Tag Archives: rationalization

Thinking Positively About Others

When you keep on getting let down by others again and again, your mind will want to find a reason why this keeps on happening. As mentioned in my last post, the practice of coming up with a reason to settle one’s anxiety in this area of uncertainty is called rationalization. There are many reasons one can come up with, all of which are impossible to prove, but here’s one that works well:

“All of us are imperfect and in the process of becoming better people. I notice this area of imperfection more because my excellence in this area causes me to have higher standards. I understand that others may have excellence in other areas. There is no better or worse, just different. Rather than expecting others to be like me, I will simply be true to myself and continue to meet my high standards in my own unique area of excellence.”

This kind of rationalization is good for you because it not only gives you a reason, but it is also hopeful for the future, it celebrates our individual differences, it gives others and yourself grace, and it encourages you to continue to do the “right” thing. So that’s positive rationalization.

Next, when we get hurt by others, we are more vulnerable to making negative judgments about others and this can become a dangerous pattern. The challenge is to think positively about others, even when you get hurt. Again, there are many judgments one can come up with, all of which are impossible to prove, but here’s one that works well:

Choose to believe that your wrongdoers have incredible value and worth. Choose to look at them as masterpieces who just don’t happen to be everyone’s cup of tea, like Jackson Pollock’s paintings. Let me go even more extreme. What is the most common thing that people value so much that they would give up everything for it, that they would even die for it? It’s your own child. When you think about someone who’s wronged you, try to think about them as a beloved child of someone very important.

“But Daniel, I know their parents and they’re not very important people.”

And as long as you think like this, you will limit your positivity.

But what if you chose to stretch your imagination as far as thinking that they are beloved children of a living spiritual entity of utmost importance. And that this higher power values them so much that He died for them. Sounds a bit crazy because it’s way too ridiculously positive, right? But that is what I choose to believe. And though it’s not easy, it’s been amazing!

What you choose to believe about others, whether it is based on measurable evidence or not, will affect your love, respect, grace, and openness toward others.

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Forgiveness

Resentment is the addiction to thinking negatively about others. To successfully break any addiction, you have to do two things: you have to (1) build up a different pattern and (2) give yourself some healthy boundaries to prevent relapse. It’s no different when it comes to freeing yourself from resentment. You have to just stop it. Stop thinking negatively about others. Stop replaying in your head what people did to you. Stop keeping track of your losses and the people who were responsible for them. Stop meditating on how worse off you are now because of all those who hurt you. Stop fantasizing about the elaborate revenge that you would like to take out on your enemies.

What do you do instead?

Well, first you have to learn how to deal with anger in a healthy way. Many people have built up a pattern of immediately going into their head when they’re angry. In their head, they then meditate on negative thoughts that intensify their anger which causes them to go right back into their head with more negative thoughts, and it just goes on and on. Instead of so quickly going into your head, learn how to stop, recognize “hey, what I’m feeling right now is anger,” and then just feel this emotion and let it pass. By exposing yourself to the emotion of anger and not doing anything else, you will build up your tolerance for this uncomfortable emotion. You’ll get used to it. And you won’t have to keep on going into your head.

Secondly, forgive those who wronged you. Forgiveness is just letting go of your hurtful past. It does not require your wrongdoers to say, “Hey, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” No, what if the person you hold resentment against is dead? Do you expect him to come back to life and ask you for forgiveness? No, forgiveness is not dependent on them, what they ask, or even their understanding of the pain that they inflicted upon you. Forgiveness is only dependent on you and whether or not you choose to let it go.

So let’s say you are contemplating the idea of forgiveness. Here are some of the common negative thoughts that will follow and try to convince you that it is not a good idea. “They don’t deserve it.” What? It’s not about them. It’s about you and the emotional freedom that you deserve. “If they’re let off so easily without punishment, they’ll never learn and the world would be worse off.” That’s thinking pretty negatively there. How about trusting that everything will be ok and, in the meantime, resolving your own resentment which would make the world a better place. “My hate fuels me to work hard until the day that my success makes them regret what they did to me. Without my hate, I wouldn’t have as much determination.” No, you don’t know that. Actually, people work much more effectively, efficiently, and come up with more creative solutions when they are pulled by love rather than pushed by hate and anxiety. “If I don’t keep track of all the ways that people hurt me, I will get hurt in the same way again and again.” Hey, maybe you might get hurt again in the same way. But that’s ok. Keeping track won’t protect you from getting hurt again. We live in an imperfect world with a bunch of imperfect people. So don’t listen to those garbage thoughts. Forgiveness is a very good idea.

A lot of people confuse forgiveness with making excuses for others. But they are not the same. Making excuses for others is a coping mechanism called “rationalization.” Forgiveness, on the other hand, doesn’t make excuses for others. It says, “What you did to me was wrong and I didn’t deserve it. Still, I choose to let go.”

And finally, as a bonus step for those who really want greater happiness and healthier relationships, you have to build a new pattern of thinking positively about others at all times, even when they let you down.

In my next post, I’ll go into greater detail about this last step as well as how you can use rationalization in a healthy way.

NOTE: I forgot to mention that, after forgiveness, you don’t have to be buddies.

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Abandonment

“I don’t feel good enough as a person because I don’t HAVE what I need to feel good enough about myself. If only I HAD…”
“I feel lonely because I don’t HAVE someone who intimately knows me. If only I HAD…”

When we do not feel “good” emotionally, many of us, highly sensitive people or not, are quick to think in this manner. We think that our negative emotions have to do with something outside of ourselves that is not quite right. As we look outside, we identify possible external problems and work hard on trying to fix or control them. This is our natural human tendency, a built-in survival mechanism that arises no matter what negative emotions we get struck by. One of those negative emotions that all people experience in some point in their life is the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents.

The feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is an entire emotion of its own out of the many that make up the whole human inner experience.

abandonment

Just as sadness is an unavoidable negative emotion that all humans are bound to experience in some point in life, no matter how “perfect” life is, the feeling of abandonment from one’s own parents is also an unavoidable negative emotion. This emotion says, “I am not equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life because you (parents) weren’t there for me,” “Where were you when I needed you?” “I have to be my own parent and look out for myself.”

Like the examples listed at the beginning of this blogpost, many people look outside of themselves as they experience this difficult emotion. So who ends up getting the blame? Most often the parents do. Parents make the easiest target for the root cause of this difficult emotion that is within every human being.

Upset children will do a variety of different things to cope with this difficult feeling. Many people use psychological strategies to make themselves feel better: “I guess I have it better than that other family does,” “At least I was not sexually abused by my parents,” “Considering the rough life my parents have had, I guess it’s only inevitable that they’d raise me the way that they did,” “Well, considering they didn’t have Google back then, I guess I can’t blame them for not knowing what to do.” Although these excuses that people make for their parents deliver momentary comfort, they cause other problems down the line. As you continue to invalidate your own real feelings, you will most likely feel that others, including your own children, are not allowed to struggle with these feelings either. In their times of darkness in this area, you will most likely lack empathy. It is exactly this lack of empathy which causes many parents to shut their children up and put them in their place when they express this “forbidden” emotion. If you respond to your children in this way, you may also be teaching them to carry guilt in possessing an emotion that simply is a part of every human being. Deep inside of you, you will also develop an expectation to be excused in the same manner once you become a parent. This expectation will most likely be passed down to your own children.

Some people try to fix their parents (I am guilty of this one). I criticized my parents’ parenting techniques. I tried to teach my stoic parents how to be there for my emotional needs. Hopeless, I tell you. In the end, I just got so frustrated with them. Frustration is the inevitable end result for all of those who try to fix their parents.

When this difficult emotion of feeling abandoned by one’s own parents is not dealt with in a healthy manner, resentment is very likely to develop. Highly sensitive people who feel their emotions very intensely are at a much higher risk of developing this kind resentment towards their parents.

So how do you handle this difficult emotion in a healthy manner?

Like I suggest in every one of my self-help blogposts about handling difficult emotions, go ahead and FEEL it. Do not run from it. Next, meditate on positive thoughts: “I will be ok,” “Though I may not be equipped enough to be independent in this area of my life right now, I will manage, I will learn.” Then, perhaps most importantly, forgive your parents in your heart. Do not keep track of how they have failed you but continue to wipe their slate clean again and again. If you have already built up a lot of resentment towards your parents, start forgiving them now. As much as you forgive your own parents, you will be able to forgive yourself for all your imperfections as a parent.

Lastly, for those who may be interested in a more spiritual explanation, I will also share my religious beliefs. I believe that, just like the emotions of joy and intimacy, our human heart was designed with the capacity to feel the wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure. The Church happens to call this feeling “sonship” or “daughtership.” But when we attempt to find that joy, that intimacy, that wonderful sensation of having a perfect parent-figure in imperfect things, like our parents, we are likely to end up feeling disappointed and cheated. So I try to place my faith in something perfect (God) for those things and release my earthly parents from the burden of having to provide me with that emotion that I crave so much.

SO WHAT NOW?

So what will you do if your child expresses his or her emotional pain in this area? Will you let your ego shut your child up, put your child in his or her place, make your child feel guilty for possessing such emotions, and then leave your child alone to find rest in psychological strategies? What will you do?

It was only this morning that all of these things that I have written above were revealed to me. Before this morning, I was unable to fully grasp this difficult, confusing emotion. As soon as I figured that the root problem was not my parents, I immediately apologized to them for being so unforgiving and hard on them for so many years.

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