No matter what challenges or difficulties you are facing, it can be a big help to remember that if you can only do one minute at a time, there's nothing to worry about. One minute at a time. That’s all you have to do. And doing one minute at a time is actually doable because the reality is you can only do one minute at a time. Always. Nothing else is possible or required. The rest is speculation.
When you understand this you can also see that it's the future – the thought of a future – that scares us and drives us crazy. But this moment is manageable. You can do this moment. In fact, when you look at it, this moment is doing itself. In fact, it’s already done! It is, because when you look at this moment, it's already happened! Oops! Wasn’t that easy?
It’s such a relief to realize this – that yes, you can do this moment. (Or you could say that yes, this moment is doing itself!) Nothing else is required or possible.
How Do We Investigate Our Stories?
So if it’s our stories that are making us so unhappy, how do we actually identify the specific thoughts and stories that are bothering us? How do we pin them down and investigate them?
I would suggest you try the following. When you find yourself feeling bad about something, take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Then on the left side of the page, write the word Expectations at the top of the column. And then write down what it is you need or want from the person or situation that is bothering you.
Let’s say the situation is you are unhappy with your partner at the moment because you are very stressed at work and you feel that he/she is not being supportive enough. So on the left side under the word Expectations you write:
- My partner should understand what I’m going through at the moment.
- My partner should realize I’m having a hard time at work.
- My partner should help more around the house right now because I’m under so much pressure.
So now you’ve described exactly what is bothering you in the left hand column.
Now on the right side of the page write Reality at the top and then write down the reality of the situation. In this case it might be:
- My partner doesn’t understand what I’m going through at the moment.
- My partner doesn’t realize I’m having a hard time at work.
- My partner isn’t helping more around the house right now.
So now you have described the reality of the situation.
If you look closely at what you’ve written, you will discover that your feeling of discomfort arises because you are relating to the things you wrote in the left column under Expectations. In other words, you feel bad because your partner is not living up to your expectations as to how he/she should act in this situation.
So now, instead of relating to how your expectations make you feel, try relating to the things you wrote in the right column under the word Reality. In other words, how would you feel about the situation and what would you do if you looked at the reality of the situation instead of focusing on your expectations to your partner?
OK so let’s give it a try.
So the reality is your partner doesn’t understand what you’re going through at work at the moment. Well what are you going to do about that? You could sit down quietly and tell him/her exactly what the situation is at your workplace instead of hoping that you partner is some kind of mind reader and can figure things out for him/herself.
Get Real And Clear The Air!
Since your partner doesn’t realize you are having a hard time at work, tell him/her! Explain what’s going on. And if you need help, ask for it! This is getting real in this situation. This is taking care of you in this situation, instead of getting mad at your partner for not being able to figure out what’s going on with you and not living up to your unspoken expectations as to how your partner “should” be and act.
You can do this little exercise with almost any situation. Just make the two lists – one with your expectations to the situation or person and the other with the reality of the situation – and then compare your lists. Then find out how you’d feel and act if you were living in harmony with reality instead of focusing on your expectations.
As I said, this is a fast, easy way to get real about your life and whatever is bothering you!
3 Basic Ways Of Dealing With Stressful Thoughts And Stories
In general there are three basic approaches or ways in which we can deal with our stressful thoughts and stories about people and events:
1) Witnessing: You can just witness the thought. You can just step back and watch the stressful thoughts come and go and realize since you are the one who is watching and witnessing these thoughts (or this story), you can't be the thoughts or the story. Meditation is a good way to do this. Just being present and witnessing.
2) Questioning: You can question the thought or story. Is it true? When you have thoughts that make you afraid or unhappy, you can ask yourself if what you are thinking is true. You can ask yourself if these thoughts have anything to do with reality. See for example the previous exercise (Expectations versus Reality). Or you can write your stressful thoughts down and then question them using, for example, the four questions of the Work of Byron Katie. (Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought?)
3) Changing your focus: Since whatever you focus your attention on grows, you can also deal with stressful thinking by changing your focus. When you do this, you substitute another thought or thoughts for the ones that are bothering you. Prayer is a good way to do this. Or you can read a spiritual text or a chapter from Emmet Fox and then think deeply about what you have just read. And finally, if you are too freaked out to do this, you can go for a run, or watch a movie or do something to change the flow of your thinking. But whatever you do, don't dwell on the thoughts that are bothering you. (Because whatever you focus your attention on grows!)
Each of the above techniques can be used; it all depends on the situation and your inclination. I suggest you give each of them a try. They all work beautifully if you are persistent!
For a detailed description of all three of these techniques, see my book “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”.
©Barbara Berger. All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
The Awakening Human Being: A Guide to the Power of Mind
by Barbara Berger with Tim Ray.
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com