The sharply witty creator of Hyperbole and a Half has a funny story called The Sneaky Hate Spiral . It describes a series of events and interactions that don’t go so well, and it turns the protagonist into a hater of everything, before she has even realized that she has fallen into that trap. I see my clients in the spiral all the time, and I fall into it more than I would like. I am sure you do too. Often, we want life to go as planned, or to go as the ideal that we have in our heads, but it rarely does.
The antidote to the sneaky hate spiral is to live life:
Life is a team sport. Contrary to popular western mythology, we can’t go it
alone and need each other for support, perspective, and laughs. Ask for help, invite
others in, and practice vulnerability.
Example: I have been inviting clients to share with others that they don’t know
what they are doing and to ask for support. This is hard, given we are supposed to
cover up that we don’t know what we are doing in life. When we embrace and
reveal our human-ness, though, it can create a supportive environment for growth.
Once we hit grade school we get playfulness knocked out of us. This is a big
problem, as playing is the key to being emotionally resilient and flexible. Playing
gives us practice in learning and doing new things. Teens and adults need to play
Example: In one of my therapy groups recently, members decided to sing their
problems to one another to see what new things we could discover. We found out
that we are not great tune carriers, and that we don't have to be so serious about
our emotional struggles sometimes; it was quite funny and intimate.
“Performatively” Growth and development is needed so that the difficulties of life don’t knock us down and keep us down. How do we grow? By being who we are and who we’re becoming at the same time. How do we do that? By performing our lives together. Example: The other day I was being the ‘natural’ me by being impatient with a customer service rep at the phone company. Who I am is impatient with others. Who I am becoming is someone who is slower, kinder, and more flexible. I remembered that in the midst of the conversation and performed that kind person. It did not feel natural or comfortable, but it helped us finish the conversation much better than we started.
Next time you find yourself in the sneaky hate spiral, ask for help, be silly, and act like someone who loves everything. Let me know how it goes.