The modern world is fraught with what the philosopher Pascal called "Divertissement", which we can roughly translate as "diversion" or "distraction"or "entertainment". Although it may be fun to watch a movie or go to a show when we are constantly distracted it is very hard to focus and see things clearly. When we don't look inward in a state of calm we cannot see things in their true perspective.
Both anxiety and depression stem from seeing the world from a distorted perspective. When we are anxious we look at the world from the perspective of someone who is only anticipating catastrophes. When we are depressed we mainly experience the negative aspects of life.
If you feel unclear, unfocused, or even worse, anxious, low or overwhelmed this article is for you. By shifting the way you look at things you can shift the way you think. When your mindset changes you can feel happier and more satisfied. If you want to feel more empowered and positive start by developing a simple practice and applying the exercises I will suggest to you in this article.
You probably have heard how important it is to be grateful. But what is gratitude? And how can you stop thinking: how do I get over the mindset of thinking the practice of gratitude as a mushy act?
If you are like me you may find it hard to even think about things to be grateful for. Especially when you are not in a good place it may seem like the hardest thing to do to find something to be thankful for. People may suggest you reflect on how privileged you are because if you are reading this you have a computer, a house, running water and food on your table and many don't. But feeling guilty for not being already happy when you have so much more than others won't help you.
What you need to do is shift your perspective completely, so read on to find out where to start.
Fear of public speaking is also known as "Glossophobia", which is Greek for 'fear of words'. Obviously, speech anxiety does not mean you are afraid of words! What it means is that you are suffering from performance anxiety, which is a form of social anxiety. Also known as stage fright, speaking fear happens when you find yourself in front of an audience giving a speech or presentation while in a fight or flight or freeze state of mind.
When you are in this state the amygdala, which is the alarm center of the brain, has flagged up your current situation as dangerous and as a result, the panic button has been triggered. If you stay in this mode for long enough, you may start hyperventilating and may end up having a full blown panic attack.
Whether you only panic before a presentation or a speech or you get nervous while it's happening or you beat yourself up for making mistakes afterward, public speaking anxiety can have a severe disruptive effect on your life.
Your mind's job is to keep you take your away from pain and drive you towards pleasure. If public speaking has been encoded as a danger by your amygdala, then you most likely will avoid it. Unfortunately, avoidance reinforces the problem so nervousness can quickly escalate into a full-blown phobia.
The consequences can be very distressing:
If you want to succeed in anything in life you need to know how to influence your mind. You need to know how to make your mind do what you want it to do, not what you don’t.
Have you ever noticed how we are surrounded by messages like 'Don't drink and drive' 'Don't forget your passport' 'Don't touch the button! 'Don't eat junk!' And how many times have you have ended up doing the very thing you were told not to? Why is that? The answer lies in understanding how the mind processes information.
For many years I have tried to explain to my clients how to successfully influence their mind but only recently I have come across an explanation that is both simple and accurate. I will borrow and adapt Marisa Peer's framework to make it very clear how to effectively communicate with your own mind.
If you are depressed chances are you have been told at least one of the following:
Your mother or father might have been depressed, your antidepressants may not be working, you may have been told you just have a chemical imbalance and there is nothing you can do to help yourself. I have encountered many people with depression in both my practice and in my personal life and having suffered from it myself and having been close to suicide at one point, I know what it is like to feel trapped in a nightmare with no end in sight.
The good new is it is possible to overcome depression, no matter how long you've had it or what anybody else has said to you about it. Although depression causes a chemical imbalance, that is the consequence and not the cause of it. Although it is more likely that you will suffer from it if someone close to you has had it that is not because it is a genetic disease but because you have learnt how to think in a depressive way from those who are close to you.
The truth about depression is that you can beat it. It may not be an easy peasy process but it is most certainly possible and the first step is to choose to believe that you can.
You care. And yet sometimes it doesn't seem like people know that. You don't want to feel alone and isolated but that's how you end up feeling a little too often. You don't understand how it seems to easy for some to make friends and have great relationships and so hard for you. Do they know something you don't or are they simply born that way?
It may be easier for some to forge new relationships than for others. Perhaps they are less shy and more extroverted. However this does not predict whether those relationships will last long term or whether they would be truly satisfying to those involved. The quality of your relationships in the long run is more important than their quantity. And the quality of a relationship is measured by the quality of the connection you have together.
A true connection with someone is a vital experience that you feel in your whole being. Cultivating connection takes skill, and skills take time effort and commitment to develop. Let's have a look at what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it.
Perhaps you have a habit of going in one direction only to give up halfway and try something else or maybe you stay put and don't venture into the new because you're not sure if it'd be the right thing for you. You wish you were like those people that knew what they wanted to do in life since childhood. You wonder if perhaps you are just different from everyone else and there is no point in even trying but you don't want to give up just yet.
You are aware that it's important to set goals but the idea of doing that makes you feel anxious or perhaps even angry. How do you set a goal if you haven't got a clue what you want? Goals may seem arbitrary or superficial or you worry you would get it wrong and then find yourself hating the direction you've chosen. Maybe you want to have no doubts before you start so you risk failure less. If only there was something you could do to clear the brain fog and actually be sure of yourself...
You may think you are alone in this but the truth is a lot of people go through this before finding clarity. So how did they find the answer that allowed them to move on? They stopped trying to find their direction in a rational way and instead connected to their heart's desire. Here's how.
Do you set goals but give up as soon as the going gets tough? Do you find it difficult to stay motivated and give up on yourself as soon as you hit an obstacle?
Perhaps you have decided to learn a language or maybe you want to lose weight or you want to save money for a trip. Maybe you want to write a book or kick a bad habit or have a better social life. No matter what your goal is though, as soon as you encounter a difficulty you feel deflated and find it hard to stay the course.
Maybe you are excited about finally writing that book but when you look at the blank page nothing seems to come out and you feel deflated. Or maybe you want to get fit but you haven't been to the gym for so long that the exercises seem way too hard so you never go back. Or maybe you decide to learn to play guitar but after the first few lessons you realise there is so much more to learn than you expected and it feels just too overwhelming to continue.
It doesn't matter what the goal is. Sometimes you take a few steps forward but end up stalling. Other times you don't start at all. You say to yourself: "maybe I just don't have what it takes... I am too lazy, old, unfit, stupid etc. Other people seem to have it so much easier than you and you don't know why. You wish there was an easy way to just skip ahead and get it done but you don't know how.
After a few times of going through this pattern you start to feel nervous about trying something new, worrying that you might fail again. If you soon don't stick to your goals you will never achieve anything of value - you say to yourself. You will never be able to learn French, run that marathon, start your own business, ask a woman out. You are afraid you might never make that dream come true and that just feels depressing.
You know what? You aren't alone. Believe me, I have been there, plenty of times. The good news is there is a way to get past your struggle. Your goal may at times feel like an unattainable dream but they may be closer than you think. Let me show you how to stick to your decisions and overcome challenges even when it feels like an impossible feat.
Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, you will spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
In order to create lasting change in your relationship patterns so you can find the love you crave and create the relationship you deserve, you must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the way you act and feel. What does that mean?
It is easy to blame others, society or even yourself for the way things are but what good does that do? Does that attitude help get you where you want to be? Chances are it doesn’t.
You are fully responsible for the way you respond to situations. Responsibility means to have the ability to choose your response to what happens rather than behaving automatically without thinking things through based on the conditioning you have received throughout your life. When you focus on yourself and your behaviors with gentle compassion you give yourself a chance to choose your reaction to challenging feelings or situations. In this way, you can work on things you can control without beating yourself up for what you previously did with less awareness. This is how you can get back in the driving seat.
QUESTION: In what ways are you not taking responsibility for your love life?
Even in the most difficult situation, you are half of the picture. What are you doing to allow things to go the way they have always gone ? What part are you playing in the game? If you want to change a situation you need to know what you can do differently rather than hoping others will magically change and make everything better without you doing anything at all.
EXERCISE: Make a mental picture of the person you’re dating exactly as they function today — warts and all — If they never changed, would you still want to be with them in five years?
Answer honestly. You need to stare reality in the face as uncomfortable as it may be.
If you have answered NO you need to ask yourself another question: is what you want to change in your partner a personality trait or is it a behavior?
Character traits (such as shyness for example) are almost impossible to change. If you cannot accept a particular trait in your partner you need to either leave them or accept that you are condemning yourself to a life of misery with them.
If on the other hand, it is a behavior that you want changing, there might be a chance your partner may change but that depends entirely on how much they want to change and how committed they are to making an effort in the right direction.
Basically, people cannot change their traits and can only change their behaviors if they really want to. And if you are spending your time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to because YOU cannot live with it, you are either falling into the category of “fixer” or you are ignoring the fact that you need to leave the relationship because it has become toxic.
Now, I normally don’t like maths but when it comes down to change here’s my winning formula :
(Insight + Behavior Change ) x Repetition = Identity Change = Different Outcome
Also: Intention (to change) + Attention (to old patterns of behavior) = a capacity to catch yourself when you are about to repeat old behaviors which leads to – Choice to do something different.
Here’s a breakdown:
To start this process I would ask you to get a pen and paper and write or respond to these questions speaking out loud. It’s not enough to just think about them. Thoughts have a way to get lost and keep meandering in our minds unless we pin them down either in writing or through spoken word.
First of all, you need to target the behaviors that hold you back and learn to replace them with new ones:
In order to change you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a while and ’embrace the suck’. Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to the investigation of what you are finding so challenging? You need to make a commitment to stop avoiding difficult stuff and just face it.
Finally, you need to have a good idea of where you are going and why. If you just keep on thinking about what you don’t want that’s what you’ll keep on getting.
Once you do the work you are on your way to better relationships. Remember that this is a process that requires constant practice and commitment. Like getting physically fit requires you to exercise every day at the gym you need to keep going to achieve and maintain your goals. There are no quick fixes in life but the reward is worth it! Focus on that and you will reap the fruits of your hard labor so you can find the love you deserve.
More about relationships:
In the last article we looked at the main dysfunctional relationship patterns people get into:
Now let’s have a look at why do we repeat these patterns
You may think why would I be afraid of having a good relationship? It makes sense that I would be avoiding a bad one but a good one? The answer is that openness and joy, actually make us feel more vulnerable than we may feel it is safe to be. Positive emotions potentially expose you to rejection and pain which can be a terrifying prospect especially if you’ve experienced heartbreak before. So in a good relationship, you may feel terrified and anxious and therefore avoid it at all costs.
Intimacy can be defined as a desire to know and care for the another in a way that is mutual as well as the ability to be vulnerable and trust one another. If you are stuck in the same relationship patterns you may have learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient as a result of the fact that you feel nobody else will care for you or meet your needs. Perhaps somebody badly betrayed you or something hurtful struck you down and now you cannot trust, as you are scared you may not survive another blow.
Denial is a defense mechanism that your mind has produced to defend you from the possible threat of facing something that could destroy you. If something is so upsetting that it threatens to overwhelm or destroy you then your mind will push it away and repress it. When you are in denial you are not in touch with your need for intimacy (to be close and to trust others). You may hardly ever have had your needs met so you don’t even remember you have them. If somebody asked you what you were looking for in a partner you may answer simplistically. You may be stuck in a fantasy. Or you may be focussed on a checklist of items that have nothing to do with your emotional needs. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be treated well or to be happy in a relationship.
When you are in denial of old feelings you may not be aware that you are in fact angry and your anger may have turned in on yourself.
You could be unaware of a deep old sadness. It could be that the original experience that caused you to be wounded has happened so long ago that you can’t even remember it. Or it could be that the experience is too painful to be recalled. The sadness you feel now is the old sadness revisited.
This is when you don’t want to look at yourself and you avoid taking any responsibility for what went wrong in your past relationship/s and instead blame your partner or others. By refusing to ask what you could have done differently and not learning the lesson you are bound to repeat similar mistakes in the future.
If you are impulsive you will just jump into a relationship without thinking much of the consequences in advance. You may feel uncomfortable with feeling bored or lonely, sad or angry and you just want to jump into action. Alternatively, you may be afraid of thinking too much of the situation if you find something wrong and then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointment. This way you may end up with similar kind of partners because you have not taken the time to go slow and properly vet your potential partner.
You tend to get into relationships marked by emotional highs and lows. You may come from a home where there was a high of emotion or conflict. You may be afraid that a good relationship equals too much stability and that means boredom and therefore emotional death. You may feel addictively drawn to relationships that you know are not good for you and that you know will not work. If you already use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or you use other addictive behaviors to cope with life in general your dependency in relationships may be just another way that your impulsive coping style gets manifested.
Sometimes it is our deeply held beliefs – which are the foundation for all behavior – that are holding you back.
Do you believe that a relationship will permanently change the way you feel, so you’ll finally be happy? Do you believe that if only you had a relationship you would automatically :
have someone who will be there no matter what
you’ll finally have a gratifying sex life
you’ll be swept away from the mundane realities of everyday life
If so, you are in for a fall! Inevitably you will realize this relationship, like the one before, cannot meet these expectations. You are attempting to use the other rather than relating to them and you are trying to get something so unrealistic from a relationship that you end up disappointed .
If you have deeply negative core beliefs about yourself you may be interfering with your ability to find and maintain a long-term, positive relationship.
Do you believe you are unlovable?
Do you believe you are helpless?
Do you believe a combination of the two?
You restrict yourself to a narrow selection of partners and fail to see the big picture. You may get caught up in non-important details, and not see how a partner may be good for you just because they don’t fit it with your rigid idea of the requirements they should meet.
If you have previously experienced a trauma you may try to gain some mastery over the original traumatic event by putting yourself in similar traumatic situations now and hoping to react differently.
Trauma can be anything you perceive as traumatic, regardless of whether others would find it traumatic.
And finally : Do you believe you can truly change the underlying causes of your behaviour? This is essential if you want to change . In the next article we will deal with how to practically change these patterns.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.