The Fastest Way to Change + an exercise to start the process
We get stuck because we live a self-centered life. By self-centered, I mean doing life in your head, only seeing the world through your own lenses, and tying everything back to your worth. When you live a life centered in self, you are closed, your thoughts are turned inward, and you are listening to a constant inner dialogue of judgment and criticism. You compare yourself to others. You trace blueprints, created by parents, society, advertising, and old dreams that aren’t your truth anymore. And when they don’t match, you form false beliefs. I’m not good enough, pretty enough, strong enough. I could have done better. I don’t deserve ________. When you make it about you, your world becomes very small.
Unless you come from a perfect family and have had nothing but flawless relationships, which is impossible, your head will play this broken record of judgment and criticism. Of course the volume of the record varies, depending on your story. But we all have this playing inside us. It is quicksand. It starts with a raw emotion, anger, hopelessness, loneliness, despair, sadness, and anxiety. We sink deeper as our raw emotion turns into an emotion driven thought — the broken record. This is how we get negative self-talk loops stuck in our heads. You say something enough and you will start to believe it. Whenever the pseudo self drives the mind into patterns of thought that is contrary to the solid self, these thoughts can turn into trouble. The tracks of our broken records turn into false beliefs. They start to define who we are and limit our potential. For example, here are some false beliefs. The world would be better off without me. I’d be better off drinking again. No one loves me. I am worthless. I don’t deserve any better than this anyway. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. These false beliefs create fear and uncertainty. They keep us locked in our heads on a planet very far from joy and happiness.
The way you break this record is to get out of your mind (self). Accept your feelings but not the judgmental thoughts behind them. Allow yourself to feel whatever feeling that is truthful then let it go because it’s temporary. It’s not attached to you. Many hold on to them because feelings are powerful and convincing but like I mentioned above, that negative emotion can quickly turn into a track on repeat which then can turn into a false belief. Feelings don’t define your worth. Unless you allow them to. And so many do without even knowing it. It’s okay to feel lonely. It’s not okay to stamp yourself as unlovable. It’s okay to feel discouraged, overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused. But it’s not okay to believe you are inadequate or can’t accomplish something because you currently feel like you can’t. It’s okay to feel hurt because someone decided they didn’t want to be with you. It’s not okay to believe you are defective.
There’s a difference between how we feel and who we are.
For many this is a blurry line. Living outside of self allows us to draw that line with a permanent marker instead of chalk. Separating emotion from thought allows us to be present. The world becomes big. And bright. Instead of shifting gears all the time, we are in neutral. Our energy is not wasted on the grind. So how do we separate the two? How do we live in our truth instead of our heads? How do we detach our feelings from our worth and abilities? The first step is to acknowledge how you feel. Feelings don’t disappear because you ignore them. Like children, they will only grow louder. Own you feelings. It’s only after you’ve allowed yourself to feel that they will begin to dissolve, flow through you like wind and water. Finally leave the room. The more you try to ignore or suppress them, the longer they will stay inside you. This is how resentment builds. This is when we use shame to emotionally cut ourselves.
After you have allowed yourself to feel your feelings, the next step is to explore where those feelings are coming from. It’s important that you allow yourself to feel first so that you feel heard. If you jump to exploring where your feelings are coming from without allowing yourself to feel them first, there is room to minimize your truth. You are not letting yourself be heard. Fully accept and feel first. And let that take as long as takes. But not to the point where you are drowning in them and letting them control your life. At some point, after you have felt what you need to feel, you must move on. That’s when you put on your detective hat and start to explore with gentle curiosity. This is the learning piece, the beginning of the growth process. The goal is to see if there’s a pattern to those feelings and what the triggers are. Again, you’re not judging or arguing with your feelings. You’re exploring where they are coming from. If you follow that thread, you’ll find that there is valuable information there. Once you learn why you feel the way you do when you feel the way you do, you can start to trace and connect dots. You can start to pull back and understand yourself and your wiring better. You can make it about you instead of other people. This understanding is where you can start to change. Without this understanding, it’s easy to get lost in your feelings and let them lead you. Since we hold on to and dwell on our negative feelings rather than positive ones, we will be lead by our negativity. This is when we can be highly reactive and make decisions we will later regret.
Figuring out the whys is where you’ll find traction. Our motivation comes in our whys, not our whats. Why do you react? Why do you feel anger when he says that or behaves that way? Why does that hurt you so much? Why do you always go to that place? Why do you run? Why do you hide? Why are you attracted to that type of person? Why do you put so much pressure on yourself? Why do you do things the things you do? Why do you always see it that way? Why do you fall into that thought pattern? Once you have a better understanding of your whys, you can now make healthier choices on how to respond to your feelings and triggers instead of reacting to them. Remember, this is a process. It takes time. Be gentle and patient with yourself.
The next step is to be aware of all the thoughts right behind your feelings. What are some of the conclusions you make because of the way you feel? I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “feelings are not facts”. Many believe something is factual because they feel it. Once you discover the whys, you may realize that just because you feel something doesn’t mean your conclusions are true. Be aware of the messages you are telling yourself. Put yourself in an observer position and notice them. What does that say about you, how you think and behave? Now take all this information and apply it into your daily life. That’s the execution piece.
Growth is fifty percent revelations and fifty percent execution. With out the execution piece, all you’ll have are ideas. Not change.
Remember this. I will mention it many times.
How do your thoughts and conclusions play out in your life? What is the behavior attached to those thoughts? Does that behavior match up with who you want to be?
PRACTICE: Stop Making it About You
Write down five problematic thought patterns that reoccur in your life. Play them out and write down how each translates into beliefs and behavior. Then write how each belief and behavior affects your thinking and life. Give examples. Be specific. Finally, write down what new behavior or thought can replace the old ones.
You have just created a map of change for yourself.
All you have to do is follow this map and there will be a shift in your life.
When we replace new thoughts and behavior with old ways of thinking and reactions, it is nearly impossible to not grow.
If you this article was helpful, I go deeper in my new book, The Angry Therapist: A no BS guide to finding and living your truth. The book teaches you how to build yourself a brand new container — your mental, emotional, and physical life space so that you start living at a higher potential.