#87 | Wanting Is Supposed To Be ScaryJun 29, 2022
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Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of happiness
Hi, everyone. This is Lynn Davison, your adulting. Coach. Today, we're talking about why wanting is supposed to be scary. And then what do we do about it? So let's remember that motivational triad when what our brain is designed to do, especially the middle brain, is to protect us to keep us from dying. And so it's going to require us to seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. That's its job. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand is designed to help us solve problems and move forward in our lives. So we actually have this kind of dueling of the brains going on when we want something that we don't have. And what makes it especially difficult is that wanting creates dissatisfaction. And that's kind of an uncomfortable emotion. And here's why.
What we're looking at is we’re picturing where we've started, which is where we are now, and we're imagining the ideal, and we're visualizing the gap between the two, and we're dissatisfied as a result. We're measuring the difference between where we are and where we'd like to be, and that's going to create dissatisfaction. Of course, if we want to, we can decrease our dissatisfaction and remind ourselves how far we've come and focus on that instead. So just know that the nature of wanting is going to create that gap between where we are and where we want to be. And that's going to create dissatisfaction.
So Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness (she's a wonderful researcher) suggests that one of the mistakes that we make as humans is that we think, Oh, I'll be happy when I've achieved whatever that goal or I've gotten, or I've gotten what I wanted. And she suggests that that is one of the easiest ways to undermine our happiness. But in some ways, we have to undermine our happiness in order to make progress. So let's just study a little bit more and figure out what's going on here. Why is wanting so scary? Why does it create fear in all of us? And if we noticed the root of the worD desire, it's SubTerra, which is the stars. The part of the root, desire, the desire part of it is adera. That means the stars and the death means that fire far away from us.
So desire is actually reaching for the stars. And that very act is what puts us in an unbalanced position. And yet, because we're human, that's what we're gonna want. It's just part of that hero's journey that we're all on where we get pushed into this unbalanced position by some desire or some event where we fall down into the oh my god, how am I going to figure this one out? And we keep struggling and struggling and struggling until we get those I figured it out kind of a moment, and or series of moments. And then as we integrate that into our lives, then we come back out back out of that hero's journey until the next time, and that spiraling of the hero's journey is just the one we're on as humans.
Its also through desiring that something can create some performance anxiety. You know, we're not sure we're capable of doing this. In fact, we're pretty sure we haven't done this before. So we really don't know what we're doing. And that performance anxiety is going to come up. It's also going to create some spinning thoughts and boy, I was in this washing machine spin cycle this morning when I could feel the fear in me. I could feel all the spinning thoughts of all the things that I wanted to get done and I wasn't getting them all done fast enough and I just wasn't good enough and getting them all down and I didn't respond the way I wanted to in that last conversation. I could just feel that fear in my chest. It was definitely there. And some of it is coming from wanting to be perfect. Like if we think we're just perfect enough, we wouldn't have these performance anxieties except the perfection and the search for perfection, which is a myth is what's getting us in trouble. Because it can look like we're both over performing. Like we're getting everything down perfect or it can look like underperforming where we're even afraid to get started because we know that whatever we do isn't going to be good enough. These are the things that happen. This is what it looks like or we could just be buffering we could just go and decide that we're not going to address this at all. We're going to distract ourselves with whatever pleasure seeking action we can think of whether it's food or eating, or it could be shopping. It could be exercising, it could be all kinds of pleasure seeking activities, and that is what this fear can start to look like so it's really important that we recognize it not only in ourselves, but also in our autistic and adults.
We really want to remember what they need. This is not a want list. This is a need list. This is what really is necessary for our autistic young adults to perform well. They need productivity, oh my gosh, doing something new. I know I'm not going to be very productive at first. They need to be very efficient. No, that's going out the window. It's not predictable. It's not at all predictable. It's not at all certain and I don't have the directions. What is it that's expected? So the specificity of language is lacking.
I don't always have somebody to bounce my ideas off of and that I really do need because if they can just hear what I'm saying then sometimes I can figure out some of my thinking, and I need that time to get it all down. And I need to have more of a roadmap, more of this. You know, what is it and how does this fit into the overall picture of my life? This is keeping all these needs in mind. It's really important for us as the parent coach of our autistic young adults that when we see what we're seeing, in terms of maybe leaning away from a challenge going to the screens and watching or engaging in those very engaging activities that are designed to be engaging, they're designed to hook us on their screens.
It makes perfect sense when you take it up against this list of why it is that you know what they need and because when you think about it, you're productive on a video game; you're leveling up, it's very efficient. The more you play, the better the better you get at it. They're very predictable. The rules are there. There's a lot of certainty that nobody's gonna die (their character might die) but no harm is going to happen to them at a physical level if they don't perform well in a video game. So there's nothing scary there. I mean that's why those screens and watching the YouTubes is just so very enticing for us and for our autistic young adults.
So we just want to keep in mind that every step of progress matters that we really have to help ourselves and our autistic young adults move through that fear. I mean, it was pulsing in my chest that four o'clock this morning. It was very much present. I could feel the pressure from the inside out of the fear of not getting everything done that I want to get done. I mean, creating a practice, doing the work that I do is complex and requires a lot of skills but even though I have a degree in marketing, this was many years ago when I graduated. So it's there, you know, this is a whole new world on the internet and there's so much that I have to just keep leveling up my skills and that's uncomfortable as all get out.
So I definitely get where my kids come from when they say this is not so much fun. But you know, I remind myself when I look at my 10 domains, the mental health is the third dimension, the third domain. And what I want to do is I want to strengthen my mind. So what are the exercises that I have to do in order to strengthen my mind? What are the repetitive exercises just like the ones that I do similar to the ones that I do what I work out? What are the repetitive exercises that I need to do to strengthen my mind? The one I practiced this morning was I really had to feel that feeling. I had to name it if I could, it was not comfortable. Good enough. I did find the word fear though. That definitely I could tell that's what it was and I could find it in my chest. And I decided to just let it be there. I had to relax into it. Even though I was avoiding it. I mean, I did a lot to avoid it. I tried to breathe 100 times and I tried to do all of those. And I discovered that my mind was too active. If all those relaxation techniques were not going to work until I felt the feeling this really works. Try this. You relax into it. You describe it. you picture it in your chest, you say this is caused by thoughts in my mind. It just is and I stayed with it long enough where I could feel just a little bit of lightning happening. It just lightened up, dissipated and went away. And for our kids this is so important that we give them the opportunity to figure out where they are with their emotions. And I love this four domain map of high or low comfort high or low energy and so helpful if we have our kids just locate where they are in the brave, mad, sad, calm realm. Where are they in those four areas?
I know that that will help them start to recognize the link between the way they're thinking and the way they're feeling. And the gray area in the middle is that acceptance spot where we can get to what is and that because it's neutral. So what is neutral in the middle and it's how we think about it. That puts us into one of those four quadrants.
So what is after feeling the feelings the second exercise that we need to practice is to notice and then record our thoughts in some way. It doesn't have to be by scribing it with a pencil. It can also be transcribing it with my favorite app otter.ai Because that will take our words and put it right onto the screen for us. And sometimes for our kids, writing is not easy. Doing the transcription works really well. They can just go to the bathroom and talk to their phone and otter will transcribe whatever is going on. If they're in a difficult public place and they just need some space to figure out what's going on. There's 1000s of ways to record our thoughts. And by doing that we're able to separate ourselves from our thoughts because we are not our thoughts. We are the observer of our thoughts. That's where our soul is. So it's really helpful to notice that our minds are sort of like manufacturing facilities. They manufacture thought after thought after thought after thought after thought and we can decide which ones we want to pay attention to and repeat and practice. That's our job as adults is to start noticing our thoughts and and taking responsibility for the way that we've programmed our own factory that's producing those thoughts one after another to find the ones that really truly work for us to become who we want to become and then taking them and sorting them out with a STEAR map process where we realize that the situation is out of our control. And there's a lot of room for interpretation of the situation in our thoughts, our emotions and our actions, which then create our results. It's the best tool I've found to just slow things down and take those thoughts and pull them apart and figure out what they are creating and if that thought is useful or not. And if it's useful, we want to make sure we practice it and if it's not useful, we want to just take tiny little steps toward a thought that just might be better for us. Because here's what is really happening. We are all going to experience pain, some kind of pain, and Jim Rohn puts it into these two categories. It's either a pain of the discipline, which is easy to do, or the pain of regret, which is easy not to do.
But the difference is that the pain of discipline weighs only ounces. While the pain of regret weighs tons. And that's what we want to help our autistic young adults realize is that they're going to have pain either way. Either. They're going to have the pain of regret, or the pain of the discipline to do the adulting actions that are going to get them help them make the statement in adulthood that they want to make. And that just as a reminder, which this is what we're up against, this is what we want to do is we want to help them practice the set of mental tools to help them manage their thoughts, emotions and actions so they can achieve goals set by them for them. And our role in this is to encourage, to warn and to be consulted. So we want to keep a strong connection with them so that when we encourage them, they feel encouraged when we warn them, they understand that it's because we love them. And we want to make sure that they have the advantage of our experience to consider the choices that they make. And then always be there because we know we have their best interests at heart. Always be there to come to for advice and for thoughts, even though we know it's their choice what they do have to come to us for a perspective that they know that they can trust.
So please come visit my blog at lynncdavidson.com.org/blog if you'd like a transcript of this video.
And know that being uncomfortable when we want something is the way things are supposed to be and that working through that fear and discomfort to the other side where we are doing the adulting actions is what we want to do and encourage.
Bye for now.