Taking a detour around awful town.
A friend of my husband’s who recently got a new job after 2 years of searching told him this story. Shortly after accepting the new position, he got a text message from his employer. His phone didn’t show the entire message, so he could only see the following words: “Unfortunately, we…” Having spent a couple of years going to interviews and experiencing rejection from more than one company, his mind immediately jumped to several conclusions, none of which were good: “Unfortunately, we have changed our minds, unfortunately we no longer have this position available, unfortunately, we have figured out that we don’t want you after all.” He immediately clicked on the text message to see its entirety: “Unfortunately, we need to reschedule our meeting from Wednesday to Thursday.” He breathed a big sigh of relief, but not before unnecessarily flooding his body with stress hormones for a few seconds!
As my husband relayed the story, I thought about how often I create a negative situation out of incomplete information. I call this Driving to Awful Town – some psychologists refer to it as “awfulizing”. Not only do I sometimes think these “awfulizing” thoughts, I express them as well. “It’s just going to be awful; it will be the worst thing that ever happened; I can’t imagine what I will do or how I will get through it.” All this mental energy about something that has never happened and, even if it DID happen, would not really be worthy of the word “awful.”
In the case of my husband’s friend, more complete information stopped his “awfulizing” immediately, but what does one do when that is not the case and your car is on cruise control and the destination is Awful Town or bust? For me, the answer is to take a detour.
In other words, breaking the cycle of this type of repetitive thinking helps to restore balance and reduce “awfulizing”. I often do something I enjoy that is creative, like writing or working on a craft project for my store. I find creativity to be soothing to my mind, probably because I tend to lose my “self” in a project. I also find nature to be calming and even just a short walk usually results in my ability to see the situation more clearly and not through the lense of negativity.
It’s also helpful to me to have a close friend or family member around who can gently and empathetically point out to me that I am creating a situation that doesn’t exist; that breaks the powerful hold of my negative thoughts.
Taking a detour around Awful Town may not be easy, but it is definitely worth the effort for me. More positive thinking is better for my health and for my demeanor. As author and self help guru Iyanla Van Zant says: “I believe that it is worth the effort to try affirming the best rather than rehearsing the worst.”
What are your detours around Awful Town?