When All Else Fails...
Life isn't always going to go our way. Here are 4 techniques that might help when life has won the grand prize of being the world's biggest shit-show
The real danger, he says, is not necessarily in the situation itself - it's in denial: "When things get tough and you grow tired of the grind, your mind tends to drift into fantasies," he writes, warning: "Reality has its own power—you can turn your back on it, but it will find you in the end, and your inability to cope with it will be your ruin."
4. "F**k It"
If all this seems a bit too much in the given moment, the last technique is quick, painless and simple. It requires saying F**k It (and meaning it), which author John Parkin, highly recommends as way of "giving in to a situation" and accepting it, warts and all, as it actually is. He advises it when faced with intractable situations, his idea being it helps us let go, release stress, stop worrying and wanting something so badly. It requires "giving up of our normal rational approach to dealing with things", and the need for everything to be exactly the way we want it to be. Instead, it allows us to breathe again, to gain a bit of perspective and to feel a bit freer in difficult moments.
So the next time we are looking at our lives and it feels like a crushing disappointment, these techniques might help, the key always being to remember that the pain lies in the desire for it to be different - and the liberation comes from squarely facing up to it exactly as it is.
No-one likes bullies. But the worst kind, the most insidious of them all, live inside our heads. And the reason they are so powerful is because we don't even realise they are there. They are so deeply embedded in our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and knee-jerk reactions to situations, that we think they are us - and we think they're right.
These voices have lives of their own - and they began in the 'real world', before they leapt into our minds and started whispering in our ears.
The Critical Inner Voice, as it is known, typically gets created as a defense mechanism to a painful situation. It doesn't always require a direct criticism or scolding to develop (the growing pains of childhood inevitably spawn situations that leave us feeling inadequate) - but the negative feedback loop we get stuck in can inevitably be traced back to an individual or group of people whose words and/or actions impacted us deeply.
If we have ever been picked on, regularly criticized, felt the spotlight was on us for all the wrong reasons, the emotional charge of that event can get stuck. And the way we were treated at the time, the kinds of judgments/expectations that were made of us and the lack of care that was given to us all get internalised.
We start talking to ourselves in the way we were spoken to that we hated so much. And it becomes so natural to us, so automated, that we fail to realise we are even doing it. And before long, we end up doing the original critics' jobs for them.
Elise Ballard, who runs the Epiphany Channel, offers an anecdote from an interview she did with architect, Greg Schriefer, on a breakthrough he had during a therapy session. It was as astoundingly simple as it was effective.
Having been plagued by negative self-talk for years, what actually freed him was recognising where it actually came from.
When he realised that he was in fact repeating the exact words his father had said to him, he was immediately able to distance himself from the voice. It no longer belonged to him, so he could begin a conversation with it, rather than just soak up whatever it was saying:
"I had realized that I had been battling my father’s voice my entire life. It was him, not me, saying, “You are no good for nothing, and you’ll never amount to anything,” Schriefer told Ballard. "My mind was just repeating it."
"Once I realized that, every time I heard those words in my mind and every time I was faced with something that I didn’t think I could accomplish, I said, “Stop! I am capable. I’m able (to do whatever I set my mind to).”
Writer Elise Ballard had a similar experience with her grandfather, which is worth listending to in the second interview above. In addition to being able to separate herself from the high expectations her grandfather placed on her, (which she then placed on herself) - she was also able to see how it actually benefited her.
The upside to being harsh on yourself is it can drive you to be better. Ballard was able to create a successful career for herself in a time where it was unusual for a woman to do so - and she had her intolerant grandfather cracking the whip to thank for it.
"It helped me for years and years to become someone freer, more successful and more independent than most women of my generation did in that place," Allende told Global Leadership TV.
The downside was, she could never switch off, feeling guilty if she ever stopped working. Being able to give the voice - and herself - a break has been the key to achieving a bit more balance. "When I learnt to identify the voice, I can say "back off". I hear it - clearly, clearly - and then I say "back off, I heard you" and then I can separate myself from that voice.".
And now she is in charge, using this critical voice to her advantage as and when she needs it. "Sometimes it's useful. Sometimes when I am in a situation of great stress or when I have to really perform, the voice comes and helps. But it doesn't tie me up, it doesn't imprison me like it did before."
The next time we get swept up by the voice inside our heads, the act of being able trace it back to its originator is well worth trying out.
Not only can it free us from the negative aspects of what it is saying - but it in some cases (depending on what it is saying) it might actually help us as well.
Find Out More About The Critical Inner Voice Here
Do I Really Think I Can Do Or Be What I Want? Or Have I Boxed Myself In?
Carol Dweck argues we can limit our opportunities by being too fixed in our mindsets - and that the ones who ultimately succeed believe in the word "yet"
When we think "if I could go back in life and change anything", it can be pretty easy to come up with a couple of things (or more).
And that's fine, as long as we are not still hankering after the things on our list.
We might have taken a college course, say, and quickly wished we had done something else. And despite wistfully gazing over at our peers doing XYZ for the duration, we did nothing about it.
If, years later, we still find ourselves looking at certain types of people with a degree of envy, we need to ask ourselves this: What stopped us then? And what's stopping us now?
Aside from financial concerns, Carol Dweck might argue it's a Fixed Mindset.
Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is behind the psychological theory of Growth Mindsets. Based on her research, she says that what keeps us from growing as individuals is our belief that we can't be or do what we want.
We hit a certain point and think we have reached our ceiling - or we think we were born with a limitation in the first place (or a number of them) and are lumbered with it/them for the rest of our lives.
It is something we could all do well to remember. Perhaps we just haven't quite got to wherever we want... yet.
And, reassuringly in a recent interview (above), she points out that there isn't any particular kind of person who is blessed all round with this kind of thinking.
There isn't a "Growth Mindset Type" per se.
All of us can be optimistic about our abilities and ambitions in some areas yet crushingly pessimistic in others, she says. And she advises we would do well to be aware of those areas of our life where we close off opportunities to ourselves in the mistaken belief we do not have what it takes to get there.
It might be wise to keep that in mind next time we catch a "fit of the envies"...
Find Out More About Growth Mindset Here
Take Jerry Seinfeld's Advice About Maintaining Habits: "Don't Break The Chain"
Starting a new habit is hard enough; keeping it's another matter entirely. James Clear has an answer to this problem - and he has Jerry Seinfeld to thank for it.
Starting a new habit is hard enough, particularly when there is all kinds of resistance around it, based in insecurity, fear of failure, looking like an idiot... the list goes on. Maintaining that habit once you have actually mustered up the gumption to do the thing is another matter entirely.
While there are all kinds of psychological exercises out there to help us motivate ourselves to stick at whatever it is we have committed ourselves to, James Clear offers a simple yet effective technique that takes quite a bit of the effort out that's typically involved when we're trying to stick to habits.
The trick is to focus on something completely different instead.
Typically, we place so much energy on the thing we are actually doing that habits can become the big boogeymen, something we have to grapple with.
Watch What James Clear
So, drawing on advice from comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Clear recommends this: simply mark out the days on the calendar when we actually do what we say we are going to do - and switch the goal to progressively getting as many days in a row as we can.
The focus will shift away from the habit itself and on to the number of days we have crossed off. It then becomes an issue of minimising the number of days that are not crossed off - rather than obsess fruitlessly over the task-at-hand.
This is what Clear calls, "Don't Break The Chain".
"Whatever the habit is you're trying to build, " says Clear, "This type of feedback, It gives you a visual cue, a long-term motivator to see that on the wall and to look at the progress you have made."
Find Out More About Habits Formation Here:
Barbara Sher On Criticism: This Might Help You Get Why You Feel So Inadequate
Understanding our feelings of inadequacy might very well help to dispel them next time they come knocking
Barbara Sher offers some priceless insight into why we might feel so inadequate, regardless of evidence to the contrary.
Marrying together three areas - criticism, inadequacy and perfectionism - Sher explains how they come together to create a perfect storm that can be difficult to get out of.
When it comes to criticism, Sher signs up to the old saying, "if you don't have something nice to say don't say anything at all".
Why? Well you might actually be wrong, for starters. But vitally, on a psychological level, she says, the criticisms (particularly if they are plenty) will do far more than just sting the recipient.
If the criticism happens in childhood (particularly if it is chronic), the deeper the issues take root. At an early stage, we can get hooked into feeling inadequate and easily triggered later in life.
One of the ways we can try and compensate for this is by being perfect, which even then, says Sher, is never good enough, either.
Perfection becomes a necessity as opposed to an achievement. "Being perfect is simply a "C", it's simple an average for you," she adds. "You get no satisfaction out of being perfect,"
"You're just out of danger's way, temporarily."
This feeling of never being good enough makes it impossible to get the feeling of getting an "A+", despite these high standards, she explains, while "the slightest flaw [means] all is lost".
Simply understanding how these three factors link together - criticism in childhood, feeling inadequate and the need to be perfect - can be cathartic enough in itself.
But next time you need a reminder, it is worth watching this short clip. It is a great way to recognize why you feel the way you do - and snap out of any kind of spiral those feelings of inadequacy can bring on.
Find Out More About Inadequacy Here:
What We Can Learn From The People We Hate
People who trigger us beyond belief might be doing us a
pretty big favour - by dragging us out of denial
There's a well-accepted idea that we should look to positive role models for guidance on how to live. While that philosophy certainly has its merits, little is said about looking to those we hate.
There is an argument for focusing our attentions closely on the people we can't stand: the ones who seem to trigger us beyond all comprehension, whose actions are of such paramount importance to us, it becomes a point of obsession.
We resent these people because they are arrogant, pushy, loud, attention-seeking and overly critical or we despise them because they are complainers, small-minded, spineless and weak.
What Shadow Psychology has to teach us about this is key.
Ever answered back and got punished for it? Expressed yourself freely and were laughed at or shut down? Had a "great friend" and get betrayed?
Your open and trusting side is likely to take a hammering if you get stabbed in the back. Your natural exuberance might get diluted if you were repeatedly criticised for it ("stop being so annoying", "you're such a show off"). And your creative self-belief might dwindle to zero if you believed the person who criticised you more than you did your own natural inclinations.
This is why, later in life, when you have had years of practice being a "good" girl or boy, you have learnt to fit in, shelved those silly ideas of being an artist/writer/ designer etc and become skilled at keeping your mouth shut and your nose clean, that someone might come along and remind you of who you used to be.
And you might very well hate them for it.
Steve Mortenson, who teaches at the University of Delaware, says we would be wise to become aware of the "shadow projections" we place on people: what they actually say about ourselves (and who we are not being) - and the power we give away when we fail to take ownership of the long lost traits, skills and talents that have got shoved to one side along the road.
Perhaps then, we will recognise that when we curse the people who are expressing them freely, that what we are actually saying to ourselves is that we can never do or be that too.
And when we do begin to re-integrate our "lost selves" we will find these people do not bother us so much in the end, after all.
Find Out More About The Shadow Here:
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