Have you ever had the experience of trying not to think of something? Like when you’re trying to go to sleep and something upsetting keeps coming to mind? You may attempt to squeeze it out of your mind, but it seems to come back with a vengeance.
What you learn about your mind is that when you try to shove something into a dark closet, your mind feels compelled to peek into that closet again and again to see if it’s still there.
Everybody has memories from the past they’d rather not remember.
Everybody has annoying, upsetting, or threatening events going on in their everyday lives.
Everybody is bothered by thoughts they’d rather not have.
Instead of pushing them away, invite them in and deal with them.
Some callers have told me that after a year or two of marriage, they think about an old high school flame, and they wonder if this is an “omen” that they’ve married the wrong person. No, of course not.
“Courting” is fun; marriage has obligations, responsibilities and challenges. Even the things we love can feel overwhelming. Fantasies and thoughts and dreams about someone else are brain “vacations,” taking you to a time when you had no worries. Invite those thoughts in and examine them: “Let’s see…if I married John instead of my husband Steve, hmmm…gee, I’d miss Steve’s smile and hugs, his manly chest, his tenderness with the kids, and eventually John would have probably ticked me off too in some silly ways.”
Once you’ve done that, it is no longer an obsession. The vacation is over, and a greater appreciation of what you do have takes its place.
Don’t fight the thoughts. Invite them in and talk to them. Take control, and they will leave on their own.TrackBack URI
If you’re a frequent listener to my radio program, you’ve probably heard me say to someone seemingly immersed in a petty annoyance: “You must have a charmed and uncomplicated life to have the time and energy to be upset about something that’s ultimately so minuscule.”
Yeah, I know that sounds snarky, but the point is made. If your life is filled with the awe of the sky when the sun first comes up, scurrying to do some projects for charity, coming up with ideas to support a friend in emotional need, treating your spouse as though you adored every breath they take, having daily physical activity that makes you sweat and feel great afterwards, taking on a new challenge in a hobby or education at the local community college or adult extension, having a day a week you get together with buddies to play poker, make a quilt or whatever….when your life is filled in such expansive ways, then the quirky disappointments of family and friends will be shrugged off with a small smile and a lack of real concern.
Try activity instead of pouting or letting your anger simmer.
Since this is the season of giving, I thought I’d share with you a letter I got from an Army Captain who was the recipient of a kind deed from a stranger:
I am an active duty soldier stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. I am not a regular coffee drinker, but after a week of unusually early mornings and late nights, I pulled into the drive-thru of a popular coffee chain this morning on my way to work in need of a caffeine kick. As you would expect, I placed my order and waited behind a few cars until it was my turn to pay and go. When I pulled up to the window, the cashier handed me my cup and informed me that the lady in the car ahead of me had noticed my uniform and graciously paid my tab.
I’ll never be able to thank that lady personally for her kindness, but perhaps she is a listener of yours, and I hope a short note of appreciation can articulate what these kind gestures – no matter how seemingly small – mean to us in the service. I am always moved by the gratitude and patriotism of strangers, and I never forget a simple word of thanks or the enduring impact that it has.
Thank you for everything that you do, Dr. Laura, for us in uniform. I subscribe to your podcast so that I never miss a minute of your wisdom and insight no matter where in the world I find myself these days.