Monday, February 05, 2007

Awfulizing.... Mai Pen Rai

Yesterday I was gone the entire day. That is highly unusual for me, being the entrenched homebody that I am. I spent the day with a friend. We ate and watched the National Geographic Channel, avoiding all the Super Bowl hoohah.

When I came in (mid-evening), I had quite a welcoming committee. V., PJ and D. all pounced on me, wondering where I'd been all day. They were concerned that something bad had happened and I was either dead or laying in a coma somewhere.

While I found the concern rather sweet and kind, it still bothered me to the extent that I am not accustomed at my age to accounting for my comings and goings. Still, I responded with kindness, thanked them for being concerned, emphasized that I am and was just fine instead of getting defensive or feeling the need to assert my independence. I know I am independent and there is no need to defend it. They were three people who were concerned about my well-being.

Most people mean no harm.

That got me to thinking about a recent post on KC's site where she discusses "inferential leaps". She addresses the habit of always looking for the worst possible outcome and how it has become a normal way of thinking.

I call that way of thinking "awfulizing", a term I most likely got from Albert Ellis' Rational-Emotive Therapy. Overall, I have found it to be such a logical way of thinking that I've adopted many of the principles without necessarily studying the overall principles. I cherry-picked the stuff that works.

I don't know what it is that makes up the timetable for each of us to process our own anger, sadness, outrage, or whatever. I wish I did, because part of what makes some of that stuff so painful is that you don't know how long you are going to "feel like that," or if things will "ever get better..." Things DO get better, sometimes they get worse, but one thing is certain- none of us lives in stasis - no matter what is going on now, it will not be "like this" forever.

One thing age has allowed me is the ability to recognize the temporary nature of things, and to appreciate what I DO have rather than awfulizing about what I don't have, or what I think I "deserve." Awfulizing about what might happen. It's an easy trap to fall into. The reward for changing that pattern is potential, and hope. We go through a lot of sh*t in our lives but we can also go through some pretty cool stuff, too.

It's easy to fall into defensive thinking, the part of us that believes we must be in constant battle against possible negative outcomes or the potential negative motives of others. It's as though on some level we believe we can prevent the river from flowing, however it is going to flow.

I'm very clear that I live along with everyone else in a cycle of suffering. It's dukkha... samsara. There is no escape from it, short of enlightenment which is unlikely to come this time around.

My awfulizing won't stop that cycle. If anything, it contributes to it.

Most people try to do the right thing and to be kind in their own ways. There is very little worth getting upset about. Worrying never changed a single thing to the best of my knowledge, so I have adopted a detachment from outcomes that allows me freedom from worrying.

Epictetus, a first century Roman philosopher, said that it is not so much about what happens to us in this life but our opinion of it. Most stress is voluntary, a result of our choices about how we react to something.

I pick my battles carefully and try to remember that most things aren't worth the negative energy we give them. Annoyances and inconveniences are rarely worth it. Trying to second-guess the motives of others is another energy sinkhole. All we can do is observe, use logic and reason, and make decisions based on available information.

Most of the things we find ourselves caught up in are in the Mai pen rai (a Thai term which basically means "never mind") category. In the final analysis, there's very little we control in this life as much as we would prefer to believe otherwise.




Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly don't have anything to ADD to this post, but I do appreciate it. Thanks again for giving me lots to think about.

jen said...

You are a smart woman.

I especially loved: All we can do is observe, use logic and reason, and make decisions based on available information. And would add, try and keep our heads out of our asses as much as possible.

What a terrific post started by another terrific post.

The Atavist said...

Ditto. It is hard to add to or subtract anything from your thinking on this. Well said!

And I love the term 'awfulizing!'

Melissa said...

I immediately saved that pill picture and sent it to coworkers.

MsLittlePea said...

Yeah! While I was reading this I realized that I used to always look to the future for better times and then when I look back--I was happy then, why was I always waiting for something better? I like that word too-awfulizing, I'll have to use it. I know someone who's been doing that lately.

meno said...

Awfulizing. I have learned a new a powerful word from you today.

Now i wonder how to stop doing it.

KC said...

So wise, Chani.

I've been thinking about my awfulizing and I do think it's person-dependent. Based on a track-record, a scorecard, if you will, of letting me down. I think when you have to deal with someone like that, who constantly lets you down or is unpredictable, it becomes a defense mechanism.

Not saying this justifies anything, but in certain circumstances,awfulizing can be adaptive and self-preserving. But certainly when adopted generally: toxic.

Laurie said...

I've been awfulizing up a storm lately. I need to get a grip. Thank you for a great post.

Susanne said...

Thank you for the reminder. Dukkha indeed. I have been doing a lot of awfulizing lately. It doesn't help at all. Back to being grateful and mindful it is.

Pam said...

There is nothing to add here; very well said.

Penny said...