Saturday, March 6, 2010

Moving Past the Negativity

Half the battle is avoiding the people that do nothing for you; only detract rather than add. There are just way, way, way too many of those people around me right now. There are so many people around me in various places simply and utterly trapped in their fear. And for most people, the response to fear is anything but positive. People don't say "I'm terrified, I think I'll go do charity work and smile at everyone.". Instead they say "I'm terrified, let me lash out at those closest to us and hide in this dark room for a bit". I'm for one - tired of being lashed out at and tired of propping up these people. Any advice for me on how to get past this admittedly cold position? I never thought I'd actually want to be an Ayn Rand philosophy follower.

1 comment:

Capt. BS said...

There isn't anything wrong with taking this position on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it's the only way to continue with your sanity intact, and in those cases (assuming sanity is a desirable quality for you), there is no other choice.

One way to look at it is through the following metaphor. Inside of every man is a scale. (Oh wait, wrong metaphor, let me start over.) Inside every person is a list. This list contains all of the people that you know in life -- yourself included -- and it's ordered by the degree to which that person's happiness and well-being matters to you. Some people put themselves at the top of this list, and their wants and needs take priority over all others, including their spouse, family, and closest friends. These people can be a volatile breed, because if they are not happy, then no one else has the right to be happy, because everyone else is below them on the list.

Conversely, other people put virtually everyone else ahead of themselves on the list. Happiness for these people can be rare and fleeting, because they are constantly evaluating, worrying about, and buffing the happiness of those ahead of them, and do not often focus enough on their own.

Most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Perhaps our immediate family members, significant other, and three or four close friends precede us on our lists, while casual friends, budding acquaintances, and admired coworkers quickly follow. Below their names, the list begins to fade and blend into a soup of obscurity. For most of us, we are happy when those at the top of our lists are happy and things for ourselves are pretty peachy as well.

A key to understanding this metaphor is that the names are fixed in place, nor are their positions largely determined by forces beyond our own control. If someone near the top of our list begins to behave in an erratic, destructive, or otherwise detrimental manner, and our efforts to calm or correct the behavior backfire, it is perfectly acceptable to move that person down on the list, either temporarily as a measure of self-preservation, or indefinitely as an acknowledgement that someone has fundamentally changed (or that your basic understanding of who they are needs correction). Likewise, if the demoted individual later proves themselves to be worthy of rejoining the upper echelon of your list, there's nothing preventing you from allowing that to happen too.

So, in conclusion, my advice would be to evaluate your list. First get an understanding of where your position currently is, and where it should be. (And it's certainly okay if you want to temporarily place yourself higher than you usually would, if this will help you deal with everything else.) Then, for each person who is currently detracting from your life, ask yourself whether their current list position is justified in the short-term and in the long-term, and if there is a disparity in either, move them to where they should be, knowing full well that you can always move them again. Finally, as a reward for going through this exercise, indulge in something.

P.S. For what it's worth, the CAPTCHA that I have to type in order to post this comment is "stoned", although I'm not necessarily advocating that as an indulgence.