Monthly Archives: November 2014
Ending a Relationship: How Do You Know When Enough Is Enough?
When deciding on ending a relationship, the first question we ask ourselves is: How do I know when enough is enough? Someone very special and beautiful asked me that question this week.
In our culture, we are faced with all kinds of messages about relationships: see the good in people, relationships take work, rise above, and don’t have too many expectations. Then, don’t put up with anyone’s disrespect, take care of yourself, set limits, leave abuse. These messages convolute all our decisions on how to set boundaries in relationships or know when it is right for us to leave them. We don’t know who to blame, us or them. Add to it worry and fear about being alone, or being abandoned, or about other people judging you, and it becomes a maze to wade through.
Effect of Relationship Decisions
Problems in significant relationships effect our anxiety and depression more than any other factor in our life because our relationships and their success define us. These are huge decisions. The heaviness of making the right one, can be immobilizing. One can neither open to reconnecting , nor can they step away to relieve themselves. Above all, they lose all trust in themselves, staying in misery and passing it back and forth between them.
We think we are supposed to have unconditional love for our partners and mistake this for having an unconditional relationship. Relationships have conditions! All relationship arrangements are negotiable, and there is usually aspects that for one or both partners that are not negotiable.
It is not easy to chose to leave a relationship and I do not have a prescription answer. Sometimes, it is best and other times it is not, and these both can depend. One thing I do understand is that if you make a decision, you make that your decision. Whichever you decide, you live that decision with your best self. Look deep inside you, beyond all fear and all guilt and there you’ll find the answer. Ask your higher self what is the best for everyone involved. Step back from the situation and see yourself and your partner from a distance. This intention and perspective can help you get clarity.
The Right Relationship Decision
There is no right decision. Decisions are like everything else, relative. It doesn’t matter if it is “right” or not, you make a decision and then make it right for you.
You might decide to postpone your decision to end a relationship, but even that is a decision to be lived instead of lamented. Don’t beat yourself up for “not deciding,” postpone consciously. But before making a decision about whether to stay in or leave a relationship, think about this:
- Know you are exactly where you are supposed to be. You are perfect and awesome.
- There is nothing to be afraid of, you cannot chose wrong.
- Get people that love you around you.
- Find your worth and know who you are and your purpose.
Then, and only then, the preferable choice will be as clear as day.
Depression During the Holidays
The shadow side of this period of light and hope is darkness and despair, and many people fall into darkness at this time of year. They feel left out.
Deep depression, the kind that goes on day after day or leads to suicidal thoughts, is complex and needs to be treated carefully and from every angle. Do everything you can to get the right professional help, today. But the standard treatments usually leave out the deeper elements, which I will try to balance. One such element is the problem of becoming identified with the archetype of the Outsider.
There is nothing bleaker, or more dangerous to survival, than being alone in the cold, physically or emotionally hungry, left out, while others are gathered around the fire, sharing food and gifts and above all, love. Remember the story of The Little Match Girl? (If you do not, or want a cathartic experience to balance the sweet stuff, you might want to listen to David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion.) That cold, starving little girl alone in the dark and snow on the Big Night is a true archetypal symbol, in that we all instantly, instinctually, understand her unbearable fate. We know about dying of cold and lighting those last matches in which to glimpse the warmth, food, and glorious Christmas tree that fate has denied her. If we really are feeling the Outsider, our mind and body fall into despair. We freeze to death during this season of warmth.
Many depressions—not all of course—begin in early childhood. Something goes wrong in those early bonds, leaving a yearning for closeness of the deepest kind, hopelessness about getting it, and the stubborn core sense of worthlessness that comes from not having been adored. Now, at this time of year, you face images of adoring mother and child, the first “in group.” You were not in that archetypal twosome. That is how you came to envision yourself in relation to others. From this first group, there were other groups where you felt left out. Now, during the holidays, everyone else seems enveloped in love, but not you. Even at a holiday party or in the “warmth” of your family you can feel the Outsider, full of the dark thoughts that, if spoken, would cause everyone to turn away in horror.
Failing to receive normal love early in life does not always leave a conscious yearning. It can be such a defeat and humiliation that you have solved it by repressing your desire and deciding not to need anyone. Being the Outsider is fine in your opinion at other times of the year, but that buried yearning is harder to ignore during the holidays. You feel depressed, but perhaps without knowing why.
Defeats of other kinds, such losing your job, also lead to these feelings of being the Outsider. It is easy to assume that you cannot be really included, except as someone to be pitied, but that is not belonging to the group of the joyful and loved.
Carl Jung, who spoke so much about archetypes and complexes, warned against identifying for long with any archetype—whether Victim or Hero, Martyr or Rescuer, even Mother or Father. But we all have complexes. At the heart of every complex there is a trauma, and also the archetype of that situation, providing the instinctual response and symbols. When something triggers a complex, we are automatically identified with its underlying archetype. They are a trio—trauma, complex, and archetype—and the particular trio leading to the Outsider is perhaps the most dangerous. Humans very often simply despair and give up when they feel permanently left out in the cold. Please do not do that.
What to do instead? Of course you will identify less with the archetype if you do something friendly— volunteer, call a friend, or do whatever will link you with another. But I hate giving that advice to those who are too depressed right now to follow it.
To you, I can only beg that you believe me that in a fundamental way you are not an outsider. I was stunned by the poignant responses to my blog post on The Wound with No Name. Read them. You have such brave and dear company. You belong to a great assembly of the courageous, even if you have never met them. How I wish I could get even some of you together for the holidays. Can you imagine with me such a gathering? The lonely no longer lonely? The outsiders all brought in from the cold? Let’s light a match to that
3 Ways to Improve Your Life
In Emily Esfahani Smith’s fascinating article, “There is More To Happiness than Being Happy” (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-…), she asserts, “While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting…”
From a modern perspective, looking back to the days of yore, it didn’t take much to make someone happy: Freedom to worship however they wanted – or not, the right to bear arms in order to protect themselves from the French and the British – especially since there was no real militia, a roof over their head, food to eat, wood for a fire, maybe a little money from selling crafts made on the side. These things that we take for granted today were huge for the people who founded our country. Today, like yesterday, we are happy when our needs, wants and desires mesh. But the pursuit of happiness has become connected to what might be termed “selfish” or narcissistic behavior. In our consumer-driven society, it takes ever more goodies, things, new apps, to make us happy. And happiness, as mentioned above, is fleeting. It is present-centered, present hedonism. Nowadays, the pursuit of happiness is, in effect, being a “taker.”The Search for Meaning
In our hot pursuit of happiness, have we lost the “meaning” in our lives? All indications are a resounding “Yes” as Smith further reports, “The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning. Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future.”
In a new study in the Journal of Positive Psychology (2013) researchers discovered that while negative events may decrease happiness, paradoxically they may increase the meaning in life. Traumatic or emotional experiences can build character and teach us hard lessons that make us more compassionate and give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. The study also indicates that compared to those people who did not have any life purpose, those people who did report having a purpose, in other words, meaningful goals which have to do with helping others, rated their life satisfaction higher – even when they felt personally down and out. “People who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, although at the time of the survey, they were less happy.” Having meaning in our lives, in effect, is being a “giver.” Working through pastgrief, abuse, and failures should not just lead to regret and resignation, but rather resilience, resolve and even post traumatic growth.
We don’t have to be “takers” to experience happiness. We each know good from bad, right from wrong. Those basic values are embedded in most of us, even as children. And deep within us, we know the real meaning of happiness. Happiness can come from an observation of thebeauty that surrounds us, or the sound of our favorite music or birdsong, or the taste of comforting food, or the touch of a loved one. These simple things can bring us happiness; happiness is the feeling of love. We feel happy when someone shows us respect, offers a well-deserved compliment for how we look, or what we did. And so too paying it forward by giving others compliments, by making them feel special, liked, respected. Take time for self-reflection; explore where you are now in your life’s journey, and where would you like to be going. Our past has shaped us into the person we are today and can guide us toward the even better person we want to tomorrow.
Finding balance in our lives – seeking happiness as well as meaningful experiences – is what our book, The Time Cure, is about. If you are stuck in the rut of thinking about all the bad things that happened to you, you’ll discover how to replace those past negatives with past positive experiences and start making plans for a brighter future. If you are present fatalistic and think your life now isn’t worth much and can’t be fixed up better, find out how to have some fun and happiness by practicing selected present hedonism while working towards a future positive. And if you are so future- oriented that you don’t have time to be happy in the moment, learn how to stop your pursuit of endless goals, take time to smell the flowers, to be more self-compassionate, to make someone else feel special, and to share your aloha with others.
Finally, at this time of Thanksgiving festivities express to all you know thegratitude you feel for their friendship and the kindness they have shown you. Even more valuable for your well-being, express forgiveness and acceptance to those who have hurt you in some way and reciprocally ask forgiveness for your short comings with them. Yes, it is time to clean up that old slate to start life anew with pride replacing shame and universal giving replacing self-centered taking
Do constraints hinder or help creativity? As with most aspects of creative thinking, the answer is a complex yes.
For decades after Alex Osborn popularized the technique of brainstorming in the 1950s and 1960s, models of creative thought often stressed freedom from constraint as a path toward greater divergent thinking. Osborn’s technique focuses on coming up with as many unedited and unscrutinized solutions as possible at the beginning of the creative problem solving process, saving critical evaluation for a later stage. In recent years, however, creativity experts have also focused on how aspects of personality, environment, and constraints themselves can inhibit or enhance the quality and quantity of creative ideas (Medeiros, Partlow & Mumford, 2014).
To understand better the role of constraints in creative problem solving, researchers at the University of Oklahoma recently investigated the interaction of certain types of constraints and the subjects’ “need forcognition” or their level of thinking about and engaging with the constraints (what we often think of as motivation). Subjects were asked to develop a marketing plan for a high-energy root beer, with varying degrees of constraints in the following areas: fundamentals (such as the targeted age of consumers, cost, where the product would be sold), themes for the campaign (for example, sports, college life, hobbies), external or internal information (such as information about outside competitors or about internal company goals), and resources (time and money). In addition, the researchers looked at the subjects’ expertise and motivation to find a solution and to work with the given constraints.
Some of the more interesting and significant findings and discussions were these (emphases added):
- “[I]f environmental constraints are imposed and people are willing to think about these constraints creative problem solving does not suffer.”
- “[W]hen people have limited motivation and focus on internal constraints they are especially uncreative.”
- “[I]t appears that constraints may prove beneficial in facilitating creative thought only when not too few and not too many constraints have been imposed and the constraints imposed are malleable.”
- “[N]eed for cognition, and presumably the investment of resources in thinking about constraints, allows people to produce creative problem solutions even when multiple constraints, with respect to fundamentals, themes, and resources, are operating.”
- “[E]xpertise was positively related to the production of higher quality, more original, and more elegant solutions.”
One way to understand the results is to put them in the context of a household challenge almost all of us have faced at some point: fixing a meal with limited resources. The limitations might be ingredients, time, money, dietary restrictions, or some other constraint. If we are motivated to work with the given constraints—if we are willing to think about them and manipulate them—we are more likely to come up with a creative dish. Creativity also increases with our level of expertise, such as knowing what ingredients go well with each other or how long different foods take to cook. If we are unmotivated, on the other hand—reluctant to give much attention to the constraints we face—and especially if we also dwell on internal constraints such as our wish to lose weight, our creativity will probably wane.
Stanford Professor Tina Seelig, author of inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity (HarperCollins, 2012), stresses the importance of attitude in creative thinking, which is similar to need for cognition or motivation. She writes in inGenius that “in order to find creative solutions to big problems, you must first believe that you’ll find them. With this attitude, you see opportunities where others see obstacles and are able to leverage the resources you have to reach your goals” (p. 180).
The University of Oklahoma authors point out that more research is needed to explore whether similar results are replicated in real-world settings, with different types of constraints, and in fields other than marketing. However, since almost no practical creative problem solving exists free from any limitations whatsoever, their findings can help us to think about how we change our workplaces, homes, and classrooms so as to foster the greatest degree of creativity.
One real world example of the results of emphasizing motivation in the face of constraints comes from MailChimp co-founder and CEO Ben Chestnut. In the short video “Creating an Environment for Creativity and Empowerment,” Chestnut talks about how he fosters creativity not by spending money on fancy resources such as electronic whiteboards but by “subtracting time” and encouraging his employees to “fail all the time.”
However, for this strategy to work, leaders must put in extra time developing employee motivation. Chestnut explains, “You as the leader of the group have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to them why they’re building what they’re building, why they only have one freaking week to get it done.” You can watch the video below.
In short, when we are solving problems, rather than trying to eliminate constraints, we might want to engage with them more fully and to find reasons for doing so.