Last time I talked about how feeling bad can keep you from feeling good. Obvious right? But it’s also a really complex cycle. It takes some thought and action to interrupt these old patterns. A great way to start is with the acronym I’ve used below.
- Recognize your triggers so you can begin to create and plan a different response that feels better.
- Observe your own thoughts and behaviors. Remember, the feelings are yours, which means so are the triggers to these emotions.
- Ask yourself: What do I want? What’s another way to get there?
- Small, doable actions so you gain confidence.
For many people negative emotions like frustration, depression, anxiety, judgment, pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, resentment, etc. can fill your conscious and unconscious thoughts, and these drive how you act. These negative emotions are symptoms and coping mechanisms. If what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you the results you want, it’s time to do something different. This is where so many people freeze up. Have faith and read on.
Start with a bridge.
I like the metaphor of getting from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other by jumping across it. This is a great big DUH, of course you can’t do this but people try jumping huge personal chasms all the time like this. I like the metaphor of building a bridge across the Grand Canyon, because sometimes the challenges in life can feel that BIG! this is much scarier than the bridge you likely need to build! When I talk about building bridges and developing skills, it’s one step (plank) at time, starting with the above steps.
Your bridge is a new starting point. Once you start with small, doable and repeatable steps, you become familiar with the feeling of confidence, safety, achievement and awareness; all really good feelings. This is where the next step is so VERY critical.
Getting on a NEW train – a radical action.
Imagine this. You get up and get ready for work or appointments or whatever project is happening that day. You have the same morning routine; then you take the same route to your destination. For the sake of this metaphor let’s imagine you take a train to your destination. You go to the same train station, same platform and the same route every day to get to your destination. It’s predictable, you need predictability so you get where you need to go. This is great when the destination (the results) is what you want.
One day, you decide this destination isn’t quite what you want anymore. So you go to the train station and look for another train. Aha! There is one. It’s a different model and color, has a different name and it stops at different places along the way. It’s near the same place you were going before, but it’s still different. You get on it and ride it. You do this every day and it even feels different because you arrive one track over from the previous train you were riding. Eventually though you realize that even though it’s one track over, you are really still in the same place. Then you say, “I don’t get it, I know it was a different train.”
After my partner Chris died, my adult daughter and I became estranged at a time when I wanted so much for us to be close. I would periodically reach out to my daughter, but to no avail. I would feel triggered and my deep open wound would hurt all the more. I would retreat and continue my grieving and healing process. It wasn’t until I neared the third year anniversary of Chris’s death that I got an epiphany. After reaching out so many times and feeling rejected so many times, I decided I needed to radically change my approach.
I got on a completely different train. I decided to withdraw complete contact with my daughter until I could figure out how I could change things. I stopped reaching out sometime in the latter part of the year and well before the holidays. I finally surrendered and fully accepted that I might never again reunite with my only child. This total withdrawal was truly radical for me. My own sister, who is a mother and trained therapist did not understand my behavior. All I knew was that I needed to make a radical change in my course.
After several months I received divine guidance that I could approach my daughter differently. I reached out and texted her almost every day for a couple of weeks and just said things like “Hope you have a good day, love Mom” or “It’s almost Friday, enjoy the weekend.”
I kept texting my one-liners and in between we had an spirited text conversation about what the next steps would be. Still we did not find agreement. Then one morning I got a text from her saying she was in town and could we meet. I was shocked, excited, anxious, and feeling trepidation all at the same time. We finally found a mutually workable place and time and met.
While not perfect (and nothing is) it was a blessed opening. I feared this would never have taken place had I not receded inward to do my own work of processing feelings and thus taking my radical action.
What is a radical action?
Radical actions can mean many things and although I don’t recommend ceasing all contact, in my case this was what needed to happen first. It can mean imagining the most painful thing you can think of, which in my case was totally releasing my daughter. The pain was excruciating and still is at times. Radical change is drastic and major and often profound. To reach profound you have to walk into, face and walk through the pain.
I emphasize radical change because you can be tricked into thinking and even believing you are acting differently. And…maybe you are. Remember the train? There is one sure way to know. Ask yourself: Am I getting the outcome I want? Be honest with yourself. If you are not getting the outcome you want, find a new train, build a new bridge, go to that painful place and face it. You will survive it, It will pass and you will see clearer, behave differently and most of all, the outcome will be different.
When you think of wanting a loving, compassionate relationship (no matter who it is with), what is the pain you’ve been avoiding? This is the painful place you need to visit.