Interpersonal Edge: Dancing in quicksand

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
Q : I keep going into work thinking I'll find solid ground in either others or my company and instead feel like I'm dancing in quicksand. There's so much going on I feel like I'm barely dealing with the same workplace I left the night before. With all the shifting sands what do you teach to help your clients cope?
A: If you put your well-being in the hands of your external world…it will always let you down. Our peace and power only originate from our ability to 1) manage our internal reactions 2) subsequently have the impulse control to behave well even when we feel badly.
Buddha, philosopher and spiritual teacher said, “Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone but yourself.” Obviously people can love us, support us, and help us but if we depend on others and to always reflect our glory we make ourselves fragile.
We can, and often do, look at our circumstances and find reasons to be miserable and behave poorly. However, with those same circumstances we also have the power to behave effectively.
Viktor Frankl wrote, “Man's Search for Meaning” in 1946 sharing his experiences as a Nazi camp prisoner.  He developed out of this adversity a psychotherapeutic method that identifying a purpose in life pulls you into a happier future. You might expect anyone in a concentration camp to only feel pity for himself but Frankl, because of his reaction, created a new useful field of psychology.
If we obsess on all the areas we cannot control then our rigid perception of the prison of our limits controls us. Frankl was in an actual prison with nearly no freedom yet he found self-determination anyway. His behavior challenges each of us to search out and use our areas of freedom no matter what our current limits. If Frankl can see powerful choices while in a concentration camp what could we achieve during a pandemic?
We need to balance this personal responsibility and power with empathy for our struggle. Some days we will wallow in self-pity and tell our tales of woe with passionate conviction for our victimhood. On better days we can ask ourselves if the hood we want to live in starts with victim and shift our internal GPS to a better community.
Life does not get easier or less complex as we age. At some point, deciding we deserve to have a high level of well-being matters. The secret to a high-level of well-being is to withdraw from seeing ourselves as victims, take ultimate responsibility for the results we're getting, and commit to learning every darn tool that improves our problem solving.
You're worth this effort, no one else will fight this battle for you, and a sanctuary lies inside you that's independent of the shifting sands of the external world. Learning to be well despite your circumstances is the ultimate power and ultimate freedom and it lies within your grasp. All you need to decide today is are you worth fighting for? Or will you continue to wait for others and the world to win a battle that only you can win?
Walking away from the victimhood, you'll discover there are vast neighborhoods of peace, effectiveness and creativity you've always possessed that have been untapped. May you be well, may you be at peace, and may you let your challenges open up a power you previously dared not think belonged to you.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's “Workplace Guru.”. She's the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).