I was thinking about the last episode of worry I had. The situation is resolved now, but because I told myself so many times how it could have turned out, the emotion still lingers when I think of that topic. I still feel a slight ping of anxiety just thinking about it, or seeing anything that reminds me of it, and then I have to tell myself that it’s over now. “It’s over. It’s fine. It all turned out ok. Just calm down.” *Exhale*
This lead me to a train of thought about how powerful words are. Not only words we say out loud, or to others, but even what we say in our head. And it’s not just that we’re self-talking, it’s the precise words we choose, and the emotions we attach to them as we repeat them over and over. This is especially true when we immediately jump to a particular conclusion. We are programming ourselves for an emotional and physical response. You may even call it brainwashing. Even though my situation is resolved, I have put so much effort in to telling myself how bad it surely was going to turn out, that now it has the power to continue to scare me. Although, I’ve been actively using new, positive words to combat it, and it’s working.
My father told me many years ago, that you choose your mood. He said you also choose how to react to situations. For the most part, he was right. Actually, he’s entirely right, it’s just that it sounds much simpler than it is. If we choose to frame a given situation in our minds in an inflammatory, scary or negative way, then we give it the power to make us FEEL overwhelmed, scared and sad about it. The reality of the situation is completely different than what we’ve told ourselves, and the result is panic, worry, depression, etc. Once we realize that our perception actually affects our lives, we realize that we have to control it or it will ruin our lives.
We must not let this happen. Any time we come up against a situation we are disappointed with, or don’t know the outcome, we need to use the power of words to frame it in a way that will be beneficial, rather than harmful. Our mission is to challenge our usual negative thoughts with exactly opposite concepts. Even if you don’t believe it, explore the possible positive options, and give them room to take root in your mind, and grow. Practice with various situations of lesser import until you’ve gotten good enough to tackle the big stuff. Here are some example scenarios to get you started.
|• You haven’t heard from someone in a long while (and you think you should have) and you can’t reach them.
Before you begin to panic and imagine all manner of tragic ends for your loved one, run down the list of rational and likely reasons they are unavailable and/or late.
• They may have gotten caught up at work, by a collegue or client.
• Their cell phone might be set to silent or not within reach, or even out of battery.
|• A client or boss tells you that you’ve made a costly mistake and they are “freaking out” about it.
Before you decide that you’ll be ridiculed, fired or sued,
|• You invited a friend or loved one to an event, and they blew you off or flat out lied with their excuse, or blatantly told you they aren’t interested.
It may hurt because you had an expectation of that person. But before you decide to “unfriend” them or tell them off, ask yourself why the event was so important to you – and why must it be that important to your friend as well? You likely projected your enthusiasm and importance for the event on to that person. Is it fair and reasonable to expect identical feelings from others?
|• A friend says something that seems hurtful or insulting. You can’t understand why they aren’t “on your side” or why they think that way about you.
It may be your usual reaction to be angry, defensive or even cry. But before you get to that point ask yourself, does this person really mean me harm? Does he/she intend to belittle me or judge me?