Friday 31 May 2024

Don’t be a collector of resentments

Resentment is toxic. It is a negative feeling you hold about others, which slowly destroys you from the inside. Resentment is chronic anger, and just like chronic stress, it is worse than occasional stress.

Resentment is like holding a grudge against a waiter who spilled your coffee; it burns you more than it stains them.

Additionally, resentment is a form of intrusive thought that accumulates and destroys relationships, starting by decaying your relationship with yourself.

Resentments arise from unmet expectations and, more importantly, from excessive expectations. People pleasers among us have this unrealistic expectation that if we do everything right, and do it the right way, all will be well, and others will behave in the way we want and reciprocate with gratitude. However, striving for flawless approval only leads to endless disappointment. This disappointment is the seed for resentment to grow and take root.

Like a weed, resentment is hard to get rid of. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Letting go of resentment means you will have to confront the issue with the person directly, which is overwhelming for many. Instead, we end up pointing fingers at someone in our minds without ever vocalizing it, leaving us bitter and stagnant.
  • Letting it go feels like a failure, a loss, as if we have surrendered without a fight, letting the other person off the hook.
  • Letting it go does not give us closure. Instead, by holding on to it, we create a covert contract in our minds, building ‘if-this-then-that’ scenarios.
  • Resentment is a powerful coping mechanism that reinforces a victimhood response. It is easier to be addicted to the cheap wine of bitterness.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, letting go of resentment is hard because it means relinquishing the false sense of power and control it gives us.

The frantic mind is particularly susceptible to triggering and harboring resentment. Although it is not easy to let go of resentment, one can surely recover from it.

Recovery starts by acknowledging that you are choosing to be resentful to achieve some goal, and therefore, you can choose not to be resentful. We choose to be resentful because we believe it serves a purpose or gets us what we want. However, resentment, which is all in our head, does not even have the utility of an angry outburst, which at least informs the other person of your ill feelings.

Once we know that we can choose how to respond and that holding on to resentment is a choice, we can start to heal ourselves of it. Here is a useful tip: next time you realize you are being resentful, adopt some self-distancing.

Ask yourself the following question: “What will I think about this next?”

This question can take you away from the downward spiral of resentment, in the moment, and instead make you aware of the choice you have.

Thursday 30 May 2024

An antidote to being frantic

In today's frantic world, we find ourselves rushing from things to things. This leads us to become frantic. This frantic life is leading to a sense of overwhelm. We need to overcome this.

We are constantly trying to speak and get our points across. We do not listen to what others are saying, we just nod along to what people are saying without really paying any deep attention. We consume and see a lot of things. But none of it is retained because we are not observing. Not taking the time to make sense of what we see. We are drowning in so much noise. Even when we take notes, we end up just scribbling. It is unintelligible and right after taking notes, we can hardly understand what we have scribbled.

A change in perspective is needed. To reduce overwhelm, and to become less frantic consider SLOW.

SLOW stands for:

  • Speak. Don’t just talk
  • Listen. Don’t just hear
  • Observe. Don’t just see
  • Write. Don’t just scribble

The biggest gains for me come when I write slowly and legibly. It unlocks new insight and creativity. It provides clarity and contributes significantly to reducing the sense of overwhelm.

Psychological hungers make us seek certainty, stimulation and recognition. The need for stimulation might be the reason why we end up doom scrolling on our phones instead of engaging with some content that we enjoy. It is just seeing rather than observing. The need for recognition leads us to try to talk and make ourselves heard instead of speaking sparingly in a measured way and listening to others. The need for certainty, leads us to scribble down everything we hear and avoid missing anything. But we drown in the noise and miss the actual signal.

All these behaviours might satiate the short-term imbalance in our psychological hungers. But by implementing SLOW, by giving time and being present, we end up getting higher quality nutrients to satiate our psychological hungers.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Micromanaging how others experience you is unnecessary

People pleasers go to great extents to meet the needs of others, often without any expectations from others.

Perfectionism is a very common form of people pleasing. Perfectionism is about trying very hard to portray something about oneself, which is not true, but also mostly unnecessary. Perfectionists try to curate every element of how others view them, and in doing so put undue pressure on themselves.

This manifests in all parts of their interpersonal relationships. Professional and personal.

For example, in the professional context, being unsure to speak up and ask questions in a meeting, to avoid appearing as a foolish person. Or, on the flip side, asking too many questions because they want to be seen as engaging. It can be saying yes to new projects and commitments, just to signal that one is not a slacker. It is saying no to things, just because they want to be considered busy and important.

In personal context, it is not acknowledging one's needs. Letting imbalance in the psychological hungers fester.  It leads to typical 'drama' behaviours - playing the victim, always being the helper, or being judgmental.

Trying to be perfect is a coping mechanism. Too much of it leads to a build-up of resentment. And get us to start fixating on the challenges one must deal with, instead of taking action to fix the issues.

If you find yourself micromanaging how other's experience you, take a pause and acknowledge it.

Then let it go. Stop curating and censuring yourself. Nobody is thinking about you as much as you are. Recognize problems can be opportunities in disguise.

Let go and breathe. Appreciate the imperfection and impermanence. 


Tuesday 28 May 2024

Balancing Psychological Hungers is important

We all have physical needs. Food, shelter, desire etc.

But along with it, there is another set of needs which are equally important. They are psychological hungers.

Eric Berne of Transactional Analysis fame identified that human beings have three psychological hungers. They are the need for Certainty/Structure; the need for Stimulation; and the need for Recognition

And just like the distress we feel when our physical needs go unmet for a long time, when our psychological needs are not fulfilled, we feel disturbed.

More importantly, we need a certain degree of all the three to function properly. When there is an imbalance, it is not natural.

Certainty/Structure is representation of degree of control we have in life. It comes from the ability to predict the cause and effect of our actions, if not perfectly, to some extent. If we live in an environment when there is no structure, it can be very unnerving. This is why employment uncertainty can be such a debilitating situation to be in. This is why it is so hard to deal with unpredictable people. On the flip side, having too much certainty numbs us and makes us unreactive. Too much structure means we are not able to react with flexibility, and that makes us fragile.

Stimulation is the need for excitement. It is the inbuilt desire for curiosity and finding something interesting. Boredom is mostly intolerable. Without stimulation, the passion we feel for most things will not sustain. But again, too much stimulation is toxic. The most pertinent example I see of this overstimulation is our addiction to our phones and to scrolling. That is cheap stimulation and we have become addicted to it.

Recognition is the need to be heard, seen and acknowledged. This comes from our social nature. Our lives are lived in the intersection of our relationships with different people who inhabit our world. If we don't feel acknowledged, we feel adrift. This can happen in the workplace, in our intimate relationships and in our own spiritual journeys as well. Too much recognition, makes us vulnerable to becoming trapped in a need for external validation. 

These three hungers are present in every human being. So, as we look to fulfil these needs for ourselves, we should acknowledge that others need this as well for their efficient functioning.

And here is the wonderful part. Unlike our physical needs, where giving someone food does not ensure you receive food, or desiring someone does not ensure you are desired, the psychological hungers operate on a different pathway.

In the realm of interpersonal relationships, you get what you give. Let’s take the example of recognition. If you seek recognition, the best way to get it is to provide recognition to others. If you walk into a crowded party where people are all speaking to each other, and nobody has seen you, the best way to get acknowledged and included is to go and say "hi!" to a friend or acquaintance, or wave and call someone's name out, even if they are at the other end. 

Similarly, a co-worker who helps provide some structure to a new employee, by showing them some of the easy ways to do things around the office, will feel the reciprocation of the new colleague soon enough. 

If you are lacking stimulation in life, cultivate a sense of excitement and energy for the most mundane interactions. Smile and talk excitedly to the cashier at your local grocer. They will be obliged to reciprocate.