“…change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not” –
Dr. Albert Bessler
I have never met a person that decided to be unhappy. These feelings are not ones we would intentionally choose to have. Often we feel like it is something that happens or is happening to us and we feel like we can’t make a difference for ourselves.
No matter what the final label you might decide to call those tumbling down lethargic negative feelings you are experiencing you can catch a foot hold and to begin to change the direction of your descent.
You can have a structure to hold on to and guide you while in this sad place. Read on and gather some ideas as how to personalize this framework so it fits you.
First acknowledge WHAT IS.
That may seem simple but we often protect ourselves from the reality of the situation we are in or some of us unintentionally choose to dramatize or catastrophize what the events or our lives are.
There will be no real change in our lives until we can see our situation and accept it. To accept it does not mean that we are agreeing that it will stay that way forever although that might be our fear.
Knowing “what is” is not an easy task.
“What is” is explained by this true story about a young man in his twenties completing his studies as a medical doctor, and being quite accomplished in other areas of his life both personal and as an professional tennis player. He was pleased with his life it was unfolding as he had envisioned. He had worked hard to get where he was and therefore he deserved this good life. It was not brought about by just luck…or so he thought. All was right.
Literally the next day he was fighting for his life in an iron lung after having contracted polio. It was clear he would live although many of those around him, in the same room, were dying each day. He laid and stared up at the crack in the ceiling, the only place he could look while being in such a machine. There was too much time to just be and think.
First, what he thought was that he had been in difficult situations before so he would work hard to get out of this one too. If there was one thing he knew how to do it was to work hard and make happen what you envisioned. This way had always worked for him and it was the right and just thing to happen. Several years passed and he was still staring at the crack in the ceiling clinging to his old beliefs. Suddenly seemingly out of thin air it came to him what others seemed to have known all along, that he was a withered young man in an iron lung that was never going to play tennis or walk again despite how hard he worked and willed for this to happen. He was in a different form now and the old way just was not the way to go. Time went with very little happening. There was just each day to meet with its own obstacles to discover and untangle.
So timed and life passed.
The end of his lifetime found Arnold Beisser paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. He no longer needing an iron lung, lovingly married for many years and helping others as a psychiatrist. Yes, he was happy! discovered and shared his thinking in a very simplistically stated idea The Paradoxical Theory of Change. When YOU can be exactly who you are where you are then change can happen.
Now, I am going to suggest a simple way for you to stay in one place and manage your feelings while you learn about “what is” for yourself.
WHERE EVER YOU GO THERE YOU ARE is a simple cliché but…it’s also one of my favorite guiding principles for where to start when I feel knocked down by a wave of sadness, and uncertainty. It was introduced to me through the meditation guru J. Kabat-Zinn at a time when I could listen to Wherever You Go, There You Are as I drove to and from my work.
For change to happen we start with what is and of course yourself!
Start with what you know to be true about yourself as the model and apply the framework proposed:
PLAN, DO and REVIEW.
The PLAN is designed by you from who you are just now. The questions you can ask that begins to shape the PLAN are as follows:
- What is it you like to do?
- What is it you want to do?
- What is it you want to happen?
Combine what you know to be true about yourself with what has been discovered to be true about the psychology of Emotions.
Use the categories:
- Engage in physical and or mental activities
- Reach out to others –Social contact is important
- Do activities that encourage opposite emotions
- Detour your present thinking patterns
- Choose to experience powerful sensations
- Nurture yourself
And pick which ever one(s) interest you depending on yourself in the moment.
Then PLAN a small personal plan. Pay attention to include physical and mental activities, reaching out to others, and activities that nurture yourself. These are researched proven to distract you from your negative emotions and possibly give comfort.
At the end of your day or the morning or hour reflect on your plan and see what happened. Notice what you did and what were the results. How did it effect you? Then begin again. What happens.
You can use the program suggested in the book: Don’t Let Your EMOTIONS Run Your Life: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control by Scott E. Spradlin, MA to guide you in your everyday plan.