Maybe it’s time to start thinking slightly differently about how you deal with difficult, painful or stressful feelings and situations. Perhaps you need to step back and evaluate just how effective your strategies have been so far.
The problem with trying to fight those painful feelings is that by engaging them you are actually helping them to strengthen and grow. Just by focussing on the problem you are really spotlighting it and spending an additional amount of time on it. The more time you spend thinking about it, the more time you spend feeling those painful feelings that you are trying to conquer. Talk about ‘Catch-22’!
But how then, you ask, do I deal with it? Well, I’m not about to say you need to repress those thoughts, that will only lead to more pain further down the line. And I’m certainly not about to say try not thinking about those thoughts - we all know what happens when you are told NOT to think about a red bus – it becomes the only thing you CAN think about.
What might happen if you decided to shift your focus? If we can start to put some other powerful thoughts into our minds and consciousness we create opportunities for our mind to be engaged with something that we are enthusiastic about and motivated toward. If we are focussed on these interesting, purposeful thoughts then, without realising it, we are spending less time and energy on those unhelpful painful thoughts that we were so locked into previously. This isn’t rocket science; it is not complicated or sophisticated, just logical.There is an old Native American parable that illustrates this concept aptly:An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life...
"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
“One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.
“The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
“This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old chief simply replied, "The one you feed."
You don’t always have a choice about some of the things that happen to you, and it can be extremely difficult to consciously alter your emotional state. Your best chance of success is to make some changes to your thinking. By deliberately selecting thoughts that bring happiness and peace, you can start to have more control over the emotions and behaviour that follow them. Take a look at two ways to do this that I describe here:
Take another look at your life and write down all the things you have to be grateful for, start with the small things: food on the table, a couple of hours of relaxation, then move onto richer blessings such as family and friends to love. Spend some time on your list, immerse yourself in the feelings that are generated from each new addition. This is not a magic cure for depression or anxiety, it is merely a tool that you can use to shift your focus and start to include a different way of thinking into your life. It is very easy to notice the negatives and take for granted all of the positives; if we pay a bit more attention to those positives, write them down, talk about them, we bring them to mind and enjoy the feelings that we associate with them.
Be pro-active rather than reactive. Rather than allowing only houseroom for the occurrences and thoughts that are happening to you, BE the happening. Start planning and goal setting, not just daydreaming and wishing. Put some solid, well thought through goals into place and plan the steps and actions that you need to take in order to achieve them. Direct your focus towards a new enterprise and spend your time and energy making it successful. The more excited about your goal you are, the more successful you will be in achieving it. Once you have achieved your goal and experience that success, the more confident you become. The more confident you become, the happier you are. The happier and more confident you are, the better you will cope with new challenges.
You will not avoid pain in life, it is not possible. But by developing some helpful thinking habits you will have found a way to make a truly positive impact on your happiness.