How Are You Spending Your Life?
TIME AND ENERGY
Life is really no more than a certain limited amount of time and energy.
We make choices – every second – about how we spend that time and energy.
To have a better life we must make better choices about how we use our time and energy.
WHERE WE GET OUR ENERGY
We get our energy from taking care of our bodies well enough.
For the purposes of this topic, we will be assuming that you are physically healthy
and that you take good enough care of your body so that you have plenty of energy.
(See “Guidelines for Emotional Health,” another topic in this series, if you need to learn about physical needs.)
LOVE AND ATTENTION – OUR NATURAL PRIORITY
Once we have plenty of physical energy, our next natural priority in life is to get enough love and attention.
Love and attention are often referred to as “strokes.”
TIME AND “STROKES”
We’ve all heard that risk is related to reward.
If we don’t risk in poker, or in our careers, or in sports, we know we can’t possibly win.
The same is true emotionally and socially.
Here’s how it works….
THE FIVE WAYS WE SPEND OUR TIME:
- Psychological Games.
DEFINITIONS AND EXAMPLES:
WITHDRAWING is not interacting at all.
Example: “Staring off in space” at a party, with no awareness of the other people there.
WORKING is a matter of simply doing things, with the only interaction being about the task at hand.
Example: Assembly line workers who don’t socialize but do discuss who should grab the next item on the line.
A PROCEDURE is a totally predictable way of interacting with others.
Example: “How are you?” — “Fine.”
“Did you see that game yesterday.” — “Yeah. Great, huh?”
PSYCHOLOGICAL GAMES are far less predictable and personal ways of interacting.
Here are some examples of statements that signal the start of a “Game”:
1) “Isn’t this a lousy place to work?”
2) “You don’t love me anymore….”
3) “Why do you always _______”
In all games the response will be rather strong agreement or disagreement, and will be taken personally.
Each person will feel that something important is at stake, but they will avoid feeling “connected” or intimate with each other – which is what they feared from the beginning.
INTIMACY is direct and intense emotional contact. Neither person thinks they know what’s going to happen next, although they both deeply want it to be good and fear it will be bad. When attempts at intimacy go poorly, we feel horrible. When attempts at intimacy go well, we feel so good that the only thing we can say about it is something like: “Wow! That was great!”
Examples: Looking deeply into the other person’s eyes as they look into yours.
Sharing your darkest secrets with a friend, and being totally accepted.
RISK VS. REWARD
It is, of course, impossible to put some number on a thing like “strokes” or even on this kind of risk.
But please understand that the amount that you risk does determine the amount of your reward.
Have you every wondered why people play so many “psychological games”? Now you know.
Most people are afraid of the risks of intimacy – but they still want and need strokes.
As nasty as psychological games can be, and as unfulfilling as they usually are,
people keep trying them because there is a major payoff compared to everything other than intimacy.
And only the healthiest among us are willing to risk true intimacy.
TAKE BIGGER RISKS AND GET MORE ATTENTION AND STROKES
Unless you already feel overburdened with too much attention:
* Decrease the amount of time you spend in withdrawal, work, and procedures,
* Avoid psychological games because they will backfire eventually,
* Increase the time you spend in true intimacy.
If you ever feel too afraid to risk more, ask yourself:
Is it your current, real world that’s so risky?
Or is it that you are only too afraid because of past disappointments and rejections?
If it’s the past that’s bothering you so much, ask yourself:
“Have I learned enough from the past to risk again?”
(If not, get professional help to evaluate your past experiences.)
Don’t waste another day without the attention and affection you want!
Don’t waste your life direction!