Our misery in life comes from how we think about and act in our relationships…not because of what our pain-in-the-neck brother, sister, co-worker, friend, spouse or family member says or does.
And as any good therapist knows, action follow thoughts. That is, what you think determines how you act.So, what thoughts lead to conflict and tension in relationships? Thoughts that are judgmental, critical, fearful, helpless, angry and obsessive, just to mention a few. Adjusting how we act in relationships and ultimately changing our mindset when we’re faced with conflict is the key—the absolute key—to our happiness.
How To Improve Your Attitude And Become Independent Enough
The way to change a mindset can be as natural as breathing and, at other times, can be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. This is all part of the process of becoming Independent Enough in our relationships. It’s something we all do when we get jammed up and we think we “know” exactly what we need to do, almost without giving our actions much thought. We’re just not aware of it. However, if you’ve had any level of success at anything, you follow a processof becoming Independent Enough. On the other hand, you’ll know if you do not follow this processwhen life sucks and you are stuck in the murk and the mire of a relationship. We have a saying in the South, “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember the original objective was to drain the swamp.” This is when we lose our way.
Okay, here’s the process. First, it’s important take a psychological step back from the world to get the “noise” out of our head.
Those thoughts about what the other person is doing or what we are doing to ourselves, the angry, obsessive, ruminating, critical, judgmental, analyzing, and attacking thoughts that all too often run through our minds.
“it’s not fair”
“they’re hard to deal with”
“I’d never do what they did”
“what a jerk”
“I can’t do this”
“I’m a loser”
“I’ll never be happy”
out of your head is what taking a step back is about.
Taking a psychological step back, becoming Independent Enough, from the world is also about getting the other “noise” of the world out of our head: What others think we ought to do, what we’ve learned as a child that doesn’t work, and what experts tell us.
Disengaging from any critical, opinionated, judgmental, advice coming from someone else’s experience that may not be helpful, ideas coming from other’s own fear and insecurity, suggestions coming from someone’s own agenda, and mean spirited advice. Disengaging so we are left with nearly no “noise” in our head.
Once you’ve taken a step back, you’re left with yourself.
You are set up for the self-reflection you need to do to figure out any given situation. Self-reflection is an understanding of who we are in a particular situation, what we’re doing, therole we’re playing in a relationship, what our issues may be, and how we need to change. It’s time to listen to ourselves, know ourselves by seeing our reactions, our psychological make-up, and what’s going on in our lives. This helps guide us through rough times and enables us to better figure out how we want to think.
Self-reflection is like looking in a mirror.
After dressing, we look in the mirror and make sure our hair is set how we want, our clothes match and are tucked in and fitting the way we want. We might turn around and look over our shoulder or use a second mirror to see our back. Then we sometimes take a closer look to make sure there’s nothing embarrassing we forgot to do for those times when we might have close encounters. This is done before we make any final adjustments and go into the world.
We’re not perfect, but that’s not the point.
The point of looking in the mirror is to see our reflection so you can make any changes we want to make or not make. To see if we look the way we want to look and to be who we want to be for the day. Looking in the mirror allows you to reflect, to take a moment to evaluate if you need tweaking or smoothing out. We may adjust some minor detail or change something major in our appearance. The mirror image tells us something about ourselves.
Psychological self-reflection does the same thing.
The mirror is the other person, place, or thing. The reflection is our mind. It’s taking a look at the way we’re thinking, how we’re behaving and what in the world we’re doing, in relation to the other person.Similar to the mirror, self-reflection allows us to see who we are and compare that to who we want to be, where we are, and where we want to go. Self-reflection is about “Me, Myself, and I,” after interacting with the other person (our mirror).
The next step in the process of becoming Independent Enough is making a decision about what change we want to make, if any.
Like self-reflection, this can take a second (that is, it can happen in the moment), a minute, an hour, a day, a month or a year. It’s what you do after you’ve looked in the mirror and just before you fix that final strand of hair that’s out of place. You’re still in the state of self-reflection, the same mind set, looking at yourself, but now you’re making the decision of what to do. What change you’ll make, if any. How you will change your mindset and how you’re going to think differently about the interaction you were involved in. You are still deep in thought, deep within yourself, with the “noise” of the world gone, or at least, silenced enough to decide what you’re going to do, what your next step will be.
At this point you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself and what you’ve decided. You’re ready to take the next step in this process of becoming Independent Enough.
You step back into the relationship, back into the world, and carry out the change you’ve made. Interact with the person, place or thing with a changed point of view. With a changed mindset, your behavior in the situation will automatically change as a result. Remember, action follows thought.
But you’re not finished. Just because you’ve made this “shift” in thinking, doesn’t mean the world is going to respond the way you’ve envisioned. It doesn’t mean the world is going to like the way you’ve coiffed. The possible outcomes are:
- The changes you’ve made have a positive effect and all is well.
- The changes you’ve made cause another set of problems in the relationship.
- You tried to step back into the relationship with a new you, but you couldn’t maintain the changes. You need more work.
Regardless of the outcome, the last step in becoming Independent Enough is repeating this process over and over again. It is rarely one and out. Whatever happens you’ll need to take a step back, become self-reflective, and decide what mindset you want to change before stepping back into the relationship…again and again. Repeating the process of becoming Independent Enough requires a commitment, not to any particular relationship, but rather to yourself. A commitment to challenge yourself and grow into who you need to become to maneuver your way through life.