I was reminded a few days ago of how we can set ourselves up for making things worse instead of better. It was a good friend of mine who reminded me: she was upset with a mutual friend, and didn’t know how to let our friend know how upset she was. She “solved” this problem, at least temporarily, by getting a migraine, so that she couldn’t talk this issue over with our friend.
She’d made things worse for herself, instead of better: now she had a debilitating migraine and the necessary conversation was waiting for her to worry about for a while longer.
If you’ve never done this, you’re rare. Most of us find a way to sabotage ourselves, usually subconsciously or unconsciously. If something scares us enough, some of us would rather go through an elective operation than deal with that something.
If you do find yourself going to ridiculous extremes instead of facing something scary here’s three things you can do to help you through it in a better way:
Ground yourself. When I’m anxious, most of my energy is in my chest, somewhere near my throat. When I’m grounded, it’s closer to my belly button; I feel anchored to the ground beneath me. For me, I have come to know what that feels like. I call it “being landed”. Take some time when you’re in a calm space and learn what being grounded feels like for you. Then do whatever it takes to get there when you need to. Meditation, deep breathing, a long walk … whatever works for you. Being anywhere else when you need to do something scary means you’re more likely to screw up. You increase your chance of success when you approach anything difficult from a grounded place.
Get honest. Astonishingly easily, I can fool myself into thinking I am being open and above-board when I’m really not. Especially when I feel hurt. Before addressing a sensitive issue, especially with a friend, make sure you are clear about your part, and don’t begin the talk with any judgments or accusations. Be clear about the issue rather than your opinions. For instance, if I find myself wanting to point an accusing finger at someone, I know I’m being dishonest with myself, and that, for me, holding off until I no longer feel the need to do this, is the better way.
Open your heart. We are human – you are, I am, everyone is. And as such, we are capable of making mistakes and hurting others. Going into a confrontation with a generous heart can make the difference between increasing a problem or resolving it. This isn’t the same as being naive, or of shuttering your awareness, or of adopting a “Polyanna” overly objective attitude. I’m guilty of doing that – not wanting to believe that someone I think well of is deliberately being a nuisance – so much easier to find fault in myself. You don’t have to do this to enter a confrontation with an open heart, if you’re grounded, and honest with yourself.
Worse or better? It’s sometimes really hard to go for better. In the end, it’s always worth it.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co