Why People Treat Us the Way they Do.

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There’s an idea out there in the psychology world that we create, to a large extent, how people treat us. This is a big one that I’ve recently been finding myself thinking and philosophizing about more than usual. Now obviously if we are rude and mean to someone most likely they will respond to us with anger or resentment… nothing profound there. And, sometimes bosses, coworkers, friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers will be overtly rude to us for no apparent reason… I’m not saying we necessarily caused them to treat us in this way… sometimes people are just having bad days and they decide to take it out on the next innocent person who unknowingly crosses their path.

I’m talking here about something a little more subtle and below the surface where there is always so much more going on. I’m talking about things like being talked down to by our partners; like feeling as though we’re always the one taking responsibility for coming up with ‘the plan’ with our friends; like we don’t get included in social get togethers at work or in our personal lives very often; Like our partners don’t trust us to make good decisions… I could go on but I think you get the point.

People don’t treat us the way we want them to.

It’s kind of a hard and painful concept to really look at and reflect on. Could it really be true that I’m largely responsible for setting up how others treat me? Perhaps, and often most unintentionally, but the truth is that we play a pretty major role in shaping how others approach us… especially those with whom we have closer relationships.

Think about this: Are there certain friends who you would never cancel plans on, but would on others? Have there been bosses that you find you want to impress and please and others you don’t really care to? Are there certain people who you would call the day off to make plans and others you only plan with a week or two in advance? Are there some family members who you feel you can be straightforward and honest with and others you often skirt around or avoid the issue with? Are there some friends you trust with your most personal secrets and others you would never go to in confidence?

What have they done to influence how you approach them?

This idea can be really challenging, or even upsetting for some – especially if we often find ourselves being treated poorly in our relationships and instead of then blaming others for their wrong doings and pointing the finger 100% outwards, we might have to take some pretty major responsibility and look inward, or at least partly inward and share some of the onus.

The good, if not GREAT news is that we are NOT helpless victims.

If we have the ability to play a major role in how others treat us for worse, then we can recast those roles and create opportunities for others to treat us how we actually want to be treated!

I’m not saying it’s easy, or that we will always be successful with every attempt, but we do actually have a lot more control then we might think.

One of the Most Important Skills You Can Use.

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Recently I came across some psychology literature that caught my attention. The author, well-known psychiatrist Scott M. Peck, points out that one of the most important skills we can teach our children, and also practice more of ourselves, is delaying gratification. When we wait a few minutes/hours/days before indulging in a decadent dessert/buying a new pair of shoes/or becoming the first time owner of a new sports car we appreciate and enjoy the object of our desire much more, or, the other thing that happens is we lose interest in said item and decide not to splurge, which then tells us that it wasn’t actually all that important in the first place.

Research also shows that instilling this skill into our children as early as possible is imperative. In fact, it’s one of the most important skills we can teach them. Long term research has been done on children who were able to delay gratification from a young age and how that corresponds positively with their level of achievement and success as adults. Studies have shown that children, teenagers AND adults who are better at delaying gratification are not only more self-disciplined, they are also less impulsive and are more likely to be successful and satisfied with school, work and their relationships (Peck 1978).

In the Marshmallow Study (a hilarious little video to watch) we can see how even children who are quite young have learned (or not learned) how to delay gratification and practice self-discipline and self-control… sometimes by using whatever means necessary.

What are some of the Marshmallow’s in your life? What are some areas that you need exercise some self control and tell yourself “I can indulge now and enjoy for the moment, or if I wait a little while and slow things down a little bit, greater or longer lasting benefits or rewards are to come.”

So the moral of the story? You can have your cake, but just wait a few before you eat it too.

Is It Better to Work Hard or Take A Step Back?

chinese bikerWhen in your golden years and reflecting back on that which has been your life thus far, what would you like to say to yourself? “Gosh, I wish I would have just chilled out more and taken time to rest, relax, and spend time with the people I love.” Or “Oh man, I sure wish I would have just gotten over my fears, hesitations, excuses, and lack of belief in myself and just gone for the goals and dreams I really wanted to work toward and accomplish.” This is a tough one because neither is wrong, but it is pretty important to think about it now and decide which is, and likely will be, more important to you in the long run.

You might say each statement seems to contradict the other. One says I should relax more the other says I should work harder. Which one is it??? And the truth is, it depends (oh the famous words of the ever objective therapist). But it does! It depends on where things are at for you right now. If you find yourself shying away from going after the things in your life that you really want because you’re scared of hard work or not being good enough, or failing, or whatever it may be, then it seems like now might be the time to work through that emotional or psychological block that is that is holding you back. If this is your case then now’s probably the time to get going on working toward what’s actually important to you (while, of course, also considering any financial or familial responsibilities you have).

If, however, you notice that you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off and feel continuously stressed, anxious, worn out, short fused, and too busy for anyone or anything, including yourself, then it sounds like it’s definitely time to slow down, take a breath and re-prioritize. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have goals and ambitions – in fact it’s great to have meaningful goals and ambitions: those who do often report feeling happier and more satisfied with life. That said, however, it’s not about pushing hard and stressing out to no end and for no good reason (AND working hard to get rich and buy lots of stuff is NOT a good reason. Trust me on this one).

We’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: it’s about balance. And to find your answer to our big question-of-the-day, it might be useful to seriously look at your life and decide what’s important now and think about having that be consistent with what you can honestly say will likely still be important to you in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.  The point is, don’t let fear stop you from working to pursue your goals, but also don’t let fear cause you to work so hard that you neglect the other really significant and meaningful things in life. It’s important to be responsible, thoughtful, and intentional with that which you chose to invest your life in because, as captain obvious would say: We only get to do this human thing once.

No One Is Going to Pay You to Do What You Love.

jumpI could have sworn that I’ve written about this before, but can’t, for the life of me, find where. So, I guess I must have talked about it so much I just assumed I’d actually put it out there in to cyber space for a larger audience to be aware of.

It’s true. No one is going to pay you to do what you love. Well, I guess it’s true… sort of. There are some people who really are lucky enough to love and be passionate about the work they are involved in, and actually do leap out of bed in the morning all too excited to FINALLY get to work after having been away from it all night whilst sleeping. They do exist. I’ve heard of them, and I actually am one of them myself. AND let me tell you, it’s rare.

No one is going to pay you to fulfill your passion – well, probably at least not in the way YOU want to fulfill it. I’ll explain:

Let’s say you love to take pictures. Being behind the lens is where you feel alive, connected, in your flow, or whatever the latest jargon is for loving what you do for work. So, you decide to turn your passion for photography into a job. You go to photography school and spend 20k or whatever astronomical price it is these days, and you come out raring to go and can’t wait to get started on getting paid to take pictures. But wait. It soon becomes clear that in order to put food on the table as a professional photographer you not only have to be a small business savvy-marketing -and-networking-guru, you also have to take whatever photo snapping job you can get, and usually people aren’t going to pay you to take the pictures you want to take, just the ones they want you to take. Humph.

I’m not saying you can’t still enjoy this as a vocation, but it might not be the passion fulfilling, key to your happiness, connection to your soul you thought it would be. And to be honest, as I said before: the vast majority of jobs will not be. SO, I say this not to discourage but rather prevent you from experiencing major disappointment and confusion when you hap upon this realization after being told that you need to find a job you are forever impassioned with or there’s really no point. Not to fear though, there is a way through this.

As a clinical counsellor who has done a lot of career counselling, I say that the much more realistic and actually quite satisfying and fulfilling alternative to all this is to find a job you like. Find a career path that works well enough and that you mostly enjoy: a job you feel relatively good about the majority of the time and that seems to be a pretty good fit. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s actually much more healthy and balanced than setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment with not being able to find that one thing that they tell you is out there and will make all your dreams come true. And then, pursue your passions in your free time. Keep your passions pure and unadulterated from pressure, expectation, and having to do the parts of it that are actually not at all enjoyable in order to keep a roof over your head. Enjoy your passion to its fullest exactly how you want to experience it.

If you are one of the rare and lucky ones who does get paid to fulfill your passion, great for you! If not, don’t worry about it. It’s really not nearly as common or realistic as theysay. And I really don’t know where this whole indoctrinated expectation that they came up with came from: tis simply not right.

The Best Kind of Courage.

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I’m not always sure if it was society, or parents, the media, or the kid down the street who told us we need to be someone we’re not in order to be good enough, worthwhile or have any value as human beings. Wherever it came from, it’s not nice. And how it has translated in to adult hood is by cultivating a breed of individuals who believe they need to be perfect, beyond reproach, always on the top of their game, who never show signs of having limits, emotions or boundaries and never have any problems of their own. Yikes! But you would be surprised by how many people actually believe this to be true. People who feel awful, horrible, or worthless if they, heaven forbid it, ever make a mistake, or worse yet, encounter any set backs or failures. People who, if they accidently show any sign of sadness or fear, feel it necessary to apologize profusely or give some big explanation as to why they showed any signs of being human. I just can’t figure this one out. Who told us we need to be perfect, the best, and have it all together all the time? And whoever it was, how come they have the authority to make us buy in to it all and believe these things without question? It’s a stumper.

So what I propose is instead of trying harder to be perfect, we work harder on being courageous. But I have to say, this type of courage can be really really hard to find and we might have to dig extra deep inside us and clear away a lot, I mean A LOT of muck to uncover this specific courage, but the good news is it’s already there in all of us. This particular type of courage is about finding and embracing the courage to be imperfect. The courage to say I am emotional, deep, feeling, apt to fail, prone to make mistakes, I sometimes accidently say things I don’t mean, I don’t always know how to make everyone happy, and I may not always feel like being the hardest worker in the office and picking up everyone else’s slack. And guess what??? THAT’S OKAY!

I’m not saying this as a Carte Blanche to become lazy, useless, caulis and uncaring – because goodness knows that’s not going to bring us any sense of joy, peace, and fulfillment either. But I am saying this so that we can learn to let ourselves be human, to be ourselves, to get over the lie that I need to be a super human in order to be worthy of love, life, and happiness. To allow ourselves to sometimes just say “Oops! Oh well. I am human and I am not perfect,” without then punishing ourselves with 7 years of harsh self-criticism and a truck load of emotional beratement.