Phew but 2016 was a tough year! What made it tough though? Well, normally the amount of emotional pain you feel is roughly equal to the distance between your expectations of reality and reality itself. In other words, if reality does not meet up to your expectations of reality, emotional pain results. This is so true for relationships as well.
If you had to take all your expectations of your partner and have them embodied as a person, you would be presented with a demi-god! So near perfect would this divine creature be. The reality is that you get a flabby, belching, farting, forgetful, complaining, grumpy human being. In just about every relationship, the reality of what is received is far removed from the expectation of what is wanted.
This is the main source of pain in your relationship, that feeling of “This is not what I ordered!” The truth is that relationships are not made to order, you will always get what you need (in order to grow and become a better you) and very rarely what you actually want. So how about this year you embrace what you have, warts and all, and let go of your unrealistic expectations? Let’s be real, you don’t match up to your partner’s expectations either. No, you really aren’t that perfect.
Perhaps it is for you to learn and grow from what you have. How would a stronger, healthy you handle the relationship you have? Is it time to say “NO!” to that abuse? Is it time to receive the love you are being given and give up on that notion that you are unlovable? Only you know what it will be.
The truth is that expectations are usually wrong. Whether you are expecting perfection and getting a human, or expecting to be mistreated and getting real love instead. Let’s make 2017 the year that you let go of these expectations and start living in the real world!
Back in the day, way, way, way back in the day. Joe, let’s call him Joe, or Susan (because it could have been a woman), was taking a power walk through the jungle when he (or she) heard rustling in the bushes. Now these being dangerous times (as they always are) he (or she) had a decision to make: run – because there is a tiger in the bushes; or, run – because there might be a tiger in the bushes. A mistake at this juncture could mean one less Joe or Susan on the planet. So, Joe (or Susan) decided that for the sake of all Joes (or Susans) on the planet that it would be far safer to make the mistake of thinking that there is a tiger in the bushes (when there possible isn’t) than making the mistake of thinking there isn’t a tiger in the bushes (when there actually is). In other words, Joe (or Susan) quite happily made the first mistake over and over and over to avoid making the second mistake (and thereby becoming lunch, after all, you are only lunch once). We have been following in Joe’s (or Susan’s) footsteps ever since. It is called the negativity bias.
Say I handed you a list call “5 Things about You”, and it read as follows:
- I like your generous nature
- I think you are very tolerant
- Your sense of humour needs some work
- You are an excellent cook
- You have great taste in clothes
What would you take away from that? If you are like most people you would be thinking, “So what is your problem with my sense of humour anyway?” If you thought you were pretty amazing after reading that, you can stop reading this now. See most people would gloss over the glowing compliments and focus on the one negative thing that was said about them. No, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you if you do that so you can relax, remember the tiger in the bush? We are programmed to focus on the potential (if non-existent) threat. We are Teflon to the good things and Velcro to the bad.
Think about it, you are driving to work and for just about the entire trip everything goes a-ok, but then some #$@! cuts you off and for the rest of the day, you are thinking about how well the trip went, NOT! You are fuming and steaming about that idiot, what you should have said or done, and gosh darn it, your day is ruined! A bad event gets a lot more screen time in your mind than good events. Let me rephrase that, a helluva lot more. So basically, you go through your day glossing over the good things, obsessing over the bad, and anticipating the other shoe dropping. It’s not to say that you don’t enjoy the good times, but one bad event is equal in emotional power to about ten good events.
Ok so we have a predominantly negative focus, we tend to major on the minors, but surely this serves to keep us safe? Perhaps, but if you think of all the missed opportunities and shipwrecked relationships that we have left in our wake because we only think there is a tiger in the bushes it is in our best interests to face this bad habit head on. The truth is that there is very little in life that is really life threatening, and all the negative things that you tend to obsess over are really inconsequential. There is much in life that is not worthy of the f***ks you give them.
So how do we break this habit? Bad news folks, you don’t. It is a deeply ingrained evolutionary quirk (you can thank Joe for that). There is something you can do to shift the balance somewhat though. Firstly, you can let yourself off the hook for it, instead of thinking that you are just a pessimistic and hopeless case, realise that you just simply a regular Joe (or Susan). Secondly, when the good things come (and there are so many if you look) like the cup of coffee, the blue sky, the flowers, the birds, the smile of your child, the hug of your spouse etcetera, then allow yourself to wallow in the moment. Start training that brain to prefer the good things, to seek them out. Lastly, you can pursue inner peace like a cat chasing a laser pointer. If it doesn’t bring you peace (be it an experience, or if you can’t avoid the experience, then your thoughts about that experience) avoid it like the plague, and choose something that does bring you peace.
Choosing love over fear in this way can have untold positive effects on your life. Who knows what it will bring to you. If nothing else you will certainly feel a lot better about life, and when you feel better about life then you start making better choices.
There is only one thing you can count on for sure and that is change. Everything else might have a good track record but also might let you down. One thing is for sure, you are either coming out of a change, in a change, or facing change. It seems random, yes, it does seem to just smack you upside the head but what if I told you that every change had a message and that you were the author of change in your life. Hmmm. Some things have happened in my world (not to me personally) that were quite big and I just know that the people involved never saw them coming. We rarely do, ask the Romans. What brings change? It is like a complex cake with many strange ingredients.
There are three kinds of changes that I want to address here, the first is what I call “the great balancing act”. I believe that there is an auto-correction feature built into the universe; some spiritual traditions call it karma. I am sure you have seen the Ying/Yang symbol that comes from China – the circle in two halves, one white, one black. Each half of the circle represents the sides of a mountain with the white half being the sunny side and the black half being the side in shade. This symbol shows that there are two types of energy – passive (the black half) and active (the white half), and that these energies must be in perfect balance. This is where karma comes in, or the auto-correction feature I mentioned earlier. If the balance is shifted in any way then nature steps and restores it. This is done in one of two ways – either by taking something away or by adding something. When we add something to our lives (without allowing it to naturally flow into our lives) then nature takes it away. When we remove or deny something in our lives (that nature has not removed or has not vanished due to decay) then nature moves in and adds something. There must be balance. Desperate acts always result in this change. The relationship we rushed into, the rash purchase, the love we deny ourselves, the job we take without thought, these acts of interference bring the turbulence we call change into our lives. The more we force things the more turbulence we experience. The best way to deal with this is to simply relax and allow life to unfold as it will, acting when we need to act and resting when we need to rest. In other words, we need to actively pursue balance in our lives so that nature won’t need to do it for us. The less you interfere the more peaceful life will be.
The second type of change has to do with what is popularly known as “The Law of Attraction” or “The Law of Vibration”. You know, like attracts like. The basic belief is that if we think about money, money, money, then that is what we will attract. If only it were so. Upwards of 90% of the people who attempt to “use” this law to improve their lives fail to do so. It does work, so why do so many people fail? Because they simply do not really understand the law. The Law of Attraction works in perfect harmony with the principle of balance stated above and you cannot “attract” something that will unbalance you, nature simply won’t allow it. Why is it that you “feel” unbalanced when something “bad” happens then? Feeling sad is does not necessarily mean that you are off balance. I have heard many people say that “I did not attract this so how did it come?” meaning that they weren’t consciously thinking about it. Here is the truth, and listen closely, this may be the thing that changes your life! How do you feel when that “bad” thing happens? That’s what caused it! But wait a minute, I feel that way now, how could I have caused this thing? Can feelings travel back in time? Glad you asked, and it may be that they can (quantum physics suggests as much) but what you are feeling is what has been triggered by the event, in other words, emotional residue that has yet to be processed, in more other words, symptoms of an existing imbalance. What you have been given is some valuable information, deal with (process) that stuck feeling (and coaching will certainly do it) and you will never experience that event again. You won’t need to. You see, the auto-correction feature of the universe reveals our imbalances to us so that we can sort them out, and it will keep revealing them to us until we do. Instead of wallowing in misery, use the information and make some positive changes in your life. The universe cannot reveal imbalances that are not there, so the “cleaner” you are, the less change of this nature you will experience.
The third type of change I want to discuss is one that you cannot do anything about ever! Here in South Africa we are on the verge of Spring (sorry if you are in the North), what I always notice about this time of year (as we face the changing of the seasons) is that the warmth seems to come in waves….warms up…cold front…warms up….cold front. Yesterday it was warm, today it is cold and rainy. It seems that change on a major scale does not come all at once, it comes in gradually increasing waves. This seems to be a pattern in nature as well, the tide doesn’t come in all at once, and since we are a part of nature the same thing happens in our lives. The trick is to see the pattern and not treat the waves as signs of you moving backwards but moving forwards. Drug rehabilitation rarely works all in one go, there are relapses in the forward movement, as there is in any forward movement. Remember this, relapsing is not relapsing, it is nothing more than what a cold front is to the coming spring. Its not that you are returning to old behaviour but that you are layering the new behaviour and adapting to the change. What you find is that the “new reality” starts to last longer than the periods of “old reality” until “new reality” is all there is. Fighting the old or the new will not help you here, it will only make the inevitable uncomfortable. Nature has shown us that there must always be change, constant movement, without it things die. Embrace it, accept it, welcome it. You might not understand this change as it happens, but in time, and with the benefit of hindsight, you will see that you were moving forward and growing, and becoming who you are meant to be.
One thing that is certain about change in its various forms is that perspective on what is happening is difficult to get when the change is happening to you. Sometimes emotional judgements are all we are capable of, so it helps to begin a practice of meditation as this will train you to create space and be able to observe what is happening more objectively and then respond rather than react. Of course, I would always recommend the help of a good coach to enable you to develop inner “technology” that will make you a change wizard.
The only guaranteed thing is change, what isn’t guaranteed however, is that you will handle it in the best way.
Yours, in this ever changing world,