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Reward Process and Confusion
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In the last section, we discussed various ways that holiday
triggers can become recurring times of anguish and how to recognize patterns regarding
these negative habits. Also, we included the "Morning Attitude Log"
to address these issues.
In this section, we will acknowledge
how the endless demands and stresses of the holiday season have created
a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, and desires that you can barely explain that
have left you feeling lost and directionless. Then we will describe a four step
Uncovering the Confusion Cover-up technique to help you rebuild a calm inside
Holiday stresses take many forms: seemingly
endless traffic jams; grocery stores that are out of that one last item you need;
buying that one perfect gift; visiting family; kids screaming and running through
the house. Our peace of mind is under constant attack from the demands of friends
and family plus our own senses of devotion and obligation.
so confused you can barely decide what clothes to wear or where to go for lunch.
This confusion or disorientation eventually leads to a feeling of absolute desperation,
as if, since you have no control over your life, you might as well not be invested
But confusion doesn't have to be a one way ticket to
holiday let down and depression. Let's take a closer look at why we allow ourselves
to get confused in the first place and then we will offer a technique you can
use to peer through your confusion and regain a solid sense of your identity.
to Barbara DeAngelis, "Being confused is always covering up something
else. The experience makes emotions we would rather not feel, challenges we
would rather not face-so instead we tell ourselves that we're confused."
Confusion serves as a diversion during the holiday season. You have been told
all your life that the holidays are a time of giving and love and families getting
together to reminisce about the good times. And this is certainly true, but the
other side of that truth, is that holidays are a lot of work.
There are lot of
expectations and a lot of possibilities for disappointment. Some aspects of the
holidays are negative and confusion is one of the ways that those negative feelings
can be covered up. Confusion is a tool that has its rewards. Unfortunately those
rewards are misleading and will not lead you to where you want to be. The four
rewards of confusion are Attention, Advice, Addictions, and Avoidance.
4 Rewards of Confusion
♦ Reward #1 - Attention
all the hubbub and excitement of the holidays, it is easy to feel lost in the
noise and acting confused is a great way to attract attention. Are you really
finding it that impossible to slow down, take a breath, and get done those things
you need to get done? Or, do you actually prefer to appear hectic, rushed, and
confused? It turns out that if you act confused enough, people may feel sorry
for you. They may reach out and ask you, "Are you OK?" If you're confused
enough, you turn into a martyr. But this is not the kind of attention we really
want. We would rather be praised for a good job than to feel pitied.
♦ Reward #2 - Advice
confused is also a good way to avoid responsibility. When you are confused
you can't make decisions, so you have to ask for advice from others. Then, if
something goes wrong, you can always say, "Well, I was only doing what So-and-So
told me." Except, that, in reality, we know that we haven't avoided that
responsibility at all and we still feel judged for our failures.
♦ Reward #3 - Addictions
is also an emotion that makes a good excuse to continue in your addictions. Especially
around the holidays with all the New Years resolutions and the "getting to
start with a clean slate" talk that goes around. Being confused offers the
convenient excuse, "Well, I'd quit smoking but it's so hectic around here
right now, I just know it wouldn't work." Or "I'm so confused right
now. I know I should quit-and I will-this just isn't a good time."
♦ Reward #4 - Avoidance
biggest reward from confusion is that you can avoid those things you need to face
to actually get rid of your distress. Being confused means that you are always
acting busy. When you're busy you don't have time to deal with your sister-in-law's
snide comment, that, if you were to respond to her, would only lead to a fight.
Being confused means that you don't have time to consider that the reason that
helping in the kitchen is so miserable is because you're afraid of letting down
the family if you fail.
Let's take a minute to try and peer
through your confusion to the real issues.
♦ 2-Step "Uncovering the Confusion Cover-up" Technique
In this technique, "Uncovering the Confusion Cover-up" all you will need is a piece
of paper and a pencil.
On the paper, make two columns. Label the left column "What
I am confused about." Label the right column "If I were not confused
I might have to
Step 2: Try to find something you're
confused about. For example, you know that your family is expecting turkey
for the big meal, but last year's bird was an absolute catastrophe. In the left
hand column you would write "I don't know what to make for the big family
dinner." In the right hand column, consider the consequences of not being
If you were not confused you'd have to make a decision. What could that
decision lead to? It might lead to disappointing your family. Either you will
serve them something they don't want, or you will have to face your fears of trying
to bake another turkey. So you'd write "Make a decision about dinner. Face
my fear of disappointing my family."
Perhaps in the left
hand column you would write that you are confused about your health and which
diet is best for you. In the right hand column you would respond that if you were
clear you might have to
"Choose one diet and stick to it." Or you
if you wrote that you were confused about how to handle your frustrations at work;
in the right hand column you might have to admit that your supervisor is sabotaging
your projects and that you need to confront her.
to list anything that you have been reluctant to make a decision about. Then,
in the right hand column, be honest about what consequences clarity would bring.
You will probably find that much of your confusion is merely a way of avoiding,
or covering up, the negative characteristics that this supposedly happy time brings
out in you.
In this section, we have discussed the four rewards
of confusion and why those rewards do not aid in the actual relief of stress.
We have also presented the Uncovering the Confusion Cover-up technique so that
you can see how confusion masks your real anxieties and fears.
the section, we will discuss how prioritizing your tasks can help you free up
and focus your energy on getting rid of those things that cause you the most distress.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Fayn, K., Silvia, P. J., Dejonckheere, E., Verdonck, S., & Kuppens, P. (2019). Confused or curious? Openness/intellect predicts more positive interest-confusion relations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117(5), 1016–1033.
"Reward processing and future life stress: Stress generation pathway to depression": Correction to Mackin et al. (2019) (2019). Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 128(6), 492.
Silvia, P. J. (2010). Confusion and interest: The role of knowledge emotions in aesthetic experience. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 4(2), 75–80.
Smallen, D. (2019). Practicing forgiveness: A framework for a routine forgiveness practice. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 6(4), 219–228.
What are four rewards from confusion or overwhelm? To select and enter
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