My best friend and I do this leapfrog thing in our relationship, where when one person is going through a crisis the other has been there, done that. And then we flip roles. Seems each of us has just negotiated some treacherous stretch of inner territory just in time to help guide the other through it. The other day, as she was taking her turn at freaking, I got to walk her through the very process I’ve been using in workshops and in my own life to confront and heal crappy beliefs that create crappy feelings that have been keeping me stuck in old, dysfunctional patterns.
The first problem I saw was that when you’re in the crappy feelings, they cast a spell of reality the validity of which is very hard to question. Not only are you feeling like a loser but you are actually beginning to believe you are a loser. Yep, that’s the Shadow, my dear friend. It wants you to believe that you are essentially worthless. Defective. Wrong. Inherently lacking. A bad person.
The Solution? Give that f****r a silly name and get into action immediately! Call a friend. Go do an errand. Do some self-care, whether you feel like it or not. Get into the shower, brush your teeth, clip your nails. Pick up a book at random, sweep the floor. Really, anything.
Today I was plagued by less-than feelings most of the day. (From too much self-help. More on this in a future post!) I attacked a months-old pile on my desk. I hated every minute of it, truth be told. But it’s not about changing the feelings; it’s about getting into action so the Bully inside your head at least has a moving target.
You may forget about him altogether, as I did, when I realized I couldn’t find my new insurance cards. Suddenly I had a real problem, albeit a minor, manageable one. As soon as I had something else to give my undivided attention to, that shaming voice quieted down.
Then I bought ice cream and made brownies. No lie.
Then I sat down to do a blog post. At 5:30 p.m. My ego didn’t know whether to go with Wow, I’m so great, I’m doing a blog post, or Wow, I’m so defective it took me all day to get down to work. I didn’t have to pay one bit of attention to that voice, no matter what it said, because I was in action and focusing on doing the best blog post of my life, thank you very much.
Whatever you are doing, whether it’s the laundry, or your taxes, or your toenails, bring one-pointed focus to it, and do it UP! Bring in each of your sense. Don’t use it as a zone-out opp, use it to focus. Enjoy it, even. Allow yourself to become fully present in it. This is one way to step out of the stream of your mind’s narrative. For me the silly Shadow name thing really works to start to break the spell. “Later for you, Banana Pants, I gotta do my toes.”
Once you’ve stepped out of the shower and gotten into clean clothes, take out a notebook or open up a new file on your computer. Give yourself the next 30 minutes to answer a few questions.
These are in my Kick-Ass Guide, but here they are. First, what’s the area of your life where you feel the most stuck? (Hint: what were you just beating yourself up about?) Answer the questions about that whole area of your life.
1. What is the highest and best your believe you can have in this area of your life?
(“The highest and best I believe I can have in the area of _____ is _____.”)
2. What is the highest and best you think you will probably have in this area of your life?
3. If the way it is today were as good as it’s going to get, would that be good enough? (yes or no)
4. If not, what would make it good enough?
5. Complete this statement: “I am not enough in this area of my life, because I lack_________.”
6. Complete this statement: “The world is not enough to me in this area of my life, because it withholds ____________.”
The next step takes 10 minutes: Go back and underline all of the limiting beliefs about yourself and the world, about what’s possible for you, in this area of your life. If you have written these answers on a computer, either bold them, or print out your answers, and underline them by hand.
Next, rewrite or retype those beliefs so they are all together in a list or a paragraph.
Now, you see it. The full monty of your unabashed Shadow, attempting to exert all its influence to keep you small and miserable. If you can step back a little and observe it in all of its glory, it really is impressive. You have a magnificent power there. If only you could harness it in service to your joy and fulfillment. (Hang on, sweetie, that’s what we’re doing right now!)
For some, all it takes is to see that filthy set of lies for the lightbulb to go on and to realize what a miserable con job has been perpetrated against you. Anything that over-the-top has got to be suspect, don’t you think? If it were in a movie, wouldn’t you be looking forward to being home with bright lights on pretty soon? And don’t you find that demon a bit laughable, with all its overly self-serious drama, not to mention the spit on its chin? I’m serious, folks, this sucker is fighting for time, because it knows the curtain is going down on its little tour de force.
Now would be a good time to breathe.
Just for yucks, I’ll give you one of mine from when I did this on the area of my body (broad category: health and wellness):
“I am a red-faced older woman with an apple shape that no one sees as sexual or even vaguely attractive. I lack discipline to eat well and discipline and motivation to exercise regularly. I lack the ability to resist foods if they taste good. The world withholds easily attainable, healthy choices of foods that taste good and are beautiful. I lack stamina. I am ugly and don’t like showing my body, shopping for clothes, or dressing my body, and I don’t feel sexually attractive to anyone.”
But, you might say, these are not lies! They are the truth! I do lack stamina. I do hate to exercise. I am a slave to my taste buds, etc. Okay, fair enough. But what if, for the sake of argument, you experience this state of affairs because this is a story you perpetuate about yourself? What if, after 5 days of not exercising after you joined the gym, you gave up and concluded, “I hate to exercise” when in fact, “I joined the gym and didn’t go for 5 days” is the factual description of what happened and the rest is a story you’ve made up?
What if, as you tell that story, you solidify that reality in your thinking and being, not just for this week, but for all time?
What if there were other things that are factual that you could focus on instead?
What I’m suggesting is that you don’t cheat yourself of the richness and depth of what actually is happening with you by making up a story that not only leaves out the potent parts but also casts you as someone who is doomed to fail?
If you told the whole story, you might tell about about joining the gym and noticing that everyone there was two decades younger than you, and that they, too, seemed uptight about their bodies and eager to look cool? You might say that you haven’t spent any time doing anything physical for the sake of it since before you fell on the ice three winters ago, and that you’re grateful to be able to do ten minutes on the elliptical before you have to rest. What about the fact that you can now change in the women’s locker room, when in high school you waited until you got home to pee?
By focusing on one aspect of the situation you are missing 359 degrees of it, at least one of which might be an anchor to get you back into the gym tomorrow. Or it might just be a kind way to treat yourself while you’re in the process of changing an entrenched habit and struggling to love yourself again in this area of your life.
Another great thing about my part-time freak-out/full-time friend: She’s very cerebral. I am not. So when my cerebral friend says that when I say these questions to her, her mind draws a blank, I realize something else I need to tell you:
It only works if you write it down. You must have blank paper and a pen, or a computer and a keyboard or voice dictation. It doesn’t work if you just think about it. Action is everything. Also, it’s best not to edit yourself once you get started, but to say everything and sort it out later.
After you have your dirty-dog limiting beliefs in black and white in front of you, the next step is to craft some totally kick-ass affirmations. I’ll cover that in another post. But if you’re on a roll, you can also download the whole guide now. It’s free. All I ask is that you share your email address so that I can send you my monthly Joy Report newsletter. You can unsubscribe if you don’t like it. And your info stays with only me 4-ever. Promise.