“…whenever one Crab tries to climb out of the Barrel, another Crab will, without fail, pull the escaping Crab back into the barrel. Every time. It never fails.”
Every one knows one. The person who only has negative things to say, or who is always a downer to be around. In the Business and Personal Improvement spheres, every one knows that these people are bad news. Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” He was right, and what he meant by that is that each of us should be selective about who we choose to spend our time with, because they will influence us to the point of influencing the outcomes of our lives.
What he didn’t say explicitly, but is strongly implied, is that we must avoid spending time with those who would bring or keep us down at a level that we don’t want to live our lives at. Remember this, life is automatic, but living is something we can do by conscious design. In other words, we are absolutely the masters of our lives, and it is up to us to create them in the way that we wish to experience them. With this thought in mind, think about someone you know who never has anything positive to say or contribute, how do you feel when you spend time with them? Uplifted and optimistic? Excited about your life?
I didn’t think so.
Now think about a person you know who is always striving, always upbeat and positive. How do you feel when you are around them? Now you might be saying things like uplifted and optimistic, or excited. There are real reasons for this beyond just someone else’s mood “rubbing off on you.” On the immediate level, there are things called Mirror Neurons in each of our brains. These are neurons that mimic the signals and moods of others who are in close proximity to us. When we spend time with people who are habitually negative, our Mirror Neurons put us into a similar mood to theirs. There are evolutionary Psychology reasons for this phenomenon, relating to the need of humans to belong to tribes and social groups.
On the deeper level, one of the main reasons why we need to be selective about who we surround ourselves with, is because of the effect that constant exposure to negativity, especially criticism, has on our Inner Dialogue. The Inner Dialogue is the voice each of us have in our heads that spits out a constant negative stream of thought about anything that we do. It is the voice that will talk you out of asking that person out on a date, or asking the boss for the raise that you totally deserve and have already earned ten times over. It is the self talk that holds us back and criticizes our desires and dreams.
Each of us must guard this inner voice from the influence of those who would corrupt it. We must also train ourselves to control our inner dialogues, but that is a talk for another time. For now, we are dealing with how to protect it (and ourselves) from the influence of others. To do this, we must be selective about who we choose to spend our time with.
Now when this subject comes up, people will sometimes ask me, “What about when the negative person is a family member, spouse, or Boss?”
The questions that a person in one of these situations must ask-and these are no small questions, in fact, they are huge and should be treated thusly-are, how important are my goals and dreams to me? How committed am I to becoming who I feel I can become? Is there A way to do what I am trying to do in my life, while still being in relationship to this person, or these people?
Have you ever seen a barrel of fresh caught Crabs? Fishermen know that there is no need to put a lid on a Crab barrel. Why? Because whenever one Crab tries to climb out of the Barrel, another Crab will, without fail, pull the escaping Crab back into the barrel. Every time. It never fails. This is exactly what people who are constantly negative and pessimistic do, they pull others down to their level. And so you must ask yourself the types of questions I have listed above, and be deliberate and absolutely honest with your answers, because, in many cases, drastic change is what the answer will require of you.
I have had to go through this process personally, and in my case, the right choice was to cut ties with my family. For some people this is not all that big of a feat, but for me it was enormous. You see, for all of my childhood and most of my adult life, I had fabricated an image of my family that I needed in order to survive. My personal story, the one that lived in my head and that I rehearsed all the time, whenever someone would listen. Whenever I was commiserating with other lost souls over drinks or stronger substances(I was an active alcoholic and addict for sixteen years), was a story of a Black Sheep from a family of brilliant, Talented, gifted, geniuses. In order for me to justify my self-destructive lifestyle, I NEEDED my family to be incredible. It was the only way my story worked.
When I got sober at twenty eight and started a process of rigorously working on myself, I began to see that my old story was not working any more. As I learned how to be more authentic, accepting myself and setting my own direction for my life, I also began to have more conflict with my family. None of them were able to understand who I was and what I was trying to do with my life, and they would always council me to “Not try to live so far above others.” or I would be accused of “Being up in airs.”
This because I was working diligently to transform myself and my life into what I knew that it/I could be. It was crabs in a barrel, plain and simple. My striving for something better made them uncomfortable and (I think) shone a light on them that they didn’t like.
I struggled for years with trying to reconcile my spiritual and professional ambitions with trying to fit into my family unit. Until one day it simply became clear to me-these two things were not compatible, I had to make a choice.
I chose myself, my dreams, my vision of what and who I could be, of the legacy I wanted to leave for my children, and of the man I wanted to live the rest of my life as. I chose to lovingly but forcefully and clearly, cut them out of my life.
I feel the effects of that decision every day, both the good and the difficult. but once it was done, an incredible peace and clarity came over me that has remained with me until this very day. I did this almost five years ago, and the effect of clearing out that toxicity that lived in the dynamic between them and me has been the single most profound thing I have ever experienced. Profound and lasting, positively influencing every facet of my life ever since.
So like I said, be deliberate and slow with these kinds of questions, but when the answer comes clear to you, you must commit to it completely. The difference you will feel will be extraordinary. Remember, this is your life you’re talking about, it’s yours and you have the right to be the most incredible version of yourself that you can be.
About the author:
My name is Emmanuel Wolfe. I am an author, coach, speaker and consultant. I specialize in teaching people how to become their optimal self. If you are looking for a New Age “Life Coach” or an Impersonal “Drill Sergeant”, I am not the Coach for you.
However, if you are ready to use proven Motivational Psychology, Neuroscience, and good old fashioned hard work to overcome the barriers between you and your optimal self, then I am your man. My approach is direct and no nonsense, and I get results. Whether it’s for one person, a small team, or an audience, if you are ready to stop making excuses and dig deep, then I want to talk to you. Just visit me at my website, The Steep Side of the Mountain, and we can get started toward your success!