My client was in anguish while fighting for primary custody of his children. He was also dealing with various other crises at that juncture of his life. As you read my letter to this dad, who was letting anxious thoughts get the better of him, I hope you’ll be able to apply my counsel to your own situation. Here’s what I wrote to him:
I would still love nothing more than for you to have primary physical custody, but that would incur an appeal. I also think it’s great that your children made their mom promise not to appeal!
I’m sure that passive aggressive thing was a little hard to bear, and it sounds like the financial thing is also. I hope that will get cleared up soon.
You have been through so much. Even now you can see that any worry or anxiety about the future is only causing you pain.
You Have a Choice
So that would be my main source of help or support to you… to advise you to notice that as you go through all of your usual activities, you can go through your days with that same heavy, anxious feeling or else you can notice the thoughts that are making you feel that way. Rather than turning them all around, it helps people with anxiety to get to the underlying erroneous thinking that is keeping those worried thoughts going.
Are Your Anxious Thoughts Really Helping You?
Somewhere part of you believes that recycling information or worrying is helping you. So the coolest piece of work is just to notice the thought, and then to say to yourself or write down that belief: “This thought is helping me.”
And then ask: “Is it true?”
The brain can always see that this is not helping you; it is just making you feel anxious. If you want, you can move forward and ask how you react when you believe that these thoughts are helping you.
Alternatively, You Can Enjoy the Moment
Who would you be without the thought that it will somehow be helpful to keep going back into this stuff instead of enjoying the moment?
You would be enjoying the moment!
You can apply the same thing to worry thoughts:
“Is this worry thought preventing the thing that I fear?”
And easily the mind can see that it is not.
Of course if it occurs to you to act to prevent something bad from happening, then go ahead and be proactive, but it’s not helpful to continually ruminate or recycle the thoughts that are causing anxiety and dread in your body.
Free Those Little Parts of You Who Believe They’re Helping
We are not bad for ruminating, but we can give ourselves some help and set free those little parts of us who believe they’re helping by going back into the gunk.
At the same time you will need to be tenacious with this on behalf of your own freedom and happiness and for the sake of the kids. What you have been through as a child, and what you’ve been going through both emotionally and financially during the marriage and divorce, is cause enough for PTSD!
But we know how to deal with that. Keep questioning the thinking and images, and be with the feelings in your body as you orient yourself in the safety of the now.
I know you didn’t ask for coaching, but I want as my gift to you to give you these little, helpful reminders and new tricks to free yourself. It would also be good for you to rest and sleep a lot and watch movies you love and golf and do sports and take a vacation in turquoise water. Oh my goodness, you really have been through so much. Give yourself a break of a lifetime
Just remember: all fear is in the future.