Comebacks Part 3: It All Comes With You

Have you gone through a rough period in life and looked back, wondering how you made it? When you’re at that stage you are through the most difficult period. It takes perspective to see that a hard time has passed and you are on the other side.

Feeling back to normal does not mean that you are “ok” with your tragedy or unfortunate situation. Nor does it mean that you need to be grateful for enduring it — even if you can point to positive outcomes following it. In fact, even though a better life can be the outcome after a difficult period, I strongly believe that nobody deserves to have gone through something painful in order to be happier.  For example, leaving behind an abusive relationship for an eventual happy marriage is a “happy ending.” But I believe that everyone deserves a happy partnership without having to suffer.

This is the last chapter I’m writing about Comebacks. What do the end stages of a Comeback look like? You have begun to rebuild, and now you must let some things go. Now is the time to notice that you can be yourself without feeling like a fake. Now is the time to let yourself enjoy things you used to enjoy without any guilt. How do you do this?

It is important to recognize that your life will always be about holding feelings and experiences that seem conflicting — forever. As a client once said, “I wish the divorce hadn’t happened, but I wouldn’t change a thing.” This is a more complicated idea than it seems. You can always mourn the loss of someone or something. You will always miss this person, this part of your health, this experience. AND (not “BUT!”) you can feel optimistic about the future, see the ways your experience has humbled you. You will take comfort in your rituals of remembrance and grief as well as pleasure from what your life is about today.

You will know that you are nearing the end of your comeback when feeling happy and like yourself feels like a relief. It won’t feel guilt-inducing or scary to feel normal. It may take longer than you hope. But remember that you will always hold both ideas — “I wish this hadn’t happened” and “I like my life as it is now”.

Please read Comebacks Part One and Part Two to get the full picture.

Jealousy and Envy: An Invitation To Focus On Your Own Life

Jealousy and envy are raw, primal emotions. They can turn people inside out and make monsters out of mild-mannered people.

What’s the difference between jealousy and envy? Jealousy is when you are worried about being replaced by someone else. It makes someone feel watchful, paranoid, or suspicious.

Envy is about bearing a grudge or bad feelings towards someone because you covet what they have. In a milder sense, you can also envy someone without bad feelings towards them — you just simply envy something they enjoy or possess in a more passive way. So envy is wanting what someone else has. Jealousy is fear of being replaced by someone else (think relationships).

While mild feelings of envy or jealousy are normal from time to time, I don’t know many people who enjoy the effects they have. Both emotions bring up feelings of emptiness. It is very dispiriting to think that you or your life is not good enough. It is unsettling to worry about being replaced by someone. There are deeper reasons why some people are more prone to feeling this way, and we examine those in therapy. But to kick the basic feelings of envy and jealousy, I suggest:

  • Get busy with your own life. Find a project, hobby, or mission to dedicate yourself to. This will help your feelings of self-worth, get you distracted from ruminating, and help you build more of what you want and focus less on what you don’t have.
  • Make friends with the enemy directly. Jealousy, like anxiety, is often made worse by assumptions we make. Get to know the guy (or girl) who concerns you. Address your concerns directly with your partner (or boss, or friend…whomever you are worried about losing). Don’t let your paranoid mind run amok - go see for yourself.
  • Remind yourself that you are only seeing part of the picture. Don’t let chipper Facebook posts or glossy magazines trick you into thinking this is the whole story! We present the best parts of ourselves to others and skip the rest. The relationship you idealize, the home, even the daily activities contain plenty of drudgery and chores.

If you are often besieged by jealousy when in a relationship, or feel especially prone to comparisons with others lives, seek a few sessions of counseling to better understand why. You can fix this problem at the root level and keep it from destroying your relationships and quality of life.

Book Wisdom: Getting Things Done

I had a wave of clients this past year who came to see me because they were concerned about their procrastination and lack of internal motivation. Most of our jobs are becoming increasingly flexible and diverse which has meant a trend towards needing to be self-motivated, organized, and creative.

There is a lot of peace and power in having a clear mind. It won’t solve all of your procrastination problems, but as I’ve written before about procrastination, feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed leads to lack of productivity. Your brain is a complex machine that keeps track of many things at once at the expense of important thinking. Ever wonder why you get a song stuck in your head? It’s often because you heard only a piece of the song and your brain is trying to complete the picture. The brain cannot rest when it feels something is missing — or that you’re about to miss something.

There are things to discuss in therapy that go deeper into why someone has trouble staying focused on particular tasks or believing in their creative ideas enough to do something with them. But David Allen’s classic, Getting Things Done

The essence of how to get things done follows this chart

addresses an important concept that overlaps with a lot of cognitive therapy I teach.

This book is perfect for a book review, because it is full of more complicated ideas and can be overwhelming to get the gist of. I think that the best takeaway is the idea that if you have a method for capturing what’s in your head (to-dos, ideas, goals, etc) AND a trusted and regular time to review what you’ve captured, you will free up your brain to do the important work of succeeding at your job and getting things done.

Allen’s primary goal of better productivity is to free up your mind to enjoy life, relax, and pursue creativity.

What does this system look like? See the picture for reference…and keep in mind these ideas:

  1. Have the same place to capture every little thing that crosses your brain. This could be using your Reminders/To Do List app on a phone to create digital lists or a small notebook in your wallet like the one Allen uses. It must be the same method for all things, which is why I like a phone application. People usually have phones on them and can create different lists — Groceries, Do When At Computer, Someday/Maybe (an idea list for inactive projects).
  2. Have a time each week (Allen suggests early Friday afternoon) to review your list and take Next Actions. If your brain doesn’t trust that you will review the lists you’ve captured, it won’t stop feeling frazzled and will keep glancing at the things you wrote down.
  3. For every idea, going one step further and noting the Next Action as specifically as possible. So on your House Projects list, don’t put “fix squeaky door” and leave it at that. Add “bring WD-40 in from garage.”

Experiment with different capture methods and consider flipping through Getting Things Done or getting David Allen’s newsletter if you’re serious about productivity.