Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Extreme Nice Game

I have started playing a game on my way to work, I am calling it Extreme Nice.  I try to intentionally think only nice things about everything and everyone.  I will drown my judgment in a sea of rainbows and unicorns.

Feeling fake is one of the things I have struggled with in the past, and yes, this feels extremely fake.  I don’t want to pretend to be happy, I want to be genuinely happy.  I’m trying to think of it as learning instead of faking it.  From what I’ve read so far it is believed that an attitude shift doesn’t have to come from some life altering experience in which new perspective and appreciation is discovered.  More often it is done through repetition. 

Yes I know writing lines on the blackboard didn’t seem to work for Bart Simpson, but he’s also an animated frozen in time child so find a better example haters!

The idea is that you consciously make an effort to repeatedly think certain thoughts and over time it stops being a forced effort and comes naturally.  I saw an example of this the other night while watching the Devil wears Prada on TV.  First assistant Emily was very sick and after being criticized by her boss goes back to her desk and repeats to herself, “I love my job, I love my job, I love my job.”

Last month I discussed that in an attempt to be less negative I have accidentally trapped myself in the personality-less neutral zone.  If I didn’t have anything nice to say I didn’t say anything at all.  Extreme nice is my attempt to push my self out of the silent neutral zone and into the positive zone.

The challenge with the game so far is that the majority of nice things I think about the people I see on my walk home or on the train are superficial.  I don’t have conversations with all these random people, so I’m mostly trying to find something positive about the way they look or carry themselves.  Other times I try to think about how almost every person on this train has a family, has a story.  I try to imagine the paths everyone takes each day, the highs and lows they all experience.  It helps to be more patient and understanding of the person who’s being a jerk to you on the phone or the guy that cut me off in traffic if I can think of them as people and not just some jerk that vaporized out of thin air with the sole intent of pissing me off.  I haven’t yet mastered always finding this train of thinking in the heat of the moment, but I’m getting better.

Yesterday I got a letter from my university about the program I left and how my voluntary withdrawal has been denied and they are putting instead something along the lines of being forced to withdrawal on my permanent record.  I found the letter a little confusing but the impression I got was that this would have some sort of negative consequence for me in the future.  I feel the program is fundamentally flawed and as a result the students suffer; this was just one more thing to add insult to injury.  I was immediately annoyed when I read it and this annoyance festered for a solid half an hour before I told myself to stop it.  This is university politics, it’s probably just a formality and there’s nothing you can do about it.  If it affects paths you want to take it the future then you will just have to find other paths.  You have removed yourself from this toxic environment, don’t waste your energy, let it go.

I think this shows progress.  Normally I would’ve stressed about it for a few days, called my mother in frustration, possibly emailed my university program advisor or student advocacy to see what my options were.  All of these options require me taking on the role of victim and it is my experience that it is a flawed system and I would waste a lot of energy accomplishing nothing .  Instead I was able to let in go in a couple of hours.

In a less successful example I lost my patience with a friend of mine a couple days ago.  I avoided lashing out at her (by lashing out at another friend) but the conversation left me extremely annoyed for a full day afterwards.  Two days in a row I failed in my resolution of no complaining over it.  I just couldn’t let it go, and it wasn’t even a big deal.  I think it shows that I need to learn to not immediately react to things.  I have a very short temper and the right trigger will cause me to fly off the handle instantly.  I’m finding if I just wait, do something else for a couple hours or sleep on it I usually find that it doesn’t really matter and am often glad when I didn’t say anything.

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