This was first published on KSL.COM
Many mental health professionals say that during this pandemic mental health matters more than ever. There are serious mental health consequences that show up for people suffering from sustained fear. The American Journal of Managed Care notes that you can start to feel a dissociation from your identity, you can find it harder to feel loving feelings, you can experience mood swings, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, and/or learned helplessness, where you give up believing help or an end to suffering exists.
If you read my column on a regular basis, you know my passion for helping people deal with fear — and specifically what I call the two core fears: The fear of failure (which is the fear of not being good enough) and the fear of loss (which is the fear of not being safe).
Right now, people all over the world are battling a more than normal amount of fear that they aren’t safe. We are all afraid of loss. We are afraid of getting sick, losing family or friends, afraid of police brutality, protests or riots, afraid that the election might create more turmoil or violence, afraid of business failures and/or losing our jobs. The entire world is holding its breath to see what unknown problems lie around the bend next.
It might help your family to talk about safety and where a sense of safety can come from. The truth is life will always be uncertain and full of risk. Bad things happen and there is no way to protect ourselves from all of life’s dangers. You could make an argument that fear and stress are even warranted, but there is a high cost to living in fear of loss.
When you feel unsafe in the world, it diminishes your capacity to care for and love other people. It hinders your ability to connect, it makes you feel separated, isolated and alone. It makes you quicker to take offense and see yourself as mistreated, which creates more conflict.
You might have noticed that your family members have been more easy to offend lately, or that there have been more disagreements. Some of this is from spending too much time together, but part of it is also coming from the sustained fear of loss we are all experiencing.
'It's just a story' strategy
It would serve us all to learn a strategy for eliminating fear of loss and feeling safer. I teach my coaches that the best way out of the "I am not safe in the world" belief, is to remember it’s just a story. The way you feel about anything is coming from the story you are telling yourself about it. You might, in fact, be very safe at this moment and there might be good things around the next bend for you. There is no way to know what is coming next. No matter what you believe, it is a story.
This means that standing in this moment you have two basic story choices:
Trust God and the universe
You might want to gather your family and talk about what you truly believe the point and purpose of our being on the planet is. Talk about whether you see this universe is a place of chaos or a place of order.
Go through the following questions:
Start practicing trusting God and the universe that you are safe during the little inconveniences and problems that show up every day. Could you see a flat tire, a canceled plan, or an unexpected mess as your perfect classroom journey today? Could you choose to feel safe in those moments, trusting that God and the universe have you and the setback is a blessing in disguise? Playing with small losses now helps you to have strong "trust muscles" on a really bad day.
Choosing to trust that God and the universe are on your side, and constantly conspiring to bless and grow you, makes a big difference on your stress level. Give it a try for yourself. You can do this.
More tips and resources
Here are some other ways to help your family cope with stress and fear:
This was first published on ksl.com
The French-born author Anais Nin, wrote about an old Talmudic philosophy that says we can only dream about things we have previously encountered or thought. So, "We don’t see things as they are, we see the world as we are," Nin says.
The way this works is that if you grew up in a stable, emotionally and mentally healthy family, you probably see the world as stable and safe. If you grew up in a violent, abusive, or unhealthy family, you will be more likely to view the world as an unsafe, violent place. You will always subconsciously project your world onto the world you see.
This also applies to the way you see other people. You subconsciously project your experience of what you are like onto others and assume they are just like you, or they should be. When they don’t act like you, you are often shocked.
According to an article from the American Psychological Association, neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese said, "It seems we’re wired to see other people as similar to us, rather than different. At the root, as humans we identify the person we’re facing as someone just like ourselves."
You see other people as you are, and you subconsciously expect them to behave as you would. The problem is that other people are just not wired like you are. They have had very different life experiences, so they cannot possibly see the world (or behave) the same way you do.
Some inaccurate projections
Here are some other ways this tendency to project yourself onto others shows up:
Consequences of inaccurate projections
All of these perceptions, or mind tricks, can create fallout in your relationships. Here are some common ways they might affect your life:
Obviously, the problem is that we are (for the most part) blind to our subconscious projections. We cannot tell that we aren’t seeing accurately, so awareness is the most important thing if we are going to change our projections. Start noticing your thoughts and assumptions about other people and question them.
As a coach, I use personality tests to show my clients the ways they are different and similar to the other important people in their lives. These tests help them to understand why other people see the world in a different way, which creates compassion. Hope this helps you.
You can do it.
This was first published on KSL.com
My wife says that my sarcasm and sarcastic comments hurt her and my children, while I think they need to lighten up and understand teasing. Sarcasm has always seemed intelligent humor in my family and I think she is being too sensitive. Since we both read your articles we wondered what you would say about it.
Most sarcastic people consider themselves both intelligent and funny, but I am sorry to say I agree with your wife that it can often be mean. This is because sarcastic comments, though humorous, are usually passive-aggressive, mean and uncomfortable for the people receiving them.
The dictionary defines sarcasm as "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt" and "a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark." Neither of these definitions sound like validating communication to me.
You might see your sarcastic comments as teasing, but you must stop and think about how those comments really feel to the people in your life. Don’t think that by saying "just kidding" after a sarcastic remark it is now OK, especially if it was a hurtful comment. Most sarcastic people do see themselves as funny, but often they are the only ones laughing.
As a human behavior expert, I find it is always helpful to figure out why you are behaving the way you are. There are always reasons, beliefs or programs driving our behavior. When you understand why you feel the need to be sarcastic, you can then decide if it is really working for you.
Reasons for sarcasm
Here are some common reasons you might be sarcastic:
1. You fear you aren’t good enough, so you subconsciously put others down so you can feel superior.
The worse you feel about yourself, the more stinging your remarks toward others could be. People who don’t like themselves often put others down or tease them, in order to feel more important themselves. If this is your reason for being sarcastic, you may need some professional coaching or counseling to work on your self-esteem.
2. Sarcasm is also a way of asking for what you want when you are scared to ask for it directly.
You might crack a joke about your wife’s crazy shoes because you don’t know how to just say you don’t like them and wish she wouldn’t wear them. Instead, your sarcastic remark leaves your wife questioning what you really think. Were you joking or serious? When you don’t know how to say things in a kind way, you might make a joke, which probably hurts the other person, but it also creates a place where if she takes offense, it’s her problem, not yours. If you do this, you might need to learn some better communication skills.
3. Sarcasm can be passive-aggressive anger.
This happens when you feel taken from, insulted or annoyed by another person and you really want to get them back but know you can’t do that directly. Sarcasm is a way to take a stab at them without being seen as mean or bad. A joke feels like it absolves you of responsibility for their feelings. If this is your problem, you need to resolve the issue you are angry about. This passive-aggressive behavior actually makes you look bad too.
4. You may feel angry at life for the disappointments or abuse you have suffered.
Sarcasm can be a way to take out your anger about disappointments or vent your frustration. The more your life goes wrong, the more biting your remarks toward others could get. If this is your problem, you need to change the way you see your life experiences so they make you better, not bitter.
5. If you were made to feel small as a child, you may be trying to feel superior now.
If you were teased in a cruel way, put down, or made to feel small or unimportant as a child, you may be subconsciously trying to feel superior now. You may look down on other people and jokingly jab at them as a way to feel powerful. Again, if this is your problem, you may need to improve your self-esteem so you can show up with more love.
6. You might like to get attention by entertaining those around you with humor.
If this is true, you probably need this attention to validate your worth because, again, you might have low self-esteem. You might need attention so badly you will sacrifice other people to get it. Fear creates very selfish subconscious behavior, but this can be fixed. There are lots of ways to be funny without hurting other people.
How to be less sarcastic
Just take a minute and honestly ask yourself if any of these reasons or problems could be behind your need to be sarcastic. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
You can be funny all you want; but if you do it at the expense of other people, there will be consequences. People may never feel safe with you. People may start to dislike you. If the people on the receiving end of your sarcasm are your friends and family, the cost for your humor may be high.
How do deal with a sarcastic person
If you are living with a sarcastic person here are a few suggestions for dealing with it:
I realize if you grew up in a sarcastic family, your programming for this teasing runs deep. You are going to have to stay committed to working on this to make this change but keep at it. It’s worth it.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I enjoy reading your articles, but one question I have is about how to stay motivated. I used to operate out of fear of failure all the time; but once I learned that I have value no matter what I do, I feel less motivated to work or do anything. I used to do most things because I was trying to earn other people’s approval. How do I stay motivated to be a high achiever now?
You have to switch to love motivation now, but it is foreign territory to most of us because we have been taught to be fear-motivated all our lives. Our parents told us to be good or we would be grounded or punished. We had to work hard in school so we wouldn’t get bad grades. The world, in general, instills fear of failure, which makes us compete and compare ourselves with others to have any value at all.
I have found the only way to improve self-esteem is to change the fundamental system upon which you base the value of human beings. Right now, many of us see human value as changeable, which means we see some humans as having more or less value than other humans. This means no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves, we will always find people who seem to be doing better and we will always be afraid we aren’t good enough.
The only way to rid yourself of fear of failure and constant insecurity lies in changing this fundamental belief. You must choose to believe that all humans have the same, infinite, absolute, unchanging value all the time — no matter their appearance, performance, property or popularity. But it doesn’t work unless you give up all judgment of others. You must quit judging and start letting every other person be good enough. The more you do this, the quicker you’ll understand that this also applies to you, and you no longer have anything to fear.
You’ll soon see that comparison makes no sense, and this is where the problem you described with your motivation begins. Your fear motivation doesn’t make sense anymore; and if you don’t replace it with a different “why,” you can start to be too content with where you are. Add to this trust in the universe that it always sends the perfect classroom journey for you, and you get even more overly content.
To fix this you have to understand the three types of fear motivation and how to replace them with love motivation.
Perfectionism fear motivation
Perfectionism fear motivation shows up any time you attach your value to (seeing it as affected by) anything in your life. You might think you have to perform or look perfect in order to have value.
Think about why you clean your house. If you are perfection-motivated, then every time you see the house messy you feel like a failure. You need the house to look perfect to think you have any value. The funny thing about this form of motivation is that sometimes it is not motivating. Sometimes it feels safer not to try something than it is to do it imperfectly.
To fix this, you must come up with a new love-motivated reason to clean the house. You might decide to provide this beautiful clean environment for your family because you love them. This will make it easier to let the house go if other activities with the family come up that would show love even more. You don’t need the house clean anymore. You just like to provide a clean house when you can.
Obligation fear motivation
Obligation fear is the motivation that says you should do this, you ought to do this, you have to do this, or you need to do this — whether you want to or not. These are usually tasks you don’t want to do, but you feel fear and guilt about if you don’t. Think about why you diet or exercise. Do you do it because you want to or because you should? Do you bypass the cake and eat a salad because you want to or because you feel you need to? This form of motivation might not be a great motivator, either. Because you really don’t want to do these things, your motivation won’t last.
To fix this, you must either find a form of exercise that you love to do or good healthy recipes that you would love to eat. You aren’t really going to stay motivated until you bring passion and love into it. Or set a goal to lose weight not to look better or earn approval, but because you love yourself and want to feel healthy and strong.
People-pleasing fear motivation
People-pleasing fear motivation says you must do this to be accepted or earn approval from others. Think about why you spend time and energy picking the right outfit or fixing your hair. Are you doing it because you want others to think highly of you? Are you cleaning the house because the neighbors are coming over and you want them to be impressed?
To fix this, you must decide either not to worry about your appearance or to do it for yourself, not other people. You should either not worry about the house being clean or clean it for a love-motivated reason.
The interesting thing about motivation is that if you look at the most successful people in the world, you will find they are motivated more by a passion for what they are doing than by fear. We think fear is required for motivation, but the truth is fear is not that motivating at all. You will be more motivated when you find a love-driven “why” for what you want to do.
During the pandemic, I am hearing from many people who are struggling to stay self-motivated at home. Again, you have to really look at your “why” and find a passion-driven reason. Do things because you love your family or yourself and want to give them or yourself a better quality of life. Do things because you love God, humanity and helping others. Do something because you love to do it.
When you are going to do anything, ask yourself "Why am I doing this?" Get honest with yourself about whether this is a love- or fear-motivated reason. Either change the activity or change the “why,” and live your whole life from love. I promise you will be happier.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.