Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ignore the Insult and Talk About the Weather

My aunt, a social worker, and I have been swapping books; after I passed on Brené Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me, she responded with Susan Jeffers' Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
I must admit I'm not particularly crazy about this book; from the beginning, she claims that the underlying motivation for fear is that one will not be able to handle it. That's not my reason for fear. I know I can handle having a broken bone, but from what I hear, it's kinda unpleasant. Fear, at least in my case, is of unpleasantness of certain experiences.

But one segment induced the squirming that only perfect mussar can:
Start noticing what you say in conversations with friends. See if it includes a lot of complaining of a lot of people, such as, "Would you believe that Jill was late for dinner again? We had the biggest fight - right in the restaurant." If this sounds familiar, see if you can turn the situation around so that you learn something new about yourself. For example, "I notice that when Jill is late, I begin to feel really angry. I wonder why I feel that way? I think it's because she doesn't seem to have any respect for my time. On the other hand, part of me likes it. It makes me feel superior to always have something to gripe about . . ."
In a notebook, list the many choices available to you that can change presently upsetting experiences into positive ones. Using the example of Jill's lateness, what choices could you make?
You could stop meeting with her; arrive later, knowing she will be late; bring some interesting reading material; relax. If meeting on time is essential, you could simply tell her that if she is not there by an agreed-upon hour, you will not wait. There is no reason for anger.
The key is not to blame others for your being upset. This is not to condone the behavior of others, but simply not to allow it to be the source of your upset. . .
This is really tough! See if you can go one week without criticizing anyone or complaining about anything. You will be surprised how difficult this is. You will also be surprised to learn how much complaining and criticizing you do.
By the way, when you ultimately stop putting down other people in your life, it may seem you have nothing left to talk about with your friends. Griping is a habit, and needs to be replaced by something more positive. This takes a bit of time and ingenuity, but it will be far more satisfying and joyful.
Oh, shoot. 


Daniel Saunders said...

I'd come to a similar conclusion myself regarding people talking in shul, davening distractingly loudly, not helping to make the minyan and so on. Yes, those are all unhalakhic and anti-social behaviours and people shouldn't do them. But I realized that on some level I was probably just enjoying complaining or even just brooding about them and feeling superior. Finding an alternative is hard, though.

Regarding fear, you are probably right about there being different causes. I'm sceptical of monocausal explanations of almost anything. Still, the roots of fears and anxities are sometimes, on reflection, not what we thought they were.

Princess Lea said...

This is not going to happen overnight, or even any time soon. But I am certainly more aware.

Sure, it could be remnants of some childhood trauma, etc. I was just really annoyed when she chirpily insisted this was the reason for my constant anxious state. Speak for yourself, lady.