Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Not a day goes by in my practice where I don't hear a client saying something like, "I will never find true love," "I will never get out of debt," or "I can't change who I am / lose weight / get a new job." But the thing about life is that situations are almost never permanent. So anytime you say something like the above, you're probably lying to yourself. This is, of course, normal. It is your brain's remarkable defense mechanism to distort the truth to prevent incurring pain through disappointment when your next relationship doesn't work out, when the bill collectors keep coming, etc. But what do you do to get out of the funk caused by words like "never" and "always?" Consider trying the following exercise: 1 - Get a piece of paper and divide it in half. 2 - Put a pen/pencil in BOTH hands. 3 - Have your dominant hand pose a question to yourself, such as "Is it true I will never find true love?" Write this question down on the same side of the paper. 4 - Whatever you hear yourself think back - the first thing that pops into your head - use your non-dominant hand to write the retort down on the other side of the paper. Then the response to that, write down with your dominant hand and so on and so forth. Be quick about it - try not to allow yourself to edit yourself. 5 - The conversation is over when your mind is blank and you "hear" no further retorts from either side. This exercise is about removing the barriers of negative, distortive thinking that can come across in thinking. By forcing your left and right brains to converse in rapid-fire, you oftentimes lose the filter that exposes you to thoughts that are dire and all-conclusive. Your left brain, typically the analytical side, and the right brain, mostly doing the work of expressing emotions, process information in different ways. So by having this type of conversation, your usual suspects of self-doubt and negativity can be countered by the atypical response - one that is still a part of you but that too often gets shut down by self-doubt. On the flip side, there are situations where our defense mechanisms shield us from taking an honest look at a situation. Sometimes, claims that you're happy or assertions that you "can get something better (job, spouse etc)" are just your brain's defense to not wanting to see the writing on the wall. Sure, it's a great quality to smell the roses. But ask yourself this - are you constantly making assertions to others or yourself about how great your life is? We're a misery loves company creature, and when we're happy or confident that life will turn out to be better, we rarely find the desire to consistently share that with others. So if you're constantly screaming from the rooftops how in love with life you are, you might need to sit yourself down and have a stern talk. If this is you, you might try the following: 1 - Every day at the same time for 2 weeks, draw, cut out and paste, or find a picture on the internet of how you're feeling and put it on the paper. One piece of paper per day. Your "picture" could be a group of words, a literal picture (such as a person crying), or an abstract piece that you just "feel" is right. Don't look at the previous days until the end of the 2 weeks. 2 - At the end of the time period, go back and look at your collection. Is what is reflected in the images what you're saying to yourself about your mood? If you're claiming that you're extremely happy but you've got 2 weeks of rainstorms and black clouds, it might be time to take a closer, honest look at what's happening in your life.