December 2019: Threshold
As per usual, my mid-month blog fell to the wayside regardless of my good intentions. A few ideas have been percolating in my cranium lately. So I have chosen one that ties in with the ending of a year—in fact, a decade—and the beginning of another, full of hope and possibilities.
Sometimes our hopes are crushed when we feel abandoned or unsupported. Humans are the only species (that I am aware of) who have an amazing array of coping strategies to handle dashed hopes. Depending upon our upbringing, personalities, life experiences and the like, our strategies fall upon a spectrum of helpful to harmful.
Most of our strategies are developed in childhood—and we keep using them well into adulthood or when they cease to be beneficial (whichever comes first). It takes a particular self-awareness to be able to note when a behaviour or thought pattern no longer works for us and adapt a new coping skill.
A common strategy to cope with disappointment is referring to ourselves as stupid, foolish, idiotic, crazy, or deficient in some way. This anger-turned-inward protects us from the reality of the humanness around us. It “saves” precarious relationships. As children, our minds haven’t acquired the ability to rationalize or take a step back to say, “My parents did they best they could with what they had; or They are under a lot of strain right now.” Nor do we as children have the ability to separate ourselves from the drama or chaos that rightfully belongs to others. Therefore, our child minds by default take the blame, “There must be something wrong with me. That’s why my parents are yelling.”
This carries with us into adulthood. So when faced with disappointment, our default coping mechanism is to assume we are deficient in some way—that is why we are unsupported, abandoned, etc. We believe we are wrong.
So as we approach the threshold of a new year and another decade, it provides an opportunity to stop berating ourselves. Chaos is chaos. Disappointment is disappointment. It does not mean we are wrong or deficient or undeserving of better. It means we are human. And for many of us, that includes going against the grain or holding unpopular beliefs.
Maybe we think or feel more deeply than others; so when we opt for simplicity, it sharply contrasts with those who need to be the centre of attention or who thrive in the over-stimulating realm of social media. It takes courage to be able to say, “No, not for me,” when faced with the barrage of shallow connectivity or following the status quo.
It can be disappointing, even lonely, when our requests for simplicity are ignored, denied, or denigrated by the promoters and/or supporters of excess or by those who simply refuse to rock the boat. They’d rather go with the flow than risk capsizing. And then there is the whole FOMO crowd: Fear Of Missing Out.
We CAN’T have it all. We WILL miss out on certain things in favour of others. And sometimes our choices wont’ be the popular ones. We WILL lose out because something bigger and better has usurped our simplicity and tranquility. Grief, loss, disappointment are all part of life. Without them, we would be incapable of appreciating love, joy, and contentment.
The antidote to coping strategies like FOMO and self-abasement is to discover what we hold dear—and make choices consistent with those values. Then we will be better able to grieve our losses and embrace our joys, knowing that both contribute to a full life, and to discard our fears of deficiency and missing out.
Whether we skim the surface or dive deeply into life, may 2020 be a year of building healthy coping skills for whatever the next decade holds.