We suffer when we’re unable to accept reality for what it is! I don’t mean that we should go around like Pollyanna, seeing everything as if it were perfect, and living in our own amazing, technicolor, fantasy bubble. I just mean that when we aren’t able to accept what is, we become depressed, anxious, and often resentful. If our feelings are intense, and they go on for a long time, we may even become ill. Chronic stress can be debilitating!
I’ve been seeing a client for a short time, who came in for help dealing with stress. He was having difficulty sleeping, was feeling really anxious, having trouble remembering things, and had developed some stomach issues. We were able to pretty quickly determine some of his behavior choices weren’t working too well for him, and he’s been taking steps to begin changing those. We’ve, also, been able to gain insight into some of the issues, both from childhood and more current times, that have created a belief system and a mindset that color the reality he sees, and how he reacts to it.
When we met the other day, he was telling me about someone he works with that really irritates him. He had spoken about this person a couple times before. My client was saying that he just gets so frustrated when this man does “X” “Y” and “Z”. I asked him what frustrated him the most about this. He said, “Well, why can’t he just …?” When I said that he does what he does, because that’s how he walks through his world — that’s just who he is, my client looked at me like he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I went on to say that people have patterns of behavior, and they stay true to those patterns, until they have strong enough motivation to change. That motivation may never come, and they may never change.
Our pain lies in our unrealistic expectations. We have no power to change anyone but ourselves. When we deal with others, our power is in the thoughts we have and the way we react. We have the power to change both our thoughts and our reactions.
If I have an apple tree in my yard, and every day I go out and stand looking at that apple tree, and wishing with all my heart that it was an orange tree, I’m going to keep feeling disappointed — and maybe just a bit irritated. The possibility that one morning I’ll go out and find that it’s turned into an orange tree, is, at best, very remote! Of course, with a tree, I have options. I can plant an orange tree next to the apple tree, or dig up the apple tree and replace it with an orange tree, but the point is that it is what it is. Wouldn’t I feel better if I went out and stood before the apple tree and thought about the lovely blossoms to come, and about the crisp, juicy apples — and the wonderful pies that could be made from the fruit. Acceptance can be a beautiful thing!
I talked with my client about how this man is who he is, and that he’s being true to his pattern of behavior. He isn’t a bad man. He just doesn’t behave how my client thinks he should behave. He doesn’t meet my client’s expectations. I asked my client how it would feel if he weren’t so attached to his expectations. He agreed that he would feel a lot less aggravated! Less aggravation is a really good thing!
We came up with some different ways to think about this man when he’s being consistently himself. Then we came up with less stressful ways to react. To end our session, we came up with some healthy ways for my client to take stress breaks during the day.
My client left my office looking quite a bit more relaxed than he did when he came in. I don’t expect this to be an instantaneous, miracle turn-around, but I do know that my client has a new awareness that he didn’t have when he came in. I don’t think he will have quite the same attachment to his thoughts about this man the next time he sees him. I’m hoping that he will begin seeing reality with the thought that: “It is what it is!”
Until next time,
*This work is loosely based on the Work of Byron Katie. You can read more about it in: “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie
awesome article Linda!
Thank you, Sara! I’m glad you liked it!