Don’t try to feel all better all at once.
Try to feel a little better.
I know, I know. You feel miserable. You want to feel as un-miserable as possible, as quickly as possible.
You want to get as far away from this feeling as you possibly can. You want to banish it.
I get it.
And I get that it might be profoundly unsatisfying to hear me tell you that I want you to make it your goal to nudge just a little to the right or the left of this current feeling.
But that’s what I want you to do.
If you’re overwhelmingly angry, I want you to focus on feeling just a little less angry.
If you’re overwhelmingly sad, I want you to focus on feeling just a little less sad.
If you’re doing self-destructive things all day, I want you to focus on refraining from doing self-destructive stuff for ten minutes out of a day. (You can still have the other twenty three hours and fifty minutes out of the day to do self-destructive things if you like.)
If you’re doing all the drugs, I want you to focus on just doing most of the drugs instead.
In psychology, we call this approach “harm reduction,” but what it really should be called is “real world change.”
Because this is how we change in the real world.
We change by taking baby steps.
We shift our focus for finite, limited periods.
Some people think it’s better to overhaul your life all at once— and I get why they think that. Overhauling a lot of things all at once is dramatic and stimulating and it’s how we see changes made in the movies.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not looking for changes that are cinematic.
I’m looking for changes that are real and sustainable.
If you feel one way, and I ask you to create a feeling state that is 90% similar to the way you’re already feeling, you KNOW for a fact you can do it— after all, you’re basically doing it now.
Then, when you get used to that new feeling state, I can ask you to create yet another feeling state, that is 90% similar to the one you’ve gotten good at feeling, and again, you KNOW you can do it— because, again, you’re basically doing it already.
That’s how we change in the real world. We nudge into a slightly different space; get used to it; then we nudge again.
Over time, we’ve nudge, nudge, nudged our way to a feeling state that is entirely different from where we started out.
It’s not dramatic.
It’s not cinematic.
Most of what I ask my patients to do is feel mostly the same— with little, consistent, intentional changes.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year…those changes add up.
Canyons and caves aren’t formed all at once.
They are formed over time, by the drip, drip, dripping of water.
That’s how I want you to change your feelings and your behavior. That’s how we REALISTICALLY change feelings and behavior.
Some days your progress will be barely noticeable— and that’s on purpose.
Fast, dramatic changes are fast— but slow, steady changes stick.
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