Lately I’ve become painfully aware of how negative emotions get hopelessly locked into obsessive conversations inside my head—what one of my clients calls “the crazy cycle.”
I’m also aware that the more I try to get rid of those negative feelings, the less I’m able to do so. Fighting against them doesn’t work.
But there is something that can divert ourselves from them.
Chris Coursey, in his new book, The Joy Switch, describes why those negative feelings get “locked in” and how they can be replaced with something more enjoyable.
Drawing from Chris’s concepts, I’ve come up with the following four steps that help me offset upsetting, locked-in, negative feelings:
1. Timeout: Pause for a moment from endlessly repeating the same thoughts. Admit that what I’m doing isn’t working. Call timeout. Go to the sideline to get a different perspective from your coach (your friend or trusted community).
2. Breathe: Be conscious of needing to calm down. Take a big deep belly breath. That’s what basketball players do at the free-throw line before they shoot. If we don’t do something intentional to quiet down during uncomfortable and threatening situations, our automatic nervous system will take over in irrational, sabotaging ways to make ourselves feel better.
3. Remember: Remember something heart-warming and enjoyable. Let yourself appreciate that feeling. Ask Jesus to help you remember. He likes to provide for our enjoyment (1Tim. 6:17-19 NIV).
Enjoyable memories that jog my appreciation are:
- Grandkids who are glad to see me
- A smile on someone’s face who enjoys being with me
- My childhood dog, Buster, who delighted in going everywhere with me on the farm, licking my face, and affectionately pawing at me with his front leg
I still feel the enjoyment of those memories as I write this!
4. Receive: Let yourself feel that delight. Take a walk, smile, and receive a person’s smile back at you. Call to talk with someone who likes you and wants to listen. Interact with a community that enjoys being with you. I recall an example when my good music buddy said he wanted me in the band because he liked me, not because my skill was the best.
I have been learning to receive good feelings from interacting in communities of people who are glad to be with me. I’m also learning that Jesus delights in me and wants to be with me even in my most undesirable places.
When we take a timeout, breathe, remember enjoyable experiences, and let ourselves receive during negative and upsetting situations, we’re functioning like a teeter totter—offsetting pain on one end with something more enjoyable on the other. We’re not hopelessly frustrating ourselves trying to get rid of what’s painful. The pain may not go away, but it gets outweighed with something more satisfying and enjoyable.
Question: Which of the above steps do you want to work on? Comment below!