Steven Kaufman, co-author of How to Get Out of the Dumps, shared tips to break old mental habits when it comes to dealing with difficult people in your life.
- Old thinking patterns can be full of garbage: indecision, self-shredding, no confidence
- Situations can trigger an avalanche of mental trash in our heads: your mother-in-law puts you down or you get passed over for promotion
- We deal with these kinds of issues with the tools we learned when we were young: put up with it, fight against it, or slog though it with a huge amount of dread and discomfort
- If we don’t change the way we deal with what life throws at us, we get the same old results. That can make us feel stuck and frustrated
- Act like you’re a garbageman and clean up the problem with three words: Toss That Trash!
- We don't have to hold on to our garbage.
- Just like cleaning out a closet gets rid of the chaos, so does tossing the junk in your head that you don’t need anymore. In a weird sort of way, you get more by giving up more.
How Can You Break Up the Pattern?
ACT: Aware, Choose, Toss
- Aware: start to notice what you’re thinking
- Choose: once you see what you’re doing, you can choose to say, I don’t want to do that anymore!”
- Toss: When you choose no, you can toss that thought, belief, or opinion out of your head
An Exercise: How to ACT
Your mother-in-law disapproves of you in front of the family—again
- Aware: notice the feeling you have: the twisting in your gut, the change in your heartbeat, the way your breathing changes. All that says, “Ugh. Here we go again.” It’s negative and it’s awful. Notice that you always think the same thoughts every time you run into this situation.
- Choose. Say to yourself, “You know what? I”m sick of feeling like this. These thoughts and feelings have no value to me and I’m tired of them running me. I’m choosing not to go there anymore.”
- Toss. (The exercise) Take all the negative thoughts associated with that situation. Write them down on a piece of paper. Pick it up and start crumpling it slowly. As you scrunch it into a tiny ball, put every ounce of negativity you have into it. Then, throw it out. Sometimes, that means throw it across the room and try to hit the can. Other times, just let it go. To add more fuel to the exercise, as you're throwing the paper, say loudly "Toss That Trash!" It will reinforce changing the old pattern in your brain and support eliminating the "garbage."
By tossing it like that, you’ve done three things: (1) you became acutely aware of the old pattern (2) you’ve broken the pattern you’ve always used and (2) you gave yourself a little breathing room.
Remember: You can't change what's happened in your past. But you can change the garbage you've created around it.