Category Archives: Healing and our Brains

I feel X, so you must Y

I feel X, so you must Y

by Robert S. Vibert

Anyone who interacts with other humans is likely to run into what I am terming impositional logic. This is peculiar form of logic in which one person imposes an expectation on the other as the result of a feeling.

Here’s a simple example – someone feels sad, and so expects that others will do something to cheer them up. I’m not talking about wanting or hoping for something – with impositional logic there is an actual expectation involved, and often negative fallout is directed at the other person when that expectation is not fulfilled.

This negative fallout can range from pouting to outrage to outbursts to severed relationships, all because the expectation was not fulfilled, or not fulfilled in a “timely” fashion.  Often, the expectation is not verbalized – it is simply expected, as a right.

 Where do we get such ideas?

This concept that we have the right to expect something from another human just because we are experiencing a feeling might come, in part, from our childhood. Before we can express ourselves in language, we must rely on others (especially primary care-givers) to interpret our current emotional state and provide us with what we need (food, diaper change, tucked in for sleep, etc.). After some time of having our unexpressed needs met almost automatically, a habit or worldview of expectation can become part of our way of moving through life.

When a relationship is one of adult and infant, this sort of expectation can be “normal”. However, as people become more mature (supposedly) and interact on a more peer-to-peer basis, then unspoken expectations enter into the realm of impositions.

Sometimes we can impose expectations on ourselves. When this phenomena of impositional logic and expectations became apparent to me, and that little voice inside said “write about this”, there was an expectation that I would find the words I needed to compose this post. Fortunately, my self and my inner voice get along pretty well, so the process of writing was not fraught with implied doom if I did not succeed in this project. Meanwhile, the inner critic is watching the progress right now, and chuckling at how “rusty” the writer is, having been away from these sorts of written commentaries for several years.

But, enough about me – I expect that you are still reading at this point… even though I had not actually said that, yet. Now the cat is out of the figurative bag (much to his relief, I am sure).

Some expectations I have observed

The following is a short list to illustrate the concept of impositional logic a little more:

  • I feel happy, so you should feel happy too
  • I feel angry about ABC, so you should also feel angry about ABC
  • I feel angry at you, so you should feel sorry
  • I feel hurt, so you should beg forgiveness
  • I feel love for you, so you should feel love for me
  • I feel upset, so you should restrict your activities
  • I feel threatened by BCD, so you should protect me from that
  • I feel insecure, so you must compliment me
  • I believe in the Easter Bunny, so you must also

When we fail to fulfill

I mentioned above the negative fallout that often arises as a result of not meeting an unspoken expectation. In the world of impositional logic, the fact that the expectation is not communicated is somehow irrelevant. A corollary logic is “if you loved me, you would know…” which is equally absurd, but quite commonplace.  The negative fallout represents punishment for failure and is actually coercive in nature – the person who has not “complied” with the expectation may end up over-compensating in the future to anticipate and prevent being subjected to the fallout. They will attempt to guess what is expected of them and provide it, even though they eventually come to realize that the expectation is not always the same and the rules keep shifting.

How to deal with this?

No clear cut solution has appeared in front of me yet, but I remain slightly optimistic. I’ve tried telling people that I flunked mind-reading which sometimes buys me about 1 day of grace. I ask for all needs to be clearly communicated in advance or at least at the time, but that has a poor track record so far. The number of hours I have invested in trying to decipher unexpressed expectations in other humans has exceeded my counting, and still I get blindsided regularly.  Perhaps one day the answer will be revealed, but I best not get my expectations and hopes up.

Copyright  2014 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.

Oh Aversion, How I detest thee!

Oh Aversion, How I detest thee!

by Robert S. Vibert

You know, I really did not want to write this post. In fact, I avoided writing it. Delayed writing it. Tried not to think about it. Felt bad when I thought about writing it. And, in the end, I did write it, and actually felt better when I did. I owned my aversion to writing about aversion, and circular thinking-like as that may seem, it is what it is and was.

The trigger for writing this article was a brief segment in the DVD series Love: What Everyone Needs to Know by Dr. Pat Love in which she interviewed Dr. William Glasser about relationships and he mentioned The 7 Deadly Habits.

According to Dr. Glasser, these 7 Deadly Habits are

  • Criticizing
  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Nagging
  • Threatening
  • Punishing
  • Bribing, rewarding to control

When I heard him mention these it did not take long for me to recall recent incidents in which I had experienced one or more of these habits directed at me, and the strong aversion which arose within as a result.

According to Buddhist teachings, the source of much suffering in life is aversion or craving. If one is able to no longer have an aversion to something (or a craving for something), then suffering will diminish. This sounds great in theory and takes ages to achieve in practice. Recent studies of the brain show how we react to some outside stimuli, like hearing certain tones of voice, in the same way as other painful experiences, including physical ones. It is normal for us to then want to get away from the source of this pain, and if that is someone using one of the 7 Deadly Habits on us, then we will want to get away from them.

Sometimes, an aversion reaction can manifest in a physical discomfort – it literally feels awful in our bodies to be near the source – someone complaining, nagging, blaming, etc. Although Dr. Glasser does not include it on his list, I would add Shaming as another trigger for discomfort and pain and the resultant aversion.

 

Can we feel less aversion?

There are schools of thought which tell us that we can change our response to outside stimuli by re-framing what we are hearing/experiencing into something benign or even pleasant. Instead of responding to the criticism we look upon it as helpful. While this sounds like a good strategy, it rather hard to do when our brain’s pain center is triggered and our body is saying “Get me outta here!” It requires a large dose of willpower and determination and is really a coping mechanism rather than a solution.

Some other approaches say that we can intellectually rise above the stimuli to see what is driving the other person to behave in such a way (they are speaking from their pain, using their maladaptive coping mechanisms, they only want their needs satisfied, etc.). This is essentially the “knowledge is power” school of thought, the one that states that if we know “why” we can then understand and somehow this knowledge and understanding will be sufficient. To that, I always ask “What about the pain being experienced by the recipient?” and have yet to receive a satisfactory answer, probably because this approach is also one where suppressing of feelings is proposed. I have yet to see any advantage to suppressing/managing/controlling feelings – it is too much like wrestling with yourself – part of you always loses.

The fact that there are countless books on dieting and yet it is a constant struggle is a fair indicator that knowledge alone is insufficient for dealing with that and with many other problems.

I would propose a different response to the rise of feelings of aversion, which involves interlocking actions of self-care:

Accept – First of all, accept that the feeling of aversion has arisen and is present. Do not deny it or try to change it or indulge in self-judgment and punishment for having the feeling.

Notice – Any painful feelings which also arose when the aversion was triggered are often signs of emotional wounds. Notice those feelings, again with acceptance. You may wish to heal the wounds using a technique such as AER so they do not contribute as strongly (and  often not at all) to the aversion in the future.

Choose – The world is full of people who have never learned how to properly and respectfully communicate with others. They use the 7 Deadly Habits constantly and will continue to do so in the future. Hoping that they will somehow magically change is only going to lead to frustration and disappointment. The choice one makes is how much one exposes oneself to the stress and negativity of criticism, blaming, shaming, nagging, etc. From where I stand, the less exposure, the better, as your nervous system does not benefit from such inputs.

Dr. Glasser refers to the Seven Caring Habits:

  • Supporting
  • Encouraging
  • Listening
  • Accepting
  • Trusting
  • Respecting
  • Negotiating differences.

I could spend all day with someone like that, couldn’t you?

One of the problems we run into when we look for people who use the Caring Habits is that there are insufficient models of such behaviour today. The media is full of examples of detrimental behaviour as that provides dramatic situations and rather stingy when it comes to providing us with models of caring. Sarcasm, belittling comments and snappy comebacks are the staple fare in TV and films, flavoured with rampant narcissism and disrespect for others.

A recent film, The King’s Speech, is remarkable for the inclusion of several characters who demonstrated many of the Seven Caring Habits:

  • Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), the speech therapist who was firmly supporting, encouraging, accepting and respecting of his royal patient, eventually becoming his trusted friend. Even when a disagreement arose between them, it was Lionel who set out to apologize for his part in the incident and negotiate a way around the difference.
  • Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, wife of King George VI of England (played by Helena Bonham Carter), who was consistently supportive, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, and respecting of her husband despite the struggles he faced. She wanted what was best for him and without imposing her views, opinions or ideas, respectfully and with caring worked with him to attain that.

It would be very easy to want people like those two characters in one’s life. They would be the ones we seek out, choose to involve in our lives, and enjoy being with, both in platonic and more intimate relationships.

Taking these three steps, Accept, Notice, Choose, one can move from a place of suffering from regular doses of aversion to one where when aversion does arise it is useful as an indicator of more healing to be done, and of a choice to be made, rather than a source of suffering.

Copyright  2011 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.

Did I ever tell you…

Did I ever tell you – how much I appreciate the things you do?

by Robert S. Vibert

In today’s fast paced, hectic, stressed-out mess that passes for a real life, appreciation and its close cousin gratitude, often get lost in the shuffle. Given the pressures we are all under, with rising prices, job losses and general uncertainty about the future, it is not surprising that we revert to a mode in which we focus on what is lacking instead of what we have. Reversing this tendency is not only a good thing from a social standpoint, it is an investment with lots of upside potential for great return.

 

It’s all about me

I could write for days on all the examples of narcissistic behaviour that one can encounter by simply watching what people say and do. No matter what their physical age, far too many people act as if they were still 5 or 6 years old. You know, they focus almost exclusively on THEIR needs, THEIR desires, THEIR fantasies and when the world does not provide them with what they demand, they throw a tantrum. If they have aged a little, the tantrum does not usually look like a child stomping their feet or rolling about on the ground with arms flailing – no they have developed more sophisticated expressions of childish responses. They will pout, but claim that they are too busy to reply to you. They will retaliate for some perceived slight and pretend their response was an “accident”. They will viciously gossip, and seek revenge. These are all examples of the response and coping techniques we developed as children to keep ourselves safe.

We of the human race all have these “tools” from childhood at our immediate disposal. All of us, including me. ( I told you it was all about me… 😉  )

But I digress from the storyline.  Since we all know about these childish responses to the difficulties of life and have most likely employed them at some time, what is critical to having a more peaceful life is how we respond when the urge to use a childish response arises. If we are 5 or 6 years old, then we are likely to simply use whatever pops up.  If we are a little bit older, say 25 or more, then we should have at least a notion of some alternatives we can employ.

There are numerous sources of information on more refined and resourceful responses to life’s challenges. Actually, numerous is an understatement – I did a quick online search and found 111,000 references to “dealing with anger”. 111,000!!! That’s a whole lot of information, and if one was to only study and put into practice the approaches found in the first 5 articles, there would be no shortage of ideas, techniques, tips and tricks for that one element of our life. Life skills training is abundantly, copiously and exuberantly available, for free. All you have to do is look for it. And then use it, instead of doing what you did when you were 5.

 

Paying attention

The other part of this puzzle of contributing to a better world rather than detracting from it, is to pay attention to what we do with an emphasis on investing in thoughts, actions and feelings that are positive. Studies show that we get healthier (mainly through stress reduction, but not only) when we do this, so there is a personal payback. It is like being gardeners – we cultivate that which we want to grow. If we want more peace, we cultivate being peaceful with others.  If we want more compassion, we cultivate being compassionate towards others. And so on.

Studies have shown that noticing what others do for us and being appreciative of them and/or expressing gratitude helps relationships flourish and provides fertile opportunities for pleasant outcomes. Here is a link to one study, and you’ll find many more with an online search for the benefits of gratitude.

How does one cultivate appreciation ? It is easier to do than it might first appear, especially if you have not seen it modeled for you much. It can be as simple as saying something along the lines of “I like it when you do X” or “I appreciated when you said Y” or the very simple “Thank you”. The more you do this sort of thing, the more natural it becomes, like any other new habit. And the more you supply those around you with sincere indications of appreciation, the better off all of those involved will be.

The sincerity aspect is not to be ignored, as many times we will hear a rote “Thank you” that may as well be coming from a robot. The key to appreciation is the deeper human connection that occurs. It may last only a brief moment, but in that short space of time, a richness of interconnection and well-being can be experienced. If you’ve ever felt truly appreciated, you know what I mean. One time that springs to mind as I write this (and the deep emotional effect it had on me swells up inside me right now) was when a workshop leader brought me in front of the group to publicly thank me for my volunteer work for his project. He took the time and words necessary to make it abundantly clear to all present what he wanted to express and how strongly he felt about it. He used no fancy words and gave me no trophy, ribbon or certificate – this was not about symbolic or token appreciation but about real, heartfelt, sincere human to human expression. In those few minutes I learned firsthand the power of true appreciation and it completely changed my perspective on the topic. I aspire to one day be able to deliver as profound an expression of appreciation. In the meantime, I practice, practice, practice. (So let me take a moment here to say that I really appreciate all of you that read this blog, and especially those who give me feedback and encouragement. I do.)

 

Sowing seeds

One of the ways to enhance your gardening of a better world is to be mindful of your language when communicating. When we are stressed out, it can be easy to be curt, sarcastic, even rude. But, if we are mindful  and considerate in the way we speak to others, then the seeds we are sowing are more likely to grow into something  beneficial. One of best resources for this is the Center for Nonviolent Communication which offers books and audios on the subject of how to be clear and nonviolent in our communication.

Many times, the way we express ourselves is influenced by how we feel. OK, it is almost all the time. If we are feeling down, or upset or sad, etc., then it is hard to express appreciation sincerely. As you have heard/read me say before, resolving outstanding emotional issues makes it easier to do just about anything in life. With those emotions no longer intruding into our present day life, we can feel gratitude and appreciation and express it without any taint from that “other stuff”. The system that I developed, AER, is one way to release stored emotional pain. There are other techniques as well, and the important thing is to consciously and diligently release, using whatever tools work for you.

One does not have to wait until one’s pain has been released to start appreciating others. You could start today, with someone, anyone. Try it, notice what happens inside you and with them. You may be delivering a surprise that will pleasantly surprise you right back. The key is the giving without expectation of return, knowing that giving appreciation is its own reward.

Copyright 2011 Robert S. Vibert, all rights reserved.

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AER is a system to enhance the natural human release mechanism. One of the recorded AER sessions is available for FREE at my Facebook public page. Other AER recordings are available for the low cost of $10 each.