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Friday, November 25, 2016

6 Ways to Get in the Way of Your Own Goals

One of the advantages of blogging here is that I get to work out some of my issues on a variety of topics, sort out what I am thinking and feeling about something. And, so far, if anyone has had an opinion no one is sharing. So I am avoiding one of two very uncomfortable scenarios here. Those scenarios are the two options I get when offering solicited advice.
Unsolicited advise you expect to get crap for giving. I mean, no one asked so when they hear something that they don't like then I expect to get some rage. But solicited advice? All I can wonder is, "If you didn't want an opinion why did you ask?" Or, if you don't like the advice and do your own thing anyway then why is it MY fault that your life isn't different? In either case, I almost always get someone blowing up at me.

Today is no different. And honestly, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving weekend without getting yelled at. Which is, I think, the worst of the consequences of my dad's passing. See once dad was gone and I was on my own, I was really looking forward to the lack of conflict. But since I am now left without any option but living with people I am open to these kinds of things. It isn't that I think life is always going to be conflict free. I just think that everyone has a right to orchestrate things to minimize unhealthy conflict and to have spaces in their home where there is no conflict. When you are out in public and people like to make you the receptacle for their anger and frustrations you don't get much choice... like being trapped behind a register with the customer who knows they have you until another customer comes into the line. And of course, when others see that you are getting the crap end of the other person's life they don't come into your lane. You get stuck. That is life. Home, you should get to be able to pick and chose what you invite.

But I live with 2 people and 2 cats, my right to chose is diminished. Housemate decided to unload. No big deal. We all take turns unloading. She has this rat maze of frustration surrounding and issue similar too mine. She wants out but she "Buts" the exits. On this one particularly painful, unique to introverts issue, she is incredibly pained. As I was. So again, I tried to get her to look passed her blocks and see there were other options. In other words, if the path is blocked climb through the hedge. Wrong. Suddenly she was furious and blew up at me in hysterical tears.

See, the problem with giving advice is that I always get two reactions. The first reaction is to get blamed when the advice isn't taken and their life still sucks. The second reaction is to blow up at me and in the process, diminish my own experience which taught me how to get around the roadblocks. And in this case the issue was trying to fit in. It is a subject with which I am very familiar, both the experience of ostracization and with finding ways to fit in. But she is too involved in the feelings of frustration, the limitations that she put on herself and is very found of the If/Then statements that she has developed to help her navigate the world. The problem with those statements, as with the ones that I had developed, is that they are very limited. Very. And she is attached because it makes her feel safe. But like that fortress around a heart, it also traps her inside leaving her lonely.

The only way that she can change that is to change her attitudes, her statements and just keep trying to find those places that she can make more friends if that is really what she wants. It is the same issue that I had. And after nearly 30 years of getting the same advice, which is the advice that I gave to my housemate, I took the advice and applied it. I applied it with great frustration in the beginning because it didn't magically fix my insular experience. And it didn't work 100% of the time. You just have to keep swimming. It took a long time for me to get around my roadblocks. But I did.

The first thing that I had to do was to quit assuming that because a new situation looked like an old situation that the results of participating in the situations would be the same. Take meeting new people, or reintroducing yourself to the classmates you have after Summer break. I was so hurt from bullying from one particular individual that I couldn't approach my classmates who were associated with him with anything close to security. And then eventually I wouldn't expand my group passed my two best friends. A whole life escaped me in my school. Being introduced to new people from the public school during my senior year made life easier. And that is when I learned that my avoidance techniques deprived me of a good friendship with one of my own classmates. I think that is when I started to realize that I had limited my life for the sake of security and missed out. That's when some of Sting's music started making sense.

The second thing that I had to do was stop waiting for other people to approach me. Standing against the wall is not "putting yourself out there." You have to say "Hi" first sometimes. You have to fly your own banner and see who understands its symbolism and feels like talking. You have to tell the awkward joke and own your embarrassment. You have to tell the stories that are funny to you and risk the sound of one cricket chirping. You have to risk. But my housemate is so risk averse that all of this falls on angry ears. They aren't deaf. She hears what I am saying. But she doesn't like it.

The third thing you have to understand is the law of percentages. You have to understand that sometimes you have to fail 100, 1000 or 1 million times in order to get the the sweetest of successes. Nothing is magic. Nothing has a quick fix. 100 roadblocks doesn't make anything impossible. It means we have to be more creative in MacGyvering a solution.

The fourth thing is the hardest. And that is to stop making negative assumptions. It is true that if you don't have many expectations that you can not be disappointed. But you end of swinging from two ends of a spectrum, you have no disappointments at one end, and then at the other, nothing to look forward to. The moderate approach would be to keep making plans, having experiences and taking the good with the bad. But when we are used to getting hurt we start putting limitations on life my making assumptions. For example, assuming that no one wants to exchange phone numbers with you in a group is because there is something wrong with you. Or that just because it is hard to find people with your interests that is means that there is no one who shares them.

And the fifth way that we get in the way of making changes is being so attached to the story of our hurts that we keep hashing it over and over. We keep the same goals that we have always had with the same mile markers to define success instead of looking at those goals and seeing that perhaps we are expecting something that we weren't built for. One of the things that frustrates an introvert is how easily they seem to attract people, how fast their friends lists grow or just looking at that person on facebook that has 1000 friends and isn't really any more "accomplished" than we are and going "what's wrong with me?" She's locked into there being something wrong with her. But really, some people just like knowing that they have signed every yearbook in class and have no intention of every having the close relationship that their comments would imply. It is shallowness. And in the end means nothing. But to some introverts like my housemate, we get hung up on numbers. We think, quite unreasonably, that everyone should have equal amounts of everything just because. It requires effort. She doesn't approach people because of the things she was taught or because of what annoys her. Ironically people getting in her face annoy her, but you have to get in someone's face to meet them. So she has a mobius strip for an action plan. The results of her actions never change because the loop is closed.

And sixth, we compare ourselves to others. If it were apples to apples, introvert to introvert it might be an acceptable measure of success. But when you are an introvert and you compare yourself to an extrovert you are automatically setting yourself up for failure. You only have to be better than the you in the past.

I went through all of this already. And I made changes that expanded my social circle. Three out of four times it turned out okay. But the last try was such an unmitigated disaster that it will be some time before I put myself out there again. But then in the meantime I am working on deepening the connections that I already have. It is the only way to avoid the painful loneliness. But you have to be careful. You have to know yourself and what your limits are. Not the imposed limits. But the honest one, the limits of what you are willing to take as opposed to the limits that you believe others are imposing on you.

For example, since I usually get blamed for the advice I give not working when it is admittedly not applied I could decide that I am not helping anyone any more. But then I have to watch my friends suffer needlessly. Eventually they will try something I have suggested like eventually I took Kirk's advice. He told me to stop assuming that everyone was mean and didn't like me just because a few people found me a convenient place to unload their own frustrations. I could, since I get yelled at for and accused of, "not really understanding" a problem, refrain from offering advice. I could just pretend to listen, nod my head and say "man that sucks". Or I could say, if you don't like your life and you don't want to change it then stop unloading on me. I didn't create the situation, I am not perpetuating the situation and you don't want help changing it so don't bring it up. Or, I could do what Kirk did.

He just walked away from my life. Which was painful since I had a huge crush on him. But anyone who would have walked away from me because of my meltdowns and resistance to change would have devastated me because of how internally attached I get to people.

It's her choice to stay this way. And she will until she is miserable enough to change. That is the only tenant of self help that I agree with it. And for my part, I get more practice in not taking things personally. It is hard though to be in this spot and not see a limitation that needs to be evaluated.

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