Better yet, we do shitty things sometimes
We are not always “good”
And we know it.
We hold these deep concerning truths about ourselves within us and don’t let it out. We can’t let anyone see the “REAL” me! *gasp!!* If they only KNEW how horrible I REALLY am.
These concerns we hold within us, influence our behaviors and can often be maladaptive.
What do we do?
1. For one, we defend
“I am NOT a liar!!!!”
You tell the truth for the most part. But because that time you lied and regret it and feel remorse, it is resulting in you becoming overly defensive when you’re called out on your mistake or misjudgment. This results in having increased arguments with your loved ones when our defenses are up, causing even more stress and difficulties.
2. We externalize
You may find a scapegoat to blame all your problems on in order to protect the ego from accepting the not-so-good thing that you did. This results in having interpersonal disputes with others as you put up the wall and to make sure no one really finds out the horrible truth about you. You may become increasingly irritable and angry.
3. We get down on ourselves
After we make a mistake, the negative self talk starts going…. “I’m no good; I’m useless; I can’t do anything right; I’m a bad person; Why do people even like me? People don’t really like me, they just have pity on me….” and down into the rabbit hole you go as you fill your language with doubts, insults, and shoulds…..
4. We become controlling
We try to take control of everything (whether it is realistically in our control or not) in order to make sure we never make a mistake ever again. This is a tall glass to order and only results in anxiety and irritability. It puts strain on relationships and people probably don’t want to be around you.
Why friends are NOT good therapists when addressing mistakes
Person: I can’t believe I did (insert shameful action here)
I’m a really shitty person because I did (shameful action)
Friend: you are NOT a shitty person! How dare you say that about yourself. You are awesome and I love you. Please stop saying those things about yourself.
Person: Thanks Friend
Friend here in this scenario is a good friend and had a great response! It is unlikely the person is a “shitty person” and therefore the friend is correct. HOWEVER, the friend helped the person to continue to not accept the mistake and allowed it to pass. The person still continues to feel the shame buried deep within (triggering negative thoughts about self) and the action has not been accepted, the feelings haven’t been felt and the ego will continue to defend against attacks and look to friends (like in example above) for validation they are inherently good in order to drown out the bad voice from within. But this scenario won’t drown out the bad voice from within…. The problem continues….
I’m not saying not to gain support from friends.
FRIENDS ARE IMPORTANT!
What I’m saying is, it doesn’t identify the core of the issue. So keep reaching out to your friends because that is great, but if your searching for significant change, you’ll need to do more.
Therapy is different
- A therapist will call you out on your bullshit in a methodical, safe, and adaptive way. This facilitates change by challenging the ego defense system to calm down and allow it to come face to face with the emotion it is trying so hard to protect you from.
- You learn all about your negative self-talk where to comes from and what to do about it.
- You also learn about your tendencies to take control over anything and everything. You learn about the forces that are driving that behavior and how to work on letting go.
- You learn to feel all the wonderful feelings and heal from the event so that you can move forward.
- You will be able to accept the mistake and no longer defend against yourself, allowing you to experience improved relationships and stop yourself from engaging in repetitive, maladaptive behaviors.
What can I do NOW to help?
Outside of going to therapy, you can look at the list above and identify how you tend to react to making mistakes and recognize how you hold on to them and what that does to your psyche. Awareness of the issue is key in resolving it. So become more aware of your thoughts and tendencies and work toward avoiding those common pitfalls that people find themselves in!
- Identify your negative scripts and challenge them
- Practice meditation
- Practice self-compassion
- Use supports
I bought new trail shoes the other day. I love buying new shoes and enjoying that new shoe smell and seeing all the bright shiny colors.
If you are a trail runner, or even if you’re not, you probably know that trail shoes get dirty fast… since you’re running through things like mud and dirt… and you sweat in the shoes.. and there goes the bright colors,the new shoe smell… the “newness” doesn’t last very long.
As a result, I experience ambivalence when I put on my new trail shoes for the first time, to let them touch the dirt for the first time, to go through a swampy area for the first time, a mud pile, a stream.. etc. I’m excited to break in my new shoes, but sad at the immediate loss I experience at the same time.
I remind myself that the best things are often well loved. I think about my favorite cook book covered in food splatters, my old dirty trail shoes I enjoyed, a favorite book with the pages all marked up…. the list goes on. I remind myself that well loved items often don’t look new…. nor would they!
Even with my reassurance, I reluctantly begin my run and try to allow myself to LET GO.
As I continue on my run I process my feelings and work on accepting the loss of newness. I become aware of the things I continue to try and HOLD ON to that are not serving me and I give myself permission to let go… let go of control.
I know I’m not alone in the fact that I like to be in control because it’s safe and comfortable. Anxiety happens when we try to control situations that are out of our control. My anxiety serves as a red flag to check in with myself – what am I trying to control? What can I let go of?
Learning to let go of the control is very difficult and frankly, uncomfortable. So during my run I practice letting go… letting go of my new shoes and letting go of my fears as I run. I recognize how letting go is beneficial for my mental health and learn to become comfortable with the uncomfortable process of letting go.
Why Practice Letting Go?
I find practicing letting go of little things to be helpful when the big losses come. Loss is painful, uncomfortable, difficult, pervasive…. just a bunch of wonderful emotions…
Practicing letting go is not the most comfortable thing in the world, but there is benefit in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. When life faces us with really difficult situations, it becomes a familiar emotion rather than a super scary unfamiliar one. I gain confidence that I can MAKE IT THOUGH the difficult, uncomfortable feeling and know that the world is not coming to an end and I will come out the other side.
So that’s why I practice letting go and encourage others to do the same.
When we can let go and allow ourselves to be at ease with uncomfortable feelings instead of holding onto our comfort zone, we give our mind and body what it needs to move forward and onto the next chapter of life…
But Stacey, you tell me to practice deep breathing all the time. You even have a video about how to do it?!
Yes, yes, deep breathing is great, but it isn’t the answer to stop your panic attack. If it was, I wouldn’t be in business and no one would have anxiety……Oh, and this doesn’t mean stop practicing either…
What I’m saying is, to treat panic attacks and panic disorder, the BEST way to approach treatment, is one of prevention rather than reaction.
Say you’re an athlete. Athletes often suffer from injuries. Doing things like stretching and strengthening help people heal from injuries (just ask a physical therapist!). So… if you’re training for your sport, do you wait to see if you get injured and then go see a physical therapist to heal??? or do you incorporate stretching and strengthening into your training routine???
Yes, you incorporate the preventive measure into your routine! This wards off injury! Some people go regularly to a massage therapist, a chiropractor or other means to help keep problem areas at bay.
Problem areas you say?
What athletes do is find out their weaknesses and then strengthen them! Find out your chronic tight spots and stretch them. All our bodies are made differently so sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to know what our individual bodies need.
Weaknesses? Are you calling me week?
No, I’m not calling you weak. We all have weaknesses and that’s OK because we are Human, Not Superman – oh and he had weaknesses too! Not just kryptonite that weakened his powers, but socially and emotionally weaknesses as well! (Little socially awkward with Lois Lane if I remember correctly!)
Having an anxiety disorder (or really any mental health related disorder) can be compared to having physical injuries.
Sometimes, when experiencing a physical injury, you’re more likely to suffer from that injury again… same with anxiety and depression. If you have had one panic attack you’re more likely to have another one than someone who has never had one. If you have had one major depressive episode, you’re more likely to have another… SO… because of this, the best way to go about this is to work on PREVENTION!!
If you never practice deep breathing (or all of the other calming, relaxing and wonderful things you get to do to treat your anxiety), you’re probably going to have another panic attack. And then when you have your panic attack and use deep breathing to stop it, it isn’t going to help.
Just like when you get a physical injury, do you go to the physical therapist one time and your problem is gone?? No of course it isn’t gone! They have you come 2-3x a week for a while until you’re healed. Then when it’s fixed and you don’t engage in prevention strategies and the problem starts up again, do you do a stretch one time and it’s gone? One strengthening rep and it’s gone? Now you have to start all over again.
If you can’t treat a physical injury without ongoing practice and persistence, why expect to stop you panic attack suddenly with working on deep breathing once (and at the point of crisis) and then say “deep breathing doesn’t work!”
The idea is to practice deep breathing and calming exercises to heal from the current anxiety and to keep doing them to help prevent another attack from happening.
Give it a try!
Oh, and get some counseling to treat the underlying issues to your anxiety problems. That helps a lot too…. Deep breathing isn’t the end all be all…. practice it, use it, but there is so much more to anxiety!