When was the last time that you thought, “What is the purpose of this trial in my life right now?” If we are honest with ourselves when we’re going through hardship or difficult times very seldomly does this thought cross our minds, at least not initially. Maybe you’ve said to yourself recently, “In hindsight I wish I could have… or maybe I should have…” What this type of mentality is creating is negative self-talk and it’s creating a condemnation mentality- in other words, we’re our own biggest self-critique. I had a professor in grad school make a simple, yet profound statement in my skills class for counseling one time. Simply put he said, “We shouldn’t should ourselves” I think the pun was intended when he made that statement. What this means is every time we make a statement that includes the words “I should have” we are putting ourselves down and leaving little to no room for the possibility of alternative statements such as “I did the best I could”. When the going gets tough it can be difficult to see the silver lining- Merriam-Webster dictionary defines silver lining as a “consoling or hopeful prospect.” The first known use of this term was in 1871 and it comes from the phrase, “every cloud has a silver lining”. So how do we find that ray of hope in the midst of the storm? I propose a cognitive shift that takes time and practice, here’s what it entails:
Another commonly used phrase is the glass is either half empty or half full. Perspective is all about how we see things. In the moment it can be easy to see all of the negatives about a situation because we are in the midst of it. However, if we only focus on the negative we neglect to see the whole picture. A simple way to think about a situation differently could be to ask yourself the question, “what is the big picture here?” It could be that when you think about the big picture the problem changes in size or maybe there’s unknowns to the circumstance. In that case the unknowns will take care of themselves on their own time.
Counting the Positives
Often times when we are constantly waiting for the next shoe to drop we miss out on the blessings. In a typical day we might encounter 10 things that could have gone differently, but what about the things that were maybe what you consider to be normal? For example you order take out and this time they didn’t forget the extra sauce on the side of your order, or you are out walking your dog and someone smiles as at you as they walk by? Even further, what about those nightmares you’ve been having and last night you slept the whole night? Or maybe you have been struggling with your self image lately, but you looked in the mirror today and you are happy and pleased with what you see that you can even smile in the mirror? All of those little positive moments in life add up! If we are constantly reminding ourselves of everything that went wrong, we miss out on what went right.
When you do have moment of acknowledging those positives, celebrate it! Make it a big deal! “Yay I didn’t get mad someone cut me off in traffic, woohoo!” “I didn’t have one negative thought about myself today!” The more you train your brain to be aware of the positives and acknowledge them, the quicker it will be for your brain to gain a new perspective on your situation. The brain is an amazing muscle that can even rebuild itself. This is the reason why individuals who have suffered from a stroke or even a traumatic brain injury, TBI can regain their speech and motor control among many other things. If you train your brain to see and think about the positives, the less you focus on the negative situations.
What’s your silver lining for what you’re going through today?