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Determine Where You’re Coming From - 1/24/2012

How many times have you felt irate, depressed or devastated by the actions and words of others who were important to you - your husband, wife, parents, kids or friends?  I fully understand your upset and recognize that, in almost every case, all you wanted was to be loved, validated and appreciated by those individuals you cared for. I also recognize that love won’t always be forthcoming.

That being the case, you have to accept that there will always be times when others will be angry, disapproving, judgmental and even rejecting of you.  However, those behaviors or statements aren’t carved in stone. They only reflect their feelings at that moment.  You focusing on them won’t make you feel better or explain why someone is having a fifty dollar reaction to what you perceive to be a five dollar problem. To fully understand the “why”, you need to discover the motivation behind their behavior.  To help your quest, it is essential to realize that the source of most of our responses stems from our own inner emotions.  They have little to do with the issues we argue about. Too frequently, however, we fail to understand the behavior of others because we interpret them based on three factors:

1) Our own orientation.  Needless to say, that doesn’t always work because, generally, the childhood experiences of every individual is unique unto themselves.  They usually differ, even between siblings, because of birth order, the individualized treatment received from parents and the financial and emotional status of the family at the time of their birth.  More specifically, imagine a  relationship between individuals who love one another, but grew up learning two very different means of resolving issues. One learned early on that, whenever an argument occurs, stuff your emotions and stifle your feelings, because, “If you can’t say something good, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”  The other learned to vomit out emotions in order to elicit a response, even if it’s anger.  During their first argument, one refuses to talk, no matter how hurtful his spouse becomes. His thought, “She can’t love me if she says those horrible things.”  Her interpretation, “I mustn’t mean anything to him, because  nothing I say can evoke a response.”  Neither, of course, is accurate.  

2) Where we’re coming from at that particular time.  Everyone experiences good and bad days in the course of living their lives.  On a bad day, we can see two people together and be certain that they’re talking about us, finding fault and judging us negatively. On a good day, love surrounds us.  The behavior and expressions of others are perceived as caring because of the positive orientation we harbor. My best example: My wife went to lunch with a friend who was decidedly overweight. During the course of the meal, the waitress kindly asked when she was due. My wife later said to her friend, “I would have either been furious or sunk through the floor if she asked me that.” Her friend replied, “At my age, it’s a compliment for her to think I could be pregnant.” I’d have you think about this example because, too often, we erroneously perceive ourselves  rejected by persons we view as not caring, when it’s the furthest thing from the truth.

3) The fact that, on many occasions, their reactions are responses to our own demeanor, body language or facial expression that conveys the message, “Don’t mess with me, go away”, or, conversely, “Welcome”. The problem is that the message is an unconscious one that frequently reflects feelings opposite from those that reside inside us. Thus, we may be hungry for someone to care, desperate for them to reach out to us but too frightened to ask, for fear of not getting it. Then, when it’s not forthcoming, we conclude that the other person doesn’t care and we don’t matter.  The truth may be that we matter a great deal, but all they see is our fear, which implies “don’t come near”.   We can do little to alter where others come from, but there is a great deal we can do about the way we present ourselves and react to them, making sure that our outward picture reflects our desires, not our trepidations.

Let me tell you about a young man whose father was baseball crazy. Before he was born, his father placed a baseball glove in his crib. Throughout his youth, his father coached and became active in Little League. On the child’s fifth birthday, his father gave him his own baseball bat and ball.  He immediately said, “Dad, let’s go  to the park and play ball.”  Dad was, of course, delighted to see the eagerness displayed by his son.  They went to the park.  Father stood some distance from his son, who threw the ball up in the air with one hand, swung with all his might and missed.  Undaunted, he  picked up the ball again and once more threw it up in the air, but missed again. He repeated the same behavior for a third time, after which he ran excitedly over to his father and asked, “Dad, how was that?”  The father said, “Son, I’m very happy about your enthusiasm, but you failed to hit the ball.  The rule is, three strikes and you’re out, but that’s okay because, over time, you’ll learn how to hit.”  His son looked at him and said, “Yeah, but what about my pitching?”  

You see, our orientation not only determines what we see and how we feel, but our reactions, as well.  The morale is that, although we aren’t in control of what life throws at us, we can choose how we react, i.e., whether or not we duck, swing or step away from a pitched ball.  So, in the future, try to determine what you want, then direct your effort toward asking and striving for it.  But, no matter the goal you choose, explain to others where you’re coming from and why, because your honesty  will cause them to trust, love and include you in their lives.

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