I’m sure by now you have already started to become aware of just how much your thinking is contributing to your stress, depression and anxiety.
It’s important to understand that it is NEVER the events that cause you stress, it is how you perceive this event with your mind and what you perceive this event to mean about you (your self-worth).
If it were events that caused stress, then everyone who ever encountered the events you do (be it parenthood, relationship problems, challenges with your kids etc), would experience it the exact same way. But we know this is not always the case.
We all know that parent out there who seems to be born to do this role with ease, who rarely bats an eyelid over the things that their children do. They effortlessly go about the business of being a parent and nothing much fazes them. They are full of that love and natural parenting ability that we all wish we had. Do they come across challenges as a parent? Absolutely! But the thing that makes this parent different is simply how he/she thinks about those challenges.
They are not better than you! They have simply had different experiences that have left different memes (belief systems) imprinted on their brain. They are simply accessing different information in their mind when dealing with the challenges of being a parent.
You can learn to think in this way too. You have been gifted with an incredible ability within the brain to retrain yourself to think differently. Everyone has major adversities to get through in their lives, perhaps yours is postnatal depression, anxiety or parental stress. But you can get past this. I know you can.
Just imagine how empowered and proud of yourself you will be when you learn to conquer you mind, and overcome the feelings that may be tormenting you and causing you pain right now.
This week we are going to look closer at the specific thoughts that are causing your parental stress. We are going to do this by first becoming aware of how we feel.
Feelings are indicators that a belief has been triggered.
Why do we feel happy sometimes? Because we assessed the situation that we experienced and it aligned with our beliefs about what is good and what we like. We already had formed beliefs about how we would like life to be and this experience matched those beliefs. This thinking that agreed with the situation experienced, then caused the bodily response that we identify with as being happy.
Why do we feel sad sometimes? Because we assessed the situation that we experienced and it didn’t align with our beliefs about what is good and what we like. We considered this experience to be bad, painful and not how we would like it to be. This experience did not match our beliefs about what was ‘right’ or expected. This thinking then caused the bodily response we identify with as being sad.
Can you see that in both situations, beliefs were activated and these beliefs dictated how we felt about what we had experienced? These beliefs created a physical response in our body that we know of as our emotions. This happens whether we have an enjoyable emotion or whether we have an unenjoyable emotion.
Therefore, in order to help us to become aware of what we are thinking, we can use our emotions as indicators that a belief or beliefs have been triggered. We can start to become aware of the memes that are in our minds that are creating how we feel.
In order to have experienced an emotion, a belief has always been activated first!
Over this week we are going to look at specific things we say to ourselves that cause us to feel emotions such as anger and resentment, guilt, blame, fear, sadness and also self-criticism.
Don’t believe everything you think!
Stress occurs because we believe everything that is going on in our minds. We believe that what we are thinking is truth. We have become so conditioned by this thinking that it has consumed us and become how we identify with what is going on. We rarely consider the possibility that perhaps our thoughts are not accurate.
This may seem like a strange concept to you, however this is why I asked you to do the exercise at the end of last week’s lesson and do it daily over this week. Only by starting to become aware of your thinking and actively challenging it and analysing it, can you start to open up your awareness to all the untrue perceptions you have about life that are causing you to feel stressed.
If you can remind yourself that what you are thinking has often been set up by someone else, because of what their experiences have been, then you can entertain the possibility that what you are thinking just may not be all that true after all.
Conversations in the mind
Begin by noticing your reactions to your day to day tasks. Try to catch those little conversations about what is going on around you.
For example – observing the house work to be done. Take notice of the commentary that occurs when looking around your messy home.
“Look at all this mess. I’m never going to get the time to clean up all this mess. I’ve had enough of all this mess. I don’t even want to clean it up. What’s the point anyway? It only gets messy again. The kids have no respect for what I do around here. I just feel like a slave. All I do is clean up after everybody. What happened to the person I used to be…..?”
You will notice two things about this conversation. Firstly, it is conflict with the reality that the house is the way that it is. We cannot change what we are currently experiencing in each moment. The moment is what it is because of how everything has unfolded leading up to this present moment. If you are not accepting this reality and are entering into a conversation with yourself about how it’s not the way you would like it, then you are setting yourself up for stress and emotion (incidentally this conversation often ends up with the feeling of anger and resentment. I know it all too well from my own life).
Secondly, you may notice that what started out as a simple observation about the state of the house, spiralled down into meaning something about you and your life.
This is the pattern of thinking I want you to start to become aware of. It is this type of thinking that leads to stress. It is unconsciously allowing your mind to travel in the direction of being in conflict with reality and have it expand in that direction until you feel stressed or emotional. This is what is causing you all of your problems.
Conversations with other people
It is not just your thoughts that you need to become aware of. Listen to the conversations you have with other people. Do you frequently engage in conversations about how hard things are, how you are missing out on getting what you want? Do you frequently blame, criticize and judge either yourself or other people?
All of these conversations are also contributing to how you are feeling about your life. Start to become aware of these little conversations and comments that you make about your day to day life and they will bring you to an awareness of how often you are saying these things.
It can be really insightful to start recognising these thoughts you are having, and more so how often you engage them.
It starts to become really obvious why you are feeling so intensely emotional. If thinking about what is wrong, bad or missing from your life is the repetitive tape going on in your mind and within the conversations you are having with others, then you will continue to, not only see more and more evidence of this being true, but you will also continue to stay in this feeling of emotion and pain.
You have to become aware of what you are thinking and change it, before you can feel better.
Letting go of this kind of thinking
Sometimes letting go of having these kinds of thoughts and conversations with others can be difficult to do. This is not just because it is a habit and habits are difficult to break, but also because sometimes we have attached our self-worth or our identity to being this kind of person.
It sounds ludicrous in theory, but when you think about it, there is a dynamic within our relationships where we have set up how we relate and talk to one another. If you have a partner or friends who are constantly engaging in the same conversations about what is wrong in life, what you are missing out on and how hard it all is, then this is often how you relate to each other. You find comfort in talking about these things to other people because, oddly enough, it gives you a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Even though it consequently results in you feeling bad about your life and seeing more and more evidence of it going wrong, the priority (or the payoff) to holding onto these thoughts is about being accepted within your social group or family. This way of thinking has come to be part of how you identify with yourself.
If you really want to change how you feel about your life and live a happy life, then you need to let go of the attachment to thinking and talking that is aligned with stress and is in conflict with the reality of life.
This will often mean change amongst your relationships. At first people may resist your change in thinking and your change in reactions to what they are saying. Some people may ridicule your new reality-based comments and you need to be willing to accept that they are just stuck in their old thinking and that’s okay.
You may find that as you begin to change, people drift out of your life. This may sound a bit worrying, however what you will find is that you will be left with, deeper, more fulfilling relationships with people who are aligned with this new thinking too. The more you surround yourself with these people, the more you will learn and copy this new reality-based thinking too, making your path to happiness even quicker and easier, as you will be practicing more often.
Change comes with commitment
One last comment to make about your thoughts and conversations before we proceed: Within this process, you have the information that will enable you to stop doing postnatal depression.
But information alone will not help you to recover. You need to commit to applying this information so that you grow new neural connections in the brain which will make it habitual that you think this way. This only happens through repetition and consistency, the same way this destructive thinking was set up in the first place.
No one can do this for you. It is about aligning yourself with your higher purpose for committing to making these changes. Why do you want to change? Is it so that you can be happy? Is it so that your kids don’t suffer depression too by handing limiting beliefs down to yet another generation? What is your intense drive for getting better?
Because whenever you find yourself engaging in these destructive conversations with other people and whenever you identify them while just talking to yourself, you need to remind yourself of your bigger goal. Every single time you stop these thoughts, you are one step closer to training your brain to break this habit and habitually learning a new way to think that will lead you to happier times.
This is the only way that you are going to change. Commitment and application of the information taught in the coming weeks.
So the question remains; What are you willing to do to become the person and parent you want to be? How dedicated are you to following the practices you will learn in this program over and over again until they become a new habit?
The answers to those questions are what will determine whether you succeed in your mission to overcome your stress, depression or anxiety and be happy.
Tomorrow we will begin by looking at what thoughts cause Anger.
What causes Anger?
You’re in the kitchen doing the dishes. Your youngest child is having a daytime nap and your eldest child is playing quietly in the lounge room while watching a video.
“Great” you think. “I’ll just finish doing these dishes, tidy up the house, put some washing out on the line and have just enough time to grab a cup of coffee before Timothy (youngest child) wakes up”.
You finish the dishes and just as you are tidying up the house, Timothy wakes up early. Of course this means he is also cranky because he has not had enough sleep, and as a result he is screaming and clinging to you. He won’t let you put him down, but doesn’t want you to cuddle him either.
All of a sudden, the nice, quiet half an hour to get on top of things and sit down for five minutes has been replaced with a loud, aggressive, angry child who is demanding your attention.
Your eldest child has just decided that now is the perfect time to get her paint set out without permission, and start doing a beautiful drawing, which includes getting it all over the carpet, walls and her brand new clothes you just bought.
What are you thinking in these moments?
“No, no, you can’t be awake yet. You’re supposed to be asleep. I was going to get the house cleaned up and have a cup of coffee. I can’t believe you’re awake right now. Now I have to put up with you screaming and tantrums all afternoon because you haven’t had enough sleep. [You go into Timothy’s room to get him out of the cot, mildly annoyed at this point. He starts grabbing at you and flailing his arms about]. “Stop that Timothy you are hurting me. It’s okay. Mummy is here. Let’s go sit in the lounge room”, you say trying very hard to stay calm.
Inside your mind you are thinking “Why couldn’t you have just slept longer? Why do you do this to me? Why can’t I have some time out from you kids once in a while” [Your annoyance is starting to increase. You sit down on the couch with Timothy still flailing about and screaming very loudly and you suddenly notice that in your absence Hayley – eldest child has begun her artistic work]. “No Hayley!” you yell, “what are you doing? That is very naughty! Get out of here now! you scream. “Wash your hands and get to your room, now! You know that you weren’t supposed to paint inside. I’ve had enough of you kids not listening to me!”
You are finding it very difficult to keep your cool and your internal conversations are reaching their peak. “I’ve had enough of this b**llsh*t day in, day out. Look at all this mess I have to deal with. All I wanted to do is tidy up and have a damn cup of coffee and a five minute break. Is that too much to ask? I’m tired of being the slave around here. I’m tired of dealing with you kids not listening to me and ruining my life. I can’t do this anymore. I hate my life!
Anger, resentment and sadness have arrived. But what caused this anger? Was it the kids’ behaviour? Or was it how you interpreted what the kids were doing?
Look back over this whole scenario, how many times were statements made that were in conflict with the reality of what was actually happening? See if you can pick them out first, then look below as I have listed them:
All of these statements were about what wasn’t happening as opposed to accepting the new reality, which was different to the picture she had in her mind. This was what was causing her anger.
Also, as we have discussed in the overview of this thoughts step last week, the conversation starts by making judgements about what you are currently experiencing being wrong. You then progress to assessing what this means about being a parent, what it means about your life and eventually, what it means about your self- worth.
If you look again, you will see that this mum’s conversation with herself progressed to this attachment between the event and her self-worth.
The process of how thinking can result in anger
This all happens very quickly and how far your thinking goes down this path (as in whether it reaches conversations about how bad your life and self-worth is) will be what determines the intensity of your anger.
If you can stop thinking this way as soon as you recognise that you are in conflict with this new reality (that is, my child did not sleep as long as I expected him too) then the quicker you will stop the anger.
You don’t have to be happy about the new situation, but you can bring yourself to the acceptance that it just hasn’t met the picture you had in mind. Take a deep breath and don’t allow that conversation to escalate into this small event in your life, somehow meaning your whole life is bad.
Common misconceptions about life (memes) that can cause you anger
We live in a get your life right world. We have been conditioned to believe that if we don’t get something to go well, then there must be something wrong. It is either my fault or someone else’s fault. We have been taught to expect life to be a smooth ride towards what we want. Even though logically we know that this is never always the case, we still try to create this smooth ride and can feel angry when the picture is different to what we expected. This is because we have formed the belief that if I can’t get life right, then what does that say about me?
Perhaps you are trying to get parenting right and get everything to run smoothly in this area of life all the time. Perhaps you are trying to be the perfect mother or father. Perhaps you had high expectations that being a parent was going to be easy and you would be able to cope with anything that came your way and if it doesn’t work out that way, then it is a reflection on you somehow. What would happen as a child if you did something wrong? How were you made to feel? How was this belief set up? The answers to these questions could be the underlying meme that causes you to feel angry when things don’t go well.
However this need to get life right in parenthood is in major conflict with the reality that your children are growing and learning how to behave, become capable, follow moral rules, respect others and develop. Whenever we learn something there is trial and error, so you won’t always get things to go right in the area of parenting. Sometimes there will be weeks where there is one unexpected thing after another. It doesn’t mean that your whole life is ruined. It is just what is happening right now. In the Aim step, you might give yourself some more free time to break it all up. You will also learn, as you progress, why you aren’t doing that right now.
Also conditioned from our society, is the need for stimulation. Through entertainment such as internet, games, movies, concerts and a strong culture focus on achievement, we have been taught that the only way to have a successful life is for it to be interesting and exciting all of the time.
However, when it comes to being a parenting, you are often faced with mundane, repetitive tasks. If you believe your life has to be exciting and/or interesting to be valuable, then you are going to feel like life is very pointless when doing these repetitive tasks. You may begin comparing your life to how exciting it used to be (in conflict with reality), how you used to have money to do things exciting and how you used to have time to do exciting things. Finally this comparison concludes with the opinion that your life’s worth has now diminished, which can cause anger and resentment.
The reality is that life isn’t always exciting and interesting. Look at jobs you have had in the past, relationships and other experiences through life. Have you always had 24/7 excitement in your life? Being a parent is full of highs, lows and sometimes mundane tasks, just like anything in life. All of these times have risen and then passed away. Parenthood will be the same.
The idea that you should always know exactly what to do whenever you experience something new, is in huge conflict with reality. You have never been a parent before, or have never been a parent of this particular child before and you cannot possibly know how to be a parent straight away. This journey is a continual one full of learning and trial and error.
You are dealing with another human being who is not only learning about his/her world, but is also trying to get his/her own needs met.
If you are not coping it is because you are learning how to cope. One of my favourite sayings is how do you know what to do until you have learnt what NOT to do? We all go through stages in our lives that are tough, or take us a little while to get a hold of. What do you believe it means about you if you aren’t able to cope with a new challenge in life? The answer to this question will unveil the beliefs that underlie your anger.
This belief can cause anger because you are constantly in a state of missing out whenever you think like this. What you need to understand is that being a parent is a part of your life. It’s not all of who you are, but it is a large part of your life. If you are saying that you have no time for ‘my’ life, then you are in conflict with reality that time being a parent is your life.
What needs to change is your opinions about what being a parent means about your life. Challenge yourself to look at parenthood in a different way, rather than attaching it to meaning that you are missing out on something more exciting or interesting.
This belief runs rife in our society. We are surrounded by external things to help us to pursue this elusive goal of being happy all the time. However, happiness is an emotion and like any emotion, it gets triggered by our beliefs. Happiness occurs when the situation has matched our beliefs on the way something should go.
Does life always go to plan? No it doesn’t, however if you have this belief that you should be happy with a smile on your face 24/7 and be able to enjoy every single moment of your life, this can cause you anger when it doesn’t happen that way.
We can learn to look at unenjoyable situations differently (which you will do in this program) but you will never capture that emotion of happiness 24/7. This is because we are constantly rating our situations based on our beliefs and we will never always rate events as being wonderful and enjoyable, thus feeling the emotion of happiness.
Tell me you would ever feel happy if you lost a loved one. You might have a healthy understanding of the reality of life, being that everyone dies at one point or another, but you are not going to feel happy about it.
Similarly if your child puts paint all over the walls and floor, you are not going to feel happy about that either, but you can change the way you look at it so that you don’t enter into these conversations in your mind that end up meaning your whole life is miserable and meaning something about you, which incidentally, will be the cause of your anger.
Remember, it is your thoughts about your quality of life and your self-worth that send you into depression, major stress and anxiety. You can still feel sad or bored here and there and I believe that is normal for everybody, but it is the fact that you see these boring moments as a reflection of your whole existence, that is the cause of your stress.
It is because you have attached your whole life’s purpose to this small event that is not meeting the expectations you had in mind. It is the belief that this event not meeting your expectations is a reflection on you and your life’s value.
The relationship between Anger and Self-worth
You can easily see from the examples above, that it is not about the event that makes us feel angry. It is essentially what you have believed this event to mean about your self-worth, the person you are.
You will have expectations of yourself that you feel you have to live up to in order to be valuable (set up from childhood) and when you see evidence of things not going that way, you desperately try to hold onto the picture of how it was supposed to be, which is really your mind’s way of trying to protect your self-worth.
However, as you continue to see that this picture is not happening, you then feel resistance (the feeling of anger) because you believe that this new event now means something about you.
I know that this is a fairly deep explanation of anger, however this is what is essentially occurring underneath that anger.
Next week and in the following two weeks after that, you will learn how to change this thinking and get an accurate view of both challenging situations, and self-worth.
Understanding your anger can help you to stop it. Becoming aware of your thinking and observing how it goes down that destructive path, can help you to see that you are in conflict with the reality of what is really happening in this moment.
As we progress through this program, you will learn to change how you think about unwanted events so they don’t turn into angry ones. It doesn’t mean you will necessarily become happy about these moments, it just means that you won’t spiral into anger. You will be able to replace these thoughts to bring yourself back into alignment with reality.
In tomorrow’s lesson you will learn more about what thinking causes guilt.
What causes guilt?
Parenthood and guilt often seem to go hand in hand. As with any emotion though, guilt must first come from beliefs that we hold about life.
For some reason, parents (and more so, mums) seem to always be thinking about what they are doing wrong with how they raise their kids. We are continually looking at how our children are missing out and how we should be doing something different from what we currently are. It is this thinking that causes someone to feel guilty.
Here are just a few common statements that cause parental guilt:
The process of how thinking can result in guilt
All of this thinking is what causes the emotion of guilt. This thinking is in conflict with reality, which means two things when talking about reality and guilt:
You do the things that you do because it is a priority to do it that way. In week six you will be looking at priorities further and understanding more about what governs the decision we make and the actions we take. However, for now, whenever you are feeling guilty, know that it is because you are not aligned with the reality that life is the way that it is because of how it unfolded in the past.
This doesn’t mean you can’t change your current reality (this is what we do in the Aim step), it just means that this is the reality of right now, and the past cannot be changed.
You can use your guilt as an indicator that your decisions might need to be looked at. If you believe you ‘should’ be doing something different than what you are, then first assess why you are currently doing it that way and then change it if you need to. Again, we will look further at this in week six.
However the reality of life (as you will learn over the next 3 weeks) is that life is full of ups and downs and these ‘challenges’ that you are viewing as bad or wrong are the ways in which we learn about life. They can often be our most valuable lessons too. Your child’s life has not been diminished in quality. They are simply learning lessons for their life’s development.
Common misconceptions about life (memes) that can cause you parental guilt
This meme is in conflict with reality because, as mentioned in yesterday’s lesson, we are never always 100% happy. Happiness is an emotion that comes from how we interpret life with our beliefs. Our children are never going to be happy 100% of the time. Life is full of challenges that teach us about life. The unenjoyable moments of our life are teachable moments that build character and teach us how to function in the world.
Rather than feeling guilty about your child being unhappy with events that occur in his/her life, you would be better to teach them the reality of life that it doesn’t always go to plan, but there is always learning that we receive and a ‘hidden good in the bad’. Again, you will be learning how to do this in coming weeks.
For now, just know that your kids aren’t always going to view life in a way that makes them happy. They will inevitably experience challenges throughout their lives. Our job is not to make our kids happy all the time, but to teach them how to hold a healthy view about life that will aid them to move past their challenges without feeling stressed, depressed or anxious.
Of course you want your child to live a fulfilled and wonderful life, but if you teach them the truth about happiness and how to look at challenges in a healthy way, then you will help them to live that fulfilling existence more easily as they won’t be seeking that elusive happiness that society teaches us to yearn for in every moment of our lives.
This is an unrealistic expectation to have that is in conflict with the reality of life. We don’t want to be teaching our kids that if they aren’t happy then life is not valuable, because that would land them in stress or depression whenever they are not feeling happy.
We need to teach our kids the reality that life doesn’t always go to plan and that this does not make things wrong, it just means that there is something to learn and that it’s an event to grow from. We need to teach them that it’s okay not to feel happy all of the time, that it’s normal not to feel happy all of the time and to look at the beliefs that are causing them to feel unhappy, rather than thinking the event is wrong.
Some parents feel guilty for taking time for themselves, or when they have to put their children’s needs second instead of first. What are we teaching our children about life if we are constantly putting ourselves second? What are we teaching our children about life if we are constantly putting them in the spotlight all of the time? We are possibly teaching them not to value themselves or allow themselves to be happy, or they could go in the extreme opposite and believe that the whole world revolves around them.
There has to be some balance in showing our kids how to respect themselves by showing them how you respect yourself. They will learn a lot by their experience of you and if you feel guilty every time you do something that doesn’t involve the kids then you are teaching them to do the same – put everyone else first.
Sometimes you teach your children a much healthier lesson about life when you don’t always put them first. They may be initially upset, they may miss you for that period of time, they may miss out on an opportunity they would like to have had, but what they get is so much more. They learn that you don’t always get what you want, the world doesn’t revolve around me and that it’s okay to respect myself and do things for me as well as other people.
I would say that is a much more beneficial mindset to install in our children.
As much as we would all like to give our children the best education, experiences, clothes, houses and material things that money can buy, if this is not possible in your life, then it does not mean your children are missing out and that their life is lacking.
We are always getting an experience in this life and all of our experiences add to our lessons and knowledge of life. They are getting what they are getting because that’s what they need to experience in their life.
Kids don’t often feel like they are missing out until they are conditioned to believe that they can miss out, which society does a very good job of teaching. Just look at how much fun a young child has with the box that came with the expensive present that you bought them for Christmas.
It is better to teach our children to search for what they are getting instead of looking at what they don’t or can’t have. Of course you can only teach this when you know it and use it for yourself. However you will become better at this kind of mindset over the next few weeks.
Again, is this the belief that we should have an exciting and interesting life? Is this the belief that we should be happy all of the time? Take a look at your past jobs, your past relationships, your past experiences. Have you always enjoyed every aspect of your life? No, you haven’t. We are not always going to enjoy certain aspects of our experiences and that is the reality this belief is in conflict with.
Okay, I know that some of you really don’t like being a parent and I can certainly relate to feeling this way in the first 8 months or so of my second son’s life. I didn’t handle the transition from one child to two children very well (which is when I started to learn about how to change my thinking) but I had to learn how to view being a parent in a different way.
Yes, it’s reality that sometimes we don’t enjoy aspects of being a parent, and I know that I probably won’t ever enjoy the piles of washing and the constant cleaning that I seem to do, but it’s probably some of the beliefs you hold about being a parent that are making you really resent it.
Rolling around in beliefs such as ‘no time for my life’, ‘life’s not how it used to be’, ‘it’s too hard’, ‘I don’t want to do all this work’ and finding more and more evidence of this in your life is causing more of a dislike of being a parent. It is the path of destructive thinking that you follow over and over again that is causing you to feel like you don’t enjoy all aspects of being a parent. Remember, the more time you spend on these beliefs, the more evidence your mind will find of these beliefs being true.
Liking the overall experience of parenthood will come with changing the way you look at it and aligning with the reality of life and all of its ups and downs.
The relationship between Guilt and Self-worth
Earlier I said that whenever you are feeling guilty the attention is now on your child’s quality of life. You believe that because of what is happening their life is worth less than what it should be. Well there is a little bit more to it.
You see we are all selfish creatures as human beings. We are always working in our best interests 100% of the time. That is just what human beings do.
Stress does not come from us perceiving someone else’s life to be worth-less, it comes from perceiving our own self-worth to be less.
It may seem like you are feeling guilty because of what is happening for your child and because you believe that their quality of life is not what it ‘should’ be, but you are essentially blaming yourself for this experience.
If you weren’t blaming yourself you wouldn’t be feeling guilty. You would simply be sad for them (like you might if a friend of theirs at school rejected them). But you don’t feel sad, you are feeling guilty. You believe that you ‘should’ have done something different or ‘should’ be doing something different.
If you are to blame for your child’s quality of life diminishing, then what do you think this says about you?
If you are following memes such as ‘My child should be happy’, ‘my child should come first’, ‘I should enjoy being a parent’ etc, then you believe that it is your responsibility as a parent to fulfill your child’s needs in this way.
What kind of parent does that make you (in your mind) if you cannot live up to these expectations you have on yourself to give your child the best life possible? That’s right, it makes you feel worth….less – not as good a parent as you think you ‘should’ be.
This of course is not accurate, but in your mind, guilt has been activated because you believe that in order to be a good parent, you need to live up to certain expectations and if you can’t then this must make you a lousy parent.
It is this incorrect view of self-worth that underlies guilt. All forms of stress come down to a feeling of worth-less-ness. That is, you feeling less than 100% worthy.
In tomorrow’s reading, you will learn more about the emotions of blame and resentment.
What causes Blame?
Blame is very similar to guilt. You believe that you or someone else ‘should’ be behaving differently to the way they are, or you believe that they ‘should’ have behaved differently in the past.
This idea that we ‘should’ be doing something different is in conflict with the reality of what has actually happened in our past or what is happening now. Here are some examples of some common statements of blame.
It’s all my fault: I believe that I have done something wrong or I should be doing something different:
It’s all my partner’s fault: I believe my partner has done something wrong or should be doing something different:
It’s all someone else’s fault: I believe that someone else is doing/has done something wrong and should be doing something different:
My circumstances or past experiences are to blame: I believe that I should be living life differently. What happened in the past shouldn’t have happened. Life should be or could have been different:
All of these shoulds and coulds all lead to one thing – stress or depression. It is none of these events that cause blame and subsequently resentment, it is what we believe about these events.
We believe that because this event happened, life is now going wrong. Now that it’s gone wrong, I am missing out on what my life needs and if only it was different, my life would be better (worth more).
Thinking this way is in complete conflict with the reality of what is actually happening right now. The past is the past and we cannot change that. We can only change the way we look at these situations.
Thinking this way is also in conflict with the reality of life. Sometimes things just happen that aren’t what we expect. Our kids sometimes break the rules, babies wake up before they’re ‘supposed’ to, labour ends in caesareans sometimes.
The more we try to blame ourselves, other people or our circumstances for our current situation, the worse we will feel and the further away from happiness we get.
The process of how thinking can result in blame
The reality is it doesn’t matter whose fault it is or why it happened. The fact of the matter is that it happened – period. Only when we can begin to accept that reality (step two of the mind TRACK to Happiness process) can we begin to look at what we are going to do about that situation (step three – aim).
When your child misbehaves, they have misbehaved. What now? When your partner doesn’t support you or respect you in the way you think they should, how are you going to handle that situation to reach a new alignment with each other? If someone is mistreating you, what are you going to do? If your child is not sleeping well, what is the solution?
These are the questions you need to start asking yourself instead of looking around for who’s to blame. The blame game does not get you anywhere, but further entrenched in your stress. You will continue to see more and more things that are going wrong in your life and who is to blame and all the while you will remain in conflict with reality and feel stressed.
The relationship between Blame and Self-worth
How can blame be associated with self-worth? Well, it depends on whether you are blaming yourself or blaming your external environment.
When you are blaming yourself, it is because you have been conditioned to see what is wrong with you. You have been conditioned to believe that only when you can achieve certain things in life, or meet certain expectations (like getting life right), can you be 100% worthy.
If you have grown up with criticism, you may adopt the habit of either continually seeing your own shortcomings, or you may adopt the habit of searching for the shortcomings in others.
When we search for the shortcomings in others, by blaming them, we negate ourselves from responsibility. This makes us feel better because it was not our fault. If we were not to blame then there is no reason for me to feel worse than I already do. If it were my fault I would feel even worse about the situation, because what does it mean about me if the problem is my fault? It means that I am worth-less, not 100% worthy. It must mean there is something wrong with me.
Does it make you feel any better to blame? No it doesn’t. Because the reality is that the event still happened. What needs to happen is that you need to accept that this event has occurred.. No one is right or wrong. It is just a series of events that occurred with a multiple of links in the chain that ended in this situation occurring. That’s it and that’s life! Every event forms part of the bigger picture of the journey of your life. Some events are enjoyable and some are not. All events you learn and grow from though, and then they lead to you having more experiences in your life.
If you can learn to look at situations in this way, you will cease rating them as good or bad. They just are. It is this alignment with reality that is going to stop you feeling so bad about your life.
Resentment is a feeling that occurs when we feel that we are hard done by (which is essentially – missing out). We perceived an event that has occurred as being wrong and that it caused me to miss out on something I believe I need for my life to be successful (worthy). Here are some common examples of resentment in parenthood:
When you feel resentment for what you are experiencing, it is because you are in conflict with the reality of what you are experiencing. You are wishing for it to be another way, and it’s not. You are holding onto the past or the ideal of something you believe is better than what you have now.
It is easy to see how this thinking is in conflict with reality and how holding onto these thoughts only causes you pain. You might argue, “yes but, I want life to be different”. Great! Aim for it to be different, but don’t allow your thoughts to go down that road of destructive thinking about how you wish it was and how others have it better. This will not lead you closer to the life you want to live. It will only cause you stress.
Accept the reality and move into the Aim stage of this process. What do I want?
In tomorrow’s reading we are going to look a little bit closer at the thinking that underlies psychological stress and anxiety.
I have spent quite a bit of time addressing the beliefs that lie behind Depression, but I am aware that stress and anxiety are common for parents too.
In fact it is common to swing from stress to depression, from depression to anxiety and back to depression again and also stress to anxiety and then to depression.
This can be confusing, painful and disruptive to your daily life and overall happiness to say the least.
We can use this same process that I have been talking about to help you with your stress and anxiety too.
What causes stress?
Stress occurs because of the conclusion we draw that ‘My life has not gone to plan’. We have an image in our minds of the way life should look and if an event or series of events conflicts with this image and you have your self-worth attached to it then you will experience stress.
The difference between general stress and psychological stress is only the severity of the stress you are feeling. All stress, as I have mentioned several times, comes from a conflict between belief and reality.
Not accepting the reality of what is occurring in your life by believing that it is wrong and an indication of your entire life being disastrous is the misconception that causes stress. It is the misconception that life has to go to plan (or go the way you expect it to) in order for it to be valuable.
Therefore it is how you think about a situation that lies at the core of psychological stress.
The reality is that life doesn’t always go to plan and it doesn’t mean anything about you or your life. It is simply what we all go through. There is value to be found in each and every experience that we have and it is by retraining your mind to look for this value and stop rating events as either good or bad, that will stop you from experiencing stress.
From next week, and over the next three weeks, I will be intensely showing you how to change your thinking to be in alignment with the reality of life in general and the reality of your self-worth.
For now, when you experience stress, remind yourself that this moment is simply a challenge that is here to teach you something. Perhaps it’s there to help you to learn a new skill (eg breastfeeding or organisation) or to help you gain a life lesson. Perhaps stress has occurred in your life so that you would seek out this program and learn to think a different way, stopping your need for life having to go a certain way in order to feel good. This means you will teach your children your new perspective, which breaks the cycle of handing these beliefs down another generation.
What causes Anxiety?
Many people suffer from anxiety or have anxiety tendencies. However, most people only associate anxiety with panic attacks. While panic attacks is a form of anxiety, it is more of a severe case of anxiety.
Anxiety can often be confused with depression, but they are two completely opposite conditions. Anxiety is all about control.
The same beliefs that life needs to go a certain way or I am missing out are there. The same beliefs that I/others ‘should’ be behaving a certain way are still present. The beliefs that if life doesn’t match my beliefs then it will indicate how worthy I am, is also still present.
However unlike depression, where the person feels like a failure and stops setting goals, an anxiety sufferer sets lots of goals. This is because they believe that they can control life to go a certain way and prevent anything from happening that will jeopardise getting life right. Control and prevent are the main objectives of an anxiety sufferer.
At the core of anxiety, just like any form of stress, is the fear of being worth-less. They worry that if they cannot get life right, then what would that mean about them (their worth)?
Let’s look at a few examples of how self-worth is the real fear behind anxiety:
“I worry that I am not a good parent”
The concern here is that my child might suffer because they have a mother/father like me. You might be worrying that your child will have a ‘bad’ (wrong) life because of you. We all know how innocent children are and all want our children to be happy, however your belief in yourself (or lack of belief in your self-worth) has determined that you are not good enough to be a good parent. You already think that there is potential for you to be a bad parent and if you do that and potentially stuff up your child, that doesn’t just make me a bad parent, it makes me a terrible person as well.
This thinking is a result of the incorrect assumption that one can even have a ‘bad’ life and negates the reality that all experiences hold value and provide lessons that contribute to our development. Regardless of what sort of parent you are, you will always be providing your children with what they need for their life to unfold naturally.
However, all of your thinking about how you may not be a good enough parent progresses into the physical feeling of having anxiety because you haven’t been able to control what happens in your life. You start to feel the energy of your thoughts translate into the energy of being tense, shaking and the adrenaline rush you have with anxiety and attacks.
“I have panic attacks about dying”
The concern here is; what happens if I die? I’ll be missing out. (which devalues my life) and my children will be missing out on a mum/dad (which you determine is going to mean that their life is devalued).
This fear comes down to the incorrect belief that life is not worthwhile if you have died or if your child lives without a mum/dad. It’s a tough one to get your head around, I know because you are probably thinking “No, my life isn’t worthwhile if I’m dead”, however this worry is in conflict with the reality that no one knows when their time is up and whenever we meet the end of our days, we would have had the most worthwhile life that we could have had because that’s the way it unfolded and cannot change the past.
Also, if your children experience your death in their lives, then this will be another experience in their lives, an experience that will add to the person they become and the knowledge they have about life. They will not be missing out on the experiences they need on their journey in this life. No life is either good or bad no matter how it unfolds. Worrying about dying is in conflict with the inevitability that one day all of us will die, so by putting our attention on this we’re not able to accept that reality because we are in conflict with it.
“I feel like I’m out of control”
The concern here might be; that I am usually in control but now I find that I am not. This can be common when becoming a parent because if you had the belief that you can control your life all the time, and have been quite successful in doing this most of your life, you could be in for a major shock when having children. We cannot control how our children behave and because they are learning, growing, developing and maturing, this often means there are loads of situations that occur that do not meet your image of how it was supposed to be.
You could get anxious because you can’t control the state of the house, you could get anxious that you can’t stop your child from crying or screaming during a tantrum, or because you can’t get them to behave.
Not being able to control a situation can cause anxiety because you have beliefs about what this must mean about you if you cannot control – “I’ll will look like a bad mother/father, people will judge me (which means I won’t be approved of or accepted), I won’t be the organised person I have defined myself to be, I won’t be the smart one, the capable one, the reliable one etc.” Whatever you have been incorrectly taught to believe you need to live up to will be tested if you cannot control your circumstances and play out these roles. This can potentially lead to feelings of stress, anxiety or depression, depending on which conclusion you draw about what it means that you can’t live up to these roles.
Panic attack/Anxiety after a major event (eg quick labour, long labour, complications at birth, emergency caesarean, a car accident, or a traumatic incident)
When stressful events occur, if you have the belief that life always has to go well in order for it to be going right, and then some event occurs that you consider to be wrong or not how you had planned it, this can all of a sudden make you realise that there is potential for other things to go wrong too. From this incorrect interpretation of this event (it was wrong and caused my life pain or caused it to be worth-less) you start to look around at what else could go wrong too in order to protect yourself from any further pain like what you have just experienced.
This direction of thought starts to expand, as it usually does, and you start to see more and more evidence of what could potentially go wrong in your life. You begin to worry that all these other things could go wrong and this causes you to feel out of control. You have become aware that you can’t really control some things in life (when all this while you unconsciously thought you could) and you may begin to put all of these extreme measures in place to prevent anything from going ‘wrong’ in your life and potentially causing you pain .
All of this comes from incorrect beliefs that life can only be valuable when it goes to plan. Whenever anything perceivably ‘bad’ happens it only causes me pain. However, the event doesn’t cause you pain (well maybe physical pain, but not emotional pain) it is because you cannot see the value in this event and you cannot align with the reality of life and why events like this occur. This is what causes the emotional pain.
Again, you will soon be educated to change your view of life over the coming three weeks.
In all of these examples anxiety was caused because of the beliefs you held about life. You believe that life has to be on the right path (which is dictated by your memes). You believe that it is wrong to miss out on what you want in your life. That not getting what you want means life is going wrong. You lack the knowledge to find the ‘hidden good’ in all experiences and believe that only good things that happen hold value.
You believe that if life does not go down this ‘correct’ path then this will mean that your life has been devalued (worth-less). You could even believe that you would lack the ability to cope with a situation if it doesn’t go ‘right’, and if you can’t cope, then what does that mean about you? If you don’t hold the ability to handle life situations, then you will be struggling which means that you possibly believe that this decreases your life’s value.
Because of this incorrect thinking and views about life being right or wrong, you start to worry about how your life is unfolding. Your mind starts to roll around in ‘what ifs’ worried about what might happen if you can’t control your life.
“What if I can’t cope? What if I am a bad parent? What if ‘x’ happens? What if I get sick?” Etc
With this train of thought travelling downhill fast, you start looking for all the potential scenarios that might mean life is no good. You start to scan your environment for any potential threats to life going the ‘right’ way.
You go into prevent mode and set lots of little goals that will prevent life from going wrong. A couple of examples of this are:
Obsessing over the cleaning
The mindset is: “ I must keep everything clean because this is the only thing I can control.” This may be the case if everything else is chaotic in your life. Perhaps you believe you need to control things to feel ‘good’ so you try to control the only thing that you believe you can – the housework. You may become fanatical about constantly cleaning up all the time. You do this to protect yourself from the pain of believing you are worth-less when you cannot control other areas of your life.
Excessively monitoring your child’s behaviour
The mindset is: I must control my child’s behaviour so they are good all the time. You can get anxious over your child’s behaviour and constantly be searching for evidence of them doing something wrong. This could be because if they do something wrong, you see it as a reflection on your parenting abilities and may feel like a bad parent. You may worry that people are judging you and that you won’t be approved of. You may have high expectations of a child’s behaviour because you associate a good child with being a good parent. You may see their ‘bad’ behaviour as annoying and painful to you, so if you can get them to behave all the time, then you won’t have to experience their misbehaviour (and my life will stay valuable and effortless).
All of these beliefs are in conflict with the reality that you cannot control another human being, and hence you cannot control your child’s behaviour. Also, you are in conflict with the reality that your child is learning and growing and logic and reasoning is one of the last functions of the brain to form, so they probably won’t behave the way you want them to all the time. Also, this monitoring of your child’s behaviour is also teaching them to be critical of themselves and possibly seek approval of others in order to feel validated. There are all sorts of psychological beliefs that could be conditioned in a child that is brought up with someone continually monitoring and trying to control their behaviour.
What happens when anxiety attacks creep up on you?
My husband has suffered from anxiety attacks for the last 12 years. It is a rarity now, as we have discovered the beliefs behind them and he has been very consistent about changing how he views life.
It took us a little while and a lot of conversations to pinpoint what the cause of his anxiety attacks were. This is because they would seemingly just appear from nowhere, usually when it was bed time. But we knew that there was a mind-body connection there. You don’t just get anxious, your brain must first activate certain beliefs you hold which result in the anxiety attack.
We tried to look for what the common theme was from his day or his week that might have sparked the anxiety. We tried to search for repetitive thoughts he was having or reactions he might have had to the events of his day. Bit by bit we pieced together the cause of his anxiety attacks.
For him, it was all about trying to control money so he wouldn’t miss out. His parents had not been wealthy and lived with a very strong ‘missing out’ mentality that he had adopted himself. My husband believed that in order for his life to be valuable he could not miss out on making enough money and needed to avoid struggling with money. He put pressure on himself to provide well for himself, his wife and his children.
He had attached his self-worth (that is, his definition of a successful man, husband and father) to adequately providing for his family and making sure that none of us missed out.
This belief became so strongly entrenched in him that over the years (and particularly when the kids came along and he increased the pressure on himself to make money) that even the slightest worry about money would cause him to get indigestion (a physical result of stress) followed by the anxiety attack where he felt like he was going to die and would have worrying thoughts about dying. He would think about how much he would ‘miss out’ (there’s that missing out mentality again) on the kids growing up and what experiences they would miss out on if he died.
Even now that he is aware of these thoughts that contribute to his anxiety, he still gets indigestion sometimes, but is able to identify the rogue thoughts, change them and practice breathing techniques so it doesn’t evolve into an attack.
Anxiety can occur suddenly and quickly and seemingly for no reason, however there is always a reason behind anxiety and it all comes from the incorrect beliefs that life has to go to plan.
You will learn that life doesn’t have to go to plan in order for it to be valuable. There is value in every experience you have in your life. Knowing this and reminding yourself of this when you get anxious will be what stops the anxiety from recurring.
In tomorrow’s reading I will address the subject of self-criticism and ask you to challenge some of the thoughts you have that cause you to feel bad about yourself and feel like a bad parent.
“I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I was so weak and screamed why way through that labour. I can’t believe I can’t breastfeed properly. You are stupid. You should be able to do this you idiot. Why can’t you get him to stop crying? You are his mother. You should know what he wants. You are useless. Look at your friends. They know what they are doing. Why aren’t you coping like them? Look at this house. It’s a pigsty. You should be able to keep this house clean. You are lazy. Don’t stop breastfeeding. I don’t care if it’s causing you pain, you need to do what’s best for your child or you are a selfish mother. None of your friends like you, you know. They all think you whinge too much. They think you are a try hard. Look at your body. You need to lose weight. You look tired and ugly. Why would Steve [husband] even want to be with someone like you?”
I remember when I first started to really observe what I was saying in my mind. I became quite shocked at the things I would say to myself, and the endless self-criticism going on. Even now as I reflect on what I just wrote above from my personal experience of self-criticism, although I don’t believe them anymore, I am still saddened by these comments.
Everywhere I turned there seemed to be something I did that would cause me to think about how hopeless I was, how wrong I was doing something, making judgments on what other people thought of me, and finally, what a bad person I was. I realised that I had become my own worst nightmare. No wonder why I was so miserable.
I specifically remember a conversation with my mum where I was complaining about something my children had done. Her response was, “Oh yes, I’ve been there.”
I was surprised by how quickly my mind responded with “You’re a whinger. She thinks you’re a whinger you know. Everyone thinks you’re a whinger. You just don’t stop whinging do you? Nobody likes a whinger you know.”
As I caught these thoughts I told my mother what my reactions had been and she said that all she was thinking was that she remembered this happening when we were little.
This is the perfect example of how our beliefs about ourselves can be triggered when living our day to day lives. These beliefs can cause us to experience a lot of pain and suffering as we see life through a lens of our believed limitations and incompetencies. The more we see life this way, the more we see evidence of it being true.
Have a think for a moment about the judgments that you make about yourself. Pick out about four or five of your most common criticisms and say them over and over again, deliberately right now, as you stop from reading for a moment.
How did that make you feel? I’m willing to bet it did not make you feel good about yourself.
Now take your child or someone dear to you (even the family dog if you like) and think of how much you love them. Picture a moment with them that makes you smile, either something that has happened in the past, or something that continually reminds you how much you love them. List four or five things that you love about that person and while concentrating on that person, say the things you love about them out loud.
How did that make you feel? I’m willing to bet that you felt a lot different than when you were down on yourself.
The only difference was what you believed about yourself versus what you believed about that other person. It can often be easier to believe that someone else is more valuable and lovable than you are, but why do you feel this way? Why is it easier to love another person than it is to love yourself?
What is so wrong with you?
As a child you learnt how to identify with yourself. You learnt how much you should love and value yourself. You learnt this through your experience of how much other people loved you, by observing how much the influential people in your life loved themselves and by how these people treated you.
Here are some common ways we can grow up to be critical of ourselves:
These are just a few of the ways that you can create the habit of being critical of yourself on a regular basis. The point is that if you have experienced somebody telling you or showing you that you are no good over and over again then you learn to adopt this view of yourself too.
When you have adopted these beliefs, you begin to experience life in this way. You find evidence in your life of you being stupid, useless or whatever the self-criticism is. You see that other people treat you the same, which confirms in your mind that belief. Through the lens of this belief you see more and more evidence of you being stupid or useless which sinks you even lower into despair and self-disgust.
But how true are these beliefs really? Who says that these beliefs are true? Just because somebody else believes them, does this make them absolute truth? Do you believe everything that other people believe? If you accept that there is a difference in opinions between one person and another sometimes, then why do you so easily take on the beliefs of your parents, or your peers about yourself?
Why not, just for a moment contemplate something with me? What if you actually aren’t incompetent or stupid? What if you aren’t all the bad things that you say you are? What if, all these years of criticising yourself, you realise that what you have been saying is not true?
After all, these beliefs came from the minds of someone else. Who’s to say they are right about you? Who’s to say that you are now right about yourself? Of course you might give me loads of evidence of these criticisms being true, however, of course you’re going to have evidence, because that is what your mind has been trained to find – the evidence of you being worth-less.
However, I urge you to challenge your beliefs about yourself. When you catch yourself making judgments over about what you are doing, or who you are being, stop what you are doing and contemplate what you’ve just thought.
Has there ever been a time in your life where this statement has not been true? Instead of believing what you are thinking and finding more and more evidence in your life of this belief being true, why not try and search for evidence in your life that this belief is NOT true and see what happens.
Recently I was watching Louise Hays’ movie ‘You can Heal your Life’ and she said that she used to ask people, “What is really wrong with you? What have you really done that is so terrible that you are unable to be acceptable to yourself?” She said she never ever got an answer that made any sense.
You might say, “but I’m fat”. So what? So only skinny people are valuable? Challenge that belief. Has there ever been a time in your life where that has not been true? Have you ever had someone value what you have done just because you are you? What about how your kids respond to you, or your family, or your husband or your work. Has anyone valued you and shown you respect regardless of your weight? Why did they do that? Was it really because you were fat or skinny? Has there ever been anyone else in history who were respected and valued, even though they were overweight (what about Oprah Winfrey or Kirstey Alley?)
This is where you need to start challenging your belief systems. Here are three more examples of how you can begin challenging your beliefs. If Louise Hay were to ask you what have you done as a parent that is so terrible that you are unable to be acceptable to yourself? You might say:
“I can’t/couldn’t breastfeed. That makes me an incompetent mother”
So what? Does this really define you as a bad mum? Has there ever been a time when this belief was not true? Haven’t you done other things that constitute as being a good mum in your eyes? Have you ever known a fantastic mum who didn’t breastfeed?
“I’ve been depressed for a long time and have neglected my children.”
So what do you think that means? “But I’m sure that it has messed up their lives” you might say. Has there ever been a time when this belief was not true? Has there ever been a time where a parent has gone through an experience that a child has learnt from and grown positively from? Has there ever been a time where a parent has learnt some valuable lessons in life and was then able to teach those lessons to their child so that they didn’t make the same mistakes or believe the same things? Experiences are for learning and growing. Having had depression can be the best lesson about loving yourself and life that you ever got. One that you may never have had without depression.
“I don’t enjoy being a parent or my children. I am a bad parent because I get angry all of the time.”
Has there ever been a time when this belief has not been true? Do all parents enjoy all aspects of being a parent all of the time? Do you know of someone who you think is a fantastic parent, but who sometimes gets angry? Are you really a bad person for getting angry, or is your anger just an indication that you have some beliefs that are in conflict with reality that you need to work on changing?
Whatever you say to yourself that you think is the answer to why you are such a bad person, you can challenge it. It is simply not true. Any behaviour you think you should not be displaying is simply an indication that you need to learn and grow, not an indication of you being a bad person or a bad parent.
I think we can all agree that when a baby comes into the world they are 100% worthy, beautiful, pure and precious. That was you once. What happened? What do you think occurred in your life that was so bad that you changed from that beautiful precious human being that could do no wrong to being this bad person that you make yourself out to be?
The answer is only beliefs. Your worth did not change, but your beliefs about yourself did. These beliefs are probably not even yours. There is nothing wrong with you at all. The only thing that is wrong is your perceptions of your self-worth and you can always work on changing them.
You are still that worthy, precious and beautiful person that you were when you were born. Now we just need to unravel all those memes that taught you to believe that you aren’t worthy. It’s time to let go of these self-defeating memes. They are simply not true and this is exactly what you are going to be learning in the coming weeks.
Needing to get life right
Often we get critical of ourselves because we are not doing something right, or are not achieving something well enough. Perhaps you feel critical of not keeping your house clean enough, or not having a well behaved child.
Let’s challenge that for a moment.
Why do you have to have a clean house at all times? Why do you have to have a well behaved child at all times? Whose ‘have to’ is this? Is it another meme? Why is it so important?
Consider for a moment, the possibility that maybe you don’t have to have a clean house. Consider the possibility for a moment that perhaps you don’t have to have well behaved children at all times.
Most of the time we get so consumed by the belief that we ‘have to’ have certain things happen in life, we never actually stop to consider why we have to have these things. We never consider the possibility that maybe we don’t have to have it together all the time and be great at everything we do in life. Perhaps we are all just doing things the best way we know how.
If it is a desire to be better at something, simply learn more about how to do it better and then practice. There is a big difference between a desire to do something and a belief that you ‘have to’ do something in order to protect or prove your self-worth.
Next time you catch yourself getting caught up with being attached to a specific outcome (a constantly clean house, well behaved children), contemplate the possibility that perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way and that your belief causing you to believe that you ‘have to’, may just be the beliefs of someone else or that it could be the incorrect belief that this outcome will dictate your level of worth.
The ‘I can’t’ mentality
“I can’t” is a limitation of the mind. Perhaps you were told that there are limits to what you can achieve. Perhaps you were told over and over again that you can’t do this, or you can’t do that. Most of us were brought up with someone who told us that we can’t do something, whether it was directly said, or whether you experienced it through someone else setting their own limitations.
Combine this ‘I can’t’ mentality with the fear of getting life wrong and looking like a failure to the world and you end up fearing anything that may be difficult or challenging.
You start to believe that if it is too hard, then you must be doing something wrong, or it’s dangerous (to your self-worth) so you retreat. This can happen with being a parent and depression.
You try to be a good parent (we all start out with good intentions) and you soon realise that parenting is tough. With your ‘I can’t’ mentality you start to criticise all the things that you are not doing well (I can’t breastfeed, I can’t get my child into a sleep routine, I can’t ‘control’ my child’s behaviour, I can’t keep on top of the housework)
You begin to fear that you are not going to be a good parent or look like that organised, competent person you used to be – or any of the labels you attached your worth to. You associate this fear of your self-worth being compromised with the actual events, in this case, parenthood.
In order to protect your self-worth, you retreat from the danger of being in pain and this is where depression kicks in. I stop setting goals in the area of parenting because I have experienced that I can’t do it and that causes me pain. It’s one of our basic human instincts to avoid pain, so we stop what we are doing that could potentially cause me pain.
All this is done mostly on a subconscious level, but this is what is happening inside your mind.
Changing your mind
Of course, all of this self-critical thinking can be changed. Just because you have thought this way your whole life, it doesn’t mean you can’t escape it. The first step to change is acknowledgement (step one – thoughts). It’s becoming aware of what you are saying to yourself.
Take notice of all those judgments, the I can’t thoughts, fearful thoughts about being a bad person and recognise that these thoughts are not true. They are simply the memes that have created this habitual thinking within your mind and these memes are what you are going to retrain in your mind as we progress.
You are a beautiful, wonderful, pure person who has 100% worth. Nothing changed from the time you were a newborn baby and I hope to teach you to unravel all of that thinking that has been adopted from your experiences that are telling you otherwise.
This week has been all about learning about the causes of the emotions that you feel. Emotions can be very confusing, painful and consuming. When you can find the beliefs you hold behind the emotions and realise that:
a) they are memes that were conditioned into your mind by the behaviours and beliefs of others and do not represent absolute truth; and
b) you can choose to look at the events of your life in a different way
Then these emotions decrease in severity and may even disappear altogether.
In tomorrow’s weekly exercise you are going to do a recap of all the information you have learnt so far so that you can keep this information beside you and remember what the real cause of your stress, depression and anxiety is.
NB – there is no audio available for this exercise
In this exercise you are simply going to recap what you have learnt so far. In next week’s lesson you will begin to learn how to change this destructive thinking that has caused your stress, depression and anxiety.
Up until now, you have learnt the overview of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process and been learning a lot about the specific thinking behind emotions, depression, stress and anxiety.
In order to keep that information at the forefront of your mind, this exercise gets you to answer some questions and recap what information you have retained.
There are two parts to this questionnaire.
Part A – Try to answer the questions without looking at the information, however if you need to, please check back over the week to get the answers, as you want to print out this questionnaire with your answers and keep it close by. This will remind you when you get stuck, of what you need to do or become aware of, to stop your depression or painful emotions.
Part B – Answer questions on what you have realised about your own beliefs by reading the information from the last three weeks.
Please download this PDF, print it out and answer these questions.