These two simple little words steal your joy fast (and, sometimes, steal it forever).
When I was a little girl my mother never ate peaches. One day, I asked her why she wouldn't eat those delicious, juicy fruits that tasted like happiness to me. She explained that in 1935, she ate a peach and it made her vomit, so she decided peaches would "always" make her sick and therefore she "never" ate them again.
Years later, I realized that in 1935, she was pregnant with my older brother. That peach likely didn't cause her to throw up ... morning sickness did. Apparently, she hadn't made that connection and wasn't about to change her always/never behavior when I pointed it out. As a result, she stayed away from peaches for the rest of her life.
Do you have always and never stories in your life?
We've all made always and never decisions after having negative experiences that are so unpleasant or frustrating, we create a rule to protect ourselves from exposure to physical or emotional harm. This way of thinking makes sense to us so we don't challenge its validity. I call this Twisted Thinking.
Perhaps you or someone you know expresses opinions such as these:
- Jane is always an hour late whenever we go anywhere.
- Ben never finishes what he starts.
- Fran always makes fish when she invites me to dinner, even though she knows that I hate fish.
- My husband never picks up his socks.
- My mother-in-law always phones me to complain about her health.
- My son never puts the toilet seat down.
The trouble with always and never is that they imply ... forever.
The idea of forever is a scary concept. It means that it will go on and on without end until the end of time. As a result, we feel powerless at the thought of anger, anxiety, fear, or despair.
Elaine came to me for help because she was eating compulsively and couldn't stop. She'd recently lost 100 pounds on a very restrictive diet and was now looking forward to a happier life. Apparently at the last meeting with her diet doctor, he told her he would inform her about how to keep from regaining the pounds that she worked so hard to shed.
"There are three foods that you may never eat again," he said. At this point Elaine shared that she couldn't remember all three because she went into a state of shock as she heard his command. However, she clearly recalled that he told her: she could never eat bread again, and bread was her favorite food in the entire world.
Elaine was near tears as she related that when he said those fateful words, all she could think of was the wonderful sourdough bread she got when she visited San Francisco. The idea that she would never, ever be able to smell it or taste it, because it would set her off on an unending binge, was more than she could bear.
Elaine left the diet doctor's office and immediately started to gorge without stopping until she had gained back 35 pounds in a month and was desperate. The idea of going without her favorite pleasure into eternity was driving her crazy.
Her inner "Needy-Greedy" child overrode the adult Elaine who worked hard to lose the weight. She was totally out of control with food and hated herself for spending a great deal of money undergoing the punitive treatment.
Little by little, I was able to help Elaine come to terms with her anxiety and self-hatred. Elaine also used EFT acupressure tapping to eliminate her cravings and learned that she could eat foods she used to fear without overdoing it. She took back the power to choose what to eat and how much.
The next time you hear yourself use the words always or never about situations or relationships in your life (those that cause you to feel stressed or frustrated), check it out.
You can control your emotions, your thoughts, and your life by just changing two words.
Replace the words always and never with ... frequently and seldom ... and notice how your stress lessens. Take power over your decisions and be less-than-perfect.
In reality, Ben frequently finishes what he starts. The truth is, although Jane still tends to come late, she is seldom late 100% of the time. I bet your husband sometimes picks up his socks.
When you catch yourself using always or never in a way that makes you feel upset, stop and search for the truth about your situation. The dictionary equates truth with fact or reality.
When you catch yourself speaking or thinking an always or never thought, you need a reality check. Ask yourself, what is the truth? Take a few moments to re-think your Twisted Thinking like this:
"Even though I keep telling myself that my mother-in-law always complains about her health, the truth is that she is experiencing some medical problems that make her anxious and she doesn't have a good support system. If she calls at an inopportune time, instead of reacting with anger, I can have compassion. I can choose to call her back when I am free and kind."
"Even though my husband never picks up his socks and it drives me crazy, the truth is that I'm driving myself crazy thinking that this will go on forever. Instead of letting my resentment toward him grow, I can think of some ways he is helpful and loving. Perhaps I will pick up the socks when I see them, since it's really no big deal."
Now that I've called your attention to the always and never Twisted Thinking trap, you may want to make it a game to always be aware of it in your life, and put an end to this destructive pattern.
Take advantage of a FREE 15-minute phone consult with Gloria to talk more about Twisted Thinking. Be sure to download her FREE eBook Creating Happiness.