Seek and ye shall find.
Since we’re on the topic of emotional habits that backfire (“Just” a Word, 50 Shades of Being Treated Like Shit is Hot, Body Forgiveness) I’ve got another one that I have been guilty of and likely many of you are too.
Emotional Trauma Prediction
This is how the internal conversation goes:
If I got a divorce I would be terrified.
If I got fired or laid off I would be devastated.
I would be completely destroyed if . . .
I will be so sad when my children go off to college.
I would go crazy if I had to work with that woman.
Often we carry on this conversation when someone we know is going through something and it elicits our sympathy. We personalize it to experience empathy. However, when we imagine how we’re going to feel and then put descriptive feeling words around it we’re committed. We’ve limited our own emotional choices.
Now if your husband walks out on you, you have to be terrified. You’ve already decided that’s your emotional response. If you get fired or laid off, you have to be devastated. You have to be completely destroyed if (insert worse fear ever). You’ve invited yourself to go “crazy” if you have to work with someone and you must be sad when your children make the natural progression into adulthood.
Add to that the fact that you’ve just attracted divorce, being laid off or fired, your worst fear and working with a horrible person. Simply by dwelling in the imagination and attaching an intense feeling to it, you have spread your arms wide open to the experience, inviting it into your world.
I interviewed a wise woman, Lisa Stroyan, an empathic parenting advocate, yesterday who said something profound.
Don’t decide you have to have all the answers for the future right now. Focus on relationships and trust that you’ll be able make a good decision when you get there. Don’t put angst on the future, in my experience with people, things tend to work themselves out. Worry about making right now the best you can. We always think we need to know the answer now, but what that is is a lack of self trust, when you think you need to know what you’ll be doing in two years. Fix problems as they arise.
When you make emotional predictions, and determine for yourself that they be traumatic, you trap yourself into a required emotional response. Your children going to college could be a wonderful expansion of independence for both you and your kids; the divorce you’re afraid of might feel like a blessed relief; that woman could turn out to be your BFF; your worst fear might be your greatest gift when confronted; losing your job could be the beginning of a more fulfilling career.
When you realize that you have emotional choices and allow them to come when the event comes, rather than preparing yourself for events that may never happen, you free yourself to allow authentic emotional experiences.