We all keep a balance sheet of debits and credits in our mind, which can be about life, relationships, work or even the weather. The balance sheet is where we use old information to decide whether a new event in our life is fair or unfair. It’s how we make quick judgments. Why me? Not again. Harry always remembers my birthdays.
Balance sheet examples can be positive or negative. You can count the things that happened or the things that didn’t happen, good things or bad things. It is whatever you decide to remember. For example:
- For a partner/spouse and you, it can be the number of times each of you has done the dishes this week. Total: three times each.
- With a boss, it can be the number of times they recognized your successes: Total: zero.
- We don’t just count; we make judgments and take action based on those judgments.
- With a partner/spouse, it can be the number of times each of you has done the dishes this week: three each. Judgment: she carries her fair share. Action: Expect she will continue to do her fair share and appreciate her. With a boss, it can be the number of times they recognized your successes: zero. Judgment: My boss is not fair in how he treats me. Action: Become more alert for any slight from my boss and put less effort into my work.
When you start to make judgments about people in your life and attribute meaning to their actions, check for your balance sheets in your mind. Are you keeping tallies that increase your stress? Do they accurately reflect events or are they automatic negative interpretations of events? The way you keep track in your mind can increase stress and negative emotions, which can increase the probability of a lapse or relapse.