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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lessons People Should Learn - But Don't!


I have noticed, time and again, an "odd" phenomenon: People invite upon themselves exactly that which they are afraid of. In other words, the way they behave is exactly the way which brings upon them that which they say they rather not experience!

Example 1: Fear of anger
Linda is afraid of anger. She is "scared to death" that others will be angry at her. Whether this is the result of her mother being angry at her from early on or not doesn't matter. What does matter is that she will do everything she can so that others won't be angry at her.
To achieve this "goal", she always behaves within a relationship the way her partner wants her to behave. And she always volunteers at work to do more work than others, just so that everyone will like her, just so that no body will be angry at her for one reason or another.
But here is the catch: she never keeps in touch neither with her family nor with her closest friends. This makes them angry at her time and again. Even when she realizes she hasn't contacted them in months she still doesn't initiate contact, fearing that now they will be angry at her for not contacting them earlier.

Example 2: Fear of rejection
Amy has taken endless workshops in her attempts to deal with her fear of rejection. Yet, she never keeps in touch with her friends, neither by phone nor by e. mails. When asked about it, she justifies herself by saying that she "doesn't like corresponding via e. mail" or "hasn't find the time to call".
Most of her few friends who kept in touch with her over the years have realized that they need to send her at least 2 or 3 a. mails until she responds, or leave her 2 or 3 phone messages until she calls them back.
Some of them who got tired from "running after her" for so long have stopped attempting to contact her. This makes Amy feel that "everybody rejects" her, yet she is not ready to take responsibility for her behavior.

Why do people invite upon themselves exactly that which they are afraid of?
Linda and Amy are "typical" examples of those who bring upon themselves exactly that which they are afraid of. They operate in the exact manner which boomerangs back at them, causing them to feel exactly what they are afraid of: Linda "does" everything to make others be angry at her, while Amy behaves in ways which perpetuate her feelings of being rejected.

Lessons People Should Learn - but Don't!
Why do people "do it to themselves"? Why don't they learn whatever it is that they should learn?
The reason being, that many are not aware of how they behave with and come across to others. Their fears drive them to behave in the exact way that causes them to be afraid in the first place. This is the way they "know themselves"; this is the "self-image" they have created for themselves: Linda sees herself as a person who others are angry at; Amy views herself as a woman who is always being rejected. Both are afraid to make a change in their life, since they don't know "who they will be if they change".
This might sound odd, but the truth of the matter is that many behave in one way or another according to the image they have developed for themselves, and even if this "self-image" hurts them more than helps they don't have the courage to stop their self-hurting behavior and make a change.

Becoming aware of your unawareness
As the examples of Linda and Amy show, such self-sabotaging behaviors perpetuate themselves over and over again. The problem is that those behaving like Linda and Amy often do so without being aware of their behavior and of the reason driving them to behave the way they do. This is the way they know themselves; they don't know better.

In order to make a significant and positive change in their behavior (life, work and relationships) they need to become aware of whatever it is that they haven't been aware of until now.
This is quite tricky, since how do you become aware of what you were not aware of until now?
The answer is:

* You make a conscious decision to look inwards and understand what drives you to behave the way you do (which sabotages you time and again);

* You get up the courage to realize a host of factors which you might not have had the courage to realize until now (for example, that by your behavior you "invite" anger or rejection).

* You take the time to contemplate and reflect about your behavioral and attitudinal patterns which you have been using over the years. Such a reflection enables you to understand, once and for all, what you have "gained" by behaving the way you did (As much as it might sound ridiculous, your self-sabotaging behavior might be a way for you to get attention from others - although a negative one!).

Becoming aware of what you were not aware of until now is the only way for you to initiate a conscious change in your behavioral patterns. Such a change will enable you to stop behaving in self-sabotaging ways and to free yourself from your fear of anger, rejection or whichever fear has become part of the self-image you have created for yourself.

Doron Gil, Ph.D., a Self-Awareness and Relationships Expert, is a university teacher, workshop leader, counselor and consultant. He has lectured widely on these and related topics at conferences world-wide, taught classes to students, gave workshops to parents and administrators and is the author of: "The Self-Awareness Guide to a Successful Intimate Relationship". Available as e-book and paperback:
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