The more I discover, the more I am in awe. The more I thought I knew how life was supposed to be, the more I've had to unlearn. Simply put, I was wrong. About everything. I now understand that even thinking that things "should" be a certain way is indicative of cognitive distortion, the hideously opaque mask of mood disorders - once we know what to look for.
When we know what to be on the lookout for, it becomes rather easy to spot the cognitive distortions in others. It may be a little more challenging to spot our own, but it is possible. Doing so usually brings lasting positive change in the way we experience stressors in our life.*
Of course given my nature I am far more interested in spotting and cutting out my own seeds of negativity. Besides, its near-impossible pointing out shortcomings in others. They become irrationally defensive (despite the fact I wasn't even accidentally attacking the poster). No thank you. I'll pull the plank from my own eye first to empower myself with jesus-authority prior to removing the speck from theirs. I do this for one reason alone - I DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE LIMITATIONS OF LOVE. I seek lasting positive change in the way I experience stressors in my life.
"Should Statements" occur when anyone thinks anything should happen a certain way. No matter what we think is normal or right is immediately wrong if we believe it should be that way - and all of a sudden we're treading the dangerous waters of expectation - where disappointment lurks. When someone doesn't behave as we think they should, we become hurt or angry or resentful. When we ourselves break our own rules of how we think we should act or behave, the emotional consequence is guilt. The problem lies with reality - which often never seamlessly matches up with what we experience. "Should" is someone else's ideas planted in our head that we didn't know were false, and which have no basis in our everyday lives except to frustrate us when nothing seems to go as planned. The problem isn't anyone else, rather entirely our own fault. Unsurprisingly, this brings us right back to personal responsibility. We alone are solely in command of our every thought, our every action, and our every consequence. Right or wrong we feel how we choose to feel 100% of the time.
Our feelings follow what we are thinking. When we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or worried, our thoughts about ourselves or the thing we’re worried about are almost always negative.* And negative thoughts like these can send us spiraling down into depression. If we think something often enough, we begin to believe it's true and our feelings match what we are thinking.*
The funny (or sad, really) thing about cognitive distortion is that it very nearly (not entirely) falls along the same lines as self-fulfilling prophesies. That being, negative beliefs predicate negative behavior. Its entirely about false definitions evoking new behaviors - nothing positive ever comes from it. But it was being led down this primrose path in which I discovered why I am an optimist - cognitive distortion! Optimists apparently can subvert cognitive distortion into positivity. And all this time I used to think pessimists were a natural balance to optimists. Nope! Pessimism is nothing more than another brutal mask of mood disorder. Goes to show how much unlearning is required when we think things should be a certain way.
Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable), and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local). Understandably, if you’re an optimist, this bodes well for your future. Negative events are more likely to roll off of your back, but positive events affirm your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and in the future, and in the goodness of life.*
Psychology, Spirituality and Eastern religions. The more I know, the more I know I don't know. When I first read the quote in Psychology Today which stated, "Attachment reduces marriage to a quest for safety, security, and compensation for childhood disappointments." It didn't immediately dawn on me they were using the word attachment as the Buddhists do, as the origin of suffering as detailed by the Four Noble Truths on which the cessation of such is the Noble Eightfold Path. The Wheel of Dharma. Psychology. Spirituality. I've read many times over that the application of Buddhism is eerily similar to that of cognitive-behavior therapy. One might draw the correlation that psychology is our version of those Eastern religions.
Take a look at the prism of self-realization as filtered through this trifecta:
- The impulse to convert oneself into what one is capable of being.
- The ultimate goal of a human being, attaining permanent happiness and complete independence and freedom from all worldly bondage.
- Eastern religions
- Knowledge of the true self beyond both delusion and identification with material phenomena.
Even Plato taught that the attachments and defining illusions & behaviors that human beings conventionally rely on for security, respect, affection, social identity, and other needs must be questioned and abandoned in their original form.* In short, continual, aggressive reevaluation without provocation.*
It just so happens that I was introduced to interdependence through a Psychology Today article on marriage - but my initial, though limited understanding of it, is that it can be applied much more broadly. To all relationships, friendships, acquaintances and even to society at large for there is no society without us, without our individual thoughts and actions operating in relationship to the greater whole. Therefore attempt to search for application in that vein despite the martial context of the quotes. Unhealthy and unsustainable can transcend marriage and seep into our personal lives no matter what our station is.
Wikipedia revealed to me that the first recorded use of the word was in Karl Marx' Communist Manifesto which I then delved into to glean the original meaning - in this case the opposite of narrow-mindedness in the required adaptability of burgeoning nation-states. This jives with interdependence psychologist David Schnarch (the subject of Pamela Weintraub's article in PT) who likens dependency in relationships to the emotional security an adult would provide an infant. The opposite in relationships isn't independence, which is easy compared to pursing our own goals and standing up for our own beliefs, personal likes and dislikes in the midst of a relationship, no, the relational opposite is interdependence.
Interdependence allows partners who are each capable of handling their own emotional lives to focus on meeting their own and each other's ever-evolving goals and agendas in response to shifting circumstances. Dependent partners by contrast spend their lives compensating for each other's limitations and needs.
Therapeutically Schnarch recommends a dynamic process he calls differentiation; living within proximity to an emotional partner while not caving to pressure from them in order to maintain a sense of self. This could again be applied between not only spouses but lovers and friends and neighbors as well. Acknowledging and overcoming differences in who we are rather than making excuses for them or worse, trying to change ourselves or our partner. A process which requires discomfort and confronting conflict. A dynamic process remember; Active. Not passive. Basically, continual, aggressive reevaluation without provocation. Interesting how that keeps coming up.
There are twelve nidanas or "preconditions" for causal relations in Buddhist philosophy, of which two are agreed upon to be the most important for enlightenment/self-realization/interdepe
- The lack of wisdom not limited to not having learned some fact that they need to know, but rather rather that their habitual ways of perceiving the world are fundamentally flawed thus they are "blinded" by greed, desire, lust, etcetera.
- A desire not to be separated from pleasurable sensations and to be free from painful sensations becoming reinforced into habitual patterns of attachment and aversion.
Believe it or not, I'm not making this up - though I admit it sounds like some shit I would say - this is actual Buddha philosophy. And it fits into our Western psychology quite seamlessly. Point is, for those of us who may eschew one over the other, it becomes increasingly difficult to pretend both sources are in error.
An argument is valid if and only if the truth of its premises entails the truth of its conclusion. It would be self-contradictory to affirm the premises and deny the conclusion.
And my point is this gives rise to self-validation (see optimist, above). Schnarch suggests rather than asking someone else for their stamp of approval, in which case rejection affects our self-worth, even if our partner were to aggressively reject or withhold that approval, by having respected our own thoughts and feelings we've maintained our sense of self-worth. He goes on to say that by having said what we think without fear of rejection, we are ironically loved and respected even more by our partner for speaking our true mind and are therefore now free to choose to be with our partner out of mutual respect instead of feelings of dependency - dependency being the state in which one person uses another person for a specific purpose. I wish to neither "use" someone nor in turn be "used" by them. Its not sustainable.
True, sustainable security can only come through self-reliance. I personally have been seeking communication without repercussion for a very long time. It would appear the search is now over, for apparently I alone am responsible to be the very thing I desire.
Be the change you want to see in the world. ~Ghandi
Schnarch has his own version of the Four Noble Truths he calls "Points of Balance" which emphasize resilience. As a gentle reminder, these are in direct opposition with cognitive distortion's inflexible all-or-nothing-no-change-under-any-circu
- Operating according to deeply held personal values and goals even when pressured to abandon them.
- Handling one's own inner emotional life and dealing with anxiety and emotional bruises without needing to turn to a partner for help.
- Not overreacting - but still facing - difficult people and situations.
- Forbearance and perseverance in the face of failure and disappointment to accomplish one's goals.
We alone are responsible for our happiness - easily enough said, more difficult to comprehend. But these are the repeatable metrics, recipes if we must for excelling at life, no matter what it throws at us. Not life as we expect it should be, but life as it actually is. These are the tools to use to manufacture our own hopes, our own dreams, and to realize our own desires. We can use others to bolster us, help propel us toward those goals - but only ever mutually, never at our own expense. Dependency and attachment weakens us. The more we become their master, the more we take charge of our destiny. Do not settle for anything less.
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.*