By: Sheila Anderson, MA, LAMFT
How often do you find yourself saying “I hate this” or “this isn’t fair?” I like to call these quicksand statements. They are statements that keep us ruminating about past events and usually only add fuel to our already flamin’ hot emotional state of mind.
How do we avoid quicksand statements? Sometimes in life our experiences leave us with an uneasy feeling, one we wish we would not have experienced at all. An analogy from my own life comes to mind….. I think about times when I have had to have a painful medical procedure done. My emotional mind says “run Sheila run!” and my reasonable mind says things like, “the procedure is necessary.” When I finally do get into wise mind, I settle on “let’s do this thing, it will surely be uncomfortable for awhile, but it is necessary and the long-term benefits outweigh the temporary discomfort.”
Ahhh…..there is nothing like the peace of wise mind. If I chose to use quicksand statements, I would have chased away the people in my life I needed at that time, no one wants to stand next to someone in quicksand right? Right. Accepting both parts of the reality that 1) there was pain, and 2) the procedure was necessary allowed me to keep people I love close to me when I needed them the most, and even helped me recover faster.
Fighting, avoiding, and procrastinating are all energy draining activities. Accepting reality is an energy-saver. It’s not a willy-nilly who cares attitude, its a proactive approach that transports you to the point of rationally evaluating your circumstances and deciding your next best step.
If you hear quicksand statements coming out of your mouth (which happens to all of us at one time or another), try following them with a BIG BUT. “I hate this, BUT I know that if I don’t do this I will lose my job.” “This isn’t fair, BUT it is what it is and I am going to deal with it the best I can.” The more times you save yourself from saying quicksand statements in the first place- the better, BUT if saying “this isn’t fair and” I hate this” have become a habit for you, it may take some time relying on BUT statements to get you through. Do what you gotta do.
Let’s pretend that I got fired from my job. Do I hate this?……YES! Do I think this is unfair?……YES! I am very angry about the whole situation. The more I think about the situation, the angrier I am getting. Chances are, if I feel like giving my boss a piece of my mind it is probably not going to be the generous gifting of a piece of my wise mind, its probably going to be a different piece…. if you know what I mean.
The truth of the matter is that I probably won’t ever come to the point of agreeing with my boss for her choice to fire me. Do I need to agree with her choice? No not necessarily. So….I must re-focus my energy and tend to the issue at hand. I need to accept the reality that I no longer have a job. I need to accept that reality in order to make a mindful, wise decision about what to do next. Although it may be difficult, I must accept my jobless reality, which will allow me the freedom to concentrate on finding a productive way of dealing with the situation and moving forward. In this particular situation, acceptance might also free me up to evaluate why I lost my job so that I can learn from any mistakes I made and make better and/or different choices in the future.
Acceptance of reality and agreeing with what’s happening in reality are two very different things. This is important to understand. If quicksand statements seem to flow freely from your lips, it might be that you are feeling forced into agreeing with something that you don’t feel is right. The reality is that in many cases your agreement with the situation is not necessary. What is necessary is accepting the reality of a situation so that you can move forward.
Moving forward may require you to ask yourself what aspects of the situation are within your power to change, and which ones are not. Until you classify the changeable from the unchangeable aspects of a situation you will struggle in quicksand, and watch your precious problem-solving energy evaporate.
No matter what your situation, your perspective is one of those aspects within your power to change. What situations in your own life, either past or present need a reality acceptance overhaul? In evaluating those situations, what do you have the power to change?
“If you can’t change your circumstances, change your perspective.” ~ Unknown
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to visit and maybe even camp-out at your “happy place” on a more regular basis? Many of us spend great amounts of time and energy in states of mind that are not helpful for the situation we are in.
There are times when our rational minds are out to lunch and our emotional minds make a spectacle of themselves. There are, usually on a less frequent basis, times when we are devoid of emotion and our minds make decisions based solely on the facts of a situation.
A wise state of mind is the “sweet spot” or “zone” where we find the clarity of mind that happens when our logical and emotional states of mind work in tandem with one another. It is the state of mind that brings a peace or calm to the decision making process, allowing us to move forward armed with the facts of a situation (logical/rational mind) while recognizing and validating the feelings (emotion mind), associated with a given situation.
Operating out of wise mind can be a challenge, but with practice it can be a skill that helps to create a life of peace and contentment. Persons who struggle with regulating their emotions often make decisions based solely on their emotional experience and have difficulty giving their logical state of mind equal attention. We all experience emotional dysregulation at different times in life, some of us more frequently than others.
What are some particularly wise decisions you have made in the past? What process did you go through to arrive at your decision? Taking the time to reflect on our past wise mind experiences can be helpful because they remind us of past successes. They remind us that we are capable of integrating our rational and emotional states of mind.
This reflection also moves us to implement strategies that have worked for us in the past. In reflecting on my own personal wise mind decisions, and learning from the stories shared by clients, it seems there are intentional and practical steps that can be taken to increase the time spent in the state of wise mind.
Creating some time and space between you and the decision is a great way to gain perspective and arrive at a wise-minded decision. This is not always possible because some situations require an immediate decision and in those instances we do the best we can with the information we have. If circumstances permit however; taking a break will often provide the clarity of mind we need to have in order to make the best possible decision.
Another proactive strategy might be seeking out a person who seems to have a good track record with their decision making efforts. Perhaps this person has gone through something similar to you and consulting them would broaden your perspective on an issue. Perhaps discussing the matter with a neutral third party like a therapist or clergy person may be helpful.
Finally, making a pro and con list can be an informative option, creating momentum to achieve that wise-minded decision you long for. There is an element of truth in the old adage, “knowledge is power”, and the more information gathering you and I can do prior to making a decision, the better the chances we have for a positive outcome. A wise-minded pro and con list will include both the emotional and logical aspects of a situation. Keep in mind that both emotional and logical aspects may appear on either the pro or con side, depending on the situation and the person making the decision.
Let’s re-cap the Perfecting Wise Mind Strategies-
1. Reflect on past wise mind experiences
2. Create time and space between you and the decision
3. Seek wise-minded, non-judgmental counsel
4. Make a Pro and Con list
Utilizing any or all of the above strategies will help to bring you peace of mind because you will know in your heart that you put forth the effort to make the best possible choice. Although it is impossible to operate out of a wise state of mind 100% of the time, it is possible to increase the amount of time spent there. Remember that each decision that needs to be made is an opportunity to practice the state of wise mind.
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