Saturday, October 21, 2006

Losing It

What causes you to “lose it?”

For me, it’s feeling as if I’m being treated with disrespect or as if no one’s listening. The more important the situation, the more out of control it feels to me, the less power I feel I have, the more upset I get. Or if I feel I’m not living up to the standards I set for myself—usually in a context where I can’t depend on anyone else to do the right thing and/or do what needs to be done. It happens when I’m afraid—for myself or someone I care about—and I feel powerless to stop whatever it is that’s so scary. One way or another, it ALWAYS comes down to fear.

How do you react when you “lose it?”

For me, I want to withdraw. I want to quit trying. I want to quit doing the things I feel I’m supposed to do. I want to give up because after all, if no one’s going to listen or care or do anything, what’s the point? Or worse, I’ll lash out at people who are doing the best they can and who, even if they might listen if I could discuss things rationally, are not going to do so when I attack them. I also know that odds are I will focus on the least important issues and lash out about those because it’s less scary than really facing my fears about the really important issues I’m facing.

I bring it up because all of us have times when we hit that wall, usually at times we can least afford to “lose it.” But we do. And when we lose it, that’s when we’re least likely to be able to think of anything productive, anything that will work, and we may take actions or say things that only make our situation worse.

And I’ve hit that wall the past week or two. Situations feel out of control. People aren’t listening. I was powerless in situations that matter deeply to me. Lashed out more than once at people who aren’t going to listen to or care what I have to say—especially since I did lash out rather than approach them with respect for their position.

I know, you see, that everyone wants to be the hero of his or her own life. Everyone wants to believe they are a good person. And I know that if I attack, part of them will need to believe there is something wrong with me rather than listen to what I have to say. They will need to find excuses about why they are right or justified in what they are doing.

And I’ve pulled back. Because I’m so tired of trying and not getting anywhere. I even asked a friend if I should quit posting this blog because it seems as if no one reads it or cares.

In short, I’ve fallen into the trap of believing I have no power. It’s appealing, you see. Because if I have no power, I’m off the hook. I don’t have to keep trying. I can quit doing what’s difficult and just give up.

Only that doesn’t get me anywhere. I will end up more unhappy than ever. The only way things change, the only way I will feel better is to take a deep breath, pull myself up and realize that I do have power. If I haven’t found the means to create the effect I want, it only means that I haven’t found the right actions or words yet. Or perhaps I’m focused on the wrong goal. Maybe there’s another way to achieve what matters to me, another way to make a difference, another way to diffuse a threat.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is often simply that those who succeed keep trying new things until they find the means to achieve what matters to them.

I can’t control who reads or doesn’t read this blog. But I can choose whether it’s important enough for me to keep writing it or to try to get across my message in some other way. I can’t control whether or not an agent wants to represent me or a given publisher wants to buy a given manuscript, but I can control whether or not I keep sending it out and paying attention to the responses I get. I can’t control what my grown son does but I can choose the ways in which I remain part of his life. I can’t choose what our politicians do, but I can choose to vote and when I strongly disagree with one, I can choose to speak out—whether or not anyone listens. I can’t control what will happen with my friend’s breast cancer, but I can choose how I will support her as she fights the disease—even or perhaps especially when she has a set back as she did this week.

I can make the choices based not just on what outcome I can create but on what kind of person it matters to me to be. I can know that whether or not anyone reads or cares about what I post, it matters to me to try to share the tools I think can help. I can choose to write to politicians knowing that even if no one listens, it matters that someone speaks out. I can choose to share with my adult son my concerns about the choices he’s making even if I know he may choose not to listen because I can’t stop being his mother. I can support my friend even if I know that I am powerless to impact the course of her disease because it matters to me to be there for her so she isn’t facing it alone.

As I’ve said before, being an optimist doesn’t mean things never go wrong for me. Neither does it mean I’m always calm and happy. It only means that I know that when I have times like this when I do get upset I don’t have to stay stuck in those emotions. I know that I have the tools to find a way to change my mindset and take steps to make my situation closer to what I want it to be. I can always be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new possibilities in my life.

We all run into walls. The choice we must make when it happens is whether to stay there and cry—often quite justifiably so!—about how unfair life is or whether to find a way, no matter what it takes, to get over the wall to where we want to be.

Don’t know about you but this coming week I’m going to be doing some climbing—even if it’s by my fingertips. Wishing you all luck with your own walls—whatever they may be—and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


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