Listen to one’s self-talk! It could be your own or that of your client. Most of the unpleasant thoughts of what can go wrong, why things won’t work out, how badly one is likely to perform… are thoughts about what can go wrong in the future. This produces anxiety. In the same way, stories from the past – thoughts about how things went wrong, and how you were affected – cause depression. So, anxiety is about the future and depression is about the past – getting caught up between the two ensures that we miss the present. And the present is the only thing we can any degree of influence over.
The reality is that most thoughts from the past or about the future are seen from a lens of distorted reality: events are catastrophized, the good in any situation is negated, one’s own performance is denigrated by oneself, negative impact is magnified and any thing good is minimised or generalised. In essence, we ruin our present by just churning thoughts that don’t work for us! And they’re just thoughts, often not reality.
The next loop – once this vicious cycle starts – is to get anxious about our anxiety or depressed about our depression. This secondary loop causes the real damage to the present moment. It’s often based on the expectation that pain, suffering, sadness, anxiety is ‘bad’ and that a successful life must be ‘pain-free’. This expectation, fueled by media, pop psychology, and well-meaning friends robs us of the fullness of life in the present moment – whatever the circumstances.
A better way to deal with such thinking – for us and our clients – is to learn to connect with unpleasant, boring, disagreeable tasks, feelings, or situations and just notice them for what they are. A part of life! Connection is the process of making full contact with your experience in the moment – notice its impact on your feelings and thoughts. It doesn’t mean that you don’t take any action and resign yourself to fate; you take whatever actions are aligned with your values – while being accepting of the pain that inevitably comes with living a rich and full life.
A quick technique to help you create some awareness in the present moment: Breathe slowly – take a few deep breaths with awareness. The idea of breathing is to connect and to increase self-awareness, so that one you accept the thinking and feeling that you are going through in the present moment. It is not a control strategy to feel better or to get rid of anxiety or sadness. So, breathe, notice the impact of the feelings and thinking in your body – be OK with them. And, then see what baby steps can help you move in the direction of your values.
Check out details of our ICF accredited 125 hour ACTP Executive Coach training program being held in October and December in Bangalore, on this website’s ACTP/ACSTH page. Why not use this as an opportunity to visit India / Bangalore?
Reference: The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Dr Russ Harris