Do you “always” find yourself in the wrong line at the grocery store? Or “always” in the slowest traffic lane on the highway? Do you “never” have anything good happen in your life? Do friends “never” ask you to grab a coffee? This kind of thinking illustrates a belief system that puts you in the center of the universe. From that perspective, it’s relatively easy to picture yourself as constantly being on the short end of justice. It’s as if some force in the universe is picking on you. We hear it in the two-year-old’s (or teen’s) whine of “it’s not fair!”
The psychological term for this kind of thinking (that stinkin’ thinkin’) is “external locus of control.” With it, we see life and situations happening to us outside of our personal control or effort. Helpless against the raging tide of life, we are tossed to and fro. With such a mindset, one is often subject to the whims of other people. Feeling weak but not sharing such vulnerability with a trusted other, such a person gets clues about how to act (or even think) from someone else or from the situation itself. I saw this a lot when working with teenagers as a parish priest. Too many kids got their sense of self-worth by being part of the “in crowd.” The “cool” kids may have been acting in destructive or inappropriate ways but being part of that group was, in some teens’ minds, far better than being outside of it.
“Co-dependency” is another term. I’m okay, if you’re okay, even if that means I constantly compromise personal values or beliefs in order to be with you. Unless you love me, I am worthless. I’m still giving up control of my thoughts and actions in order to satisfy you. We are not a team of co-equal partners. It’s one up (you) and one down (me). Oddly enough, allowing myself to stat in such a relationship does not require me to change. I don’t have to be coachable. I don’t have to take any responsibility for the success or failure of this relationship. I can play the victim and whine about how everything works against me (like “the ump ‘always’ calls a third strike on me”) in the game of life.
The best counter to this “cosmic thinking” (always, never, only…) is a swing-for-the- fences mentality. Show up. Dig in. Suck less. Once again, baseball can teach us how to live a happier life. Drop the cosmic thinking. No one is “out to get” you. Life just happens. Also, you cannot expect others to carry you through life. You have to do your part. Swing. That’s all we ask. You can’t swing if you don’t show up. You won’t hit unless you control your attitude and effort (i.e., dig in). No one is looking for perfection. In baseball, we’re looking for someone who is coachable, someone who practices, digs in, and is part of the team. In life, we want you to flush the codependent mindset of having someone or something else define you. You’re good enough to be on this team (in this relationship) – so, be on it. Be a part of it. Do your best. That’s all we expect and all we need.
Cosmic thinking and whining do not win ball games. They do not engender sympathy. Nor do they move a relationship forward. You might want to try this exercise: describe a situation in which you have to “swing your bat.” Where do you need to do your part to move that situation forward? How would flushing co-dependency help; that is, not seeing yourself as the victim of outside influences? Note how you feel after things have changed. Is there a difference in how others relate to you now as opposed to earlier?