She is a middle-aged, university educated woman, who belongs to the same group I visit almost every week. We have known each other for many years, sharing similar views and approaches to everyday life. It was a total surprise to me when she came to me to make this comment, after my presentation to the group.
"I've been reading your articles for many years," she said quietly, "and I support your way of writing. Today, I've decided to say something. What I'm asking you is to be patient and listen carefully to what I'm going to say. I know you will try to keep your approach, which I appreciate. Just for a small change, may I ask you to write an article about our friendly talk, after our conversation? By the way, the lunch is on me."
How could I refuse such an opportunity?
This is our conversation. I'll just call her a friend.
Friend: "I have suffered from anxiety for many years. This is important to say because you understand that I'm talking from my experience, not from theory. Reading about anxiety, I have gotten a solid knowledge and understanding how most of us anxious people feel. I'll be very direct, saying I have the feeling that people don't understand us. Even people, like many of the self-help authors, can not understand us. We are different!
Our way through life has been destroyed by negative thoughts, fears, phobias, depression, `what if' thinking, fearful expectations, uncertainty, dilemmas, hesitations and many other things. We feel sad that life is not in our control. When we try to control life, we are overprotective. When we try to be good to others, we are pleasers. We are over-sensitive, and sometimes, it's not easy to like us! We know our problems come from our low self-esteem, low self confidence and luck in many other things. We have great expectations, but not great energy. Preparing for any project, we are defeated from the very beginning. We need happy pills to survive! Now it is your turn to speak your mind."
Me: "I really respect and appreciate your sincerity. Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. I'll remind you that I`m not pretending to be your therapist or spiritual teacher. I`m just a person who believes in positive thinking. A person who has learned from my own experience that positive thinking works! If you accept me as a friend who wants to share my own understanding of positive physiology, I can say this:
There is no dilemma except in that your thoughts about yourself have developed as a consequence of your life. Each person who had the same experiences would have had the same kind of thoughts. You are not different from "rest of us". You just had different experiences in life.
Cognitive therapy teaches us that our system of belief about ourselves is learned. It comes from childhood and has its roots in personal life experiences. That means that our beliefs about ourselves were appropriate and acceptable at that time, but not now. Now is the time to switch to a different self image. You had the energy to learn your self-image in childhood, so why don't you want to learn opposite beliefs?
I can see that your low self-confidence is the result of self-criticism. Unfortunately, self-criticism has destroyed your clear thinking about yourself, as well. What can be done now? Unless you make an effort to improve your process of thinking, switching to a positive approach to life, nothing can be done. Move yourself to the `new you'. Change is stressful, I know, but there is no other way around it."
Friend: "That's easy to say, isn't it?"
Me: "Don't limit yourself and don't blame the people around you. They have nothing to do with your problem now. In the past you were under the influence of negative circumstances, we know that, but now is the time to take control of your life. I know from my own experiences how terribly hard it is to accept that we are the creators of our own lives. Make the decision to `learn a new learning' and a positive impact on your life will be there for you."
Friend: "Why don't people understand and accept us as we are now?"
Me: "Who said that they don't? This is your personal view and not a fact. When people talk or write about positive emotions and positive psychology, they actually want to say: You are in charge of your thinking. Take responsibility for your responses to the events in life. Find positive learning from each situation. Learning from obstacles is one of the many ways how `life works', and these problems have a reason for being here."
Friend: " Where am I now?"
Me: "I hope you are at a new door, heading to new experiences and new learning. One of the many ways to your recovery could be accepting different, positive views of life; you'll change not just your life, but even your cell's biochemistry! It's not in my imagination, but in many books! I can tell you, there is `a positive biochemistry', with positive thoughts and there is `a negative biochemistry', with negative thoughts. By choosing your way of thinking, you are choosing how your own body biochemistry works."
Friend: "Now it's my turn to... pay the bill."
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