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September 9, 2011

Reading Minds

It would be so cool to be able to read minds, wouldn't it? You would always know what someone was thinking, no matter what they're actually saying. When somebody's giving you the bum's rush, you would know that they really don't just have to wash their hair that night. They really don't want to go out with you. (Too old of a cliche?)

Ok, maybe it wouldn't be so cool, because sometimes we can't handle the unvarnished truth of what people are really thinking. It's a sort of societal conceit sometimes that we hide our true feelings about something, for good or for bad. Maybe you really don't want to do something, but you love somebody enough that you'll do it with them anyway. Maybe you hate football but the person you're with really wants you to go with them to the upcoming Seahawks game? (Yes, they are masochists). If it's important to them, you'll go and hide the fact that you really didn't want to.

This does have a downside, though. Some of us try to read minds anyway, and it causes nothing but trouble. A person does something or says something, and you wonder "what do they mean by that?" Is it just an offhand comment that has nothing to do with you? Or have they made a slight change in the routine of how they deal with you, which could have nothing to do with you but with them instead?

This is one of my major problems.

Sometimes something changes and you don't know exactly why. Or maybe it's just your perception of the relationship has changed, but it really hasn't, at least as far as the other person is concerned. Maybe they're going through something right now that has made them change, and part of that change is how they interact with you. It's nothing to do with you; it's just that their life has changed somehow and it affects all of their interactions with people.

But that becomes a problem when you're somebody who reads too much into things rather than just realizing that the most logical answer to an issue is probably the right answer. The most logical answer is "hey, something's going on in their life and that changes their general attitude. It's got nothing to do with me."

But instead, we try to read the situation, and the worry becomes "they're not interacting with me the same way they used to. Was it something I did or said?"

Down that path, a form of paranoia can follow you. Little actions that are different start blowing up into bigger things in your mind.

Jim Never Has a Second Cup of Coffee at Home

That's from the movie Airplane, a hilarious line that illustrates what we do sometimes. While the line in the movie is about a wife wondering about her husband, I'm more speaking about friends in this post.

I think part of this stems from a reluctance to actually find out what's going on. Instead, we stew about it, imagine things, the imagination gets worse, and you start feeling angry or hurt or betrayed, or whatever.

The trick is, instead of stewing about things, to just ask what's going on. It can be hard to do. That paranoid part of us that is imagining all of these bad things holds us back, worrying that it's actually right and it is us. And hearing that truth told directly to your face would be very difficult.

So we avoid that possibility and stew instead.

Of course, when we finally muster up the courage to ask what's been going on, if anything has changed between the two of you, inevitably the answer is "no, why would you think that?" and it turns out the logical explanation that you had considered at first before going down the paranoid path is actually the correct one. It's nothing you've done. They still feel the same way about you. They're just going through a tough time or whatever.

And all that time you've spent feeling bad and worrying has been wasted. A simple "hey, what's going on?" would have solved a lot of problems.

(Thanks to KidsModern)

I learned that this week (yes, this post stems from the same place my Sympathy post did last week). And I feel better now that I have confronted the issue.

Each time it happens, we tell ourselves "I'm not going to do that again." Yet we still do. It's a hard habit to break. Even with the resolution to the situation, I still have the occasional nagging feeling of doubt. I'm trying hard to not let them bother me. So far I'm succeeding.

It's a vicious cycle that we have to break out of. Otherwise, taken to the extreme, it could lead to a pretty miserable life.


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