Excerpt From Relationships That Work: The Power Of Conscious Living
– By David B. Wolf

The states of being on the grungylist are not always grungies.

They have their natural place in healthy human emotional life. For example, suppose someone dear to you passed away, and the next day you felt no sadness or grief. That would be unnatural. Sadness in this case would not be a grungy. Now, imagine that ten years after this person passed away, you are still so grief-stricken that you cannot function, hardly able to rise from bed each morning. That sadness would likely be a grungy, with corresponding payoffs. A grungy is an unpleasant way of being that we do not rectify. We might complain, gripe and grumble about it, but we hold onto it. Here are some other examples of the distinction between natural emotion, and a grungy with a payoff.

Many of our fears are unjustified, though we maintain them for payoffs such as an excuse to not risk the possibility of failure, or to protect ourselves. Fear, though, is not always a grungy. There could be valuable messages from fear. For example, if I am fearful of walking in front of a moving truck on the highway, I trust that instinct as a natural protective mechanism, not a grungy that I need to overcome.

We have mentioned guilt. Guilt can be an indication that I need to transform or reform my character, or adjust my behavior. Guilt can be an impetus for positive change. That is different than hanging onto guilt for a payoff such as avoidance of auspicious change.

For important life decisions there is an expected time period during which we research, consult and gather information. We don’t want to act hastily. Lack of clarity for a period of time is natural. During that time, we have a clear sense that we are not ready to make a decision. Contrast that with using confusion and lack of clarity to actually avoid making a decision. After we have sufficiently gathered information and experience—whether it is about a career direction, relationship or other life matter—there comes a time to choose. If at that time we remain indecisive and confused, that may be a grungy with payoffs.

A certain level of stress is motivating, inspiring us to achieve worthy goals. If we find ourselves constantly overwhelmed with stress, however, we may want to consider why we have arranged our life in such a way that stress, pressure and anxiety are so prevalent.

Anger can serve us, protect us and help us establish effective boundaries. Also, anger can be a sign that I have some valuable message to communicate to others—and I can do this with assertiveness not belligerence. Such expressions of anger are different than holding onto anger and related emotions for secondary payoffs, such as getting attention or manipulating others to feel guilty (which may mean that anger becomes the predominant emotional posture). There is a vital distinction between venting anger in a manner that justifies holding onto resentful feelings and expressing anger in a way that is actually healing, nurturing and empowering.

Just as it is helpful to understand that each emotion has a natural role to play in our lives, it is also valuable to recognize that payoffs are not “wrong.” Though in some instances we may want to transcend the need for them, in other cases we may simply want to cultivate healthy and fulfilling ways to get them. For example, I might determine that I want attention and approval in my life, and I intend to receive this through noble actions and accomplishments, instead of through anger and guilt. At the same time, I might conclude that I do want to get rid of some of my desire for attention and approval, realizing that much of it comes from neediness that I have been living with since childhood, which is no longer a reality for me. Each of us likes to exert control over his or her environment. If we have been doing this through grungies, such as anger or depression, we may consider reducing our need for control, and also generating more productive, straightforward and beneficial means to exercise autonomy in our lives.

Grungy-Payoff Exercise

Identify two or three of your most common grungies and their corresponding payoff(s). Remember, a grungy is a way of being or emotional state in ourselves with which we are dissatisfied. Even if we intellectually understand the concept of grungies and payoffs, it can be challenging to recognize our own patterns, because we are so close to them. We have found that engaging others in this process can be very helpful. Perhaps form a group of two to six persons who are sincerely endeavoring to enhance their self-understanding and assist each other in recognizing your grungies and payoffs.

Whether you do this exercise on your own or with a group, while you are doing it, keep in mind the goal —to create positive change. Awareness is the first step in such change, though it is not the goal itself. With this frame of reference, consider how you will be, and then what you will do, instead of being stuck in the grungies and payoffs with which you are comfortable.

A responsible stance about our state of being is the focus in this grungy-payoff framework. What also needs to be taken into consideration is the influence of our past on our present. The past can certainly explain a lot about our present, but it cannot take responsibility for it. Only we can do that. Or at least, a responsible perspective is a very valuable stance in achieving the fulfillment and accomplishments we desire.

This exercise of identifying grungies and their payoffs can also be applied to physical symptoms, such as sickness or tiredness. I have seen many persons rid themselves of physical ailments through assuming a responsible perspective in this area. In making this suggestion, I am of course not suggesting that you neglect proper health care and the guidance of health care professionals. I invite you to try this responsible perspective. Apply it to areas of your life where you are not satisfied, and be open to whatever you may experience.

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