Managing Reality vs. Avoiding Reality

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Why do we avoid reality? 

It’s not because we’re weak, or invested in self-deception, or delusional. Though sometimes we are all of those things. 

Mostly we avoid reality because it can be painful, and we’ve been very effectively sold a myth that tells us that we can avoid the pain of reality if we refuse to acknowledge it. 

It’s not a totally crazy idea, in fairness. 

It’s absolutely the case that our cognitive and emotional reality is largely constructed by our patterns of focus. For example, steadfastly refusing to dwell on certain thoughts can drastically reduce their ability to upset us. This is the basic skill that cognitive therapy teaches: picking and choosing our thoughts in order to be more effective in life. 

However, as we learn to take greater control of our patterns of thinking and focus, it’s important to make a distinction between picking and choosing which thoughts to emphasize and deemphasize on the one hand, versus slipping into denying and disowning of reality on the other hand. 

Being intelligent about our focus means learning to critically evaluate our thought patterns for distortions and patterns that simply don’t serve us. Research into the thought patterns of people who suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, and trauma disorders suggests that emotional misery is often triggered and perpetuated by thought patterns that are unrealistic, self-downing, overgeneralized, and needlessly pessimistic. 

That said: learning to control our focus via cognitive therapy is always in the service of reality testing. That is, it’s only helpful to the extent to which it takes us closer to the reality of the world. 

Some people like to “control their focus” in such a way that takes them away from the reality of the world. 

That’s where we run into trouble.

Emotional relief that depends upon the denial of reality is only a short-term fix— and not much of one, at that. 

Life can be painful in ways that are completely un-distorted by our thoughts. 

Everyone experiences loss, failure, disappointment, and unfairness. 

These experiences may be painful, and the pain they cause us is NOT caused by our distorted or disempowering patterns of focus…they cause us pain because they’re fundamentally painful experiences. 

When we’re confronted by pain that is NOT the result of our maladaptive thinking, trying to bend over backwards to avoid that pain by reusing to acknowledge it almost always ends up causing a great deal more pain. 

Refusing to acknowledge reality seriously grates on our self-esteem. It’s virtually impossible to like and respect someone when they chronically live in a state of denial— even if that someone is us. 

Refusing to acknowledge reality robs us of opportunities to develop and practice healthy coping mechanisms. How can we ever expect to develop resilience and perspective if we never have the opportunity to practice or use those qualities? 

Refusing to acknowledge reality denies us realistic opportunities to solve problems. After all, how can we solve problems we refuse to admit even exist? 

It’s not the case that we should never use this tool of focus control that cognitive therapy teaches us to diminish the impact of painful situations. Of course we should adjust our focus in order to make it more likely that we can life an effective life, and part of living an effective life involves controlling the balance of pleasure and pain in our lives such that we’re able to function well. 

But it is the case that we need to constantly be on guard against using this powerful tool of focus control to avoid reality completely. 

Managing reality is not the same as avoiding reality. 

Managing pain is not the same as avoiding pain. 

Learning that difference isn’t always easy— but it’s an essential part of healing. 

 

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Who’s in your head?

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Who and what are influencing you? 

Who and what do you not only allow, but actively enable to influence you? 

It’s true that there are entire industries devoted to influencing us. I often use the Dr. Glenn Doyle page to remind my readers that we are constantly under siege from advertisers, politicians, religious leaders, and others who wish to make us feel certain things, usually because they want us to do certain things. Buy products, vote for a candidate, attend or financially support their church, what have you. 

It’s also true that, in addition to those who are actively seeking to influence us, we allow and enable certain sources to get into our heads. 

We all make choices about what to read. 

We all make choices about what to listen to. 

We all make choices about what to watch. 

Very often, these choices are driven by our desire to be entertained, soothed, and distracted. And there’s nothing wrong with being entertained, soothed, or distracted. A lot of undeniably great art results from humankind’s desire to be entertained, soothed, and distracted. 

But in mainly seeking diversion from our entertainment, we sometimes forget that what we put in front of our faces, what we allow into our ears and eyes and heads every day, can also exert powerful philosophical, ideological, psychological, and maybe even spiritual influences. 

We don’t have to be actively listening to the lyrics of a song to get those lyrics stuck in our heads. 

We don’t have to be actively buying into the values systems of characters in movies for those values to lodge in our brains. 

We don’t have to be actively looking for role models to allow the behavior of characters in our entertainment to influence how we think, feel, and behave. 

We are shaped, inevitably, by what we pump into our brains over and over and over again. 

How much of that shaping are we conscious of? 

How much of that shaping do we take conscious charge of? 

One of my favorite diversions is the TV show that used to be on NBC, “The Office.” It’s a comedy that follows the average workdays of an office full of office supply salespeople and their assorted support staff. 

Anybody who is a fan of “The Office” can tell you, it’s a show that is easy to watch in long binges. It goes down easy. The characters are generally agreeable, easy to identify with, and the stories are usually lighthearted and fun. “The Office” is on Netflix, making it even easier now to watch episode after episode after episode. 

The thing about “The Office,” though, is that most of the characters on that show exist in a state of numbness, frustration, or boredom. It’s played for laughs, and the characters’ pettiness and oscillations between narcissism and low self-esteem are usually presented in such a way that no one gets hurt— I mean, it’s just a SHOW. 

But when I watch episode after episode after episode of “The Office” because it goes down easy…does my brain really register that it’s “just a show?” 

Two episodes of “The Office,” which are easy to swallow because they’re the TV equivalent of sugar coated, means one hour of putting people in front of your face who have kind of given up, people who have kind of settled for a life that they’re often manifestly unhappy with, people who are defined by their (comedically exaggerated) frustration and boredom. 

And trust me: almost nobody only watches two episodes of “The Office” at a time.

Understand, I love “The Office.” Which is why it was a bummer to realize that devoting hours to it, even in the background, means pumping a lot of influence into my brain that, in the end, may not serve me well in the motivation and focus departments. 

Influence matters. 

What are you letting into your brain, every day? 

What are you taking time to PUT in your brain, every day? 

Good influences aren’t going to worm their way into your brain by accident. Or, at the very least, we can’t COUNT on them getting into our brains by accident. 

Create time to put things in your brain that are useful to you. Decide what those things might be— self-help reading, reading your faith’s holy Scriptures, reading Pinterest or Tumblr pages of people and organizations that inspire you, listening to motivational stuff, perusing the YouTube channels of people and institutions that align with your values— and pencil into your day specific time periods when you’re going to expose yourself to them. 

Remember that ten minutes a day of exposing yourself to something means, at the end of the week, having devoted over an HOUR of focus to that thing. 

Also remember that even if you do devote an HOUR a week to an influence…there are 168 hours in every week. 

How many of those hours are working for you…and how many might be working against you? 

 

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All our imaginary competitions.

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Who do you think you’re competing with? 

Your age group peers? Your coworkers? Your academic cohort? 

Are you competing with your parents’ vision of who you were “supposed” to grow up and be? 

Are you competing with your own arbitrary ideas of what you “should” have accomplished by whatever age you are? 

One of my drawbacks as a therapist is, I have limited patience for self-defeating competitions that people invent and perpetuate in their heads. 

We humans are really, really good at imagining competition. 

We’re constantly competing against what we imagine to be other peoples’ judgments of us— like it matters. 

We’re constantly competing against what we imagine we “should” have accomplished— like it matters. 

We’re constantly competing against what we imagine a “good” or “productive” version of us “should” have done with their imaginary lives— like it matters. 

Don’t get me wrong— other people might well be judging us. Our parents might well have a very concrete idea of what we “should” do with our lives. And the culture very often does have norms and assumptions about what people “should” have accomplished by arbitrary ages. It’s not that we make those fairy tales up out of whole cloth. 

But the fact is, wherever these fairy tales come from…they’re still fairy tales. 

And to try to live your life according to the standards set in fairy tales is a lousy idea. 

That doesn’t stop us, however, from clinging to these fairy tales in our heads and judging ourselves harshly based on them. 

What are we afraid of if we acknowledge that many of the standards we use to mercilessly judge whether our lives are on track or not are really just fairy tales we’ve conjured in our minds? 

Why are we so often afraid to admit that these arbitrary standards truly don’t matter? 

Sometimes we’re afraid that if we gave up the fairy tales by which we’ve been arbitrarily, harshly judging ourselves and competing against…that we’d suddenly lose all of our drive to improve ourselves or perform well. 

Yes, our imagined competitions and standards may be arbitrary, this logic goes, but don’t we need at least SOMETHING to motivate us to achieve and improve? 

At the risk of ruining yet another fairy tale for you, allow me to assure you: if you’re just striving to achieve and improve your life because you’re in an imagined competition with someone or something, that source of motivation is eventually going to leave you bitterly unfulfilled. 

Why? 

Because if the competition is imaginary it doesn’t matter if you win. 

For example, you may well outperform your parents’ expectations of you. Which might feel good for a minute. 

But what about the next minute? 

You may well outperform the culture’s expectations of you. Which might feel great for a minute. 

But what about the next minute? 

You may well outperform your age group, coworkers, academic cohort, whoever you imagine you’re competing against, and it might all feel great for a minute. 

But what then? Are you interested in conjuring up yet another imaginary adversary to compete against? 

Winning imaginary competitions doesn’t matter. And as a source of motivation, these imaginary competitions are extremely limited. 

So you hit your milestone you wanted to hit before age whatever. Congratulations. How long do you think that high will last? 

Don’t get me wrong: imaginary competitions can be excellent for short-term motivation and inspiration. I myself love checking in on the page of one of my competitors in the self-help industry, just to gauge the success and usefulness of my product compared to his. There’s nothing wrong with using imaginary competitions to motivate you in the short term. 

But I’m under no delusion that “winning” that competition, in the long term, is a particularly meaningful goal. 

What IS a particularly meaningful goal, to me, is the impact my work might have on the people who might use it. 

That’s not imaginary. That’s real. 

Keep it as real as you can. 

Don’t invest too heavily in imagined competitions. 

And don’t let imaginary competitions get you down— because in the end they truly don’t matter. 

 

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Making friends with your anxious brain.

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Your brain frequently looks for the easy way out when it’s anxious. 

Lots of things can cause anxiety— and they’re very often based in the concept of uncertainty. 

Your brain gets anxious when it’s uncertain what’s happening next. 

Your brain gets anxious when it’s uncertain what things mean. 

Your brain gets anxious when it’s uncertain what someone else is thinking. 

Your brain gets anxious when it’s uncertain what the right decision is. 

When things are uncertain and your brain gets anxious, your brain often tries to solve the problem of anxiety by simply opting out— by going down the “flight” path of the “fight or flight” response tree. 

These are the times when you find your brain suddenly making excuses for why it’s okay, or even imperative, to remove yourself from a situation. 

For example, if you find yourself talking with someone to whom you’re attracted, and your brain suddenly realizes there’s a great amount of uncertainty involved here— uncertainty about what this person wants to hear from you, uncertainty about whether this person is as attracted to you as you are to them, uncertainty about whether they’re out of your league and about to break your heart— you might find your brain suddenly making excuses for why you need to end that conversation, right now. 

Or, say you even NOTICE you’re attracted to someone, but your brain realizes IN ADVANCE all the uncertainty that MIGHT exist if you were to go up and talk to them— you might find your brain suddenly listening all the reasons why you shouldn’t even risk going up and talking to them. 

The anxious brain is very, very good at avoidance and attempted escape. 

Even when physical escape is impossible, the anxious brain tends to invent its own escape routes through the psychological defense of dissociation. 

The thing is: uncertainty is not as threatening as your anxious brain thinks it is. 

Yes, it’s true, that there are things out there that can hurt and traumatize us. I won’t even try to make the argument that it’s unlikely that those things will happen to us— I’ve met and worked with too many survivors of trauma to be naive about the supposed “improbability” of bad things happening. 

But it’s also true that we have absolutely no control over many of those things out there that can hurt us. 

No matter how anxious we get, no matter how frantically we attempt to avoid them— bad things can still happen to us. 

Even if we somehow perfectly predicted all of the bad things we could possibly imagine happening to us, based on the bad things that HAVE happened to us (or that social media incessantly warns us MIGHT happen to us)…there are bad things that might happen to us that we would have absolutely no idea exist, let alone how to prepare for. 

Anxious avoidance, in other words, is a terrible, terrible Plan A when it comes to keeping ourselves safe. 

Anxious avoidance, in fact, usually results in more anxiety, more avoidance, and, ultimately, the depression and exhaustion that inevitably comes with isolation and frantic attempts to flee. 

When we find ourselves driven, day after day after day, by our anxious brains’ attempts to avoid uncertainty, it’s important to be realistic about what we have to do. 

It doesn’t help to yell at our brains to be more realistic. 

It doesn’t help to be mad at ourselves for being so anxious. 

It doesn’t help to get frustrated with our brains for their attempts to keep us safe through avoidance. 

What does help is to be patient, compassionate, and understanding with our anxious brains…while at the same time gently reminding them that avoidance doesn’t actually DECREASE the level of uncertainty that exists in the world. 

In fact, avoidance makes us LESS able to live in and cope with an uncertain world. 

Think of your anxious brain like a scared child. You wouldn’t angrily scream at a scared child, “DON’T BE SCARED, DAMMIT!” 

No, you wouldn’t. Because if you did, that scared child would quickly learn to avoid YOU as well. 

Are you doing this to your anxious brain? 

If so, cut it out. Your brain is avoiding enough stuff. 

Instead, work on developing a sense of CERTAINTY within yourself— certainty that, no matter what happens OUTSIDE of you, your INTERNAL response to anxiety will be compassionate, grown up, and reality-based. 

Certainty that the world might be uncertain…but that you have skills that you can, and will, use in the place of avoidance. 

Use your damn skills. 

 

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Playing a game of pleasure and pain.

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So many people get so frustrated because they seem to know what to do, but they resist doing it. 

“If only I did what I know,” they often say. “If only I APPLIED the things I already know. Why don’t I do the things I know?” 

Centuries of Freudian-influenced psychoanalytic perspectives have encouraged us to look for deep-seated, unconscious conflicts that drive our self-defeating behavior. We’ve been taught that if we’re not doing something we know we “should” be doing, it’s probably because we have some sort of unconscious “block” that we need to resolve in order to get back on track. 

Sometimes that’s true. There are definitely times when there is something unspoken and/or barely conscious that is impeding our ability to do what we know. 

More often, however, it’s my experience that the obstacles in our way are far more straightforward. 

It’s usually the case that we don’t do the things we think we “should” do because we figure it’ll be a bummer on some level. We think it’ll be a drag. We think it’ll be painful, inconvenient, a hassle. 

There are many ways in which we humans can be complex creatures, but the analysis of behavior is often pretty straightforward: if we think doing something is going to be more of a drag than not doing it…well, it’s really hard to get us to do that thing. 

Our brains reject inviting pain into our lives. 

To some people, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, insofar as we’re frequently aware that NOT making certain changes invites certain situations that are ALREADY painful to stick around. An example of this that frequently crops up is smoking: yes, quitting smoking may be a painful hassle, but isn’t it the case that NOT quitting invites longer-term, far more overwhelming pain to exist in our lives? 

Sure. But the prospect of health problems occasioned by smoking is, for most people, kind of a distant, kind of hypothetical pain. The pain occasioned by quitting, by contrast, means very immediate, very real, pain. 

Our brains aren’t good at looking past the immediate and certain to the distant and hypothetical. 

This also explains why we’re often so inconsistent with following through with our goals. 

Most of the stuff we need to do to achieve our goals requires sacrifice on levels that tend to be pretty immediate. An example of this is, for many people to improve their physical condition and lose excess body fat, it’s often necessary for them to change their eating patterns and eat less of certain foods they tend to really enjoy, less often. 

Doing without these foods is an immediate, visceral bummer. We FEEL that pain every day, when we want a snack; or when the people around us are having tasty treats; or when we see advertisements and social media posts that make us salivate for our favorite treats. Doing without a thing we really want is often a serious bummer— especially when we’ve gotten used to having it as often as we’re inclined. 

It’s totally true that NOT changing our dietary habits can, for many people, lead to bigger picture pain— the health and lifestyle challenges involved in caring around excess body weight over the course of years, blood sugar dysregulation and diabetes, increased health risks across the boar— but, again, those challenges for most people tend to be distant and hypothetical. 

The PLEASURE they’re forsaking is not distant and hypothetical. They’ve EXPERIENCED that pleasure. Doing without their favorite treats is a PAIN they also experience, right here, right now. 

It really is all about that pleasure and pain axis in the here-and-now. The American psychologist B.F. Skinner called this conundrum the “balance of consequences.” 

When it comes to pushing through this pleasure/pain barrier and doing the things you “should” do, you basically have two options: 

One: reorient your focus so that the PAIN occasioned by NOT changing your behavior becomes very real, very visceral. Make it less hypothetical, less abstract. Read and watch and expose yourself to things that thrust the PAIN of NOT changing right in your face. 

Make it real. Make it painful. Make it visceral. 

Or, two: develop skills to push you through the bummer, pain, and hassle of making the change in the short term, until your body and brain become used to the new behavior. 

This is how I managed my own addiction to certain foods, as well as my relationship to exercise. I knew it was going to be a bummer to give up my favorite treats, and I knew it was going to be an even bigger bummer to commit to a lifestyle that involved a lot of getting up early and moving, often when I didn’t feel like it. 

In order to manage these realities, however, I developed the skills of self-talk, distraction, visualization, and other techniques of focus management. Eventually, my body and brain got used to my new lifestyle— and I even learned to love the “exercise” part of the equation. 

All of which is to say: you probably don’t have massive unconscious conflicts when it comes to not doing the things you “should” do or you “know” how to do. 

It’s probably the case that your brain just hasn’t wrapped itself around the how’s and why’s of foregoing immediate pleasure in the service of avoiding long-term pain. 

Yet. 

 

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Results. Results. Results.

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I will never understand therapists, life coaches, or other personal development guides who get locked into one modality, one small collection of techniques, and then try to convince everyone that THEIR program is the ONLY program that works. 

You see this very often in the personal development field. Prospective gurus, guides, and mentors getting on social media, and claiming that THEY have figured out exactly what works for YOU…even if they haven’t met you. 

What’s even more hilarious— or disturbing, depending on your point of view— is the fact that these myopic “experts” often seek to sell their programs by mocking and belittling the programs offered by their competitors. They often do this by claiming that their program is the program backed by “science.”

(One such “expert” with whom I am acquainted loves to use words like “science” and “psychology” to sell his ideas…but then he turns around and mocks the value of traditional education. Which begs the question, of course, of where he thinks most “scientific” and “psychological” research takes place, if academic settings aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. But I digress.)

“Scientific” minds do not mock alternative points of view. 

“Science,” as a way of knowing, is all about remaining open to data— ESPECIALLY data that contradicts our preexisting point of view. 

I can tell you as a stone cold certain FACT that there is NOT a one-size-fits-all approach to personal development that works for everybody. 

In fact, I can tell you that there isn’t even an approach that works for MOST people. 

Most everybody, in my experience, needs a specific combination of tools, techniques, philosophies, and supports in order to live their best lives. 

It’s up to you, and to the life development professionals you work with and follow, to determine the particular blend of things that will allow YOU to get to the next level. 

I think it’s telling that, often, when myopic gurus, guides, or mentors are confronted with evidence that their pet approach didn’t have quite the impact they’d promoted or intended, their go-to tactic is to figure out how you did it “wrong”…rather than figuring out if or how their program may have been a poor fit for your needs. 

Some people, for example, respond well to a “tough love” approach. They respond when a therapist, guide, or mentor “calls them on their shit,” doesn’t let them make excuses, and is very vocal and even somewhat confrontational when they appear to be backsliding on their program. 

Other people, by contrast, get triggered when a therapist tries to take a “tough love” approach. No matter how good the therapist’s intentions, being confrontational and blunt with these patients pushes buttons usually “installed” in the course of traumatic upbringing and relationships, and the client isn’t going to make much progress because they’re busy trying to not have an anxiety attack withe every meeting. 

The fact that people respond differentially to a “tough love” approach doesn’t say anything of importance about the approach itself. Nor does it tell us anything about the inherent virtue or value of the people who respond to it (though proponents of “tough love” do seem to be more inclined to try shaming people into “benefiting” from the approach than is sometimes necessary, in my observation). 

It just means that people are different, and respond to different things. 

It wold be more convenient for some gurus if everybody responded to the same thing in the same way. It would negate the need for them to learn about the many types of personalities out there, each of whom have unique pressure points and motivational buttons. 

But, sadly, approaching the personal development field with an appreciation for this type of complexity messes up their ability to sell seminars. So, you know. 

My own field, clinical psychology, is not immune to this kind of myopia. 

Clinical psychologists such as myself are often trained to work int he context of once weekly, fifty to sixty minute psychotherapy sessions— a model that is reinforced by insurance companies’ structures for payment. The fact that some patients may need more or different types of interventions than the once weekly fifty-minute session is something that my field has been slow to address…because psychology, too, would prefer that the world adapt to its preferences, not the other way around. 

The fact is, you’re probably going to be MOST helped by a somewhat eclectic combination of things. 

The right therapist, guru, mentor, or guide for YOU will support you in finding out what COMBINATION of things will work for you. 

They won’t be precious or territorial about what is and isn’t on the table. 

They won’t pretend that theirs is the only program backed by “science.” 

And, more than anything: the right helper for you will be driven by RESULTS, not preexisting philosophy. 

 

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The zen of not doing what “they” want you to do.

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Most days, all day, we are encouraged to not quite say what we mean. 

We’re told to tone it down. 

We’re told to be nice. 

We’re told to keep certain things to ourselves. 

We’re told to avoid saying what we really mean and what we really think, because it may upset or offend somebody else. 

The world is often in the business of bullying us into not being ourselves.

There absolutely is an extent to which it is the intelligent, kind choice to be mindful of the circumstances we’re in before choosing to express ourselves in certain ways. There is a subset of people who seem to think it is a virtue to be “blunt” in their communications. It’s my experience that most people who go around bragging about how “blunt” they are are most often looking for an excuse to be unkind, and/or not have to put the work into being aware of and sensitive to the people around them. 

We DON’T have to express every thought that occurs to us in the most “blunt” way possible. That is neither intelligent, nor necessary, nor kind. I would never tell anybody to impulsively just say whatever comes into their head. 

That said: if we cave, day after day after day, to others’ preference that we not say what we mean…it becomes really, really hard to build and maintain healthy self-esteem. 

Being honest in what what we express and communicate is something that most of us need in order to build and maintain a healthy sense of self. 

Sometimes the people around us— especially in the relatively less inhibited world of social media in which many of us live most of our days— will have reactions to us being ourselves. 

I’m not talking about the normal reactions people have when somebody chooses to be obnoxious or unkind in their communications. If you go around being hurtful just because you’ve decided it’s a virtue to be “blunt,” you’re going to alienate a lot of people…and you should. 

Unkind behavior invites unkind responses. That’s not about someone else’s “thin skin;” that’s about  something we psychologists call “natural consequences.” 

Rather, I’m talking about the fact that there are a lot of people who are only willing to accept and reinforce us if we’re their version of what a “good person” is. 

We’ve all seen examples of this on social media. We live in a culture in which it has become increasingly important to people that they be surrounded by, exposed to, and immersed in viewpoints that basically resonate with their own, especially politically. 

This happens with conservatives; this happens with liberals; this happens with Christians; this happens with atheists. Now more than ever, people have a very low tolerance for the company or feedback of people with whose worldview they disagree. 

This has the result of pressuring people, sometimes intensely, to be something-other-than-themselves in order to be accepted (or even tolerated) by other people. 

This pressure keeps up, day after day, hour after hour. It has the eventual effect of making it hard, eventually, to remember who we really are, because we’re basically spending much of our time calculating what we can’t and can’t say in order to avoid being ridiculed and rejected by the people around us. 

In the kind of judgmental, zero tolerance world in which we live (again, especially on social media), saying what we mean can have what seem like disastrous social consequences. 

The problem being, NOT saying what we mean, stifling our true selves, again and again and again, can have truly disastrous consequences when it comes to our self-esteem, our inherent sense of value and worth, our basic sense of self. 

There is a difference between being diplomatic and kind on the one hand, and stifling our basic natures and values for the sake of social acceptance on the other. 

You probably don’t have the means or the opportunity to suddenly be a “hero” and go around saying exactly what you mean. The social pressure cooker in which most of us live makes being too honest, too often, a significant social liability. That’s real. You’re not imagining that. To want to avoid the social consequences of bing too honest, too often, is perfectly reasonable. 

But you can take small steps. 

You can refuse to go along with the crowd in small ways. 

You can remind yourself who you are and what you believe…and that your identity and beliefs are fundamentally okay, no matter what “they” may think. 

To the extent that you do not wish ill will on others; to the extent that you’re not actively seeking to destroy, damage, or steal others lives, liberty, or property; to the extent that you’re not seeking to coercively impose your will upon those who would choose otherwise…your belief system is fundamentally okay, no matter what it is. 

To the extent that you’re not seeking to harm someone else or take their stuff, you’re a fundamentally “good” person. 

Remember that. 

Remind yourself of that. 

Feed yourself the kind of thoughts that will make it easier and easier to resist the enormous social pressure most of us face to shut up and conform. 

One day at a time. 

 

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