All of us have experienced “relationship” problems. You might have a problem with your girlfriend or boyfriend, life partner, parent, sibling, business partner, best friend, roommate, boss, coworker or even a neighbor. Really, given the number of people in your life, especially when you add your FB fame or any other cyber group you’re in: it’s amazing you have any ability to focus on anything in your career or business.
Focus is the greatest predictor of progress. Relationship problems get in the way of your ability to focus.
The worst relationship problem you have is with yourself.
It seems odd to think of yourself being in a relationship with yourself. But, you are. You reject yourself. Criticize yourself. Feel guilty about abusing your body. Feel out-of-control about your impulsive behavior. And, occasionally you feel good about yourself, even great – often because you’ve kept a resolution or promise you made to yourself.
Did you make resolutions this year? Like:
1. I will go to bed before midnight because experts say it’s good for my liver. FYI, depression experts say that staying up all night is an immediate and wildly effective intervention if you are suffering. Keep in mind, all-nighters are not part of a long term strategy because sleep deprivation is used for torture, as we found out in the last peek into CIA documents. But being depressed might be more important than your liver on any given day. And one night does not approach the torture threshold.
2. I will drop or add 10 pounds so I can look a lot more like Bradley Cooper, or like Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend. BGF: Thank you for posting those selfie bikini photos because apparently Bradley is incapable of giving you enough attention, so why not get more from random strangers? It’s clear your being photographed by the paparazzi when you’re with Bradley really isn’t as fulfilling as being photographed by yourself, by yourself.
3. I will stop smoking, biting my nails, yelling at my kids, drinking Diet Coke, texting while driving, using my finger nails as tools to scrape stuff off my desk, eating gluten, being a glutton or doing anything that in any way reduces my anxiety in ways that work in the moment, but make me feel bad later in the day, week, year or any period of time that I feel anxious. That time period would be called my life.
In other words: you make promises to yourself and break them all the time. Then you feel remorse, guilt, misery, and out-of-control.
Given that you probably don’t give yourself a time-out and sit in the corner, you probably push the self-recrimination under the proverbial rug and keep living your life. In other words: you don’t actually figure out the root of the problem or goal. You declare tomorrow is the day when you will really make progress on this goal.
That promise is a trance you put yourself in. It’s what I call a “stalling trance.” You delay your progress by a) making the promise and breaking it, and then b) making the promise again.
Because you don’t figure out what’s wrong with the promise or how to set up your environment so you will succeed: you are actually giving yourself the “silent treatment.”
Now, most people in relationships with others use the “silent treatment” to punish the offender. If you tell your romantic partner to bring home some milk, be nice to your parents, stop telling jokes in public or never again sing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head at karaoke: and that demand is denied: what is the number one most common response?
The silent treatment. You simply stop talking to the offender, maybe for a day. More if it’s not the first offense, or whatever you decide as prosecutor, judge, jury and probation officer.
In psychology the silent treatment is called: the Demand/Withdraw dance. Actually, they don’t call it a dance, I do. It’s an awkward dance because you’re with this person, often sharing the same space, and you have to weirdly move around them, not talking. You withdraw from engaging in the relationship, by withholding communication. At least about the gross violation of your direct order.
You do the same thing with yourself. You demand certain behaviors of yourself that are not natural – at least not at first. You demanded that you stop over-eating. Or my favorite: stop procrastinating.
When you fail to follow your demands, a bunch of feelings roll in like a thick pea soup fog. No words. Just a sickening stomach churning, cheek burning embarrassment that you failed yourself. Again.
Disappointment and a sense of powerlessness over not just this failure, but all your past failures leave you speechless at how little self-control you have. Hence, the silent treatment. After all, what could you say?
How about speaking up with the best new resolutions you could have. “I will stop ordering myself around. I will catch myself doing things right. I will make a huge deal about anything that could be considered even the tiniest triumph.”
Or more simply: “I will like myself today.”
Repeat each day until it sticks.