In my heart of hearts, I know that this is usually not the case. I don’t recall a recent instance of having been deliberately ghosted. And I have written about intentions several times on this blog. I would like to think my intentions are pure – and 99.9 percent of the time, I get an appropriate response in due time.
This has nothing to do with romance. I have a longtime girlfriend. We live together. I’m sure she feels like ghosting me at times, but that’s another matter altogether.
What I am talking about here is mountains-out-of-molehills, worst-case-scenario overthinking in my day-to-day interactions with others. Because I believe that I have an above-average EQ (or emotional intelligence), this doesn’t mean that the very same gift might not be misfiring.
You can’t interpret somebody’s aura unless they are interacting with you.
Am I some sort of entitled prick who thinks I deserve top priority at all times? Am I a narcissist?
Not tonight, Narcissus, I have a headache…
I think this really goes back to intention and process. My friend, motivational author and speaker Jeff Yalden, always says to have patience in the process, and that makes sense to me.
Roger: Nobody’s ghosting you. It’s all in your head.
I have written before about the fear of my intentions being misunderstood, and some of my friends responded that they felt the same way about theirs. It’s a thing, and there must be a basic human need to be understood. We have societal structures in place: language, manners and nonverbal cues. These things can help us avoid being misunderstood.
But it happens to me quite often.
Just when I think I have gotten over one misstep, another one comes along to start me back down the rabbit hole of uncertainty, overthinking and loss of sleep.
I believe in being positive, but I also aim to be truthful about this. I don’t want to sweep this under the carpet or grit my teeth and try to will it away.
Related to this phenomenon are what I call Larry David moments. These are not so much about being misunderstood, but rather the awkward moments, mistakes and misfires in my daily life that make me want to crawl under a rock.
These are not game-changing life events, either.
I know from experience that many of these moments are mountains-out-of-molehill situations, but for me the discomfort is very real. And because I am sober, I need to find ways to deal with them. Maybe writing about them will help.
Here are a couple examples of what I am talking about from the past week or so – but there were more than just these two.
THE WRONG WRIGHT
My last blog post, “Is 56 the New 12?” featured an excellent rendering of Harry Potter’s Professor Snape with my face edited into it by my friend and fellow writer Brendan Wright. I credited another friend, Bill Wright, with the photo. It was only after Brendan saw it and reminded me that he had created it did I remember where and when he first showed it to me a couple of years back.
The memory is a funny thing, and to say I was chagrined is an understatement.
In my mind, coming back from something like that is tough. For other people, an apology would suffice. For me, the need to overexplain reigns supreme. Of course, I apologized and made a quick change to the post, but that’s not the point. For me, the damage had already been done.
I lost face. The only logical end to this would have been for Brendan to cut off my head after I gutted myself. Seppuku.
Why didn’t I remember…
SOMEBODY STOP ME: THE MASK INCIDENT
I was taking a break at work the other day, sitting in the closed cigar lounge at Tinder Box Myrtle Beach with my girlfriend, Brenda. A mask was dangling by a loop my right ear.
“So what,” you might say…
Here’s what sent me into a tizzy:
Our friend, Meghan, came to see us. She was outside lounge door, which was locked. Brenda let her in while I remained seated.
Meghan made some awesome masks for us to help us through this time of social distancing, and we’re grateful for them – but when she came in that day, the mask that was dangling from my ear was not hers. Rather, it was made by another friend, Karan, who was kind enough to send us a few great masks as well.
Based on my anxiety level, you would have thought I got busted sleeping with somebody I shouldn’t have been sleeping with.
I was speechless and my mind was racing. What course of action would be best? All I could think to do was quickly unhook the mask, let it drop it into my seat and try to play it off the best that I could.
What was my motivation in that moment? Why was I so awkward?
Did Meghan notice? I don’t know, but I continued to babble. I realized even then that I should have addressed what was, to me, the elephant in the room.
Why didn’t I just say something…
Like, would Meghan really care that I wasn’t wearing a mask she made and opted for one of Karan’s that morning? Unlikely.
Would Brendan lose sleep over the fact that I made a mistake about a photo he made for me in fun? I wouldn’t think so.
Nothing in these events would indicate that my friendships with Meghan or Brendan would suffer – but in those moments, I feel like it’s curtains for me.
I asked my daughter to take a look at a draft of this post, and she said, “Wow. I really am your daughter.” She went on to tell me that she once texted an apology to a friend who didn’t even realize there was an issue.
My Larry David moments border on the pathological.
With my self-imposed indoctrination in personal development, it’s odd that I would even consider writing an opening sentence like that. Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve been gobbling up the advice, direction and methods proffered by authors from Orison Swett Marden to Napoleon Hill, Anthony Robbins to Wayne Dyer and so many more.
I’m not sure any of those gurus would see the value in admitting that I am an overthinker. Still others, like my friend Mike Dooley (Notes from the Universe, Infinite Possibilities), would certainly caution me that making such a statement would, in effect, make it so – that by putting those three words out there into the ether I am giving a celestial order – visualizing, acting as-if and generally bringing this into reality.
I don’t want that, for sure – but I also want to be honest about this. Though just in case the Universe is listening, I want it to know that I am merely trying to sort this out. I hereby declare that overthinking is something I have no interest in.
Now I imagine the Universe saying, “You could have fooled me…”
Author and psychologist Amy Morin wrote in her column for Inc. that “time spent overthinking, whether it’s 10 minutes or 10 hours, won’t enhance your life.”
She also wrote that “overthinking comes in two forms; ruminating about the past and worrying about the future.”
Guilty on both counts.
I can’t tell you how many times I replay embarrassing moments or beat myself up about why I might have said what I said in a given moment. Or better still, lose sleep over things that happened years or decades ago and my part in them. That, right there, is rumination. But let’s throw in the worry component for good measure. I’ve got that in spades too, like, if I offended anybody, how will that play out in a future encounter with that person.
I am too old to continue down those paths.
I need to do something about the fact that I am a bit of a people pleaser – and that’s a symptom of a deeper self-worth issue.
Well – now we’re getting somewhere, but now I’m scaring myself. We’re supposed to be talking about overthinking.
I recently had an epiphany of sorts: I believe much of my emotional discomfort stems from the fear that somebody might misunderstand my intentions – that I have not communicated them in a way that a particular person completely grasps. In situations like these, a lot of factors come into play. I might not have chosen the right words or the correct timing and the other person might not have been in a place to receive the message.
Emotional intelligence plays a role too.
I am quick to pick up on the emotional cues of others, whether these are direct or not. Call it a benefit of my undiagnosed ADHD, but I can get to the heart of what somebody is trying to say long before they finish speaking it. Couple this with body language, tone and attitude, and I get a good sense about what’s going on.
That drives a lot of people nuts, including my son and my girlfriend. I need to learn that people generally like to finish a statement before I react.
I can’t assume that everybody else’s emotional intelligence quotient is the same. It would also be foolhardy to assume that I have imparted my meaning to others in a way that makes sense to them. We all process these things differently, I’m sure.
It’s also silly to think that what I have to say to others is so important that it makes a difference either way. At the end of the day, a perceived slight on my part could be complete fiction.
Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my own head over something that happened previously that I am not able to be fully present to others, including those I love – thus creating an endless loop of rumination and worry.
As Tony Robbins says, “Get in your head, you’re dead.”
Based on these facts, my job should be to try to be as straightforward and as mindful possible in my encounters with others – and learn to let things go if I stumble.