Monday, May 17, 2010


I met an interesting woman recently, a relatively new neighbor who spent 36 years working as a Clinical Psychologist.  She told me that in all those years of providing therapy to a wide range of clients, and even of training other therapists, she felt like she kept seeing the same things over and over again.  Whether the problem was depression, or anxiety, narcissism or neurosis of one kind or another, she felt like all the suffering could be laid at the feet of three simple thoughts:

(1)  "What if?" ... You know how it goes, that nagging doubt which circles around in your head, taunting you to try and reconstruct the past.  "What if I had taken another job?  What if my husband had not left?  What if I had gone in on that land deal 20 years ago?  What if....?" (you can fill in the blank)

(2)  "If only" ... Another useless obsession, the "if only" refrain goes something like:  "If only I had better hair.  If only I could get a raise.  If only I had more friends.  If only...."

(3)  "Comparison thinking" ... This is the "stinkin' thinkin'" which leads us into measuring ourselves against others, and typically judging ourselves, our possessions, our resources, our value as not measuring up in comparison to family members, friends, even total strangers.  "After all, if she could be a bishop at age 52, what is the matter with me?!"

I think my new friend is right.  While all of us may from time to time slip briefly into one of these patterns of thought, any one of them can become crazy-making if we make ourselves at home in them, allowing these thoughts to become the narration of our days!  So how about trying on some new thought patterns instead?  For instance, instead of "what if" I could say to myself "thank goodness", and thereby find the blessings rather than the regrets of my life. Instead of bemoaning "if only", I could narrate my days with "maybe" and make room for possibilities yet to come.  Instead of the comparison dance of death I could choose to do a little affirmation jig.  

It is a good exercise to engage in.  Because life itself has plenty of ways to drive us crazy, without help from my own stinkin' thinkin!

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