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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Stop worrying about relationships

Rika Kayama

Let's not worry about relationships with others anymore. If I told people this, many of you would probably be taken aback. Because in many cases the trouble and stress people face are relationship-related. Some might say, "It's impossible not to worry about relationships with others. I would love to know if there is a way to do that."

    In my years of experience in the consulting room with patients, I have come to notice that in many cases people are distressed about relationship problems based on an assumption or belief that "other people must feel this way about me." It's not something they have been told to their face, but it's more like, "That person saw me and gave me a grin, so he must have been making fun of me," or, "I wonder if that person hates me because her text message seemed colder than usual."

    I sometimes recommend those people to directly ask the other person what they did wrong, but they usually say, "There's no way I can do that." I then tell them, "OK. If there is no way for you to confirm with the other person about how they feel about you, it only becomes exhausting to assume the worse. Let's stop thinking about it."

    I also tell my patients not to speak ill of those who are not present to defend themselves or send them bitter emails full of sarcasm. Instead, I tell them to say what they want to say to those people's faces, and not to spread rumors about such people. Once a person makes this a habit, they are likely to be less worried about what other people are saying behind their back.

    But I know that it is not that easy. It takes courage to tell the person in front of you that it would be better for them to do things in a certain way or ask them how they really feel about you. And it is less risky, or perhaps more fun, to talk about people who are not present in the conversation.

    But spreading rumors about somebody or being talked about behind one's back would negatively affect people's mental health. You would not be able to trust anyone if everyone did that. It is such a waste of energy to worry about relationships with others, to curry favor with people around you or to check to see if others are talking about you and not be able to spend time on other activities.

    If you have something to say, tell it to the person's face. Do not exhaust yourself mentally by assuming that people are talking ill about you or spreading rumors. Just by trying out these suggestions may save you a great deal of hassle. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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