Sunday, 11 December 2016

Too Different to Make Friends Part 2



Finding your path out of the darkness
(or into, depending on how you look at it)

I'd like to discuss my last post where I said we should negate the effect of self defeating thoughts by using positive affirmations. I recently read a book about emotional regulation. It talked about studies that revealed simply stating affirmations like "things will get better for me," are not sufficient enough. Instead, a person should draw upon memories of positive things that have happened in their life. The author encourages that you draw upon the past because it's grounded in fact.

I liked this because it expanded upon what I was going for. In my post, positive affirmations were more about developing a plan of action to overcome a negative thought.

Example:
A: "I can never think of what to say. I'm stupid."
B: "I can listen and encourage conversation by asking questions. I can read to expand my knowledge or seek experience."

In almost every example I provided the affirmation is that you can overcome the obstacle. I want my readers to believe that improvement is within your control. You are capable! You can choose to seek knowledge and experience, you can choose to surround yourself with loving and supportive people (and get rid of those that bring negativity into your life). What I neglected to address is the emotional aspect of negative thinking. 

While none of my examples were this simplified, if someone were to think "I will never find love" they might counter it with the affirmation "I'm worthy of love." ← I've actually seen this example repeatedly in my studies. I know that my kind of affirmation would look more like this: "I can find love, but first I have to determine why I think I'm so undeserving of it." Again, I guess my affirmations are largely centered around taking control and action but that's the kind of personality I have. If something is broken, I want to fix it. I seek answers. You might not be inclined to do the same. Perhaps you're stumped and you couldn't get past the "I'm worthy of love" affirmation - and considering how many self-help/health and wellness websites push that phrase, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that that's where most people get stuck. 

Why are these simplified affirmations so ineffective? It's because deep down inside a depressed person doesn't believe any of it. You can go around telling people you're beautiful and hate yourself on the inside. Just because we state something doesn't make it true to us. There has to be a degree of belief involved and in many instances our emotions (like sadness) will inhibit that belief from taking hold. In the case of "I'm worthy of love" you have to find evidence that you have been loved in the past. Once you have your memory you can draw upon it in your time of need. If you've been through a bad breakup and believe "I'll never find love," you could remember a friend who loves you unconditionally and assert that if they love you then there must be more people in the world who are willing to show you that same degree of affection.

But there is a major flaw with this approach - some of us may not recall or have not experienced a positive event. I think this is why my method is a bit better because instead of dwelling on the past or the uncertainty of the future, you're just taking the bull by the horns and committing to action. I have read articles which posit that imagining positive outcomes can also be a good tool to overcoming emotional barriers, but it's a band-aid solution. While studies have shown that a positive attitude will boost your prospects, I can't help but worry that you could get your hopes up and feel twice as hurt if you failed. It's like seeing the world in rose colored glasses. Simply imagining that a guy will date you is limiting your receptiveness to the various, unknown possibilities. He might be gay or he might not see you that way. When you've been hoping it goes well (especially for a long period of time) it can be unbearable when it fails to meet your expectations. If you happen to be the kind of person who does not handle rejection well and can easily get caught up in a whirlwind fantasy, you might be emotionally dependent and I really don't believe that just "thinking positively" is an appropriate technique for you.

Read onward.

The other day, I learned that I'm emotionally dependent. I should stop for a moment and clarify, as I stated in my recent post I'm "fiercely independent, emotionally" - these are not the same things! To be emotionally dependent is to require validation and self worth from others, whereas to be emotionally independent (and not in the clinical sense, but in the context of my self image) means that I don't share my feelings with others. Now that that's out of the way... I apparently seek validation from other people. I don't have much self love...or self esteem...or much of anything. I had been struck by the realization that I get hung up on rejection very easily, like scary easily. So I decided to investigate. The concept of emotional dependency seemed to fit and once I began reading about it I saw startling similarities in the "profile" of an emotionally dependent person with my own personality. It was embarrassing to say the least.

After reading countless psychological papers, I came to the conclusion that it all stems from my childhood, living with a narcissistic mother. But I digress, we'll explore this further in depth in another post. The point I'm getting at is that I found the suggested self help treatment tips for emotionally dependent people mirrored that of those presented in the emotional regulation book, as well as the other articles that I read. You can draw upon memory to base your beliefs in fact, or you can think positively and visualize positive outcomes. However, in the emotional dependency article, it warned that people who are emotionally dependent will take positive thinking to a negative extreme. Instead, you should visualize all possible outcomes. This way you're better prepared for rejection. 

We all feel hurt when we're rejected. Researchers have discovered that the brain registers rejection in the same manner as physical injury. Despite what the anti-socialist wants to believe, social support and community are integral to our survival. We were dependent upon it in our most primitive form and the instinct to connect with others is hardwired into our brains. If you feel like you could die because you're so lonely, it's not unwarranted, the reality is that we aren't meant to be alone. How do we manage rejection? I'd like to explore that in depth in the next segment, but for now the easiest way is to visualize all possible outcomes and remember that everybody has their reasons for not wanting companionship. Maybe the individual(s) you're pursuing are too caught up in work life or family, have no need for more friends, or have a different religious background than you. It's not always black and white, they might have a good reason for rejecting your companionship. Or they're an asshole, and all we can do when it comes to assholes is assert that they are the product of their environment. We take pity on them.

Apparently there is an app or game that you can play which purposely exposes you to rejection so you can develop a buffer against it? I might have to check it out. 

In conclusion, the best way to defeat negative thoughts are as follows:

Step 1: Identify and analyze the problem. 
Step 2. Develop the plan to rectify the problem.
Step 3. Remember a time when things went well OR visualize the possibility of a desired outcome.

For emotionally dependent people:
If you can't find a memory to assert yourself, instead focus on the plan. Don't imagine a possible desired outcome, imagine ALL possible outcomes. You will do better if you focus on taking action instead of day dreaming.

Let's apply these new techniques to a few personal examples of mine.

Example:

A: "I'm too different to make friends."
B: "I can learn to value my uniqueness and that which makes me different. I can seek out more social opportunities to afford me a greater chance of meeting someone who does accept my differences. I remember that I once had a friend who adored me because I was just like her, a weirdo! And even still, I have another friend unlike me who accepts me regardless of my eccentricities. I'm sure there are others out there like her."

A: "I will never be happy."
B: "I can commit myself to finding happiness through personal development. I can research what might be preventing me from attaining happiness, mentally or otherwise. While I have no recollection of being truly happy, I can imagine that it's possible so long as I try."

A: "I'm seeing my new 'friend' in a few weeks. I don't think he really likes me."
B: "I don't know whether or not he does like me, I can't assume what's going on inside his head. I don't want to believe he doesn't like me but I realize I need to prepare myself for that possibility. It could go either way and I need to remember that it's not a life or death situation, the thrill is always in the experience."


Conclusion

While I am expanding upon a lesson from the previous post, I think it's an important one. Our negative, self defeating thoughts pose as barriers to entering into healthy, social relationships. We have to maintain a degree of optimism, and for some being realistic is of the utmost importance. If you catch yourself daydreaming try picking up an engaging activity, like reading or something that requires manual dexterity, to draw your focus away from fantasy. If you find you're brooding and thinking negatively, I encourage you to keep a small diary in which you can jot down your negative thoughts, then revisit them when you're more calm to analyze them and create new affirmations. Search for memories that contradict your thoughts and record them in your diary as well, this way you can revisit them when you're lacking confidence or feeling blue. Don't be afraid to share your examples or experiences in the comments below.

Best,


4 comments:

  1. This is an excellent post and I'm sure many readers will find it helpful in one way or another.
    I myself used to be emotionally dependent when I was younger, incredibly so. I wouldn't recommend anyone to go through what I did to change that, but I can say that it can be changed.

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    1. I'll have to ask you about that story sometime lol. I was very reckless and self destructive in my youth. I was a cutter, I drank too much, abused prescription drugs; life was a mess. I was very dependent on other people because of what was going on at home, and unfortunately you can't really count on other people to support you at that age. Especially when it comes to teenagers, they just don't have a damn clue as far as dealing with emotions go. I had a lot of friends just bail on me when things got tough and that made me even more destructive. At least now I recognize when the sort of obsessive, emotionally dependent thoughts arise. I can say, "I don't want to be like that again." The real challenge is determining how to care for myself and meet my own needs. There are some things you simply can't do for yourself, and that's where it gets complicated.

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  2. I have went through this all!
    At the start of this year, was all about loving me! Something I have never done in my entire life. I went infront of the mirror and chopped all my hair off!
    I meditate deeply and saw every member of my family, for who they truly are. I have forgave them and myself. I saw all the negativity, controlling, manipulation, through my life. Somethings, I am still dealing with, but I vowed, that I would treat every situation different at the beginning of the year, especially ones that reocurred and I have!
    There is a saying, "Ego says, you have to change everything, for one thing to change. Spirit says, you have to change one thing and everything will change!"
    Forget about your mind, and listen to your heart! Truly love yourself! Say your affirmations! Let fear go! Control your life, no one else!
    Remember, only you validate your life, no one else!
    I use to buy people things to have them as friends, or have a relationship! I use to manipulate. Now, if someone doesn't want to be around me, who cares! My vibe will attract my tribe!
    I hope this makes sense what I am about to say, but remember, if you are only feeling like a .25 in your life, you will attract .25 people! When you are feeling like a 1, you will attract 1's!!!!
    I know I am all over the place with my comment. I hope you are understanding what I am trying to say! LOL! I can tell you, just with the simple changes in loving me, I made a list of things in my affirmations at the beginning of the year and 8 things have already came to be!
    Wishing you much love!!!

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    1. I totally get what you're saying. Positivity is the key to attracting positive people and opportunities. I have certainly undergone quite a change mentally and emotionally, although I feel lighter, becoming more consciously aware of my life and it's negative influences has sort of created a new batch of its own problems. Hopefully in the new year we'll see major changes in my life...and hopefully for the better! :) For now, self love is of the utmost importance.

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