I live in New England where right now in the middle of the winter of 2018 there seems to be a massive Flu epidemic. It’s cited as being the worst in history, with people unwittingly passing it on to others who then do the same. It’s a classic case of physiologic contagion. We’re all advised about washing out hands, not sharing towels or utensils, and staying home if we have symptoms to avoid unnecessary spread of the illness which can be fatal.
But what about other forms of contagion? Who notices them and gives us tools to avoid spreading the unsavory?
Contagion in relationships is much like the Flu – if you get too close and aren’t mindful, you’ll catch, in this case, the emotional state of someone you may feel sympathy towards.
If your spouse is depressed and lolling around, if you aren’t proactive you may end up “mirroring” them with similar body language and affect. We all seek people who will mirror us accurately as a form of bonding and connection, but when a loved one is very down or anxious, you want to be careful to not take on their attitude, but instead to feel compassion, and try to provide support. It’s a fine line of difference.
If a friend is feeling hopeless about a relationship or job, you can listen and acknowledge their pain, maybe even ask if they’d like some suggestions or a reality check around their experience. But that’s different from hanging around with them and getting into long, shared experiences about how partners or jobs are unreliable, and tapping into your own negative beliefs about these things. Then the feeling and attitude has been contagious. You’ve “caught” it.
If when you empathize with a loved one by connecting with similar experiences you’ll need to also connect with any lessons you learned or things you gained from the experience, so you don’t “catch” the “hopeless bug”. You’ll need to remind yourself of anything you may have done to get past the experience to something brighter.
It may be useful to remind your loved one of their resources and resilience they’ve demonstrated in the past around these kinds of issues. You can become a subtle cheerleader for their strengths, without sounding too chirpy.
It will also be helpful to limit time spent with someone in a very dark state. You cannot help them if their narrative becomes your own, so make sure you engage in activities before or afterward which remind you of good possibilities in life. You will be a sunnier presence for them as well if you practice this.
You can then make hope the contagious feeling instead!
Do you have a friend or relative who consistently screws up, forgets things, fails to follow through, or in one way or the other doesn’t take care of their own “life business”? If so, you may be in the presence of “learned helplessness.”
Unless these people are clinically depressed or physiologically compromised, this state often has more to do with someone operating at a “youngest sibling” level, expecting that others know more, are more capable, and can assume responsibility for things. They have usually developed unconscious life “scripts” about being inept, or ignorant or incapable, often not challenging these deeply held beliefs. As a result, they lack a sense of “agency,” the courage to try new solutions, and the ability or willingness to try to act effectively on their own behalf.
Your friend or relative may make lame decisions or procrastinate endlessly, and is likely to create a need on your part to take over and rescue them. If you feel that you’re watching someone who operates like a train wreck in slow motion, and that you can’t seem to help yourself from taking over to fix things, then you may be a target of their “learned helplessness”! People who demonstrate this are usually experts at training the people around them to go into overdrive “rescue” mode. They often don’t directly ask for help, but seem to be so helpless that the people around them feel they have to take over.
And don’t be fooled – their “helplessness” is generally very powerful! They get you to take over, pay for things, organize things, make appointments, ask the right questions, and generally fix whatever problems they are faced with.
So, if you’ve been feeling exhausted in a relationship which plays out with this “parent – child” dynamic, and feel that there’s a lack of reciprocity, or that you’re pouring lots of effort down a bottomless pit, watch out! You may be feeding someone’s “learned helplessness”! Consider backing off into a more supportive or facilitative role, allowing them to struggle more directly with problems, and learn that they can direct their power more appropriately into developing solutions for themselves. You’ll be doing yourself, your friend and the relationship a giant service.
If you feel that you need help to deal with this issue in any of your relationships feel free to contact me for an appointment.
Don’t miss my next 25 minute BlogTalk Radio episode on Wednesday, December 14th at 8:30 PM EST
If you’ve been telling yourself a story about all the stresses, expenses, difficult relatives, ridiculous gifts, cards to send, the hassles of putting up and decorating the tree, Chanukah forgotten, cleaning the house, making flights on time, too much eating and drinking, getting too fat, cleaning up the house, no time for anything, then this episode is for you!
I’ll give you 5 sure methods to make all the negative spin come true, individually, and as a couple. Enough chirpy info about how to do better! Let’s look at how you can SABOTAGE any fun, joy or meaning!
Tune into www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager for live streaming, or for the recorded episode afterward, OR to join me live on the air with your own Grinch stories or ideas call into the studio at: 877-497-9046 I’d love to make it a conversation!
Are you in a relationship which seems to have mysteriously lost its magic? Has the experience of mystery and romance dissolved into thin air without an obvious reason?
If you’ve thought “Yes! Yes!” then you and your spouse or partner may be guilty of too much familiarity, and too many liberties taken with each other by allowing boundaries to get too squishy. Here are some examples of this you may have seen creeping into your partnership:
- Going to the bathroom with the door open, allowing your partner the charming pleasure of hearing and smelling the result
- Passing gas without any attempt to be private about it
- Talking about every minuscule detail of your day, however boring
- Continuous contact through texts, calls or emails
- Sharing every detail of your fantasies, regardless of consequences
- Revealing all the gory aspects of your deepest insecurities or areas of poor self-esteem
These are only a few illustrations of how partners mistakenly think that total openness without privacy will promote more closeness and comfort.
Esther Perel, author of the bestselling book “Mating In Captivity” makes the clearest case for how intentional space is necessary for eroticism, excitement and ironically, intimacy. She talks about how total democracy, lockstep teamwork and lack of space have eroded modern partnerships. Couples used to spend longer spans of time courting, longing, missing each other, having less symbiotic “togetherness,” and as a result, often experienced the critical tension the space provided for more romance and excitement.
So, if this issue of overfamiliarity seems to have seeped into your relationship, take a look at how together you may have allowed too many boundaries to have broken down, notice the effect, and explore how you can re-install some mystery and privacy – (NOT secrecy), but space in the name of closeness.
If you’ve ever felt stuck in conversations which seem to go nowhere, and feel the need for some good skills in this area, then don’t miss this episode!
In this next 30 minute BTR episode tonight, (Wednesday 10/21/15) at 8:30 PM I will teach you a vital secret tool for better communication, especially when there’s conflict surrounding an issue.
Call in live at toll-free 877-497-9046 to join me on the air with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live show catch the recording at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager anytime at your convenience.
If you or your partner tend to shut down, retreat, or yell at each other when you disagree, and the “conversation” goes south fast, then this show is for you. Moving forward, you’ll have the means to talk more calmly, take turns, listen better, lower reactivity and move toward solutions faster.
I hope you can join me!
*P.S. To get my book “I’m Talking! Are You Listening?” click on the link below to find it on my Amazon store. There are lots of tips and tools in there for much better communication.