We all go through trials and tribulations in life. We experience pain, discomfort, sadness and disappointment as human beings. We know what it is like to feel down and in the dark. When we experience these feelings most of us don’t like it. We want to escape it. We want to change the way we feel. Some people turn to “quick fixes” that ultimately do more harm than good. Some people use drugs or alcohol, some people overindulge in food or shopping, some people socialize too much or even completely isolate from their friends and loved ones. But what if e looked at these feelings differently? What if we decided to choose another option, another perspective? What if we make a conscious decision to view our trials and tribulations as something positive that is happening in our lives? There are more options than just choosing a “quick fix” when it comes to coping with uncomfortable feelings.
Understanding that you have options is the first step in changing your perspective of life events for the better. Some people may feel this is an impossible feat. I don’t blame you. Getting through discomfort and pain is not an easy task. Now don’t get me wrong, grief is real. Pain is real. Discomfort is real and these feelings are a part of being human and it’s okay to experience them. But suffering and feeling “stuck” because of these feelings is optional. We don’t have to feel trapped and stuck. When we learn how to view each experience in our lives in a positive light, it can lead to something amazing: Changes in schemata and perspective; a change in the way we view the world around us, the people in our lives, and most importantly, ourselves.
Let’s say you are in a relationship that has just ended and you are feeling miserable. Sadness, pain, and sorrow fill your thoughts. How will you respond to those feelings? Here are a few of your options:
Option 1 – you can stay miserable and feel like you will never find another partner.
Option 2 – you can be angry and stay angry towards your ex-partner.
Option 3 – you can make a conscious decision to view this as an opportunity to grow and change.
Perhaps there is something else in store for you in the future? Maybe you needed this relationship to end so that you can have time to find yourself? Option 1 and 2 will keep you in a negative thought pattern. I like to call these “negative spirals”. These spirals suck the energy right out of you and keep you miserable and unhappy. The truth is, you are more in control of the outcome of your thoughts than you think you are.
If you have a thought like “I feel miserable about my relationship ending” or “I feel worthless. I feel like I will never be good enough”, you begin to spiral from one negative thought to another. These thoughts can make you feel trapped and stuck. It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, you can think “I am miserable about my relationship ending… and I acknowledge and recognize this is how I feel right now. I understand this feeling won’t last forever and I will choose to do something good for myself today.” See how the end of that sentence is positive? When reframing one’s thinking, sometimes the easier technique is not to try and control your entire thought but instead to control the ending of your thought. Don’t shame yourself because you aren’t thinking 100% positively; rather make yourself end these negative thoughts on a positive note. The more times you do this, the more practice you put in, the better chance you have of reframing your thoughts all together. I like to call this technique “sticking the landing.”
Now keep in mind, discounting your feelings is not the goal. The goal is to acknowledge and recognize how you feel and to then work through these feelings in a more healthy way. In therapy, I help my clients learn to recognize how they feel. This is incredibly important. In today’s busy world we don’t often take time to touch base with ourselves emotionally. But when you take a moment to ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” and check-in with yourself, you learn valuable information about feelings and your reactions to life events. This will help you realize that you have the power to change your thought patterns. Once you identify how you feel, you can put the breaks on your “negative spiral” and “stick the landing”. For example, “I feel worthless. I feel like I will never be good enough… and I acknowledge and recognize this is how I feel right now. This feeling won’t last forever. I have the power to choose how I want to continue my day. I am going to go get a smoothie and listen to my favorite song and allow myself to enjoy the rest of my evening.” You have options! Pretty cool, right?
Truth is, you cannot control every situation in your life, but you can control how you respond to them. So which option are you going to choose? I recommend, “sticking the landing.” This is the first step in changing your thought patterns and responding to everything in life differently; whether good, bad, happy or sad, you have a choice. You are the one in control of the option you choose. Learn how to acknowledge and recognize your feelings by checking in with yourself and then end your “negative spirals” once and for all.
Jessica Herz is the Clinical Director of Your Life Recovery Center She specializes in crisis intervention, dual-diagnosis, and addiction disorders. She has years of experience working with individuals struggling with addiction, chronic mental illness, mood and personality disorders, and trauma-related issues. Working with individuals of all ages, she implements an individualized approach to helping clients better understand their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. She emphasizes a strength-based perspective and utilizes cognitive and behavioral interventions to assist clients in building a life worth staying sober for. She earned her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Florida Atlantic University and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. 561-660-9405