Get Out of Their Head, and Into Your Own!

4 Oct

Everyone I know is trying to get into someone else’s head lately.  No one is concerned with the inner workings of their own psyche, at least not when there appears to be a plethora of confusing, cliche, emotionally-withheld and skeptical single men and


Photo by mitopencourseware on Flickr

women whom we can date and dissect psychologically until the cows come home.  Everyone I know wants to know, “What is he/she thinking?”

“What are you thinking?” The fiance asks me this as we’re sitting on the couch on a Friday evening, watching the 90s Alternative music channel.  More often than not, this question annoys me, and not by any fault of his, but mostly because I rarely know the answer.  This is due largely in part to my tendency to have 25 different thoughts running through my head at one time, and an unwillingness to commit

to just one as the dominant thought the moment, worth discussing.  Because then I wonder if he really wants me to start a discussion about whether Port Salut cheese is better with or without a dash of salt, and should I or should I not eat what’s left of it in the fridge with a couple of saltines?  Or maybe I should reserve the bit of information about “Step by Step” being my favorite New Kids on the Block song, as of not that long ago.

See, this is the dilemma.  There’s no one really interesting thought, just a bunch of small ones that give the illusion of me contemplating something really deep and noteworthy.

But the difference is that the fiance’s quest for this information and insight into my brain isn’t driven by his desire to uncover some breakthrough, some long-awaited clarity on how I feel about him.  He already knows this. He’s just curious as to why I’m staring blankly at a wall. And only when you can ask this question without the resulting answer determining your self-worth and your legitimacy as a potential partner…is it  safe to ask.

One good friend of mine is navigating a breakup while another is navigating a new relationship, and both want to know what the other parties in each of their situations is thinking.  In the case of the former, she feels that knowing exactly what he’s thinking about her (and how often) will better help her determine whether they’ll get back to together at some point, which will assumedly ease her feelings of loneliness and longing.  She’s made it all about him, and not her, which is more common than we like to admit.  We all do it. The other friend  wants to know what her partner is thinking so she can better determine whether they’ll STAY together. Again, we all do it, we all try to figure out our potential based on vague clues and references from the other party. The point is that both share the same inconclusive theme of “What does he want from me?”  And now here is the magical answer that will answer this every time for you without fail:  It doesn’t matter.

Here is why it doesn’t matter: Because no matter how well you know someone (or how manipulative you are), you absolutely cannot control either 1) what someone else thinks of or feels about you, and 2) how someone else reacts to any given situation.  If you want a great book on this and how you need only focus on “your 100% of what you bring to a relationship”, check out Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Mastery of Love”.  And he explains this theory in depth.  Of course, the answer here isn’t to just sit back and hope, it’s not to wait to see if the person echoes your sentiments and your desires to remain or become a couple.  It’s about understanding that every time you ask yourself “What is he/she thinking?” you are taking the control away from yourself, and giving it to someone else, whom you may barely even know.

When you give up control to someone else, whether it’s by becoming emotionally dependent upon a partner, a job, or allowing yourself to be manipulated in any way, you are putting yourself in the victim seat. Plain and simple. Trying to figure out what is going on in someone else’s mind or heart, so that you can feel better about yourself, the relationship or your future, is allowing yourself to be a victim at the hand of someone else.  Even if they didn’t ask for that control, you willingly gave it to them.  But luckily, it’s very easy to take it back.

And it’s important to note that when I say “regain control” that does not mean having the upper hand.  It simply refers to regaining the control you have over you… not anyone else.  The mistake we commonly make upon entering a relationship is forgetting to clearly define to ourselves what we want out of this potential partnership.  Unlike relationships, we do typically do this with jobs…we figure out what industry we want to work in, what our core strengths and talents are that we bring to the table, the types of people we want to immerse ourselves in, the desired outcome, etc.  So why do we throw values to the wind when it comes to seeking a successful, fulfilling relationship, and instead just rely on hope that it turns into what we want?  Why are we not asking ourselves first and foremost, “What do I want out of this relationship… and does this person fit into that which will support my objectives?” Instead we assume we’re the ones that need to prove our worth and fit into their picture.  This is why so many relationships fail – we don’t set any expectations, for our partners, and more importantly for ourselves.

Just think – if you know confidently what you are looking for in a person and what you need out of a relationship to feel fulfilled, energized, motivated and loved, won’t it be much easier to determine whether it feels right, rather than trying to decode their every thought, movement and word?  This isn’t an invitation to be close-minded, or saying that you will be happy if you’re committed to only dating a guy who is 5’10, makes X dollars as a pediatric surgeon and says things like “I completely understand how you feel…please, tell me more.” It’s about establishing your non-negotiables, the underlying aspects of a person and a relationship that you want and need, that are based on your values.  These are the  things you’re not willing to bend on – like monogamy, or someone who is legitimately interested in a serious relationship that has long-term potential.  But do be aware that once you know what you want, you’re not wasting your time trying to mold someone else who’s not on the same page as you, into the ideal partner that they’re not.  Be honest with yourself.  If the shoe doesn’t fit, there are a million other pairs potentially more flattering.

So start by asking yourself these revealing questions:

  • What does a successful relationship look like to me?
  • What do I need from someone to feel appreciated and loved?
  • What are my non-negotiables?
  • What level of commitment am I looking for right now at this stage of my life?
  • What qualities does the person I want to be with possess?
  • What am I currently tolerating, or have I tolerated in the past, that I won’t tolerate going forward?
  • What excites me about a person?
  • If I found this person, am I in a position to give to them what I want them to give to me?

I can give you a bunch more, if you want.  But the general idea here is to construct your own vision of your  successful relationship, to build awareness and confidence around that, know that you deserve it, and then be able to use that vision as a foundation for moving forward.  Knowing what you want and need eliminates that typical early-on scenario of the blind leading the blind, where neither person knows what page you’re on, what the other person wants, or what’s okay or not okay to say.  And yes, being the one to stand up and admit what you need can be scary, as you’re essentially putting yourself on the line, hoping the other person accepts you for that.  But know that our fears of doing this simply stem from our own  limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves as a partner, or about what we think other people expect of us.  They’re not necessarily true, but they certainly hold us back.  What are those limiting beliefs keeping you from voicing what you need, even if it’s just to yourself?  They exist…we all have them.  It’s time to break them down.

Drop the labels, drop the rules.  Know your relationship vision and stick to your plan.  Leave room to improvise, of course, but build that awareness around where you’re coming from and where you want to go, and you will eliminate that feeling of being at the mercy of someone else all the time, and the god-awful  drudgery of trying to decode someone else’s thoughts and feelings.  Because that should be the fun part – finding someone who really compliments you, some in ways you’ve always wanted, and in ways you never even know you needed.  Personally, I think relationships are self-discovery at its best.  And the next time someone asks you “What are you thinking?” maybe it’s not a bad idea to <gasp>… let them know.  For the love of God, (and hopefully the love of someone else) get out of their head and into your own.  If you’re like most people, you already have your work cut out for you there.

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