HERE’S A SITUATION SURE TO KICK OFF NEGATIVITY: Imagine you’re on your way to an important doctor appointment and you’ve left just a little late. You find yourself waiting in a long line of cars with left-turn signals blinking.
When the cars finally begin to inch forward, you realize you might not make it through the light. You look at your watch, clench your jaw, and think, “I can’t miss this appointment.” Your stomach begins to churn as you imagine having to wait several more weeks to see the doctor.
Suddenly, a big black car cuts in front of you. He’s the last one to make it through the light. You bang your hands on the steering wheel and yell, “Who in the hell does he think he is?” Then your mind whispers, “I’ll never get in to see the doctor! My symptoms will get worse and I’ll suffer even more. Why does this always happen to me?”
NEGATIVITY: THE CONSEQUENCES
It’s hard to keep such incidents from prompting a hissy fit, often with dire results. For instance, we might drive recklessly in the traffic or speak rudely to the doctor’s receptionist.
Or, when we arrive home, our frustration might cause us to hurt a loved one with critical or impatient words.
AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH
I’ll bet you’ve had similar experiences, especially with holiday traffic. I sure have. But after years of working with my negative thinking, I’ve discovered how to change it through Honesty, Power, Choice, and Growth Tools. Here’s how it looks in the traffic situation.
First, the driver honestly admits how upset she is, and tunes into the tension in her jaw and belly. She then notices, without judgment, her negative thoughts—for example, “I just thought ‘That guy is a real jerk!’ and I’ve convinced myself I’ll never make it to my appointment.”
She follows that realization with “If I can stop worrying, I can access the power of clarity.” She then makes the choice to cease upsetting herself.
She might seek a different perspective by thinking, “I have no control over this traffic. This would be frustrating for anyone. I’m willing to trust that I’ll get to the doctor at just the right time.”
To move her focus away from her irritation and fear, she applies the following growth tools.
She begins with the tool of deep breathing. In her calmer state, she tries to feel compassion toward the driver who cut her off. Perhaps he’s had a bad day or family emergency.
Finally, she uses visualization to imagine the office receptionist being helpful and kind. As her negative thinking continues to make a bid for her attention, she persists in using these tools.
In a short time, the next right action occurs to her. She thinks, “I’m going to call the receptionist and ask if I can keep my appointment if I’m thirty minutes late.” When her call is put on hold, she breathes calmly.
Soon, she learns that the doctor is behind schedule and being late is no problem. She relaxes and enjoys the ride.
ISN’T THIS APPROACH PRETTY PASSIVE?
Perhaps you’re thinking that the driver should have been more assertive, perhaps by immediately seeking a detour.
*Here’s an important point: Using these strategies does not mean that you never take strong action.*
They simply allow you to delay acting until you’ve gained a little wisdom. As a result of your new perspective, if you are meant to do something, you’ll have the direction you need.
Unfortunately, we don’t have as much control over external events as we might imagine, and fretting or forcing a solution often just makes things worse.
Next time you’re irked by traffic, try applying honesty, power, choices, and growth tools. You can experience the peace and goodwill of the season, no matter what!!
Gigi Langer, a Stanford PhD, is a former teacher who quit drinking, only to find that her negative thinking, judging, and fears kept her in a cycle of worry, codependency, chronic pain, perfectionism, and overworking. Her award-winning book “50 Ways to Worry Less Now” (Amazon 4.8 stars) is available in paper, e-book, and audiobook. Honest, practical, simple. Relevant to anyone! Buy it here GigiLanger.com/buy