Fitting a bathroom door or How you think determines the way you feel
How we feel matters. If we are happy then our immune systems will be working well. If we are depressed, anxious, angry, then our immune systems will be working at below their optimum levels.
This week I have been refitting the door on the bathroom. The door frame is misshapen and I had removed a small step so the door was also too short. My task was simply to cut and fit the right sized triangular pieces to the top and bottom of the door so that it fitted the frame.
As I carried the door downstairs to the workshop for the twelfth time I thought (screamed internally)
"Why do I never get things right? Why do I always overlook such obvious things?"
Note the time words never and always.
I then checked myself otherwise my mind would have gone on to say things like "This is the story of my life - everything is always going wrong" making the thoughts pervasive and would then have proceeded to the thoughts "I'm the problem, I'm useless", i.e. personalising it.
"Hold on Colin," I said, "this job is a one off. If I was fitting doors everyday I would automatically take account of the carpet plate protruding into the bathroom by half an inch. Furthermore think of all the other jobs I've done just in this bathroom, let alone elsewhere, which have been OK".
As soon as I realised my train of thought I disputed it but in addition I deliberately relaxed the muscles I had tensed up particularly the stomach and shoulder muscles and then I smiled. I felt better and eventually the door fitted.
This is the process that I teach my clients. It is the process that in the long run is the best way of avoiding getting depressed or angry or upset. It is the cognitive approach.
It is "The way you think determines the way you feel" and it applies to depression, anxiety, anger and many other unwanted behaviours.
The "fitting of the bathroom door" is my example. What’s yours? Lets have another example.
Your partner speaks to you sharply. You think "He doesn't love me anymore. No one loves me". You feel "depressed". But - if you had thought "He’s been having a hard day at work. He is obviously feeling very stressed." Then you may feel a bit annoyed at the time but you move on.
There are numerous other adversities in our lives each week which potentially can make us feel angry, sad or anxious.
For example: a friend not returning a phone call, being late yourself or someone else being late, someone pushing in front of you in the queue, spilling the milk, someone criticising your work, eating a bar of chocolate when you were on a diet, someone nipping in the parking place that you had been queuing for, things going wrong in the task you are carrying out.
How we decide to think about these things is our choice and each choice determines the way we feel and act.
Colin Sutherland. July 2002