Is there connectedness in hardship? Are we drawn to exposing the negative in our lives because it gives us something that will bring us closer to others? Asking this reminded me of Lydia’s story from Authoring Your Life. When she was having difficulty with her husband’s naval life she sought out other navy wives. They were all going through similar challenges and relied on one another to get through it. I really got to thinking what the value of partners and relationships have in how we think. It would seem that their presence in our lives can go one of two ways. Either A) They enable a toxic and disempowering realm where disregarding the positive is normal or B) Encourage that we have the internal power to essentially “rewire” our way of thinking. By having the other naval wives around her, Lydia was able to see the strength in herself and the power she had in the situation.
Other partners and relationships worth mentioning in Authoring Your Life:
- Kurt & his girlfriend/ Kurt & his employees
- Sandra & her supervisor/ Sandra & a religious figure, in this case Jesus Christ
- Evan & his therapist
- The recurring roles of spouses, therapists, parents, friends, educators, mentors, community leaders, sons/daughters are plentiful and are all crucial
- Give up personal agenda/ beliefs
- Let go of forcing an outcome
- Chore/ Burden mentality
Based on the discussion last class I determined that I need to let go of my tendency to force an outcome. I had always dreaded sitting down and reading Authoring Your Life because I wouldn’t allow myself to walk away without having two new ideas to contribute to my paper. And if that didn’t happen I would beat myself up over it. It occurred to me during this exercise that rather than reading for my benefit, I should put my needs aside and immerse myself into the interviewees worlds. When I can approach the book from their perspective as if it were my own I will better find what I am looking for anyway, but it won’t be viewed as a chore or burden. Another mentality I am letting go of.
We live in a society where things change at such a fast pace. This type of environment fosters the consistent need for improvement and expansion; but how can advancing a society be achieved if everything is perfect? It can’t. I propose that as a part of our psychological evolution we are inclined to focus on the imperfections as a way to continue moving forward. By spotting what is wrong we protect ourselves from the possibility of regressing. Somewhere at the back of our minds we know that if it is all “good” then there is nowhere else to go, and no room for knowledge or growth. What happens then? I think that the fear is enough to convince us that we should draw upon the negatives to continue forwarding our thinking and way of life.
Initially I planned to look into why people were “wired” to find the wrong in their lives, but with further prompting the question became less of a ‘why’, and developed into a ’how’. How does one essentially rewire their personal philosophy? What does it take to become aware of unconscious decisions? And to quote Professor Bill Mangrum of Fort Lewis College the question can be translated as ” How do we do what we don’t habitually do?”
I noticed a pattern in the novel Authoring Your Life, when individuals noticed that their lives were in need of some form of change they all reached out to external sources. For some this meant spirituality and faith, religions and theologies, or partnerships and friendships.
Considering some of the thoughts that shape our perspective we aren’t even aware of, can we expect others to not only notice but also hold us accountable for what is going on internally? Furthermore what role do these relationships (with God (s), nature, friends, partners, etc.) play in developing how we consciously and unconsciously view the world?
As we constantly compare our lives, basing happiness off of what others do or do not have we further avoid the acceptance of our own reality. Comparison is the immediate response to feeling inadequate, and though it may be condoned as “natural” it is extremely detrimental to mental and physical health. Using outside sources to determine if we “measure up”enables and encourages a system to find what is going wrong in our own lives, despite how well we may be doing. If ever a point where an individual does not feel that they are receiving the admiration or validation they deserve, which is more often than not, they go looking beyond themselves to decide why they aren’t good enough. This is referred to as Social Comparison Theory. This theory is based on two forms of comparison, upward and downward.
Upward comparison is looking up to the people who are clearly “better off” than ourselves- wishing for their situation because ours appears insignificant in comparison. As an example Facebook and other social media sites can be used as a vehicle for upward comparison. Looking through other people’s pictures you start to think ” Well I’ve never traveled to Europe, or saved orphans, my life must be less important.”
Downward comparison entails looking down on someone else to feel better about yourself. Seeing others who at one point “had it all” and then lost it, is a guilty pleasure across the globe. Why do you think reality television shows are so popular? The entertainment value is only prevalent because of the judgmental undertones. Another example is celebrity gossip. Many experience a temporary feel good for seeing how far someone has fallen. It makes us think, “Hey, maybe my life isn’t so bad after all. I’m doing much better than them.”
Ultimately I think that my research is reliant on a question of gratitude. Though it may seem a small task to acknowledge what we are thankful for it has the ability to change an entire way of thinking. Mark, from Authoring Your Life, is quoted saying ” I think that everybody has enough bad things going on in their life that if they focus on those, heck, you can feel bad very easily. Now I also believe that people have enough good things that if they focus on that and dwell on that that they’ll feel pretty good about life ( Magolda 78).” He goes on to say that “[If] you can be happy in many different environments, that’s wonderful. You’ve got a tremendous advantage (Page 79).”
What I took away from what Mark was saying is that circumstances have little to do with mental stability. Gratitude is a lifestyle choice. It means making a conscious effort to take control over the challenges standing in your way rather than being victimized by them. There is power in perception. With light and dark in any situation things can be looked at from either side, but no one is forcing a choice either way. You chose what you think.
…. This still hasn’t answered my question as to why people tend to lean towards looking at what is wrong as opposed to what is right.
During a class discussion we defined the constraints in Authoring Your Life as a subtle pressure to find something to whine about. I started to wonder if it is just human condition to always find something wrong in our lives. If yes, then why is this and what are the psychological and social implications of life never being good enough for us? How is overcoming this mentality possible?
Going through the book it became clear the extreme measures that the interviewees took to prove their worth to others. I identified this in myself, and want to look into the extent that societal claims and assumptions have over our lives, and what determines which assumptions are worth putting stock into.
Essentially the question would be where is the line drawn between an outside, likely uninformed belief, and what we accept as personality trait (or flaw).