What, exactly, do we say to make ourselves feel bad?
Dr. Albert Ellis maintains that we cause our own discomfort by the way we process things in our own minds. He says that we “construct” the world by the sentences that we repeat to ourselves in our minds. The logical follow on from this is that if we do cause the problem, we too can alter it. WHAT exactly, were you saying to yourself just BEFORE you felt bad last time, or should I say, just before you made yourself feel bad?
- Start to think of the words you use inside your head. This will be a set of sentences packed fairly tightly together. When you have isolated your sentences, start to write them out.
- Some of the sentences will be reasonable and logical enough. Others, though, will be emotion-laden e.g.-
“I can’t stand this”
“This is awful”
“It makes me feel terrible when I ….”
Keep the logical sentences. Challenge yourself with your use of the other ones. You need to convince yourself of the illogical nature of what you are saying, and keep gently challenging yourself. We say, “I can’t stand it “, when this is a nonsensical phrase. The “it” in, “I can’t stand it” implies that “it” has landed upon us from another planet or somewhere, and does not acknowledge the fact that we have personal control over our feelings. Of course you can stand the feeling you have given yourself. In reality you’ve probably done so many times before without the situation finishing you off. Having said this, acknowledging your feeling of discomfort is perfectly acceptable and in itself brings a sense of relief.
If the bad feeling you have given yourself appears to have come from someone else’s action or what they have said to you, think for a minute. What did the other person intend? Did they intend to hurt you very much? I would put it to you that it is YOUR perception of what YOU think that THEY think about you that is causing the discomfort. Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you”.
Challenge yourself and your reactions. Are you hurting yourself by what your perceived view is of what you think that person thinks of you? God forbid that that person DID intend the hurt, but if they did intend to hurt you then you need to look at this relationship very closely. It is then up to you what you do about it. At least this perception offers you direct choices.
- The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself. Change can take a while.
This distinction is true of all emotions. There may be qualities in a person or some aspect of his or her behaviour that causes some reaction in us. It may be frustration at certain habits, envy of achievements, or whatever, but in each case the response or reaction is ours. If we can own it, we can choose whether or not to have it.
As we strive to become more aware of our reactions it is a good idea to remember:
- to be kind to ourselves
- not to judge the way we feel, merely to observe it
- eliminate the words ‘should’ and ‘should not’ from our vocabulary
- that there is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to feelings.
Feelings just “are”, AND THAT’S OKAY!
With practice, we can get really fluent at this technique, and it is life changing. It may be a good idea to keep a diary or journal, to record feelings, to note whether we ‘own’ our feelings or feel that someone else caused them. The most important thing to remember is to be kind to ourselves. Change can take a while.