Go ahead…you know you want to

So many people don’t know how to manage stress, and yet we each choose what to stress about. Stress isn’t something that is caused by external factors; stress isn’t caused by other people (although their actions and choices may contribute if we let them), stress is something that we inflict on ourselves.

With every situation that we encounter, we have a choice to make. We can react through fear (stress) or we can react through acceptance. The problem seems to be that fear is much more seductive, much more addictive than acceptance. (Think succumbing to the power of the dark side in Star Wars.)

Fear causes our adrenaline to rush, while our hearts beat faster. Our senses heighten, and we’ll tell ourselves that this makes us feel alive. However, for all that this makes us “feel alive”, it also shortens our lives. But, we’re not thinking long-term when we’re in the midst of a crises situation. No, we’re simply reacting, and for most of us, it’s easier to walk with the fear we recognize than to let it go.

You see, we each have a major fear that we have accepted into our lives, and every day it colors our reactions to situations in ways that we may not even recognize. My fear is impatience, or the fear of missing out. Now, I’ve become fairly adept at recognizing its ugly face, and I can often tell when it’s trying to seduce me into reacting in a way that I will regret later. But impatience, like all of the major 7, is tricky. Before you know it, you find yourself reacting through fear rather than acceptance, and wondering just how you got fooled.

Each of us has chosen one of these seven major fears as part of our “character”. It is our little challenge to ourselves to see whether we succumb to the fear, or whether we can see it for what is and so choose the path of acceptance. The seven major fears are:

Impatience, the fear of missing out, causes time-related stresses in people if they let it. If someone who is impatient has two meetings scheduled at the same time and they want to be in both, they will stress over what they might be missing if they go to one meeting over another. An impatient person who is told they only have an hour to get somewhere can become so stressed that, of course, they end up late. If someone tells an impatient person that they’ll meet at a specific time and place and then that person is 10 or 15 minutes late, the impatient person steams up and gets all stressed because time means more to them than the person they’re meeting with does.

Stubbornness is the fear of change. If a person’s trigger is stubbornness, then they’ll stress about what changes might be happening in the office because they fear it will cause them to have to change their routine. If they encounter a road block or construction while driving, they might let it stress them out because they’ll have to change their route. Stubborn people stress about proposed changes, actual changes, and possible changes because stubborn people adore routine.

While we all love some routine to our lives, most of us can be flexible about that routine if we have to, but not someone who is stubborn. Stubborn people will fight to maintain their routine at all costs. Routine means they have control; change means they don’t have control.

Arrogance makes people afraid that someone will see a weakness or a flaw in them. This causes them to be constantly stressed whenever they have to interact with others. It doesn’t matter whether these others are business associates, co-workers, friends, or even family, the arrogant person is going to be constantly wary and on edge. They feel as if they always have to keep people at arm’s length for fear that someone might get too close and see something in them that they don’t want that person to see. This fear creates a lot of stress.

Self-destructiveness is a very subtle thing. It can show up as a lust for life; however, this usually masks their fear of living. Someone with this stress trigger is always challenging life, but not necessarily in a safe or sane way. They are the people who take the extra gamble with life, the job, the marriage, with whatever is important to them. They’ll put their job on the line by trying to cut corners (not because they need to, but because of the challenge of it). They’ll deliberately place themselves, their job, or their relationships in harm’s way; they will drive crazy fast on a busy road, weaving in and out of traffic, just because—not because they’re late or even really trying to get to any place in particular, but just because they feel like it.

They may seem to be enjoying this devilish, who-care’s existence, but they know they’re risking it all every time they do something and that’s a big stress.

Greed is the fear of never having enough. Usually the person will fixate on one particular thing that they can’t get enough of, but occasionally someone will simply be unable to get enough of everything. Someone may have a pantry and freezer full of food, but because of their greed, that may not seem like enough food for them. They will stress and fret and try to accumulate more and more, but they’ll always feel as if it isn’t enough.

Someone with greed as their trigger can feel the need for more objects (food, sex, clothes, books, money) or more intangibles (power, love, knowledge). The problem with this fear is that it can never be fulfilled, so it is a constant source of stress.

Self-efficacy makes people afraid that they will disappoint someone else. Most people with an over abundance of self-efficacy are afraid to say no because they think that others will then be disappointed. So, they take on the task or obligation knowing that they probably won’t be able to complete it unless they drop some other task. No matter what, they’re going to have to disappoint someone.

This makes a self-effacing person afraid to say no and afraid to say yes, because no matter what they do they might create disharmony, they may find that someone is unhappy with them. They create their own stress just worrying about whether someone will ask them to do something more, whether they can actually do that something more, and whether they will end up disappointing everyone including themselves.

Martyrdom causes someone to fear that they won’t be noticed or remembered. People with this stress trigger are always trying to make others feel sorry for them, so they become stressed if people aren’t noticing them, aren’t sympathizing with them. They’re the type of mothers who keep their children in line by constantly complaining about their health, when, in fact, their health may be fine.

Once you can figure out which of these 7 is your major stress inducer, it makes it easier to see what situations might fuel it; what situations might trigger it. If you can identify the situations, you can begin to see how and where the fear seduces you. Once you recognize the seduction, it’s easier for you to choose to ignore the fear. Also, once you start focusing on this larger stress inducer, it makes the small stuff so much easier to ignore.

For instance, as I said, I struggle with time-related situations, situations that trigger my impatience. So, when other possible stress points appear in my life, I try to ignore them. If, for example, I paint the bedroom but the job isn’t perfect, I could stress over it, maybe even buy more paint and try to make it perfect. However, I can also just choose to let it go after acknowledging that the world won’t end if the edge isn’t straight, and the walls are a bit streaked. After all, perfection isn’t everything.

You see, I know that I have enough of a struggle with myself when it comes to traffic (and the fear of being late or missing out on something because I’m in traffic rather than somewhere else), or standing in line (I could be doing something else, anywhere else rather than standing here and waiting). So, I don’t bother with stressing about whether something I did is perfect, or whether someone I just met likes me or not. Hey, I am what I am, and if they don’t like me, it’s they’re loss 😉

I have enough to cope with in my life, and I would prefer spending my time enjoying life rather than stressing over things. How ‘bout you?

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Who are you…really

With all the CSI programs on TV, I’ve started wondering what people would say about me if some investigator came around and began asking questions. How would they describe me or my relationship with them. Would I be perceived as helpful, bitchy, sweet, reclusive, friendly, gabby, close-mouthed, bossy, wimpy, inept, fastidious, unorganized, klutzy, shy, outgoing? What?

Sometimes I wonder what other people see when they see me or speak to me. After all, they’re only seeing the part of me I’m letting them see. And most of them have no idea what has gone on in my life just prior to their seeing or speaking with me. Maybe our conversation is a one-time occurrence, so they think I’m always bitchy or grumpy because they don’t know that perhaps my car just broke down, I lost my job, and my dog recently died. Or maybe they think I’m rather empty-headed because my answers are slow and not always coherent, but again, they have no way of knowing that I may have been up all night, or might have taken a strong pain reliever for an aching back or severe sinus attack. All they know is what they can observe and hear, and that may leave them shaking their heads in bewilderment.

Perhaps they heard from someone else that I’m the foremost expert on herbal medicine in the area, but the day they contact me I can’t seem to concentrate on what they’re asking me, let alone give them a coherent answer. All they’re going to think is that I must indulge in some pretty funky herbs.

What about the people we only see at work? What do they know about us? If you like your job, then they might see you as fun, happy, ready to share a laugh, a steady worker who’s good at their job. What if you don’t like your job, though? Then what type of person do they see?

So the perception someone has of you depends on what aspects they see of you, and what discernment they glean from that interaction. Because not only do you control what others see and experience in regards to yourself, but so do they. After all, you might be having a great day, feeling very expansive and helpful, but the person you’re with is having a horrible day and so they prefer to take everything you say and do as an insult, so they presume that you are smart-alecky or rude.

Therefore, if asked by an investigator what you were like, they might say that you got what deserved, because you were always rude and smart-mouthed. And who’s to dispute them? They’re not really lying, because it is, after all, only their perception of you, isn’t it? As one-sided as it may be, it’s still accurate, that is if everyone takes into account the person giving the opinion and the circumstances under which they formed that opinion.

Now, while the first part of that is usually noted (the who), the second part (the circumstances) isn’t. So, you’re stuck with the one-sided view of you that they have given to the investigator. (Of course, being dead, you probably don’t care.;-)

When you think about it though, most people really only know one or two facets of anyone else (excluding spouses and children—although in some cases, people have been shown to know little or nothing about their own spouses and children). “Ahhh,” you’re thinking, “but I’ve known Tommy Jones for years, even decades. In fact we grew up in the same neighborhood.”

Of course that helps, but unless you were best friends, or even better—living together—then I’d guess your true knowledge of Tommy Jones is still pretty incomplete. After all, you probably interacted on a limited basis—shared some classes in school, maybe were on the same sports teams (little league, track, whatever), or maybe you hung out together for awhile. And while that means that you probably saw Tommy from several angles, there are still a lot of sides to Tommy Jones that you have never guessed existed.

Don’t we all keep parts of ourselves hidden? Not necessarily because these parts are bad or “evil”, but because we fear being ridiculed, being thought that we’re not “normal” (whatever that may be). Think about it. If you’ve spent most of your life making sure that everyone perceives you as being extremely cautious and caring about your health—always exercising and eating balanced meals—would you want them to know that secretly you love to veg out on the couch in front of the TV and drink beer? Of course not, because it might ruin your “image”, the perception you have worked so hard at cultivating with them.

Perhaps you enjoy the fact that most of the people you know see you as an intellectual—always reading thick tomes, attending lectures, and when you deign to watch TV it’s only those more esoteric programs on the Discovery or History channels. So what would people think if they found out that you secretly owned and often watched the complete DVD set of the 3 Stooges?

Most of us hide facets of ourselves from others because we want to fit in with some particular part of society or group, but the trouble is when we start hiding facets of ourselves from others, we soon begin hiding things from ourselves, too. Then we begin telling ourselves lies to help us cover up these facets of ourselves that we no longer want to remember exist. We’ll tell ourselves that we love the opera, because all our friends love the opera, but secretly we know we’d rather be at a rock concert. Or we tell ourselves that we really are enjoying the lecture on Ignatius rocks, but we can feel a tug deep inside. If we were to investigate that tug, we’d find that it’s the hidden part of us wanting to come back out, the part of us that says “What I’d really rather be doing is knitting.”

We get so good at ignoring those tugs and pangs, though, that after awhile we don’t even notice them anymore. Soon we believe the perception of ourselves that we have created and are presenting to everyone else and we think of it as the real us. In fact, we believe in it so much that when it implodes and we find ourselves suddenly chucking our jobs on Wall Street (or wherever) to become pottery makers or piano tuners we and everyone else we know is absolutely flabbergasted. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, we’d see that that aspect of ourselves was always there, we simply kept it hidden—from others and ourself.

Of course, some never do release those hidden aspects of themselves. Instead, they manage to keep that skewed perspective of themselves, the false face, in place their whole life. But most of us will eventually have to face up to the truth—whatever that may be. Because eventually we’re going to find out what other people really think of us, what their perceptions of us are. And eventually we’re going to see all the hidden aspects of ourselves and realize that our own perspective of us was just as skewed as everyone else’s.

So, what would the people around me tell investigators if I died unexpectedly? I’m not sure, but I know I’d be surprised if, by some chance, I could hear them. Because I’m sure that whatever facets I think I’m showing to the world are not necessarily the ones that the world is really seeing.

Harvey and I do lunch

We all share the same reality, right? But do we really? Say you and I witness an event—let’s say it’s a parade—and someone else comes along and asks us to describe what we saw. Now if we both share the exact same reality we should be able to describe exactly the same details, right? But both of us are going to describe what we saw, or what we experienced, and although it may only differ slightly, it’s still going to be different.

That’s because each person is different, so none of us is going to experience life—or any aspect of life—in exactly the same way as someone else. Maybe in our mythical parade you saw a dozen clowns with balloons riding motor scooters, while I don’t remember any clowns at all. However, I may remember seeing a wild bunch of cowboys whooping it up and throwing lassoes around ladies as they went by, while you remember one or two guys riding on horses and nothing more.

It’s these differences in perception and remembrances that make up our own selective perception or personal reality. We both share a global reality—which includes the fact that we attended a parade on the same date at the same location. However, the details of what we saw and experienced during the time in which the parade was occurring are different because each of us is different. Even if you and I went together to the parade and stood together and watched the parade together, we still wouldn’t have seen and experienced the same thing, because we are two different people.

So, how then do we ever determine what are true facts? How can we say that the sky is blue, or that the diameter of circle is equal to 2 times the radius, or even that pi = 3.142 and call those facts? How do we know that Lincoln was president after Washington, or that sound travels in waves, and that “hat” is a noun? Easy, we teach ourselves that these are true, unchangeable facts and we believe it. Think about what schools really teach and you’ll see that we are doing is making sure that everyone starts out with the same basic “truths” and facts shaping their reality. Once they have the same foundation as everyone else, then we let them loose to start creating their own version of reality.

Now some of those folks never quite get the hang of staying within the global boundaries; they start creating a reality that outside of the global template—they hear voices even though no one is around, or they see and converse with six-foot tall, invisible, white rabbits named Harvey. When they do that, then we label them insane and we lock them up, give them drugs that supposedly help them cope, or we try to correct them and make them fit back inside the global template.

But as long as we all stay within the template the world is ours to “play” with. We can see clowns in our parades or we can see cowboys, and sometimes we might even see both…it’s completely up to us. It’s our reality to do with as we please. We can enjoy it, or hate it, or even ignore it (catatonia)…it doesn’t matter, because each reaction, each expression of reality that we create is just one more unique experience.

Every once in a while someone comes along and challenges the template with some new “fact”. If the majority of people accept this new “fact” then it does, indeed, become a fact. If, however, most people reject this new concept, idea, or “fact” then it fades away and isn’t woven into the global template of our lives. Science is always “discovering” new theories that they want to prove are facts, and while some of them are accepted, a great many of them are not. So, the template is constantly shifting and changing, and that’s okay, because we (everyone) wouldn’t have as much fun if the world and reality in which we lived were static and unchanging.

Therefore, some day those who see six-foot, invisible, white rabbits named Harvey may no longer be considered unbalanced or out of touch with reality. Instead, it will be all of us who can’t see Harvey who are out of touch.

So, Harvey, where do you want to go for lunch? I hear they have great salads down at Crispers…

Where and when are we, really?

“Time/space exists only because we can measure it…”

I found that quote and realized it pretty much sums up our relationship with time and space. After all, these tangibles don’t exist outside of physical reality, because beyond physical reality time/space isn’t needed.

Just imagine what our world would be like without both of them? Without space, all places would be one. Wouldn’t that be a pain if Chicago, Tokyo, London, and Toronto all shared the same space? Talk about crowded.

And then there’s time. Without time everything would be happening all at once. So, now you don’t know whether you should be going to your 9 a.m. staff meeting, heading to bed, eating lunch, or going out on the town. Is it Halloween, Yom Kippur, or New Year’s, and for what year/century/millennium—who knows. Maybe it’s all of them.

What a mess our world would be, or would it? Maybe it would be a simpler place. Maybe we could learn to adapt to a world where everything is here and all things are now. However, it seems that our choice was to develop methods of seeing and measuring our reality in a way to separate out the places, and we found ways to create increments of time that allow us to sequence events allowing each moment its own place in our minds.

We have even created a way for us to travel backward and forward in time; of course, you have to travel through space, too. Just think, you can get on a plane at 6 a.m. in LA, and arrive in NY at 9a.m. that same day. So, you not only skipped over space (going from one coast to the other), but you moved ahead three hours into the future. Not bad.

You can use this same technique to jump whole days, too. Did you miss your mom’s birthday? No problem. Simply fly past the International Date Line going west and gain a day. How cool is that?

Of course they haven’t yet come up with a way to skip back to Ancient Rome, or forward to the year 3000, but who knows? With the way science is going, they might just find the measurement that will let you do just that. We have international date lines, maybe they’ll come up with intergalactic date lines. Jump in a space ship, zip around the moon, and end up a year into the past.

According to the scientists, if you go fast enough and far enough, you can skip hundreds of years into the future (speed of light and all of that), so all we need is to find a way to reverse that so that we can visit the past. Or maybe we just need a way to measure it to make it possible. Anyone got a tape measure?

No more soaps

I’ve been trapped in a soap opera lately, unable to get out. The experience is surreal. I keep trying to turn the melodrama off, to step out of this daytime drama and back into the life I had before, but for some reason it won’t turn off. I’ve changed channels, but that merely altered the players in the story without really changing the story itself. I’ve done everything I can, short of pulling the plug, and yet the soap opera still persists.

I dislike melodrama. I dislike daytime or nighttime soaps. And I avoid all reality shows because they are contrivances of those who would play-act and play up the melodramatic moments of life. Melodrama is the deliberate complicating of life. The contriving of falseness in an otherwise straightforward situation.

Life needn’t be complicated or difficult, yet lately I have felt as if I were swimming upstream. That tells me that I’m not living true. I’m not following the path that I need to be following. For me, this usually happens when I start playing to the “audience” instead of living for myself.

Now, the audience can be anyone outside of myself that I’m trying to “impress” or gain sympathy or attention from. Most times the audience is just my husband, but lately it’s been my blog readers. While my blogs were and are at the core true reflections of my thoughts, ideas, and activities, lately they’ve been puffed up with melodrama.

Therefore, to regain my perspective, and lose the soap opera flavor to my life, I took a short vacation from writing. I am going to try to retain my newfound direction and refrain from the melodrama, and to do that, I will once again write for myself rather than for my audience, my readers.

So, while I appreciate everyone who comes to read; please understand, that I am writing not to entertain you, but simply to express myself in as true a form as I can manage. And when I have nothing to say, I will remain mute rather than create a soap opera out of my life again.

Thank you all for your love, patience, and understanding.