Author Archives: Anna
One common problem that women, especially the younger, gentler, and less worldly, run into is the problem of being overly responsible for other people feelings. Symptoms of this include being excessively apologetic, saying yes when we mean no, and, worse, being passive-aggressive.
A typical single gal example, and of course I never did this in my younger days (ahem), is continuing to go out with a guy because you feel bad telling him that you don’t like him romantically. You don’t want to “hurt him”. This leads to Stray Puppy Effect* (you keep on going out with him, after all). However, because you’re not being honest with your feelings and with him, you are stuck in a relationship you don’t want to be in with this particular person.
The antidote to this is thinking not about what the other person might feel if we were honest with them, but what would we feel if we were on the receiving end of the treatment. For example, what if you found out someone hung out with you just because he didn’t want to hurt your feelings and for no other reason? You would probably be offended that you weren’t being treated like a person who can handle themselves like a grown-up. It shows respect for another person to be honest with them about your feelings.
It can be hard to know what exactly we are responsible for and what we are not. If you read too many writings of Orthodox monastics and are a highly conscientious person, you can be left with a crushing sense of responsibility for the world’s sins. I like this recent Carolyn Hax article because she brings “commonsense moral reasoning” to explaining what one is responsible for, and what one is not.
Q: You have said a few times something along the lines of “We are not responsible for someone else’s feelings,” and when it comes to the extremes of narcissistic or victim-playing behavior, I get this. But if I do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else, whether through malicious forethought or benign error, it’s hard for me not to feel at least a little responsible for the likely distress that person then feels, and I do my best to make amends.
A: Truth is, I think a lot of what I advise and espouse amounts to a system — an emotional word problem, in a way. Therefore, talking about it involves breaking down very emotional things into transactions, which is inherently cold. But that’s just in the mechanics; the result is an emotional exchange, which, if handled with respect and fair concern for all involved, tends to be the opposite of cold. Take the transaction you cite: If you “do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else,” you’re still not responsible for the other person’s feelings; it’s his or her place alone to decide what to think about and do with your actions. BUT: You are responsible for you — which means you make a good-faith effort to express your regret and repair or mitigate any damage when you do something you recognize as wrong. Short version: Your actions can cause pain, of course, but you can’t reach in and personally adjust the pain levels. You can only change your actions.It is a cold word problem, but it also shows the path to a happy result where people care about each other while also recognizing the line between what is under your control (the outcome you intend) and isn’t (outcome you get).
We should hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always and by everyone.
– St. Vincent of Lerins
When the soul becomes totally radiant and covered with the ineffable beauty of the glory of the light of Christ, it comes to share in the very life of the divine Spirit to such perfection that it is changed into the very chamber and throne of God.
– St. Makarios the Great
Earlier this year, due to work-related stress, I developed an epic bout of insomnia. I’m talking about not sleeping for weeks on end. I knew something had to change (and changing jobs was not the answer). So I did some bibliotherapy.
Most advice surrounding insomnia is about sleep hygiene: Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after noon, don’t take naps, get up at the same time every day, etc. For people suffering from chronic insomnia, these recommendations seem like a joke. They just don’t work.
There are a lot of books and even more websites giving advice on insomnia—and most of them want to sell you something. The only book that I found helpful was Say Good Night to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs.
Around the time I read this book, the stress from work abated but the insomnia did not go away. I found out from Say Good Night to Insomnia that this was pretty typical for people with chronic insomnia: just because the cause goes away doesn’t mean the problems sleeping will likewise go away. (Another fun fact: Most people with chronic insomnia rarely feel sleepy, which is why they are mostly OK to drive and generally can function as normal human beings.)
A mental switch that helped me feel better about my sleep was that I started a free trial of the sleep tracker on my Android phone. I found that I was getting more sleep than I actually thought — another thing that according to Say Good Night to Insomnia is pretty typical. I wasn’t spending as much time as I needed in deep sleep, but at least I was getting some sleep.
Say Good Night to Insomnia was particularly valuable to me for one specific piece of advice that worked pretty much instantaneously:
I started going to bed only when I was feeling drowsy.
Since I was the kind of person who would go to bed when the clock dictated rather than when my body told me it was time to go to sleep, this was a huge change. I very much resisted following this advice because I had convinced myself that the time spend in bed trying to fall asleep was valuable. However, I was spending 9-10 hours in bed, most of which were wasted hours. Most adults do not need to sleep that long, so why was I putting myself through that?
When I took the leap of faith and tried the recommendation, I began to fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting my pillow. Now I spend much fewer hours in bed.
I’d love to say that I never feel any anxiety anymore and am able to trust in God’s Providence for all things, but that’s a work in progress. However, I did discover that waiting for the right timing rather than trying to control a situation leads to better outcomes. Who knew?
Congratulations to our Brigid! She and her groom Anthony were married on Sunday, August 30.
God grant you many years! Να ζήσετε!
Here we are right after the ceremony:
We wanted to let our readers know that this will be the last Orthogals post for a while. In the next couple of months there will be a lot of changes in our lives; we are going on a honeymoon and adjusting to married life, moving, and preparing for the arrival of our first Orthogal baby! We will pop in occasionally with an announcement or some links or quotes, but there will be little original content.
In the meantime, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org any topics you’d like us to tackle. We’d also love to take a look at your piece if you have a submission for us to consider publishing. We look forward to hearing from you.
Bye for now!
Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.
– George MacDonald