It’s your heart. So, guard it!

heart13There will never be a way to prevent ourselves from being hurt by other people. Even if we were able to look inside the hearts and minds of everyone around us, we would probably still fall into predicaments that brought us misery. At the same time, in order to make a toxic person really have the effect they want to upon us, we must dwell on all the ways in which they have hurt us. We must allow them to continue to steal our joy and happiness from us long after the wounds have been inflicted, which means that if we let go and refuse to hold onto the pain, we are the ones who win—not them.

As you know, I am very forthcoming at this blog. I share things that some people might not even reveal to their closest friends. Do I care? Actually, if I can reach even one of you by something I say, I regret none of my personal confessions. But you do have to watch who you open your heart to. Look upon the heart as a beautiful sanctuary within yourself. There are two doors closing this sanctuary off from the rest of the world. You can open them only if you decide to. If you are at a place in your life where you feel that you need the approval of other people to feel okay about yourself—that their acceptance of you is crucial to your happiness and positive opinion about yourself, you are at risk of being deeply hurt. There are what I would call predators of the heart, and they come in many different shapes and wear a variety of masks. They are almost like vampires, in a way. They prey upon your energy and your spirit to satisfy their inner emptiness. However, they are often convinced that their lives are bringing them fulfillment. Rarely will they admit to you that they are seeking something other than that which they’ve already got. To make you feel that you are necessary to them in some way would give some of the power they think they possess away. Now, if push comes to shove, and they are concerned that you may escape the designs they have on your life, they might be capable of saying anything. But they are generally reluctant to admit any signs of personal weakness.  When I think of a character in literature who is a predator of the heart, I cannot help but think of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations. She is not content to merely lick her wounds and drown her sorrow by living a reclusive life. Rather, she picks out another person as a vessel for her vendetta. If you haven’t read the book or seen a film adaptation of the book, you will not have a thorough idea of what I am speaking of. However, you can take my word for the fact that Miss Havisham is a true predator of the heart. In a way, she is a tragic and pathetic figure. It is nearly impossible not to feel sorry for all the pain she has experienced. Yet no pain that we experience justifies our preying upon the hearts of others.

As a diva who tends to speak whatever is on her mind, I want to share with all of you something that happened to me yesterday. I was betrayed by someone who had pretended to be my friend. Has this happened to me before? Yes, of course. It’s probably happened to most of you, too. I think that one reason this happens is because our society preaches a “me first/you second” philosophy. This means that, even if a person betrays someone close to them, if it’s in that person’s best interest at the time they do it, they somehow manage to excuse their conduct. Now, many cases of betrayal are connected to revenge. Rather than letting go of resentment and anger, a certain type of person holds it in until, at last, it boils over and they do something that hurts someone else in a way that can be devastating. Unfortunately, when bitterness, resentment, and/or anger begin to cloud someone’s vision, there is a strong chance that they will begin to perceive that they are being deceived or wronged in some way, even if they’re not.  In other words, they may at some point be incapable of thinking logically. Predators of the heart are often paranoid, too. They see those who do not allow them into their inner sanctuary as being against them. They may even have grandiose ideas about their relationship with someone whom they are trying to prey upon. They may see that person as belonging to them, even if the person doesn’t. The person who betrayed me felt he had the right to interject himself in many different aspects of my life. He was also jealous of anyone else whom I have in my life, including my mother. You see, he felt that anyone who was giving me advice or input aside from him might prevent him from having the all-powerful influence in my life that he felt he needed. When he finally saw that I was determined to remain in charge of my life and was willing to fight him for control of it, he betrayed me. He made sure I was aware of his betrayal, too. I think he concluded that only in my knowing about his betrayal would he receive any sort of personal gratification. How many of you believe, now that I am introducing you to the concept of predators of the heart, that you might have crossed paths with one of these persons? Might there even be one in your life right now? “Maybe so,” you say, “but how can I tell?” Notice how you feel when you spend time around someone whom you suspect is a predator of the heart. Do they find ways to make you feel that you are weak? Do they play up your faults in a way that is subtle? For example, might they say something like, “Well, you know, you have loads of flaws, but I love you anyway.” Does this sound familiar? You do see what they’re doing, don’t you? They’re wanting you to feel that you can’t really handle the big, bad problems in your life on your own. So. . .they are there to help you. All you have to do is wrap up your heart and hand it over to them first. Then they’ll take care of everything.  Pretty soon, of course, you’ll be wondering why the decisions you’re making don’t really match up with the decisions you want to make. You may also find yourself tolerating things that you never thought you would put up with. But, you see, your pet predator of the heart has convinced you that you will never find another friend or lover like them. So, you’d better let them drain all your own thoughts and opinions from you. If they want to start controlling your mind, you’d better let them do that, too. I mean, they’re probably smarter than you anyway. . .or at least wiser, right? They seem to know so much. They seem to have all the answers figured out, and, even though it seems like they are trying to take control of your life, surely all they’re really trying to do is help you. Right??? Wrong. Predators of the heart have no more compassion or empathy than the living dead. Never deceive yourself. A predator of the heart is never thinking of his prey as anything more than an object to nourish his or her desire to control. Your feelings and needs don’t count. Dracula never did seem to care much about the needs of his victims, did he? No, he cared only for satisfying his lust for blood. And he was very seductive, too, wasn’t he? He never told his victims, “Hello there, I’m a vampire. May I bite your neck and drink your blood?” If he had done that, how believable would it have been? Well, like a vampire who beguiles his victims, preying upon the hearts of others begins with seduction. For you to be willing to open up your heart, you must first be under the predator’s “spell”. For me to say that a predator of the heart has a standard method of worming his or her way in to your life would be giving you the false idea that you might be able to pick out a predator of the heart readily. You will rarely be able to do that. What you must do, though, is immediately pay attention to any feelings you have of wanting to distance yourself from the person. If you ignore them when you feel them, they may go away as the predator starts to know you better and begins using better and more cunning tactics. Pay attention to the behavior the possible predator exhibits early on in your communication with him or her. Does he or she argue with some of your beliefs and opinions? Does he or she make you feel that you are ignorant or ill-informed for standing by the convictions you have? Later, if the predator perceives that arguing with your beliefs isn’t the way to win you over, he or she will use different methods of doing so. This is why you must analyze all of your initial contact with the person.  To be honest, the predator of the heart who has just exited my life showed plenty of sides of himself that were objectionable to me early on in our friendship. I found him abrasive and argumentative. I even wondered why he wanted to be friends with me since it was evident to me that he and I were different in a number of ways. Yet after awhile, he seemed to have somehow made himself a fixture in my life. I didn’t even realize it had happened, until it already had. Although this man had seemed perfectly content with his life when I first met him, as time went on, he began to infer that I was fulfilling some kind of deep personal need he had. By making me believe this, he succeeded in brainwashing me into thinking that I had to put up with him, no matter how unkindly or harshly he treated me. When he would instigate debates, I would be drawn into them like a fly being drawn into the web of a spider. Before I knew it, he had actually managed to create a certain amount of alienation between me and my mother because she recognized him for what he was, and he sensed that. I suddenly became a victimized princess locked in a tower with a mother who was, to use his terminology, “an ogre”. He tried to make himself the center of my world—indeed, the only person who really had my best interest at heart. At one point, he sent me ten and twelve e-mails a day. When I tried to tell him I couldn’t respond to all of them, he attempted to make me feel guiltyand even accused me of trying to end our friendship. Predators of the heart are very good at making you feel as if you are blame when you try to fight them. For them, you see, only their desires exist. And your mission in life, in their mind, is to gratify these desires.

“But what do I do?” you ask, almost in despair. See, I knew you would ask this. . .and, truth be told, I am still finding new and better ways in regard to how to deal with predators of the heart with each passing day. What I advise is that you stop looking at the conduct you see and start looking at the intentions behind the conduct. If your would-be predator-of-the-heart tells you that he/she loves you even though he/she told you a few weeks before that he didn’t believe in love, pay attention. If he or she says that he is a loyal and true friend to you, even though he/she told you at another time that he/she had a “big mouth” and was always talking about his/her friends behind their  backs, do not ignore it. If he/she confesses to you that he/she is usually the one who walks out of a relationship, do not assume that you will be treated any differently. Although there are many people who will never tell you the truth about themselves, there are also many people who will sometimes make revealing declarations or remarks in an unguarded moment. And the moments in which a predator of the heart lets down his/her guard are the moments that matter. If you have already been the victim of a predator of the heart, the worst thing you can do is to continue victimizing yourself by dwelling on the situation and/or associating it with the person you are right now. The only reason you should even remember what happened is to know how you can prevent it from ever happening again. For if we do not look towards the past to teach us lessons, then it serves no purpose. Indeed, should we not allow the past to instruct us in how to live better and more wisely, the past is, as the poet Carl Sandburg said, no more than “a bucket of ashes.”

This diva didn’t think she would manage a new blog post today. For one thing, physical exhaustion is something I’ve been battling since I awakened yesterday. This being the case, it wasn’t a good time to be betrayed. But, you know, things like betrayal don’t come at the times that are most convenient for us! *wink* In fact, I would say that they are more likely to come at inopportune moments. However, I have a bit of encouraging news: sometimes we’re dealt our hardest blows in life just before everything takes  a turn-around for the better. So, the next time somebody who pretended to be your friend turns out to be an enemy instead, just know that the void they create in your world by no longer being in it will leave room for somebody or something wonderful.

Make each moment matter. . .make each day count. And live with passion and enthusiasm!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

 

This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

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It isn’t just about you. . .

meerkat-team spirit2

 

Sometimes I think we have to make happiness. . .you know, like making a batch of cookies. Yes, it sounds easier than it is (now you know I’ve admitted that most things seem that way, right?). Admittedly, you cannot manufacture happiness like a chocolate factory manufactures candy bars. Happiness is not a commodity that is mass produced. And I haven’t seen any available for purchase at the local discount store, either. What I have seen, though, is that it’s almost impossible to find happiness if all you focus on in life is yourself. Have you noticed this, too?? Now don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you aren’t the star of your show or that the title of my first post here, “It’s All About You” didn’t mean that it is, in fact, all about you. The thing about it is it’s not just about you. Does that make sense?? It’s like saying that you can have anything you want (and you can!), but not everything you want. For one thing, acquiring one thing in your life may automatically make it impossible for you to acquire something else. If, for example, you want a new car and you want both a BMW and a jaguar,  you probably aren’t going to be able to get both, unless you are a millionaire.  Now this diva couldn’t afford either car, but that’s beside the point *wink*.  Let me give you another illustration. If you go into a restaurant and you order a slice of cheesecake, the chances are that by making this choice, you will have to forfeit the chocolate cake and the apple pie. So, as you see, we make choices. We also make a choice as to whether we want a life that centers exclusively around us, or whether we would like to have a cast of supporting players. Having been a theater actress for a few years, I can safely say that one of the very worst things you can do, when you are starring in a play, is not realize that the entire cast of the play is a team. Competitiveness can be a positive thing, but if it means that you don’t want the best for someone else, especially someone whom you’re working with, it can become very destructive. In a way, life is the same way as a play. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of similarities between the world and a stage and between people and actors and actresses. The American author Nathanael West, in his bleak but brilliant novel, The Day of the Locust, presented the pessimistic theory that life is essentially like a Hollywood sound stage. There is a scene in the book that I found particularly painful. Oddly enough, it involves a cock fight. On my initial reading of the book, I failed to see the significance of this brutal scene. Reading about two roosters brutalizing each other seemed as if it hadn’t much of a point. But now, on reflection, I’m wondering something: was Nathanael West trying to make a point about life and what some people do to other people? Was he not basically saying that the world supports and promotes the idea of the “survival of the fittest”, so to speak? Was he not saying that if you’re weaker than someone else, they will take advantage of that fragility? West himself had to witness other writers succeeding who certainly didn’t possess his genius, while he was forced to sell Hollywood scripts just to have enough money to eat and feed his family. Maybe his own experiences are what shaped his oppressive worldview. But what West failed to see is that just because the world is attempting to promise this “you win/I lose” mindset, it doesn’t mean that we have to buy into it. Society and “popular” culture will always try to get us to buy into what they say everyone is doing, thinking, saying, or experiencing. However, let me ask you: when you go into a clothing shop, do you buy everything you see? If one of the sales assistants comes up to you and tries to persuade you to buy a dress or a suit by telling you about how many other people have bought it, do you automatically go into the dressing room and try it on? And if you try it on, do you purchase it, even if you don’t like how it looks on you?? Well, if you answered “no” to that, then why are you purchasing the opinions and ideas that society promotes?? If you believe in God but society tells you that you shouldn’t, why would you listen to them?? Similarly, if your best friend is a Christian, but you have no interest in becoming one, are you going to let him/her convince you? I’m not saying that having faith in a power beyond ourselves cannot provide us with solace in our darkest hours. Your Success Diva believes in God. But she doesn’t try to push others to believe in Him just because she does. Why?? Well, you see, here’s the way I look at it: only those who feel a weakness within themselves would feel it was necessary to alter the opinions and beliefs of those around them. If you have full confidence in your convictions, you don’t feel you have to persuade others to share them nor do you feel that you have to defend them or disguise them.

I have a great many friends who are atheists, and we all get along beautifully. On the other hand, my grandmother, a religious fundamentalist, tends to alienate those who do not believe exactly the same way she does. In fact, her best friend, whom she knew for several decades, didn’t feel that she could share personal things with her. She knew my grandmother would judge her for any conduct that she didn’t approve of. It’s funny how so many people who believe in God want to adopt the role of God for themselves. Rather than allowing everyone to have the freedom to believe the way they like, they somehow feel they have the right to interfere and control the lives of those around them. What I feel would be so much more beneficial is to merely share the positive qualities that others might associate with religious faith with your friends and acquaintances. Could there be a better testimony than that? I daresay not. Of course, whether you are Jewish, an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Mormon, or someone who hasn’t ever made up his/her mind what you believe, you will probably see at some point that making yourself the only focus of your life isn’t going to leave you feeling very content.  We are not made to be solitary creatures. If you will note, birds tend to migrate in flocks more often than not. And if you have the cable channel, Animal Planet, you might have had the chance to watch the fascinating and entertaining show, “Meerkat Manor”. If so, did you notice how the meerkats supported and cared for each other?? Yes, they had misunderstandings and quarrels and so forth. Yet, ultimately, they bonded with one another and saw that living in harmony with each other provided them more benefits than braving it out by themselves. “But I’m not a meerkat, dear diva,” you say. No, of course you’re not. You are a living, breathing human being, and my guess is that you need to give and receive love and affection a great deal more than any meerkat in existence does.

One of the most difficult things to do, though, is to reach out to others when you are in the depths of despair. How do I know?? Well, I have often isolated myself when I have been experiencing deep depression. I have shut people who cared about me out of my life by refusing to return phone calls and/or answer e-mails and letters sent to me by post. It was not a conscious decision on my part—or, at least, I didn’t think it was at the time. The problem is, the more I isolated myself, the more depressed I became. The fact that I wasn’t willing to give affection to others made me even less able to give myself any affection. The more I withdrew, the more I disliked myself. The less love I gave, the less I received, and the less I was able to give to myself. Even now, when I am feeling extremely sad, I have a habit of closing myself off. It often seems like such a formidable task to talk to others about how you are feeling, when all you really want to do is sit in a chair and/or cry for a few hours. You also fear that no one will really understand. To be honest, there are plenty of people who won’t understand. They’ll tell you things like “Pull yourself (or your act) together,” or they are sometimes even insensitive enough to say, “Snap out of it.” Does this mean that they don’t care about you?? No, it doesn’t. What it means is that they haven’t yet learned how to respond to the needs of other people. To them, depression is merely a state of mind, and they probably think that a state of mind can be changed as easily as a pair of shoes. It’s very easy to resent such people and to blame them for their uncaring attitude. But what I think will benefit you the most (and remember, you are the most important person in your life, even if you aren’t the only important person) is to not allow yourself to give way to resentment and bitterness. The moment you start feeling yourself getting angry at the people who don’t understand, ask yourself this: if I let myself be driven by a negative emotion because of this person, who is in control of me and of my life—me or them?? Do you see that the answer is “them”? I hope you do because it is. Anger can be used positively, but more often than not it is used destructively. Reacting in anger to something another person says or does is the same as saying: “Hey, I want you to know that you have had such a powerful influence on my life by what you said or did, that I am allowing you to make me angry, even though I know that anger is a destructive emotion and that I am hurting myself more than anyone else.” Is that what you want to do?? Is anything that anyone does or says worth it? Have you noticed, too, that anger, even if it seems to lend you energy at first, usually exhausts you in the long run? I have. Emotions such as love and compassion and generosity will actually give you energy, but resentment, frustration, anger, and hate will take energy from you. Now it’s one thing to remove toxic people from your life. There are indeed times when you simply must walk away from someone. However, never do so out of anger, even if ridding yourself of the anger you feel towards a particular person seems impossible. Always keep in mind that the last impression you make on someone can be every bit as important as the first impression. Wrap your mind about that thought for a moment, and tell me whether or not you want a person’s final impression of you to be of someone who has no control over his/her own emotions.

Now that you’ve heard your diva’s thoughts about anger, I will return to the subject of reaching out to those around you. Have you ever noticed that when you get intensely preoccupied, you forget about other things that are going on in your life?? For example, let’s say that you love foreign films. Well, if you go to the video store and rent a couple of movies directed by Federico Fellini or Francois Truffaut or Ingmar Bergman or another foreign filmmaker who is among your favorites, even if you just found out that your boyfriend or girlfriend has been cheating on you, are you focusing on that when you sit down to watch the films? Sure, you can’t exactly forget about it entirely. I mean, it’s a real situation—it does exist. But if you’re watching Fellini’s muse, Giulietta Masina, light up the screen in “La Strada” or “The Nights of Cabiria,” are you thinking every second about your unfaithful “significant other”? I doubt you are. To give another example, if you have a headache, but you love ice cream and decide to stop by the ice cream shop to get a scoop of your favorite flavor (whatever that might be), are you thinking about your headache as you enjoy the ice cream? If so, are you thinking about it as much as you were?? Are you sure?? Come on now, you know you weren’t.

Well, the emotional turmoil that comes from depression is not unlike the pain that you would experience if you found out that the man or woman you love has been involved with someone else at the same time he/she has been romancing you. It’s also not unlike a stomach ache. Sure, stomach pain is usually the result of a physical ailment, but it’s still pain, isn’t it? Next time you’re feeling blue or having a bad day, try reaching out to someone else. You don’t have to do anything that requires a lot of time and/or effort. Your act of kindness can be as simple as a short phone call, a brief e-mail, or a greeting card sent by post. Also, you don’t have to say much. I emphasize this because often, when a person is hurting themselves, they are unsure what to say and have difficulty communicating. What I would suggest is a simple message such as “You are in my thoughts” or “I’m sending you a hug” or “I just want you to know that you are one of the special people in my life.” You don’t have to worry about being eloquent or profound or charming. Just be sincere. A simple and small gesture can often mean as much to another person as an expensive gift, a bouquet of roses, or a lengthy letter or e-mail. And a phone call just to say “hello” can make the difference in both how you feel and how the person on the other end of the phone feels. You can make it a situation that is mutually beneficial. Is there anything better than that? Our competitive and fast-paced society is repsonsible for the “What’s in it for me?” attitude. But you know what? If you adopt your diva’s suggestion, you will find that there’s always something in it for you when you show caring for someone else.

I must provide one word of caution, though: not everyone is receptive. Why? Well, it’s easy for people to be skeptical when people do nice things for them or say kind things to them. They tend to think that you must have a motive behind your actions and/or words. This is why being completely sincere is essential. If someone is a friend but not a close friend, don’t pretend they are. It will probably make them suspicious. And when you tell another person that you love them, make sure the words are coming from your heart. And don’t expect them to say that they love you, too. Love is something that must be unconditional if it is to be at all genuine. Perhaps they are at a place in their life where they feel they must withhold affection. Maybe they have been rejected so much that they are afraid to freely give love. Or maybe they usually associate love with romantic love, and feel that saying they love you wouldn’t be appropriate. Whatever the case, don’t worry about it. You have done yourself a favor by verbally expressing your love. Love happens to be one of those emotions that has no negative consequences. Even if it isn’t reciprocated, it will not harm you or anyone else. Indeed, it is the only emotion that can fully heal someone.

That being said, I urge you to open yourself up to the love that others demonstrate towards you. In accepting the love you receive, you will be able to pass it along to others. What is essential is that you not count on the fact that the love you give to others will necessarily be returned to you from those specific people. You will get the love back, but it may come from other sources. Life is an odd thing, really—it’s incredibly complicated, utterly unpredictable, but ultimately fulfilling. But it can only be fulfilling if you let yourself be fulfilled by it. Now, it’s going to be complicated and unpredictable whether you want it to be or not. Those are two things that you haven’t any choice about. Personal fulfillment is something you do have a choice about, though. And although you should never look to others to fulfill you, I think you’ll find that in reaching out to others, you will be enabling yourself to experience a significant feeling of fulfillment.

To all of you, I send love, peace, joy, happiness. . .& loads of success!

Your Success Diva

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(photo: a group of meerkats show what team spirit is all about)

This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva