Slowing down the car
“So I have this problem-now what?”
It is quite often I hear this in the day to day world or even when someone comes and sits across from me in the therapy office. One of the driving reasons people seek out help is to address something: a concern, an issue that has come up in their relationship, past events or to have a space for day-to-day processing of life. Whatever the reason, there are times when you want a very clear way to address something. I often tell individuals/couples that it is about the process-not the solution, and that a solution or the change comes from embracing the process that it takes to get there. But what are those steps?
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to addressing anything; however, there are a multitude of different interventions you might come across either in the self-help aisle or in a therapist office. I’d like to do a series of some of the ones I tend to use, or see as helpful, and offer practical ways to integrate these into your life. Because identifying patterns, thought processes and changing these can be so different for everyone-I am in no ways assuming that the suggestions I make for how to use these will work for everyone. So with that, let’s do this shall we?
I hear and see a lot about positive affirmations. This type of skill is often used in targeting thought patterns, especially ones that are negative, self-critical, self-shaming or negative-focused in general. I don’t see positive affirmations as only standing in front of the mirror and saying “I love myself”. Because, to be quite frank, sometimes that can be too hard. It can be too hard when your mind previously has always seen what is wrong with you, judging yourself, or criticizing yourself. When I think of positive affirmations, I think of finding something you can actually believe in and this might look differently for everyone.
A good visual for this concept is if you are driving down the highway at 100 mph and try to make a U-turn, how is this going to go for you? It would likely not end well. The car could roll, crash...all matters of not ending well. This is what it can feel like if you try a positive affirmation that feels too hard or that you don’t actually believe.
By finding the positive affirmation that isn’t too hard, it can be like you are slowing that car down. And eventually, the idea of turning the car in the other direction or turning your thoughts in the other direction. But you first have to slow down.
An example I use of a positive affirmation that isn’t too hard is when working with someone who struggled quite a bit with how they saw their body. Saying “I love my body” was just too difficult, too hard and not something that this individual could actually believe. After talking some and backing away from that statement, what this individual was able to find for themselves was this: “I appreciate my body for giving me my child” “My body is strong because it created my child”. And that positive thought was what worked-it slowed their car.
If you are thinking about trying to add positive affirmations or these kinds of statements into your life, remember: it’s not about making it too hard you fight yourself to try and believe it, think about what statement/affirmation would help you slow your car down on the highway.