Change Your View

Changing the way you perceive problems in your life could help to lighten their load.

We can be quick to judge situations and people (including ourselves) as ‘bad’ and can find ourselves getting quite attached to the reasons that we use to justify these judgements. By exploring the other possibilities available to us, we can make a conscious choice about which “view” we choose to apply.

For example: Say there’s a barking dog in your neighbourhood. It might seem normal to have the view that “that barking dog is a nuisance that disturbs the peace”, but this view is bound to leave you feeling frustrated! However, when we look at some of the other “views” available to us we can easily choose one that leaves us in a better mood such as:

“that dog just wants more love and attention”, can evoke compassion for the dog, or

“most of the time the dog is quiet but today it’s barking”, generates a feeling of gratitude for all the times the dog doesn’t bark.

This technique can easily be applied to everyday problems and you might even start to notice how strong your attachment is to your view of the world. When you notice yourself judging something or someone as negative, see if you can identify the view that you’re currently applying. Then make a list of all the alternative views that you can think of. Choose one that stands out for you and bring it in to your consciousness, let it replace your original view.

An example from Russ Harris’ “ACT Made Simple”:

Imagine a chair that has four legs but the moment anyone sits on it, one of the legs drops off. Our first instinct is to view the chair as broken or defective – is there any other way to see it? What about if the chair were being used as a practical joke? Or as a prop in a film or play? Or as an art piece? Or even as an example of faulty workmanship?

In each of these contexts the chair functions very effectively to serve it’s purpose.

In another example imagine your are prevented by your partner/children/pets/ from leaving home on time for a scheduled appointment meaning that you will arrive around 25 minutes late. Your natural reaction is to see this as a complete disaster, sending you into a frenzy of panic and distress. How else could we view this situation?

Breathe into and around the uncomfortable emotions, make room for them and allow them to be there, releasing the struggle with them. Ask yourself, “what is important right now?” and “what do I want to stand for right now?” and use the answers to assist you to choose your behaviour. For example you may realise that what’s important now is simply getting to my destination as soon as I can safely and you might decide that you’d like to be calm under pressure.

This is not an overnight process if you are used to responding with worry, despair and panic. Taking a step back from your initial reaction and deciding how you would like to behave will help you on the transition towards the person you want to be, one step at a time.

Another approach is to ask yourself, “How can I be more like the person I truly want to be in this moment?”. Visualise yourself embodying all of the values you hold dear and tackling this situation. If you were in true alignment with your values, how would you behave differently?

Your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions about any given situation will govern your response. Notice if your catch yourself thinking in “shoulds” or “needs” and ask yourself gently “what is really important right now?”. See what answer arises and choose your behaviour based on what is truly meaningful in this moment.


The Shadow Side Pt 1

The Shadow Side concept is something that I use with both counselling and healing clients. Here’s a short excerpt from my book explaining the shadow side:

As we grow from children into adults we observe the behaviours of the people around us and decide on the person that we want to be. In doing so we also decide on what we do NOT want to be. For example, I may choose that I want to be accepting of others and that I most certainly DON’T want to be aggressive or angry. As a result, the part of me that is capable of being aggressive and angry is denied, disowned and locked away.

An easy way to determine aspects of your personality that you have disowned is to observe your judgements of others and your emotional reactions. If you find yourself becoming frustrated by the impatience of others then it’s likely you have denied your own impatience. If you feel outraged by stories of injustice then perhaps you have denied the part of you that is capable of injustice. If you commonly find yourself thinking or talking about your dissatisfaction with others, then you can guarantee that your shadow side aspects have been long denied and you can expect this to be reflected in your dreams as well as your waking experience.

Shadow side aspects of yourself will crop up again and again in your life in an effort to find acceptance and compassion however our normal response is to push them further away. This will only perpetuate the issue and give more power to things in your life that you cannot control.

There are two kinds of disowned selves. The kind that is an active part of your personality that you’re ashamed of and the kind that is completely hidden away that you believe is not a part of you at all. Let’s look at each in more detail.

Here’s an example where the disowned behaviour is active:

A woman who has a tendency to get frustrated and angry feels ashamed and embarrassed whenever she snaps at her partner yet when she observes her partner getting frustrated she becomes instantly intolerant and tells him that his behaviour is unacceptable.

Problem: She cannot tolerate her partner’s aggressive behaviour.

Question to ask herself: How do I also display this (aggressive) behaviour? The answer should be obvious to her.

Solution: Foster a more nurturing relationship with the angry and frustrated part of herself. (more ideas on how to do this in Pt 2 of this post)

And an example of a hidden disowned self:

A woman harshly judges people who eats unhealthy food. She is very strict about her own diet and feels uncomfortable when others consume junk food near her. 

Problem: She cannot tolerate the dietary choices of other people.

Question to ask herself: How do I also display this (unhealthy) behaviour? She may not have an unhealthy diet but may be able to identify another area of her life where she is capable of being unhealthy, for example, over working.

Solution: Foster a more nurturing relationship with the unhealthy part of herself. (more ideas on how to do this in Pt 2 of this post)

Continued in Part 2