In a perfect world, each person we interact with would be nice, kind, considerate, mindful, generous, and more. They would get our jokes and we would get theirs. We would all thrive in a convivial atmosphere where no one was ever cross, upset, or maligned.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Some people drive us crazy, and we (admittedly) drive a few mad as well. Those we dislike are inconsiderate, rushed, malign our character, question our motives, or just don’t get our jokes at all — but expect us to laugh at all theirs.
You might wonder whether it is possible to be fair to someone who ruffles you all the time, or someone you’d rather avoid eating lunch with. You might wonder if you should learn to like every person you meet.
According to Robert Sutton (a professor of management science at Stanford University), it’s neither possible — nor even ideal — to build a team comprised entirely of people you’d invite to a backyard barbecue.
That’s why smart people make the most out of people they don’t like. Here’s how they do it.
1. They accept that they are not going to like everyone.
Sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking that we are nice people. We think that we are going to like everyone we interact with — even when that’s not going to happen. It’s inevitable you will encounter difficult people who oppose what you think. Smart people know this. They also recognize that conflicts or disagreements are a result of differences in values.
That person you don’t like is not intrinsically a bad human. The reason you don’t get along is because you have different values, and that difference creates judgment. Once you accept that not everyone will like you, and you won’t like everyone because of a difference in values, the realization can take the emotion out of the situation. That may even result in getting along better by agreeing to disagree.
2. They bear with (not ignore or dismiss) those they don’t like.
Sure, you may cringe at his constant criticism, grit your teeth at her lousy jokes, or shake your head at the way he hovers around her all the time, but feeling less than affectionate to someone might not be the worst thing. “From a performance standpoint, liking the people you manage too much is a bigger problem than liking them too little,” says Sutton.
“You need people who have different points of view and aren’t afraid to argue,” Sutton adds. “They are the kind of people who stop the organization from doing stupid things.” It may not be easy, but bear with them. It is often those who challenge or provoke us that prompt us to new insights and help propel the group to success. Remember, you are not perfect either, yet people still tolerate you.
3. They treat those they don’t like with civility.
Whatever your feelings are for someone, that person will be highly attuned to your attitude and behavior, and will likely reflect it back to you. If you are rude to them, they will likely throw away all decorum and be rude to you too. The onus; therefore, is on you to remain fair, impartial, and composed.
“Cultivating a diplomatic poker face is important. You need to be able to come across as professional and positive,” says Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and author of The Blame Game. This way you won’t stoop to their level or be sucked into acting the way they do.
4. They check their own expectations.
It’s not uncommon for people to have unrealistic expectations about others. We may expect others to act exactly as we would, or say the things that we might say in a certain situation. However, that’s not realistic. “People have ingrained personality traits that are going to largely determine how they react,” says Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD (psychology professor at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey). “Expecting others to do as you would do is setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.”
If a person causes you to feel exactly the same way every time, adjust your expectations appropriately. This way you’ll be psychologically prepared and their behavior will not catch you by surprise. Smart people do this all the time. They’re not always surprised by a dis-likable person’s behavior.
5. They turn inwards and focus on themselves.
No matter what you try, some people can still really get under our skin. It’s important that you learn how to handle your frustration when dealing with someone who annoys you. Instead of thinking about how irritating that person is, focus on why you are reacting the way you are. Sometimes what we don’t like in others is frequently what we don’t like in ourselves. Besides, they didn’t create the button, they’re only pushing it.
Pinpoint the triggers that might be complicating your feelings. You may then be able to anticipate, soften, or even alter your reaction. Remember: it’s easier to change your perceptions, attitude, and behavior than to ask someone to be a different kind of person.
6. They pause and take a deep breath.
Some personality characteristics may always set you off, says Kathleen Bartle (a California-based conflict consultant). Maybe it’s the colleague who regularly misses deadlines, or the guy who tells off-color jokes. Take a look at what sets you off and who’s pushing your buttons. That way, Bartle says, you can prepare for when it happens again.
According to her, “If you can pause and get a grip on your adrenaline pump and go to the intellectual part of your brain, you’ll be better able to have a conversation and to skip over the judgment.” A deep breath and one big step back can also help to calm you down and protect you from overreaction, thereby allowing you to proceed with a slightly more open mind and heart.
7. They voice their own needs.
If certain people constantly tick you off, calmly let them know that their manner of behavior or communication style is a problem for you. Avoid accusatory language and instead try the “When you . . . I feel . . .” formula. For example, Cacaiola advises you to tell that person, “When you cut me off in meetings, I feel like you don’t value my contributions.” Then, take a moment and wait for their response.
You may find that the other person didn’t realize you weren’t finished speaking, or your colleague was so excited about your idea that she enthusiastically jumped into the conversation.
8. They allow space between them.
If all else fails, smart people allow space between themselves and those they don’t like. Excuse yourself and go on your way. If at work, move to another room or sit at the other end of the conference table. With a bit of distance, perspective, and empathy, you may be able to come back and interact both with those people you like and those you don’t like as if unfazed.
Of course, everything would be easier if we could wish people we don’t like away. Too bad we all know that’s not how life works.
Featured photo credit: sachman75 via flickr.com
I’ll readily admit that I’d f*ck someone ugly if he were super smart. When a guy can challenge me intellectually, I literally get wet. I’m not even kidding right now.
When I see a guy in glasses, sitting behind a book on the train, I don’t even see anything else. I just want to jump him because he looks smart.
I am so into smart guys. I don’t even care if he’s an assh*le, as long as he’s smart AF.
I once had a man approach me at a cafe and ask me about a Russian novel I was reading because he also loved Solzhenitsyn. Needless to say, buddy boy got my number and into my pants two weeks later. Sorry not sorry.
I am a proud sapiosexual. And I am not alone. Generation Y is teeming with us.
A sapiosexual is someone who finds sexual stimulation from the way a person’s mind works. It means you literally are attracted to intelligence. Looks take a backseat to a person’s wit.
When you think about it, why shouldn’t the brain be the thing we’re attracted to? Why would you want muscles over conversation? Why would you want looks over books?
It’s the brain that makes the man or woman. Looks fade; knowledge is forever.
Science is finally getting behind what we’ve all known all along: Smart is sexy.
According to Diana Rabb, a PhD in transpersonal psychology:
The brain is the largest sex organ. Those who admit to being sapiosexual will say that they are turned on by the brain and tend to be teased or excited by the insights of another person.
Sound familiar? If you are anything like me, all you want is a troll with an amazing, dark sense of humor, cultural knowledge and a hankering for Salinger.
As foreplay, the sapiosexual person may crave philosophical, political or psychological discussions because this turns [him or her] on.
So for us, intelligence is the way to get us hot and bothered. If a man can engage in a healthy debate with us or make us think in a different way about something, that’s the first step to sex.
For some, foreplay is a little heavy petting, but not for the sapiosexuals of the world! A little talk of politics or our favorite authors and we are going to need to get it in immediately.
Ugh, I’m kind of turning myself on right now thinking about smart men in glasses telling me something about “Heart of Darkness” and allegories.
Sapiosexuality: It is a real thing.
Smart man, strong sperm.
Researchers from the University of Mexico have found a connection between a man’s virility and his intelligence.
The study tested the sperm of 400 men after putting them through intense mental testing.
Those with higher IQs directly correlated with having healthy sperm. Therefore, smart men have the strongest sperm.
Women are attracted to intelligence because their ovaries can sense that choosing a smart mate means a better chance of having babies.
Women are all about getting the best sperm to make their babies. We’re selective like that.
If you like his brain, you’re going to like his sperm.
High intelligence, high sex drive.
Research conducted by the sex toy company Lovehoney found a direct connection with high IQ and libido.
As reported in Medical Daily, the company found that students from “elite” universities were among the most frequent toy buyers. So, it’s the smartest among us who are also the most sexual.
While the research shows the amount of sex you’re having may be inversely related to your intelligence, your sex drive is actually more rigorous.
So if you’re dating a man or woman who is especially brainy, you can probably bet he or she is going to be especially horny as well. Who doesn’t want to be having more sex?
As a highly sexual woman, I have to say this is wonderful news. Smart sex is good sex.
We feel like we have something to prove to our parents.
If you go home with someone, and he doesn’t have a lot of books, don’t f*ck ’em! – John Waters
I see this quote everywhere these days, from tweets to Instas. This generation has rallied around intelligence.
Despite what older generations may think, Gen-Y is a generation of readers and writers. We’re thinkers and creatives more than anything else. We dream big.
We crave knowledge. We want to understand the world around us. Since we’re constantly faulted for our love of selfies, Instagram and partying, we’ve started to push back against the backlash.
We’ve started a Millennial movement around being smart. It isn’t attractive to be stupid.
We revere intelligence and see it as sexually appealing because we want to show the world how smart we actually are.
Take that, Gen-X! Take that, Mom!
We aren’t wrapped up in our gym selfies and food pictures; we’re wrapped up in Steinbeck and Socrates.
We want to show how far we’ve come cerebrally despite all of this technology and vacuous bullsh*t we’re surrounded by.
Dumb is never cute.
We’re trying to get our hands on everything we can to improve ourselves. If you’re not smart, you’re not appealing.
Your mind is the sexiest thing you have. If we can win people over with the wit of our personalities instead of our looks, we’ve emerged victorious.
We’re writing on every forum we can get our name on. We’re devouring paperbacks on the subway.
We’re looking down on anyone without a college degree, and we’re absorbing all of the information the Internet can provide for us.
We’re utilizing our resources for the greater good.
Despite how superficial and narcissistic we’re made out to be, we’re actually the most highly educated and authentic people out there.
We’re attracted to intelligence because we understand its worth. We can see past the emptiness of celebrity gossip and reality television and into what is really important.
We love with our minds first and our hearts second.
Author: Gigi Engle, Gigi Engle is a Staff Writer for Elite Daily, covering all things sex and love related. She’s completely insane, but in a good way. Follow her on Facebook, Insta and Twitter @GigiEngle
Source: Elite Daily
Your 30s are an exciting time! You may feel like you’re in the prime of your life—or you could feel like you’re slowing down a bit. Either way, you are wiser and have experienced a little more of life. You’ve, hopefully, gotten some unhealthy behaviors out of your system like clubbing all weekend and spending all your disposable cash on new kicks or handbags. You are now easing into the motions of adult life.
To give you a heads-up on this new, exciting phase of your life, here are 10 lifestyle changes you should make in your 30s to enjoy wellness of body and mind, and lay the foundation for lifelong success.
1. Start loving yourself more
Loving yourself and becoming comfort in your own skin is particularly important in your 30s as you settle into adulthood and all it entails, including bills, career, taxes, a spouse and maybe even kids. Only when you love yourself can you truly be able to extend love to others, both in your personal and professional life. Besides, embracing yourself during this period is incredibly freeing.
Start each day by appreciating and applauding yourself for you are beautiful, smart and capable, and you are doing the best you can. Be confident and proud of all of your choices, likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams. And stop hanging around people who don’t treat you well. Instead, spend more time with loved ones who make you feel good. This will nurture your emotions and boost your self esteem.
2. Start building your dream private life
Your private or personal life is going to play a major role in your happiness, success and satisfaction in life. So, if you want to get married, have kids or buy a house, your 30s are a great time to get started on those goals. Ask yourself what you can do between now and the end of the year to embark on your dream private life. Don’t delay pursuing your dream life. Putting off starting a family or having children, for example, is not advisable. If you want kids, have them now before it’s too late.
Blogger Mark Manson writes it best, “You don’t have the time. You don’t have the money. You need to perfect your career first. They’ll end your life as you know it. Oh shut up… Kids are great. They make you better in every way. They push you to your limits. They make you happy. You should not defer having kids.”
3. Start pursuing work that you actually love
Your 30’s are also a great time to explore other areas of your line of work and develop your truest passion(s), whether it is music, writing, or business. Nothing could be worse than anchoring yourself to a job you hate, having to make your living at it and never having an opportunity to pursue your truest passions. There is actually an economic term for that: Sunk costs—where you figure you should continue with something because you’ve already sunk so much into it. It’s responsible for many a disastrous careers, many a failed businesses and many an unhappy life.
Find a job you actually love where your passions meet with your talents and where you get the greatest fulfillment. As Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life… And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
Thanks to social networks life Facebook, it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to friends and peers who may have married, gotten kids or bought a house and feel like a loser. Don’t do that. Stop comparing yourself with others. We are all different and grow at our own pace. It’s particularly important that you understand that in your 30s otherwise you might feel depressed and derail from the true path to success and happiness. As one psychotherapist writes, constantly comparing yourself to others creates unnecessary psychological stress and can throw your self-esteem out the window.
Love yourself and keep taking good care of yourself. That means allowing yourself to grow and evolve at your own pace. “If you are unable to do some things in life compared to your siblings and friends, then please be at peace with yourself,” advises Mahesh Kay. “Don’t be harsh on yourself.”
5. Start being content with what you already have
Rather than be bitter and envious of other people, be calm, patient and content with what you have. Research shows that appreciating what you have can increase happiness and decrease negative feelings. Of course, you should strive for better, but understand that life doesn’t always work out exactly how we want or plan. Knowing that can shield you from adverse effects of life’s inevitable disappointments.
Borrow a leaf from Oprah Winfrey and start counting your blessings, even when you don’t have much. Keep a daily gratitude journal like she did. It will do you a whole lot of good. And remember, as Khalil Gibran says, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”
6. Start forgiving yourself for your mistakes
You probably made many mistakes in your teens and 20s. Everybody makes mistakes. Your 30s are the right time to reflect and forgive yourself for those mistakes. People who practice self-compassion see their weaknesses as changeable and try to avoid making the same errors in the future.
Learn from your mistakes, let them go and move on. Don’t dwell on the errors of the past. Psychologists say that the ability to forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes is the key driver of success.
7. Start exercising regularly
Make time for exercise in your 30s. Your future self will thank you for it. In the latter half of your 30s, you will start to lose muscle mass and begin to gain a few pounds as your metabolism slows. That’s why it’s especially important that you exercise at this time.
Try to move yourself as much as possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s walking, jogging, hiking, swimming or weightlifting—as long as it involves some movement—do it. However, choose physical activities that you love as you are less likely to continue exercising if you dislike your workouts.
8. Start calling your parents at regular intervals
Many 30-somethings get so caught up in the motions of raising a family, building a career and so on that they forget to attend to their relationship with their parents. Remember that your parents grow older as you do, and they will not live forever. Neglecting them may be neglecting opportunities you may rue.
Call your parents regularly. A simple “Hi mom, how are you? Yeah? Yeah. She’s doing fine. I know. I’ll keep warm. OK, love you, bye.” That’s all it takes to alleviate their concerns, keep their mental and emotional wellbeing intact and keep your relationship with them healthy. Visit them whenever you can.
9. Start making healthy eating habits a priority
One of the things that can go with a growing list of responsibilities is healthy eating habits. However, not making healthy eating habits a priority in your 30s can make you get to your 40s and later years being slow, tired and burdened by a list of health complaints that could have been avoided.
Eat a well-balanced diet, low in saturated fats and full of fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed and junk foods as much as possible. Quit smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. No hard drugs either. Make your health a priority because your health is your wealth.
10. Continue enjoying life
Just because you’re not in your 20s anymore doesn’t mean you should stop having fun. Spending all of your 30s chasing after money will only make you grumpy, cynical and unhappy about life. The resounding theme among those who have lived through their 30s is that none of the money you work hard to make matters if you’re not enjoying life. So enjoy life with those you care about while you still can.
Go on dates with your partner; play with your kids (if you have any); organize group trips with your close friends to go see the world. You only live once. Why not live the best way you can? Have a blast in your 30s and make fond memories, but remember to build your purpose.
Source: Life Hack
Over the course of our lives, we run across all types of people—and the fact that we’re prone to classifying them as “types” shows just how much we tend to believe that people are certain ways by nature. The truth is, many aspects of our personalities and emotional make-ups are brought on over time by the psychological habits we have adopted: the ways in which we interpret events, the thoughts that run through our heads like clockwork, and the explanations we give ourselves for how the world works. Few people would endorse wanting to become bitter and negative human beings, and yet it’s not an uncommon sight to see, especially for people who have experienced more than their share of tough times. Want to have a more hopeful and optimistic outlook on life? See if you can diminish the following mental habits, and go from there.
1) Not forgiving others. Many people equate forgiveness with forgetting that something happened altogether or saying that it was okay that it did. That’s not what forgiveness is about. And many people claim that they have forgiven someone for something, and yet in reality, they have not. What real forgiveness means is allowing yourself to be free from the resentment of having been wronged, to accept that something has occurred and to believe that you deserve to move on from it. It’s to declare your independence from perseverating on how to get revenge on another person, to stop dwelling on how to make them “make up for it” and continuing to let that corrode your emotional well-being. It is letting go in its healthiest, truest sense. Forgiveness doesn’t minimize the wrongness of someone’s actions. It just allows you to no longer be hurt by them. Forgiveness is associated with reduced depression, stress, and hostility, and improved self-esteem and even physical health. When you look at its benefits, you’ll see it’s about being kind to yourself, not doing a favor for someone else.
2) Not forgiving yourself. Even more kind is allowing yourself to move on from your own mistakes. Regret, embarrassment, shame, and guilt from a single mistake can haunt you for years. And the ensuing negative thoughts, stress, and pessimistic outlook on life can create a dynamic where you view the world in a bitter way—all because you feel like you are unworthy of feeling okay. In fact, forgiving yourself has been shown to help reduce feelings of depression. If you find yourself plagued by thoughts of past mistakes, start noticing and exploring them. When are they at their worst? What feelings do they bring on? What makes them go away? If you are locked in a never-ending fight with the thoughts, trying to “reason” your way out of them, see if instead you can learn to accept their presence without endorsing their meaning. “I’m having the thought again about the time I really was cruel to my parents. Hi, thought. I hear you there. You can’t hurt me right now, though, because I’m deciding what to have for lunch.”
3) All-or-none thinking. It is amazing how frequently all-or-none thinking seems to underlie such a variety of unhealthy psychological states. From panic to low self-esteem, from perfectionism to hopelessness, it is not uncommon to uncover hidden and not-so-hidden patterns of this dysfunctional thinking in my clients when they are struggling with a negative worldview. What all-or-none thinking does, by its very definition, is make your outlook on life more rigid. It magnifies negativity by making it appear bigger than it really is. It keeps your mind focusing on what’s gone wrong rather than what’s gone right, and it sets you up to see the bad in people, things, and life more often than the good. See if you can catch yourself making this mistake in daily life. Are you inherently uncomfortable with shades of gray, and do you prefer things to be more black-and-white? That might be good for organizing a closet, but when it comes to how you process bad things happening, it can hurt you.
4) Holding others to a higher standard than you hold yourself. When you are constantly disappointed and annoyed with people around you, it could mean that you are having an unlucky break and not being treated the way you deserve. It could also mean that you are choosing ill-fitting people to accompany you throughout life. Or, more likely, it could mean that you have a set of overly rigid standards for other people’s behavior that you don’t apply to yourself. In fact, sometimes we are hardest on others when we see our own traits in them—things that we don’t like to admit or look at. Seeing them in others makes us uncomfortable. Like the classic hypocrite who crusades against sins far smaller than the one he or she commits in their private life, it’s bound to create a disconnect within us that causes stress, hostility, and negativity. Examine what’s really going on when you’re chronically frustrated with someone, whether it’s the stranger in the left-hand turn lane or your messy roommate. Are you looking at the whole picture? What if you, instead of bathing in the negative energy, chose to reflect on the last time you made a mistake and the way it may have looked to others? Sending empathy to others, even when you least want to, can be a surprisingly powerful tool to take away the anger.
5) Believing that things will never get better. Severe hopelessness can be particularly dangerous, putting people at increased risk for depression and even suicide. But even milder beliefs about how things will never improve can do significant damage day-to-day. “My sister will never get her act together,” “I’ll never be able to pay off my student loans,” and “The world is a bad place and getting worse” are all beliefs that show hopelessness and can blind a person to significant evidence to the contrary. A lifetime is, for most of us, a decades-long ride that sees many highs and many lows, and many ebbs and many flows. Believing that there is a downward trajectory obstructs the beauty of everyday things and keeps you hopelessly and inaccurately believing negative ideas—giving them a staying power in you that they don’t deserve. Imagine how much peace you can feel simply by allowing yourself to believe that harmonious and beautiful things are out there in the world, yet to be experienced. It takes practice to see them, but they are there and always will be.
6) Believing you have less control over your life than you really do. Learned helplessness, first identified by Martin Seligman, involves the belief that we don’t have control over our situations even in cases when we do, and so we convince ourselves we shouldn’t even bother to try. This mindset has been shown to be correlated with depression, and for some people it follows a period of time when they really did not have much control over their lives—perhaps suffering from abuse or neglect, for example. But when the beliefs that we have no power persist after we, in actuality, have gained power back, we deny ourselves the potential to make our lives better. And we increase the likelihood that we view the world as an inherently demoralizing place, convincing ourselves that we can’t make a difference. The more that we can feel that we can steer our own ship, the more we can build a life that suits us. Are you underestimating your ability to get out of that dead-end job, find a partner that treats you well, or develop a peaceful resolution to your years-long fight with your brother? If so, you are doing yourself a great disservice—and increasing your chances of letting your mindset harden into a bitter one.
7) Believing the myth of arrival. The myth of arrival refers to the idea that once you have “arrived” at a certain point in your life, everything will fall into place and the life you have waited for will finally begin. But sometimes this belief, that things will automatically get better once a certain thing happens, can be nearly as damaging as believing that things will never improve, because the former sets you up for a devastating letdown when things actually don’t get better. “Once I finally meet the one/get my promotion/lose those twenty pounds/live in a bigger house/get my kids settled into independent and successful lives… then I’ll be happy” are common ways of thinking. But putting our happiness on hold and in the hands of a random life event that may or may not have any effect whatsoever on our happiness is giving way too much power to an external situation and not nearly enough to ourselves. It robs us of the ability to find joy on our own terms. It makes us miss the proverbial journey because we’re so over-focused on the destination. And worst of all, it sets us up for the crash that comes when we realize that it wasn’t those twenty pounds that were making us depressed—it was the fact that we were depressed, for different reasons entirely, that made us put on twenty pounds in the first place.
8) Overgeneralizing. It was one of the “cognitive errors” that Aaron Beck first identified as putting people at higher risk for depression, and it often manifests itself in believing that if you fail at one thing, you will fail at everything. The tendency to overgeneralize—to turn a setback into a mountain from a molehill—also underlies a lot of people’s thinking patterns who have pervasive negative views of the world outside of themselves. Sometimes this type of thinking can even look like paranoia (“Give anyone an inch, and they will take a mile” or “Just about everyone will take advantage of you if you let them.”) It’s true that not every human being out there is a paragon of virtue, but it’s also true that there is a heck of a lot of goodness if you look for it. And just because there are scammers out there doesn’t mean that you should stop helping those who aren’t. After all, helping others gives us a mood boost. Examine your beliefs to see if you are—against all available evidence—overgeneralizing the world into a dangerous or hostile place, which may show hostility coming from within.
9) Not practicing gratitude. By now you’ve probably heard it, and I’ve written about it in this very space: Being grateful for things big and small brings big changes to your mentalhealth. It is much harder to be bitter about your late-arriving dinner (“I AM NEVER COMING TO THIS RESTAURANT AGAIN!“) and have it ruin your whole night if you allow yourself to acknowledge how gorgeous the blooming trees outside the restaurant window were while you waited, or the fact that you are able to afford to pay someone to cook you a meal at all, or the fact that you were with someone who could make you laugh, no matter how much your stomachs were growling. Some people may think that gratitudemeditation or keeping a list of things that you’re grateful for is hokey. But would you rather be a little hokey or be the person who goes their whole life without the mental and physical health benefits (lessened depression, improved immune system functioning and heart health, among many others) that gratitude brings?
Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a speaker and licensed clinical psychologist. She is the author ofThe Friendship Fix and an upcoming book about the psychology of everyday life (stay tuned!), and serves on the faculty of Georgetown University. Her mental health advice column Baggage Check has appeared in the Washington Post Express for more than eleven years. She speaks to audiences large and small about relationships, motivation, and work-life balance and is a television commentator about mental health issues. Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!
Source: Psychology Today
Attending Catholic school in Brooklyn, I felt loved by the Catholic nun who was my second grade teacher. But one cold morning that quickly changed.
We were lining up to enter the classroom when the nun suddenly shouted, “Spit out the gum!” Being a good Catholic boy, I’d never consider flaunting the rules, so I was stunned by the accusation. “I’m not chewing gum, I feebly replied.”
I was confident that my protestation would resolve the matter. But my innocence was shattered again: “Yes you are chewing gum,” the nun insisted. “Don’t lie!”
Ouch! I could feel my stomach churning and a horrible sinking feeling to be assaulted by a second accusation. Sinking into deeper trouble, I wondered if I should dare to protest again.
I trusted that if I spoke the truth, justice would prevail. Mustering some sheepish courage, I muttered: “But I’m not lying… look!” I opened my mouth so that she could witness the lack of evidence. The final blow to my dignity and innocence descended when she coldly responded, “That’s because you just swallowed it!”
Yikes! Nothing I could say or do would disabuse her of her perception. I was in an emotional prison with no “get-out-of-jail-free” card. I felt powerless, helpless — a tragic character in a Kafka-esque nightmare. The negative mirroring damaged the interpersonal bridge, which creates shame, as Gershen Kaufman discusses. Our relationship was never the same again.
I now understand this episode as an initiation into the rough and tumble of real life, where oftentimes we’re not seen as we really are. Being condemned as guilty evoked the shame of being falsely accused, disrespected, and bad. In psychological terms, I recognize this incident as an early attachment injury — a relational trauma that, if unrepaired, tends to be carried into our adult lives and relationships.
If you can identify with my experience, know that you’re not alone. The first step toward healing old shame and attachment trauma is to recognize it. There’s nothing shameful about acknowledging the multiple ways we’ve been injured in our lives — and realizing how it has affected our tender heart.
Softening Our Wound Activation
As a marriage and family therapist, I often see couples who unknowingly step into the minefield of each other’s old wounds. False indictments of having an affair or being attracted to other men or women, or other bogus accusations can reactivate old traumas. It’s impossible to defend oneself when the accuser’s mind is made up. There’s no way to produce evidence of one’s innocence. Continued protestations fall flat when a partner insists that they’re right and that you’re in denial.
How can we deal with such a quandary? Responding defensively to false accusations may only add fuel to the unfounded attacks. But saying nothing may convey that we’re guilty as charged.
Here are some guidelines that may help soften the cycle of accusations and defensiveness–and the resulting isolation and loneliness. And, of course, couples therapy may be helpful when couples reach such an impasse.
1. Be Gentle with Your Old Wounds
When you are feeling falsely accused, notice whether old wounds are getting activated. Does this remind you of something from the past? Is it evoking the sorrow or loneliness of not being seen or is it reminding you of painful breaches of the interpersonal bridge of trust?
If old, painful memories are surfacing, be gentle with yourself. Practice self-soothing by taking some slow, deep breaths. Bring a friendly mindfulness toward the sensations in your body that are getting activated; hold these feelings in a caring, gentle way.
2. Be Sensitive to Each Other’s Wounded Places
We all carry old attachment wounds. Revealing old wounds — letting your partner see your areas of vulnerability and sensitivity — may evoke empathy and understanding. Then, when you’re being falsely accused or attacked, you might reveal what’s getting touched in you rather than getting defensive or irate.
Maybe say something like: “When you ask if I’m having an affair, it really hurts me. I don’t know how to reassure you that I’m not. It touches an old place of not being seen and trusted.”
Perhaps your partner’s accusations are signaling old betrayal wounds or not receiving enough verbal reassurance or affection. If these wounds and needs were uncovered and expressed more directly, they might be heard more easily. If your partner is not able to express this, do your best to be gentle with their felt sense of insecurity, as well as being more present in the relationship.
3. Know that You’re on Solid Ground
When you’re falsely accused, know that there’s something going on with your partner. Perhaps some old hurt or fear is getting activated in them. Take a deep breath, stay in your body, and realize that this is about them, not about you.
Knowing that you’re on solid ground may help you to self-soothe rather than feel compelled to defend yourself — assuming that you are on solid ground (there is no affair, etc.). Maintaining your sense of self-worth and not succumbing to shame, you’re better positioned to hear the deeper feelings or insecurities that your loved one is trying to convey, even if their manner of delivery is difficult to hear.
Close relationships are the place where our deepest longings arise — and where our fear of loss of connection can be activated. Being gently attentive to what is arising within ourselves and being empathic to our partner’s wounds can help heal old injuries, build trust, and deepen intimacy.
John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT is author of the award-winning book about relationships as a spiritual path, DancingwithFire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships. His other books include The Authentic Heart and Love & Betrayal. He has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years in the San Francisco Bay area and has lectured and conducted workshops internationally.
Deviant Art image by machihuahua
Source: Psychology Today