Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in a whirlwind of negativity with my anxious mind. obsessive personality makes it easy to focus on one thing. So if that one thing is negative... well its not good! The coffee spils, my shirt gets stained, I'm late for work, my hair goes flat... it becomes a long slide down.
But what about the slide up? We all know the feeling of "Bad Day" momments compounding. But how often do we feel a upward climb as things keep going right.
Bad days happen with spills. So why does something ultra-great have to happen to have a "Good Day?". It's not just the days we get a raise, or a go out to an amazing dinner that should count as good.
If you look using thankful eyes, all the little awesome things become apparant. And they and slide you right into a Good Day.
The other morning I felt it creep up on me.
It was passover, and i was seeing a lot of family. People I dont see often. I wanted to make a good- no make that great- impression. I had bought a sweater, soft and lacy, to wear to the occasion. I picked out my skirt the night before. I set my alarm for early morning, ready to go.
Then, that morning, i noticed a thread sticking out of my sweater, still unworn. I could have let it go. Maybe they wouldn't notice. But
I would, and I might try to fix it at work, and that could end badly.
Better to fix it now..
Well, the pulled thread left a hole that grew everytime I unbuttoned it. I could have smacked myself. I knew this would happen. I let my obession with perfection unwravel it all.
I had other sweaters, other outfits. I made it work. But I kept thinking how when we pull and tug at that tiny flaw, we can make a gaping hole.
In the end, my family wanted to see me, not a sweater. it was my mind that turned that little stich into a sticking point that thretened to ruin my morning and my whole day.
Sometimes the OCPD person just has to pull the thread, hole or no hole. Because, in my all or nothing thinking, a little fray is as bad as a giant tear.
But I need to be consious, to pause before my blind drive for perfection compels me to "fix" things.
Sometimes, the little flaws arent so bad as the fix.
We are all guilty of wishful thinking. We day dream that maybe the express train is just around the corner, that the brand new dress on the sale rack will ring up %50 off despite no red tag, that the rain will stop in time for the picnic.
Well those are nice thoughts. But for myself, and others with anxiety, our "wishes" sometimes feel more like worries. Do you "wishful think" about the worst case senerios?
When you get addicted to anxiety, when worry is your default - deep down, when things go bad it feels, like you expected it all along. A fufillment.
It's when that inner, or outer, voice yells; "See! I knew you would mess up! I just knew it!"
If you let the inner critic get in the last word, you fufil your own negative wish. I dont even know most of the time when i "Wish" for things to worry about. I self-sabotage, i cram in one more thing, i keep putting on make up, I tell myself that I jsut *have* to wear the one thing that is dirty and must now be frantically washed before work. I tell myself -"I can't do this, but I have to! I have to but I can't"... and so it goes. Not a good daydream about reality.
In fact, wishful thinking is about deciding reality. You think about it hard enough you make it happen. Maybe you can stop the rain.
If you think about how you "just can't" and then you get that rush of "i told you so!" when it doesnt happen - that is "wishfull worry".
Stop yourself from the get go. No more negative predictions, seeing the world as your enemy. Make the choice to say, even if it all goes sideways, rather than think "See? Proof the world hates you!", commit to trying to think, and belive :"I expected a better outcome, but I can deal with this"
Stopping the "Wishful worry" is a step to being a more positive person, and less of a meanie to your self. remember- worry is addictive, but you can break the habit.
We all make mistakes. With obsessive thoughts always lurking, it can be tough not to see these are irreconcialable failure, a telling test of our worth as human beings.
We know that one event can't define us. But if I focus on it too much, it sure can start to feel that why.
The problem is, we can't ignore our mistakes because we feel that "failure" is too painful to even think about.
We have to learn and grown, and this means taking a good hard looks at all the "mess-ups".
So step one is to actually face it. Yes, you did really break that vase, and no you can't lie to yourself about it. But its not helpfull to beat yourself up either, because the harsher you let you inner critic be, the more likely you will avoid fessing up or even thinking about mistakes in the future.
Inner beratement is like a mad teacher. A mistake is a like asking a question in class. If that mad teacher yells at you that your question is stupid and hits you wil a ruler, you stop asking. It hurts too much. But then, you never learn. You just avoid asking, avoid thinking critically about things that you need to face in order to succeed.
Mistakes are full of questions to be asked. What exactly just happened? Why did I do that? What could I have done diferently?
There is always more to do. This truism in felt especially for me around my home, at night, when I start to see all the little dust bunnies I want to attach under dressers and tables. Here I am, its almost midnight, and still I am trying to clean what seems like a whole dust bunny colony.
Thats when I use some big picture perspective. What will matter tomorrow- clean floors or my clarity of mind? As I sit at work, will i be thinking about the dusty floors, or the heavy tired feeling behind my eyes.
Rest wins out. Althought its great to get stuff done, dont lost sight of the most important task of all : taking care of yourself!
This weekend, I went on a whirlwind trip of meetings in the Windy City. It was jam packed with meetings, trade show events, a long brunch and finally an awesome concert. I could not let myself be disorganized!
All this, then taking the red-eye home and going straight into work!
Cramming everything into my life is a lot like over packing a suitcase. Sometimes, you just have take 4 pairs of shoes, and you can only bring a carry on? There are a few ways to do it.
If you stuff everything into the suitcase unfolded, mushing t shirts and gym clothes with dresses and heels, it will overflow. Not only will if not all fit, it will come out all wrinkled and dirty. Whats the point of bringing nice things if they get ruined in the process?
But- if you organize the contents of your "life suitcase", you can fit it in. Not only that, things will go smoother. The dress will be folded and unwrinked, ready for that cocktail hour. It takes time to pack properly- it takes time and effort to organize a busy life. But its worth it.
A little investment in some "life packing skills" can save you a lot of stress later! Remember this next time you want to keep some clutter, not use your planner, not set up a calender or a system for getting ready. Pack your bag carefully, each day, and watch events unfold wrinkle-free!
Sometimes to break a habit, goals have to be very, very clear.. Otherwise its too easy to hedge. "Well, I almost was on time.." I constantly think. "I was less late that last week,,,"
Yes, small steps are good. But this kind of wiggle room keep me from truely feeling like I made a change. And, after all, the goal isn't to be "Almost" anything. Almost responsible, almost accomplished, almost able to hold my head up high.
To go all the way, specific, back and while goal with no room for "almost"
Leave at 9 am. Sharp. No hedge.
But its a challenge to not feel pressure to meet a perfect goal, and to not beat myself up when I don't hit it.
It comes down to context. The "Leave at 9am" or "No buying new clothes this month" or "Respond to emails within 24 hours" are all just little goals, set in place to streamline my life. It not that everything has to be black and white all or nothing.
And if I don't make a goal? If I "almost: make it? I don't justify. Because I don't beat myself up. If I'm not feeling like a total failure for not meeting a goal, its not as tempting to hedge and talk myself into a truth wiggle.
I face it. Yes, I was late. But thats a fact, not a prision sentance to hate myself the rest of the day. All it means it to do better next time.
The "wiggle dance of truth" as I call it, isn't just toxic to my own mental state. I have to fess up when I goal isn't met to everyone. Ending the dance through specific goals, executed with some compassion, means its ok to not make it. But its not ok to convince myself I "kinda" did.
Sometimes we know our fears our irrational. Fear of heights? Yes, I know there is glass in the window. Fear of clowns. No, I've never encounterd a homicidal Bozo.
It's pretty easy to fight through those,
But some seem so big, so real, that we take for granted that they are rational. We have bought into out fearful narrative for so long, we can't see that it might be just as irrational as a fear or mice.
The key is to think throught it.
We act our of fear habits too much, and give them too much power. Try this thought exercise: What is the worst that can happen, if that fear comes true?
For example: I'm scared of my hair looking messy at work. Worst case: my boss thinks I'm messy. So? He treats me with contempt. So what? He fires me... So? I am in the poorhouse.
I mean, is that logical? Do I really think messy hair will lead me to financial ruin? As vain as I sometimes am, I don't even believe that. It's possible he will treat me differently if I constantly look like a slob. But, knowing my boss, even that stinks like a random justification,
The fact is, my "worst case senerio" makes no sense. Once I think it through I have to laugh. And the fear gets less powerfull. I can stop that worry from taking over.
Lets do another common OCPD fear: Cleaning. So I act like I"m afraid to leave dishes in the sink at night. What is the worst case? My fiance sees them the next morning. So? He thinks I'm dirty, or gets mad. So? He leaves me. So? I"m lonely. Another worst case: Mice come into my kitchen to feast on crumbs in the sink, SO? They carry dieases. SO? The bite me or my dog, making us sick.
Wow... see I can go on and on. Its fun, in a twisted way. I mean, if my fiance was the kind of man to yell about dishes or leave me, then I am with the wrong person. And mice would have to be pretty smart and quick to infiltrate my home over on night of dishes.
Now some fears make sense. And even thinking about the worst case of very real fears can help me to feel more prepared. But its the silly ones, the fearful habits I keep acting out, that get dismantled by this little mind game.
Less fears mean less random, meaningless obsessions. Life is too short to waste on fears that make not sense!
In the book "Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard " the authors talk about two sides in our minds that have to work together if we are going to change. The emotional mind and the analytical mind. A lot of times, the emotional mind is strong but not heading in the right direction. Or, the analytical mind gets all focused on the facts and planning (obsession anyone)?
They use the metaphor of a rider on an elephant- the elephant is the emotion, pulling along the rider and very hard to tame and direct. The rider needs the elephant to move, and the elephant needs the rider to point out where to go, and to show it that mice aren't something to be afraid of!
The book says that motivation (elephant emotion) and direction (rider pulling the reigns) both have to work together. Then, we can change everything from behavior to a corporation.
I see what they mean every time I plan and set a specific goal, then simple drop the ball as my emotions start to falter. Yes, I plan get in touch with a friend I haven't seen in awhile. I can plan all day and night, but when it comes down to picking up the phone, my emotional elephant struggles.
"What if she doesnt want to talk to you? She is busy! You are going to seem desperate..." etc...
Time to reign it in! Getting a handle on emotions is a whole other challenge, but understanding these two sides helps to appeal to others as well as yourself. I can think of how good it would feel to talk to my friend, and prop up my mood thinking about all the great friends i do keep in touch with.
When it comes to helping "direct" other people's elephants, you can't just push emotional buttons or give a dry blueprint for what you want.
Give that emotional elephant a kick, then lay out the road map to drive it down!
For me, getting over "perfection" is part ending the over-analayzing while also not getting paralyzed by fearful. I have to feel positive, and also give myself small specific steps to guide me. Next time I feel that struggle, to fall back on habit or to give in to fear, I know thats when I have a opportunity to practice getting my Elephant and Rider exactly where I want them to go: toword a positive, fufilling life!