How to Get Over Pretty Much Anything…

How to Get Over Pretty Much Anything…

From jkwest.com

From jkwest.com

Is there something you keep ruminating or obsessing about?  Some event or person from the past you can’t get off your mind?

I used to ruminate about conversations.  After a conversation that didn’t go the way I hoped, I’d spend days mulling it over in my head, imagining different (more intelligent/mature) things I might have said.  Oh, the weeks I have wasted!  Somewhere along the line I let that habit go.

I’m not talking about worrying, which is based on a fear of something in the future.  Let’s put that aside and focus on letting go of something from the past that you can’t do anything to change.  In a previous blog, I dealt with the emotional pieces of letting go, so today I’ll add a few cognitive strategies, assuming you’ve been through that blog and have dealt with any emotional barriers that might be in the way.

1.  Thought Stopping.  Learning how to control our brains is a fundamental portal to happiness.  It is one of the few things that we can completely control, but the problem is we develop habits of thought that become like ruts in the road…the wheels will always gravitate to those ruts because it’s easier.

But changing our thoughts is like working a new muscle.  Repetition of a different habit reinforces the new normal and change is possible.

So…When the thought comes, I invite you to do one of the following: say “stop it” out loud (that is, if you’re alone…we don’t want to create a new problem), picture a stop sign, picture the image or words in red or with a big red X through it.  Say to yourself:

  • That’s over
  • I can’t change that
  • I can’t move forward if I focus on the past
  • It doesn’t help me to think about that
  • Shit happened and it’s time to flush it

 

You get the picture.  You can add any particular thoughts that might be relevant for you, like:

  • I forgive myself for that
  • I don’t have to be perfect
  • Life doesn’t have to be perfect
  • I forgive that person because the weight of anger is too heavy
  • I am moving forward

 

Compassion for you and others is the key.  I know it seems too simple, but it works…if you do it consistently.

2.  Write the Story in Three Sentences.

Take the event that happened, and condense it into a Reader’s Digest version. There’s no sense going over the details continuously.  Package it and put it away.  Imagine you met a stranger on the street and you had to tell the story in only three sentences (and no run-on’s allowed).  So when it comes into your own head, you simply tell yourself the story in those three sentences.

  • …I had a job I liked.  Something unfair happened that I didn’t predict and couldn’t control.  I have to find a new job.
  • …I fell in love with someone I thought I’d be with forever.  We grew in different directions and it didn’t work anymore.  I hope we both find deeper happiness.
  • …I had a friend who said something hurtful.  They probably regret it.  I can BE the compassion and forgiveness I hope to find in others.
  • …A terrible thing happened that changed my life.  I need time to heal and adjust.  I’ll never be alone if I let people support and love me.

 

It’s natural to have thoughts of regret or loss about the past.  In small amounts they don’t cause a problem, but if they upset you, give these strategies a try.  🙂

 


10 comments

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  • wendi March 8, 2014 Reply

    Timely & wise. But, if nothing ever goes away, where does it go? If I forgive a transgression, it is still there. I take all the stuff swimming in my head & put it on a mental shelf. it’s still there but not in my head. This way I can choose items from the shelf & give it full attention. I am constantly reminded that I am not my shelf. The hard part for me is figuring out what to do with all that empty space in my head. Choices, choices.

    • Lynda Martens March 8, 2014 Reply

      That’s a great goal, Wendi…learning how to be okay with empty space in your head. I find intelligent women have a hard time with that one. 🙂

  • Jennifer Cornish March 9, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Lynda. Great advice. Needed this today.

  • elaine April 22, 2014 Reply

    The continual constant ruminating about “stuff” is like an anchor around my neck. It hinders every decision from the mundane like a hair appointment to a surgery date. the constant worry about things you can’t control can be paralyzing. So the circle continues. very tough to find right strategies but there is one for me. I have to find it. We lose so much: time, relationships and a chance to get a taste of real joy. I know I felt this joy before. I want it back.

    • Lynda Martens November 24, 2014 Reply

      I can imagine how difficult it is, Elaine! Remember it is like a muscle; although it feels weak in the beginning, as you work it, it becomes stronger. Push those negative thoughts away and maybe “let it go” is a good mantra for you. Maybe the Frozen song blaring loudly?

  • Heidi August 18, 2014 Reply

    Thought stopping took me a while…but I’ve developed the muscle for a while now…and I feel like a new person 🙂 Stopping thoughts about the past, and reminding myself to stay present and control that, has worked wonders. Hmmm…WRITE THE STORY IN THREE SENTENCES? Well, brevity is not my thing. LOL. Something to work on.

  • Ella October 9, 2014 Reply

    Well, where to start…I’m working on my MSW, and didn’t want to be in a relationship until I had completed school. This is a new career for me after working as a clinical lab technician for many years. I met him, my fireman by chance. I wasn’t searching for him. However, after being together for only three weeks he told me he loved me. I didn’t quite know what do with that statement. I knew I really cared for him but not sure if I was ready to say I love you too, but somehow those words did come out. From that point on there was no looking back. I knew what I was getting into falling in love with a fireman, but in this case it was even more intense than dating a fireman that typically works a twenty four hour shift, then off for forty eight. My fireman you see, didn’t mention to me that he was training for a post retirement career as a fire investigator. There were days in between us seeing each other. He is very committed to his job and his training. which I think is admirable. He had called me to say he really missed me and wanted to take me out for a nice dinner and spend the night with me. He never showed up, which was unusual for him to do after telling me he was coming. I text and called him all that day into the night. I was so worried I went into panic mode, which is unusual for me. When I couldn’t reach him for about eighteen hours I called his firehouse to ask if everything was okay. One of his “brothers” said he wasn’t on duty, but if he heard from him he would let him know I was concerned. Well, a few hours later I did hear from him, only to let me know how upset he was at me for calling his firehouse. He said if reflected badly on his ability to handle his personal life. I told him how sorry I was if it caused him a problem, but I was worried. That was the first of this month…eight days ago. I contacted him yesterday again, letting him know how badly I felt. He sent me a text message saying…. “Ella, I’m really struggling with things with you. Your text was sweet but…………” I’m doing exactly what you said in your blog, I’m ruminating. I can’t understand how he could just write a statement like that and not explain, or answer me since. What is he saying with that text? I have four years of psychology training, but I’m just lost. Please let me know what you think he is saying with that text.

    • Lynda Martens November 24, 2014 Reply

      Hi Ella, I’m sorry this is late! I can’t say exactly what your fireman meant in the text, but it sounds like he needs a relationship with more ‘space’, and maybe trust. You have already identified what happened for you; you panicked, and although you say that is rare for you, he doesn’t know that, does he? Early in a relationship, it makes sense to back away when something doesn’t feel right. I know you wish he had worked it through with you, but then that’s who he is perhaps…someone who runs instead of dealing with things. He ended it because something didn’t fit for him and it’s a good idea to honour that, even though you might deserve more of an explanation after he used the “L” word and all. What you can do for yourself is try to identify what your panic was about and learn to manage your emotions. 🙂

  • Nyny March 26, 2015 Reply

    How can one reduce a harsh experience such as sexual violence or torture (thinking about this as a did a research presentation on mental health refugees). Wouldn’t the 3 sentence approach be diminishing one’s experience hence voice? Or is it all based in the matter of time in applying this technique?

    • Lynda Martens April 3, 2015 Reply

      That’s a good question. It might seem trivializing to condense a traumatic experience into a few sentences. I certainly don’t want to suggest that all things are simple to get over. After a trauma or significant life event, it is important to first take the time to feel it, share it, process it, deconstruct it…work with it until you feel you have integrated it and expressed it. Depending on the experience, this could take a long time; there’s no recipe.

      Really, I’m talking about the situation where you’ve been through it in your head a million times and you know the answers; they just won’t leave your head. If the questions running around your head are “why?!” questions, seeing a therapist can help you come up with some way to make meaning of what happened. I’ve had the experience in therapy where we’ll dissect a situation and come to an understanding of why it happened, and my client is still asking him/herself “but why?!”. At some point, it’s time to stop asking that question because you have to find your own meaning. So it is often about finding that meaning and reminding yourself of it so that it doesn’t have to stay in your headspace. I hope that makes sense! Thanks for your thoughtful question, Nyny.

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