. I am telling you that it is never okay to disrespect, not even a little bit. There is never a time that revenge is okay and essentially when our inner peace is disturbed and we respond with a verbal or emotional attack that is called exacting revenge. Don’t try to dress it up as anything else because I. Will. Call. You. Out. In the same breath, I remind you that when you do slip and act with disrespect remember that you are a fallible human being. Correct your behavior, apologize, and let it be a learning opportunity to foment compassionate and understanding habits as well as build stronger, healthier relationships.

Being Vulnerable

Until recently, there was one person in this world who knew my deepest darkest mistakes. I was terrified to tell him my mistakes, but it was more terrifying for me to hide who I am and who I was at the time, because I was always in fear that he would find out and reject me.

Remember: In your mind, the answer for rejection will always be affirmative if you don’t take a risk and trust that the end result will be the best result.

My mistrust toward my friend resulted in:

1. Not giving him the opportunity to learn from my experiences or to accept me as a fallible human being, which is not all together fair, because it is what? Mistrustful is the answer.

2. Missing out on the emotional and intellectual growth which occurs from learning opportunities.

All this I was missing out on, because I was afraid of rejection. And what would happen if I was rejected? Well, I would be gathering the weeds for disposal and gathering the wheat for retention or in layman’s terms, I would know if he was a friend worth keeping.

The Result of My Risk

When I told my friend about my  mistakes, I don’t know what he was thinking, but what he told me was that he didn’t judge me. I choose to believe him. He has proven himself worthy of my friendship and I hope I have proven my worth to him. He is my friend to this day.

Conclusion

No one likes to be judged and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to make mistakes and if people judge you that’s okay, too, because you will survive it. What is important is if you let the judgments of others defeat you. What is important is if you choose not to learn from your mistakes.

Remember: It is not the mistake that is wrong; it’s the unwillingness to make it right that is wrong.

Make yourself right. Whatever it takes. I hope my experiences and insights are encouraging to you. I hope you let go of your insecurities wherever they lie, because the more you let go, the freer you are to be.

A man can only do what he can do.
But if he does that each day he can sleep at night and do it again the next day.
—Albert Schweitzer

I’m Not Wearing Your Dog Collar

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Every patient carries her or his own doctor inside.
— Albert Schweitzer

First, let me give you my direction. I’m going to be discussing Abraham Maslow, his hierarchy to personal freedom, and how he has erred; identity, individuality, independence, self-worth; the ideas self-belonging and self-love; and how the erroneous mental mistake of “belonging to something or someone” causes insecurity, dependency, and mental enslavement. I’m going to tell you that to free your mind is to free your being. I’ll give my personal testimony and how I discovered the truth. I’ll tell you that not even God owns me.

Now to begin.

I don’t know what it is like for a man, a woman or, well, any person other than me, but most of my post-puberty life I thought I needed a man to love me in order to fulfill my existence — until now.

My Early Story

As a teenager, I remember driving down the road trying to imagine myself in a white wedding dress and I couldn’t imagine it— that might have been a foreshadowing of future events. When I met my husband I was glad that a male took notice of me— my Sophomore English teacher said it would happen, but until that moment I had been sure my teacher was wrong.

After my divorce, one of the most emotionally traumatic things a woman ever said to me was, “Maybe you were meant to be alone.” Her comment was sincere and stated with the best of intentions, I am sure, for I have replayed the memory scores of times, but I was emotionally devastated by the dismal prospect that I would spend my days as a spinster.

Later in life — early thirties — I was irritated when a woman stated, “God has someone out there for you. You just haven’t met him yet.” That was an unwelcome prospect,  because at that point in my life I had decided I would grow old as an independent and emotionally unavailable woman. Spinster or emotionally unavailable woman; is there a difference? Well, at least my attitude was evolving. Whatever I was evolving into it was better than my father’s patriarchal view that women are property. Three little words for that narrow view. No. Thank. You.

There is much talk about love in the movies, in books, in music; any person I talk to — young or old — for any given length of time ends up telling me about his or her love life. And do you know what the two common denominators are in most hours of conversation I have spent entertaining these dialogues? Disappointment and misery, that’s it. Most often, I don’t hear people telling me how happy and fulfilled they are with their partner; I hear about how he or she isn’t doing this or that. I’m not saying that fulfilling relationships don’t exist. I’m just saying that no one is telling me about them. In the face of all this unpleasant business — and because I like to ponder the mysteries of the universe — I’ve asked myself the following questions and pondered them for hours, questions like:

• Is love bliss or is it toxic?
• Is love a primitive emotion designed to propagate the species?
• Is love a spiritual emotion that fosters a higher plane of being?
• Is love meant to benefit the recipient or the benefactor?
• Is “to love” altruistic or selfish?

In honor of these questions, I defer to a few “experts” on love:

“There is no remedy to love, but to love more”… Henry David Thoreau; quite sweet, I think …

Or the stoic Biblical reflection, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” to which I then feel compelled to add…and then there is common sense.

There is Robert Downing’s whimsical prompt, “Grow old alongside me, the best is yet to be,” which I find to be, well, questionable.

I most identify with Sir James Barrie who states:

“If you have it, you don’t need to have anything else. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much else what you do have.” I’d like to explain why I subscribe to this mentality — and I will — but first let me shed some loving light on what an expert has to say about love and love’s role in shaping our success.

Abraham Maslow is Wrong

Abraham Maslow was an important psychologist in the 1950’s and his work continues to influence many schools of thought. What Abraham Maslow determined is that successful people — that’s one out of every 100 people according to Maslow — will achieve self-actualization or the ability to reach one’s full potential. Let me first say that the idea of “full potential” is subjective; it’s a utopian dream that I fully encourage every human to strive, however know that it is an unrealistic concept for there will always be room for improvement. Maslow’s idea of personal fulfillment is based on social enslavement and I will tell you why.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow developed a pyramid that illustrates the levels of achievement a person needs to reach full potential; and they are in this order:

1.) Physiological — water, food, shelter, sleep, medication

2.) Safety — protection, security, order, law, limits

3.) Belongingness and Love — family, affection, relationships, work peers

4.) Esteem — achievement, status, responsibility, reputation

5.) Self-Actualization — personal growth and ultimate fulfillment

Pertaining to Maslow’s first level, the only needs we have are on the bottom rung; everything else is a desire. You don’t need your $250,000 house, $30,000 car, $100 pair of jeans, or that $5,000 diamond on your finger, a husband, children, friends, admiration, love of others, etc. The truth is that you desire those things and that desire is often motivated by a desire to impress others with those things. So Maslow is right about needs. In order to successfully function, we require four things, which are shelter, food, water, and sometimes medication.

Pertaining to Maslow’s sense of safety, I will say that it is important for people to have a safe environment to thrive. If a person is constantly looking over his or her shoulder in fear that their being is in danger, it’s safe to say that not much goal-achieving is going to get done. Now. I disagree with the tier “belongingness and love” and this is where I refute Maslow at this time.

About Belonging

Maslow was wrong about a need to belong to someone or something; the reason I say this is that:

• The only person you can ever truly belong to is you

• When you try to belong to something or someone, often times you end up:

a) Feeling let down because the expectations don’t fit or

b) You try to change yourself in order to belong at which time you alienate yourself

Telling yourself that you “belong” to something or someone is a thinking mistake.

Telling yourself that you “belong” is to accept a false sense of security — which then becomes an aberration of Maslow’s rung #2. For example, if the statements are made:

a. I belong to [insert person, organization] therefore I will be admired.
Translation: “My worth is defined by others”

b. I belong to [insert person, organization] therefore I won’t be alone.
Translation: “I feel unworthy unless there are others around to define my worth.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe that you require other people to define who you are?

Don’t lie. I guarantee the majority of the population defines itself through the subjective lens of others and that’s because that is how we are taught. That’s right. We are taught from birth that our self-worth is contingent on the approval of others. In Transactional Analysis that is called positive strokes, which is the act of being appreciated or praised. I want you to learn to give yourself positive strokes and depend on your positive strokes to achieve a positive self-image or the idea that “you are worth it” and to hell with what everyone else thinks.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to be a part of someone or something. I’m saying it is bad to lose your sense of individuality and independence by any degree of obligation because we have the mentality that we are bound to regard others as a source of strength rather than making a conscious choice to regard others as a source of strength. The difference between ownership and complementary partnership is obligation and submission vs. choice and assertion.

Where is Your Worth?

What do you think your worth would be if you had no parents, no spouse, no friends, no children, and no co-workers? What if you were outside the bubble of mankind? What if you were the outsider looking in even as society examined you like a bug under a microscope? Until you can define yourself all by yourself and find yourself acceptable, then you are not free.

In choosing this mentality of “My Being is Defined by Others”, you choose to forfeit your freedom. To belong to someone is to be property. Let me be clear. Ownership of a car is to have property. Ownership of a dog is to have property. We are human beings with intelligence and free-will. You’re not property and you shouldn’t want to be anyone’s property, because to be property is to be less than human, to be property is to lessen your self-worth.

Concerning Higher Power

I have talked about higher power in my chapter Religiosity (TBA), which I define as a source of strength for self. No pressure on you, dear reader, but personally I identify with God as my higher power, as having supreme and all-encompassing authority, and I say that even God does not own me, because I believe He gave me free-will as a gift and I accepted the gift, therefore I own myself. I accept Him. We have a partnership. I allow Him to lead me. So. If my God will not imprison me then I certainly will not accept anyone else imprisoning me via ownership by saying “You belong to me.”

Okay. So, if you don’t belong to anyone or anything, what is a relationship?

I define relationship as the state of being connected; and to connect is to join, therefore a relationship is a “joining of two people.” I have a relationship with God, my daughters, and my friends, which is a choice not an obligation.

What is right is to complement one another. I define complement as someone or something that completes. Don’t mistake “belonging” with “complementing”; there is a fundamental difference. My God and my friends complete the landscape of my living. They are the highlights, the cherry on top of my existence. You, dear readers, are also complementary to me. You exist and I relish this knowledge.

To Live as Fact or Fiction
Do you want to truly love, co-exist, and complement another? If the answer to that is “yes” then I say to you that you have a conditional need to learn to love yourself first and to understand that only you belong to you; only then can you truly know what love is and share the precious gift of yourself with another. Some of you know it. I didn’t know it growing up and I didn’t know it most of my life. I know it now.

So back to Sir James Barrie who said:

“If you have it, you don’t need to have anything else. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much else what you do have.”
Have self-love. Have self-belonging. If you don’t have these two things then nothing else matters.

Start making whatever changes you need to belong to yourself…Now.

Believe in Yourself; You Deserve It!

If other people don’t believe in you it is up to you to believe in yourself. Right? That’s the time to shrug them off your conscience. The people who don’t want to believe you can succeed are the people who did not succeed in some way themselves — maybe they are not self-loving, self-belonging — but you are not a reflection of them; you are separate from them. Don’t let other people leech your self-confidence in who you are and what you can do.

FYI: When other people believe that you can’t succeed, don’t show them that you can succeed because you think you have something to prove, but succeed because all that matters is that you do succeed.

Ode To Closet Cowards … I’m Talking About You, Too

While the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.”

—Sherlock Holmes

insecurity

Today, I am using State Representative Margo Davidson (D-Delaware) and Allan Brauer, blogger, as examples of how personal insecurity causes social discord and in extreme cases, tragedy. I believe these separate incidents exemplify irrational thinking, which is a pandemic mental health issue.

First a brief overview of the debacle concerning Davidson.

By now we are all aware of the controversy created when Davidson stepped over the line and confronted State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) with the bellicose query, “If the gentleman from Butler County stood yelling, knowing that he’s a gun-toter, and I felt threatened, would I be protected under court law if I blew his brains out?” I ask you, dear reader, what is disturbing about her outburst?

Next, there is Allan Brauer, blogger, who touts on his Twitter tagline that he is “Writing It Right For You.” Well, Brauer, wished a heinous death for the children of speechwriter—for Senator Cruz—Amanda Carpenter by saying, “May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases.” His reason? He doesn’t like her political narrative. Tell me. What is wrong about that?

Let me tell you what is disturbing. Let me tell you the reason why everyone is up in arms about the comments of Davidson and Brauer. Both of these people allowed their emotions to override their logic, so that they elicited irrational and disrespectful responses. Both of these people exhibited “out-of-control” behavior. Out-of-control behavior is unacceptable anytime and it is especially unacceptable when the out-of-control people are leading other people. Do you see what I mean? If you didn’t grasp why it is so disturbing, do you grasp it now? In what instances do you observe people leading other people? Do you lead other people? How and when do you lead them?

Davidson was up in arms over “castle laws.” She admits that her judgment was skewed because she had the emotional trigger of a memory concerning her murdered brother. Okay. Having anyone murdered is traumatic and I surmise that it is exponentially traumatic when the tragedy happens to someone you love; however, that is no excuse for disrespecting another person. What happened to Davidson—at the time she made a veiled threat toward Metcalfe—is called emotional reasoning, which is when emotions affect judgment. Davidson was feeling emotional disturbance stemming from her brother’s murder, so she took her anger out on Metcalfe. Did Metcalfe deserve it? No. He did not. No one deserves disrespect in any way, shape, or form…ever. Do you understand me? Ever. Back to Davidson being out-of-control. What is scary is the fact that out-of-control irrational behavior causes tragedies like the Newtown, CT shootings. Am I exaggerating Davidson’s reaction by comparing her actions to the Newtown shooter? Yes. My point is that out-of-control is out-of-control with the only difference being degrees.

About Brauer. Tisk. Tisk. Brauer let his emotional reasoning skew his judgment. Who knows what his emotional problem is…and I mean that in a respectful way—all people have emotional problems at one time or another. Some have them more than others. Now. Brauer hasn’t confessed like Davidson did, so we can only assume the origin of his emotional problem and I do my best to avoid assumptions. If I decided to investigate I would most likely sound antagonistic; however, I encourage you Mr. Brauer to seek counseling—same goes for you Davidson. What I know for a fact is that Brauer was out-of-control and exhibiting irrational thinking. Because he was emotionally upset, he disrespected Carpenter and what is infinitely worse, he disrespected—to an alarming degree—innocent children. And you can’t help but fearfully wonder the sadistic capability of a person who would wish tragic death on children.

To reiterate, irrational thinking due to emotional problems causes degrees of disrespect, which can end in tragedy and the potential for tragedy is why we become alarmed.

Why do people exhibit irrational thinking?

The root of this answer is one word: Insecurity.

Where does insecurity come from?

Insecurity is a by-product of hurt and fear as you can see in the examples of Davidson and Brauer. Davidson’s hurt and Brauer’s hurt and/or fear caused them to lose their self-control, which as I have stated can be lethal. What follows is an in depth look at insecurity and how it corrupts our personal lives and our nation, hence the quote by Sherlock Holmes (aka Arthur Conan Doyle).

Insecurity

Referring to commonalities, insecurity is the fundamental state of mind that interferes with the productivity of every person’s humanity. We can all relate to this state of being that influences us to fail at personal goals.

The Business of Equality

In today’s world, egalitarianism — the belief that all people should be treated equal — continues to be subjective. It is a prevalent “idea” in society that all people are created equal and society advocates for the inclusion of oppressed people — historically, these groups have been women, homosexuals, African-Americans, religious affiliations — excluding Christianity— the elderly, and the physically disabled. The problem is that while the aggregate — or whole of society — proclaims that all deserve to be treated as equals, the individual’s actions and attitude proves that this is propaganda and of course equality is redefined as the social trend shifts to favor the status quo.
The puzzlement lies in the fact that as individuals, we continue to have bias — which impedes our ability to see humans as equal — and we allow our bias to be represented in one of three ways:

1.) we allow bias to be revealed to an elect and approving few

2.) we hide bias until the social trend shifts in favor of our bias

3.) we admit our bias and risk being ostracized

The Truth of Arrogance

Truth has not special time of its own.
Its hour is now-always and, indeed then most truly,
when it seems unsuitable to actual circumstances.
— Albert Schweitzer

The truth is that everyone is guilty of apportioning equality and by degrees depending on such factors as career choice, religious affiliation or lack of, political preference or lack of, cultural beliefs, and aesthetics (e.g. weight, skin color, gender, physical ability, mental acuity, grooming, clothing preference); and the list goes on. We, as human beings, can get pretty creative with our bias.

As a result of our self-appointed position of assigning importance, we assert our superiority and confirm others’ inferiority. Erikson in Youth and Identity Crisis states:

Therapeutic as well as reformist efforts verify the sad truth that in any system based on suppression, exclusion, and exploitation, the suppressed, excluded, and exploited unconsciously accept the evil image they are made to represent by those who are dominant (1968).

These attitudes of subjugation are wrong, so why do we adopt them, why do we accept them?
We fear those and that which we do not understand, so we learn to shun that which brings us discomfort thus the armor of arrogance. I encourage you, dear reader, to overcome your discomfort lest you miss an opportunity for intellectual growth and the gift of appreciating what is unique; otherwise you are doing yourself — as well as others — a great disservice.

The Truth of Equality

Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things,
man will not himself find peace.
— Albert Schweitzer

We are all fallible humans, which means “we were born to err”, but as long as we are capable of basic comprehension we have equal potential for success according to our intellectual gifts — and if you read about The Importance of Personality you will see what I mean about gifts. In order for this to be an actual truth a person must have a firm grasp on his or her social identity — or our purpose as a part of society. To understand our social identity we must identify differences and commonalities in each other; otherwise we have a stilted world view. It would be like a color-blind man going through life thinking that the color blue is green and a non-color-blind man not understanding why the color-blind man thinks the color blue is green; without mutual understanding each man would think the other to be irrational.

An Abuse of Power

There is a practical need for authority, because people need structure in order to maintain moral integrity; without moral integrity we would destroy humanity. However, when one person has power over another — and the one with less power can neither fight nor flee — there is no choice but to defer, which is enslavement. This inability to assert independence causes emotional injury to our intrinsic need for equality. When those in power disrespect a person’s basic right to respect and equality, the power becomes corrupt, those in a submissive role become corrupt, the goals of all parties become corrupt, and the result is chaos. Over time, those who are made to defer develop a dominating and faulty belief that they are not equal. This causes the subjugated person to feel insecure as to his or her ability to achieve those things that would help him or her achieve ultimate personal success. Without equal respect, the subjugated person does not achieve the fundamental goal of all people, which is to achieve peace. As it has been stated — and it will be stated more than once before this book’s end — this imbalance of power, which causes the demoralization of our self-image, begins in the home, extends throughout the community, and corrupts our nation.

Conclusion

Hurt and fear result in personal insecurity. Personal insecurity causes people to disrespect others as a self-defense mechanism. No matter what, disrespect is not a viable solution for disrespect. All people have a moral responsibility to extend the unalienable right of respect to others. We respect all people or we fail, because when we disrespect others we disrespect ourselves, because we invite disrespect. To disrespect is to forfeit personal integrity. If you do not have integrity you have nothing. We show others how to respect through our actions. It starts with you, then your actions become the actions of others until the malignancy spreads becoming the actions of a nation. At present, this is where our nation stands, in a state of chaos. Davidson and Brauer are two examples of our out-of-control collective state of being.

When will you begin to change your world? How will you do it?

Do You Want To Be An Ass?

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How Emotions Affect Reality

Are emotions useful?

Fear prompts us to seek safety from predators. Empathy allows us to understand others. Happiness allows us to enjoy cherished moments. Sadness can aid emotional healing. Anger can override fear and give us courage. In the right context, emotions are helpful. The question is:
Are emotions harmful?

Emotions do become harmful when they:

1. Impede our ability to make logical decisions
2. Disrupt our sense of calm.

Other than the state of being calm, emotions can be deceptive because most often people have the misconception that what they are feeling is right. Although we have a right to feel, feelings are not always right and this is a result of perception, which is the act of defining reality through our personal experiences. And when we are not calm it is difficult to identify when we mistake perception for reality.

Perception Influences Our Emotional Response

Remembering Erikson’s Stages of Development (TBA), during early childhood we develop degrees of values which are attached to corresponding memories. As adults, when we encounter a new situation our mind pulls memories, also called memory files, and makes a comparison in an attempt to interpret the new situation.

Our past experiences filtered through reality are our perception. Perception is not reality; sometimes there is an incongruity between our perception and reality that causes an irrational emotional response. The illustration below provides a visual description of this concept:

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Reality is fact. Anything other than fact is opinion. Opinion is not objective. The only way to know what is real is to maintain objectivity. In order to maintain objectivity, we have to be able to understand things as they are and not how we think they should be. Maintaining objectivity is difficult because people generally believe what is easiest to understand. The information that is easier to assimilate is the information already absorbed from our previous experiences, which are oftentimes founded on disrespect. Speedy perspective-based assessments result in assumptions.

Assumptions vs. Investigating

Assumptions

An assumption is anything accepted as a truth without proof.

Assumptions

1. Are automatically incorrect.

2. Are emotionally harmful to the recipient.

3. Make accusations.

4. Disregard a person’s right to be heard and understood.

5. Assumptions convey disrespect.

6. Make people defensive.

7. Cause miscommunication.

8. Create emotional problems.

9. Give a self-assigned false sense of superiority.

10. Ruin relationships.

Making assumptions is a reoccurring theme in society. We have been taught to make assumptions by our parents, teachers, and other authority figures; because of this example, we teach others to make assumptions. To make an assumption is to try to assert superiority by not allowing the accused person to explain their thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is easy to make assumptions. We are prone to making assumptions, because:

1. It takes more time and effort to investigate a situation.
2. Investigating a situation may lead to factual information that we are not ready to accept.

Investigating

Investigating is the act of asking questions to verify information in order to obtain the truth. Investigating is the opposite of making an assumption. Investigating offers the gift of mutual respect and communication. Investigating requires:

• Communication
• Active listening
• Confidence
• Respect
• Humility
• Patience
• Compassion
• Positive thinking

When investigating, it is important to seek the truth for the purpose of improvement and without the intent of doing harm to the person you are investigating. Investigating requires putting the other person’s emotional needs first, which can be difficult when you are experiencing negative emotions.
To help you put a tenuous situation in perspective, good questions to ask before investigating are:

• What is my goal in investigating; am I investigating to help the relationship or to punish this person?

• Is my “reality” skewed by perception?

• How can I frame the question in order to be perceived as respectful?

• If I was the one being questioned, would I feel disrespected by my mind frame?

• Is the situation worth investigating; will my questions benefit or harm my goal?

• Am I willing to understand this person’s perspective?

• Do I care enough about the person to work toward a resolution if disrespect is involved?

A Lesson from My Clients

When I noticed the trend of making assumptions among my clients, I began offering the choice to investigate. The following conversation illustrates a successful investigative interaction:

Client to Peer: I know you were trying to piss me off.

Me: What do you mean by “piss me off”?

Client: I mean he was trying to make me angry.

Me: How do you know he was trying to make you angry?
[Client stares at me and says nothing]

Me: Did he say that he was trying to make you angry?

Client: No

Me: Did you ask him if he was trying to make you angry?

Client: No.

Me: Are you willing to ask him if he was trying to make you angry?
[Client addresses peer]

Client to Peer: Were you trying to make me angry?

Peer: No.

After this short conversational exchange, my two clients began to communicate, because that roadblock — called assumption — was removed. As it turns out they had a misunderstanding. Through their choice to let down their defense, risk vulnerability, accept responsibility for their emotions, respect themselves, and respect each other, they came to a mutual and healthy understanding. They left the situation shaking hands — or giving “DAPS” whatever that means — and feeling confident about whom they were as evidenced by their relaxed and cooperative demeanors.

So what actions did my clients and I take that led to our success?

• By asking my client, “What do you mean by, “piss me off?” I offered my client the opportunity to think about what he truly wanted to say. I did not attempt to run the phrase through my personal filter; instead I wanted to understand his perspective, which is called perspective-taking.

• I asked my client to consider the possibility that his peer had not intended to convey a message of disrespect.

• My client considered the possibility, as a result…

•My client decided to offer his peer the opportunity to be heard and understood thus conveying respect to his peer.

In giving each other the respect of being heard and understood, we were able to build stronger relationships.

Are your motives for investigating impure?

If you find that you are investigating a person’s motives in order to punish them, it’s because you have already placed judgment on that person by thinking something like:

“I know he or she [did this or said this] to disrespect me.”

If this is the case, then it would behoove you to consider that you have already made an assumptive mistake—even though you have not yet verbalized it. The silver lining here is that you have not yet spoke; therefore you can correct your faulty thinking.

To keep yourself from creating a debacle, consider practicing a substitute phrase like:
I perceived your actions as being disrespectful by [your facial expression, the way you rolled your eyes, the way you turned away, the tone of your voice, etc]. Is my perception right? Were you being disrespectful or have I made an error?

If the person confirms your suspicion, you can either accept it or not accept it (see the chapter on Expectations vs. Reality).

Tips to remember about assumptive situations:
• What you see may very well be your perception.
• Weigh your perception against your past experiences.
• Don’t judge.
• Remember that every situation is a new situation, which requires analysis.
• Give the accused the benefit of the doubt; give them the opportunity to explain their intention.
• Miscommunication is common.
• Take the time to check your emotions
• Take all the time you need to think about what you want to say. You have time.

Once you learn the basic rule of respect through investigating, I think you will find that the results are more likely to be positive, to be satisfying, and the relationship to be more fulfilling. The bottom line is…

More Investigating = Better Relationships