Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Acceptance Does Not Mean You Have To Like It

The Serenity Prayer asks a higher power to help the person accept what they cannot change and let go, change what they can, and to be able to see the difference between the two. In grief therapy, patients are told their feelings are “normal” and eventually the final stage is acceptance and they start living again. In 12-Step programs they say Let Go and Let God. On a bumper sticker you might see Teach Tolerance. At church we are encouraged to forgive others and forgive ourselves. The messages are all around us. So why is it so hard?20131113-083505.jpg (more…)

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What if???

What if I lose my job?
What if everyone laughs at me?
What if someone I love dies?
What if I trust and my heart gets broken?
What if what if what if?

Sometimes it feels like a giant question mark is hanging over our heads, weighing us down, overwhelming us with the fear of the unknown. Feelings associated with anxiety and depression are exaggerated by a sense of powerlessness or not being in control. But WHAT IF you answered the what-if question? What if you do lose your job? What will you do? Seriously, think about it. Make a plan. Take control of it. More often than not what we fear will happen is far worse than what actually happens (Albert Ellis). We anticipate things and tell ourselves we could never handle it, it’s too much, we just couldn’t deal. And yet, truth be told, when it actually happens, we survive it. It might suck, or be painful, no fun, but we will get through it.

Remember seeing tv shows or movies with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, both telling us opposite things? Our brain does that too, with rational and irrational thoughts. Usually the negative voice is the one telling us we can’t handle it and it’s going to be horrible! (That’s called catastrophizing.) That little devil is loud and naggy and relentless, not happy until we are miserable. But if you can be your own counselor in your head you can quiet that irrational voice. Talk back to it, go ahead. Answer the what-if. What WILL I do? Make a plan, write it down, stick it in a drawer and pull it out when you need it. That way YOU are in control.
Albert Ellis also said anxiety comes from underestimating your ability to handle things. Don’t fear adversity! You are a survivor. You have been through hard stuff before. Not to say you would like to do it again. But if you have to, you will. And you will survive.
You have go through it to get beyond it.

Why? Why? Why?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the good die young? Why do some people get more than others?

If there is one thing I have learned in hearing many sad stories over the years, it’s that there is no formula for who has more bad luck than others.  There is a disproportionate number of tragic things that happen to some people compared to others, with no system for why they “deserve” these things to happen to them.  They don’t deserve them. They don’t earn them.  Con artists get away with swindles for years, the corrupt get rewarded with success… I’m not cynical or bitter. Just observing that many people feel frustrated by these things especially when faced with their own hardship. And then they ask, WHY?

I don’t have a definitive answer for why.  But I do have some observations…

The people we emulate across time, those we respect, we honor, we quote over and over, have not been the ones who have had it easy. It has been the ones who dealt with hardship and didn’t give up.  From Gandhi to Mother Theresa to Oprah Winfrey.  Job, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln.  The authors who had their manuscripts rejected 32 times and published it themselves and became hugely successful.  The inventors and scientists who used failed experiments to learn from and eventually get it right and change the world.  If we all stopped when it got hard, where would the world be?

We don’t always know WHY we are going through something at the time we are going through it.  The heroes listed above probably had no idea of the far-reaching effect their words and actions would impact the world.  You don’t know how something you are going through now is setting the stage for something important in the future or precluded you from something worse.  If you are in a hurry and get a flat tire, you may be irritated and grumbling at the delay.  But what you don’t know is that if the flat hadn’t happened you might have crossed the path of a semi swerving in your lane and had it much worse.  If you smile at a stranger in line at the store, to you it may be nothing but to them it may be the one thing that kept them alive today. No kidding!

When I was a kid we had great times and not so great times.  (Didn’t everyone?)  I remember the angst of a teen, crying, sobbing, thinking things would never get better, this is the worst-thing-ever.  But now I know that the struggles I faced back then have all contributed to my helping others now, to have empathy for others and for them to feel I can connect (and hopefully make a difference). There is a common theme in literature and religion and life.  Call it Karma, or the balance of the Tao; the Golden Rule or Pay it Forward. It seems even with theoretical differences most people believe there is a higher order that keeps the universe in “balance”.  The biggest challenge is remembering that in the moment.

“Blind Faith” is an ACTION that is most challenged when we need to have it the most.  Believing that even though what I’m going through right now sucks, some day I’ll understand why.  Or if I never do, TRUSTING that it is for the best, even though it really doesn’t feel like it right now.  Being open to this concept is the first step.  The second is being open and creative enough to see the connection when it is presented.  Avoid tunnel vision and try to look at the big picture, the journey and how the little miracles all around us don’t just happen on their own, but are intricately connected to everything that came before and all that will come after.  We won’t always know why. Sometimes the answer is, Just Cuz.

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