6: Imbalances

Modern airplanes, boats, and ships rely on radar to search for danger. These electronic devices constantly scan the path ahead to detect anything that requires a course correction in order to avoid trouble. The bene- fits of radar are now so important that it has long been a legal obligation to have it on airplanes and ships.

We have the capacity to do something similar— the equivalent of a psychic radar device that continually sweeps our environment for threats and opportunities. When we enter a crowded room, we look for people we know or want to avoid. If we are shopping, we will scan the area for items we want and perhaps sale items. When we are negotiating a major purchase, we will look for conditions that might make the purchase too expensive. If we are interviewing a potential new employee, we will want to give extra attention to body language as well as verbal responses to our questions. Our psychic radar provides invaluable data to help us move smoothly and more safely through our day.

While both electronic and psychic radar are designed to assist us in expanding our awareness and knowledge, there is a dangerous side to using our psychic radar. If we become too sensitive and inse- cure, we may create a serious imbalance in how we view our experiences and respond to them. Then, we might set our personal radar to search primarily for insults, disrespect, and criticism. When we give heightened attention to any hint of personal criticism directed to us, we set ourself up to overreact to negative events and underreact to constructive experiences.

Using the wrong setting on our psychic radar is similar to looking through dark glasses. All colors will be muted and may seem gloomy or obscure. We will miss the sunny colors and brightness of our environment. This can lead to major mistakes in how we interpret situations and respond to them.

It is easy enough to grasp the fact that a bad mood can color our perceptions and responses. But many of us fail to take the next step in realizing that the chip on our shoulder, the persistent anxiety we feel, and a quiet mood of disappointment can have a huge impact on our perceptions, judgment, and behavior. A small amount of sadness, fear, or resentment can grow into a permanent companion in our state of mind without being recognized. We may notice strong surges of emotion, but more moderate levels of doubt, pessimism, and annoyance may seem natural and normal. As a result, we may start paying too much attention to searching for flaws, faults, mistakes, and corruption.

Sensible people know that there is an abundance of flaws and faults in human nature. It is easy to find some in others or in ourself. There is corruption in society everywhere we choose to look, and no lack of serious threats to our safety and well-being—if we believe even half the news we hear or read every day. Despite the natural lure to keep adjusting down- ward the setting of our psychic radar, we need to be very careful, lest we lower our expectations too far. A pessimistic attitude, for example, can skew our perceptions to overstate disappointment and underrate opportunity. The chip on our shoulder (whether we recognize one or not) will highlight even slight signs of disrespect and misconstrue inoffensive comments as insults. Chronic doubt and insecurity may cause us to make too much of small risks and demand extra proof that they are unthreatening.

The gradual erosion of a balanced perspective often goes unchecked until we hit bottom and have become persistently angry, depressed, or anxious. Unfortunately, by then our perceptions have become poisoned by a huge accumulation of negative experiences. Our negative attitudes seem fully justified and will be difficult to change.

Dark emotions, such as paranoia, fear, resentment, and guilt, narrow our perceptions, producing the equivalent of tunnel vision. As a result, we will notice only that which threatens us—and ignore the rest. While on guard to detect any hint of personal criticism or rejection, we are likely to miss compliments as well as evidence of achievement. Sunk in disappointment, we will highlight our weaknesses and failure—even while we devalue our talents and successes. Quivering in hesitation, we discover all the reasons to doubt the future, but miss signs of our strength and progress. As these trends continue, we become trapped in a cycle of perpetual psychic self-destruction.

Imbalances occur in many other ways as well. Many people are unable to leave their past in order to embrace the present; they act as if ancient wounds and losses are still fresh and “bleeding” new misery every day. Of course, they are not—unless we “squeeze” them by reliving their distress and keeping them alive, fully charged with misery.

Many people seem unwilling to let go of crippling memories to make room for emerging opportunities and constructive activities. Even when old conflicts are not entirely resolved and the holes made by significant losses have not been filled, we owe it to ourselves to concentrate the bulk of our attention on our present. It is only in the present that we can heal, repair, and renew ourself. While we are a product of all past experiences, we are also capable of rebuilding and renewing who we are, how we feel, and what we do.

Another way we cause major imbalances in our life is by failing to differentiate between minor problems and those which are truly important. There are people who fail to realize that they have spent their lives “majoring in minor stuff.” They fuss over small details and often miss the larger picture. A typical example can be found in the way some large families approach holiday gatherings. An excess of effort and expense often goes into the preparations of food, drink, and details. As a result, the hosts become so overwhelmed they are unable to enjoy socializing with guests and celebrating the holiday. Priorities become skewed to turn a home into a temporary gourmet restaurant, instead of a family gathering.

The consequences of this distortion of priorities can leave us exhausted as we become consumed with details but neglect the things that are most important. For instance, we can agonize over the lack of perfection in what we do and fail to know when “good enough” would be quite acceptable. We might push ourself to make a flawless presentation until we become so rigid and formal that we behave more like a robot than a human. Or we may get so caught up in rules and traditions that we disregard the needs of our guests.

Worst of all, obsessing about minor details warps our ability to recognize and honor our principles and the real purpose of what we are doing. We can become lost in the effort to do everything by the rule book and please everyone. This is a formula for becoming a hollow person who is consumed and directed largely by outer events and the reactions of other people. We can only do this by neglecting our humanity, our legitimate needs, and our true pur- pose. If we spend too much effort on appearances rather than substance, we lose ourself in the superficial. Good manners become more important than sincere goodwill and friendliness. Polite, rehearsed speech becomes more important than genuine empathy and kindness. Kind words and gestures become more important than genuine caring.

When we are able to separate what is important from what is small, we are more able to connect with our human and spiritual strengths and possibilities. Knowing what is important in our lives keeps us engaged in the right direction to our thinking and expectations. To do less invites neglect and destruction to ourself and our lifestyle.

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