Friday, October 14, 2011
Your Mind Wants Answers
So, you doing the whole online dating thing. You've been writing some guy and he seems interested. Maybe you've talked on the phone, and even gone on a first date. It all appears to be going in the right direction. And then - poof! He's gone. What happened?
Unless someone tells you directly why they've chosen to stop contacting you, the answer to that question is always another question: "who knows?" In fact, even if someone tells you something directly, it might not be the truth. Or the full truth anyway.
Being a student of meditation, I have become familiar with the way the human mind likes to work. And one thing it desires whenever facing something unpleasant is resolution. Usually in the form of an answer. Or set of answers.
Now, there's nothing wrong with thinking that someone disappeared because "he/she wasn't interested." Or that "he/she must have met someone else." Either of those answers might very well be true. And no matter what you do, chances are that you're brain will produce that kind of story to help sooth your feelings.
The problem, in my view, comes when you 100% believe in the story. A story that, if not told to you directly from the other person, you can't 100% prove is correct.
Further trouble comes when you take this same story and begin applying it to everyone who does something similar.
I can hear a few readers shouting "But that's just common sense, using the past to predict the present." To which I'd like to say "Yes, but also remember that everyone is different as well."
Here's the thing. If you have decided that you want to move on from someone, then thinking something like "he/she isn't interested" is useful. It might be the very thing to help you detach from any emotional connection that may have developed.
However, there's a big difference between using an answer like that to help you move on, and allowing an answer like that to dictate how you're going to respond to someone who you're still interested in.
Letting assumptions control your behavior often leads to missed opportunities and shoddy connections.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read a woman describe a dating situation where a guy didn't write or call her back within a few days, and she decided "he wasn't interested," I'd be rich. Filthy rich. This kind of narrative seems less common amongst men, but I have to say that I was guilty of writing off at least a few women in the past as "not interested" for not responding quick enough.
There's another nuance to all of this worth mentioning. Like many things in life, perceived trends or patterns of experience can help to significantly reduce the amount of time involved in determining a course of action. Certainly, if you're experience has been that most people who don't contact you after X number of days aren't going to contact you - or aren't going to display a serious level of interest - then it makes sense to believe that the same might be true in the current place. I often make decisions based on trends or patterns, and so this post isn't about dismissing that.
The difference though, is that when I'm choosing to act based on a trend or pattern, I do my best to remember that I'm choosing. And that there's always a chance that the choice might be wrong. That recognition that the trend or pattern might not be true in the current situation allows me, when I experience it, to remain open to something different happening. That maybe the person on the other end is unexpectedly busy, or is waiting to see what happens on another date, or simply doesn't respond as quickly as everyone else.
It's vitally important to realize that it's in your mind's nature to want answers. If there's a lack of a clear answer, it will make something up. Learning to hang without an answer when there isn't one, or only a partial one, is a major dating and relationship skill. One I'm still trying to master.
How about you?