More Useful Stuff
If you run from uncomfortable emotions all day, you limit the rest of your life. Here’s a day in the life of an emotion dodger
Your job has you feeling uneasy, but you put it out of your mind by switching on the TV. Unease remains a subtext to your laughter. “A thought is like flypaper: it sticks to you and you can’t shake it off,” says psychologist Dr Steven Hayes, author of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life (R194 Loot.co.za). Remember: your moods aren’t problems to be solved. Acknowledge your uneasy feelings and move on.
You walk past a colleague you feel like asking out but hesitate when you notice the colour of her eyes, again, and feel the sting from an old relationship that went bad. You decide to keep talking about the new software installation. “Everybody has experienced betrayal,” says Hayes. “But if you are not willing to risk pain, you will never have those relationships.” So get back in the game and risk taking your lumps. It’s the only way to succeed.
The boss walks past and your jaw tightens. Yesterday he criticised you publicly, in a meeting. At the time you just nodded. Then, safely back at your desk, you seethed. “Criticism isn’t a bad thing,” says Hayes. He suggests going to your boss and saying something like, “I really want to know why you said what you did so that I can learn from it.” “An emotion-avoiding response makes it hard to be open to negative feedback,” says Hayes. “Then you don’t learn any lessons.”
You want to quit your job but don’t know what would happen. In fact, failure to strive for a better job is usually related to the fear of failure. “Men tend to avoid positions in which they can be disappointed,” Hayes says. “They don’t allow themselves to dream, to play, to take risks, to try for intimacy. It’s part of the reason why we die earlier than women do. We pump out stress hormones through aversive efforts at self-control.”
You think about hitting the gym but you don’t enjoy feeling like the wide-load dude grunting among the leotards. “You’re a fat, sweaty person exercising; it’s that simple,” says Hayes. “So what?” Don’t let anybody run you out of the gym. Remember that a fair number of those fit people have their own fat history – and they faced it. You can too. The cost could be a decade less of the most precious thing you have: time to live… and live well.