Opinion: Wisdom Workout

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Energize Your Attitude

John Gottman is a researcher who created a system to determine the success rate of relationships by studying videotapes of couples interacting. 

He mainly focuses on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and contempt.

Gottman considers contempt the single most important sign that a relationship is in trouble. He defines contempt as qualitatively different from criticism. Contempt is any statement made from a superior level. It is trying to put that other person on a lower plane. “We find that women are often the first to start talking about a problem and if men get irritated and turn away, the women will get more critical and it becomes a circle. However, there isn’t any gender differences when it comes to contempt.”

The dictionary defines contempt as: disdain, scorn, mockery, derision, abusive reproach, mean opinions and disgust. When a relationship deteriorates into these attitudes, it is extremely painful.

This information is useful to assess how we interact with others but today I want to highlight the common habit of runaway self-criticism. Many of us are so used to listening to inner criticism, we hardly notice how consistently invalidating and contemptuous we often are to ourselves.

Since a healthy attitude is a crucial factor in how we manage our world, an attitude overhaul can be extremely valuable. If self-criticism is your constant companion, reflecting on life-giving attitudes such as respect, harmony, gratitude and praise can flip the negativity switch and avoid the pain of self-contempt. These four attitudes hold the key to transforming the way we experience our lives.

When you adopt an attitude of self-respect, you bring consideration, regard, courtesy, politeness, attention and reverence into your energetic field. This allows you to bypass the rough, crude, rude, negative thinking that drains your energy and diminishes your satisfaction.

The second attitude adjustment is harmony. When you bring harmony into your life, cooperation, caring, mutual understanding, synergy, collaboration and ease flow from this way of seeing. When you actively seek out ways that you are similar to others instead of different, you move away from isolation, anxiety and fear of the future.

The third attitude is gratitude. In order to be grateful for something, you must first truly value it. We often ignore the wonderful aspects of our lives because we are relentlessly driving ourselves at breakneck speeds. When we stop and evaluate our lives through the lens of gratitude, we miraculously see a life full of value here and now. It is worthwhile to take stock of the valuable people, experiences, and possessions you presently have to validate how fortunate you truly are.

The fourth attitude is praise. Praise is the mother of beauty. Think about it. You wouldn’t praise or compliment something that you think is ugly. When you adopt an attitude of praise, you actively start looking for and seeking beauty. If you want more beauty, see more beauty by increasing your self-acceptance and your acceptance of others. Seeking beauty opens the doors to curiosity, love, kindness and the lightening up of critical judgments.

When you exercise the healing power that resides in all respectful, harmonious, grateful and complementary actions, you can watch as your habitual and stilted ways of seeing yourself and others are magically transformed. All that is required is a flip of your attitude switch.

Susan is a local author and producer of personal development seminars for over three decades. Find her at beyondintellect.com.

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