Have you become fixated on something that you find yourself thinking about it all the time? Or lost sight of what's really true about a situation? Maybe you have the classic symptoms of over-reaction.
When I was much younger, I worked in large organisation with lots of people I liked for several years. One day I noticed a co-worker stealthily handing out enveloped to different staff members. She approached each person quietly and they smiled as they received their envelope. I was very intrigued and waited expectantly for my own envelope.
But it never came. At the end of the day, everyone left work and I still didn’t have an envelope. What had I done wrong? I wondered. Why didn’t I get invited to the birthday party or baby shower or whatever it was that I would be missing out on?
Later that night I was still stewing about my lack of invitation and mentioned it to my husband. He was very surprised that I cared so much about one little envelope and couldn’t understand my confusion. He even suggested I might be getting a bit too dramatic.
As much as I hated to admit it, I decided he was right. I was so blinded by my annoyance that I had missed all the signs of classic over-reaction. Just in case you ever end up in a similar pickle, this is what to watch out for.
Have you become fixated on the situation or concern? Do you find yourself thinking about it all the time? While it might be niggling in your mind for a while, if the concern has taken hold and isn’t leaving much space to think about anything else, there’s a fair chance it’s becoming bigger in your mind than it really needs to be.
Whenever the concern comes up again (and again), thank it for reminding you, but tell it you’ve got other things to get on with. Visualise it shrinking to the size of a pea and flick it out of your mind. Then deliberately put all your attention on the other things.
What’s really true?
My concern about missing out on an envelope turned into the idea that my co-workers had turned against me, they were planning how to get rid of me and had only been pretending to be my friend in the past. Every time I thought about what happened, I piled a few more assumptions on to the situation and got my mind racing out of control.
Thoroughly assess each new thought that you have about the situation. Ask yourself, is this true? How do I know it’s true? Could there be other reasons for the way the person behaved, or for what’s happened? If you can’t get any honest answers out of yourself, ask a friend you know will tell you the truth.
Does it really matter?
I obsessed about my missing envelope right up until the time our boss announced we’d received a new contract, which meant re-organising some of our work. We all worked intensely together for days to develop some new plans. When I finally remembered about the envelopes, it seemed so trivial that I soon forgot about them again.
Put the situation into perspective. How important is it compared to other concerns you could have? Is it worth the stress it could cause for you or others, the damage it could cause to friendships, or the rifts it could create at work? Check out how big this concern really is in the grand scheme of your life, and only give it the attention it deserves.
Our minds will give full attention to what we decide to focus on. Check that the people and situations you’re focusing on are the most important for you. Get rid of assumptions and keep the situation in perspective, dealing only with what you know to be true.
I was grateful to learn this lesson when I didn’t receive an envelope. I was very tempted to demand that my co-workers explain why I wasn’t invited to their secret party. I thought of all the reasons I didn’t really like them anyway and was better off by myself.
Until I discovered that the envelopes held invitations to a surprise birthday lunch for me.