si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: June, 2010

How To Never Feel Rejected Again

I’m finding that when I get the same thing occurring in many areas of my life within a very short period of time it’s time for me to learn a very specific lesson.

Recently I found myself feeling rejected, in various ways, in 6 or 7 different situations over the span of a week or so.

Typically it would go something like this:

  1. I’m looking to make a connection with somebody – to spend time, or go see a movie, say.
  2. I get enthusiastic & excited, looking forward to this situation.
  3. They then deny me that connection.
  4. I feel rejected, & disappointed that it’s not happening.
  5. I then react badly (get grumpy, upset, or act coldly towards them, etc)

So then we have two people feeling crappy, instead of one.. that can’t be good!

pic by lady vervaine

I’ve taken to going for monster 3 hour walks while listening to various soothing podcasts. It’s a wonderful way to get exercise and get things clear in my head.

On one of these recent long walks, I had the following realisations:

The key issue with rejection is this – said person is not behaving the way I want them to. I.e., I’m trying to control them.

If you stop and think about it, wanting to control anyone is the height of arrogance. It’s taking away their own free will, not to mention assuming we know better than they do what’s right for them – and how would we feel if someone else tried to do it to us?

So, when that control fails (as, of course, it will – we can’t ever really control anyone else), I then disapprove of them – ie, I withdraw my love.

pic by

pic by sephorah

Now, for a start this doesn’t tie in well with my intention of unconditional love always.

Secondly, my not feeling rejected is entirely predicated on my control of them succeeding (which, of course, it won’t).

I’d been tying how I loving I feel towards them to whether or not they behaved the way I wanted them to. So, sooner or later I’m going to end up being ‘not loving’ towards them (and as a side issue, feeling crappy myself).

To shortcut the whole rejection thing, I need to let go of the expectation that they will always behave exactly the way I want, or indeed that I have any control over them at all.

Once I let go of wanting to control them, I can choose to love them regardless of their behaviour.

Oh, and voila, since their behaviour makes no difference to this choice I’m never going to feel rejected by anything they do. Sometimes they’ll behave in a way I might enjoy more (which is great), sometimes they won’t (in which case, who cares, it’s their life to do with as they wish).

Of course, I’m always free to remove them from my life if what they’re doing is particularly deleterious to myself – but that’s a whole other conversation.

Dogs never try to control, always just love. pic by ingrid0804

In summary:

Wanting to control others leads to feeling rejected when this control fails.

Choosing to love (have positive regard towards) them regardless of their behaviour means never feeling rejected again.

If there’s one thing I’m learning in spades, life really can be very, very simple.


    TV Trains You To Expect The Worst

    I was watching an episode of United States of Tara the other day when I had something of a realisation.

    In case you don’t know the show, here’s the back story. Tara is a woman with dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personalities). For the sake of TV, they are 5 (or 6) very distinct & endlessly trouble making identities. A key part of the show, of course, is the actual woman herself (played by the incredibly talented Toni Collette) trying desperately to keep her life together despite the chaos sown by her sub personalities.

    In the episode I watched, she’d been taking her drugs regularly, & all her sub-identities had disappeared for several months. The family declared her life permanently changed, and everything was wonderful… for the first 15 minutes of the 22 minute show.

    I sat there through this wondering why my entire body was tense. As far as everything on the screen, the family was getting on well, things were humming along, and life was normal.

    So why was I stressed?

    pic by james good

    Then I realised. I was waiting for something to go wrong. Which eventually, of course, it did.

    Stepping back from this particular show, I realised a deeper (yet in hindsight obvious) truth: TV Drama thrives on.. well.. drama.

    If something isn’t going wrong, there’s no story.

    Stepping back again, this applies to comedy, horror, thriller, reality TV… in fact, every genre other than educational or documentary TV.

    Why? Because drama of some form is a critical part of telling a story, any story.

    If the hero/protagonist doesn’t have something to overcome, how can they prove they are (or become) a hero?

    Jack Bauer of 24 is the perfect (& thus oft caricatured) example of this, of course.

    In other words, something must necessarily always go wrong. No matter how great things seem, something bad is always about to happen.

    pic by rock creek

    The real issue here is this. Time watching TV is, in a very real sense, time spent training our brains to operate in a certain way.

    For example, we take it for granted, but when multiple camera TV first appeared, people had to retrain their brains to understand that shots from different angles were all telling the same story, & how to piece it all together into one linear narrative. Seeing things from multiple angles at once isn’t something that happens to our brains normally (let alone fades, swipes, crabbing, zooms, etc).

    Why is this suddenly all so clear to me? Because I have been wondering recently why my entire life I’ve always been expecting things to go wrong.

    Thanks TV!

    At this point, I am undecided about movies – their one-off nature & longer running times have more opportunity for  flexibility & depth in story telling (eg, starting with something bad having already happened & climbing out of it from there – eg Shipping News), but I think it’s safe to say my days of watching a lot of TV are over (except maybe Doctor Who, heh).


      Stop Bashing Your Head Against The Wall!

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It enables us to look back & say “Oh wow, that was a complete waste of a day.. or 10 years.”

      Wouldn’t it be useful to know in advance if something was going to be pointless? Or how about just at the time? Even cutting that wasted 6 months back to a day or two would be a huge win.

      How the hell would we go about that?

      Well, an obvious way is to get more present (eg this excellent video tutorial on ‘Falling Still’ by my good friend @Dhrumil). The more aware we are, the more attention we’ll pay to warning signs that perhaps we’re wasting our time (aka, not being in the flow of the universe).

      Getting more present is well covered territory, so how about just ensuring we’re not massively out of sync with the world in some huge way?

      How do we spot when we are really, really nowhere the hell near what’s best for us? Or when we’re exhibiting akrasia, and actively going against our own best judgement?

      In other words, how do we identify (so we can correct) when we’re  making life unbearably difficult for ourselves?

      Turns out, this is easier to spot than it might seem. The bad news is, it’s usually easiest to see about ten years after we’ve stopped doing it. It’s also typically accompanied by enlightened self-observations such as “dipshit” & other such beating ourselves up.

      pic by rob, rich & tim

      So what are typical head-bashing symptoms?

      Very simply: pouring massive amounts of time, energy & effort into a situation (or person).. and getting disproportionately little in return.

      What are the warning signs?

      • Are you always the one to initiate contact?
      • Is it always a massive effort to cheer them up (or them you)?
      • Do you put way more effort into communication than they do (as I discussed recently, asymmetrical communication)?
      • Does it feel like you have to “chase” them, but they’re never chasing you in return?
      • Do you come away from them feeling drained?
      • Is there a mis-match between your communication tones? (eg, you’re generally positive towards them; they’re generally negative towards you)
      • Do you compromise way more often than them?
      • Do you feel you need to ‘convince’ them of things that are obvious & reasonable in every other similar relationship you have?
      • Do you dread seeing them?

      Seeing these signs isn’t enough by themselves, of course, you need to allow for context. Everyone goes through difficulties, & every relationship in your life will show some of these at some point or other.  One symptom by itself may tell you nothing more than that person desperately needs your support.

      If you’re seeing a large number of them though? That’s a pretty good sign you’re just wasting a ton of time & energy for no good reason.

      One obvious solution is just to remove those people from your life – or at the very least minimize contact as much as possible.

      pic by eventhestreets

      Of course, people always change, & in time they may well end up being your closest friend ever. Right now though? They’re not.

      However it’s always a mistake (& one I’ve learned the hard way, repeatedly) to fall in love, or spend time & energy on someone based on who they might become – instead of who they actually are right now.

      I’ve had relationships I’ve bailed out of because I eventually realised I’d been hanging on (for years in some cases), solely in the hope they might one day become the person I could see they were capable of being.

      If you abstract this conversation up a level, you’ll also see you have relationships with companies – those who give you money (your employer, your customers), and those you give money to (your utilities, local cafe). The same rules apply.

      Why waste your time, your energy, your life on any relationship that is non-reciprocal & not adding value to your existence?

      Similarly, & in the interests of balance, it’s worth reassessing how you are to those around you. Are you “take take take”? Could you enrich the lives of those who love you by putting just a little more effort in?

      Trust me, it is always going to be worth your time to do so. Really it’s simply a case of showing them the love & respect that they are showing you.

      These small (though occasionally scary) observations & steps can help save years of your life, untold misery, & free you up to truly get in the flow of the universe.

      Life is supposed to be easy. Not without effort, but certainly not a perpetual struggle. Believing otherwise simply leads us to create these walls & spend years, as I’ve done, bashing our heads against them.


        Talking By Text Sucks (& How)

        Particularly in recent years, reading & writing have taken over our lives. We communicate primarily by text an increasing amount of the time. Facebook, Twitter, email, IM, SMS, blogs, forums, the list goes on.

        There are some very real problems with communicating by text.

        pic by alex guerra


        Unless both parties are typing an equal amount, any text based conversation is going to seem very one sided very quickly. In fact, not just a roughly equal amount of text, but an equal amount of thought, energy & attention (eg, not just blathering for the sake of word count)

        This isn’t how regular conversations work though. If you’re face-to-face and actively listening, you are communicating back, a lot: with body language, intonation (even if you’re just saying “go on”), energy, presence, being, even touching. There’s a lot going on that isn’t spoken.

        Particularly being an active listener (where you’re really paying attention to the person you’re listening to) you’re communicating a hell of a lot. With zero words.

        Depending on who you ask, as much as 93% of communication is non verbal. Of course, all of that is lost via text.

        If someone doesn’t reply to you at all, you get exactly zero information  – unless of course you’re able to deduce something from what they didn’t reply to.

        With so much of how we normally communicate unavailable to us, imbalances occur very easily.

        pic by naunau


        The other thing that text loses completely is context. In person, it’s possible to see if the other person is distracted, tired, stressed or has just spilt coffee on themselves. Via text, you have none of this, unless they explicitly tell you.

        In the days of writing letters this may not have been such a big deal. Writing a letter a week is low volume enough that whatever is immediately happening in your day will have negligible effect on the words that are sent. However, these days so much of communcation is via text – email, im, twitter, facebook, texting, you name it. There’s so much, & it’s all day every day.

        It’s quite possible that something you took to be incredibly serious & upsetting just happened to be right after they got scratched by their cat, or spilt coffee in their lap.

        Now that’s environmental context – there may be tone coming through the message that is actually utterly irrelevant to the conversation.

        The other thing that’s very easy to lose commonly occurs in formats that allow for multiple overlapping conversations at once – twitter, irc, im etc. It’s quite common for conversational context to be lost. A statement may be made, but because of the overlapping, it becomes unclear what it’s in reply to. We need to stop, reconnect the threads again & then continue. Or, worse yet, we don’t realise there’s been the loss of context & instead get completely the wrong message.

        A third difficulty is how hard it can be to both accurately convey and interpret such nuances as sarcasm.  People typically over-estimate their ability to convey sarcasm and their ability to correctly identify it. Online this can be deadly.

        pic by krazy dad/jbum

        Building Relationships

        The combination of the above two – asymmetrical & contextual difficulties, mean that text communication is frightfully prone to misunderstandings. Some studies say that as much as 50% of text communication is misunderstood.

        In terms of building a relationship then, while it is possible to do this over text, you’re making life a lot harder for yourself. Missing out on many subtle sub-cues, making it harder than ever to communicate clearly, and so on.

        Additionally unless you love text, you’re immediately disadvantaged. If you express yourself better verbally, or physically, you’re just plain out of luck.

        The worst situation is if one of you is someone that enjoys & is good at text communication, & the other isn’t (or primarily communicates through another modality).

        I’ve met some people for example who can’t write an email to save themselves, and yet in person are an utter delight, like a sunbeam dancing on a rainbow. Obviously the only solution here is to make sure you always live in the same city, so you get to fully enjoy the wonderfulness that is them.

        pic by abhi

        With all these limitations, difficulties & complications, how many otherwise potentially wonderful friendships are lost to text? Who really knows.

        All I can recommend is this:

        1. Understand, be aware & compensate for the limitations & distortions of communicating via text
        2. Get the hell out of it into a much richer medium as soon as you possibly can