by Guest Contributor | Mar 6, 2023 | Wellness
By Beth Bloom, MS, LPC, C-DBT
Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that?
We have all done this…ask why questions.
Have you ever told yourself you should have done something differently, should have known better?
We have all done that as well.
Here are some follow-up questions to consider.
Have you ever been able to answer why?
Has saying I should have done things differently made things better?
Lots of questions, I know, but sometimes there are no answers when we speak to ourselves this way.
Language is important—this is another message that is commonly heard. Make sure that you say what you mean, share your feelings, and communicate effectively.
I believe that all of it is true, but ask yourself: How are we communicating with ourselves?
When we use negative language, we make ourselves feel negative, and we all have enough stress already.
Asking why leads to the thought process that you did something wrong and feel guilty, which never feels good.
Saying you should have done something may elicit a negative feeling, such as shame.
Instead—ask yourself different questions like:
What did I want to happen?
What were the barriers to getting what I want?
How could I have done things differently?
These are better questions than merely asking why. This is because those types of questions allow you to express your hopes, dreams, and fears in a way that does not lead to shame or guilt.
For example, if I say to you: Why didn’t you call me? You will likely feel guilty feelings for not having done so.
However, if I say, “I wish you would have called me because I missed you.” It is a totally different message—a much more positive message.
Saying you should have known better feels very punitive, unlike when someone says I wish things would have turned out differently.
Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, spent a lot of time talking about how we may have irrational thoughts, such as we must behave a certain way. The three statements most associated with this theory and Dr. Ellis are: “I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
He coined the term “musterbation” which refers to people believing that they MUST live by a set of absolute and unrealistic demands that they place on themselves, others, and the world. When engaging in this cognitive distortion, people try to motivate themselves and push themselves into shape, emotionally and physically, by using “should,” “shouldn’t,” “have to,” “ought to,” and “musts” These words are a set-up for negative self-judgment and feelings of guilt.
Dr. Ellis would say: Who is telling you that you should, that you must? He would then say be quiet and stop should-ing yourself!
Think about saying things differently to ourselves and others. Give some thought to what you really mean when you say why or should. You will be surprised if you increase your awareness of the negative language you use on a regular basis and how you can increase positive feelings just by changing a few words.
Instead of saying I should be kinder to myself, say I believe in myself. It just feels better!
Learn More about Beth
by Dottie Kelly, LPC, RN | Oct 19, 2020 | Art, Mindfulness, Women, Writing
Pearls are what happen when an oyster or some other mollusk is irritated by the invasion of some disturbing intruder into its closed shell. A grain of sand may be slight but not too slight to cause a pearl to form. Pearls are layers and layers of soothing nacre intended to insulate the delicate mollusk from the irritant that has abraded it. At the very core, a pearl is a disturbance, a beauty caused by something that isn’t supposed to be there. It is the interruption of equilibrium that creates beauty. Beauty is a response to provocation, to intrusion.
Artists have the ability to invite intrusions into their lives and then use its fire as creativity. They turn the environmental irritants into words, images and sounds that renew the onerous attacks in the lives of others. Our world is an oyster and it is filled with irritants and disturbances. Many of us may try to keep our shell tightly closed to avoid any disturbance within. Others may be inviting this discord in closer, allowing a metamorphosis to occur. This change – even the most infinitesimal change – presents an opportunity to create a precious pearl in our lives.
I sit in my home office, pen-to-page, contemplating the irritants that have found their way into my life shell. A ladder of memories, both distant and recent, form on the blue lines of the page. Some bring pause like the larger events, divorce, births and deaths. Others slip along one after the other with only a glimpse out of the corner of my memory’s eye. All of them, meniscal or grand, torpid or alive, they all shimmer together forming the many pearls in my life. In writing this blog I have realized that each and every one of the pearls, black, white, cream or green, make up a life lived and experienced. How do I view the jewels of my painful moments in life? Do I honor them or merely place them in a crevice in my mind that goes unnoticed like a tarnished penny on the street?
- Make a list of all the disruptions in your life.
- Make a list of all the irritants – no matter how small – that have caused you to react in a way that set you on another direction in life.
- Make a list of irritants you may have invited or allowed into your life.
- Make a list of all the pearls that have been created because of the irritants you experienced.
- Explore turns that have been sharp or maybe more of a slight deviation in your direction due to an interruption in your life.
- Make a list of people that may have entered into your life whether they were welcomed or unwelcomed, and how they may have subverted your life or merely shifted your firm stance.
- Once you have your list, I welcome you to do a free-write about the experience of the irritant entering your shell. Creating the layers of nacre over and around the irritant and then describe the pearl that was created in your life. Slow down while remembering and allow each layer to the story to be full and enriched with details. When your story is complete, spend time with it so that you can take in all the beauty of your transformation and resilience, wear your pearl with pride!
When my spouse walked out on me, he opened and closed the door behind him and never looked back. I thought I was going to implode. I knew it was the best thing for me but inside I felt like my lungs became stone, no air could pass, no breath could flow. I wanted to cry a monsoon but inside was only a drought, a basin filled with memoires, debris. They were washed there by the flooding waters and left as the monsoon softened bringing the torrid desert sun. My lips quivered and my body trembled as my mind struggled to comprehend what had just happened. Was I standing or sitting? was I inside or outside? I don’t remember how long I was there in this torpid state, alienated from anything around me and bound to nothing. I don’t remember how I was able to welcome my kids’ home from school that day or to parent them at all, but I know I did. I moved through task after task disconnected from family or friends and myself.
I began to feel this force inside of me, this propulsion, but I did not know what that was or how to release it in this turbulence. I reached out to my old writing group and found myself swaddled among all the other wonderful women whose voices and stories I had missed. I started writing again from a deeper space, from the basement and attic of my soul. I found myself going deep into the earth, below the roots of my life, and being able to look at them, touch them and feel the vibration of each and every one of them. It was writing that helped me to understand them. I wrote my way to some clarity and found my way back to me. I began to remember all my qualities and strengths, but more importantly, I remembered my passions. It felt as though I had been swept up in the eye of a tornado and I was sent spinning and twirling, a mere particle that had no control or say in what was happening. When I relaxed, I suddenly just dropped from the tornado’s hold and landed back in my life.
My new relationship with writing was the pearl that was created out of what felt like an unbearable pain. This pearl remains a critical part of me and one that continues to enrich my life. It illuminates every grain of sand that enters my shell, guiding me toward creating something better from life’s irritants, something worthier of a life lived.