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100 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?
Two things for you to think about
There’s no such thing as a good or bad emotion—only good or bad reactions to an emotion.
Anger can be productive. Disappointment can be educational. Frustration can be transformative. Happiness can be misleading. Focus less on the emotion itself and more on how you choose to react to it.
Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.
Two things for you to ask yourself
In what ways have you overestimated your emotions and let them dictate how you behave and how you see the world? Where has this gotten you?
Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.
One thing for you to try this week
Think of a negative emotion you’re dealing with right now or have dealt with lately. Now, ask yourself, how could that negative emotion be a good thing? What would it take to make it a good thing? What could you do to make it the best thing that ever happened to you?
Now go do that.
Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.
Last week’s breakthroughs (and a question answered)
In last week’s newsletter, I asked you to try holding two contradictory ideas without necessarily believing either of them.
Suzy has been challenging many of her assumptions through travel:
We (an Australian family) spent over two years living in an Islamic community and it was endlessly fascinating to explore different worldviews, philosophy, health, education, and culture.
There were many instances where everything that we understood to be ‘true’ by our Western standards was not considered ‘true’ in our new home. It really helped us to keep an open mind and an open heart and release the need to be right.
Respectful curiosity is a wonderful thing and I had many fascinating deep conversations with my new friends—not trying to change each other’s mind but only to understand each other better.
I wish every human had the opportunity to live in a foreign culture. It’s very humbling and gives a new perspective to live from.
The next reader’s response may be helpful to those of you struggling with anxiety:
I was diagnosed with OCD this year at the age of 29. I started going to exposure therapy for it, which teaches you to intentionally trigger anxiety and do nothing about it, accepting that you don’t have to do anything about your intrusive thoughts and that anything is possible, even your worst fears. By doing nothing, you learn that you can live with this uncertainty and anxiety instead of (compulsively) trying to make it go away.
This shift of mindset to embrace groundlessness has been extremely effective in moving away from black-and-white thinking and seeing the gray area in everything, not just my obsessive thoughts.
What I’ve come to find is that while gray-area thinking tends to be pretty uncomfortable at first, it actually makes you a much more compassionate and grounded person. My own disorder has forced me to embrace the idea that nothing is fully good or fully bad, fully true or fully false, and that’s actually a beautiful thing, because it is where the nuance in life is.
In fact, most of life is neutral, there are only moments of subjective good and bad sprinkled in, so finding contentment in that which is neutral is more of what ‘happiness’ looks like. We often chase certainty in our lives and our minds, and this is fundamentally irrational.
In shifting the mindset from black and white to gray, I’ve shifted my mind to better align with reality, and I feel more content than ever before.
Finally, Meg shared a relationship conundrum you may also be facing and asked for my take on it:
My partner and I have been together for three years now. He’s a wonderful person—sweet, caring, good with kids, thoughtful, listens, etc.—and while we are in some ways very compatible, politically we are diametrically opposed. One of us leans left, the other leans right. One of us is an armchair conspiratorialist, the other literally did their Masters in International Governance. To top it off, he and I come from different cultural backgrounds.
On good days these conversations lead to places of curiosity: What cultural norms are underpinning this idea? Where are my opinions really my own and where do they stem from shared narratives? How does it feel to ‘try on’ a different position?
But on bad days it is exhausting to continuously examine every belief and feel like you have to justify every opinion you hold. To have to spell it all out for the other person and not operate from a place of common understanding. Especially in a romantic relationship this feeling that sometimes pops up of lacking a shared foundation from which we see the world can be rattling. How do I build a life with this person when it feels like we’re not even operating in the same world?
I’m particularly interested to hear your take as I know you’ve done the living in another country and intercultural dating thing…
When it comes to personal philosophies and worldviews, relationships are funny. You don’t want somebody who believes all of the same things you believe because you’re unlikely to challenge each other and foster growth. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be completely different so that you don’t even have a common reality in which to exist together.
Every long-term relationship will have three buckets: 1) things you agree on, 2) things you disagree on, and 3) things you agree to disagree on.
In relationship advice, the first two buckets get the most attention. But research into lasting and happy marriages actually suggests that bucket #3 might actually be the most important. Differences are inevitable in a relationship. You’re two different people with two different value systems, life stories, worldviews, etc. There are some things you will each likely compromise on or change your mind on, but there are some things you likely will never compromise or change your mind on. Therefore, it’s the ability for each person in the relationship to accept that and live with it that turns out to be crucial.
Here’s a useful litmus test: Can you laugh together about your differences? If you can, that signals that those differences are mostly accepted and respected by each person.
So my answer to you is that you shouldn’t feel like you have to question every belief or constantly defend them. Neither should your partner. At some point, you must simply agree to disagree on some things, and let them be. If you can successfully do that, you’ll be fine. If you can’t, then it’s going to continue to be a struggle.
As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.
Until next week,