Let us explore yesterday’s idea in a little more detail and work out what to do next. First we need to understand and accept that there is a perfectly good reason for the way we behave. The reason may be well hidden, but it is there. Where there is a reason, there is something to change, and where there is the possibility of change, there is a choice. More than that, simply by becoming aware of the fact that we are ‘reacting’, that something is happening inside us to ‘make’ us act in a particular way, we start to become aware of how this feels. We become aware of the ‘build-up’, of the way tension or emotion is welling up inside of us, and we become aware of the ‘flash-point’, where it quite literally explodes, and we are propelled forward into whatever action we take. By being aware that there are stages to our process, we also realise that there is a moment before the ‘flash-point’. Leading up to this ‘flash point’, we can recognise the communication we have with ourselves. We can become aware of the words and sentences we use in talking to ourselves. Often these sentences go on in our heads constantly.
Albert Ellis, a famous (now late, founder of CBT) American psychiatrist says that we must do two things here – first recognise the sentences, and recognise that our internalised construction of these sentences creates the problem, the bad feeling. Throughout his writing, he quite often paraphrases William Shakespeare, ‘There’s nothing in life but thinking makes it so’. Fancy Shakespeare thinking that! No wonder he was voted the greatest Briton ever in a competition a couple of years ago!
At this point, then we need to say, “Okay, if I created this bad feeling, I can also decide to do something about it”. Ellis also says, rather comfortingly, that if we work half as hard at getting better as we did in making ourselves ill in the first place, we will actually get better very quickly. So there are a few indicators to help us recognise the way in which we contribute to the way we react to situations – ways we can identify and change to ‘flash point’. We can pay attention to how it feels, and we can pay attention to what we say to ourselves. By observing closely, we find that we can begin to pinpoint a very precise moment.
This can become for us a moment of choice. We can in this moment, if we choose, deflect the surge of our eruption into some other activity. There is a split second in time when we can change our automatic response. There is a moment just before anger, when we make the decision to be angry. There is a moment just before we lash out, when we can choose to change our reaction – if that’s what we want. The simple act of becoming aware of the process within us brings us to the verge of being able to make a change. Think about acknowledging yourself and consider doing so. Give it a go! So many learned people in the world of counselling use the phrase “Acknowledgement is often enough!” That doesn’t mean that it is always everything to everybody, but it IS often enough.