Week 51 and the day was a little less brutal in terms of heat and humidity for my hike this week. In fact, I found myself lingering here and there in various pretty spots, something I don’t do when I am just trying to bang out a hike before the heat gets too bad. It was a great time for just thinking and staying present and breathing.
This week I am going to talk about ways to change our thoughts from ones that make us feel bad to ones that make us feel better. And really, that’s been what I’ve been writing about for the last 50 weeks – our thoughts and how changing them can make a big difference in how we feel.
This is what I call the tricky part. Once you accept that your thoughts are actually what trigger your feelings, and you accept that you have a choice about what you are thinking, actually changing it can be where you lose your way a bit. Thankfully there are a multitude of ways to come at this challenge!
Let’s use an example again to try our different tricks of the trade on. Way back in the day, long before I discovered life coaching, I discovered my first boyfriend in college was cheating on me. And while I was pretty miffed at him, I saved most of my anger for the girl he was cheating on me with. I didn’t know her at all; I just couldn’t believe the nerve she had coming after my boyfriend! I started feeling a new emotion – hatred – for someone who was a complete stranger to me. And it didn’t feel good at all.
So we work together and we figure out that the thought that is causing the most anger and pain is the thought that this woman is out to steal my boyfriend and that I have no hope of competing with her because she is blonde, skinny, and on the track team.
Coach-me would point out the facts of the situation: twice I had seen my boyfriend with this other woman in cases where he had told me he was too busy to hang out with me. That’s all I knew.
So we’d start by looking at whether my thought was even true. This is a great place to start. Oftentimes we make assumptions that not only are wrong, but that are the most painful ones we can come up with. In this case:
a) I had no idea who had pursued who in this little scenario. I had assumed that my boyfriend of course must’ve been fighting the other woman off as best he could until his strength was depleted and he was overcome by her beauty and long track-running legs.
b) I had also assumed that the other woman was aware of my existence.
So my thought didn’t really pass the truth test since I couldn’t prove it was true…it hinged on guesses my brain decided to come up with.
And this illustrates one of my favorite ways to start developing a new, better-feeling thought. You come up with other thoughts that could be equally as true as the one you are currently thinking.
This one is kind of a toughie because no matter what thought I come up with, the fact remains that my boyfriend is spending time with another woman behind my back. But I knew I could do better than feel hatred for this woman.
I didn’t have a coach then, but coach-me now would’ve thrown out a bunch of alternative thoughts:
– Maybe my boyfriend was the one doing the pursuing
– Maybe this girl had no idea that he was dating me
– Maybe she wasn’t the only other woman he was spending time with
– Maybe their relationship was purely platonic
– Maybe this would be the best thing that ever happened to me
With the information at hand, any one of these assumptions would’ve been equally true…and every one of them would have lessened the anger I was feeling for the track star.
Here’s the thing: It usually helps to just try to nudge your brain in a little bit of a different direction instead of trying to tackle a complete 180-degree turn. I.e., me trying to go with “maybe this would be the best thing that ever happened to me” would’ve been quite the stretch. It wouldn’t have felt true (even if it turned out to be true – which it did).
Client-me would’ve had an easier time accepting one of the first two thoughts (both of these turned out to be true, as well). They wouldn’t necessarily have eased the pain of being cheated on, but they would’ve all but removed my anger at the other woman.
You can try this with any negative thought you are having. Byron Katie developed a method around this concept called The Work (check out her website here: thework.com). It is a great tool to use any time you are struggling to change a thought. It involves looking at the thought and identifying ways that it is true…and ways it is not true.
Doing The Work makes me hate Byron Katie sometimes, because it always ends up making me realize that it is always me choosing to feel lousy…her method will cancel any pity-party you were planning on having. But I always come out on the other side with a better thought. And I feel BETTER.
Whether you use Katie’s method or just grab a sheet of paper on your own, try this next time you identify a painful thought you are having. Write down the FACTS of the situation. Then write down all the different ways you could be thinking about those facts (including the painful thought you are currently having). Try to find a thought on your list that feels equally as valid as your current thought, but feels better to think. And then practice thinking that thought.
I’ll admit, I have not found this process easy, but it does work if you stick with it. And we life coaches are here to help! That’s what I’m trained for…to help you zone in on the thought that is causing you pain and guide you in the process of coming up with that better-feeling thought!
So if you find yourself struggling…stuck in a way of thinking that is getting you nowhere fast…then why not shoot me an email and sign up for a free session with me? At the very least I can get you started on your journey to feeling better!
Thanks for reading, peeps! Until next week…