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10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

Everyone faces difficulties from time to time.  It’s a natural part of the cycle of life.  Just like we can’t really know hot without knowing cold, we can’t really know the good times if we don’t know bad times.  Sometimes the difficulties we face in life come from situations out of our control, and other times our difficulties are a direct consequence of the decisions we make.

In life, we cannot change events or their outcome.  We can, however, choose the emotion and meaning we attach to them.  It’s like the saying goes “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react”.  Our brains are designed to store information and then, at every single second of every day, when new information is received, our brains search for a reference memory to lay the foundation for our response.  Think about it, this is why if you have a bad experience on a roller coaster or eating a certain food, for the rest of your life you have an automatic impulse reaction whenever you come across them.

We have to retrain ourselves to see the positive in even the most challenging times.

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Am I Still Breathing?

Sometimes the best we can do is breathe.  During overwhelmingly difficult times, our stress levels rise, our breathing gets shallow, and our body’s natural rhythm gets all out of whack.  At these times it’s essential to stop and ask yourself, ‘am I breathing?’.  If you are then, hey, you live to fight another day.  If you find yourself highly stressed out, take 10 minutes, find a quiet space, and just breathe deeply.  Diaphragmayic breathing has been shown to lower stress levels and helps relax your automatic nervous system.  One of the keys to staying positive is to be relaxed, and making sure you’re breathing correctly is the best way to start.

What Is My Part In This?

Notice this said your ‘part’, not your ‘fault’.  There’s a huge distinction in these two words.  One is acknowledging and accepting your responsibility for your current situation, the other is self-defeating and simply assigns blame.  Focusing on your part instead of just casting blame reduces the challenge you’re facing to a more manageable size.

What Is In My Control?

When life feels completely overwhelming, we often lose sight of those things we can change.  Assess your situation honestly, and look for those things you can control.  This will help you to feel more centered, more focused, and assist you in being able to tackle the challenge.

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What Is Out Of My Control?

Sometimes there’s things we just cannot control.  Whether it’s other people, mother nature, or just plain bad timing, no matter how much we want to, we cannot control everything.  Take time to look at your difficulty, identify the things that are out of your control, and then let them go.  Too often we view the totality of our difficulties and it is overwhelming.  Being able to segregate what you can and cannot control makes the problem smaller, your stress levels lower, and often the path to the solution much clearer.

What Is My Emotional State?

Making decisions when we’re overcome with the emotions that are inherent in difficult times is about the worst thing we can do.  We’re more likely to make poor choices when we’re in the wrong emotional state.  Being able to recognize that we’re not ‘of our right mind’ in the middle of our trials allows us to stop, breathe, and get ourselves in a better emotional state, allowing us to make better decisions.  When we make better decisions, we’re more likely to feel better about our circumstances because it gives us a sense of empowerment.

What Is The Most Important Thing I Can Do Right Now?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is make a phone call.  Focusing on and doing the best thing you can do right now when in the midst of difficult times helps center you and relax your nervous system.  It also increases our confidence in ourselves that yes, we can weather this storm.  Progress is progress, no matter how small, and progress towards resolving a difficult situation will boost your self-esteem.

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What Can I Learn From This?

With every difficulty comes a lesson.  As crazy as it sounds, if we can see even the smallest lesson, the smallest purpose in the trial we’re facing, it gives it positive value.  It also gives us an outcome to move towards, whether it’s improved health, more stability in finances, or fixing a broken relationship.  Suffering without purpose leads to a feeling of helplessness.  Shift your belief from “Why me?” to “What can I learn from this?” turns the challenge from just a random happenstance of bad luck into a problem to be solved.

Am I Taking Care Of Myself?

There’s an abundance of evidence that stress wreaks havoc on our physical health.  There’s also abundant evidence that our physical health directly impacts our mental health.  When challenges arise, the most common things we do are eat less, sleep less, and get less physical activity.  Overwhelming challenges have a tendency to cause us to completely shut down.  Don’t.  Sacrificing your physical health isn’t going to make the challenge go away any faster and may actually make the challenge worse because now you’re a physical wreck.  Maintain a normal sleep schedule.  Eat healthy.  Stay hydrated.  Get some physical activity.  Maintaining your physical state is a key to maintaining your mental and emotional states.

What Are My Choices?

Make a list.  Write them down.  Weigh the pros and cons.  Creating a list of choices brings clarity to the path we need to take to overcome the difficulty.  It also helps us realize that we actually have choices, which is a big thing when we feel powerless.

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Will This Matter 5 Years From Now?

Don’t sweat the small stuff… and really, 95% of our difficulties are all small stuff.  Looking into the future and thinking about whether or not the current difficulty will matter 5 years from now often brings it into perspective.  We’re naturally oriented to turn molehills into mountains and imagine the worst possible outcome to every challenge.  If you’re having difficulty with this, try to think of a difficult time you faced 5 years ago that you thought was the ‘end of the world’.  Very few difficulties have the kind of impact that resonates through time.  Take heart and have faith that what you are facing now isn’t as bad as you’re imagining it to be.

Challenges and difficulties are a natural part of life.  We can stop from feeling overwhelmed by finding and focusing on the positive in our lives.

Featured photo credit: Geralt via pixabay.com

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Christian Salafia

Rocket-scientist, Nuclear Engineer, Theologian, and creator of the TransformRadio podcast

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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