Monday, 7 May 2018

XII Weight of My Worth

One thing being single has taught me, if anything, is how easy it is to measure our self worth, on the perception of how we think others see us.
Whether it be family, friends, acquaintances, workmates or potential suitors... all interactions teach us things about our self, and what others value in us. 
What people make of us, and how they express this, is mostly out of our control.  What we take on board, and what we do with it, is however, up to us. 

In a current study on attributions, and social context, it has become apparent that people are strongly influenced by their own sense of self, their morals, values and upbringing. So if people are bias to begin with, and already have preconceived ideas coming into the game, should their opinions of us carry any importance?

I like to think I am a good friend, and when I feel doubt in this area, I turn to my amazing friends, who are always quick to remind me, that even if I have my weaknesses - we all do - I have many strengths, and not to forget that.
With social media being such a prominent feature in today’s society, it is hard not to make comparisons with the depictions of people and their lives, that we see.  
In an article titled ‘How Self-Aware are People Really? According to Science’ we are actually less efficient at judging our self worth, than others around us, and tend to assume that the thugs we know about ourselves that our peers don’t, are relevant to our worth in various situations, such as, for example, job performance.
So who do we believe? 
We as individuals could try and remain objective about who we are. Humility is after all, seen as a favourable trait by many. But we shouldn’t be afraid to believe the best of ourselves. 
My advice to myself and those who choose to consider it, is to surround yourself with people who love and value you, as you are, not just DESPITE your flaws, but because you have flaws, and being flawed and human is what connects us. 

The same goes for my friends. I am lucky to have a small tight knit circle of extremely good friends, I have three very best friends who are all so different in personality and what they bring to the table, as am I, and I think that’s important in life. When a friend of mine recently questioned THEIR self worth, by measuring themselves against those around them, I was quick to point out the errors in this method of calculating ones value. Yet I am guilty of doing this myself, every day.

Being bombarded with photos daily, of people losing weight, making amazing meals, on enviable holidays, achieving promotions or qualifications, awards and accolations. People sharing pictures of renovations and refurbishments, engagements, weddings and births, people enjoying time with their loved ones and children, their pets and family. It is hard to ignore these celebrations of life, as we all want to celebrate with our friends and family, and show our support for their successes in life. 
But it is a dangerous game to play, buying into the assumption, that we are seeing the whole picture, when in reality we just see the moments worth celebrating. That's not to say everyone is secretly miserable, just that not everybody is always happy, all of the time, and we all have things we wish we could change or do better at.. at the very least, everyone I have ever met!

Now there are many exceptions to every rule, but the majority of people engaging in social media communication, are sharing the positives in life. The things they are proud of, or the things they want to define them. We post photos that we look good in, we don’t post photos of the bad days, where the housework has got on top of us, where we are feeling unlovable and unattractive. 
Most of us won’t share our feelings of inadequacy, we will share when we’ve gone for a walk or a run, or visited the beach or gym. But we might not share images of the day we stay st home and don’t get out of our pyjamas before noon. 
We might share pictures of the flowers we got for Valentines, or take cute selfies during ‘Friday night Dinner Date’ ... but most of us won’t announce to the world when he doesn’t call back, or when he tells you things are getting ‘too complicated'. 

A quick survey of the last 50 or so posts from myself and friends of mine on Facebook, show a staggering difference of comments and 'reactions' to positive posts - such as the one I posted celebrating recent test results, which received a larger number of responses than posts that are negative in tone, talking about things such as: low mood, unfortunate events, upsets or frustrations, which seem to hardly receive any input at all. Is this because people want to focus on the good things in life and not dwell on the bad? Does this send a message to us that our concerns and feelings are unsavoury, unless they are positive and upbeat all the time?

What do we make of all this? 
I tend to think that people are quick to celebrate with us as it is an easy thing to do. A kind comment, a happy emoji, a pat on the back, all that we are really seeking by sharing these things, is acknowledgement and praise. However when we share things that are less positive in nature, the input we require, the things we are seeking, can be harder to pin point or even just harder to provide. Most people will see these posts and may even feel sympathy or empathy, but to put that into words, to publicly extend offers of help or condolence, can make us feel vulnerable or even just seem like too much effort (as sad as that might be).

My advice? if you are looking for an outlet, reach out to people in person. People usually feel much more comfortable giving advice or commiseration in private, one on one, and when you 'speak' on social media... you require some kind of response, to know that people are paying attention. Many people have great skills in listening, but don't always feel comfortable offering advice. This doesn't translate to social media well, so if you want feel heard, don't shout it out into cyber space, approach someone in person, even if its just a phone call.
Feeling like you are being ignored can really hurt when you are feeling down and out, Social media is rife with opportunity to feel that way, don't get 'SEEN', get seen. Talk to someone face to face.

While studies have proven we are pretty accurate at measuring our own mental stability (see Simine Virizes’s study ‘Who knows what about a person? The self–other knowledge asymmetry (SOKA) model.’  here) and that we sold our selves short in some areas of measurement, we were actually commonly guilty of over estimating many measurable qualities.
 We all tended to err on the favourable side when estimating our IQ - and seemed to be more generous when attributing ourselves with favourable qualities such as 'generosity' and 'kindness' than our peers were, when reviewing us within the same parameters.
Simply put, the majority of people like to measure themselves in terms of the traits and things they desire to be. 
An article in ‘The Scientific American’ claims ‘Most people believe that they are above average, a statistical impossibility.’ 

A, Grant (2018) states ‘Any time a trait is easy to observe or hard to admit, you need other people to hold up a mirror for you. Romantic partners and close friends might be more informed, because they’ve observed you more—but they can also have blurrier vision, because they chose you and often share that pesky desire to see you positively.’
Does this mean we cannot trust our own analysis, NOR that of our close friends and significant others? Should we be leaving it up to un-biased strangers, or a battery of tests and measurements, to tell us what we are worth?

Perhaps for the sake of remaining grounded, we need to keep in mind, that everyone has areas of strength and excellence, and we may be superior in some areas to others, but our worth is not comparable. Different circumstances and situations call for different attributes. Your measurable worth when applying for a new job, will differ when making potential new friends or romantic partners.

Never be afraid to show that vulnerability to those you are connected to, it may just help them to realise they too have great worth, despite their own short-comings. 
If we all only present our best face to the world, then we are alone when we are not feeling like we fit those shoes.
If someone makes you doubt your value and desirability as someone to know and love, don’t forget to look at the role you play in the lives of OTHER people and don’t allow one opinion to define you as a person. 
If you look around and feel like everyone else seems to have more purpose and value than you do... TALK to those you feel comfortable approaching. I am confident they will be quick to assure you it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for them either, and much like the above studies show, we all DESIRE to be attractive, successful, and valued members of society, so that is the image we all try to portray to the world.

However, we are all beautifully imperfect. And I can take comfort in that.
 For where there is room for error and mistake, there is room for growth, and no matter who we are, or how successful and happy we might be, we should all endeavour to be the best versions of ourselves within our power, and not some version of ourselves that we think we are expected to be. 
You can chase the end of a rainbow all you like, but at the end of the day, it is an illusion, a beauty projected by the rain and the sun. 
Instead we can stand back and admire it and value it for what is, but also remember that a rock too has beauty (and I dare say builds a better house).

And just remember... everything, and everyone has value. If you doubt that, ask your loved ones to hold up your mirror, until you can hold it up and see that value, beauty and worth for yourself.

I leave you with my sons favourite quote. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

XI) Escaping Escapism

I have been feeling a bit neglectful of my creative outlets lately,
so I thought I would thrash out a post and see if it helps me feel a bit better about life and the universe.
Today's topic is about escaping the escapism. Its the first thing that came to mind and I have learnt to roll with what is foremost in your mind some times, because it usually means it is most relevant.

Also I like the satyric nod it makes towards my biggest challenge I am facing in my personal life at the moment, and that is the amazing ability to LITERALLY escape from anywhere, that my 5yo daughter possesses, hahaha!

However that is not what I wish to discuss right now, what I want to touch on is what role escapism plays in our daily lives, and wether it is a positive or negative influence or both.

Once again I am writing this as a self help tool for myself and it is not directed at anyone else in particular, I apologise if it comes across altogether too lecturury and know-it-all, but I don't know it all, that's why I keep this blog.
According to the online dictionary;
Escapism is "the avoidance of reality by absorption of the mind in entertainment or in an imaginative situation, activity, etc." or something of similar wording.

You are probably familiar with this concept, as I am fairly certain everyone does this at some point or another, whether you employ this stratagem consciously, because you don't like your current circumstances and are trying to avoid dealing with certain emotions/situations, or because on a subconscious level, your mind could be wandering during moments of peace, quiet, boredom or tiredness, and let's face it, fantasy land can be a pretty alluring destination. 
No matter WHY you are doing it, escapism is using your imagination to recreate the life you are living and make it more tolerable, exciting and/or interesting. I like to do this kind of thing when I can't sleep, and I know I have work or something important the next day to get up for and I am stressing myself out by trying to force myself into slumber whilst simultaneously worrying about the minutes slipping away and the morning looming closer, cue panic spiral. The latter is not conducive to sleep, but day-dreaming about something pleasant often is.

Ok so how is that a problem? Nothing wrong with a bit of imagination, a bit of day dreaming, a bit of fantasy! Isn't that why we watch movies, read books and listen to music? To live in someone elses world for a moment, to leave our worries behind and be transported some place new?
No, it is quite healthy to take a break from reality. 
Statistics collated on state that stress is KILLING US. 
It also claims that stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and disease!
And what do we claim to be stressed about? well according to this same research, work stress causes 10% of all strokes.
Other reasons for stress cited by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) are; commuting or travelling regularly, moving home, divorce, children, marriage, death, extreme illness, exposure to violence, the list goes on. Many of these things, although unpleasant, are avoidable, but they are also part of many of our daily lives, even the most content people would probably fess up that aspects of their lives are mundane. I love my job but sometimes I will find myself looking at the clock and wishing I was someplace else, like in a nice cool pool with a Margarita in hand! 

So stress needs to managed, rather than just simply avoided, it's a matter of life or death, in some cases.
Here is where escapism comes in handy, 
Day dreaming about more pleasant activities whilst commuting to work HAS to be better for you then sitting there running over everything you have to do when you arrive and what happened yesterday at work and what will likely happen today and what exactly you are going to do for the next 8 hours planned out minute by minute as you wait for the train to reach your stop.
Many treatments of stress as suggested on WebMD, involve elements of escapism: Writing, Exercising, Art, Playing with Animals, Music, Gardening, Meditation, even guided imagery.. which is using images of relaxing places and or music/recorded dialogue that helps you imagine you are relaxing and enjoying the scene on display. 
Escapism, is clinically recommended to alleviate stress.

No the negative aspects, come, as with anything else, from using it in excess.
When a relationship becomes unbearable, or a job is feeling dreary, when life is just not ticking all your boxes and things are feeling altogether rather mundane, then escapism feels like the perfect way to make it through.
With today's technology and ADD culture, there are so many methods and ways to escape our own realities, that it is almost too easy. 
Computer and video games, not only provide entertainment and a great distraction, but they now offer a whole new social aspect that they never had before. 
When you have problems at home that you don't feel like working out, why would you ever need to when you can replace those crucial relationships with new ones you form online? If you are not feeling lonely, where is the incentive to turn around and fix any problems you have with friends, family and or significant others?


Not only that, Massively Multiplayer Online communities are growing all the time, and the opportunity to make money is a huge motivating factor for developers to make their games as fun, distracting and addictive as possible. It even became a requirement on some games such as World Of Warcraft, to add in gentle reminders such as to remember to spend time with people outside of Azeroth (WoW's fictional gaming world) as well as people inside the game.
TV shows are another thing. Where in the not so distant past, people used to all tune in once a week to the same show on the same channel at the same time, we now have 100's of channels with hundreds of shows and keeping up with ALL of them is a full time job!
Movies, Games, Television, Internet and Social Networking... those are just a few of the things we buy into to escape from reality.. and if you are in an unhealthy mindset, these things can crawl up the ladder of importance whereby a myriad of other things like family, friends, career, personal hygiene, budgeting, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc etc... can all slowly slide to the bottom rung. 
I don't know if you have ever seen the show Hoarders, or Extreme Collectors? but the names kind of give it away, people fill their lives with unhealthy obsessions to avoid what is going on in front of them, and these are REAL and valid psychological issues, often shaped and nurtured over years from problems and or issues that haven't been tackled in a healthy and head on manner when they first arose. Sure they are extreme examples, but everything starts somewhere, and once upon a time they were leading a 'normal' life until avoidance became their main coping mechanism.

So how do you know if you are an ostrich with your head in the sand, if you are burying yourself in a world of fantasy or simply using your imagination to liven up the often mundane lives that we are expected to live?

Well I am no expert, but I know from personal experience that if it becomes more important to you to be logged onto a game, or have your head in a book then spending time with your loved ones, that's one clue.
If you are turning down social invitations more often than not for 'me time' with your Mysky or to daydream about your perfect romance with some hollywood hottie, that's another!
If you often get caught up in anything but your work at hand such as endlessly refreshing facebook or reading up on celebrity gossip.. then you probably need to pull in the reins a little. There are many ways you can be living with one foot in fantasy land, but only you can really decide if your habits and hobbies are ruling or ruining your life in any form.
Distraction and time out from all aspects of life is GOOD, but avoiding reality completely isn't.

Just remember that much like a garden, the things you feed and water and nurture are the things that grow the most, you need to make sure you aren't letting your garden be overrun by the wrong things because you are too busy watching the clouds roll by. It doesn't mean all fun things are weeds, and you must only grow flowers, it just means you need to decide what is most beneficial to you and what is more detrimental than anything else, try and build a symbiotic relationship between some of your activities if you can, if you like to watch TV in the evenings and unwind, see if you can achieve things in the ad breaks or while you watch if you feel like you aren't getting enough done. If something you do is purely for pleasure and you feel guilty spending so much time doing it, try and decide if it is ACTUALLY a waste of time or if perhaps just getting time out to enjoy something IS a tangible reward making it worthwhile. It might just be that you have to put some limits on the recreational activities or try and add in a beneficial element... can you get paid for a hobby, giving you more income? or can you invite your kids/friends along so that you are spending time with others whilst enjoying yourself? If it's an activity such as heavy drinking that is taking up your time and money, perhaps you could find something that gives you the same rush, dancing or a sport or something competitive.. it sounds lame, because moderation always sounds lame, but activities are what you make them. If you are determined to have a bad time you will, likewise if you decide you are going to have fun with it!
If you are having trouble focusing on what's important you may need to set yourself some guidelines such as the aforementioned. 
If you just can't keep the weeds at bay, ask for help! as with all help, if you don't receive it the first time, ask again ask again ask again.

I am terribly good at becoming easily distracted or obsessed with something new and exciting.. anything to distract from the monotony of every day life no matter how much I love the people in it and some of the things I do.. but I have to remind myself that often the things I am quick to ignore are equally if not more important then those I prefer (like chilling out with my friends or watching TV, reading a book or having a nap).
Unfortunately there is a reason why it's important to get out of bed and do something every day... while holidays and lie ins are nice, too much of a good thing.. is a bad thing, and I become easily depressed if I do not have some kind of focus and or purpose. 

So, my advice to you and myself is to limit your time you spend doing things of lesser importance or at least prioritize them to come as a reward after doing something you don't particularly like doing, I also advise you set aside time to spend doing things that really matter, even if you don't LIKE them, if you don't chip away at these things, they will just spiral out of your control, so tame the beast, one day at a time.
The worst thing in the world is to turn around one day and realize you've let something/someone important slip away because you just weren't paying attention. 

Find time to kick back and escape, but don't let the important things escape... it can be damn near impossible to get them back again once you've lost sight.
If you feel things ARE slipping away from you, if your escapism is keeping you prisoner, DO reach out, because the only way to live life is to face life, to get up and live it.


Monday, 10 June 2013

X) Out of focus

I wanted to get a little more personal, and talk about something I am struggling with as an individual, something that is a major part of my journey in life and I am really fighting hard to come to terms with and understand better, so that I may harness it and use it as a tool to get me through the tough spots that come my way.
This is, Finding Focus.

A condition in which something can be clearly apprehended or perceived

Typically for me, when things in my life turn to custard, the easiest way to fight my way through, is to latch on to some idea of hope. If I can visualise something in the near future I am aiming for, it's like I can push the bad stuff aside somewhat and just tell myself "You've just got keep going until you reach that next point". 
But often in life, the things we have to live for, to fight for, don't get given to us in bite sized pieces. It's not like a job where you get a weekend, and you just have to get through the working week. There is no beacon of light, or a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow, giving us direction and a sense of purpose.
No often what you have to live and fight for is an idea of something so big, that you feel lost and confused about how you can make a difference or what you should be doing, or how you can keep positive about what you are doing - while you are doing it. Because sometimes these things just don't give out obvious rewards to get you through, or the work and effort required is so onerous, that you feel like you will burn out before you ever get to the finish line.. if there even is one?


Okay metaphors aside, all façades dropped, let us be frank. 
I struggle with my depression, my bipolar, my anxiety, all that jazz. I struggle with being alone. I miss my parents, I miss having them just down the road, and I miss knowing that no matter how hard I might fall, I always had a partner to pick me up.
It is hard seeing him happy with someone else, and it is hard feeling like I am going to be alone forever, and that I can't seem to make a genuine connection with anyone new like the one I had with him in the beginning. It is hard knowing that the one person (besides my besties) that I feel any kind of connection with, isn't obtainable, and that I shouldn't be focusing on that anyway, I should be focusing on healing myself and being okay with being me and myself again... if I ever was.


It is hard day in and day out trying to be the best parent I can for my children, and dealing with the reality that sometimes just loving them and caring for them emotionally isn't enough... not when you don't have someone else there to do the practical stuff like school runs and making lunches etc. 
It is stepping up to do those things that I am struggling with... trying to not let my own weaknesses, weaken me when I need to be strong, and not having someone to turn to for comfort, even for those small comforts that you didn't realise were such an important thing for you in your life. I miss cuddling so much... I cuddle my friends, family, my children as much as I can. Heck I would quite happily cuddle strangers too! But I miss that feeling of being safe as long as you have that person you are holding onto. Now I have to be that safety, I have to give my children that feeling that I got from someone else. I have to be the rock, be the strong one. And that is where I am struggling. 


I am forever told I am so strong, that I have been through so much and yet I still do so well. I don't feel it. All I see is that I nearly died last year because of my weaknesses, and I am trying my darnedest to never get to that place ever ever again. I write this with tears streaming down my face, because I KNOW I am never ever ever going to let myself get to that place again and that I will fight tooth and nail to be stronger, be better than I feel. It is all just about figuring out HOW.  Sometimes the hardest part, is knowing you have to WAIT, that you can't just work really extremely hard for a short amount of time to get to where you want to be. Sometimes you have to face the fact you have to let go, and just be okay with things being out of your control for a while.. just try and find that reason to believe it will all work out! and then latch onto it!

Most of all, I am trying to focus on what is most important in my life. The thing that keeps me grounded, and gives me a reason to live, to fight, even when I feel like I can't go on a minute longer, like I have run myself ragged and I am going to disappoint everyone I ever associated with, like I am getting myself into a bad space and saying and doing the wrong things with the wrong people. It is important to forgive yourself for needing others. For needing friends, for needing help, for needing to feel wanted and needing to feel loved. But just remember, the most important person you need, is you.


I have been getting a lot of good advice from people over the last 6 months. One person in particular has been helping me a lot when it comes to pushing through the negative feelings that still linger on 6 months after separating  I think that's the hardest part, being this far down the road and feelings like these just don't fade, it doesn't really get easier, not really. It hurts less, and you can feel better about some aspects, and maybe even move on with your life in several ways.. but it will always be hard. Really hard. And it's not until you can really embrace that, accept it, and find a way to be okay with that, that it will ever change.
I don't think everyone really understands that, that what you don't need to hear is that "It will be okay " because, lets be honest, it might not... especially if you just sit back and wait for things to get better..that it will magically happen if you just grit your teeth and hope it will stop sucking, stop hurting so damn much. It won't. It probably won't.
Sometimes the best advice a person can really give you is;

                                  Find something that makes you happy and do it.

Because really, it is down to you, it is about finding out what you need, what is something you can PHYSICALLY do to make yourself happy? 
So that's where I am right now... I am teetering on the edge of letting go. I am trying to find that focus, that way to power through and really just accept that this is my life right now, and introducing a bazillion new factors into it is not the way to get by, no I have to instead change my thinking so that all this, all this I have right here, right now, is okay. I can do it, and I can push through the pain and I can push past the exhaustion, and the banality of some of it. And I can just be ok with being me. And when I can do that, then I can find that one thing that I can do to make me feel that little bit better about life.


For me obviously my focus is my kids, and I am told over and over by anyone and everyone that I need to do it for the kids. And they ARE right, I know they are, I agree. 
But it is such an intangible idea. 
It is frustrating to try and put this into practice, because don't get me wrong, I love my kids from here to the stars and back, but a child is not always going to be grateful for the hard work you are putting in, not right then and there anyway, some days they are just going to drive you mental and you will feel like you can't stand it a minute longer! (but then they go to bed and look like angels when they are sleeping and you feel bad for getting frustrated with them in the first place!)
Some days are going to be easier than others, and although you can find fulfilment in your children and just spending time with them, seeing them happy and fulfilled, you are also going to hit bumps and come up against walls.
If your well-being is directly dependant on the job you are doing with the kids, then if you come up against a bump, such as problems at school, or a patch of problem behaviour, then you are probably going to crumble. 
Because suddenly you are not doing enough or you have done it all wrong, and although no-one has SAID those things to you, that is probably how you are going to feel. Helpless, because you are ultimately on your own... despite every ones good intentions, despite the practical help others may offer, you are the grown-up now, and these little people depend on YOU.


So how do you find focus in all this confusion? How do you get your head around it all, how do you stop yourself from looking for love in the wrong places, and looking for comfort with the wrong people? How do you respect yourself and trust yourself and like yourself, when you feel like you are the weakest link, and you are supposed to be the strongest?
How do you not feel frustrated when you see others having a seemingly easy time of it, while you struggle to get out of bed in the mornings?


You just have to find that thing. That thing to be focal point of all your efforts. Maybe even those THINGS. 

I want to study psychology, I want to study psychology, live it, breath it, and find a niche in the world where I can use all my pain and past, all this stuff that makes me feel so WEAK and HELPLESS and like a giant FAILURE to help and better myself and others.

I want to be able to say that even though I wasn't amazing at getting the kids to school on time, even though I really should have got off the friggen computer and gone and done my dishes instead... that I always addressed the pain and the problems that the kids and I have come up against, and tried my darnedest to push through and learn from it. That I never swept feelings under the table or treated any grievance as irrelevant. I turned every hardship on it's head and tried to find a way for us to grow from it. 

I think at the end of the day you just have to look at what you are doing right, and say "keep on doing that" - don't beat yourself up for not being infallible .. because as long as you aren't compromising those few really important things, then you can always say "I was true to myself".


And so that is my goal. My 'soul' is not for sale. I need to learn to love who I am and what I have got. I need to believe that what I am doing is enough, and that although I am capable of much more, when I push myself... If I can't always achieve that, it's okay.


But most importantly, I have to remember that all this pain, all this hurt and frustration and feelings of inadequacy are just giving me the drive to LEARN and to make a difference in this world. I will never stop caring, I will never stop wanting to help and change the way other people think and feel about mental health and topics such as suicide and mental illness. And if I never stop caring, then I can never stop living.... because I have a place in this world. A place for myself, and to be here for my kids.. and hopefully one day, a place to be here to help others.

Keep your head up, and keep your heart strong - Ben Howard.
- Sarah

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

IX) Trust Me



reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
confident expectation of something; hope.
confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit: to sell merchandise on trust.
a person on whom, or thing on which one relies: God is my trust.
the condition of one to whom something has been entrusted.

How important is trust?
Well, the answer to that depends on each person and each circumstance. I am sure you could assume on your own there is no umbrella answer, like "trust is more important than shoes but less important then love." No. It doesn't even feature within Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs until at least the second tier - so it is not a basic need, but more of an instinct or decision if you will.
Surely we weren't born with it? If we were, would we cry to be fed? To be changed? If we trusted these things were going to happen we would have no need. We were born with survival instincts - "the squeakiest wheel gets the oil." We had no preconceptions that anyone would feel obliged to give us anything, so we screamed for it until we were sated, safe and warm, and all our base needs were met.

Wise words? Or a pessimistic view?
Some scholars believe that trust is an innate behavioural intention - an internal action, similar to how we judge situations or choose favourites. Our subconscious weighs up all the information we know about something or someone and makes an informed decision based on the risk factor or emotions surrounding that object/person. 
However other scholars propose that trust is synonymous with trustworthiness. First, we need to receive proof of something or someone's ability to be trusted before we put our trust in them. Until that trust is broken we have no reason to believe they are untrustworthy.
For example: you trust that if you take a breath, air will fill your lungs and you will be able to breathe. Unless your lungs fail you, or you find yourself in a situation where there is no air you do not distrust this concept. It is a given because you have had proof from your very first breath of air that when you inhale, oxygen will be there.

As children, in the very beginning we trust the things we are told by the adults in our lives. Santa Claus exists; if we watch too much TV our eyes will go square. It is not until we come up against an instance where our previous understanding is inconsistent with our expectations that we begin to question their ability to 'always get it right'.

My first memory regarding trust is the moment I lost faith in God. I had always believed up until this moment that if you were good and prayed for something, God would listen. When my pet rat fell sick with cancer I prayed so hard to this "God" I didn't truly understand that she would recover. I had already lost my best friend to suicide, and the rat (as sad as it may seem) was the only thing filling the hole my friend had left behind.
Nevertheless, the rat died and I felt angry and mislead. Of course it was a part of nature (rats only live on average three years, and it was bound to happen sooner or later), but I think this was my first revelation that the world isn't always fair. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people - if you can trust in anything, you can trust in that.

Are you there, God?

So, if trust is such an elusive ideal, why must it be a fundamental part of all our relationships and dealings with others in adulthood? How do we know who and what is worthy of our trust?
What is the difference between being trusting and being naive? Do we even need trust to get by in life?

From what I can establish, for trust to occur we need to take into account several factors:
a) The trustee's ability to trust: Have they had any experience in trusting before, and have they had failures of trust that may lead to an inability to place faith in something/someone?
b) The object of trust: Does it display characteristics of trustworthiness? Is there tangible proof that this object of trust is going to behave in a predictable manner, or is there a large amount of risk involved?

It seems as though there are two popular beliefs as far as trust goes. Either we a) are taught about  trustworthiness by an object of trust, and establish a feeling of security/build trust this way; or b) we subconsciously size up situations and put our faith in things that 'feel' right - if we perceive no logical reason to distrust them, we don't.
Obviously both theories have flaws, however I lean in favour of idea a).
I think as newborns we have no trust, and it is only through conditioning that we learn to rely on certain things and people. We form bonds and attachments to the things we can trust, and are wary or upset by irregularities in our lives.

Extensive research shows that children may have a more solid upbringing with routine and predictability. Rules they can easily understand and follow, and consequences they can predict are conducive to a happy state of being.
It therefore makes sense that we form stronger attachments to people we trust, and why product loyalty and customer loyalty are integral to the success of corporations and businesses. Most will work hard to keep customers happy, as unhappy consumers will go elsewhere.

Relationships without trust are like baking without a recipe!

Relationships can be messy and unpredictable! If we cannot predict the outcome of our actions, disaster often strikes. 
To trust someone that has demonstrated no signs of trustworthiness could be deemed naive. Ask someone why they believe in God, or why they trust their car to get them from A to B. I guarantee they will declare something along the lines of "Because I have never been let down by (them) before," or "I see no reason not to."
If your car is prone to breaking down periodically for no obvious reason, or God has not met your expectations of Him, then you are less likely to 'trust' in either situation. Why would you?

I feel like trust is an essential part of human relations. 
Even if we have no legitimate reason to doubt or mistrust something or someone, we still know of or hear of plenty of reasons why we shouldn't believe blindly.
My friends may be faithful and loyal, but yours may have sold your soul to the devil for a nickel. Yet, until my own friends let me down I choose to trust them. Why is that?
Whether we are putting our faith in a person or a product, an object or an idea, we need to feel like we can predict the outcome. We need to know that the likelihood of being let down is minimal - our well-being is dependent on it.
If we cannot trust in anyone or anything then we would live a very guarded and small life.
"Trust also allows the development of a more effective exchange relationship between the trustor and trustee (Blau, 1964), which encourages more beneficial performance behaviours"
After reading through many articles on trust, trust issues and the psychology of trust, it appears that it all boils down to gut instinct and experience. Your ability to trust is directly related to the trustworthiness of the object/person, and your past experiences.
If you have had your trust broken, you may doubt your ability to judge trustworthiness - or perhaps you may doubt the trustworthiness of the things you once deemed to be sound. 
Trust is a combination of our emotions and our cognitive reasoning and judgement - if either one of these is impaired in some way our ability to trust will likely be impaired too.
If you have been hurt emotionally you may feel too vulnerable to trust, even if someone appears to be completely trustworthy. The risk factor may be too high for you, as the consequences of being hurt again outweigh the confidence you have in your judgement abilities.

So who can be affected by broken trust? Who is more likely to be trusting or trustworthy?

"People with a high/low propensity to trust tend to share certain personality traits and characteristics. Factors that have been found to influence trust propensity include:  
- Level of extroversion/neuroticism – people with high
extroversion (i.e. outgoing/energetic) and low
neuroticism (i.e. secure/confident) tend to be more

- Participation in religion – some studies have found
religious participants to have higher trust levels than

- Family interaction – parents who keep the majority
of their promises and are more trusting of their child
are likely to have children with a higher trust

- Gender – in some studies men have reported higher
levels of trust in formal institutions and governments
when compared to women
Factors which influence trust:
Holding positive expectations of a specific trustee (e.g. a
named individual, group or organisation) depends on their
perceived trustworthiness. Three core characteristics that
inspire trustworthiness are:
- Ability
- Benevolence
- Integrity"

 Although some people are more prone to trust or distrust, trustworthiness or being untrustworthy, we all have dealings in trust at some point in our lives - and most of us encounter it many times.
I guess all we can do is accept that we will not get it right 100% of the time. Things and/or people we have chosen to trust implicitly in the past can turn out to be a mistake in judgement - especially people, who are known to be rather unpredictable at the best of times.
It is hard to get back on the horse once we have fallen off - however we cannot let this stop us from rebuilding the ability to trust, and in turn miss out on the benefits that the concept of trust gives us, e.g. peace of mind, and more enriching and beneficial relationships. 

tldr; Trust is convoluted and complex, but it is good for us. It is worth rebuilding when it is broken, and as long as you use common sense you can usually avoid most pot holes. Don't be disheartened if you do get knocked down, because not everything in life is predictable. The important thing is that you tried, and you can try again. A life without trust is a life without colour. Don't give up just yet!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

VIII) An excerpt.

6th July 2012

The world is viscous.
Cloying and choking it fills my lungs, I am drowning... the surface is further than my eyes can see, I am too far down and there are no lights down here, I am just threshing around in the infinite dark.
Every movement is met with resistance, I am swimming against the current,
my body is perpetually tired, wearied and sore,
Pushing against this substance that will not yield.
I am trapped in a flesh prison, my bones are my bars... but who am I?
Am I my aching heart that beats out of synch?
Am I the dark red blood that flows through these veins and pours readily from the gashes I make?
Am I the lungs that struggle to fill with air and forever feel cheated of enough?
Or am I these eyes that are frozen beneath numb lids, in these paralysed sockets, shrouded in a film of grey?
Perhaps I lie in the mass of flesh, caged inside my cranial cavity? a mere 2.6 pounds give or take, humming with activity. What part is missing that causes it to malfunction so? how can something so light to hold and dull to look at, have so much power over who I am?
I feel like a bottle stoppered tight, emotions of all colours and creeds, battling to get out, warring with each other, a bloody mess inside. But if I uncork them, I would lose it all, I would pour out on the pavement, one big frothy mess, I would evaporate in the sun trickle down the drains and the very last remnants of me, would wash away in the next rains.
How much force can one bottle contain? how much more can I cram down inside before it shatters into a million pieces? beyond any semblance of repair.
The glass feels thin and fragile, my bottle, like I, is not very strong, it is not built to withstand the test of time.
Will I be just another name whispered into the wind? Another casualty in lifes war on humankind? An unmarked grave lost in time? or will this water recede, and the the sun come out? will kind hands lift my tired body and help me to stand?
Will I dig my toes into the earth and refuse to give up my spot in this world?

Enough pressure can turn coal into diamonds, I hope for my sake, the same applies for me.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

VII) Breaking Free

Break ups are not always a part of depression.
You don't need depression to break up with someone, or to be affected by a break up.
You can have depression and choose to never date anybody, or you can be with one partner for all time, without ever experiencing the malady of breaking up.

But break-ups are a part of life for most people, and for those with depression, each bump in the road is felt ten fold. So here is my experience with breaking up. Seen through the eyes of depression yes, but treated for what it is... heart break and sadness.. not clinical depression. Yes my response to it may be more extreme.. but I do not doubt that the pain I feel right now, is any more or less than the pain depression-less people feel in the same situation. Break-ups HURT. Full stop.
This post is going to be directed at the feelings the break up cause though, rather than on solutions to fixing things or getting over things... but instead on how you can manage the pain and heartache felt, until it subsides and you can deal with things and see things in a more manageable light.

This is the reality I am living, and it is the first time I have ever truly experienced a break-up worth crying over. So I shall share my experiences and the lessons I am learning, maybe it will help ease someone else's pain, or make someone feel like they are not alone. Or perhaps it will just be a cautionary tale... but here it is.

For me, the first stage of the breaking apart, was switching off.
Things get rocky, and life gets hard for long enough, and you just become too tired to try any longer. Guilt creeps in, guilt tugs at your sleeve and sits on your shoulder whispering in your ear as you try and sleep. It is all you can do to function, so you have to block it out, switch it off.. close your eyes to the walls closing in around you. BREATHE.

Usually if someone in the relationship isn't happy, it would be cause for a discussion.. you might ignore it for a short time, but it always boils over, until you deal with it in some form, maybe writing a letter, maybe acting out, maybe a yelling match, maybe some silent treatment thrown in for good measure.. but a resolution would be reached.
When you care about someone, you just can't go about your day knowing things aren't A-Okay. It weighs heavily on your mind.
But after a time, especially without any outside help, the problems can feel like they are just stuck on repeat, you sweep them under the carpet, because that hill you have to climb together, may feel more like a mountain by now, and it may feel like one of you is trying harder than the other, perhaps even one of you is having to do all the work, carrying the other upon their back, along with all the other commitments you both share in your lives, the burden is heavy.
Eventually something has got to give. Either the person doing all the carrying is going to collapse from exhaustion, or they are going to drop all the burdens they carry to the ground and say "I can't do this any more  I just don't have the energy, I don't have the strength, and I don't have the will to do it any more"
It is at this point, that you might, just might, get left sitting on the side of a mountain. Miles from the top, miles from the bottom, tonnes of baggage at your side.. and all you can do is sit and cry and watch your partner walking off into the sunset.. on their way to the top, without you this time.

Now somewhere along the way, resentment has seeped in. Love has lost it's lustre, maybe trusts have been or both of you has hurt the other, inadvertently, purposely or just simply they didn't have the energy to care about the effects it might have.... and now the world you once knew is crumbling down around your ears. It is enough to make even the most stable person forget how to breath.
When trust is broken, it is hard to ever really get it back. Can you ever really look at that person in the same light? They say forgiveness is key, but can you ever really forget?

Maybe you deserve it. Deserve to be there in the snow, halfway up a mountain, alone, after all YOU switched off.. YOU disassociated  YOU gave up on finding a fix, maybe you were so focused on how badly you were coping, that you forgot about THEIR needs. But you can't help feeling abandoned.
In my experience with depression... seeing someone give up on ME, causes me to give up on me too.
It was scary enough, tiring enough, hard enough to fight to survive on my own, how am I supposed to do it now??? All. By. Myself.

But just because you have lost your climbing partner, doesn't mean you cannot reach the summit. Maybe you will catch up with them, and carry on together to the top, or maybe you will take a different path, meet different people, have a different journey. You probably don't see it now, but rest a while, because energy will return, the will to survive will return, and you will be able to get up, and keep on going, one foot in front of the other, just focus on moving forward  don't worry about the destination just yet.. just keep moving, and breathing and keep yourself safe.

Doesn't mean it isn't hard, or heart breaking.
The second phase I went through was reluctance to let go.
Despite the fact the trust was gone, the love was one-sided, the desire to make things work was missing. It broke my heart to think of letting go of all those memories.
We were happy once, if we had grown out of love, surely we could go the other way too?
They say marriages take work... then why can't we just dig ourselves in, and work hard at keeping things together.. and eventually the love may come back? the animosity may dissipate? the trust may return? the hearts may heal?

But you cannot force love.
No matter how badly you want things to 'go back' - no matter how badly you want to feel something for someone, or they for you, because you can see the pain the other person feels when you cannot return the sentiment.
You either have to be open to seeing if it will return of it's own accord with time, and with effort.
Or you are over it.
Just well and truly, simply, done.
And if one person is done, and you force them to remain, they will resent you, and resent everything that is holding them there, until they can be set free.

So how do you decide when something is done and dusted? ridden into the dirt? over cooked and fizzled out? When do you stop and say "we are just going around in circles here, we need to stop"
What counts as sufficient effort? How do you know when you have tried enough, or tried too much?
Why is there no easy way to measure these things?

I don't know. I wish I did.
Instead I am trying to live by a few simple guidelines.

  1. If you feel like you have to talk them into loving you, convince them they have feelings for you, then they probably don't. Even if they do, even if they are just in denial... you are worth more than that. You should never be with someone who doesn't express love for you, verbally, or with their actions. So if it feels loveless, it probably is. Tell yourself "I am worth loving" and start with yourself.
  2. Life isn't easy. Good things take time, be prepared to put in some hard work. Short term gain never lasts, and it will not make you happy in the long run. Getting back together without fixing any problems, just because you are scared of being apart, will not be a positive move long term. Nor will running out and sleeping with everything that moves. Try being alone for a while.
  3. Try thinking about how you want to change for you. Can you look in the mirror and say you are happy with the person you are being, the decisions you have been making? Would you want to see your actions reflected in your children... what would you say to them if they were acting the way you were right now? How will you feel about your actions a day from now? a week? a month? a year? 
  4. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone acts selfishly at some point or another... often it is for self preservation. Is their selfish behaviour hurting you right now? can you think of a time when YOU were selfish? what effects did it have on them? did they forgive you? Even if they didn't, maybe you can better understand their need to be selfish, maybe you can share with them your experience with selfishness, and how you lived to really regret it.. or maybe it was what you really needed at the time... perhaps they really need it too?
  5. Saying goodbye. Maybe you can fix things, counselling is always a good option... but I think it is important to come to terms with the fact that it might NOT work out. You can try, and you can be as determined as you like on your end to make things run smoothly... but you cannot carry them for ever. Partnerships are about being strong when the other can't. Maybe you can love enough for both of you, maybe you can stay positive and strong and determined in the wake of their weakness, but you need to decide for yourself where to draw the line. When is enough enough? you deserve to be loved by someone who WANTS to fight for you, who wants to see it through, who won't walk away when the going gets tough. By all means be compassionate and understanding of your partners weaknesses - but do not settle.
  6. Remember life is not Hollywood.
    It isn't all champagne and roses, and it isn't all smooth sailing. Relationships take WORK, and if you can't put in the effort, then you aren't going to get much out of it. It works that way for your partner too.. if they can't give you the effort you deserve, then you need to look in the mirror and say "I deserve better".
    It's true, you do. You deserve to get as good as you give. And if they aren't willing to put 100% effort into fixing things... then let them go..
Break free.
It will hurt, but it will get better.... it is a total cliche but time heals.... the pain lessens day by day. And remember, you are worth fighting for.

Remember break ups are a world of hurt, so you need to focus on things that make you feel good. Not things to just plug the hole. Alcohol, drugs, sex, addictions of any kind, all these short term fillers, have negative side effects.. either for yourself, or the other person involved, even for your friends, family, maybe kids if you have them.. it all takes it's toll. So try and make wise decisions. Pick things that make you feel good, but remember the rule, how will you feel about this later down the track? 
Also remember while this person may have represented everything that was good in the world at one point, you are a single entity.. and you need to be able to define who you are WITHOUT them too. Are you scared of losing someone you love? or are you maybe also a little scared of losing a part of yourself? a part of your identity?
Stay strong, even though you may feel like you are missing a limb right now, you can still be the person you want to be without someone by your side.

Hate is a powerful emotion that can often stem from love and frustration, but it is tiring, it takes up so much effort and power from your life, sapping you of all that is good so don't let it control you. 
It is easy to fall prey to the power-plays, the jealousy, the confusion and pain of separating out your things, separating out your friends. Watching your plans for the future float away like smoke on the wind. But getting even, or getting petty will not make you feel better. It might for a minute, it might be a distraction, but at the end of the day you are still going to feel empty, after you poured all that hate out. Eventually you will tire of being so consumed with rage, and that gaping hole will still be there... as raw and fresh as it ever was.

So start NOW on healing it.

Clichés are going to be thrown your way, left right and centre  and if you aren't groaning outwardly you will at least be inwardly. It feels like people maybe don't even care when you receive flippant comments like "oh well, it happens" or "it will get better"
But remember that your friends and family cannot fix this for you. I am sure if they could they would! it is hard to watch a friend going through pain, especially when you are helpless to fix it.
You may feel like your friends are avoiding you, perhaps because you are being such a sad sack. But it isn't always because they don't care, in fact it is most likely the opposite. The longer you take to come to terms with a break-up, the more helpless they feel. Friends and family can cheer you up, and provide distractions, but they cannot do the healing for you, they can not provide closure and put you in a better headspace, if you aren't willing to embrace the idea yourself.

So embrace those cheesy slogans.. the reason you keep hearing them is because they are mostly true.
It DOES take time, just like a graze on your elbow takes time to heal over, for the skin to repair and the body to fight off infection - your heart takes time too.. give it time.. what can you do to allow yourself time to heal?

Maybe you could ask the other person to wait for a certain amount of time before seeing other people. Maybe you could take some time out to focus on another area of your life, something that you are good at or feel good while doing.
Maybe you could set yourself a time frame for wallowing, maybe one week of pyjamas and girly movies time, and then it is onwards and upwards?
It doesn't mean it will stop hurting - little things will probably trigger you off for a long long time to come. But when your heart has healed (and it will) it will be open to finding new love, one day, down the track. Whether that is a new partner, or a new passion, a new career, a new friend. Maybe just a love for yourself. Either way.. 

"There will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears." - Mumford & Sons.

You WILL love again,
You WILL trust again,
You WILL laugh again.
You WILL be happy,

Just take.your.time.
You will get there, there is no fast forward in life... so live it with your eyes wide open.... because life hurts, but it is real, it is truth, and to feel this depth of pain, will only make the happiness you feel later in life feel so much bigger and better, because it will be so far from here, so far from the depths of despair, that you will feel on top of the world.


Sarah x