Pretending to be happy?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Happy faces

Happiness.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How much effort does it take to try to be happy?

 

Are you one of those people who grew up trying to be happy, trying to look happy for a parent, for friends or those around you? Were you pretending to be happy but you never really felt it?

After long periods of trying to be happy, of pretending so that you don’t make others sad, you lose touch with how you really feel.

You may have despaired of every really feeling happy. Happiness for you was something you faked for others, but deep down inside you never really felt it. You began to wonder if you would ever genuinely feel happy the way others appeared to experience it every day.

For this effort to try to feel the way you should, the way others tell you that you should feel, you pay a high price. You lose touch; become disconnected, from how you are really feeling. You begin to doubt that you will ever have a genuinely happy experience the way others do.

You may give up on happiness and opt for not feeling so much pain. You may use drugs or alcohol to numb out or you might disconnect from your feelings altogether.

One cause of this disconnect between your feelings and you, and there can be many causes, is those adults who did not validate your feelings. When you said you were sad they said you had nothing to be sad about. You began to question what you felt and what you should feel.

Most of us know what anger feels like. But you may have been told that it’s not acceptable to feel anger, so you tried your hardest to feel an approved feeling. Before long you need others to tell you what it is you are feeling as you struggle to feel the way you should feel, rather than the way you do feel.

Some of you gave up on the idea of feeling happy or content or accepted. Those positive feelings were beyond your reach. You opted instead to avoid feelings and to try to feel the way those around you told you to feel. You may have thought that you would never get there and tried to accept your lot as one whose role was to make others happy, not to find those feelings for yourself.

Over time this trying to feel the way you should and the denial of what you are truly feeling in favor of pretending to experience the feelings others ascribe to you, these behaviors extract a heavy price. You become increasingly disconcerted from feelings and your inside becomes empty.

There are solutions. You can find happiness. Acting in happy ways, doing things that you find enjoyable can help, but only if you stop pretending and let yourself feel what it is that you truly feel.

The road to happiness runs through you. It requires getting to know you, that fearless and patient path of self-exploration. Finding happiness also requires developing a palate of feelings that bring the color back into your life. With the joy and pleasure, there will also be some pain and discomfort. But accepting that this is a real life and sometimes you will not like it is part of finding out who you are.

Be very cautious when other people tell you who you are, especially family members and those misery-loves-company friends. What they say is only their opinion. You do not have to create the things they tell you.

Other people’s opinions of who you are and what you should feel are things they hand you, nothing more. Like things that they might pass to you in a restaurant, some are worth eating and some are already destined for the garbage. You don’t have to keep everything you are handed in the restaurant for the rest of your life. Some of it goes in the trash on the way out. Some things you use for a while and leave behind. Let others opinions of you be like something they pass to you over dinner. You decide if you want this or you will trash it.

Some things others tell us, like a napkin given at the dinner, may indicate they have seen a part of us that needs cleaning up. If two or more people tell you that same thing you may need to look at this part of you. Think about this for a while and see if they are right. But just because they hand you a napkin to wipe the ketchup off your face does not mean that you will have a dirty face forever.

Consider that you determine who you want to be and how you will get there. Along the way you are entitled to feel and think anything you want, as long as you don’t try to impose those thoughts on others.

Get to know yourself, accept yourself as just fine the way you are, but with the potential to be and do more, and you will find that you just might discover that true happiness, the kind you do not have to fake for anyone, around the next life corner.

Are you ready to stop pretending to be happy and begin the hunt for a life worthy of the person you can become?

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Advertisements

5 motivation skills you should learn

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Motivation.

Motivation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Attitude will only get you so far – you need skills to stay motivated.

When people talk about motivation we hear a lot about some people having motivation and others not having it. Having a positive, motivated attitude is good, but that will only take you so far.

To get motivated and stay motivated you need some skills and these are abilities you can learn. Research suggests that simply wanting something is not enough; you need to develop the skills needed to make those dreams a reality.

1. Self-motivated people challenge themselves.

People who are high in motivation have learned how to learn new things. To them, a new situation is a challenge they know they can overcome because whatever information is needed they believe they can acquire it.

Self-motivated people seek out these challenges because they have the belief that if they try something they can accomplish it. This belief is built up over time by trying small things and being successful at them.

Self-motivated people may like applause or recognition from others, they may enjoy the money or recognition that comes their way, but they also are extremely pleased when they are able to do something that they have set out to accomplish.

2. Motivated people make a consistent effort.

Sprints won’t win any distance races and life is essentially a long distance race. Being highly motivated one day and getting a lot done pales next to the person who day in and day out does a little of what is needed to get the task done.

Lots of people start new projects, new businesses, school or relationships, but they fail because they think that you can do it all in the beginning and then no more effort will be required.

To be successful you need to keep doing a little or more every day, whether you feel motivated or not.

Do some work on your goal and it will produce motivation, not the other way round. Every writer hears the way to write is to sit with your rear in the chair and pound some keys. Eventually, you will get something done. The rest of life is like that also. Do a little each day and watch the results add up.

3. Manage your time.

Enough time for that great achievement will never come. Big projects get done one step at a time. Motivated people create a time budget just as they create a money budget. Each day includes some time for working on reaching your goal.

Don’t wait till you have extra time to write that book or start that business. Begin doing the footwork now. If all you have is thirty minutes a day, spend that on moving towards your goals and see what progress you can make.

4. Have a plan to reach your goal.

Great achievements rarely happen by accident. Yes, motivated people can make good use of opportunities when they appear, but they recognize those opportunities because they are already on the path to their goal.

Any achievement becomes more probable when you can break the task up into small steps and work on a little step each day. Make a plan and keep on the path towards your goal.

5. Continue to monitor your progress towards your goal.

If you follow a bad map you can get really lost. Some of us created plans for our lives and left steps out. This does not mean your life needs to be a failure. Any good plan needs frequent monitoring and revision. Keep an eye on the goal but keep checking your map to make sure you are headed in the right direction.

Work on these five skills and you will become a lot more motivated and can keep that motivation strong over the long course of life.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Going nowhere fast? When you want something and you’re not getting it.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Ball recovery

Recovery and Resiliency.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Questions to ask – things to do when your dreams are not happening.

Recovery

Some people seem to be able to make everything come their way. Others of us seem to keep struggling, the only thing coming our way is an oncoming truck. Here are some things to look at if you just can’t get things to happen.

1. How bad do you want it?

For several years now I have been saying I wanted to lose some weight. Every time the choice between exercising and sitting down to read a good book or write another post comes up – the weight loss goal losses out. I am just not that committed to losing the weight.

Motivation plays a role here and later this year there will be a series of posts on motivation, how you motivate yourself and others. But no amount of motivational efforts will help if you just don’t want it enough to put in the effort.

2. Do you believe in yourself and in your ability to reach this goal?

This is really about two different things. Do you deserve to be successful? If you have doubts in this area you need to do some work on that issue. I believe that we all deserve success and happiness. What success means to you, that is a different question.

The second part of this is do you think that if you set out to accomplish something you will be able to do it? If you have doubts about your abilities, you need to get more skills training. Work with a good counselor or coach may help establish or improve the skills you will need to get where you want to go.

3. Have you identified your objectives, short and long-term?

Saying you want a more successful, productive or happier life is a start, but we need to operationalize those goals. What will it look like when you get there? How will we know you are headed in the right direction? Are there any markers along the way that will tell us we are headed in the right direction?

4. Are you taking action?

All progress begins with taking action. You cannot succeed at something if you do not try. The first step in reaching more goals in your life is taking more actions.

No one hits one hundred percent of the shots they take but you have to keep putting the ball up in the air to make any baskets.

5. Are you cheering yourself on?

People who keep telling themselves they can, they often do. Tell yourself that you can’t do this, that this will never happen and you create the failure. Are you urging yourself on or holding yourself back? Positive self-talk contributes to success, negative self-talk ensures failure.

The highly successful keep telling themselves they can. The also look at results that fall short of their mark as improvement opportunities rather than failures.

6. Have you learned the technology of success?

Success is rarely the result of some sudden stroke of luck. Some people do win the lottery but we have repeatedly seen winning does not produce happiness. There is a process for technology, involved in moving from wishes to results.

Learn the technology of success and practice it. Become good at reaching goals, small and large. More on the technology of success in a future post.

7. Keep on the success path.

People who are highly successful are “single-minded” meaning they are not easily distracted. They do not change goals frequently and they do not put reaching those goals aside on any kind of regular basis. They do keep reevaluating their progress, am I on track, am I doing what I need to do, and is this still something I want to accomplish?

Very successful people do reexamine goals and change them from time to time. They also may have several or many goals they are working towards. What they do not do is vacillate. They are either in or out.

8. Enjoy the journey to your goal.

If you hate the process, the things you have to do to reach a goal, then it is not likely to be meaningful when you get there. People who have the greatest success are working at things they enjoy doing. The more you like a subject the better you will learn it. The more you enjoy an activity the more likely you are to repeat that behavior and the better you get at it.

Sure every worthwhile endeavor involves some sacrifice and some difficulty. Remember the old saying “no pain no gain.” I think pain, in that sense, means effort and struggle, not suffering. People who are highly successful learn to enjoy the struggle as well as the result.

Is your life the way you want it to be? Do you have goals that are not coming to pass? How are you doing on goal setting, motivation and creating your happy life?

David Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why does the Earth need a day?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Earth.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Which Celestial Bodies get a day and which don’t?

 

Today my calendar reports that this is earth day. I have some very mixed feelings about this day.

First is just the idea that the earth, home to all us humans, as far as I know, gets this one day a year. Why an earth day and then why only once a year.

The sun gets one day a week called Sunday. But poor old Mother Earth, just one day a year. Granted without the sun we would not be able to hang in here on planet earth very long, still, why do we not give the earth equal billing and add an eighth day each week just devoted to Mother Earth?

The moon also has its day called Monday. Like the Sun our moon gets one day a week. Not Mother Earth, she gets only one day and that is poorly observed. We do special things every week on Sunday and for most of us we return to our regular employment on Monday but what if anything special do we do on Earth Day?

Which also raises the question why is Earth Day written that way and not as Earthday as in Sunday and Monday?

Why do only the celestial bodies in our immediate neighborhood get a day? Do Mars and Saturn get their own special days? What about Pluto, I always liked him, he should get a day even if there is some question about his membership in the planet club.

Further consideration – is Earth Day a happy occurrence? Given the state of our planet, this day does not seem to be anything to celebrate. The ice is melting, the air is polluted and there is more and more debris and destruction.

You would think that after all the time we humans have been on this earth we would have reached some sort of peace treaty with Mother Earth. What we have done to her, all in the name of progress has been nothing short of appalling.

In any contest between mother earth, I as a hopeless human, tend to come down on the side of the humans. But all in all most of our efforts to improve the earth, tame her and put her to the use of humans has not worked out anywhere near the way we planned this.

Most of our improvements have left us coming up short on things we used to have. The forest we cut down has created less oxygen for us to breath and more dust bowls. Those mines that brought us minerals to improve our lives, some of them left toxic wastes that render that old mountain uninhabitable. We also have discovered that our activities can give us all sorts of toxins and new diseases.

On the whole, our efforts to improve Mother Earth seem to be backfiring.

Our relationship with Mother Earth seems to have taken a turn for the worse. We are acting like a pack of descendants gone to stay with grandma for the holidays; we eat her food, trash her house and treat her with great disrespect. At this point in the visit, grandma is hoping we will all pack up and go home.

I am thinking that when we have eaten Mother Earth out of house and home when we have so polluted the earth and depleted her resources, she may not be sorry to see us go.

You would think that after all this time of living off Mother Earth’s bounty we would behave better and treat her hospitality like we appreciated it.

One thing is clear, Mother Earth will be here still spinning on her axis and making trips around the sun long after we humans have vanished from the scene.

So if you find a forest you particularly love, cut it down to make paper so we can write books in praise of the vanishing forest. Let’s build as many buildings as possible even if they fall down and decay in the next few years. We need to give Mother Earth some things to work on fixing after we are all long gone.

Someone told me that Mother Earth only invented humans because she wanted a way to make Styrofoam. That may be true because our synthetics will surely outlast all of us.

Hope you are having a happy Earth Day and that you are finding that happiness does not come from what you have or own but from who you are on the inside.

Thanks for listening to me.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Decluttering my head.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Decluttering your mind.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

When your head gets full everything slows down.

 

Sure is easy to get busy. Each thing on the schedule requires thought. Some days there just isn’t room left for me in my head. Do you ever feel that way?

Recently I had a bout of illness. Two things stood out as a result.

First, I need to spend more time and effort on staying physically healthy, more on that later, and second, at times when our physical health is down, everything takes more effort, especially the mental part.

I realized while I was physically sick that everything took way more mental effort. I suddenly discovered my head was so full of the things I think about each and every day that there was not enough room to focus on getting well. Something needed to give.

One thought that occurred to me as I was convalescing was if I were to not recover if this illness was to be long-term, what things would I still think mattered?

This thought, occurring as it did during one of those long trips between the bed and the bathroom resulted in a decision that there was just way to much stuff cluttering up my mind that did not need to be taking ups space there.

If any of you have unused space in your head and need something’s to store there, just to take up space, let me know and I will be glad to send you something’s, particularly things that no longer seem to matter in my way of thinking.

One thing I noticed while ill and convalescing was that my email was consuming a lot more of my thought than remembering to take my medication. When you are really sick just reading all that stuff can be exhausting.

Not only did my inbox now contain hundreds of unread emails, but they continued to arrive faster than I could open them. I know there are ways to organize my email, but consider what is the benefit of organizing stuff I don’t need in the first place? Which did I want to spend my energy on, reading emails in the hope of not missing something or spend that energy on recuperation?

The result was a determination to pare down those emails and then to start looking at the other things that I have let expand to fill up every waking moment of my life. At times like this, less really is better.

My apologies to all those “how to blog” and “how to sell stuff” folk as well as the “how to buy happiness folk,” most of you not only got moved to the delete box, you were gifted with an unsubscribe. If reading your email takes up my time, it clearly needs to be worth my effort and I quickly realized I was following a whole lot of email newsletters that did nothing but fill up my head and suck my energy.

I shiver as I write this, fearing that my subscriber number will take a sudden drop but if reading my emails is costing you more than the benefit you are getting from this blog, than one gift I can give you is to help you save that much time anyway.

So how about you? Do you have a whole lot of things that fill up your head and your life? Do those things really matter and do they make you any happier?

What I found, the gift of this illness was that there are a lot of things that occupy my head and my time that needs to be cleaned out, especially if I want a healthier and happier life.

Here is wishing you a happy and meaningful life, whatever that means to you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

6 reasons why exercise won’t help you

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Exercise equipment.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Mistakes we make in setting up an exercise or other self-change programs.

Man exercising

Man exercising

Exercise programs, like lots of other self-change efforts, fail for some very simple reasons.

I first read these points in articles about physical exercise programs but the more I read about them the more I could see that the same principles apply to mental, spiritual and emotional recovery programs also.

Have tried to change only to end up back where you started?

Below are some of the reasons these self-improvement programs often fail.

1. Trying to do too much too fast.

For most people, weight loss is not a long-term project. This exercise or weight loss program is often undertaken as a last-ditch crash activity. You want to lose weight before a special occasion or because your doctor has said your health is at risk.

Most people in early recovery, from whatever they define as their problem, fall into this same trap. The person who has neglected their heath wants to get into shape lose weight and become healthier and they want to do this by Friday.

Recovering from a lifelong issue does not happen in large sudden ways. It begins with some basic changes that you keep doing. It is the maintenance part that is so essential, yet so hard to make a part of any self-change program.

Just as dropping too much weight too quickly may be bad for your physical health, trying to undo years of a problem lifestyle overnight may be emotionally unhealthy.

The first week in recovery many a person wants to get a job, go back to school full-time, start a new relationship and pay off all their back bills. Early recovery is a time to focus on what bad habits you need to weed out of your life and to begin to think about what you want this new life to look like when you are done. Do you want a whole new healthier you or are you just trying to lose the weight by the time of the reunion?

It is easy to overwhelm yourself when you first start a self-change program, the result is that the whole self-improvement program goes out the window.

Make small changes and stay with them. Those small changes in your life repeated often enough result in major life improvements.

2. Not being consistent.

Self-change cannot be done on an on-again-off-again basis. Small incremental changes add up. Sudden bursts of efforts are undone by periods of inattention to your self-improvement program.

If you really want lasting change you need to exchange your habits and building new habits takes lots of repetition. You did not get the way you are overnight and it will take time to recover.

3. Are you avoiding the hard stuff?

We all like to look for shortcuts but the shortcuts do not add much to making you happier or healthier. There is no shortcut to exercise. You have to do it. Some ways of exercising may be more effective than others but they all take effort on a consistent basis.

I think of self-improvement like karma as a form of exercise. You do good things and you become a good person, you do bad things and you become a less good person. Sometimes getting to be a better person takes lots of effort.

4. Spending too much time on the fun stuff.

In any recovery program, some things are more enjoyable than others. We tend to do the things we like. But to really change yourself sometimes you need to start your routine with the hard to do things.

5. You do the wrong exercise the wrong way.

Make sure the things that you are doing in your program are truly designed to help you and that you are doing them in an effective way. Professionals can help here, so can self-help books.

Improperly done exercises result in injuries and those need to heal. A common mistake recovering people make is to run around apologizing for your past errors and saying you are sorry. Others have heard all this before. They do not want to hear you say sorry they want to see real change. Make the changes first and it will be easier for others to accept your apologies later on.

6. You forget to breathe.

Forgetting to breathe during physical excesses undoes a lot of the benefits that come from exercise. The muscles need oxygen to function and to grow. The same thing is true of spiritual exercise. You need to slow down and breathe in the joy and pleasure that comes from doing new estimable things.

In the older self-improvement books, mental health, memory, and success were linked to physical wellness. We have lost some of that emphasis as we put pressure on children to get high test scores and take away their recesses to get those test scores up. Having a healthy body is a big help in being more mentally alert and effective.

Hopefully learning these 6 ways in which exercise will be unhelpful will aid you whether you are trying to lose weight and get in shape or you are on your way to making other changes that are a part of your recovery.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why your partner thinks you said things you know you didn’t say

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Why does your partner think you said that?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

False Memories.

What we remember about things others say can depend on our mood.

 

Two men go out to dinner with their dates. Let’s call them Bob and Sam. Bob goes home sure that his date did not like him. Sam is sure his date did. The two women said exactly the same things to their dates. Why the difference?

This happens a lot. You swear you didn’t say something, your partner swears you did. Neither of you may be lying but one of you has got this conversation wrong. Why?

One cause of memory failures is false memories. They happen more often than most of us realize and they cause a lot of relationship problems. Those memories are easier to create than you might think.

Researchers have sophisticated ways of testing for false memories and the way they are created or perpetuated. In pasts posts, we talked about how drugs and alcohol can increase false memories, but your personality and that of your partner are also factors. False memories are dependent on your mood at the time you hear things. They are also affected by your normal personality and way of perceiving the world.

Info about false memories and why they occur in relationships.

A test for false memories would consist of asking you to remember a list of words. Say the list included, night, bed, pillow, nap, etc. The next time you see the researcher you read a list of words and are asked to mark which you saw the first time.

This time included in the list is a word that was not there the first time but would have fit with the category that made up that list. In this case, the missing word might have been sleep. So if you picked sleep it made sense, but in fact, the word was not there the first time. If you said that you remembered it this would be a false memory.

In our date example, we find that in both cases the woman told their date that they had an interesting tie. Bob the perennial pessimist is sure his date said he had an awful tie. Sam remembers his date as saying he had a nice tie. Sam is an optimist.

The mood, as well as the basic personality of these two men, causes them to hear the same information but they both remember things that the date did not say. What they are remembering is a form of false memory in which their mind has filled in the words needed to make sense of the comment “interesting tie.”

One way to check this out in the lab would be to leave the word “sleep” out of the retest. This time if we added two words to the list, say insomnia and restful, we could see if there was a difference in the way two people would remember that list.

Sure enough, pessimists will remember insomnia and swear it was on the first list and optimists will remember the word rest. Both are making errors in their memory. Neither is lying but they both are sure they remember things that did not happen because they learned the list of words as a category, not as a list. Then when they are retested they fill in another word that fits their version of what the category is about.

So consider that some of the things you and those around you swear were said or happen may, in fact, be false memories. How sure are you that you actually heard the things you think you heard?

Sometimes for the sake of relationships and our long-term sanity, it pays to check out with the other person what they really said or meant. That way our minds do not need to fill in missing information and there are fewer chances to create these troublesome false memories in the first place.

What is the chance that memory you are arguing about is a false memory?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.