Much of our stress and emotional suffering comes from the way we think. I’m a master of this; I can drive myself nuts in two minutes. The thoughts that cause us stress are usually negative, unrealistic, and distorted. They’re knee-jerk automatic responses that just pop out. You’re in the parking lot—aha! They took all the spaces! It’s a plot; we think that people get up before we do, go to the parking lot, and put their cars in our spaces.
Let’s say you go to the movies. You’ve got to get the right seat with no one in front of you. People come in and they’re also looking for the right seat. They sit in front of you, and one has a big head. You start to think, “Oh, no! Oh, my God, not again. Why me? Why do I always get the people with big heads? This always happens to me! Now I won’t see a thing. My whole night is ruined!” You took a simple thing and distorted it in your mind, and ruined the whole night for yourself. The thought that you could move, or accept the situation, thereby solving the problem, doesn’t even enter your head.
Even though I lecture, write, and read everything on relieving stress that I can get my hands on, I still periodically get sucked into my nutty putty mentality. It usually happens when I’m in a rush and haven’t prepared adequately in advance. Recently I had to tape a program for a client, and was told to arrive at 9:30 A.M. I had time the night before to get my clothing ready, but oh no, I decided to get up early and do it in the morning. I had made up my mind about what I was going to wear and that decision was set in stone.
Eventually I did find the suit, but then it came time to find the shoes. The bottom of my closet would make a snake pit look appealing. I began searching calmly at first, but with each passing minute I became more incensed. I finally found one shoe, but the other one was missing which led me to believe “that someone had taken it”.
I then became convinced that my husband had taken it. Of course how rational? A six foot man with a size twelve shoe size was hiding a size seven shoe with a stacked heel.
This is catastrophising at its best. I shared this story with several people who could totally relate. Many of us expend a lot of energy blowing things out of proportion making things worse than they are. Not every situation has to be dealt with as if it were a mugging. Whether you’re feeling angry, sad, or happy, your mind is conducting the outcome. Try to develop skills that allow you to create rational thoughts and you just might get rational results.