It could be how you talk to yourself about your accomplishments, a death of a loved one, or maybe it is when you think about an ex-partner, a friend or job. It may even be just about something that is going on in your life right now, for example for me, the topic that inspired this post for me was about the move to the new office.
Ok, so now you have your thought, and strong and healthy you knows there is something about this subject that feels not healthy.
Let’ s see if we are being flexible or stuck?
1. What is the meaning we are giving to this situation, in other words, why does it matter so much?
Here are some examples to help you out:
- If we keep thinking about a situation where we didn’t speak up, we may be thinking that means we are weak or maybe falling back to being a pushover.
- If we keep thinking about an ex-partner or job that ended poorly, maybe even a divorce, are we using those as evidence that we are unlovable or not good enough?
- In my case, I have been getting stressed out every time something about the transition to the new office has not gone smoothly, and I am usually a pretty “go with the flow” kind of gal. I realized this morning when there was yet another issue, that because there is a lot of uncertainty in my personal life right now with family illnesses, and even my home feels disrupted because we are having to store stuff for the office that we have not been able to move in because it has not been ready, I somehow decided that the new office was going to be THE STABLE THING in my life right now, my rock. So, understandably, when it turned out my rock was a pile of jell-o, especially during my time of transition and high stress when I needed it most, I became very distressed.
2. Is holding onto the association between the thing we are feeling weak about and the meaning we are giving it (i.e. a rejection and that it means we are unlovable) helpful or harmful?
- In my case, it is definitely harmful because every time something comes up that makes this transition not go smoothly I get really upset and that distracts me from living my values and makes it easy to slip into the whole “all these things are happening to me” helpless position- and nothing good comes from there!
- Instead I use it as an excuse to eat poorly, not exercise, not be present with my family etc and have to rein myself in, which is always harder when we are feeling small and weak.
3. What will happen if I keep holding onto this connection?
- In my case, I will keep getting stressed out and it will make me miserable and feel unsettled.
- If it is believing that being rejected in one way or another (relationship, job) means we are not good enough or unlovable, we may get depressed
- If it is believing being critisized by someone means we are a bad person or that they are judging us, we may get really down and anxious
Looks pretty bleak huh?
The good news is that it is not the thought, feeling or event that is problem, it is our relationship to it that is.
4. Ask yourself, when I am JUST PRESENT with this thought, feeling or situation, what does it look like? What does it look like when I don’t layer it with my own baggage and just see it for what it is? How can I have a healthier relationship to this situation?
- The truth is, if I were being present and not layering my own baggage on this situation with the new office, I would be able to see that this is a time of transition, it involves TONS of factors that are completely out of my control, especially contractors and renovations, so OFCOURSE there will be delays, and snags. It is JUST a transition and transitions are usually bumpy.
- Someone who is stuck on a break-up may just see it as they were incompatible and they were not going to be each other’s tribe
- Someone who gets stuck thinking about being criticized can see it as FEEDBACK (intended to change behaviour; as opposed to Evaluation which is intended to pass judgment) and use the information, whether or not it was presented in a nice way, to improve themselves or learn from it
5. Am I WILLING to CHOOSE to be present with this situation as it is (Acceptance), if that means I can be healthier?
If the answer is YES! Congratulations! You are being flexible and adapting to the situation! That is the healthiest thing you could do and give yourself koodos for CHOOSING and COMMITTING to this option.
If the answer is NO, ask yourself why not? Is focusing on the distressing interpretation serving a purpose? Is it distracting you from sitting with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings i the present (ie. we often beat ourselves up as a way to stop ourselves from acknowledging we are angry or hurt by others or perhaps sadness- in my case it was distracting me from some sadness around our family member’s illness as well)
Even if the answer is no, remember not to beat yourself up over it. Just keep recognizing how you feel when you focus on the unhealthy interpretation without judging yourself for it. This will help you dislike it and move towards doing something differently in the future.
Feel free to send in your comments or questions or join us on twitter @DrAdrianaWilson or @kryanwilson.