Meet your match mindfully
February 14, 2017 / By Parallax Press
By Chamin Ajjan, LCSW, ACT
Has dating ever made you feel like you were losing your mind? If so, you are not alone. For many, finding “the one” can feel like a search for intellectually stimulating content on VH1’s reality TV lineup—pointless, frustrating, and unrewarding. Whether you are divorced and trying to get back out there or still looking to meet your life partner, dating is a universal stressor that can lead to some pretty warped ideas. Mindful dating can help you to feel more in control, less hopeless, increase enjoyment, and reduce anxiety while you get your flirt on.
Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment.
By cultivating awareness of what is happening in the here and now, you give yourself the chance to fully participate in your life instead of being reactive and going through it on automatic pilot. Mindful dating is the practice of bringing that awareness to your romantic encounters and using it to remain open to yourself and a potential partner.
We bring so many expectations with us on a date: “He should be this,” “He must look a certain way,” “I have to feel that instant connection.” These expectations, along with our negative past dating experiences, can lead to missing out on a wonderful relationship or falling for one that is not worth your time.
Learning to date mindfully allows you to be your true self and make a genuine connection.
In other words, the more you learn to be present and in tune with your needs, the less focused you will be on trying to be what “he” wants you to be or what you want him to be. Let’s face it, that is not a good look and it only leads to resentment and disappointment when the true self finally emerges.
So bottom line, if you are in your mind, you are not fully present. And if you are not fully present, you definitely are not the best representation of yourself! Mindful dating will help you have an authentic dating experience and will open up the possibilities of a true love connection.
According to Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness meditation teacher and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School: mindfulness allows us to “see our thoughts as mental events that come and go in the mind like clouds across the sky instead of taking them literally. The idea that we’re no good, unlovable, and ineffectual can finally be seen as just that—an idea—and not necessarily as the truth, which just might make it easier to disregard.” This is such a simple concept.
But for many of us, negative thoughts are so compelling that we accept them as the truth.
The same is true for our negative thoughts about dating. Twisted thinking around dating is normal when you have had several disappointing experiences. However, cognitive distortions can become habitual, and when dating you may have an automatic response or make a snap judgment based on these warped ideas. By learning to objectively witness your thoughts about dating, you can prevent old habits that are favored when you’re on automatic pilot, from ending a potential relationship before it has had a chance.
I hear all kinds of warped thoughts about dating from clients, friends, and family members. Dating can bamboozle the best and brightest of us. You can end up saying things that give the wrong impression, or believing things that are not true.
So next time you dip your foot in the dating pool, make sure to keep this list of five of the more common cognitive distortions around dating in mind to ensure better results.
Mind Reading: telling yourself that you know what someone else is thinking and feeling and why they’re acting the way they are, with no real proof. For example: He reserved a table in the back because he is embarrassed to be with me.
Should Statements: creating a list of rules for yourself that are unbreakable and serve as a way to criticize yourself and others. If you break these rules, you are disappointed or angry at yourself or you feel guilty for not living up to your unrealistic expectations. If someone else breaks these arbitrary rules, you feel angry or resentful. For example: If he was attracted to me he should have kissed me. I guess I’m not pretty enough.
Black or White Thinking: when you see things in all or nothing terms. If you fall short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. For example: I am completely ruining this date because I don’t know anything about the Yankees!
Catastrophizing: when you focus on the worse possible outcome of a situation. You exaggerate the significance of things and then blow them completely out of proportion. For example: He doesn’t like Thai food? I love Thai food! This is never gonna work between the two of us. I am going to die single!!!
Overgeneraliztion: you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat and you use such words as “all,” “always,” and “never” when you think about it. Similar experiences are then equated to this one experience. For example: What is the point of dating? I only meet jerks!
If you can identify with any of these types of twisted thinking, fear not! You can learn to manage these thoughts. Here are some tried and true tools:
- Be aware of your thinking, and what distortions you are prone to, and name them. Sometimes just realizing your thoughts are distorted is enough to quiet them.
- Remember, just because you think it, doesn’t make it true! Thoughts are just that, thoughts. They are simply ideas. Recognizing that may help you to let go of them instead of making them your truth.
- Examine whether there is a double standard. If you had a friend who was thinking the same thing how would you judge him or her? Is there any reason why your judgments would be less critical of someone else than of yourself? How would other people look at the situation? Why would others be more understanding of you than you are of yourself?
- Try mindfulness. Practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindful eating can help you to get out of your head and into the present moment. Nobody wants to date someone that isn’t all there! Focus on describing things without using critical words. Keep away from such key words as “always” and “never.” Try to focus on the things you can observe, such as, “He’s a really good listener,” and how you feel, “I feel insecure.”
Stay in the here and now.
Listen to this 30-minute talk recorded February 23 when Chamin shared her insights on how to stop sabotaging our dating experiences. Register here >>