No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.
I sat there in her living room staring at her through teary eyes. “I feel crazy,” I said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Why do you feel crazy?” she asked.
“Because I’m neurotic and self-conscious and regretful, and so much more all at once,” I said.
“And you don’t think everyone feels like this at times?” she asked.
“Not like this,” I replied under my breath.
“Well you’re wrong,” she said. “If you think you know someone who never feels a bit crazy and off-center, you just don’t know enough about them. Every one of us contains a measure of ‘crazy’ that moves us in strange, often perplexing ways. This side of us is necessary; it’s part of our human ability to think, adapt and grow. It’s part of being intelligent,” she said.
I sat silently for a moment. My eyes gazed from her eyes to the ground and back to her eyes again. “So you’re saying I should want to feel like this?”
“To an extent,” she said. “Let me put it this way: Taking all your feelings seriously all the time is a waste of your spirit. You have to know that sometimes what you feel simply won’t align with what you want; it’s just your subconscious mind’s way of helping you look at things from a different perspective. These feelings will come and go quickly as long as you let them go… as long as you consciously push past them.”
We shared another moment of silence, then my lips curled up slightly and I cracked a smile, “Thank you, Grandma,” I said.
Over the course of the next few hours we discussed the following – some ways we unnecessarily drive ourselves crazy:
1. Should haves, would haves and could haves…
As Thich Nhat Hanh so perfectly said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
In many cases you stay stuck in your old routines for no other reason than that they are familiar to you. In other words, you’re afraid of change and the unknown. You continually put your dreams and goals off until tomorrow, and you pass on great opportunities simply because they have the potential to lead you out of your comfort zone.
You start using excuses to justify your lack of backbone: “Someday when I have more money,” or “when I’m older,” or the over-abused “I’ll get to it as soon as I have more time.” This is a vicious cycle that leads to a deeply unsatisfying life – a way of thinking that eventually sends you to your grave with immense regret. Regret that you didn’t follow your heart. Regret that you always put everyone else’s needs before your own. Regret that you didn’t do what you could have done when you had the chance.
So how do you prevent regretting all the potential should haves, would haves and could haves?
Simple. Forget the past. Forget what you can’t change. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. From this point on, let there be no excuses, no explanations and no regrets. Start from where you are right now, break free from your cage of comfort and take a bold step forward.
2. Love driven addictions.
It happens to all of us at some point – suffering from the consequences of love-driven obsession and addiction. Your desire for someone bestows upon you an intoxicating, mind-altering dose of feelings you never dared to admit you wanted. It’s an emotional bender, perhaps, of reckless love and roaring excitement.
When the subject of your desire is even slightly withheld from you, you promptly spiral out of control, feeling crazy and depleted, as if a drug you rely on is being dangled in front of you just out of your reach. And then you become resentful of your dealer – the subject of your desire – who you believe encouraged your addiction in the first place, but now refuses to tender the good stuff you have come to rely on… even though you’re certain they have it, darn it, because they used to give it to you all the time free of charge.
Meanwhile, of course, this person has become more and more appalled by your junkie ways. They look at you no longer as an equal, but as a dependent who relies on them. They don’t see the person they cared for; they see the mess you’ve become. But if you stop and think about it, how can you blame them? Your addictive obsession has devalued your own self-esteem and self-worth; and it’s hard to love and respect those who don’t love and respect themselves. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Relationships and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Competing with everyone else.
If you compete with others, you will become bitter. If you compete with a previous version of yourself, you will become better. It’s as simple as that. You are not in competition with anybody except yourself; plan to outdo your past not other people.
Rather than compete against others, work with them on a common goal. Use your combined insights and talents to achieve what none of you can alone. Real personal growth and learning occurs through relationships, when the competitive spirit is replaced with a collaborative one.
4. Complaints backed by lack of action.
Complaining is a draining waste of time. We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Any amount of it you spend whining and complaining is a total loss; do something useful instead.
Take the next 24 hours and every time you start to complain, realize it, admit it and stop it. How often do you complain and harp on negative thoughts? It may be more often than you think. Know that bringing awareness to this unproductive habit is the first step to overcoming it.
Bottom line: You are not allowed to complain about something unless you’re going to do something about it. (Read Think and Grow Rich.)
5. The maintenance of lies.
What’s the best part of telling the truth? You don’t have to keep track of everything you’ve said. Quite simply, the truth doesn’t cease to exist just because you ignore it. It takes constant care and maintenance to hide reality behind a lie. The truth may be hard to deal with, it may irritate you, but it will always set you free.
In the end someone is going to tell the truth anyway. The only question is: Who do you want to tell it, you or them?
6. Procrastinating until there’s an emergency.
To resist at the beginning is always the easiest choice to make, and it’s also the only choice that guarantees you will never reach the end result you desire.
The thing we all do best to drive ourselves crazy is to do nothing when something needs to get done. The way to counteract this is simple: engage deeply in work that needs to be completed.
Your time is now. There’s no price too great for feeling accomplished. There’s no price too great for feeling alive. And if you don’t do it now, you probably never will. You know the thing you’ve been putting off the longest? That thing you’ve been procrastinating on for the last several weeks? That’s the thing you need to start doing today. That’s the thing you need to start before going to bed tonight.
The time to start is not when the crap hits the fan. The time to start is now. Period.
7. Focusing on what you don’t like.
What you focus on grows stronger in your life. When you focus on a person’s wonderful qualities, you have a wonderful relationship with them. When you focus on a person’s not so wonderful qualities, you have a not so wonderful relationship with them. When you focus on benefits of a situation, you get to take advantage of them. When you focus on the drawbacks, you gain nothing but a frown.
The bottom line is that you see only what you want to see, and what you see determines where you wander in life. Your attitude is a little thing that makes a massive difference. Don’t be one of the crazy ones who makes it a point not to smile. (Read The Happiness Project.)
8. Your expectations.
Life will never live up to your expectations, unless your expectations are simply to embrace life as it unfolds and make the very best of it. You have to lower your expectations and increase your appreciation to improve your happiness. Know that everything is in impeccable order whether you understand it or not. How you react determines how good it turns out for you.
Something that is really difficult, but totally worth it, is giving up on how you thought it was ‘supposed to be.’ The most beautiful part of this practice is simply returning to the peaceful feeling of being and working with what’s available to you in the moment. This peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you had expected.
So embrace life’s surprises. Smile and realize that it’s far better to be pleasantly surprised than hopelessly disappointed.
What would you add to the list? What’s been making you feel crazy lately? Leave us a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Alyssa L. Miller
The point about being a collaborator rather than a competitor hits home for me, specifically in intimate relationships. The team-minded approach makes both parties feel acknowledged, heard and accounted for – something I need to work on. I’m used to setting expectations for myself and my partner with a “me” focus and didn’t realize how dissapointed I always felt when things didn’t measure up. There are two people in a relationship with separate realities, needs and attitudes. Both need to be accounted for in a successful relationship, regardless of how insignificant or confusing those realities seem to the other person. For a 36 year old woman, I have a lot of growing up to do!
Thanks for the great advice. I always try to tell myself “It’s not recovery… it’s discovery”. Great post. Thanks
What driven me crazy is the ignorance . Specially when the ignorance comes from close friends .
Thanks for this great post.
@Jonathan: “Enjoy life and all it’s little idiosyncratic events. It’s the best reality show going!” Love it! =)
@April: Great point. When you see yourself getting upset about other people and their flaws, take a moment to reflect and just be happy that you don’t act that way. Focusing on your positivity is easiest way to motivate others around you to do the same.
@Carolyn: Sometimes all it takes is connecting with a quote that changes your perspective forever. Good for you!
@Amandah: Great addition, thank you!
@Sandra Hamlett: Forgiveness is one of the greatest virtues to which you should always aspire to fulfill. Imagine if everyone you knew was willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that you all would not be able to solve?
The willingness to admit that we are all human, and to forgive sincerely, is a sign of your emotional strength and maturity. Ultimately, this forgiveness is for you. It sets you free.
@Cindy: You’re too funny. =) Thank you!
@liberty4ev: Thank you so much! We truly appreciate your love and support. =)
@Vernette: You can do it. Seriously! Focus on the present and making yourself happy in it.
@Eva: Great quote! =)
@All: I am glad this article has brought to your attention what indeed drives us all crazy at times. It sounds like many of you are aware of your own pet peeves and are taking positive action. As always, thank you for the continued insight, feedback, and community support.
Second guessing my direction, and decisions already made.
Number 2-drop the obsession-this is a must for me!
Been beating myself up so unnecessarily for so long. Needed this – it’s dead right!
Your posts help me every time, they all mean something to me but what makes me most crazy is feeling like I’m not capable of following all of these wonderful suggestions that I know will help. I feel overwhelmed sometimes and than I feel crazy because i can’t do it – it sounds easy, it makes sense, so than why can’t I just settle down do it!?
My husband is driving me crazy. Now I know this sounds like a blame thing but…its not that it’s just that I have more than my unfair share of our workload. Its not that its just that I’m chronically ill and he’s healthy as an ox and still doesn’t help. Its that I’ve become a control freak because in order to make it all work I have to take control of everything. Its that I’ve become sullen and withdrawn, and most of all resentful. Its that I get so tired and frustrated I yell at my kids because they made a mess that all kids are supposed to make but i’m too tired of cleaning it all up. I was never this way until my husband. And I can’t fix him…only me. So, how do I fix me. I miss me. The fun, exuberant, somewhat neurotic me. I have completely lost her and that drives me crazy.
Victoria, 3 years have passed since you wrote the above comment.
My heart felt your sadness, as I too feel like I’ve lost my joyous heart.
In TCM , this means that your actual heart is losing more and more life energy/ chi. Which creates more sadness. I realized that I stopped laughing out loud totally but just a little inside even with comedies. This is all part of this imbalance of losing ones self.
I pray your life is somehow better but if its not joyous make I recommend some tips that I’ve just started and I feel better already.
Get some Chinese TCM herbs for your heart. Many cities have Acup. Schools with clinics so the herbs and acup. are low cost. These have made a big big difference!
Get the book TNT The Power Within by Claude Bristol, lays out a plan of creating a new life by focusing on what you really want in your life now!
Robert Brown’s book on Breathwork with included CD has been priceless as we are breathing in our stress and frustration which will never make us feel powerful, more healthy and in control of our lives. It’s like we are living with PTSD which is the precursor of getting seriously sick with heart disease / cancer you name it!
Last, if your husband is the same ~ borrow or whatever and let him go as anyone that does all that you do while he does nothing is not worthy to share your life! I wish you all the best in your new Life!
Love & Happiness,
The fact I can’t have this guy. That drives me crazy, cos I can’t stop thinking about him – am convinced he’s the right one, and the right one not easy to find these days. Have also lost the drive for study. Exams are on and I’m just not there. I used to be in to it all, but I feel like I’m constantly striving and not getting anywhere. Good advice above.
Victoria, I could have written the same comment. You are not alone
Whoa! Guess I’m way beyond most situations but it’s never to late to superglue things back together. It’s been kinda super-rough for a while. I’ve tried to deal with it as a grown up, responsible human being by going to therapy, writing everyday, working with my feelings but it seems the more I focus on the bad things in life, the bigger the bad things become. Stuff is going on like my mom is paralyzed & might not have so much time left. I got promoted big time with a big raise & lots of more work which stressed me out to the point that I’m on sick-leave for the depression & anxiety right now. Thing is, Ive turned my back on what I wanted to do in life & choose the easy, safe office-path. I’ve done loads of crazy shit lately but most people have been very understanding & helpful. Guess everything is gonna be alright sooner or later. I need to get my ass back to where it’s supposed to be & open up my eyes to the world & low the ego. Today, now, not in 10 years. The way I’ve felt for the last couple of months sucks so hard tough, like I’m totally losing it. I found this text very helpful btw.Thanks! Love to the universe, lets try to make life easy!