I Can’t Decide…
Ever feel that way? In duality? Unable to make a choice? Bouncing back and forth from “I want to… But maybe not.”
Several times when I haven’t been able to decide exactly ‘what’ to do in a certain situation, I do the standard pluses and minuses list. Sometimes that activity can bring out enough realistic observations to easily make a choice. And sometimes not. The result is two lists. Two lists, and no conclusion.
Lots of us have been ‘caught’ there when we’re in what I’ll label ‘somewhat significant situations’. Yes? Or, No? Should I? Or, shouldn’t I?
Situations such as:
* I really could use a better vehicle… should I buy a new one now, or wait until January or February?
* I’m not really happy… Should I get out of this relationship now, even though some parts are good, others are not?
* Should I let my children go live with their Father, even though I’m not 100% sure they will be happy?
* Should I move my Mother to an assisted living facility, or wait another few months?
* Should we buy a home in another state, just to live closer to at least one of our children and his family?
* Should I even try for that job transfer to Texas with my company, which has a very good potential for a big promotion in the next two years? Yet if we move half way across the country it would mean my husband having to find a new job and the kids changing schools in the middle of the year?
* Should I move some of that extra money to a safe CD at the bank, or take a chance on that great low-risk stock my wealthy Uncle recommended last week?
My suggestion, and I have done this (with success) – if there’s no huge rush, no impending next-day deadline, I make a firm decision to put off the decision to a later date. What? A firm decision to not make a decision?
Hey, it works. If the back-and-forth thoughts are causing more than a little bit of stress & tension, making a firm decision to put off a decision to a later date makes sense. It’s taking the emergency out of it.
It takes away the self-imposed pressure. “Self” imposed pressure is “I” imposed pressure. If “I” have imposed/created it, “I” can uncreate it by thinking different thoughts.
Choose any reasonable date in the future and make a simple decision: “I’m going to review this again in two weeks” or “I’m going to reconsider this on January 2nd.” I prefer choosing a date (for me it seems more of a definite firm decision, plus it’s entered as a To-do on my calendar). Then, if any working-up type thoughts do come up, you can just tell yourself (think/bring to mind) “I don’t need or want to think about that now. I’ve already made a firm decision to reconsider the facts on January 2nd.” That really does put a stop to the duality.
So when you’re in bed trying to fall sleep and the ‘Maybe I should, Maybe I shouldn’t’ thoughts come back, you just tell yourself: “I’ve promised myself…” (that’s really what a firm decision is – a promise or an even stronger word is ‘vow’) “I’ve promised myself I will review my options on January 2nd.” Period. Exclamation point! The END.
Often during the interim time, when we’ve taken the pressure off ourselves, something or someone comes along spontaneously with new information or a different/better opportunity which makes making the end-goal decision much more uncomplicated.
Try it. It beats duality and worry!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I Can’t Decide…
Monday, November 23, 2009
This morning as I was driving, about a mile from home I heard a chime sound in the car. Looked at the dashboard and saw the oil light flicker on and off. About a mile later it did the same thing.
My favorite gas station/repair place is just another mile or so down, and I decided to stop there. The owner checked the oil, said it was about a quart low, and since it was about time for an oil change I agreed to have it done.
After waiting 15 minutes or so, a different mechanic came to me in the waiting area and told me the brake pads needed to be replaced – soon, as in within the next 50 miles, or else the brakes would be scratching on the rotors. The cost: $169.00. I had a tiny– ouch, that’s going to cost some money response, and said “Go ahead and replace them”.
So where’s the Blessing? First the oil light went on to ‘warn’ me of that condition. Then, the mechanic was wise enough to check the brakes when the car was up in the air and notice they were very worn.
There are only two ways to look at (think about) events: positively & securely, or negatively & insecurely. There is always that choice.
We are the ones who get to label what happens in our lives.
Lots of people may disagree with me – and that’s totally OK.
Years ago I would not have considered a series of events like this a blessing either. It may have been a triviality, but a Blessing??? Nope. I couldn’t see it that way (I didn’t think of it that way). Way too much off-and-on fear and anger were blocking any insight.
I found that’s what racing, insecure thoughts do – build distrust, and increase discomfort. And the opposite is also true: indulge in secure thoughts only – refuse to argue (think) otherwise and you will attain trust – and peace (relief).
It’s quite uncomfortable distrusting anyone and everyone – thinking everyone or most everyone is out to ‘get you’ in some way. Being suspicious is being fearful. Being fearful comes from thinking fearful thoughts. That’s all.
Yes, Lots of Blessings in my life today – and I’d have to say the most significant one is that I remained At Ease and In Control.
© 2009 Rose VanSickle ~ All rights reserved
Friday, November 20, 2009
Rehearse being nice. Being group-minded.
Being at ease & in control.
Why not? We sometimes rehearse being annoyed, angry or resentful. Rehearse? With our thoughts & imagination.
In fact (here comes another ‘confession’ on my part) there was a time when I did just that: run through a past or future ‘scene’ – If so-and-so says _____, I’ll say ____.” And, I experienced discomfort: racing thoughts, plus physical distress. Keep thinking fear and anger thoughts long enough, and the body will let you know what you’re doing.
I call it The Temper Alarm that ‘goes off’. It varies considerably, but you probably have your favorites. Favorites? Yes, those typical places where your body ‘collects’ and ‘exhibits’ the tension. For many years, for me it was my stomach. Before that, it was a pretty strong tension in the back of my neck. Temper is the cause; symptoms, the effect.
But, back to the topic...
At first I thought racing thoughts were only connected to fear. Then I recognized those other kind, the anger thoughts, could be just as swift and speedy.
Thoughts about an upcoming family gathering – whatever kind: a holiday dinner, wedding, reunion, etc. – have a tendency to bring up the past. Past tempers too… “Remember when so-and-so did such-and-such?”
If it’s a humorous memory, by all means do laugh about – whether you’re expressing your memories out loud to yourself or someone else – or merely reviewing (having thoughts about them) in the space of your own mind.
Your judgments about Cousin Stuart or Aunt Christy, or Grandpa may be dormant during most of the year, but when you think about being in the same house/place with them again, temper thoughts are apt to arise. (this goes for friend-type gatherings too, not just blood relatives)
My suggestion: Take the time now, prior to the occasion, to reduce and extinguish any temper (thoughts) that you recognize or identify. Whoever ‘they’ are, they are outer environment. We can’t control anything but our own thoughts, and our own muscles. Whatever ‘they’ did is a triviality compared to your mental health.
I love the chapter in Mental Health Through Will Training that has the story about the ‘letter to be mailed’, and Dr. Low describes the letter as a ‘piece of paper’. How silly it is to get mad at/about a piece of paper.
That’s exactly how I came up with the idea that what someone says – even if it’s ‘hurtful’ and I initially get upset over it, in reality it’s only ‘sound & air’ coming out of their mouth. Take out the disturbing emotional aspect, and it’s only sound & air.
Yes, the other person may have had a unkind, hurtful ‘intention’ behind what they said. They may have been ‘showing’ their temper. But I say: “So what. My mental health is more important than the sound and air that came out of that person’s mouth!” Besides, it’s ridiculous to be mad at sound & air.
Think that’s a little far out?? Maybe. But if it works for me, if it reduces my temper and tension, and keeps my symptoms to a bare minimum – I’m going to share it.
Notice I used the word sound, not noise. To me, ‘noise’ has a connotation of temper. Noise is not pleasant. Sound is neutral. Also notice I used the word ‘air’ not ‘hot air’ – again for the same reason.
Once temper is lessen, released, erased, deleted – then make a FIRM decision that everything you say and do is going to be done with kindness.
So, this holiday time, do enjoy the yummy leftover food,
just watch it when it comes to leftover temper. I will too!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
That’s not trivial!!
Since my last post was about what some would label a ‘major’ life event – I decided that now was as good a time as any to bring up this topic:
When is something not a triviality?
I was taught first to practice on the ‘minor’ everyday events which contributed to me feeling irritated, frustrated, disappointed, out-of-sorts, and upset. But, I’ll tell you, it’s gone way above and beyond that.
The truth is, what one person would consider a triviality, someone else may not. Judging whether or not an event is trivial, insignificant or minor (in the grand scheme of things), is a personal decision.
For me – just about everything is now trivial, No-Big-Deal. No, it wasn’t always that way. At first I followed what I thought were the rules. I followed them closely.
Yet it came to a point when I was confused?, puzzled? about what was, and what wasn’t a triviality. It was then I decided trivial or not – I could and would use my mental fitness tools no matter what the situation, no matter what the event. No matter how ‘BIG’ it seemed. No matter how important it was. If I was uncomfortable or down – I practiced: changing thoughts and commanding muscles. Everything became a “triviality compared to my mental health”.
Bear with me here…
When my Mother passed away 20 years ago, it was my first experience of a parent dying. This is how I dealt with it: The instant my Mother died was not trivial, BUT (and that’s a BIG but) BUT everything else that that was even slightly connected to the event was. Every one of my irritations, frustrations, disappointments, and fearful, insecure thoughts had to be handled. By me.
To be honest, I was scared and felt vulnerable (because I was thinking vulnerable thoughts). I was in ‘new’ territory. I was afraid of a setback. So my practice went into High Gear. Yes, I was, what might be called ‘hyper-vigilant’ of what thoughts were coming into my mind. But I did it for my mental health, my sanity, my inner peace. I didn’t want to ‘fall apart’ completely. And, I didn’t.
On the way to the funeral home for the first visitation, I had one particular sad/gloomy thought: “This is the worst day of my life, I’m going to see my Mother in a casket.” Followed shortly afterwards by: “No Rose. The worst day of your life was when you were terrified to walk from the house to the mailbox.” Oh! That pulled me back to being totally realistic about what I had to face.
Don’t get me wrong, I did a fair amount of crying. Maybe more than an average amount (but really, what is the measuring stick for weeping? Minutes or ounces?). There were a few times I wasn’t able to speak, but simply hug someone back. But, I did not fall apart completely.
This is definitely a case where I was not at ease (who would be?) but I was in control – of my inner environment. You might say I made a mighty firm decision that I would not allow myself to dwell on, or work up anything.
Original responses? Yes, of course – plenty of them. But no lengthy debilitating working-up processes.
As I said – for me, I employ my well-being skills for everything. I found it keeps me calmer and healthier. I do it for my mental health.
What’s more important? Someone’s (or anyone’s) words, actions or behavior, or My Mental Health?
To me the answer is a no-brainer. My mental health! Of course.
“Compared to my mental health”… Put in that perspective, I can’t imagine anyone answering anything else.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
One VERY wise man
Within the last month there was a news report…
The parents of a television personality in the Chicago area were murdered. On the way to his parents' home after he was told of the murders, he asked himself, "Why me?" After driving several more miles, he said to himself: “Why not? I'm not special. It happens to 500 people a year in Chicago."
He changed his thoughts.
“Why not?” This so much reminds me of Dr. Low explanation that mental disorders/conditions are “fate appointed”. They happen! As soon as I read and accepted that explanation, I stopped digging and digging into my past to find out “why”. I also let go of the notion that it was so very extraordinary to have “nervous” problems. It helped me re-directed the energy I was putting into “poor me” and use that energy to help myself instead.
Another point from the news report: It was only a day or two later that this same television personality, announced that he had already “forgiven” those responsible for the event. And this was before any suspects had been apprehended.
In my eyes – what he did was “excused rather than accuse”. He did it to preserve his sanity. He did it for his mental health. Those may not be his thoughts, reasons or motivation at all, yet somehow he knew that it was THE best thing for him to do.
How wise of him to
#1 – Forgive/excuse quickly.
#2 – Do it before he ever saw the perpetrator(s). Because when he does eventually face who was responsible (either in photos or in person) – he can go back to his thought, his firm decision: “I’ve already forgiven.”
#3 – State his forgiveness publicly. Doing that kind of act so openly would very likely keep most anyone from later on retracting or withdrawing it.
One wise man. One very wise man. I applaud him.
Lots of knowledge to be gained from his decisions (which were in fact thoughts, before they were spoken) and his actions (carried out through his muscles).
We may never, ever be in that very same situation.
But we can learn from his story.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
It does make a difference! A whole lot of difference.
I totally admit it. In the beginning, the tone of thought/voice when using what I call – verbal tranquilizers was ‘weak’. Maybe because I didn’t really believe what I was telling myself. Let’s cancel that ‘maybe’. I really didn’t believe those strong physical sensations that were a part of my panic, anxiety and the depressive thoughts were “distressing, but not dangerous”. I didn’t accept that they were scary, but that I was safe.
To be honest, I don’t recall how long it took before I began saying them with any force, any conviction. But when I did “say it like I meant it” it made a huge difference in my rate of progress.
To think that anxiety symptoms were dangerous – was a mistake. My mistake. I had to convince my brain that there was no danger. I had to convince my brain that I was coming up with the wrong answer/conclusion.
Here’s my analogy:
You’re teaching a 5-year old about addition: 4 + 5 = 9.
The child, for whatever reason, doesn’t ‘get it’, and his answer is 4 + 5 = 8.
You point out the ‘mistake’, and repeatedly repeat the correct answer – until the child accepts/memorizes the correct answer.
Another point: when you’re teaching a child, you are (or should be) outwardly patient. Patience lends itself to more successful outcomes. Impatience leads to frustration for both the child and the one doing the teaching.
When we’re learning and practicing a ‘new’ anything, in any field – it’s average to make mistakes. And it’s also true when we’re learning new ways of improving our mental health through healthy thinking. We make mistakes and go back to the old thinking, the old habit of thinking.
Lingering thoughts of impatience – “this is not working! I’m not feeling any better, it’s useless!” are simply mistakes in thinking, that can be corrected. With practice. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Impatient (fearful) thoughts slow progress. The antidote (secure thought) could be something such as: “NO! I AM making progress. I can’t really see or feel it, BUT I know every effort I make in changing my thoughts IS making a difference”.
It really is an accumulation of secure/realistic thoughts that make a cumulative, collective difference.” I assure you, one day that scale will tip in the right direction, as it did for me and thousands of others. You will accept and believe the healthy thoughts you’ve been telling yourself. The old, destructive habit pattern will be replaced.
So, back to ‘How’ you change your thoughts. I found that when I made my secure thoughts as strong as my insecure thoughts – it made a remarkable difference. With practice, the meek and weak, turned to assertive and strong.
Intense, firm, heavy-duty, forceful, powerful, determined – whatever adjective you want to use – my best recommendation is to:
Say it like you mean it!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Comments on Comments
The online news headline: House Passes Healthcare Bill
Below it: What do you think?
Please DO note – MY comments below are made without the least bit of temper. They are simply realistic, rational, sensible, level-headed, reasonable, factual.
My response to “what do you think?”:
“Does it really matter what I think – what my opinion is?
It’s already a bill. Signed. Stamped. Delivered. Passed.
It is, and I can’t change it.”
How boring Rose! Yup – I agree. Boring, and healthy.
~ ~ ~ ~
Asking for comments is asking for opinions. And in my opinion, asking for opinions is something that very often generates anger, temper and even fear. Pure and Simple!
Does it really allow people to simply “blow off steam” and get rid of their anger/judgments? Does it put them at ease about the topic?
Or, is it a working up process that adds anger on top of anger? Another thing, “out there” to be afraid of or angry at.
In the case of online comments that have to do with a controversial subject, I’d say: “to type it up is to work it up”.
The words on the screen were first thoughts in someone’s mind. Yup – it’s all about the quality of our thoughts. We think ‘em before we speak ‘em. We think ‘em before (and as) we’re typing/writing them.
Don’t get me wrong – free speech is good. In fact it’s precious.
I just wonder how many people know that when they spew out their angry views and opinions, they’re hurting themselves?
But heck – that whole thing of expressing what “I think” is a whole lot more exciting and stimulating than sitting back and simply enjoying life day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. At least that’s what a whole lot of people think.
Until you try it, it’s a strange notion to be peaceful and excited at the same – about something good, or joyful, or just plain nice.
But I guarantee – it IS possible.
Lots and lots of positives are possible when a good portion of the fear and anger thoughts are no longer constantly in the picture.
Agitated? Or pleasantly energized?
Emotionally upset? Or, emotionally happy & peace-filled?
Thank You – I’ll choose the second!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Several months ago I was at an on-the-premises estate sale (where the entire contents of home are sold off). The real estate sign in the front yard also had a big SOLD sign at the top.
There were several other people in the garage area where I was, and I overheard two men talking. From the gist of the conversation, I concluded that one of the men, probably in his early 70’s, was somehow associated with the sale. Perhaps a relative? I was not paying really close attention, but I did hear the second man ask: “What are you going to do now?” In a calm, even tone the first man answered: “ I don’t know.” And, he did not elaborate. Boy was I impressed!! How wonderful for him to be so at peace when he doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for him. “I don’t know” – to be able to say that and be totally comfortable, totally ‘at ease’.
Here comes another one of my “I remembers”…
I remember when “I don’t know” was a scary thought – as in “Yikes, I don’t know”. One that kept a vicious cycle of fear alive. In fact, as I’m typing this, I’m thinking it could be one of the ultimate thoughts that causes fear to continue going and growing.
The first scary “I don’t know” could simply be concern. Keep the thought alive and it will turn to worry. The imagination fires up – with the level of symptoms escalating in direct relation to the number of thoughts.
Worry produces headaches, an upset stomach, neck & shoulder tension, backaches, and/or a hundred and one other physical sensations/symptoms. And let’s not forget confusion – which I would consider a mental symptom.
When people are worried, rarely do they think of positive outcomes. The “What-if’s” that pop-up are typically gloom & doom, insecure thoughts which paint a grim outcome. And I do speak from experience here. I remember when…
How grateful I am that I learned that “to know, that I don’t know” could be, and is in fact, an average, rational, and realistic thought – as in: “Oh, I don’t know.”
Way back when, my nickname could have been Regimented Rose. “I must know how things are going to turn out next. I must anticipate anything & everything. I must be ready, and have a solution!” I wanted to have all the answers. And guess what – that’s NOT possible.
How carefree and peaceful is to be able to truly say, “I don’t know” whether the question concerns what might be termed a major thing or a minor one.
Where am I going to live in six months? How am I going to make my house payment this month? Is my company going to downsize again? Will I have a job next year? I don’t think I’ll have enough money to buy all the items on my grocery list.
Often, “I don’t know” is the healthiest thought we can have. Besides, if we don’t stay level-headed in the present, it’s almost a sure bet that we’ll be really rattled when an ’unpleasant’ situation does appear in our lives. And the reverse is just as true: Stay as level-headed as you can, and you’ll have a greater chance to receive & recognize insight as to what to do. What’s that old expression?? “Temper blocks insight” which equates to: low or no temper means an abundance of insight & choices.
“I don’t know” keeps us moving in the direction of our goals – short-term and long-term. Being frazzled and upset can keep you in such a state of mind that you feel incapable of doing anything
A “Right now, I don’t know” is calming in all types of situations:
“Right now I don’t know” - the results of those medical tests (whether they’re your own or anyone else’s). “Right now I don’t know” what college my daughter is going to be accepted to; what the weather’s going to be on our vacation; for sure how many children will show up at little Johnny’s birthday party; if the mechanic can be done fixing my car in time for me to get the tire repaired on my lunch hour, so I can get Haley to soccer practice right after work; if I’m going to be able to fall asleep at a decent time tonight,”
The list IS endless.
“I don’t know” – the scary/insecure kind – can also be disguised as: “I hope everyone likes the new casserole I’m making for tonight’s dinner”; “Boy, I sure hope the new minister is as good as our old one." Again, a simple, matter-of-fact “I don’t know” will put a mind at ease.
For major worries it will take repeated (and maybe relentless) “I don’t knows” to calm down. For the minor ones, it may take one or two, or maybe a few. Practice. Practice using “I don’t know” and it will become both a comforting, and a comfortable statement.
Oh, by the way, there’s also the fear of social reputation of “What are people going to think of me if I answer - I don’t know?”
So go ahead. Ask me: “Rose, when’s the next post on your blog going to be?”
“Right now, I don’t know.”
Thursday, November 5, 2009
While trying to hide their ‘condition’, people suffering from anxiety and/or depression often get into the habit of not quite telling the truth.
It’s part of covering-up-syndrome - why you ‘can’t’ do what other people do. It’s difficult to say: “I feel too panicky” or “I’m too depressed” to go to the movies, church, an outdoor concert, to the grocery store during the day when it’s crowded, to a ‘big’ store like Wal-Mart, etc. There are hundreds of places & events, and hundreds (maybe thousands) of excuses for avoidance behavior.
I remember my “I can’t” days – when I truly believed I “could not” do something. They were not at all pleasant. I remember ‘bending the truth’, and to be honest – I didn’t like lying. There, instead of dancing around with more gentle words, let me label it exactly what it was: lying. Lying to avoid feeling uncomfortable. BUT, sooner or later, we end up feeling uncomfortable anyway.
The fact is – we don’t feel good about ourselves when we lie – whether it’s a big lie or a “little white” lie. All of them add to the misery we’re already in. It adds to the vicious cycle of “There’s something terribly wrong with me.”
Once I learned that anxiety & depression, plus all the symptoms that go with those two disorders (and others as well), were ‘average’ and ‘fate appointed’ I felt better about myself. I wasn’t weird, different, or crazy. I had a condition. I had symptoms. And most important: I COULD GET WELL. There was a "cure”. Take away the shame and fear, and there was no need or reason to make up stories
Honesty and self-leadership include doing what you say you’re going to do. It means following through on commitments or appointments – or at least informing the other people involved that something’s come up, or you’ve changed your mind. It’s the group-minded thing to do. And, it’s certainly something to endorse for. Uncomfortable? Yes, sometimes. But, totally endorsable.
It’s so very refreshing now to be honest – both with myself and others. It’s another natural/automatic way to maintain good mental health & inner peace!
Monday, November 2, 2009
(it works both ways)
For a long time, because I learned that “to talk it up is to work it up”, I did my best to religiously avoid complaining about my symptoms. Report about them? Yes. That’s all. What was even more important was not “talking up” my symptoms to myself – in my mind. I learned that every insecure/fear thought I continued to think was attaching danger to the discomfort. Those thoughts, my thoughts of danger, were the very reason the discomfort turned to stronger panicky feelings, and if I didn’t actively change my thoughts, the physical sensations would grow more severe, and I ended up feeling worse. Much worse.
After learning to control the intensity and duration of the strong anxiety symptoms, I used “to talk it up is to work it up” as a tool to not complain about something ‘bad’ that happened to me (or to anyone else for that matter). It’s interesting… Have you ever listened to someone talking about something that upset them, and actually observe the tension they’re feeling as they speak about the incident? Talking about a unpleasant past event can and does bring back the same kinds of symptoms, and the sensations are experienced again in the present moment. The right/wrong, good/bad judgments are once again in the here and now, and so is the tension. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
The Flip Side: It was several years before I discovered that “to talk it up is to work it up” works both ways:
Talk up the ‘bad’ stuff, and you feel bad.
Talk up the ‘good’ stuff and you feel good.
When we spew out our problems, other people often ‘feel the pain’ and worry about us. It brings them down. I know I can get that first response of concern when I hear or read about a not-so-pleasant event.
There’s nothing I like more than hearing about something good & happy. I love to see the joy on people’s faces as they tell about something pleasing!! It brings me Joy. Joy with a capital “J”. It makes me smile. It makes the other person smile. In a very real sense it’s passing along some joy.
And smiles are happy things… which come from happy thoughts. Yes, it all goes back to our thoughts.
Now, especially in casual encounters when I’m out and about, I make every attempt to steer comments or brief conversations to pleasant, happy, enjoyable, nice topics. I do it for my mental health. And the other person’s mental health too!
Would I much rather spread joy (comfort) or gloom, doom & sorrow (discomfort)??
I’ll let you guess what my answer is.