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Obsessed with What's Wrong

You would like to be more positive, but you can't stop thinking and talking about all the ways people are not behaving as you would like and are not meeting your needs.

You likely have received the training most of us have received. When someone does something you don't like, tell them what they did wrong and punish them for it.  From preschool to prison this is the most common strategy many cultures have for shaping behavior, despite the fact that research shows how ineffective it is.

Punishment is so pervasive you probably don't recognize it's many forms.  Here are some of the forms it takes in relationship:
-    Turn your eyes or body away.
-    Hold back from talking and sharing of yourself.
-    Say what they did wrong and stare at them accusingly.
-    Say all the ways your needs haven't been met and huff angrily.
-    When your partner reaches out, don't reach out in return.
-    Leave the house without saying where you are going or when you will be back.
-    Let them know just how much their behavior hurt you and then sit quietly waiting for  them to apologize.
-    Pick up a coffee for yourself but don't call and ask them if they would like one

It's tough, because when you're hurting, years of programming takes over and you find yourself doing these things even though you know it won't help.

Shifting your thinking from what you don't have and don't want to what you do have and what you do want is not an easy task.  It takes practice.  Here are three practices to help make this shift.

The most basic practice I know is acceptance of what is.  This means noticing when you move away from something you don't like and asking yourself to relax and feel what is present.  You can get caught in physical, emotional, or energetic aversion.  When you are busy moving away from all that is uncomfortable, it leaves you little time for moving towards what you want.

A second practice is to get curious about what works.  If your need for being heard is consistently met with you friend Halim, notice exactly what he does that meets your need.  Is it asking questions, eye contact, being still, or being active? What exactly meets your need?  For you to ask for what you want, you need to become more fluent in the language of what works than you are in the language of what doesn't work.

Third, create the habit of speaking up when someone meets your need.  This can be in response to the simplest things.  For example, yesterday I had a client write an email giving me the day and time he would like to meet two weeks from now.  This made scheduling easy and fast.  I wrote back letting him know that I appreciated his detailed request because it met my need for ease around scheduling. 

To get into the habit of speaking about what works try this:  At the beginning of the day put five pebbles or beads in your right hand pocket.  Every time you speak to a need being met put one pebble in your left hand pocket.  See if you can move all of them in a day.

This week choose one or more of these practices to help yourself move in the direction of what you want rather than away from what you don't want.

***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs

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1 Response

  1. Mar 30, 2009

    I was really in the perfect space to receive this message. Thank you so much for composing it with such clarity. I love the bead idea too :)

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