Hi everyone, I hope this mid-week finds you well! Autumn is creeping into the air and I’m trying to enjoy the colour changes rather than dwell on the approach of Winter. This reframe is actually perfect for today’s topic and exercise.
Before we get to that, I just want to share a couple of things. I’m incredibly happy with the Suicide Prevention poster we’ve been adding to! At around 80 names now, this is absolutely incredible! I’m so happy to be continuing the project and that it’s going to be put up in the College for all to see. I think the more who see it, the better. A dream of mine would be for it to be in as many places as possible! All schools, all clinics, hospitals, work places, etc. I would love for it to fan out, to be shared and reposted…for it to go Global! To add names hereafter; a permanent message to all that we can survive.
(If anyone wants to share it on their social media, blog, etc., let me know and I’ll prepare it for you!)
I’m also very happy to announce that my second book ‘Let’s Recover Together’ is officially in the bookstore at my College! I never would’ve thought that this could happen. I’m also working with Student Activities and the Counselling Department regarding the poster as well as putting up some stands with my book.
The Flip-Side: Exercise
Let’s get down to today’s business; reframing our weaknesses in a way as to focus and increase the positive in a NON-TOXIC way. Let’s grow and evolve together!
Instead of focussing on eliminating our weaknesses, what if we learn to find the strengths within and grow those instead? Would it be less daunting to sift through the mud for gold than to dig up a new patch entirely? Sorry…that was a strange comparison. Do you see what I mean though? I think it’s more challenging both practically AND psychologically to develop a new ‘habit’ rather than to reshape a current one.
I would never ask you to do an exercise that I don’t so let’s start with some of mine. It’ll be a good example.
Anxiety – Intense Focus:
I’ve written about this conversion before and it’s worth mentioning again. Anxiety is a very powerful force; as anyone who feels it can attest! But I think anxiety can also bring about tremendous motivation. After all, what motivates us better than fear? If we can turn our stress into a call to action, maybe we can direct the bad energy into something constructive. If we use the power of anxiety that can obliterate every other thought from our minds, this could be a powerful tool. Instead of dwelling on the fear we can choose to act on what will quel the fear. In my experience this means addressing it head on. Now you may ask, what about anxieties that are general and not tied to a specific task that has a solution? Well, the answer would be release the worry regarding things we have no control over and direct our intention instead into something where we have control over the outcome. It’s quite comforting to hand power back to ourselves rather than fall victim to the scenario. I understand that this is simple but far from easy but it’s something I regularly employ and I think it helps. If I’m anxious about something, I try to get another thing done. I may not be able to address the initial stress (although that’s the best outcome), but I can still funnel the tunnel vision into something else.
Sensitivity – Empathy:
Often when we’re sensitive it also means we’re sensitive towards others. We feel deeply which makes us more capable of ‘being in some else’s shoes’. This isn’t always the case so I don’t want to make a blanket statement, but I think it’s a frequent pairing. If we have a lot of compassion for others who are going through a tough time, perhaps we can direct some of that same feeling towards ourselves. This is very much like following the advice you would give a friend. Also, would you judge, criticize and blame your friend for their feelings? No? So why would you deserve that?
Guilt – A Strong Moral Compass:
Let’s face it: Guilt can really suck, especially when we feel like there’s nothing to fix what we feel guilty about. Maybe it’s too late, maybe we think there’s no going back, maybe we’re starting to believe that our actions are almost always bad, etc. Unresolved guilt can take us over and create a deep sense of dis-ease. While this is the case, I still think guilt is a useful emotion. Guilt is like a warning flag; a little voice in our minds saying that we could’ve done better. When misplaced, it’s bad, but when used as a tool, it can help us learn and evolve. When in its proper place it can act as a moral compass that keeps us on the path that makes us feel like a decent person. Someone kind, someone caring, someone who thinks of others in any given situation. Having an excess amount of misplaced guilt seems like a pretty big weakness but I think it could be very helpful if we can scale it down. Is it not better to have that voice that tells us we mishandled something than to feel no emotion or remorse at all? Guilt can keep us from becoming…well…sociopaths. The trick is to learn how to distinguish what is and isn’t our responsibility. Once again, easier said than done. With practice though, we can develop a guilt warning system that functions well and teaches us lessons rather than beat us down continuously.
Impulsivity – Action:
This is a huge one for me…I’m very impulsive. Whether it be with purchases, important decisions or how I take care (or don’t) take care of myself, it’s a big factor. Impulsivity can be very dangerous. It can take the form of self-harm, questionable life choices and so much more. We can end up rushing into things that ideally would require contemplation and patience. Eek…so very much a work in progress. The flip side of impulsivity however, is action. Someone with no impulsivity maybe have the opposite issue of apathy. It can be very hard to get a rolling stone in motion. If on the other hand we’re used to jumping into things, perhaps it’s once again easier to scale down rather than up. If we can slow ourselves down and allow that stage of reflection, we can save up the impulsivity and use it as a driving force for things that we’ve decided ARE worthy of doing, exploring, etc.
Insecure – Humble:
Being insecure can really hold us back; it can be discouraging, depressing, un-motivating and so much more. If we can learn to develop some self-confidence and faith in our abilities though, our tendency towards being insecure can transform into humility. Evidently, being insecure is pretty much the opposite of being egotistical and self-important. If we can build a strong foundation for ourselves, this can turn successes into something happy and satisfying while avoiding the tendency to show-off or be condescending towards others.
Restless – Productive:
This is another big one for me that I’m working on but having quite a bit of success with. Do you feel unable to stay still? That you lack an inner calm? A constant sense of uneasiness that follows you like a shadow? I definitely feel this way and it often leads to anxiety, irritability or frustration. What’s a great remedy and conversion for restlessness? Productivity! Yep…instead of dispersing frenetic energy because we don’t have an outlet, I recommend finding one and pouring some of that energy into accomplishing things. While moving for the sake of avoiding restlessness is kind of like avoidance, I believe channeling that energy into a realistic and necessary project is a healthy way of redirecting. That’s not to say that relaxation isn’t important…it definitely is and I understand that feeling restless can make it quite difficult to sit down and chill. I’m not great at the sit down and chill part unless I’m very focussed on something like a captivating book, movie, series etc. However if we channel our restlessness the majority of the time, that productivity is bound to tire us eventually. When we become tired I think it becomes easier to feel ok about rest. It also eases the mind to know that we’ve accomplished a lot which *ding ding ding* can really reduce guilt. Yep, we’re back!
Anger – Self-Worth:
A recent experience is what got me to realize this particular positive flip-side to anger. It concerns the discrimination I faced and wrote about in [this] article. The important thing to mention here is that I was angry and indignant over the way I had been treated. What does this mean? It means I thought I deserved better! Thinking we deserve better means that we have a certain degree of self-worth – after all, if we don’t get angry and think the other person is justified for treating us like garbage…well…that’s some pretty low self-worth! In the past I would’ve been angry towards myself and gotten really hard and critical. This time I’m happy to report that I was angry at the other person – quite justifiably so by the way! Granted I was angry on behalf of all of us struggling with mental illness, but it’s nonetheless a great improvement. Long story short, anger can mean that we feel wronged, and feeling wronged can mean that we value ourselves enough to realize that the other person is full of s***! How does this become useful? Well, I recommend using anger as a reminder that we deserve respect. From there we can learn to release our anger once we feel secure enough with ourselves to use our own moral compass and disregard a lot of what others think or say about us.
Mood Swings – Appreciation:
Last but not least, we have mood swings. Having Bipolar makes this a big one and don’t get me wrong, I know that it sucks!I’m not trying to sugar coat this or any other of the points I’m addressing. I’m simply trying to help us reach a balanced view that includes the positive instead of solely dwelling on the crappiness of these emotions/issues. Feeling all ends of the emotional spectrum is quite eye-opening: I think feeling the darkest of lows, the highest of highs and everything in between can teach us a huge lesson in contrast. We feel the difference and as such, we can learn to appreciate the good times more than someone who runs pretty evenly. Is this super comforting? Probably not, but I’d like to put it out there. So much is about attitude and if the only thing we can do is more greatly absorb and appreciate the good times, maybe that’s a decent enough start.
I encourage you to write up your own cards and explore these ideas. It can be hard to find the positive within the negative but I think it’s an excellent and crucial habit to form. That’s not to say that the negative is to be ignored, but I think a balanced view is the healthiest option.
What flip-sides have YOU discovered? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!