Social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine have tethered us to our homes.
We must stay home to slow the spread of the corona virus, the most frightening pandemic of our lifetimes.
We each have a personal responsibility to do whatever we can to prevent it from sweeping through our population at break neck speed and taxing our medical care system to the point of collapse.
So please, you know the best practices. Follow them. Stay home. Minimize social contact. Maintain social distancing when you do engage. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
Let’s do everything within our power to flatten the curve of new diagnoses and critically ill patients overwhelming our hospitals and exhausting our medical care providers.
Now is an opportune time to transform difficult relationships.
This might strike you as counter-intuitive since we are going to great effort to distance, and even isolate, ourselves from others.
But with social activities on hold, you may have more time to think deeply and intentionally about your relationships. Both with with difficult family members or colleagues and co-workers.
No matter what your thoughts or feelings are about them today, it’s possible to shift from criticism, anger and rejection to compassion, curiosity and acceptance.
While that may sound like crazy pie-in-the-sky thinking, stay with me and I will show you how.
Increased awareness opens the door to transforming any relationship.
Now is the time to identify those thoughts about the difficult relationships that hurt, anger, frustrate, or even enrage you.
The beauty of this transformation process is that it’s entirely focused on your own thought process. It is you who will change, not that other difficult person. You will have the power to decide exactly how you want to feel about that person, regardless of what they say or do.
That’s why you can achieve this transformation ALL BY YOURSELF.
The other person doesn’t need to be there. That person never even needs to know you’re working on transforming your relationship. Again, you may be wondering how is this possible?
It’s because your THOUGHTS about that person create and define your relationship with them.
No matter how they behave or what they say or do, your brain is busy interpreting, evaluating and judging all of it.
It is writing a story about the experience.
Keep in mind that this story is not the only story that can be told.
Remember the old adage, “There are two sides to every story.” Maybe there are even more, depending on the number of people involved.
But getting back to you, each story your brain is busy writing is a simply a compilation of sentences.
And here’s the TRUTH: Every one of those sentences is 100% optional.
Just because it is your unique interpretation doesn’t mean it’s true. Someone else could see the same circumstances quite differently. And often, they do.
Once you know that all thoughts are optional, you can decide whether they are serving you or not.
That means you can decide to keep them or cut them loose.
You may believe you have been treated disrespectfully, inconsiderately, rudely or harshly by someone in your life.
If you’re certain that this difficult person is wrong, cruel, detestable or an absolutely irredeemable human being, I’ve got some startling news for you.
You’ve just given away all your power to determine how you think and feel to someone like that.
By letting the behavior of another person dictate your thoughts and feelings, you have diminished your agency to make decisions and act from a place of total control of your life.
Think about it, do you want that person determining your well-being?
Thought Work can transform difficult relationships.
Utilizing Thought Work is the beginning of the transformation process. It is the tool you need to increase your awareness of what you think about any circumstance in your life.
In the case of a difficult relationship, it will help you gain insight into what “stories” your brain is telling you about that person.
Increased understanding and awareness are absolutely necessary to begin the transformation process.
First you need to understand the difference between a Circumstance and a Thought.
Since COVID 19 is on everyone’s mind right now, let’s use that as an example to illustrate this point.
A Circumstance is something that is a fact. Something that could be proven in a court of law. Something that everyone could agree with, no matter what.
Circumstance: COVID 19 is now diagnosed in the US population. (This is a provable fact, not opinion.)
Circumstance: Some people get COVID 19 and recover and some people die. (This is provable fact, not an opinion.)
A Thought is the sentence in your mind that puts meat on the bones of the fact. Thoughts describe, judge, interpret or evaluate the circumstance. Thoughts are opinions. All thoughts are optional.
Thought: COVID 19 is destroying our way of life. (Opinion)
Thought: I’m scared of getting sick and dying. (Interpretation)
Thought: COVID 19 has ruined my daughter’s wedding day. (Judgement)
Awareness of your Thoughts about the about the difficult people in your life starts the wheels of transformation turning.
Here’s how to begin the Thought Work process you’ll need to transform a difficult relationship:
- Identify the circumstance that has ignited your hostile feelings. Write it down. Remember it’s a fact that can proven in a court of law. Specifically identify something that someone actually said or did. No adjectives or adverbs.
- Next, write a Thought Download describing the thoughts about the circumstance you chose to think. Don’t write what you think you should be thinking about it. Write your truth about it. The good, the bad and the ugly.
- Underline all the facts. These are the circumstances. All the rest, most of what you’ve written, are the thoughts.
Let’s look at an example of how to use this understanding of Circumstances being factual, and Thoughts being “stories” to begin transforming difficult relationships.
Step-daughter said these words to her father, “I’m not coming to the birthday party for your wife.”
Your Thought Download:
It’s my birthday party. She’s so inconsiderate of her father and me. She always tries to avoid family gatherings, especially when she knows my family will be there. She doesn’t like me or my family and has no problem showing her disdain. I just want all of us to get along. We don’t have to be a blended family where everyone just melds. Or be best friends.
Come on, where’s the common courtesy here? I know she’s still upset that her father remarried. Maybe she’ll never get over it. Maybe she won’t ever accept me. She’s so immature. Doesn’t she want her father’s happiness? I really don’t like her. She’s so rude.
She should show some respect for me and her father. We deserve it. He paid for her college and graduate school education and she doesn’t show any gratitude or appreciation. She never offered even a simple thank you.
I’m sick and tired of her inconsiderate behavior and this is just another example of it. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t include her in any celebrations. When she does show up, she’s always late. She has a mean expression on her face. She’s always sighing and rolling her eyes. I want to stay as far away from her as possible. I can’t believe I’m devoting so much mental energy to her. She’s not worth it. I’m over it. But I’m still hurt.
It’s so good to get that Thought Download all out on paper. Phew. Hold on to it for next week’s blog post.
Next week we’re going to examine your Thought Download to identify how you feel and what you do or don’t do when you think these thoughts.
Your thoughts are the fuel which drive your emotions.
How you feel determines what you choose to do or not do. This whole cascade of thoughts–>feelings–>actions creates the results you’re experiencing in your life.
Want different results? Like a transformation in your relationship with a difficult person?
You’re on your way.
If you need help, right now, with a difficult person that’s driving you crazy, you’re in the right place.
Let me know you’re ready for your FREE Strategy Call right here.