I talked to one of my good friends on the phone this last week. She was so upset about her mother in law. She felt like her mother in law was judging her. That she still wasn’t really accepted as part of the family yet. She complained that because they have different beliefs and traditions that her mother in law was silently criticizing her every move. She’s been in this family for over 25 years and has never felt like she belonged.
Where is all this coming from? I asked her. What happened that is bringing all this up right now?
My friend had called her mother in law to invite her to a family party they were having kind of last minute. Her mother in law told her she already had plans and would see what she could do. She was seemingly short on the phone to which my friend interpreted as her feeling annoyed or frustrated that she had even called.
Okay, this ONE act quickly brought up YEARS and YEARS of thoughts that my friend has been silently keeping track of. Not holding grudges or anything like that – but our minds quickly bring to memory past thoughts and feelings in an effort to PROTECT us – in this case – her mind was telling her: Danger! You might get hurt here – remember such and such? and this too?
She doesn’t dwell on these thoughts or even think about them regularly but she hasn’t processed them correctly so they’re still there and will continue to be until she can create new thoughts and new meanings behind those thoughts.
Her story isn’t so unique though…Every day we have interactions with others and we interpret what those conversations mean to us, what they say about us.
Brooke Castillo, one of my heroes gave this piece of advice:
When something is bothering you, ask yourself this: WHAT AM I MAKING THIS MEAN?
To my friend she only had one 5 minute conversation with her mother in law and from that short interaction she had created SO MUCH MEANING to it. She was making it mean that she wasn’t accepted in the family, that she wasn’t good enough, that her mother in law doesn’t approve of her choices or actions, that she’s not valued or really loved by her in laws. WOW…NO WONDER she was feeling so bad!
Brooke created this profound model – the CTFAR model:
In life we have CIRCUMSTANCES -things out of our control (The reaction of her mother in law, what her MIL said) and those circumstances create THOUGHTS in our head (I’m not good enough, I’ll never be accepted by them, etc.). Those thoughts generate FEELINGS (unworthy, unloved, judged, rejected, etc) – which lead to ACTIONS (calling a friend to complain, stewing about it, holding grudges, etc)- and our actions create the RESULTS in our life: (Unhappy, broken relationship with mother in law).
See how that all worked? (More on the model in another post)
The key to everything is YOUR THOUGHTS. We can’t control the circumstances around us but we CAN control our THOUGHTS and what we CHOOSE TO MAKE THINGS MEAN.
Maybe instead of thinking those things that created such negative feelings she could take some tips from Byron Katie (another hero of mine). She suggests asking yourself these things
IS IT TRUE? – she could argue, well yes! That’s how she’s always acted towards me
Then ask: IS IT REALLY TRUE? Can you prove it? -Can you really be sure that it’s true? – well, no. I don’t really know what’s going on inside her head. Maybe she just stubbed her toe and was short because she was in pain. Maybe she was having a bad day because she received an unexpected bill. We can’t really know it’s true.
How do I react when I think this thought? – terrible, unloved, unaccepted
Last question: Who would you be without this thought? Happier, kinder
In every interaction we have with others (our friends, our spouse, family, our coworkers, the cashier at the store- anyone) we get to choose how we interpret their words and actions. Why choose to make it mean something negative? Something that will make you feel bad?
Try asking yourself these questions and see how this helps you this week. Remember, You are always in control of you and your thoughts. You get to decide how you feel. So ask yourself; What am I making it mean?
Best advice ever! Thanks Brooke!
Sources: Brooke Castillo – TheLifeCoachSchool.com and Byron Katie – Thework.com