Go Ahead, Have a Mini-Meltdown!
I believe in the power of words to shape events. It might sound great in theory, but is it realistic? Can you "talk things better"?
Yes, you can.
You can't always control the situation but if you can, the right choice of words you say will most definitely have an impact and can potentially turn an ugly situation into a peaceful one.
But what about the things you can't control? How do your words affect how you feel? How do your words affect how you respond?
Your self-talk, whether you verbalize it out loud or keep it to yourself, is a representation of how you see the situation. If you can shift your perspective, even a little, a situation can diffuse and become less of a mountain and more of a speedbump.
For example, last week I experienced a dramatic and violent thunderstorm that knocked out my desktop computer (the jury is still out whether it can be repaired). Naturally, this came as a shock (pun completely intended) that scared the peanuts out of me and all of my pets, one of whom would not come out of hiding for an hour after the storm was over. Usually I can hear thunderstorms coming and I normally unplug the computer and the TV just in case, but this one was completely unexpected, and fried the computer despite it being plugged into a surge protector!
I was sitting there, minding my own business, working on a deadline, when boom, came a 100-million-volt surge and the screen flashed and went black. No amount of button-pushing, unplugging/plugging in or begging would get the power to come on.
I make my living via the computer so this was no small loss!
The "old me" would have become extremely upset, and that upset would potentially last for days - worrying about what I could do, how much it would cost, how much work I would lose out on, and so on. I would experience upset based on fear of loss, the biggest fear of them all. I'm sure you're familiar with that fear - it's part of what makes us human!
The "new me" takes a different approach and I'd love to share the wisdom of this approach.
Have a mini-meltdown, and then move on.
Mini-meltdowns are literally a minute and a half of allowing the emotion to come out, giving your full attention to the experience of the emotion (wow - THIS is what it feels like to be completely pissed off!) - and then, bringing your attention to the "is-ness" of the situation.
The situation just "is" and it's your choice how to interpret it (as good, bad, terrifying, neutral, bummer, etc. etc.) and therefore your choice how to respond to it. In that space of "is-ness" it's possible to see things from a different perspective - a happier and more optimistic one - and then choose a response that makes the best of the situation and allows you to proceed with a greater sense of personal power.
I could have let my thoughts escalate my emotions, and my emotions escalate more negative thoughts, like the "old me" would have done. However I've found, the hard way, that this approach really doesn't solve anything. It just make me feel worse.
So, the computer was fried. Crap. Deep breath. I had to quickly shift my attitude before things got worse emotionally. I had my mini-meltdown - a few choice words were said but that was the extent of the expression of my upset - but then as soon as that emotional response was over, I consciously shifted my attitude.
I deliberately focused on GRATITUDE because nothing else was damaged.
PEACE because I only lost about an hour's worth of work, and since that work was fresh in my mind, it could be easily reproduced (and it was - and actually came out better than the original!).
RELIEF because more than one friend told me that it was most likely the power supply to the computer, which can be replaced.
Even if that last bit turns out to be false (the technicians are still not sure), because I had made the decision to not let my emotions escalate, I had the sense that not all was lost.
As you can imagine, my deliberate choice of self-talk calmed me down. This was going to cost a lot of money either way (repair or replace), but because I forced myself to focus on the things that were still okay, I was able to keep from spiraling into a really unpleasant and upset space where I would have gotten stuck on the problem and not been able to focus on what I could do, what I was still able to do, and how I could minimize the damage.
How do you handle things when they go wonky? Do you make more out of it than you could? Do you blame? Do you complain about it? Do you have a massive meltdown that carries on longer than necessary?
Stuff happens, often in groups, often at the most inopportune times.
Try this the next time life throws you a monkey wrench. Allow yourself a mini-meltdown - focusing on the physiological experience of the emotion - and then look at the "is-ness" of the situation from as neutral a perspective as you can manage, as an observer of a situation that doesn't have to be as horrible as your first instinct makes it out to be.
You'll experience a profoud sense of control and peace. "It is what it is." Melt, and move on.
If you're feeling more than a little on edge about stuff that happens - if your meltdowns are not "mini" - and you tend to allow things to get to you more than they could, do yourself a favor and incorporate "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" by Kristine Carlson into your daily routine.