• Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
Sometimes, our lives can feel completely overwhelming, especially if things are going wrong. Actually, it is not life that is overwhelming, but rather our emotional response to what is happening. Even at that, it may be our fear of what might happen that causes us to feel most overwhelmed.
An example might be fear of a job layoff. If we think we will never get another job and we will lose our house, of course we will scare ourselves. If a relationship is ending and we think we will never find another partner and spend the rest of our lives alone and lonely, we will feel hopeless.
If we have an ache or pain and convince ourselves we have cancer and are going to die and then think of all the future events we will miss – all this before even going to the doctor – of course we will be overwhelmed.
It is the worst-case scenarios we imagine that can keep us up at night. It is like the book Chicken Little, where an acorn falls on the chicken’s head and she panics because she believes the sky is falling. She gets everyone around her all worked up too and convinces them the end is near.
There is a better way, a way we can keep ourselves from diving into worry and panic. The first thing is to ask ourselves if the thing we are worrying about has actually happened. Have I actually been laid off? Have I been diagnosed with a disease? If not, then right now I am okay.
The next thing is to ask if the outcome we fear is guaranteed to happen. Is it guaranteed I will never find another job or never meet a new partner or, if I have cancer, that I will die? Statements that start with “what if?” are simply imaginings. We are creating a daytime nightmare for ourselves. It is really our inner child who is overwhelmed. That is the part of us that feels vulnerable and not in control. The inner child feels only fear and does not know what to do.
If we put our wise adult in charge, we can bring more rationality to the situation, problem solve and develop strategies. If I do get laid off, what will I do? I can update my resume. I can start seeing what is out there and let everyone know I am available. If there is nothing in my field, what else can I do to generate income until the economy improves? Perhaps I can talk to the bank and reduce my mortgage payments.
We can also learn to support and comfort ourselves. Most of the things we fear never happen. Life is about developing resistance, overcoming challenges and adapting to change. Yes, we can feel sad or disappointed by what comes our way, but if we dwell on that, we will become stuck.
In the Buddhist philosophy, it is said all human suffering comes from attachment and an inability to accept change. We get attached to things staying as they are, but we live in a world where change is the only constant.
Change can be hard; we may feel hurt and yes, even scared. No matter what happens, we create our reality. We can either feel sorry for ourselves and stay in a dark, glum place or we can rally our strength and be determined to find ways to enjoy our lives.
It is still, after all, a beautiful world and our life is what we make it.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca