KNOWING WHAT WE NEED #2
It isn’t enough to know you need a positive environment. You also must create one, and in no small way, that means detaching from the negative.
When I think of this two sayings come to mind: You are what you eat and no man is an island.
Simplistic, yes. But also accurate.
Think about it. Your body is a machine. If you feed it nothing but junk, it can’t perform to its potential because it doesn’t have the right nutrients. So you function in a diminished capacity. Oh, the younger you are the longer you get away with doing more. But even youth suffers from the absence of “growing” food. There’s an old saying about never escaping payment for what you do. What is done in your 20s, you pay for in your 40s.
Well, imagine that cumulative effect. Whether it’s not eating the right food, or overindulging in anything, the cumulative effect will take its toll–and that includes in your mind and your soul.
In your mind, if you’ve taken in junk for years and you’ve embraced it and made this mindset your own, then what have you got? Junk. Whatever you embrace and adopt as yours becomes yours. So it’s critical for you now and later that you be selective.
This most definitely includes the people in your circle. It’s true that we are judged by the company we keep, and while that might not be a challenge for some, it can create huge problems for others. Yet far more important is the influence those individuals have on us, and that ranks legions above what anyone else thinks–it impacts what we think.
Negative people, like a negative environment, can suck you dry. You spend so much time and effort dealing with them and the havoc they create–the challenges, the drama, the strife and feelings of ill will in others within your circle–that you lose momentum on the constructive things you’re doing and you lose focus. Worse, their negativity–and that they create in others–depletes your own “positive” environment resources.
Negative people undermine you. They whittle away at the good you see in everything and leave you with dark thoughts and lack. They rip at your perspective, your view, your confidence and faith, and then slice holes in fabric of who you are and your esteem. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with the soul ripped right out of you.
Think that isn’t possible? Ask anyone who has been around negative people for a length of time. Not advocating that you experiment; the costs are too high, and it’s easy enough to imagine.
See your soul as a perfect orb of light. Place yourself in around negative people, and you’ll see the edges of the orb grow ragged. Stay around them and you’ll see splits and tears in it–and if you’re around them over an extended period of time, watch out, you’re going to have a gaping hole in your orb–dead-center.
Is this always the case? Not always, but more often than not. Why? Because we take in whatever we’re around. We are not typically diligent about being selective and shielding ourselves from the impact of others. Because this happens over time, we don’t think we’re affected. But we are, and that evidences itself eventually and then we’ve got a mess to clean up.
Now there are negative people from whom you can detach easily. But then there are others with whom you must associate in some form. Whether it is a boss or a coworker or someone in your family.
If you can be frank about the negativity and challenges being created, there is an opportunity for change. If that negative person takes that opportunity, great. Everyone is better off. If not, then you must choose some action to take that enables you to protect your environment (your orb) or detach to avoid becoming contaminated.
That action can take many forms. You cannot determine someone else’s actions; meaning, you can’t make someone negative change and become positive. What you can determine is how much you allow their negativity to impact you. It’s easiest, of course, to just disassociate. But the closer that person is to your inner circle, the higher the costs are of doing so. You might have to switch agents, editors, publishers. You might have to leave a circle of friends you’ve been with a while. You might have to upset the balance of that circle by being blunt with the negative person. Some in the circle will praise that action, some will object (particularly if they’re contaminated, and especially if they don’t yet know it). If the negative person causing the challenges and conflicts is even closer, in your family, that makes your position even more difficult.
But not impossible. Some choose to ignore the negativity or the negative person. For them, that works. Yet it doesn’t do a thing to correct the challenge, and it doesn’t make for pleasant gatherings and relations. Some choose to address them, often with little or no success, and with which can come with steep consequences: familial strife, distance, divorce, separation or some aspect of disassociation.
And frankly, some times you try less potentially explosive resolutions and none work, and you’re left with tattered shields and gaping holes in your heart and soul anyway. Then you still have a choice on what you do and do not suffer for this other person’s sake.
For the most part, people shield and ignore as long as they can and it works. When it stops working, they get blunt, which causes a whole new dynamic to form that is equally capable of sucking you dry, stealing your focus and momentum and dumping conflicts in your lap to resolve that aren’t yours (though they may be presented as yours). But you are blamed for them, anyway, and even if you aren’t, you’re still designated to solve/resolve them. During which time, of course, you are not doing anything constructive that you should be doing or want to be doing. You’re cleaning up someone else’s mess and unfortunately, that’s an impossible task. Since you didn’t create it, cleaning it up is outside your sphere of influence. Still, you do what you can toward conflict resolution. You accept the outcome and live with it.
Sometimes that’s easy. Sometimes disassociating from a negative person brings so many immediate benefits that you’re stunned at how hard life had become around them and you feel elated at the return of the relaxed, joyful atmosphere you’d all but forgotten. You wonder how things had gotten that bad and only in their absence did you become fully aware of it. The reason of course is that negativity whittles away rather than falls and severs like an axe blow. Long-term, the effect is the same, but odds are you stop it before you get the axe.
So whether it’s:
• a critique parter who rewrites your work the way s/he would write it
• an agent who spends all his/her time telling you how horrible the market it is and how impossible it is to place even a great work these days
• an editor who just doesn’t get what you’re doing in your work
•a spouse or family member who is not supportive of you and/or your work
• a drama king/queen whose idea of a good time is to tie you up for hours bitching about something they’ve bitched about for days, weeks, months or years and done nothing to change
•a problematic friend or relative whose whittling has caused you teeth-gnashing and challenges with other family members because to keep peace, you didn’t put your foot down or up that person’s backside
negative people upset your positive environment and ruin your ability to stay positive and focused and to continue to build on momentum.
We all face trials, tribulations and challenges. That’s an intricate part of life and none escape it. I’m not referring to a friend or coworker in crisis or in a challenge. I am referring to those in our circle with whom we have fundamental differences and cannot agree to disagree without being the subject of their negativity. These people are notorious for attempting to force their will on others. Their views and desires and choices. And all too rarely it occurs to them that in doing so they are robbing others–namely you–of your choices.
So beware of the negative person. Know what association can cost you. Know how to detach (ignore, shield, discuss, confront, distance, disassociate or any of the hundreds of variants in between) to protect yourself from that person.
Most importantly, don’t underestimate the damage a negative person can do to you. Be aware and be diligent. You can’t move ahead in your own life, if you’re swamped cleaning up the messes someone else is making in theirs–and it just gets worse if they’re making those messes in your life, too.
A few tips and reminders:
“No” is a complete sentence.
You can resolve challenges with negative people with or without them.
Attempts to gain “closure” in these situations often create more challenges not fewer.
You set your perimeters.
You choose your actions and live with the reactions.
The closer someone is to your inner circle, the more tentacles there are in solutions. Often the impact is felt by others as well as the negative person. Consider the consequences before you take action and make sure you’re willing to live with them.
Negative people thrive on drama. If it exists, they’ll glory in it. If it doesn’t, they’ll create it.
Negative people build themselves up by tearing others down. You’re dealing with their confidence/esteem/self-image crisis.
Negative people often don’t intend to inflict harm. They just want to feel better, appear in a better light. The damage is still damage, but frequently it isn’t deliberately malicious just short-sighted or skewed.
Negative people are often narrow-minded. They see things their way and you must, too. Otherwise, they envision you as a threat to their esteem and sense of worth. Then, to keep their own balance in their volatile world, they must destroy the threat.
Negative people are self-absorbed. They’re looking inward so much to find their feet that they rarely look outward and consider the impact of their actions and deeds on others–and when they do, their view is warped by their own needs and desires and wishes. The concepts of free will, compassion, and empathy relate only to them and not to those with whom they interact, unless of course the two happen to agree.
Negative people often whine about the injustice thrust upon them by life and by others. They feel the world–and you and everyone else–owes them whatever they want. Doesn’t matter if want they want is in direct opposition to what someone else wants, to what is right by the loosest of standards, or even if it’s what they agreed to do and are being paid to do. In their point of view, to actually expect a negative person to do the job for which they were hired and are paid is unfair, unjust and even mean.
Here’s the thing. Only that negative person can repair that negative person. Others can encourage and advise (though it is rarely well received) but only that individual has the power to change themselves. All the therapy, behavior modification techniques and other methodology in the world can’t do a thing to make a person less negative unless that person chooses to not be negative. Can methods help? Absolutely. But they are tools with which a product can be shaped. The person is the product. And that person has to decide to no longer be negative, to be positive, and then work to make it happen.
Like so much else, changing is a process, not merely a decision. You choose, you work at it. You surge ahead and suffer setbacks. But if you stick with it, you’re going to be in a better place from the very first action you take to make that change.
Look at your own positive/negative as a line. Negative is on one end, positive is on the other. The first step you take toward leaving negativity behind and becoming more positive, you’re inching down that line and creating a new starting point. Each advance requires effort, but you’re never again at the same starting point you were at when you first made the decision to change. It isn’t a zero to 60 in 7 seconds kind of battle. It’s a zero to 1, then 1 to 2, then 20 to 21 kind of battle. Laborious, but worth the effort for the benefits and quality it instills in your life. That elevated quality flows over into all areas of your life, including your work. And it’s a battle that if you determine to win, you can win.
Being around negative people is never easy. It’s never pleasant. It’s never fun. Sometimes it is necessary. Then, we mentally and emotionally detach from them and guard ourselves, keeping them at a distance so that any damage they attempt to sling in our direction doesn’t succeed.
You see, the negative person can intend to inflict damage, too.
And tries to inflict it for any of a hundred reasons.
But we still choose what we take in and what we do not.
And aware, keeping them distant (mentally and emotionally if not physically) we choose to not give them the power to damage us. At most, their arrows are superficial. Not hard balls but Nerf balls.
We limit what they can inflict by choosing to stay positive. And we know to do so because we know the costs of not detaching and the value of detaching.
So we better understand detaching, but what about attraction? How do we attract the things we want in our lives?
We’ll discuss that next time in Part 10 of Mistakes We Make.
©2007, Vicki Hinze