The first was No Connection (Corner #1) where none of our needs are met because we are cut off from anyone who can provide what we need. The second was Bad Connection (Corner #2) where we have relationships that leave us feeling “bad” in some way. Not a very good menu of options, those two!
Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that not all less-than-helpful connections are painful…at first. In fact, the connections in next corner can feel really, really good. The bad news is that the they are painful in the end. These substances or people will feel just as bad, if not worse, and will likely cause even more destruction as time goes on. And that brings us to Corner #3: Pseudo Connection.
A pseudo connection is a connection we pursue in order to feel good in some way. Isolation is no good. Bad connections are no good. After a while, we might say, “I just want to feel good.” So, we connect to something or someone that does exactly that…it feels good. It medicates us in some way. It provides relief from the pain and stress, and a place to hide from it all. And there is no shortage of options.
An illicit relationship or illicit sex. A substance we abuse. Internet addictions. A hobby that gets way too much of your heart, time or money. Materialism. Food. Gravitating to friends or co-workers who only think you are “wonderful” and never give any negative feedback.
Or, the more acceptable versions: Making more money. Getting one more promotion. Great performance numbers. Being idealized or admired by others in the company or circle of friends. Looking ideal to others. The list goes on.
Corner #3 is anything we turn to that will make us feel good—but in reality does have a lasting enhancement of our lives, nor does it meet the need inside to really connect with people who fuel and guide our growth and development. Leaders sometimes even get addicted to high performance and push their people more and more, because the glow of the last milestone has worn off and they need their next fix. It does not last. And the cycle goes on as the culture diminishes.
It can look like this:
- Clinical Symptoms: Emotional ups and down, emptiness as you come off the last “high,” anxiety about being discovered, frenetic activity to fuel the addiction, guilt over the behaviors, a shallow emotional and spiritual life, stress from the pursuit of “more,” burnout, out-of-control behavior such as sex or overspending that has become reckless, exceeds limits, creates health issues, and on and on.
- Relational Symptoms: Lack of intimacy, controlling behavior and conflict in your significant relationships as the Corner #3 feel-good experience begins to control your time, anxiety in those relationships as hiding increases, pressure on those around you to keep up, loss of significant relationships, duplicity and others.
- Performance Symptoms: Performance is interrupted as Corner #3 activity takes up more and more of your life, loss of focus causing a lack of excellence, decline in health that has an effect on performance, loss of motivation to pursue real goals, grandiosity that gets in the way of receiving honest feedback, etc.
If you find yourself wondering if something (or someone) has turned into a Corner #3 behavior, take these steps:
- Audit your time. How much time, energy or money is going toward things we could classify into Corner #3? Is it out of whack in some way? If so, that is a sign it may have more of you than it should. And worse, you are not pursing real connection when you are spending this time and energy on non-nutritious pursuits.
- How intentionally have you addressed it? Did you say, “I need to cut back on _____” and yet you found your willpower did not last? Look at that failure directly.
- Seek an outside perspective for feedback and help. Ask three of the most important stakeholders in your life if they notice excess in this particular area. If they express concerns, and you have not been able to “just say no,” get some real help. Reach out to a coach, a recovery group, a therapist, a friend or someone else who can really help you.
Remember, Corner #3 feels really good for a minute. But ultimately, it will not meet your needs. And it will end in something really bad for your relationships, business, health and finances. The longer you stay in Corner #3, the more you lose opportunities and the potential fulfillment of your gifts.
Get serious about this trap and see it for what it is.
And join in next time to see the ultimate connection in Corner #4.
Dr. Henry Cloud (GLS 2016, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2005, 1996) is a clinical psychologist, acclaimed leadership expert and best-selling author. He draws upon his experience in business and his background as a clinical and consulting psychologist to impart practical and effective advice for improving leadership skills, personal relationships and business performance.