Mind Matters with Kyle MacDonald: How do I get over a work crush?

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Q: I’m obsessed with a work colleague, but I know they’re not right for me. How do I get over a crush?

A: Attraction is such a weird thing. Who we’re attracted to and who is attracted to us can seem quite unpredictable – especially when we’re drawn to people that we know aren’t good for us.

It’s a good start that you’ve recognised they’re not the right person for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the crush. The important thing to recognise is that a crush isn’t based in reality – it’s a fantasy relationship that exists largely inside our own head, somewhat divorced from reality. And, of course, it can tip into being a little bit obsessive.

Allowing ourselves to learn more about our attraction and desire helps us make better decisions over time and – this might sound unromantic – use our head more rather than just relying on our heart. What – or who – we’re attracted to depends on all sorts of experiences while we’re growing up, and doesn’t always lead us to stability and healthy relationships.

It is true, however, that for some people whose childhood and family background is emotionally straightforward love can also be straightforward, but for the rest of us we need to work a little harder – and not just follow our feelings, which inevitably take us towards what is familiar.

The excitement of falling for someone can be exhilarating, and a crush captures that feeling, but it isn’t love. It isn’t even much of an indication of a match.

So enjoy your crush – and let it just be that. And when it comes to getting over the crush – just pay attention and get to know the real person. Eventually, reality will overtake the fantasy, and you’ll realise they’re just another flawed human being like the rest of us.

And you’ll have learnt a bit more about yourself in the process.

Q: I can’t stop feeling furious about this lockdown, and the people who caused it. How can I stop being angry?

A: Fair enough – anger and frustration are pretty normal responses to being in lockdown.

All emotions come and go if we let them, but the problem with anger is it makes us over-focus on whatever it is we’re angry about. And anger isn’t bad or wrong, but it can be unhelpful if it hangs around and we get stuck in it.

So the main approach with anger is to distract – to work at paying attention to other things – and in doing so let the anger pass. We may have to do this a number of times, and it may also help to avoid things that trigger the anger.

More of a challenge is to find acceptance, and with it some compassion for those who are a target of our ire. We don’t have to approve of what’s happened to accept it. And we do that for our own good – too much anger makes us miserable.

Q: I wonder whether my partner is trying to give me a message. She has never invited any of my siblings to visit, yet she has had her brothers over many times. Should I leave this marriage?

A: We all wonder in relationships what our partners are trying to tell us, to read the tea leaves, and figure out what is going on with the person we spend the most time with.

The problem is sometimes we get it right – but most of the time we’re only partly right, or worse, just plain wrong.

But the ways we get it wrong can tell us about ourselves – if we pay attention and
understand our feelings are about us – not our spouse.

Our closest relationships pull the strongest feelings we have, and in doing so also tell us about the patterns of feelings that can get us into trouble.

Problem is, to tell the difference between what is “us” – the feelings that come from our own thoughts, worries and experience, but are misleading – and feelings that are “true” we need to talk it through with our partner, and be open to hearing their perspective.

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