You know how sometimes someone gives you a thought or anecdote and you appreciate it, but move on, but sometimes someone gives you a random thought or idea and it REALLY sticks and kind of changes everything for the better?
This is that.
Several months ago, I sat in a therapy session discussing a really frustrating pattern I had been having lately.
“I KNOW it’s not a big deal if I wake up really anxious or really down,” I said. “But a part in me kind of panics and is like Oh my god this is a really big deal because what if you don’t ever feel better and what if this lasts forever and how will you ever get things done and be a good wife and be a good mother some day and we have to worry about this and solve it right away and only focus on this.”
“Well,” she responded. “It sounds like your Self is trying to say, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry’. But this other part of you is trying to protect you by ensuring you think about each possible horrible outcome. And it’s very sweet of that part to do so. The problem is, it’s creating fires where they don’t exist, and trying to solve a non-existent problem in a very unhelpful way.”
“YES!” I agreed. “Exactly. And my Self believes all those things: I can be where I am, feelings come and go, this moment is just this moment, but then I start to worry and spin and before I know it, I’ve only been awake for ten minutes and I’ve already come to all these dramatic conclusions about the probability of how successful I’ll be in my life and what the hell is up with that?”
“So, let’s acknowledge that little panicky part,” she said. “Because really, it has good intentions. It’s trying to protect you. But you don’t really need its constant chatter. So allow it to speak, hear what it has to say, and humor it. Respond to it and say, ‘Thank you for your concern. I’ll take it under advisement.’ It’s up to you if you actually take its content to heart and spend the rest of the day pouring over the worries it brought to the table. But this way it’ll be happy, because it got heard, and your Self is still the one making the decisions and calling the shots, so it’s a win-win.”
I loved it.
And I’ve been doing it constantly. Rather than getting upset when I have a thought, or a worry, or a fear, rather than immediately following its instructions (We need to worry about x, panic about y, analyze z) I calmly listen to the suggestion. Because after all, it’s a part of me. And has anyone really had success with internal hatred?
(Years ago, in the midst of a panic attack, I said to a friend, What the f***! I shouldn’t be feeling this way! I just need to snap out of it, this is so stupid!! She responded with her loving sarcasm: Ohhh, so you’re going to berate yourself out of a panic attack? Yeah, let me know how that goes. Right. Point taken.)
So anyway, yes, I listen. And then I play the role of Leader of the Council Board, and I acknowledge it. Telling it, “Thank you for your concern. I’ll take it under advisement.”
Only, usually, I don’t spend any more time on it than just that. And I move on. Because I am the leader, and I call the shots, and while I am an excellent listener, I certainly don’t have to take all of the suggestions I am given.