Trained for Discouragement
I was sitting at a friend’s house as her family talked about a twenty-five-mile charity walk one of the sisters was training for with her friends. My friend’s sister explained how she and her friends met every day after work to practice long distance walking. She was excited and felt good about the challenge in front of her and the charity that would benefit from her hard work and dedication. Amazingly, her mother only said one thing; Ha! Don’t know how you’re going to manage that!
It seems we tend to discourage each other more than we encourage each other. I see it time and again in families, but it happens in other relationships, too. Why do we do this? Perhaps we do it because we believe ourselves to be incompetent or inadequate. Believing we are inadequate is painful to us and quite frankly, damn discouraging. To relieve ourselves of this pain, even if only momentarily, we project our beliefs of incompetency and discouragement onto others. When we do this, we are, in effect, projecting our internal pain onto the outside world. We might even think we have actually given our pain away.
To understand this mechanism better, we can say it works like this: while we are busy discouraging someone else, we forget that we are also discouraged. Voila! Pain relief—which is okay if you like fooling yourself. The truth is, we can never give away the pain from such beliefs. It belongs to us until we stop believing in whatever it is that causes the pain. How can we do that?
We have to see that we are only trained to believe we are incompetent, inadequate or lacking in any way. There is no truth in these beliefs. Instead, such beliefs of inadequacy, the resulting discouragement, and the projection of it onto others is nothing more than a sick, twisted game, the sole purpose of which is to keep us from remembering how fantastic we really are. The only way to get rid of the pain is not to play the game. This opens the way for nothing but encouragement for each other and ourselves.
A Case of Myopia
In the world where we believe we are incompetent, discouragement seems natural, not only as a reaction to others, but also as we react to ourselves. I know I have experienced this myself when I felt like I wasn’t good enough. For instance, in the past, sitting at a Board meeting with my largest client, I have often felt as though I was less valuable than everyone else sitting at that table. Why? Who knows. But my mind certainly made up reasons for it. Those reasons weren’t any truer than the feeling of being inadequate itself. Not understanding this game of the trained mind at the time, I often felt discouraged and drained.
This same pattern of thinking repeated in my relationships, too. It seemed that, no matter who I was dating, I consistently felt inadequate and undermined, which left me feeling discouraged. As an example, I might have said, It’s a beautiful day. I think I’ll head out for a bike ride. My partner’s reply back then would have been, You don’t want to do that, you were just at the gym yesterday. Why do you want to work out every day? Well, my answer could have been, Why not? but I didn’t feel good about myself back then so I was easily discouraged. I didn’t go for the bike ride based on my partner’s comment. It was as if my idea was stupid and I bought into that assessment because it validated what I already felt about myself—inadequate. That only led to more personal despair and new found resentment for my partner. But this whole story had nothing to do with my partner or me. It was simply the trained mind game playing out in full color right in front of me. What was the purpose of that? So I could see it. When we see, we can change.
This inadequate/discouragement driven world is based on a belief that is not true, though. In fact, it’s foundation is a bold-faced lie. Any belief whose foundation is a lie can only create more lies. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with any of us. We are not incompetent so there is no reason to be discouraged and there is no reason to discourage someone else. When we don’t know this, though, we develop a clear case of myopia—seeing the world one way—a very limited way. It’s boring and it’s incorrect.
The good news is, it’s all just training. All training can be unlearned. Understanding that all of this is nothing more than a game means we can correct the lie and see the world as it is rather than through the limited scope of our pain. We can expand our view of ourselves and others. Herein lies our freedom.
Awareness, Change, and Love
The next time you say something to someone, whether that is your child, your partner, your friend, or even someone you don’t know, ask yourself this, Am I encouraging or am I discouraging this person right now? If you are discouraging someone, ask yourself why. Why am I discouraging this person rather than encouraging them? What do I have to lose if I encourage them?
There is really nothing to lose by encouraging another, but when we believe what the trained mind tells us, we will believe we have a lot to lose. Certainly feeling inadequate and discouraged ourselves, we can’t stand to see someone else feeling good or encouraged. But, with awareness, we can see the situation in a different light. Awareness alone can lead to massive changes in our lives as we begin listening to what we are saying, rather than letting words just fly out of us without review, as we often do.
Awareness brings change because awareness means we see the truth. It is not possible to continue the lies and the stories that are manufactured from the lies when we remember the truth. When we make room for encouragement, we automatically experience more love in our lives. If you don’t feel you can encourage someone in this moment, but your awareness has stopped you from discouraging someone, know that it is okay to just be neutral. Don’t say anything. Let it pass. You will realize that nothing is lost by doing this. All that happened was you didn’t discourage another. Make certain to apply the same when it comes to yourself.
Make it a habit to offer words or gestures of encouragement as much as possible. Truly take every opportunity to do so. You might notice a change in the quality of connections with others, a change in the way you treat yourself, or a change in the way you look at the world. Perhaps it will feel as though someone turned the light on above you. Whatever happens, the changes will be clear.
So, be aware. Notice. And then love.