Reality Check: You’re probably not alone…

“So much paperwork. And it’s all so confusing.”

That’s Wanda’s description of her plight right now. She’s entering a stage of life where changes must be made. Many of those changes involve finances. Thus, they involve paperwork, meetings, and decisions. It’s overwhelming; even frightening.

She continues, “Whenever I have to deal with all these papers, I feel sick. I get so muddled up and out of sorts that I just want to crawl into a cave and never come out.”

Wanda was genuinely surprised when I suggested to her she’s not alone in having these feelings when dealing with such matters.

Choice theory suggests that we have five basic needs, and that we internally generate a “frustration signal” when those needs go unsatisfied. In this situation, every one of Wanda’s basic needs could be going unsatisfied.

For example, take the very basic need for security. As Wanda needs to make decisions about money but is uncertain, she might perceive that her very survival is threatened.

Wanda could also perceive that her need for power is similarly threatened. If she isn’t confident that she has information that she trusts and understands, she feels vulnerable and powerless.

Her need for freedom could also be perceived to be at risk. These types of decisions tend to have timeframes that have to be adhered to. And by golly, you’d better fill out these forms correctly or you’re going to be in trouble!

As for the basic need for fun, well, there’s likely not a lot in these processes that feels like fun to Wanda.

But it’s the one remaining basic need—the need for love and belonging—that struck me as particularly important in Wanda’s situation.

Choice theory suggests that we need at least one good relationship with another person for a satisfying life. There’s a real comfort when you can know that you are not alone. Even in trivial matters, seeing that you are not the only person who wore jeans to the party or knowing that someone else didn’t understand what was going on in class, it feels better when you’re not “the only one.”

Sometimes we fret in isolation and silence. We perceive that we are the only one with a particular problem, unfortunate situation or discomfort.

The value of reducing “aloneness” came home to me recently in the context of a difference I’ve had with an organization. I believed that I was the only one with this complaint. Then one morning, I heard a story nearly identical to mine on the radio. Gosh, it turns out that I’m not the only one! Who knew?

In my case, knowing I’m not alone will make little difference in the actions that I take. However, I do choose to take satisfaction in the knowledge that there’s another human on this earth who shares my perspective. I’m not alone.

So my words to Wanda are, “You’re not alone in your response.” Many folks feel vulnerable when they have to deal with important information. The sensation of being out of control, that you are at the mercy of someone else, possibly a big government bureaucracy, may well influence you to respond with apprehension.

That conversation got me wondering: Do you feel alone in your perspective? Whether it’s in situations such as described here, or more broadly? Do you feel that your values, beliefs, concerns are shared by others? Are they reflected in the media, the news, in society? Or do you think you are the only one who thinks the way you do?

I bet you’re not alone.

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