I had a New Year’s resolution that I actually remembered this year.
Most of them I forget, or push aside.
My resolution was to do better in keeping up with office paperwork. Not a fun task, but very necessary. I did pretty well actually. It was a process of making that task more of a priority than other things I might need or want to do.
I had to make a decision about what was important.
But there are many people who struggle with making decisions. They get intensely focused on the rightness or the wrongness of the choice, analyze it for hours, and then put themselves down for even feeling the need to go through such an arduous process.
“Why can’t I simply make a decision?” “Why don’t I trust myself more?” “Other people don’t seem to have this problem. I don’t get it. What’s wrong with me?”
This is one of the symptoms of “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” a miserable emotional place to live in. You are filled with dread, worry, and a highly vigilant attitude toward preventing something horrible from happening. You can go on endless mental journeys of what will lead to what — all, versions of what else could possibly happen.
Your mind is on a rapid treadmill. It’s exhausting, and you go nowhere. Or you make tiny steps toward goals, always looking over your shoulder, fearing that the worst is likely to happen.
Reid Wilson, in his fabulous work on anxiety, states that you have to accept the reality, or the importance of your worry, not be intent to get rid of it as quickly as possible. “You change the way you relate to your symptoms.” Meaning your worry, or doubt.
Doubt is not a bad thing in and of itself. But you move toward it, not away from it.
Let’s say you worry about your marriage. You go back and forth about what to do. You want to stay married, but you haven’t been happy for years. You fight all the time. You don’t want to hurt your children. You don’t know how you would handle it spiritually. You have headaches and your stomach stays in knots. Your family would be disappointed. You might lose friends that would take your potential ex’s side. Maybe you can’t afford a divorce. Maybe you’re depressed. Maybe you should go to therapy. Maybe therapy won’t help, it’s too late. Maybe you should focus on yourself, but that seems to cause more problems in the relationship. Maybe you should wait until the kids leave. Maybe it’s all your fault, or their fault. Maybe it wasn’t meant to last.
And on. And on. And on.
Everyone does this to a certain extent. Accepting that you do it at a more intense level, that your mind tends to go on overdrive, is an important step.
You have to find your courage to walk into the fire of your mind. And breathe.
Write these things down. Then think about how you would handle each one of them.
Acceptance that you might make a wrong decision, or a choice you later regret is key. We all make those kinds of choices. The belief seems to be that you couldn’t cope with it.
But I bet you have in the past.
And you could again.
Years ago, I popped in a cassette in my car (I told you it was years ago…) to listen to a speech given at a major therapy conference. The speaker, who I admired greatly, opened his talk with these words. “What I have to say to you this morning does not come from my successes as a therapist, but from my failures.”
He had my rapt attention from then on.
I learn, and have learned, more from what I did not get “right,” than from what I have. Successes are great. Sure. But where you really stretch yourself, and learn? That’s from what you struggle with, or what doesn’t come easily.
You will never know today, what you will know tomorrow.
Ambiguity always exists. Focus on the present, listen rationally to your concern or doubt, and then make a choice.
Trust yourself. Enjoy what goes well.
Know that you can handle the things that don’t.
You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
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