“I’m really lonely” is often a precursor or a caveat to a painful story that loneliness is supposed to explain. While sometimes I hear from people who are lonely and alone in the sense that they have nobody, I tend to hear from people who feel lonely because of a need for a specific type of company (a relationship in the general sense or a relationship that makes them feel X, Y, Z or does A,B,C), or those who feel lonely due to the relationship that they have with themselves – i.e. low self esteem. In this situation, it wouldn’t matter if they had one friend or a thousand because that sense of not having a place in the world and feeling ‘less than’ would still exist. I’ve heard from people who felt lonely, sought a relationship and then wound up feeling more alone than they ever have. Existing on crumbs can leave you really hungry.
Loneliness is hard and it is not something that is easy to admit, especially when we are living in a time of parading faux friendships with follower and friend counts. I think that the way in which we keep in touch has also contributed a great deal to this sense of disconnect. Some people have got lazier as the opportunity to blame “super-busy lives in the fastest lane” (please) or hide behind technology has increased. Whatever the reason, you stop feeling connected to people with whom you used to have a lot in common. When your social circle lacks empathy about your divorce for or the break up of your long-term relationship, it is that they either don’t feel like they can attempt to ‘get it’ because they haven’t been through it or your changes throw a spotlight on their own relationships. We don’t have to go through exactly the same thing in order to empathise. We have all experienced loss in some shape or form.
Loneliness is a very real feeling but if you don’t seek to understand where it truly stems from or understand what may be some of your own isolating behaviour, you can end up soothing the feeling in an unhealthy manner. This can make us dependent on crumbs especially if, regardless of your desire for a relationship, you don’t tend to treat yourself with love and care. When you don’t feed yourself emotionally and then somebody comes along and showboats with their crumbs, it puts the other person’s efforts out of context.
The impact of online communication has a lot to do with the loneliness distortion that’s occurring. I regularly hear from people who reconnect with their childhood / college ‘sweetheart’ via social media because they’re lonely in their marriages / relationships. Possibly, they’re feeling neglected and also seeking to avoid difficult feelings and situations. Therefore, these exchanges provide a fantasy escape. There are those broken by involvements with people they’ve never met / seen but with whom they’ve kept in touch. These situations are surprisingly easy to fall into when you are avoiding intimacy and protecting yourself from being vulnerable. Virtual connections and involvements with people who dip in and out or who just love a bit of loving from a distance can feel safe and they give a semblance of connectivity and yet eventually, someone will get ‘hungry’.
Mislabelling is also a problem. People will say that they’re lonely for companionship, which is a sense of friendship and then get into a casual relationship (oxymoron). Over time, it reveals itself not to be a genuine mutual relationship between friends or even lovers, and they feel hurt. It is worth holding that sexual intimacy is not the same as emotional intimacy and sexual interaction is not an automatic precursor to a relationship.
Loneliness is a very real feeling. If you tend to abandon yourself by suppressing your own needs, wants and expectations (people pleasing), this is why you feel lonely. If you haven’t got your own back and you are not showing up for yourself. It can feel damn lonely in these circumstances; especially after whoever you’ve been door-matting for is no longer around. You haven’t got yourself or this person.
Make sure you’re not engaging in isolating behaviour. Common complaint: “I never meet people / I don’t get asked out on any dates!” Sometimes I am told, “I’m ‘too different’ to make new friends.” We are all unique, but none of us are that unusual. Sometimes making out like we’re the type of person that’s very hard to know is a way of excusing ourselves from trying. While some may happen fast, most friendships take time. Sometimes we expect everyone else to make the effort before we will. In reality, being friendly is a two-way street with an element of risk on both sides.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship. Regardless of whether you’re in or out of one, you still have to be your own friend and you have to cultivate the things that you need, want and expect in your own life. Not all of these rest on another party. Having real connections with others is a very important part of your life and by having a healthy relationship with you and fostering healthy connections with others, it paves the way for moving closer to finding a romantic partner if that is what you want.
Loneliness is one of those feelings where if you scratch the itch with the wrong scratcher, you will get temporary relief but the feeling will return until you scratch it with the right solution. Until you are clear on what you feel and why (a Feelings Diary is a good tool to use) and you address it in a healthier manner, the loneliness will increase and not recede. This is why people who soothe their loneliness with crumbs feel worse not better. They may end up believing that crumbs are all that they can get and deserve.
What does loneliness look like to you? Are you genuinely uncared for? Do you value the connections and life you do have? Is all of it about a romantic partner or are some of the things you’re feeling, thinking and needing about something else in your life? What is it that is missing? Work out how you feel and why, make sure you know your own needs and evaluate how you can meeting those needs in a healthy manner.
Relationships tend to look and feel a lot like relationships because there is mutuality present. Using looks and feels a lot like using because there is not. In fact, you may just feel like you are losing.
One of the issues that many people struggle with is recognising when they’re being used. I’m going to define ‘using’ as when a person avails themselves with something or someone as a means to their own ends. They exploit what they perceive as a vulnerability in order to gain an advantage.
There are circumstances in which it is quite obvious that you’re being used. For example, when somebody continually ‘lets’ you/expects you to pay for everything, takes all that you are willing to give and gives nothing in return; especially not even an acknowledgement of the relationship. Even once you feel like you may be being used, you may doubt yourself, especially if you tend to like to ‘see the best in people’ or you’re inclined to be a blame absorber.
Using often has an element of targeting to it. They recognise that a person can be of use and will exploit what they perceive as ‘vulnerabilities’, such as being too giving or trusting. Or, having the perfect ‘flaw’ that’s not a flaw like a ‘suddenly’ unpalatable age gap, race, religion, child etc.
Client share stories with me about people who come back into their lives after a long time (boomeranging exes) as well as tales of anxiety inducing relationships where they are bankrolling someone who is putting out to the world that he is a single guy. It’s easy to get caught up in whether one can truly expect to try to buy someone’s love and not get their fingers burnt when what they really want is to be loved unconditionally but there’s something very important being missed here:
Of all the people in all the world, why did they choose you with whom to act out this behaviour?
For example, a younger work colleague goes through a breakup and then starts flirting with you and then propositions you, you might feel flattered, especially if you’re not feeling that confident about your dating prospects. You might thinkAh, what the helland dive right in there for some fun and maybe it is fun for a while until you’re not able to keep your feelings in check. You tell him/her that your feelings have changed and they say… “I really like you but I just don’t think a relationship with our age gap would work” and it becomes clear that this is actually a strong value that they’ve always possessed, not something ‘inspired’ by you.
Now granted, it started out casual and I think we can overestimate our capacity for these involvements, telling ourselves “I can handle it!” because we delay dealing with reality and considering longer-term consequences for instant gratification and the fantasy. If one person no longer wants casual though, it’s no longer casual, it’s no longer a mutually fulfilling agreement and it’s very possible, it might never have been. While the age gap reasoning is a tad shady considering that it’s not like the age difference is new information, we can be generous and say that at least this person knows their values.
It’s the exact same thing when you get these fly-by-night’s getting back in touch to take you on a trip down memory lane, often approaching you on Facebook or with a text or joke email. Why, when they decided to flip through their mental Roladex of people who might be receptive to being approached and some flattery, did they think of you?
Here’s the issue though: If you’re in this situation, ask yourself why you were chosen and I assure you, it’s nothing to do with your ‘worth’ and everything to do with how the situation could work for the other party and yes, it’s very possible that they thought that you’d be ‘flattered’ that they chose you.
Most users when accused of being users, won’t hold their hands up to it simply because it’s not how they want to be perceived or what what they want to think about. They see their actions in a more benevolent light as if to say that they’re doing you some big favour and giving you a dose of their magical charm that for some reason they think you should be thrilled to get. They rationalise that you’re getting something out of it, even if what it is, isn’t much, or not what you wanted, or isn’t on mutual terms and has been ‘given’ in a manner that allows them to ‘profit’ from you even though you’ll feel increasingly drained. They overvalue what they think that they’re ‘giving’ you, but it’s not ‘giving’; it’s a hidden agenda. It’s also very patronising.
You’re being taken for a ride, possibly literally, and admitting that to ourselves can be painful. And this why so many people claiming that the reason why they feel used isn’t because they’re actually being used , but rather because something else happened isn’t anything to do with that person’s character or habit. It is more to do with the fact that they’re shy, introverted, stressed, The Busiest Person In The World, they don’t understand the depth of their feelings, they’re scared by their feelings, they used up all of their decency being nice to everyone else, they’re trying to find themselves, they just need to get a j.o.b., the market is bad, their mother/father/sibling is wearing down their last nerve, their car broke down, they couldn’t find a phone within a fifty mile radius, they didn’t have clean drawers…and so on and so forth.
I get it. It hurts to recognise and acknowledge that you’ve been used. You may have taken him/her at face value, trusted, given (even if it was misguided) and they put in hot air and as little as possible to get what they wanted.
Users are distinguishable from those people who maybe did start out with ‘good intentions’ and have screwed up, but recognised it and sought to make amends or at the very least stopped. Users are distinguishable by the fact that they’ll veer between seeking to get their needs, wishes and expectations met aggressively (by force), possibly with a smile on their face telling you how you’ll both benefit, or passive aggressively, through obstruction and basically saying one thing and doing another. They will not care about the impact on you because they will continue using until they’ve got what they want or you cut off their supply.
If you feel like you’re being used, then chances are it likely that you are being used. Friendship or a relationship feels and looks like friendship or a relationship. Using looks and feels like using. If you haven’t twigged that you’re being used but you’re subsisting on a crumb diet while they feast on the fringe benefits and then some, yeah, you’re being used.
If they’ve aligned themselves around you at a time when it suited their greater purpose of having a place to stay / money / a job / a reference or just seizing on a vulnerability that has you giving to a greater degree than you would under ordinary circumstances, you’ve been used. This is especially apparent if now that you no longer serve a purpose or have figured out what is going on, they’ve suddenly disappeared or try to flip the script.
Once you suspect or know that you’re being taken for a ride, it is time to stop, look, listen and adjust your boundaries. As the old adage goes, there comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump a puddle for you.
Sometimes, we make bad investments. When we continue to pursue someone who isn’t interested, or causes us more pain than good, we’re continuing to try to make the bad investment come good. Why? Perhaps so we don’t have to deal with the fact that we made a bad investment in the first place.
This requires looking beyond getting a return on our emotional investment and to the bigger picture of recognising whether we should stick or fold our hand. Recently, I’ve been working with a client on exploring his patterns of emotional investments using a gambling analogy to illustrate. Let’s continue to examine this theme and our actions from an investment or gambling perspective.
When we find ourselves with someone who not only is not reciprocal but also persists in crossing our boundaries whilst we try to get them to be better than what they are, until we get wise, they occupy the power-base. The power-base is the position of power within the relationship and if there is a tip in the balance of power in a relationship, the house (the person who holds the power-base) always wins.
When you bet at the emotional casino, it may look a little something like this. When they’re blowing hot, they may throw you out a couple of ‘wins’ and lure you into a false sense of security. This creates the promise of things getting better, and so you end up investing even more of yourself because you may reason that if you show them more, then they will show you more. Only when the hot turns to cold or you realise that the rewards of your investment are not bearing fruit, that it occurs to you that things are not going the way that you expected. Again. You’re no longer ‘up’ and may have gone past ‘breaking even’ to being ‘down’.
At this point, you can step back and ask yourself, “What is it that I want? Are my needs getting met? Is this how I want to feel? Am I being authentic? Or am I losing myself in my attempts to hold onto something that isn’t working? Whilst you will still hurt, you can choose to fold at this point. Although you have ‘lost’ a little, or even a lot on your emotional investment, you can curtail the damage and the sense of loss before it crosses into that territory where you lose all sense of perspective.
Alternatively, you can stick and keep hoping, willing, waiting, talking, discussing, pushing and whatever else you do to try to get the emotional investment to ‘come good’. When we stick with a bad emotional investment, holding on and refusing to accept that it may be bad for us, this actually causes more hurt and we can end up feeling as though we’ve lost our dignity. Imagine making a bad financial investment. Would you continue to invest money? Or, would you cut your losses before you do yourself any further financial damage?
That said, I do recognise that in relationships, it is not so easy to walk away. A lot of people have a casino mentality in that they gamble with big stakes (themselves) because they focus on the reward being so great that it will cancel out any pain that occurs along the way. Whilst it is a good thing to take risks in life, the reason why certain people are very good at it is because the risks are calculated. They do their homework and have a sense of trust in themselves that helps them to recognise where to stick or when to fold.
This is very different to taking risks on people with no real basis for placing so much trust and love in them.
If you emotionally invest in people who offer the least likely prospect for you to be treated with love, care and respect, the odds are stacked against you. This can be a little like betting on a three legged horse and wondering why it doesn’t run like a four legged one and win the race. Putting a three legged horse into a race and expecting it to win just because you loved it and invested time and energy in it probably wouldn’t turn out very well at all.
So why do we stick when we really should fold? The answer lies in the Justifying Zone (read: Cognitive Dissonance). This is that place that people go to after they sexually and/or emotionally invest and then feel like they have to continue to invest because they don’t want to feel that they made a poor judgement. This is why people stick when they really should fold. Either, we went in with a reasonable level of awareness and then discovered that they were not what we thought they were and are trying to get back to ‘the way things were’ because we hate feeling played. Or, we go in blindly, ignoring red flags or seeing them and assuming you could make them be different because this is more familiar territory for you.
When we stick when we should fold, it is because we are not seeing the bigger picture. Fear will be a primary driver behind all of this
When we’re looking at the good points instead of the whole person, the fleeting moments instead of the consistent actions, then we are chasing a feeling and trying to recreate and extend the highs. We are listening to words instead of seeing if the words match, and we are not considering what the wider implications are of what is happening and asking ourselves if this really works for us.
If you step out into oncoming traffic tomorrow, there is a high risk that you’re going to get run down. Also, if you keep buying three legged horses, there’s a high likelihood that they won’t get past the starting line. Likewise, if you keeping taking ‘risks’ with the same type of relationship partners, it’s a safe risk because you actually know the outcome. Part of this is about relationship insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and the he other part is about self-sabotage or a fear of change.
Many of us prefer the familiarity of the uncomfortable to the discomfort of the comfortable unknown. We would rather take a punt on a safe risk and believe that the reward is worth it, than take a punt on ourselves and go through change to experience the unknown. We end up doing things that are out of sync with ourselves and end up generating false results that are often painful. Pain is not love; it’s pain.
When we finally do decide to fold, it is in recognition of the bigger picture. The bigger picture means that we realise we would rather put ourselves through some pain to get happier sooner than hang around someone hoping to be happy one day whilst being miserable in the meantime. The bigger picture is you. Are you being involved with people that enrich your life? Are you able to have boundaries and values or do you have to shelve them in order to ‘stick’? Can we know when we feel good because we now understand when we feel bad? Are we in charge of our own lives instead of being dragged along by someone else?
If you have to justify, excuse and effectively bury you in order to accommodate someone else or your vision of a relationship, it is time to realise that you will never be happy or anything close if you have to ignore yourself.
We are all human and we make mistakes. Sometimes we make poor judgements about where to invest our emotional energy. We also have to know when something is good, rather than distrust it and recognise that there are some relationships that just won’t work. We can spend our lifetime trying to make a relationship work and get a person to ‘see’ us and ‘value’ us and be in a constant cycle of misery, or we can get wise about healthy relationships and ‘see’ the bigger picture and ‘value’ ourselves so that we recognise unhealthy situations for which the best option is to fold.
“Our suffering comes from our attachment to people and things, our repeated attempts to find something lasting where there is nothing lasting to be found.” Philip Martin
As a psychotherapist, I will often hear comments such as: I’ll be happy when I get that job; I’ll be happy when I get that handbag; I’ll be happy once I’ve achieved more than my peers; I’ll be happy when I’ve manifested money and success! Do any of these phrases resonate? Most of us live in a constant pursuit of happiness. If your basic needs are met and your life is not in any real and imminent danger, then chances are, you are more than likely searching for happiness and fulfilment in one way or another. Maybe we can reflect back on those times when maybe we didn’t need so much “stuff” to feel like we had made something of ourselves, feeling less than sucks and it is not hard to see how imagining all the stuff that would make us happy seems to ease this particular pain. However, what hurts even more is working hard to get all that stuff only to realise that the happiness that we thought would be there in the achievement didn’t come along with it.
Not unlike some of my clients and my readers, I too have played the wanting/buying/achieving game to fulfil my own version of happy before moving back to the wanting more game. Each time I’d play, I’d convince myself that this time I’d be happy forever with whatever it was that I coveted. The trap was a particularly deep one when it came to achievements that I sought. Granted, the duration of the happiness that resulted from those achievements lasted longer than it did when I bought things, but my point is that it still didn’t last forever. The logic ran something along the lines of, “If I could just get my next qualification/professional recognition with a really high mark, or get those qualifications faster than everyone else then that would prove that I am smart. If others see I am smart, then I’ll be happy forever!” Yeah, right. That didn’t work either. No matter how much I climbed, I felt as though I had got nowhere. Were there moments of fleeting joy? Yes and some of those achievements felt truly amazing…for a little while. And then it was back to planning what was to come next when I felt low again and interpreted that as not being done and needing an entirely new set of stairs to climb to find that lasting happiness.
What became apparent to me after much training, therapy and life experience was that happiness, as an enduring state of mind, is available at any time. It doesn’t need to be pursued. It is not something that requires being hunted down from the outside and then somehow assimilated within. It is not something that you find in the latest project or set of boxes to tick because once you have embraced yourself and the world around you, it already exists safely inside you. Achieving a state of acceptance or being is really the ultimate “gift” to yourself.
Let’s be clear, I am not disparaging achieving goals or wanting to do better. Far from it. I am all for shiny new things and accomplishments and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. However, if you are someone who tries to find happiness through an endless chase of those things then there’s something you might want to explore. It is in that Game of, ‘When this happens, then I’ll feel happy and fulfilled’ that the pursuit of happiness fails to deliver any happiness at all. It’s the expectation that meeting these objectives will bring you happiness forever that is the underlying problem. Why? Because when it doesn’t happen that way, you may end up more disappointed than you started. No matter what you fantasised about during those late nights of studying or long months of saving money or focusing on how to curate your ‘perfect’ life, it never feels quite like you dreamed it would. And that in itself is okay. It’s really okay if you let it be okay. It’s okay when you know that your journey is never over and chasing something that will give you an everlasting feeling is like trying to boil the ocean. If you know that happiness isn’t up for permanent, static keeps and that it doesn’t come from external rewards, then you won’t set yourself up for perpetual dissatisfaction.
Even if you were given everything you wanted, would it really make you constantly peaceful and happy? How many times have we heard from people who were perpetually chasing their next dream although they seemed to have it all already, and yet they still didn’t quite believe it was enough? The term for this is hedonic adaptation. This is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major events or life changes. Money can’t buy harmonious, fulfilling relationships with others. And it certainly doesn’t have the power to generate unconditional acceptance of self. As long as you measure your self worth in pounds and pence, then it will rise and fall in accordance with the success (or failure) of your latest enterprise.
If we can gain a clearer understanding of the underlying ways that we experience our lives, we’ll have a much better time living with all the uncertainty. We are constantly told that this or that will make us happy, but when you find yourself constantly crashing after a short lived high—as so many of us have—it may be time to wake up. Once you’re aware of the deception, you can be more aligned with your truth. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what brings more peace and fulfilment into your life. So much of what we do is designed to avoid pain or seek pleasure. Maybe if we can drop all of that, we can learn how to be happy before anything happens. This type of happiness is the happiness that you remember as a child or back when it wasn’t so important to keep chasing. It’s self-generated and not contingent on outside sources. It’s the opposite of the rat race.
The idea of hedonic adaptation holds that a person’s long-term happiness is not meaningfully affected by events. The concept suggests that we all have a personal happiness set point, and we generally maintain a constant level of happiness throughout our lives, in spite of whatever external events and circumstances take place. Shifting our set point means that we must begin by changing our mindset and shifting our values, goals and attention. As I see it, happiness is the lens through which I view my world, the ideas that I hold and the values I keep. It helps me to acknowledge that that even though I have goals, my happiness and fulfilment does not solely depend on whether or not I meet them. I constantly remind myself that nothing is permanent. What helps me the most is knowing that how happy I’ll be is up to me if you devote yourself to becoming high on life–or rather, give up getting high for truly getting happy–a far more lasting state of well-being awaits.
One of the most infuriating things about realising that you have been involved with someone where there were issues or red flags is feeling like you dropped the ball. Perhaps you wonder how someone who may have one or several degrees, run a successful business, be doing very well on their chosen career path, or be a good judge of character with ‘other people’ can be caught out by ‘love’.
You may think to yourself, ‘There’s no way in hell I’d put up with this crap from friends, family, or colleagues!’ and then muse that relationships and love are ‘different’. Or, you think ‘I’m in charge of people at work and so organised and in control of other areas of my life – why the hell can’t I get it together with my private life?’ Maybe you muse that it is because it is love and that is why it feels uncontrollable.
Here’s the thing; Being intelligent is not the same as emotional intelligence or even being relationship smart. The fact that you are intelligent only means something to the context of a relationship if you actually apply some of these skills to your relationships.
The reason why the disconnect may exist between general intelligence and relationships is because we make up different rules for relationships. We think ‘love’ requires exceptions to what we would do under ordinary circumstances, and we don’t live congruently with our values across all other areas of our lives.
There are plenty of people who are very intelligent or even moderately intelligent but they don’t have common sense. If you’ve seen people who seem super clever but do the oddest things that defy logic at times – that’s how a lot of people are about their relationships. In fact, lots of people believe that love doesn’t need logic.
What you begin to realise as you shed old habits is that actually, if you do have values and boundaries, love will follow logic and not have you doing crazy stuff to maintain ‘the dream’. And I should add, it’s not just women who experience this. I spoke to a male client recently whose whole distrust of himself and women is based on the fact that he made exceptions for someone who betrayed and made a fool out of him.
“I credit myself with a lot more intelligence and yet, I discovered that she was unbelievably sneaky and it galls me. Even when I was finding out about her schemes, I wanted to see the best in her.”
So what does this guy do now? He thinks he’s taking the intelligent approach by not only being risk averse but by setting ‘little tests’ for the women to see if they will turn shady on him. Sadly, if you feel the need to set tests, you’re already in No Mans Trust Land, which isn’t that clever really as you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If tomorrow, you make an error at work, the likelihood is that you’re not going to decide to never ever do that work task again or go in the house/do the same thing. Common sense and your own sense suggests that you learn from the mistake and adapt what you did to minimise the possibility or outright avoid the mistake happening again.
Being relationship smart means that at times you’ll make mistakes and errors in judgement and you may do stuff that is counterproductive to your own relationship success, but in having a level of awareness and consciousness about yourself and your interactions, you adapt your behaviour and learn from it, rather than repeating it and hoping it’ll work itself out without you getting uncomfortable.
Being smart at anything means that you have to get uncomfortable.
What do you need to be relationship smart?
1. Self-love and a reasonable level of self-esteem.
Recognise that true unconditional love starts with yourself and you cannot love or be loved, if you don’t like and love you.
2. Boundaries – knowing your limits.
Recognise that all relationships require boundaries and that we ourselves require limits, which in itself protects us from dangerous situations.
3. Awareness of the importance of values and your beliefs.
Recognise that you need to know who you are and what you need to live authentically but you also need to be understand your beliefs because what we believe is reflected in our actions which inadvertently impacts on living with our values.
4. Communication but also a willingness to recognise that we don’t all communicate in the same way.
Recognise that while you need to be willing to communicate, that you also need to recognise when you need to tell your message differently to make it clearer.
5. Eyes and ears open – not illusions or hearing but not listening.
Recognise that there is very little that we can do in life with our eyes and ears closed – when we do, we live unconsciously sleep walking through life waking up in bad situations.
6. Action and application – willingness to get out of being stuck rather than engage in relationship insanity.
Recognise that not only do actions speak louder than words but that we must not rely on others to change for our happiness and be willing to adapt and apply ourselves.
7. Ability to emotionally connect (real intimacy) combined with empathy.
Recognise that real intimacy and real connections come with opening ourselves up emotionally, not withholding ourselves and that we also need to be able to place ourselves in others shoes, but without getting lost in them or trying to wear them.
8. Acceptance that conflicts can and will arise.
Recognise that it’s wholly unrealistic to avoid conflict as you will habitually compromise yourself and your values – NO is not a dirty word.
9. A reasonable level of trust in yourself and in others.
Recognise that you need to have a core baseline of trust and you use signals learned from listening and watching to increase or decrease trust and make assessments of the situation – that’s trusting yourself and having faith in how others will act, but adjusting when they don’t match up.
10. Respect, for others but also for yourself.
Recognise that if you don’t respect yourself you will invite disrespect but that also through remembering the importance of respect, you will accept people as they are and respect their differences, even if it signals the end.
Apply these life skills and you can change yourself and your experiences. Any questions…do drop them in the comment box or use the contact page.
When we make other people’s behaviour about us, not only are we distorting our own perspective, but we are also not seeing the wood for the trees. Often, I hear from people who have gotten all territorial about their ex’s, who are wondering, Why him/her and not me? What’s wrong with me?
Women in particular, often perceive closure as something that they are owed when the man they thought would be theirs forever has taken up residence elsewhere. Let me use a basketball analogy to illustrate this. When a player becomes an unrestricted free agent, he casually tests the market interest. He knows he would be okay to stay on his current team and they’re willing to re-sign him. He will get offers but ultimately, the team thinks they know exactly what will keep him in their jersey. When a new team in a bigger market comes along, offering not only the money what he wants, but a multi-year deal and a chance to make it past May, the home team’s offer is now chump change to him. Despite the familiarity and the relationships he’s built up on that team, loyalty is now just a word.
Closure is a pseudo chess match that a woman will lose at every single time. Moreover, a woman’s opinion of herself is often self-righteous and very forgiving. In spite of her flaws, she thinks any man, especially that man, would be honored she chose him. Let’s be transparent; the weather changes and friends become strangers passing in the night. At some point, as a woman who wants to maintain some form of dignity, you have to accept defeat gracefully.
In these situations, we tend to forget that they’ve probably been with several people so there are several people who could be wondering exactly the same thing. We can get stuck on the why about those situation-ships that didn’t come to fruition due to our feelings not being reciprocated, never mind the people we actually had something with. So, it is easy to see how we can get completely carried away with this distorted thinking if we do not take control over our ego.
For example, imagine that we are ex#1 and wondering why they were with ex#2, 3 and 4 and we are feeling jealous that they are currently with #5 and agonising over what they could possibly have that we don’t. We might even take it as an additional insult that it hasn’t worked out with #2-4 and yet they haven’t come back to us, or that we’re the rainy day option that they fall back on between relationships but then they move onto the next ‘future ex’. We’re so busy giving ourselves a hard time over these ‘amazing future’ exes and this better relationship that we feel entitled to with them, that we’re only too willing to hang around.
For all we know, those same ex’s are judging themselves against us and/or wondering what’s wrong with them. We’re acting like there’s something deeply flawed within us as if to suggest that if we’d been “good enough” or even perfect enough, that they would not have even had to dabble elsewhere – we have an I Must Get It Right First Time mentality but we’re also under the impression that it’s another person that makes a person, so if we’d been able to change them or we’d been ‘good enough’ in the first place, then there wouldn’t have been the issues that we’re now conveniently forgetting.
Wondering why people choose someone else makes everything about us, when not everything is about us. It is like assuming that an ex is forever using us as a benchmark on which to make all of their dating and relationship decisions. We are only imagining that our involvement with them is at the forefront of their mind because we are likely still stuck on the hurt and perceived rejection that we’ve been beating ourselves with ever since. In fact, it is us benchmarking us.
Imagine that we’re ex#7 – if we’re feeling this way, how are 1-6 supposed to feel? Less than worthless? How many ex’s past us would it take to realise that it’s not about us? #9, #15, #20? What would it be? How much ‘proof’ do we need? Whilst we are wondering, ‘Why them and not me?’, does this mean that all of our exes should be losing sleep over each other?
People say to me, ‘What’s wrong with me? He/she broke up with me X amount of years ago and has been married X times since. I don’t get it. They didn’t want to marry me.’ HE-LLO! They’ve been married however many times since! How much does our ego really need to say that we were one of the people that someone chose to get married to? The fantasy that she should, would, and could have been the exception to the rule is just that; a fantasy. Another wondered why her shady boyfriend played around behind her back (because he’s shady) instead of staying with her (because he’s shady) and felt tortured that he was off living some imagined fairy tale with that same woman.
Sometimes we forget that we’re not the only ex. Sometimes we forget that not everything is about us. We’re too busy convincing ourselves that others are the embodiment of all that’s ‘better’ than that which we convince ourselves that we’re not, that we also forget that we can do better. I’m pretty sure that every woman has been a practice girlfriend. You let a guy, that you were attracted to and saw yourself with long-term, take up substantial time in your life. All the while he was slowly moulding himself to be the perfect catch for someone else. Eventually, the man has moved on and is trying to do everything right that he didn’t do for you with this new woman.
Any breakup that wasn’t expected and/or mutual is going to hurt. It is a jarring blow to your entire system of emotions when you find out that the same guy who wasn’t ready to settle down/just wanted let things happen is enamored with a new woman. You have to find it within you to realise that a) maybe the timing wasn’t right or maybe b) she has something you don’t and he likes it. What that “it” she possesses is isn’t your concern. Personally, I do not think that guys owe women closure. Closure is a little band-aid created by women as means to soften the blow of rejection. The moment you can get to the point where your ability to pick up the pieces and move forward doesn’t depend on someone giving the whys and hows of a love deferred, you will realise that this little closure thing doesn’t have the power to heal it; you do. Sometimes, we need to see past our nose to recognise what we’re being spared from – blessings in disguise
Picture this, Rhodes, Greece, 2015: It is a few months before I would have the epiphany that would cause me to change my life and before I would start writing this blog in earnest. I am on holiday with my sister and we are looking for a club to go to after spending time in a bar owned by Rhodes’ answer to Rik Mayall and giggling hysterically at two guys wearing matching trainers that made them look like they were wearing flippers. Anyway, I digress.
We walk through the narrow streets, following the beat of the music escaping from various doorways each time the door is opened. After checking out a few places, we stop at a club with a plasma screen outside that was playing what we thought was live footage of the packed club inside. The guy on the door was was doing a hard sell. To be fair, the footage was pretty compelling and he promised an amazing deal for us. So you can probably guess what happened next; we got inside to discover that we were two of about six people in the whole club. We were fuming!
Back to the present day, I see parallels between the whole inviting footage/plasma-TV-outside-a-club scenario and dating/relationships. When we’ve just met someone and we are in the early stages of dating or we are setting out in our new relationship, we may get what we think is a dazzling preview of the amazingness to come. They are so full-on and busy painting this picture of being The Perfect Potential Boyfriend/Girlfriend TM or The Perfect Potential Spouse, that we reason that this is what we can expect from them in the future.
When days (yes, really), weeks or months pass and they do a complete u-turn on who they presented as or what they promised, we are baffled, wounded and left thinking that we just need to get things to go back to how they were in the beginning. This Future Faking (building up and faking a future so they can get what they want in the present) and Fast Forwarding (being emotionally, physically etc., intense to speed you through the early stages of dating), messes with our heads.
The people pleaser in us cannot help but blame it on us having done something to scare them away as if character and intentions leave a person as quickly as they can drop their drawers to the ground. We then try to overcompensate for what will undoubtedly be becoming an unfulfilling partnering and feel as if we’re getting increasingly diminishing returns in a relationship where it used to be so ‘easy’.
The whole experience can erode our confidence and cause us to be reluctant about subsequent involvements and prone to settling for less than what we need. We may reason that if we go low in terms of expectation, then that is safer than going ‘high’ and getting disappointed. However, you’d be amazed how lowering our expectations into crumb territory can not only be disappointing, but that it can wound us even more. How much lower do I have to go to get some love up in here?
Expectations are beliefs about what we think will and should happen. We may believe that we have experience of the person meeting our expectations, so we don’t understand why they can’t go back to how it was ‘back then’. The thing is, they weren’t meeting our expectations in the beginning. It was a brand new involvement where we did not know them. They didn’t change; you just got to know them.
In some cases, it’s not they changed, but more that we got to know them a teeny bit more and that they were in very real danger of us seeing past the bluff. In the early days, they could pretty much tell us anything and as long as it was positive and fitted with our picture of how things should and could be, we’d go along with it.
They also go so hard at trying to woo us and win us over that instead of wondering about why things were happening so fast, we allow ourselves to create this unrealistic expectation that someone could blow in on the wind and make a bunch of inferences and promises without having really got to know us and that they would deliver on it.
And that is why we feel so wounded because ‘in the beginning’, they didn’t know us so ipso facto, it must be ‘knowing’ us that caused them to do a u-turn. However, like the guy outside the club with the plasma screen of dated footage (that probably didn’t even take place in his own club) doing a hard sell on getting us in there, isn’t it time that we acknowledge that actually, it is a fundamental lack of integrity and maturity Moreover, we can give permission to ourselves to ask more questions or to quite simply know our pace and what we want so that we can’t be bulldozed by someone into going at a pace that doesn’t match our values.
Dodgy club guy knew that he was pulling a fast one.
And, I hate to break it to you, but people who go all super intense on you at the beginning and try to speed through the getting to know, have form for their behaviour. It’s not the first time they’ve behaved this way and they’re stuck in their own getting high on romance Groundhog Day whilst avoiding the intimacy of taking one’s time.
You also have to acknowledge a fundamental truth: that you don’t like what you got to know or that it is not what you want(ed). Sure, you can take responsibility for allowing you to get swept up in their whirlwind and you can acknowledge anything that influenced those choices, but what you must stop doing is blaming something you supposedly said or did on their lack of integrity and maturity.
Even if we had asked whether the footage that was being shown on the screen was live, it wouldn’t change the fact that a con was being pulled in the first place. When you find yourself wondering why they changed from being that great person, remember this: they didn’t change, they just showed you who they really are.
During my extended period of singledom, I have dated and been in ‘relationships’ that were really total shambles and considered a relationship based on the time that passed in nothingness and ambiguity, not through the actual building of anything. It took writing about my experiences, reading through them and noting the patterns to put the stops in place and make a conscious decision to stop engaging in the unavailable bullsh*t and either be single and happy, or with a guy that is available and be happy. I chose the later.
The first thing that should be cleared up is that nice guys are not waiting for you to come along so that they can roll over, declare their undying love for you, and pander to your every whim. They’re men, which means that it’s likely that they can be a pain in the proverbial, but the type of annoying things that they do are very different to your average Mr Unavailable or out-and-out Bad Boy.
Nice Guys get a bad rap because sometimes, we have got it into our head that there is something far more fulfilling to be had with a man that isn’t very good at fulfilling us. We often forget that if we’re expecting things to be out of the fairy tales or the movies, the bad guy doesn’t get the girl, the nice one does.
A nice guy will strive as often as possible to say what he means and mean what he says. Yes there may be times where he messes up as the communication between the sexes does tend to go awry. However a ‘Nice Guy’, if he likes you will make an effort to try. He will call you, and not because he’s looking for a filler for his evening but because being with you makes his whole evening, or makes his whole week in fact.
They tend to make sure that the path is free and clear for you both to tread on instead of attempting to juggle you with another woman. Even if he happens to be in a relationship when you meet him, because he has morals, because he is attempting to start out on the right footing, he will put an end to the other relationship pronto and without you threatening all sorts of outcomes.
Nice Guys don’t come out with BS like, ”I’d love to be with you, but you know my situation’. In fact, the dreaded word ‘situation’ doesn’t feature because he doesn’t make things difficult for himself. Some Nice Guys are open about their feelings, they show their keenness, and ambiguity is a foreign word with them….and this scares away women. This is seen as being super-keen or weird because for some idiotic reason, some think that the way to show interest to a woman is to either be vague about it or not show any at all.
There are lots of different people out there which means that you get extroverts and introverts, nice guys and erm, the rest. Nice Guys are exciting but ‘excitement’ to a lot of women means that the guy treats them mean and keeps them keen, maybe he lives life on the edge a little, bit irresponsible, needs fixing, and they think he needs nurturing to change his errant behaviour.
Nice Guys take their pleasures from enjoying the good things in life but not at the expense of someone who they profess to care about, and they ultimately don’t feel comfortable with having no regard for someone else’s feelings. When they do hurt someone’s feelings, they genuinely feel bad about it because they’re in touch with their feelings and not just thinking about what suits them.
I must admit, I have loved being single and I was scared of what it would be like to be in a relationship because I do enjoy my me-time. I have a full on career with many interweaving branches to it, that is not only my passion but keeps me busy; I have my groups, my writing and developing my sites, plus a busy social life with various circles of friends, plus my other interests, layer all of this with a happy ability to be on my own for lengthy periods of time. I’ve done what I want, when I want and the only person I have had to be accountable for is myself. I spread out in the bed, sometimes leave the tidying to build up a little, snicker at trashy TV, plus I have my blankets to snuggle into on the sofa. I sometimes lay around in knickers and a t-shirt watching TV and I shop to my hearts content and don’t have to lie about the cost of things to anyone.
I have been very antsy about relinquishing my freedom and time. I have laid in bed on a Saturday with a past squeeze and felt anxiety grip me as I worried about when I was going to go to the gym, do the groceries and update my blog. Like a number of single people I know, I would be practically rushing someone out the door so I could regain my space equilibrium.
It’s weird because I acknowledge that for the first time in a long time, I am very comfortable and have very little anxiety. Normally there is an undercurrent, which means that no matter how much of a laugh that I had with a past squeeze, underneath it there was the irritability and anxiety caused by a secret knowledge that the whole thing wasn’t right for me. They were never part of my life and just fixtures that I squeezed in on an ad hoc basis. After a while, I got bored and had to acknowledge that it was my own fault that I had even been in these situations in the first place.
As humans we can be very territorial over people, objects, ideas, dreams, and often over ourselves. When we don’t want to let someone in, we just won’t and our actions become our self protection. We fight for our perceived space, our perceived life and values and wonder why we still don’t feel right. Sometimes you have to wonder are we fighting them, or ourselves?
It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes someone so different and makes it worth crossing the vast divide into coupledom, but being in the presence of someone who takes a genuine interest, isn’t trying to just get their leg over and have something casual, and who is emotionally available has a hell of a lot to do with it. I suspect that in the past I may not have recognised or appreciated these qualities in a guy, and gone for the edgier absentee. A nice guy can provide an edge to make you sit up and pay attention.
Ultimately what really determines a nice guy is that the woman isn’t spending the relationship feeling insecure about the status of the relationship, where he is, what he’s doing when she’s not about, and she doesn’t feel that sense of unease and lack of self-worth that’s associated with dating Mr Unavailables and Bad Boys. It’s definitely a better experience.
Note to all: Don’t forget where you came from, you may have to go there some time.
Apologies for the radio silence. I’ve spent the past week taking a much needed break by the sea. Pure heaven. In the peace and quiet of a small Cornish bay, I’ve found myself thinking about my next post, reading and thinking about addictions and getting clean. Any 12 step programme or treatment facility will tell you that any re-engagement with an addictive substance, by a recovering addict, will cause an automatic re-addiction. The same applies to an addiction to love or to a specific person.
High risk relationships, like one in which you are repeatedly crashing and soaring, (breaking up and getting back together) affect the same parts of the brain as a drug addiction. Mashek (2010) concluded that the similarities between addictive substances and love-sex based attachments rely upon the same psychological, chemical and neuroanatomical substrates. The goal for recovering addicts is a cessation of usage of the addictive substance, similarly when one is trying to break free from an emotional manipulator, you need to approach it the same way.
When you need to step back from an unhealthy relationship and employ No Contact (NC) after the breakup, irrational fears and beliefs can often provide the trigger for you to either break NC or decide that there’s no point in starting it at all. I hear from many clients who have been going back and forth with an ex; some for a few months… and others for a few decades. Variations of the irrational fears and beliefs highlighted below keep them on the disappointment cycle. It is only once you stop treating the irrational as rational and recognise where you may be opening yourself up to more pain and keeping further away from a healthy relationship, that you can finally stop the torture and begin to use boundaries for self-care and breaking the pattern.
1. If I cut contact, it will make them realise what they’ve lost.
If they have to lose you to value you, the relationship isn’t going to work no matter which way you slice it. You should not have to be like the umbrella that someone keeps misplacing for this person to notice the absence of you from their life.
When you cut contact in an attempt to what essentially boils down to coercing him/her into the position that you want, it’s an attempt to mess with supply and demand. If you cut contact in order to make him/her want you more, you’re believing that the way to prevent your relationship from ending is to end it, although this means that you then have to keep ending it or at least threatening to, in order to generate the demand. Exhausting work. It’s also important to point out that unavailable people respond to loss of control by chasing you…and get back in control by pulling back and managing down your expectations or exiting.
The lesson: Breaking up whether it’s done via the traditional route or you have to do NC, is to end a relationship. Don’t use it as a means of attempting to force people to do what you want.
2. If I’m eliciting responses / crumbs of attention it means that they’re thinking about me.
This is how you end up chasing them crumbs and being chained to your phone checking for texts and emails. People who require NC often engage in this low-level contact and dribbling crumbs of attention with about as much effort as ordering a pizza. They’re very of the moment and what you actually need for a loving relationship is for the other party to show that they want you by being in a relationship with you and treating you with love, care and respect.
The lesson: Having a full-on relationship instead of trying to stay in someone’s mind is always the better option, something you’re not going to discover in a new relationship if you keep chasing crumbs. Also there are better ways to be remembered than emails and texts – someone doesn’t have to forget about you if they’re in the relationship with you.
3. Cutting them off will make them change or trigger remorse, which will in turn make them give me the relationship I want / that they promised me.
It might make them give it to you for a short period of time, but it’s important to remember that the type of person that requires NC equates desiring you with feeling out of control of you. Next thing you know, you’re getting hearts, flowers, and violins and a sudden change in behaviour and think, Oh, they really get my pain this time…, and you get back together and then shazam, it’s a matter of hours, days, or weeks before the rot starts to set in again. NC is to end a relationship not to force someone into giving what people in even moderately healthy relationships give without coercion.
The lesson: If the only way that you think that you can get them to feel remorse or change is to end it, this relationship is not worthy of your time. They are not a child. Stop trying to raise an adult from the ground up!
4. Once I feel a bit better, we can be friends again.
This ‘ole chestnut is the fastest way to send one of those lazy texts or emails to reach out, only to find yourself being burned again. How much better you feel is subjective. The idea of grieving a relationship is not to make way for their friendship, it is for you to make way for you so that you can move on. Far too much emphasis is put on finding a way to be friends again. Friendship is organic! If you’re going to be friends, it will happen without being forced and when you’re both back in neutral territory. That said, if there are very shady reasons for why you have to cut them off in the first place, I wouldn’t exactly be breaking your neck to be friends.
Be your own friend first. Focus on you. If you try to be friends before you are enough of the way along in the healing process to be too impacted if they don’t behave as you’d like, you will reopen your wound. If you’ve got friendship on your mind, it’s likely a sign that you need to refocus your energy.
The lesson: Friendship is what happens, 1) when you’re over them and 2) they have shown themselves to be friendship worthy, neither of which the object of NC is at this time.
5. They don’t realise how much I was affected and how inappropriate their behaviour was/is.
Yes they do. They might claim not to realise it consciously, but the fact is that only someone who is incredibly emotionally immature and a responsibility dodger, would have no clue about how, 1) inappropriate their behaviour was / is or, 2) how affected you are. If you genuinely believe that they don’t recognise this, you have no business trying to have an adult relationship with them.
We cannot bumble through life as if our actions have no impact on others. Transacting from your Adult ego state means being aware and acting with integrity, empathy, compassion, responsibility, and accountability. Let me assure you that if you mistreated them, you’d soon know all about it! They know. Stop treating them like a child.
If they can’t empathise without you dragging them to it like a horse to water, you can’t have a relationship with this person.
NC is the way of communicating that the relationship is over and that their behaviour has affected you, but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to do anything with the realisation. If you’re making excuses for someone, then you’re absolving them of responsibility. This will deal a fatal blow to any ideas that you have for a healthy relationship with them.
Ghosting is when someone breaks up with you by effectively disappearing off the face of the Earth. They don’t text, they don’t call and they don’t answer their door when you drunkenly hammer at it at 3am. The ghost does not give an explanation of any sort, leaving the ghosted wondering where he or she went wrong. My word, how cruel! This phenomenon isn’t new, of course daters in the good old days sat by their curly-corded phones waiting for their ghosts to call and assumed that call must have come when he or she was out of the house.
When we need to break up with someone, there’s a temptation when faced with the prospect of acknowledging a partner’s position and how we might be impacting them, to just dodge the conversation altogether. Some people feel this way but face it anyway. Some people drop hints in the hopes that by hinting at issues or behaving badly, that the other person will do their dirty work. And some people disappear or what is commonly referred to as ‘ghosting’.
Over the last few months, I’ve heard from an increasing number of people who referred to ‘ghosting’ or being ‘ghosted’ and it’s important to get something clarified right off the bat: Ghosting is not a form of breaking up nor is it the same as No Contact. Ghosting is disappearing. Breaking up is when a person ends the relationship and No Contact is for after a breakup when it becomes apparent that healthy boundaries are not possible and that remaining in contact is destroying sense of self and the ability to process the loss and move forward. Disappearing isn’t exactly a display of courage and is most likely to be done by someone who is not that emotionally mature or emotionally available.
It is uncomfortable to let someone down, to admit that this isn’t what we want anymore or that our feelings have changed. It is also necessary. People who ‘ghost’ learn nothing because they edit and erase themselves out of relationships without confronting anything. It is not even necessarily about doing things from a ‘bad’ place (although there are some incredibly shady people who employ ‘ghosting’ so that they never face consequences and instead press the reset button); it is about doing things from a place where fear, cowardice or excessive concern about how we look or our discomfort trumps integrity and compassion very time.
Many ghosts reason that they didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the ghosted. Really? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that whilst feelings get hurt in a breakup, disappearing sucks. What a ghoster fails to acknowledge is that they cut and run because they don’t want to hurt their own feelings. They end up throwing their partner under a proverbial bus so that they can box away their feelings and draw a line under things on their terms.
It’s about control, as in attempting to feel in control of the situation in their head rather than having to deal with an unpredictable foreign object like another human who they’ve made plans, promises, exchanged bodily fluids with, and inferred all manner of things via the interaction. They’re in control of the story because disappearing means that the ghosted does not get the chance to talk back with their version of events. Additionally, it means that they don’t have to be interacted with. I couldn’t help but analyse this phenomenon further and I noted the following about ghosters:
- They tell you what they think you want to hear, which in their world means “Don’t tell me anything bad”, forgetting that you’ll take the truth over the lie or disappearing, any day.
- They keep things to themselves and store it up, all while giving you their show face and then next thing, boom–they’re gone. In their head, the ‘issues’ have been going on for a long time and couldn’t be resolved, but you found out at the end and didn’t get a chance to resolve.
- They might set tests that you don’t even know you’re taking. e.g. I’ll know I should stay if they _______ today or they say _____. If they ________, then that seals it for me. I’m off. If you pass, they set another test.
- They have negative associations with conflict and criticism and so either don’t argue or discuss, or they do but it’s limited because they’re not in the present.
- They often reason that not talking about feelings or what’s bothering them means that no feelings are being hurt in the running or breakage of a relationship.
- They often have someone else lined up. It might just be interest, it might be an ex, it might be an emotional affair, or it might be a full-blown one but they’re the type who don’t leave unless they think (or know) that they have somewhere else to go to.
- They might gas-light you. Whether it’s unintentionally (and they’re on thin ice there) or deliberately, the net result is the same: because they dismiss your concerns, tell you everything is OK, say one thing, do another, and even make out as if you’re being a drama queen/king and you don’t know your up from your down. Hell, some will even sleep with you before they check out of your life.
If you’ve been ghosted, what I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty is that it’s not about you or that you did something to deserve such treatment. It is not about whether you’re “good enough”. It is about that person’s own journey with conflict, criticism, rejection and disappointment. No, it isn’t nice what they’ve done and yes, the decent thing would be to give an explanation, but their inadequate style of ending a relationship doesn’t reflect an inadequacy within you. The one who is in danger of seeing right through the facade of a ghoster (who does not want to see themselves) is the one who will get the disappearing act.
Many people wear masks. Courtesy demands that others treat us with integrity, honesty and merit; enough to overcome personal fear and insecurity. The least anyone deserves is information. The problem with a ghoster is that they have become so good at hiding their feelings and opinions from others and putting up a front that they’ve forgotten the lie is a lie. You may or may not have been aware of their mask (hindsight gives 20:20 vision) but disappearing means that for you, you have to drop the mask from the picture that you hold of them. They haven’t gotten off scot-free. You can run but you can’t hide from your feelings and life will find a way to bring the disappearing acts into the light for resolution.
Don’t disappear on yourself in your haste to blame you. The lesson here, if there is one might be to perhaps observe and listen to your intuition. To be vigilant without being wary requires delicate balance, an equilibrium developed over years of listening to the self in wordlessness. Honing a sense of the self enables us to sense a true or false connection and attunes to the presence of another sentient being yet unknown. This charged awareness and clarity allows us to assess safety or danger. Buddha proclaimed it beautifully. Suffering, though inevitable, is minimised in the mindful. And happiness is freedom from delusion; when we open ourselves to all that can be known. Even ghosters can teach us something about ourselves.