“Flip It!” Friday

I have been experiencing some personal difficulties lately with a “private project;” it is something I do not really discuss with anyone but suffice it to say that it is something I dread and something that entails the firm utilization of “NEVER AGAIN!” – and I am NOT a person who does well with the definitive ideas behind words like “NEVER.” I have been trying to “reframe” the way I think about this “thing” in my mind so that it doesn’t seem like something I absolutely do not want to do but something that is, at the very least, “neutral” when I think of it. Every “trick” I have tried has not really worked – to the point where I become my rebellious self and say “SCREW IT!” and give in to the temptation of NOT not doing “it.” I suppose it would be something like someone who is not an alcoholic but accustomed to drinking a glass of wine every evening suddenly “having” to give up drinking altogether – perhaps this person has learned he or she has some liver damage and his or her doctor has recommended that he or she abstains from all alcohol … indefinitely. I am sure we have all had encounters with these types of “situations” that aren’t necessarily “MUSTS” but STRONG “SHOULDS;” and more often than not they are things we dread doing either because of their definitive connotations or because they are simply things (or perhaps people) we are quite mentally or emotionally ready to give up on.

Whatever the issue may be, I have decided to try this “FLIP IT” exercise. As I have mentioned here time and again, the reality of every situation is that you can NEVER accurately anticipate the outcomes of any situation – regardless of how “certain” the outcome might seem. If we are facing a dreaded situation, we can conjure up every apocalyptic scenario in our minds: but how often does any one of those scenarios actually occur? In my experience, very rarely: it is always the UNSEEN outcome that seems to prevail when we obsessively anticipate anything, especially when that “anything” is something we have already labeled as “bad” in our minds. The outcome of something thought as “bad” might still be “bad,” but it is rarely an outcome we could have ever predicted. With that in mind, I have come up with this “FLIP IT!” idea – that is, take something we have predetermined as “bad” before it has even occurred and FLIP that “bad” into “good.” In the above example, the person who “shouldn’t” be drinking thinks the loss of his or her daily glass of wine is a devastating loss – something like the loss of a friend or a “thing” that is always there regardless of what other awful things the day has held. That glass of wine is a constant in an otherwise chaotic world – and we do tend very much to want to “cling” to anything that seems static because these grounding “things” do become almost personified just because they are “things” that are always there for us no matter what else is happening around us. However, what good does it serve this person (or me or anyone!) to view this “needing to stop” as a “loss?” Why do we waste the mental energy and cause ourselves undue stress over an issue in which we can not only NOT predict the ultimate outcome but that we know is ultimately GOOD for us? That is, if the health of the person who has to give up drinking altogether will ultimately improve if he or she follows through with the action of not drinking, why does he or she regard it in such a “devastating” light? As I have already stated, I think it is another twist of our somewhat “flawed” human psychology to want to “cling” to patterns of behavior that have remained constant over time, especially over long periods of time in which these behavioral patterns have acted as a source of comfort when everything else has seemingly “gone to Hell.” We want to cling tightly to these things, no matter how bad they are for us, because we have framed them as “friends” that have been there for us during break-ups and deaths and financial losses and personal losses, &c.

So I am going to try this out. Rather than looking at my “project” as the “loss” of something positive, I am going to look at the IMMEDIATE future without this “thing” as an absolute positive. If I shift my definition of this “action” or “project” from a “loss” to a “gain,” I am really hoping I can “override” that psychological “glitch.” I have to remind myself that there really IS no such thing as a “static” thing; that all things MUST come to an end: in the alcohol example, perhaps it is the case that if the person does not “embrace” the change he or she must make, he or she will eventually experience severe liver problems that are not rectifiable. THAT is the “true” negative – the answer to the “what if” if we choose not to do what is ultimately “good” for us, regardless of how we think about it or feel about it in the present. The other interesting bit of psychology I have noticed in all of this is that we really do not do well thinking about our long-term well-being when we have come to regard something as “positive” in the here and now – even when we KNOW that that “something” is ultimately and necessarily bad for us. Perhaps this is intensified by the culture and time in which we live – by not only the need for but the easy access to immediate gratification. Whatever the ultimate cause, I think it also does us little good to project so far into the future – I think we end up conjuring endless “anathematic” scenarios in which we actually twist around what is bad for us so that it APPEARS to be ultimately good. I am not asking you or myself or anyone to look at things “positively” in the long-term – I am just asking all of “us” engaging in this kind of exercise to look at things in the NOW and the VERY immediate future (as in the next hour or few hours or day – or however long “immediate future” might be for you personally). Take each small step as a huge success. It is sort of the antithesis of the AA “Admit you have a problem;” rather, it is taking that “problem” and regarding finding its “immediate” solution as unquestionably rewarding. There is an undertone of “defeat” in admitting you have a problem; I do believe the 12 steps are INCREDIBLY beneficial not only to addicts but to EVERYONE, but I also believe there are mental “traps” that aren’t quite accounted for within some of the steps (of course I do!) – the negativity of defeat in admitting one’s problem and one’s powerlessness is one of those “traps” for me personally. *NOTE: THIS “FLIP IT!” IDEA IS NOT NECESSARILY APPLICABLE TO SERIOUS ADDICTS AND ALCOHOLICS – I AM JUST GIVING THIS AS AN EXAMPLE. I KNOW HOW SERIOUS ADDICTION CAN BE AND I KNOW IT DOES REQUIRE ONE TO ADMIT THIS KIND OF DEFEAT IN ORDER TO PROGRESS THROUGH THE STEPS AND TO CONQUER ONE’S ADDICTION. I AM JUST REFERENCING MY “ISSUES” WITH THE STEPS IN AN “ORDINARY” PROBLEM SORT OF CONTEXT. HOWEVER – I MUST ALSO NOTE THAT MANY AA-ERS WILL TELL YOU THAT RELAPSE IS SIMPLY PART OF RECOVERY – SOMETHING I BELIEVE IN VERY MUCH; IF YOU “FALL OF THE WAGON,” WHATEVER WAGON THAT MIGHT BE, AS LONG AS YOU ARE ALIVE AND WELL, YOU CAN ALWAYS GET BACK ON THAT WAGON!*

Of course I have rambled on more than I wanted to in this post! I just really like the idea of mentally “switching” viewing something negative into something positive. Maybe if you are stopping smoking, for example, you can view the idea of smoking as more difficult than NOT smoking insofar as smoking means you have to go out at all hours and in all conditions to go buy cigarettes and always carry them with you and always carry a lighter with you and always have that cigarette stink on you, &c. (I am paraphrasing Wayne Dyer here because I think it’s an absolutely WONDERFUL example!). In this example, you look at the NOT SMOKING as EASIER and therefore “more positive” and “MORE STATIC” than smoking because it entails that you do a lot less and spend a lot less time and money and effort, &c. The same goes with the drinking example I have spoken of throughout this post. Just retrain your brain to think of whatever it is you are dreading into something “positive” – this is what I am doing and I will definitely get back to you on how successful my approach has been! Whatever your endeavors might be, I hope this advice helps! I hope it can help you move toward a happier and healthier life and break some of the bad habits you might have (procrastination perhaps? …) by utilizing a psychological paradigm shift to see the positive in something you have already mentally labeled “negative.”

As always, thank you very much for taking the time to read this post! I hope you are all having a wonderfully happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world – if you are a fellow East Coaster (US), I hope you are enjoying this absolutely BEAUTIFUL fall day we are having! Good luck in all of your endeavors and remember, my heart is ALWAYS with YOU!

❤ Always, Beth

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