This was first published on KSl.COM
This week I want to share some interesting things about human behavior that will help you understand yourself and your loved ones and why we behave the ways we do. I have been teaching people skills and coaching people through relationship problems for over 25 years, and in that time I've come to realize that whatever bad behavior you are seeing in another person (or yourself) it is being driven by their (or your) fears.
If you read my column regularly you've heard that before, but today I am taking it a little deeper because there are some other important truths about human behavior and fear that might also help improve your relationships. Here they are:
Fear always wins
What I mean is you subconsciously make decisions from your fears, way more often than by love or values. Your need for safety is your most basic need. Maslow didn't agree with me on this when he created his hierarchy of needs though. Maslow put food and water as the most basic need and then safety after that, but I think he got it wrong.
This is because, if you are starving but at the same time you are being chased by a tiger, you wouldn't stop to eat. Your safety comes first. Once you were safe, then you would worry about food and water. This makes sense if you are being chased by a tiger, but it doesn't work well in your personal relationships, when you are choosing between fear and love.
When your spouse offends you, you will automatically react from fear and protect yourself before you will respond with love. It's your natural programming to do so. I wish this wasn't true, but your subconscious fears will almost always override your love, values and intentions, unless you consciously choose otherwise.
Behavior driven by fear is inherently selfish and void of love
This is because you cannot do love and fear at the same time. Fear-driven behavior is all about protecting yourself and seeking safety. It is not about the other person and what they need. All bad behavior is driven by fear for ourselves and this selfish, loveless behavior creates a divide in relationships.
When you show up in fear you trigger the other person's fears, too
When you show up in a relationship in fear (instead of love) you trigger fear in your partner. They can feel that you don't love them in that moment and that scares them. They feel unsafe and they automatically respond back in fear, to protect themselves. You will then feel this lack of love in their response and you will be triggered further.
This is the vicious cycle I see in almost all relationships. Can you see it in yours? One person gets scared and responds in fear and this triggers the other to respond in fear and soon, there is no love showing up?
We can change our fear-driven bad behavior and choose love
This fear-driven behavior is something we can work on and change, but it takes a great deal of mindfulness, awareness and practice. Everything I write and teach comes down to recognizing when fear is driving, choosing to feel safe in that moment, and choosing to show up in love not fear. I will be the first to say that it isn't easy, though, because we are subconsciously wired for fear. We do have the power to watch our behavior and thinking for fear reactions though, and consciously choose love-driven responses.
Here are some examples of how fear over love reactions happen:
Example 1: A child loves his parents and wants to make good choices for himself, but he also fears not being accepted by his peers. He might be fear of failure dominant, which means he needs acceptance and validation so badly, he might choose to follow his friends and make poor choices in order to feel safe and accepted. His fears around acceptance will drive his choice, and he will choose safety over love for himself.
The parent loves this child but also fears losing them and failing them. When the child makes a bad choice, the parent gets fear triggered. They react badly, yell, scream, ground the child for a year, or punish them in whatever way will make the parent feel safer again. They might become controlling, if this feels safer. Their parenting behavior is fear-driven though and it is all about them, not what the child needs right now. The parent will put safety before love, the same way the child did.
The answer here is to help the child build their self-esteem and have less fear of rejection, so they don't need approval from their friends so badly. He needs help making choices that are love driven for himself. The parent needs to learn to trust their child's journey and see life as a classroom, not a test. They need to have less fear and more trust in their value and journey. This will help them parent from love and wisdom, doing what's best for their child, not what feels safer for themselves.
Understanding each other's fear-driven behavior brings compassion for why they did what they did though. We understand it because we have the same fears and they drive our bad behavior too.
Example 2: A husband loves his wife, but he has a great deal of fear around losing or wasting money. When he sees the wife has spent money on food that didn't get eaten and went bad, he gets angry and upset with her, even treating her badly. He subconsciously thinks being angry and unkind to her will teach her to be more careful with money, which will make him feel safer. This is fear-driven bad behavior, and he is obviously choosing to act from fear not love.
The wife loves her husband but has a deep fear of failure and feeling attacked and criticized triggers her badly. She doesn't at this point feel safe with her husband. So she pulls back, gets silent and stays away from being close to him. This is also a fear-driven bad behavior that means she is choosing fear over love. She thinks she is safer pulling away.
The husband feels his wife pulling away from him and not wanting to be close to him. This fear-driven behavior of hers triggers more fear of loss and anger in him. Instead of showing up with love at this point, he gets more angry, because that subconsciously feels like it's protecting him. This further triggers her. This vicious cycle of choosing fear over love can continue until there is no love left in the relationship.
The real answer here is for the husband to get help around his fears of loss, waste and money. He most likely has fear issues around being mistreated and disregarded, and these are his fear issues to solve and manage. He must learn to see loss and recognize that acting from fear won't create what he wants in his marriage. He has to learn how to handle situations with love and respect, if he wants love and respect back.
The wife hopefully can see why her husband behaves the way he does and understands that when he lets fear dictate his behavior, it's not really about her, it's about his own fear of loss issues. She must learn to manage her fear of failure issues, so when she is criticized, she can see it's about his fear and not take it personally. She must learn to make herself feel safe so she can show up with love and forgiveness when he is scared.
Here are the core principles from all this:
This was first published on KSL.COM
My spouse and I read your article last week about understanding the fear behind our behavior, and it's really helping us see what's going on when we fight. But we both are prone to getting offended way too easily. People often disregard us or are disrespectful, and we both tend to be bothered and frustrated with a lot of people. This also means we are mad at each other a lot, too. I think maybe we need to learn how to let things go and not take things personally, but do you have any advice for doing that?
I have actually
Here are some common qualities of people who get offended too easily:
If this sounds like you, here are some things you can do to stop getting offended so often.
Trust the journey
Choose to see life as a classroom, and that the universe and you together are co-creating the perfect classroom journey for you every day.
This means the people who offend you today are perfect teachers, giving you a chance to grow, be more mature, or see your fears and work on them. When you trust your experiences are the perfect classroom for you, you aren't as offended by them. (Note: I am not talking about abuse here, just garden-variety slights that aren't degrading or abusive.)
You have probably married your perfect teacher, too. He or she will teach you by pushing all your buttons to bring your triggers to the surface so you can heal them. Trusting that your life is a classroom also makes you feel safer; it means life and the universe are on your side and their intention is to always serve you.
Trust your value
Choose to see all humans — including yourself — as having the same infinite value that isn't in question and doesn't change. This means we are all students in need of more education. When you see people this way, you can release the need for judgment and give them all permission to be a work in progress just like you.
Allow others to be different
Allow other people to react, behave, think and be wired differently than you are. They were raised differently and they haven't had your life experiences. Therefore, they have the right to function differently, too.
Give others the room to be the way they are without letting it take anything from you. You both have the same value no matter what, and you have the right to be where you are. Stop expecting everyone to think and act like you.
Learn something from this
If someone criticized you, could it be constructive and could you learn something from it? Life is a classroom and that is why you are here. What could you gain from this criticism if you chose not to take offense?
Flip the insult to see if it's still true
If someone has "disrespected you," write that on a piece of paper. Then write "I disrespect me" and ask yourself if it's still true.
If it is true, consider that your own disrespect of yourself might make you feel others are disrespecting you when they really aren't. Is there any chance the way you see yourself has been projected onto this other person? You do this more than you might think. If you don't like yourself, you will also project that and believe others don't like you either.
Double-check their intent
Ask yourself: Did this other person really intend to do me harm, insult or disregard me? Or is there any other meaning their actions could have? Usually, the other person was focused on their own issues and missed what they did or said completely.
If they didn't intend harm, is harm done that can't be let go? We hold onto intentional hurt because we believe it protects us, but unintentional hurt is best let go. Also, give the benefit of the doubt that that other person didn't mean to offend.
Let go of the need to be right
Sometimes it's OK to let another person think they are right even when they aren't. If it improves the relationship, why correct them? Choose your battles and try to allow others to do things their way as much as you can.
Forgiving is not pardoning bad behavior; it is changing the way you see the bad behavior so you can change the way you feel about it. It's about letting negative emotions and feelings go and trading them for peace and happiness. When you see an offense as a perfect classroom and the person as having the same value as you, and you choose to see growth and learning in it, it becomes much easier to forgive.
If this is hard for you, start a forgiveness practice journal and work on it daily. Choose an offense or a mistake you have made every day and process it to forgiveness. Choose the positive feelings you want to experience around this and practice choosing them.
Consider your options and possible outcomes
What is the outcome you will create if you choose to be offended or hurt by this? What kind of behavior will you exhibit in response? What will that create? Is this what you want?
What are some other options? What would you choose if you knew you were safe and good enough? What would a love-driven response look like? What would that create?
If you are still having trouble being offended often, consider working with a coach or counselor who can help you establish your own sense of safety in the world so you can feel more bulletproof. A professional who knows how to do this can help immensely.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
For years I have said that I am socially awkward, as I can struggle in groups to feel comfortable. Is that something others experience, and how is it different from anxiety or just being an introvert? Do you have any tips for becoming more confident and less awkward with people?
Answer:You might be socially awkward, introverted or just shy. You could also have social anxiety. Do you know the difference? If you sometimes struggle in social situations it might help to understand these different experiences and see which sounds more like you.
Social anxiety is actually a mental health condition that means you struggle with significant and sometimes debilitating nervousness and fear in social situations. You may get anxious just thinking about being social, and you could get fixated on the possibility of embarrassment or rejection. People with social anxiety may avoid interacting with others at all and shut themselves off from relationships.
If you have an intense fear of being judged, embarrassing yourself, talking with strangers, or speaking to people, it might be worth talking to a mental health professional about it. Fifteen million adults in the U.S. have social anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You are not alone in this and it is treatable.
Social awkwardness is about fear of discomfort and not knowing how to interact the right way in social situations. Socially awkward people are afraid of judgment or being disliked and often find their conversations don't flow well. They aren't sure the right things to say and do. For example, they might tell jokes that others don't find funny or tell them at the wrong time.
These people might also be too loud, too quiet, or ramble without realizing it. They sometimes sit back and listen more than they join in the conversation, or they jump in at an awkward time or place. People who are socially awkward can have so much self-monitoring and over-thinking going on during social interactions that they miss things. These people just don't come by social skills naturally; they have to work at it.
Introverted people aren't necessarily nervous or anxious; they just get their energy from being alone. They can handle social situations without anxiety, but being around other people too much is exhausting and can leave them feeling depleted. Introverts are quieter than extroverts, but they aren't necessarily shy, anxious or awkward. They tend to be good listeners, are thoughtful and dislike confrontation. Approximately half of us fall into this category.
Shy people feel uncomfortable and hesitant around new people or in new social situations. They may also hold back in conversations and listen for quite a while before saying anything. Most shy people are introverts, but they don't necessarily have social anxiety or awkwardness. These people just like familiar people and places, and they don't like speaking in public or being in the spotlight.
How to be less socially awkward
Most of us can find some characteristics in each of these five examples that they can relate to. People skills are something many of us have to work at and practice. Here are some tips for lessening social awkwardness:
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some tips and tricks to improve your relationships.
My husband feels that when our adult kids come over for Sunday dinner that I act more childlike especially if we are playing some type of game. He thinks adults should never act like children and it bothers him. From my point of view, I work very hard and I enjoy having fun especially with our kids — and since I have to be serious all day at work, it is fun to let up a bit on occasion, but he does not appreciate it. How do I respond to this and what should I do differently? Should I change to please him? Should he want me to change or love me as I am?
I have written quite a few times this year about how important it is that we allow others to be different from us. We all have a tendency to think the way we function in the world is the right way, and we subconsciously expect others to be the same and are irritated if they aren’t. This isn’t fair, right or workable in your relationships.
Every person comes with different perspectives, different internal wiring, a unique upbringing, and a different set of past experiences and views. They are, therefore, going to view and do life differently from how you do it. If you cannot allow them (and even honor and respect their right) to be who they are, the relationship is going to be a hard one and may not work.
Here are some tips, tricks, truths and rules of engagement to consider when you run into differences with someone you love:
1. If you have a different way of being that bothers your partner, you need to have a mutually validating conversation about it.
This means a conversation where you listen to their views, thoughts, feelings and concerns, and explore with your partner why the behavior triggers something negative in them. Try to understand why they feel the way they feel and honor and respect their right to feel that way. But this does not necessarily mean you should change the behavior.
2. If someone is unhappy with your behavior, you must ask yourself if you think the behavior is working for you.
Be honest with yourself and willing to see the problems or downsides of the behavior. Be willing to hear the other person's concerns about it and consider changing it. But, if you do this and you authentically like this part of yourself and think it’s working for you, ask them if they would be willing to listen to your feelings about it. Explain why it’s a part of you that is not going to change and that they will have to learn to accept. You could also look for some kind of compromise that might make you both feel honored and respected. But generally, you should not change who you authentically are unless you can see negatives in the behavior and agree that it’s not working for you.
In your specific situation with your childlike side, I tend to think you should honor and validate your partner’s feelings but continue to be you. If it doesn’t feel like a damaging enough or negative behavior that causes any real problems, your partner probably needs to learn to love you are you are.
3. You should always try to let the people you love be their authentic selves.
Allow others to have different views, beliefs, styles, routines and behaviors from yours. Never expect them to be like you. You can expect them to treat you with kindness, respect and love ,of course — and if they don’t, you should definitely talk about that — but personality type differences in behavior should be cherished, laughed at and even celebrated.
4. The key to changing another person’s view, is to be open to changing your life first.
If a person you love has major differences in values or morals, or they have views you really feel are wrong, you can speak your truth about this and even try to educate or change them, but you must do it the right way. You must first be just as willing to listen to their views as you are to talk about your own. You must handle the conversation with respect, seeing them as equal in value (because you aren’t perfect either). If you cannot approach them this way, with humility and respect, they will likely just get defensive and defend their right to be how they are. They will dig in their heels and refuse to change if you aren’t open to changing too.
5. Never assume your way of being is better or right, and others are wrong.
If you want a person to be open to learning and changing, you must be willing to listen and learn from them. You must be open to being wrong and learning something new yourself. This is the only way to encourage openness in them.
6. Be a safe place for each other.
The biggest problem I see in most relationships is that partners don’t feel safe enough to discuss critical issues with each other. They are both too quick to be offended and get defensive. They don’t feel safe with each other because they fear they are going to be made wrong or made to feel they aren’t good enough. The first thing that must change in these relationships is both partners must commit to be a safe place for the other, a place where the other's infinite value will be honored and their self-esteem protected.
7. Loved ones have more power to hurt us and, therefore, we must work twice as hard at being the cure to their fears.
We are all afraid we aren’t good enough and we aren’t safe. These are our deepest, darkest fears. We want, more than anything, to have the people we love most see us as good enough and to feel safe with them. Unfortunately, this sometimes doesn’t happen. The people we love disappoint us, let us down, irritate and offend us, and we in turn get critical and defensive. These fear reactions block our ability to love and cherish these people.
ConclusionIf you want to have healthy, rich, loving relationships, the most important thing you can do is make sure the people you love feel good enough and safe. You can literally be the cure to their core fears, instead of often being the cause. Be careful with criticism. Give lots of validation about everything they do right. Let them know, at the end of the day, they and their self-esteem are safe with you. Make it your No. 1 goal to give validation and reassurance to your partner on a daily basis. This will create a relationship based in love and trust.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — There are always people in your life who you take issue with or who rub you the wrong way. There may even be some humans you just can’t stand.
It is important that you take stock of these people and why you have strong feelings against them. Maybe they did something that offended you, or they just have personalities that irritate or annoy you. Whatever the problem is, these people are triggering you for a reason, and figuring out the reason behind those triggers is important.
The people who rankle you hold clues about your beliefs, judgments, shame and inner pain. They provide opportunities for you to learn about yourself and heal. But in order to use these experiences to heal yourself, you have to recognize that they aren’t just annoying people; they are perfect teachers in your classroom.
The most important thing they do for you is show you the limits of your love. You are a loving person with love to give to everyone around you, right up until you get to THOSE people. Then, you hit a limit. Your love doesn’t extend that far. This is a place where some really amazing growth can happen if you are willing to ask yourself some questions.
What does the person represent?
Think about one of these teachers in your life who is showing you the limits of your love. Then ask yourself the following:
This is where the work starts
Now you get to explore the part of you that feels unsafe by the trait, behavior or fear this person represents. Why do you feel "not good enough" or "not safe" in the world if that trait, behavior, or fear is in play? What healing needs to happen for you so you can heal that part of you?
You may want to find some professional help from a coach or counselor for this work, but whatever you do you cannot keep projecting the problem on and blaming this other person for the way you are being triggered. They are only in your life as a teacher to help you see the place you need to heal so you can work on it.
This idea may be one you have to process and think about before you believe it’s true or worth the work. It will always feel easier to keep blaming and shaming someone else. Your ego will really want to keep making it about other people and their issues because this feels safer. The problem is that teachers will keep coming and this problem will not go away. It will keep showing up until you are ready to work on you.
Everyone you dislike holds a secret of healing and help for you if you are willing to look for it, but there is something else even more helpful they can also give you.\
Learning to love yourself
Another crucial thing you must understand about the people that bother you is they also show you the limits of your love toward yourself. You can only love yourself as much as you can love your neighbors, and you can only love your neighbors as much as you can love yourself. You may not be aware of this connection or want to believe it, but I believe it’s true. If you hate the darkness in yourself, you will hate every bit of darkness you can find in others. If you are hateful toward others, you similarly won’t be able to love yourself.
As long as there are people whose darkness (bad behavior or faults) seem to you to make them unworthy of love, there will also be parts of yourself that you will also see as unworthy of love. It’s like there are two options when it comes to love, and you are going to have to choose one. If you don’t consciously choose one, you will subconsciously choose one, so you have to choose. The two options involve how you determine the value of all human beings.
Option 1 – People can be not good enough. This mindset means you see human value as changeable and something that must be earned. This means life is like a test and you gain points or lose points based on your appearance, performance, property and what others think of you. This also means that some humans have more value than other humans and that judging who is better or worse makes sense. If you choose this option, you will gossip, judge and criticize other people because you need to see them as worse than you to feel better about yourself. You will also battle a terrible fear of not being good enough (and have low self-esteem), no matter how hard you try. You will always find people who have things about them you don’t have and you will never feel good enough. You will also see all human beings as different from you and you will feel separate from them, and this will encourage you to make more divisions and groups, trying to find some group identity that would give you a sense of safety (even though that safety comes only from hating or condemning other people). Can you see this happening in our world right now?
Option 2 – All people are always good enough. This mindset means you see human value as infinite, absolute and unchangeable. This means all humans (without exception) have the exact same intrinsic worth and there is nothing anyone can do that gives them more value than any other human being. There is also nothing you can do to have less value than any other human being. No matter what anyone does they have the same intrinsic worth as the rest of us. This will make you feel connected to the whole human race and you won’t need to form groups and declare some people better or worse. You will understand that we are all equal but different. The more you allow every human being around you to be a struggling, scared student in the classroom of life — just like you — the more compassion you will have for yourself, too. When you allow others' value to be unchangeable and you see them as good enough and worthy of love, even when they are flawed, this also lifts your worth. You will start to have stable, solid self-esteem because there is no possibility of failure. Life is a classroom, not a test, and mistakes create the lessons we need to learn, but they don’t change our value. This mindset makes you feel safer with others and could literally create more peace on Earth.
You get to decide about 20 times a day, which mindset you will choose. Every time you are tempted to judge or find fault in another person you are choosing a mindset. If you choose condemnation and judgment, you must understand you are also choosing that for yourself. If they are not good enough, you aren’t good enough, either. The option you choose for them you also choose for yourself. You can’t have it both ways.
We are on this planet to evolve, grow and learn. Every experience you have here serves that purpose, even feelings of dislike toward other people. Take the time to pay attention and think about these interesting people in your life, I promise it will serve you.
You can do this.
NOT PUBLISHED ON KSL
Watching the protests and riots across the country this weekend, I have been reminded of an important truth, which may help us understand anger and what is behind it. The truth is, anger comes from feeling threatened, unsafe, or unloved. When someone is angry or hurt, it is usually because they feel mistreated, taken from, or not cared about on some level. Watching the riots and looting can distract us from hearing what the anger is really about. Protesters are trying to express the pain they feel from long standing systemic racism and they are requesting love and fairness.
Before I explain how we need to listen and understand other people, it is important to understand what racism really is. In the book, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, she explains that we have been taught to see racism as "intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals". If you define racism this way, then most of us are not racist. The problem is that socialized racism is much bigger, more widespread, and more ingrained in each of us than this definition covers. An entrenched culture of racism in this country has made a large group of us feel rejected, disrespected, and unloved for a very long time. People of color are trying to tell us that they don’t feel valued, seen, appreciated, cared about, nor safe. They are in a fear state all the time and are tired of expecting mistreatment every time they leave their house. This is something that as a white person, we cannot even begin to understand, but we have to try and we have to listen.
The pain and anguish that people of color feel, includes rejection, inferiority, hate, shame, and anger at not being seen as the precious, infinitely, absolutely, and equally valuable beings they are. They are children of God made in His image, by Him, and of Him, though they rarely feel treated as such. It is important to understand that these angry emotions are a desperate request for love, acceptance, equality, kindness, respect, and brotherhood. The anger is not born of hate, it is born of love, and a hope that the world will finally love them in the way they (and all humans) deserve.
We need to listen and understand what their anger is saying and we need to listen at a deeper level than we are used to going. Most of the time when you listen to another person, you are primarily listening to help you formulate what you are going to say back. Rarely are you open enough to hear, understand, validate, and even change your opinions, based on their thoughts and feelings. Most of the time you don't listen to understand and learn something new. Our ego's are not comfortable with this level of listening, because it opens us up to being wrong.
The time has come for better listening to other people and this means setting down our defensiveness and even be open to attack, guilt, and shame for our ignorance and selfishness (something all white people are guilty of, simply because the problems of racism don’t affect us. We haven’t cared enough to change, because life the way it is, is comfortable for us and doesn't cause us pain.)
Instead of defending ourselves or speaking about our moral views and opinions, we need to stop talking and really listen. We have to look behind their anger so we can understand what drives it. We must also understand that anger, acting out, and lashing out are, at their core, a plea or request for love. We know this because all behavior is either loving or a request for love.
If you will really think about the last time you got really angry, you will see that you also felt unloved, unappreciated, or unvalued at some level. Your anger was a request for love too.
Obviously anger and violence is not the best way to request love, but we all request love this way. When you and I feel unloved or mistreated we lash out too, and the other person we are angry with, often sees our anger as an attack against them. They very rarely can see the bad behavior as a request for love. Nevertheless, that is exactly what it is. I am not going to tell you it is easy to see anger accurately though. It takes wisdom and maturity to see behavior as coming from fear of not being loved (respected or cared for), but we can do it with practice.
Our brothers and sisters of color want us to see them. They want us to see their hearts, their struggles, their pain, worthiness, glory, divinity, goodness, godliness, and worth. They want us to understand no person exists that God did not create. No one exists who is not worthy of respect, honor, and love. When you look at any human being, you must see God in them and you must be open and willing to listen and understand them. You must validate their right to feel mistreated, and remember that you cannot begin to understand what life in their shoes has been like.
So, what can you do?
You can do this.
SALT LAKE CITY — The truth is, we all have a shadow side that encourages ego and bad behavior.
You are a nice, kind, caring person, but there is also a part of you that is selfish, petty, lazy, controlling and angry. You have this dark side because there has to be opposition in everything (the ying and the yang). Knowing this and understanding your two sides can actually help you to become a better person.
What psychology teaches us
Sigmund Freud taught that all humans have three sides: an id (our dark side), a superego (our higher thinking, moral side), and an ego that tries to manage and balance the other two in a way that will make other people like you. Carl Jung, who was the first to use the term "shadow side" said it is made up of all the qualities and behaviors society taught us are unacceptable.
We were taught as children that a “good person” functions only in their Superego — being nice, kind, proper, composed and self-sacrificing all the time. We were taught that taking care of our own needs is selfish and giving in to improper thoughts makes us a bad person. This isn’t necessarily true, though. If you do nothing but sacrifice yourself for others, you will soon have nothing left to give, and there is a high cost when you are too nice all the time.
Dark or improper thoughts don’t go away either. Sometimes the more we try to suppress them, the more insistent they become, whispering and nudging you to be selfish, take care of your needs, seek pleasure or be petty or mean. You fight this nudging and work to suppress that negative voice, but maybe you need to listen to it and make note of what it’s saying.
All human emotions teach you something
You are on earth to feel every aspect of the human experience firsthand for what these experiences can teach you. This means feeling joy, happiness, acceptance, love, success, empathy, sympathy and humility. But it also means feeling shame, guilt, anger, superiority, failure, hate, desire, passion, selfishness and jealousy. These are all the fabric of being human. If you try to suppress any part of this, without processing the emotion or the experience, you are suppressing part of who you are and missing part of your classroom.
Dark and negative emotions and thoughts are there to teach you lessons, and if you never allow yourself to process them, they will keep coming back until you do or they might get bigger. How can you work on changing or shifting negative thinking or behavior, if you never look at it?
Try shadow journaling
I often recommend to clients — especially those that are trying really hard to be nice and loving all the time or who are really fighting with negative thinking — to start a shadow journal (or do shadow journaling on paper) that you will destroy after writing, because this will not be for your grandchildren to read one day.
This is a place to process your emotions in. When someone triggers a negative emotion or thought in you, get this journal or some paper out and write down every dark thought and impulse that shows up. Write down the awful ideas and responses your shadow side comes up with. Write about the jealousy or the anger you have toward this person. Write everything that you wouldn’t want anyone to know you actually thought. Let yourself be your worst self — that is the point of the exercise. Go where you usually would not allow yourself to go. Be petty, immature, angry, or full of self-pity.
Then, sit back and look at what your voice of fear/ego had to say. Process this by asking yourself these questions:
Some experts, like Dr. Aziz Gazipura, believe not processing your negative thoughts can lead to health problems down the road. In his book "Not Nice," Gazipura said, "Avoiding your shadow side creates a host of problems in your life, ranging from depression to physical pain. This is because it takes a great deal of energy to keep something down and out of awareness. The more we avoid it, the more scared of it we become… while befriending it gives you greater self-control and radically increases your self-esteem. It turns out your shadow is your greatest source of power."
Just like pain is an indicator that something is wrong that needs attention, negative emotions and dark thoughts also have something to teach you. Processing them and getting real about what they say, and the behavior they recommend (instead of hiding it away) gives you the chance to fix underlying beliefs and fears. For example, If a great deal of hate shows up toward a specific person, this is something you really need to explore. There is something in that hate that is tied to how you feel about yourself. You need to figure out what that person triggers in you and how that is your fear issue to solve.
You may want to find a coach or counselor, who can help you process these thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. If what shows up really scares you or is tied to addiction, abuse or mental illness, find a licensed mental health professional or program to assist you.
You can do this.
First published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — Amid the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and recent Utah earthquake, it is important to understand that fear about our own safety can create selfish behavior.
Humans who are afraid often succumb to a self-preservation mindset, which can make them behave badly. They might even do things like buying up all the available toilet paper and leave none for anyone else, and we are seeing examples of this fear-driven behavior all around us.
Fear makes other people feel like a threat to your safety and well-being (on the subconscious level). This can cause us to see others as the enemy, and we might be quick to judge or criticize them too. Watching this behavior play out all around us helps us to better understand this interesting human tendency and how this behavior might show up in our daily lives, even when there is no emergency.
Every day, we get triggered by fear in all kinds of situations, and this can create selfishness too. As a human behavior expert, I think it might be helpful to understand how and why this happens.
2 core fears
I believe there are two core fears that are responsible for almost all of our bad behavior:
Whenever you are having a loss experience like this, your ego will step up to protect you and other people’s needs will become much less important. Whenever you are afraid of being mistreated or stressed that things might go wrong, you experience fear of loss. This fear can also make you distrustful of other people, and you might become controlling as a way to feel safer.
Fear of failure is easier to understand. It is the fear of looking bad, being judged, being criticized or feeling not good enough. Any time you feel insecure, unattractive or stupid, you are having a fear of failure experience.
Which is your biggest core fear?
Both of the two core fears affect you (and every human on the planet) to some degree, every day. We all experience both of them but are each dominant in one. Take a minute and decide which is a bigger issue for you.
Are you more insecure and worried about judgment or criticism from others? A people pleaser? If so, you’re probably fear-of-failure dominant.
Are you more controlling, pushy and critical if things aren’t right around you? If so, you’re probably fear-of-loss dominant.
It is helpful to know which is your core fear because this is the trigger that drives your bad behavior and selfishness.
How fear of failure drives selfishness in relationships
When you are afraid you aren’t good enough, you can become overly needy for validation and reassurance to quiet your insecurity. You may get easily offended by anything that looks or feels like criticism or attack. In this state, your focus won’t be on giving love and validation, it will be on getting the reassurance you need to quiet your fear.
People who suffer greatly from low self-esteem often can’t see the selfishness in their needy behavior. They can’t see that worrying about being accepted is still focused on themselves. They might also make their loved ones feel responsible for their self-esteem and sense of safety in the world, which is unfair and won’t work.
It is impossible to give an insecure person enough validation to make up for their own belief that they aren’t good enough. If your spouse or partner expects you to validate them enough to cure their fear of failure, they are setting you up to fail. If you are in a relationship with someone who is overly insecure, this might also start to feel like a great burden to carry; you may even start to resent them for being so needy.
If this kind of selfishness shows up in your relationship, work on changing your belief that a human can be "not good enough." You would benefit most from some coaching on changing your beliefs on how human value is determined and on seeing all humans as having unchangeable value all the time. This is the only way to quiet the fear.
You must trust that you have the same value as everyone else on the planet, no matter what you do. When a person gets committed to this new belief, they should be less needy and have more love to give.
How fear of loss drives selfishness in relationships
When you are afraid you aren’t safe in the world, every situation and every person can feel like a threat to your safety. You may become overly controlling, opinionated and/or dominating as a way to make the world feel safer. If you can make or force everything to be right, and you are always right about everything, you would feel safer.
This behavior can look like you always need things done your way, that you’re constantly on the lookout for mistreatment, and you’re struggling to put up with behavior that bothers you.
If you are in a relationship with a person whose fear creates this kind of behavior, you might feel like you’re walking on eggshells trying not to offend them. Everything in the relationship is centered on keeping them happy. This also wears on relationships and can push people away from you.
If this kind of selfishness shows up in your relationship, what is really needed is to work on changing your belief that your journey can be ruined or diminished by other people. Play with the idea that God and/or the universe are working with the choices we all make to create the perfect classroom journey for each of us, every day. See how it feels if you believe that everything you experience is here to bless you, serve you and help you grow.
If everything is a blessing, then there is no loss. It is a radical idea, but just as likely true as believing in chaos. When you see the world as on your side and safe, you will have more love for others and bandwidth for making them happy too.
Grow and serve
During this season of pandemics and earthquakes, we can all benefit from trusting that our value can’t change, failure isn’t on the table, and that the universe is sending this experience to grow us and serve us. When we trust we are safe — that there is order, meaning and purpose in these unusual experiences — we will be more capable of thinking about others, and our selfishness should decrease.
Even though hoarding toilet paper made you (your ego) feel safer, reaching out to your neighbors to see if they need any toilet paper would make you feel even better. Love is more rewarding than safety.
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.