Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, shares how to find meaning in the moment of one.
There were a lot of lonely hearts last week! And just because you are married doesn’t mean you were necessarily happy on Valentine’s Day either! The expectations are enormous. It’s so easy to look for something outside ourselves that we think will make us happy. Half of my practice is made up of singles wishing they were married; the other half are “marrieds” sometimes wishing they were single! We suffer from the “I’ll-Be-Happy-When” syndrome. “I’ll be happy when I lose weight; I’ll be happy when I get a date. I’ll be happy when I get married; I’ll be happy when I’m less harried….and have more time for myself.” No matter how many “I’ll-Be-Happy-Whens” I reach, I’m never satisfied – it will never be enough.
I often hear people who are single say they are looking for their other half – that they just don’t feel complete without a mate. I warn against that. Let’s look at a few simple math equations:
½ + ½ = 1
That’s how most of us think – I need another person to complete me.
½ x ½ = ¼
But look what happens when I multiply versus add these two halves.
1 x 1 = 1
Here’s the goal!
To be two complete individuals responsible for themselves financially, spiritually, physically, mentally, socially, and psychologically. It’s important to be a whole individual whether you are single or married. Each of us must learn to be 100% accountable and responsible for ourselves.
Be 100% Responsible
BROOKE: Is this why you’re not into chick-flicks….because they are chalk-full of these (1/2’s) – the co-dependent, hopelessly romantic types?
This is why I’m not that into chick-flicks. They are chalk-full of these halfs – the co-dependent, hopelessly romantic types. If it were a true love story I’d like it. Then again, I think of Romeo and Juliet. Now that’s probably one of the sickest love stories of all times (Although I have great respect for Shakespeare.) Two teenagers who kill themselves because they couldn’t live without each other? They likely never would have made it anyway because neediness turns into blame. “Why aren’t you making me happy yet?” A healthy love isn’t about filling us up; it’s about filling ourselves up….with great company by our side.
Soothe/Fill Your Own Needs
It’s really easy to take the singles scene and spin it into a negative light, but it’s just as easy to see the negative side of marriage, too. Our minds are always running – it’s often not the situation that’s negative; it’s our view of it that is. According to the experts, we have nearly 60,000 thoughts a day. That’s one thought per second during every waking hour. For the average person, 45,000 of those habitual thoughts are negative. “I’m not good enough. I can’t do this! I hate the way I look. I’m so stupid. I never date. Nobody wants me. My husband drives me crazy. Why can’t he be more loving?” And these thoughts actually stimulate the areas in the brain involved in depression.
Positive thoughts have a calming, beneficial effect on the brain. Here’s the great news: we don’t have to get rid of all 45,000 negative thoughts. There’s an easier way: don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just packets of energy formed by neurochemical events in your brain and they usually don’t get the story straight anyway.
Embrace the PATS formula: pondering, accepting, trusting, savoring where you’re at – whether married or single. We would all be much happier if we chose to be more loving and less critical of those we love.
Singles need to also beware of their negative conversation patterns with each other, as well. It’s key to avoid the “poor me” conversations with friends. ‘What’a wrong with men? All the good guys are taken. Men don’t want to commit!” Don’t believe it! Conversations should be about how much there is to do, to learn, and to celebrate about life. And laugh!! It’s time to make your life full of exclamation marks. Fill it up with friends, personal growth, and community contributions.
Live Life Fully!!!
Likewise, people who are married need to also monitor their conversations among friends. “Friends help friends stay in healthy marriages.” Be certain that your conversations focus more on building the men up and not tearing them down. Remember that while you may share something negative about your husband off the cuff and out of frustration, your friends will long remember the details well-after you’ve forgotten them. Think long and hard before you share anything.
I believe that the happiest people are those that are happiest with their life currently. The states of single-hood and married-hood can BOTH bring great rewards. The sweet secret is to enjoy the rewards of whatever state you’re in. The grass is always greenest wherever you find yourself standing.
Greenest Grass? Under Your Feet
Try a little experiment with me. Point to yourself. Now, notice where you’re pointing. If you are like most people you are pointing to your heart; not your kneecap, belly button, or funny bone. Why? Because the heart is the essence of who we are. In the research done with one hundred happy people, whether they were married , single, or widowed, they let love lead their lives.
Let Love Lead Your Life
Although these individuals had the same kind of fears, pains, and disappointments as the rest of us, they simply had different habits that allowed them to keep their hearts open in their daily lives – regardless of status!
Dr. Liz is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor.
Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.