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Posts Tagged ‘irrational thinking’

Last week I read an article on things to let go of before the New Year begins. I was so moved that I immediately printed out several copies to share with clients I was seeing December 30th; as the article, in a sense, summed up many of the things I encourage my clients, as well as myself, to do on a regular basis. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to “let go”, and that for many of us the first thing we can ask when we hear those words is “how?”

IMAG0680Simply put, letting go means no longer allowing things to impact us. I don’t believe there is a quick way for any of us to let go of things that are holding us back or creating uncomfortable emotions in our lives. In fact, it can be quite complex; which is why for many who seek counseling, the process isn’t over within a few sessions. I do believe, however, that the first steps in letting go are being able to acknowledge and accept that there is something affecting us in a way that is unpleasant.

To acknowledge and accept is to recognize and then to believe something as valid. In session, I often explain this concept using the example of my water bottle sitting on the table, stating “The water bottle is on the table. That’s it. It just is. We know this because we can see it sitting there.” However, if we enter into a judging or emotional mindset we can begin to create questions about the water bottle and our relationship to it, such as “It’s still completely full so I obviously have not drank enough water today. I’m so mad at myself.” In doing this, we’ve shifted from acceptance to judgment, and may then find ourselves in a place of blame or self-sabotage.

Acceptance isn’t an easy task, but it’s possible. One reason is because we can take a look at the evidence around us that suggests something is true, and then convince ourselves that it’s false or not completely true by putting judgment and emotion into the picture as stated above. Or we can judge ourselves based on what we see before us. This is where we can fall apart in our daily lives; we’ve created something that may not actually be there, and is based on perception and feeling, rather than on evidence and truth.

Another important aspect to mention with regard to acceptance is that it does NOT mean we like something or are even okay with something. I can’t stress this enough. If we’re struggling with an eating disorder, for instance, we may not like that we have an eating disorder, but we can accept that we do based on the evidence that supports this as true. It’s only after we’re able to accept, that we can then determine if we need/want to make changes in our lives. For example, “I have an eating disorder (acceptance). The eating disorder is creating problems in my life (acceptance again).” We can then dissect this further to determine what those problems are, and what we want to do to change/improve them.

This is important in order to begin letting go. To let go we must first acknowledge and accept that something is affecting us in a way that’s unhelpful, and make a choice to not allow it to affect us further. We make changes in our thinking, feeling, and behaviors. If we don’t want to continue being affected by something, we must accept it, and choose not to dwell on it continually or use it to manipulate ourselves. We can allow thoughts to slide through our minds (like an egg in a Teflon pan) and not grab hold of them. Another way is by acknowledging ineffective thoughts and learning to respond differently/talk back to them (notice that in this response there is also a healthy choice being made):

Ineffective thought: “You must lose more weight.”

Response: “I have an eating disorder. I no longer want to be controlled by it and am choosing health over sickness.”

It’s at this point we find ourselves more able to let go…

If we live our lives in denial or continually allow things of the past to control our lives, we can lose so much of our today. In starting this New Year, may we each learn to accept and let go of the things that are proving to impact us negatively and are causing us to be less than we were created to be.

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Today I achieved a great feat! I passed the National Counselor Exam to become a licensed professional counselor in the state of Ohio. And I truly am proud of myself.

However, it wasn’t an immediate pride. Why not, you ask? Well because on my score sheet I noticed I had scored “just” eight points above the required passing score and I thought, “I only got 99 right. I just barely passed.” I had briefly disregarded the fact that I did indeed pass and that is what is most important. After all, test taking is not one of my strengths. As I skimmed the breakdown of scores, I felt OK, but had to force the “You could have done betters” out of my head. Actually, I changed those thoughts altogether and reminded myself that I had studied hard and I knew much of the material and I PASSED!!! Period.

Stating “only” or “just” in relation to accomplishments in life will lead to higher irrational expectations, feelings of self-defeat and will add to what may already be a low self-esteem. Examples: “I only got one touchdown.” “I got a bonus, but just for writing one report really well.” “I only won one Associated Press award and it was just for my blog.”

On my drive home from my test today I remembered that when I texted my fiance about the test, I used, or at least thought of using, one of those two terms: “only” or “just.” Doing so could have caused him to see the accomplishment as minimal instead of as the big deal it was/is. And I probably would have brushed it under the rug as if it was just another day.

I think our society permits people to brag endlessly about their expensive accomplishments, while the more important accomplishments are expected to be pushed aside. “Talk to us when you have accomplished something big, like buying a brand new luxury car.” Hmmm, while it took awhile for me to realize this, I do believe a luxury car will not fit in my casket when I pass away. I would rather die knowing I worked hard to achieve goals that were priceless, rather than goals that could be measured monetarily. We are often forced to cover up the accomplishment that isn’t “the best,” doesn’t have the priciest physical reward, or that is universal, meaning achieved by many. And for what? To keep people wandering around this world with low self-esteem, shattered dreams, and a hopelessness that lands them in therapy?

I don’t care whether one million people say congratulations for my accomplishment or one million people agree that I barely passed and scoff thinking I can’t possibly be a good counselor…I achieved a milestone not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well. And for what? For the purpose of sharing my knowledge and experience with others who may need that temporary guide on life’s journey. I am proud of myself and I will allow myself to say “I passed” without tossing in the “only” or the “just.” The fact remains regardless of how many points above the minimum I received.

Do you find yourself minimizing your accomplishments either due to personal expectations or the expectations of others? Or, are you able to pat yourself on the back and be proud of that which you have been able to do well? I hope the answers to those questions are “no” and “yes” respectively.

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