The question that comes up again and again in all my coaching sessions is “How? How can I stop thinking the thoughts I am thinking that I know are harmful to me. I can’t help myself”.
Many people wait until they feel helpless before they ask for help. They push the car down the hill and then want to find a way to stop it as it goes full speed down the slope. It’s not their fault. The truth is that it is pretty hard to feel momentum in the early stages. In the early stages it feels as if nothing is happening, because all the activity is taking place under the surface where it cannot be seen. By the time most people realize that a situation needs their attention a lot of momentum has already developed.
That’s what Abraham mean when they give us the example of planting a seed of corn and getting a crop. A lot happens between the planting and the sprouting that cannot be seen.
For Clara, the momentum feels like it’s spinning out of control. She feels like hitting and screaming, and the effort to control her action drains her of all her energy. She feels tired and depressed.
The question is what do we do? What should Clara do?
The easy thing as Abraham puts it is to not let negative momentum get so far that it starts spinning out of control. But in reality, the easy thing is the hardest thing because we can’t see the evidence of that negative momentum it feels as if it isn’t there. You see, nothing happens out of the blue, the problem is that we don’t have enough awareness to catch negative momentum in the early stages.
For Clara, it all started with little things that she started noticing almost immediately after she and her husband moved in together. She noticed that he just assumed that she would be the one to get dinner going – she didn’t like that, so it happened over and over again. Then one day, the whole day went by without him texting her even once. She started missing the frequent text messages that made her laugh and feel good; that put the glow on her face and in her heart. And then of course, more days like that started happening. Clara started feeling that she was taken for granted, she started expressing her worry to her friends. Some of them sympathized with her, and told her of other people they knew in common who had had the same experience. Some of them told her that they had never liked him right from the start, but they didn’t want to say anything.
Maybe things will get better Clara thought, and that day he proved her right by taking her out for a dinner date. Maybe I’m over reacting she thought that night. She didn’t realize that a slight bit of change of focus on her part is what created this manifestation.
The next day Clara’s mother called. “Is he treating you better?” she asked lovingly. “Yes, we had a wonderful night out last night” Clara said with a stammer, that was indicative of her wobbly vibration. And her mind made a dash for all the things that had gone wrong before. She felt tears well up in her eyes – she pushed them firmly away. “Things are getting better” she told herself, not knowing that she had just loaded up on negative momentum. In her mind, she was asking for things to get better you see.
What is the solution?
Well, as Abraham put it, you could crash and burn and begin again. But who wants to do that? No one does. Nevertheless we see it happen. We see people get critically sick before they change the way they think and become healthy again. We see people lose everything they have and then rise from the ashes of bankruptcy to create amazing wealth. Sometime you just have to crash and burn before you can let go of the accumulated negativity and begin again. It’s because as long as you keep thinking about “what you have to loose” then you loose more, because you are focused on the glass half empty. When you loose it all then you let go of the glass half empty and you can start with a full glass again. Make sense?
Clara was trying hard to focus on being happy, but every night when she made dinner she was reminded of the fact that she made dinner every night – why couldn’t there be more equal sharing of the work around the house, after all she had had a long day at work too. Life went on. He kept doing less around the house. Clara kept feeling unappreciated and she linked that feeling to him – giving him full responsibility for making her feel bad. She was unaware that her daily focus on noticing that what she wanted was missing, was the reason things were not going her way.
It’s our self-talk that makes the biggest difference.
It’s not about what we are telling our friends and family, it’s about what we are telling ourselves. Most of us have a taped version of our thoughts that plays in a continuous unending loop. That loop is what Abraham calls our “habit of thought”. Because it plays in a loop, we loose awareness of it. It’s like the billboard that you pass on your way to work everyday that doesn’t register until the day they change the skin and a new sign goes up and then you take notice. We get so used to things that are there all the time that we stop noticing them. Our thoughts are like that – we don’t notice them until they create a big hairy manifestation.
Something has to happen that draws our attention to what we are thinking and feeling so that we can do something to change the outcome. Usually that something is a negative event, what Abraham calls contrast.
For Clara the last straw was pulled when he forgot their anniversary and made plans to go to a game with his buddies. “He doesn’t care” she thought. The past year played in her mind highlighting all the things she had wanted to be different. She hated her life so much. How come other girls like her were happy? What did she do to deserve this? To make things worse she pulled out her wedding pictures, and thought about how happy she was then, and how different she wanted her life to be. By the time he got home, she had worked herself into a frenzy – he didn’t stand a chance. He listened to her ranting and raving for less than 90 seconds, then he turned around and left without saying a word. That made her go ballistic with the plates in the kitchen.
What could Clara have done differently? How could she gain control of the situation?
The answer is discipline. Self-discipline. The discipline to control her self-talk.
She has to think and believe two things in order for change to happen:
She has to tell herself that just because she can’t see a way out doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. All it means is that she is too highly strung to be able to see it, and that as she relaxes clarity will emerge.
She has to tell herself that she doesn’t have to be a sloppy thinker. She has to tell herself that she has the power to control her thoughts and that her thoughts don’t control her.
When she believes these things and reminds herself of them often then she is effectively leaving the door of positive possibilities open, and allowing things to improve.
She is too caught up in negative momentum to be able to jump 180 degrees and start appreciating her husband. When she soothes herself a little she will be able to start appreciating the things about him that she appreciated when she first started dating him. For now the only goal is to reduce negative momentum. In order to do that she has to divert her attention from her own life, because nothing in her life feels good just now, and everything in her life is ultimately connected to her marriage. So what should she do?
I advised her to stop focusing on her life and start focusing on nature. I told her that every time she starts thinking about her husband and her marriage, she has to tell herself to stop. And then she has to be firm and make herself stop, by introducing a different topic for her mind to focus on. That topic is nature. I told her to look outside the window at a tree or a bird or flower and start describing their beauty. I told that for times when that is not possible she should save some pictures of flowers on her phone or just go to Google and browse them. Describe the colors and the shapes in detail, and focus on every aspect of them until she feels her heart lift a little, until she feels a little respite from the pain and the angst.
Clara would do the exercise but found it hard to be consistent with it. Some days it was easier to just give in to her misery and dissolve into bouts of sobbing – focusing on a pretty flower seemed like too much work in comparison. That was an indication of the accumulation of negative momentum. I advised her to take a weekend away from home.
Sometimes when you remove the triggers that send you off into a negative spin, you can go up the emotional scale.
Even if you just go up the scale one or two notches you start seeing things differently, and a totally different set of ideas and solutions comes to you. Clara took my advice and went to stay at a hotel for three days. She had me on call all the time. Her instructions were to call me if she felt a panic attack coming on, and otherwise to watch the comedy channel, go for a massage and spa treatments, enjoy long walks while appreciating nature.
At the end of this weekend getaway Clara was able to see that her thoughts were responsible for creating the situation that she was now living. If she had never compared her husband with those of her friends, if she had never put a negative spin on having to get dinner and instead if she had appreciated what a wonderful relationship she had then she would have generated positive momentum instead of negative and she would be living a completely different life just now. She came away realizing that she didn’t need him to understand her, to get her and she didn’t need him to change. She began understanding that when she changed her habit of thought she would attract a totally different behaviour from him. But she still had a decision to make.
Changing the way you think your thoughts takes time and effort. You have to regain your awareness of how you are thinking and force yourself to stop when you become aware of being on a negative path. Then you need to have the self-discipline to switch gears and go positive. It becomes easier with time and practice. If you’ve ever driven a stick shift car you will know that when you first started driving changing gears wasn’t as seamless as it becomes with practice. In the beginning you have to be aware of what you are doing, but with practice the gear stick becomes an extension of your arm and you start enjoying the feeling of complete control.
Thank you to Clara for allowing me to share her story.
4/2/2018 02:35:02 pm
I've been divorced for many years now. On reading your article and thinking back to my marriage and all the events that transpired, eventually leading me to call it a day, I can easily relate to what you are saying. The on-off days and the gathering negative momentum, caused by my anxiety and anger over his past behaviours and reluctance to trust that the good times would last, eventually led to worsening behaviours and increasing negative emotions and momentum. If I knew then what I know now....Thanks for sharing this story, xo
4/3/2018 07:17:25 am
You are a brilliant coach!
4/3/2018 11:02:19 am
Thank you for this post Zehra. It's very helpful and a great reminder that our happiness, or lack thereof, is totally in our control. It's not always easy, but it certainly is simple. Thank you for helping us to know that the key is our focus and our thoughts.
4/3/2018 04:40:22 pm
4/4/2018 08:25:29 pm
Zehra. Thank you for sharing this story. It couldn't have come at a better time.....my situation sounds much like Clara's only without the crying, but certainly that self-talk is there. I will be re-reading this article and watching the videos over and over. Thank you again.
4/8/2018 02:13:31 pm
'Clara' was an excellent choice to illustrate how our thinking impacts our life. Very easy to follow and relate to the situation.
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