A woman called me on the phone last night feeling very upset. She heard a news broadcast about hundreds of people losing their jobs. Feeling very sad about the people who lost their job, she started imagining she would probably be next. The fact of the story was, however, that the people who lost their jobs had nothing to do with her occupation or her job’s industry. Speaking with a can do it attitude, I used optimism focusing on how we could do something to improve life quality for her.
To help her, I asked to focus on thinking about all the blessings in her life. As I suggested many blessings in her life, my ideas fell on her deaf ears. She kept focusing on all the people who lost their jobs and imagining fearful things that could affect her job next.
I kept asking her to focus on the facts instead of her imagination which was based on opinions rather than on truth about her job. She kept interrupting me as I spoke insisting that she was next. She eventually worked herself into such a mind state that she started panicking and crying. In her mind, she was sure her job was in jeopardy.
Nothing I said seemed to help her find the hope she was seeking. It was as if she was arguing with me so she could stay in the mental chaos she was creating for herself. So I finally said, “Oh, well, I guess you’re probably right. Since I can’t help you because your mind is made up, I guess there’s nothing else we can do about it except wait for you to lose your job, too…”
Then, she spontaneously reversed the conversation and said, “Well, wait a minute. My boss loves the work I do for him. I really don’t believe I’m going to lose my job, I’m just afraid I might lose my job.” She continued the conversation by slowly talking herself out of the position that she probably would lose her job to her job being very secure.
How many times have we started to think that something is awful, based on opinion and convinced ourselves that all hope is lost? It think it’s something that all humans have done at one time or another. By relying on a “I can do it attitude” we can improve life quality.
Focus on What You Can Do
Self-convincing attitudes based on assumptions and opinions keep us stuck in life. One of the simplest things we can do to turn our attitudes around is simply by questioning the credibility, believability or the truthfulness of the upsetting idea. By having a “Can Do It” attitude, we stimulate other brain parts to share ideas about possibilities instead of impossibilities.
So, here’s something you can do if it happens one day you find yourself feeling consciously upset over ideas that may be untrue. Stop and say to yourself, “What a minute…is this thought really true?”
Attorneys Know How To Do it To Witnesses
In the lawyer shows on TV, when a witness gets on the stand and starts to provide testimony that may damage the lawyer’s client’s case, he or she immediately attacks the credibility of the witness testimony. You can use this same tactic if you start thinking in self-limiting ways. You just ask questions that provide reasonable doubt as to the validity or credibility of the upsetting idea.
For example, suppose you as a mom feel sure your child who is going through a divorce will lose custody of your grandchildren. That scares you because you love your child and your grandchildren. The moment you recognize you are scaring yourself with an assumptive opinion like this, question the credibility of the testimony you are telling yourself.
Use several questions to examine the truthfulness of the story you are telling yourself. Here are some sample questions you can ask:
“Is that really true?”
“How do I know that idea is really true?”
“When did I start believing that idea was the only possibility?”
“Who can I ask to get more factual details about this information?”
“When I heard about this event, who told me the details? Is this person in a position to have all the facts?”
“Who ELSE can I contact to get more details to confirm if the idea is really true?”
“Is there some way we can do something to improve the situation to make it more manageable?”
By questioning the credibility of testimony you hear about an idea, you can naturally help reduce your stress. But, if the information really is true, create a plan to accept and work with the unwanted news, as appropriate. If you need help reducing your stress about upsetting ideas, please contact me.
So, what are some of your situations that upset you and a “can do it” attitude helped you find a useful way to cope? I’d love to hear from you. Please write to me at [email protected] and share!