I have a friend who once, in an uncomfortably long period as a single, put a lonely hearts ad in the newspaper. He received a fair number of replies and found himself, one evening, across the table from a rather attractive, well-dressed and articulate woman of about his own age. The evening started out well – they shared superficial information about their jobs, their background, and so on.

Later, as one glass turned into four, she began to talk about the qualities she was looking for in a new partner. He must not smoke, or drink too much. Did he like heavy rock? She didn’t. Did he support an NFL team? She had been a football widow and never again…

And so it went on, until it seemed to him she had closed all the doors and shutters, leaving her inside in the dark and him, rather bemused, on the outside.

Especially after a difficult relationship, many of us tend to focus on pushing away negative experiences instead of welcoming positive ones. Our frustrated expectations and bad memories have accumulated, burning themselves into a shield that we think, consciously or unconsciously, will protect us from future hurt. But such a shield isolates as it protects. It is a form of living in the past that cuts us off from the perception and enjoyment of the present.

Of course, memories of past hurts and an associated caution for the future arrive in our consciousness automatically. They appear like bubbles out of the depths of our soul. But if we are able to recognise the real nature of these thoughts and anxieties, and if we can understand that such thoughts are preventing us from truly living life, then we soon stop paying too much attention to the bubbles, we give them less value and after a while they gradually disappear.

So instead of locking yourself up in a tower of negativity, instead of trying to legislate against future pain, instead of isolating yourself from the world and all its joys, recognise your anxieties as they rise to the surface and see them for what they really are – just thoughts. And then remember what I always say – don’t believe everything you think.

– Dirk de Sousa


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