The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Dealing With Doubt

How should I deal with small nagging doubts I have about my girlfriend?




































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Okay, you’re dating someone, and suddenly those warm, gushy feelings evaporate, dissipate, gone. What do you do? Do you continue dating them, when yesterday you felt so close to them? And what if you have no clue as to why your feelings evaporated? How do you handle yourself? This is a question from Joe. See how you would handle this.


“Dear Dr. Kenner. I’ve had a girlfriend for three weeks now and I’ve really enjoyed being with her.” Here comes the but. “But even from the beginning, I’ve had small doubts. I think this is just something I do to myself when I’m either in or about to be in a relationship with someone. These doubts were not that great until yesterday when suddenly it feels as though I lost all my feelings for her. And that feeling persists today. I feel like there’s something small that happened yesterday. I feel a bit rejected, and maybe that’s why I feel this way or maybe it’s something else. Either way, I still want to be with her and I think my feelings were strong enough not to have suddenly dissolved completely so easily.” So he’s talking past tense now. His feelings were strong. “Based on what little information I’ve given you, do you suppose this is due to a feeling of rejection? If not, what do you suppose I should do about it? Joe.”


Joe, this is such a fascinating question for me because it’s not so much the relationship that I’m focused on. It’s how you use your mind. How do you deal with such an important choice as choosing your romantic partner, eventually maybe your lifetime partner? That is one of the key decisions, if I had it on one hand, that’s one of the key decisions you make in life. Your career, whether or not to have a family, what hobbies you enjoy, what friends – man, a lifetime partner is right up there on that one hand of key decisions. So it’s an extremely important choice and if you do not have a method to go about choosing the right partner, you’re going to be at sea. You’re going to be just blowing around at sea. The sails, whatever way the wind blows, you’ll be feeling, “Today I love her, and now I don’t love her and I don’t know why.” And then you’re not going to feel much self respect because that “I don’t know why” is going to eat away at you.


So going by gut, unanalyzed feelings, gut feelings don’t cut it. They’re fuzzy, they’re out of focus, they’re vague, they don’t inform you as to what to do, how to guide your life, what choices to make, how to understand yourself. So one of the skills is that you want to get very specific with yourself. You want the skill of, “How do I understand myself?” So you can ask yourself, and you started to do this, ask yourself, Joe, am I feeling rejected? Is that the feeling? Or is there another feeling? Am I angry with her? Am I feeling guilty? Am I feeling depressed? Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with my girlfriend. Maybe I’m worried about my job. So first capture the emotions. There’s a logical way to do this. We’re most immediately in touch with our emotions. But you did mention rejection, so I think that’s in the ballpark. And that’s the start of introspection. Looking inwards to understand yourself. You can even ask yourself, what images are crossing my mind? Maybe an image of a former girlfriend crosses your mind and you’re like, “Oh my God, she rejected me too and I told myself I’d never go through this pain again, so maybe I’m afraid to date.” Maybe you project into the future, “I don’t want to get married. I saw my parents’ horrible divorce. Horrible. And I had to live through that and I don’t want to ever do that to myself or my kids. So the closer I get to someone, the scarier it becomes.” Maybe those are some of the images that will come to your mind.


Then you get the images and the feelings and you pick the most important feeling – say rejection – and you say, “Okay, if my rejection could speak, what would it say?” You want to get very specific. You want to get the thoughts. What would it say? I can’t handle reject? Or maybe you don’t like her. Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s not rejection. But you put your feelings into words. You can do this methodically on a thought record. There’s a book Mind Over Mood, you can go to my website and get that book, You try to identify the hot thought. The thought that’s driving you buggy. “I can’t handle rejection,” for example. Then look for the evidence for it, the evidence against it. You tie it all together and you want to explore your own feelings. You want to explore the ambivalence. “Why am I feeling this way? Why do I want to stay with her? Why don’t I want to stay with her?” And maybe you’ll learn how to take rejection better too, if that ends up being the case. But the bottom line is, you will know you!