While writing my last post I mentioned the use of a tool that I learned through my years of therapy that I realized I had never actually talked about on here. It is what I have come to call, changing the tape.
This is a tool that I fought against using for years. I swore it wasn’t going to work, it was a silly concept and something that I was positive I couldn’t do anyway. The idea is simple but the mastering of it takes time, patience, and lots and lots of practice. You are supposed to catch yourself when you are thinking negatively and not only stop the thought, but turn it into something positive or at the very least, neutral. In doing this, you begin to gain confidence in yourself and you will find your mood slowly start lifting from that dreary place of depression to a brighter disposition. Sounds like a no brainer, right?
But as we learn through life, things are rarely that simple, and this is no different. I have been told to use this technique for as long as I have been taught the whole, “Take a deep breath and count to 10,” classic that every doc insists upon. But I never grasped it until I actually dedicated myself to learning it and honestly wanting it to work. That part is key. If you are in a dark place and have no desire or motivation to want to feel better, then no technique that any doctor or anyone else suggests will work. You have to want it and be willing to work for it.
I can make you a promise, though, that once it officially clicks, you will be doing it without consciously thinking and you will begin to feel better. It’s all worth it. Now, I even find myself doing this to my friends and family when they begin to have a problem or are distraught about something. Sometimes my encouragement is met with a sneer and a comment or two about being “Positive Patty”, but I don’t let that stop me!
Let me share an example with you:
I had headed back home to New Jersey for a weekend at the beginning of last semester. Along the way, my car began to act funny. I was able to make the whole 6.5 hour drive home and found out the next day that my transmission was shot. It was going to be a $3,000 repair and I wouldn’t have my car for at least a week. You can imagine the profanity going through my mind at this point, worrying about how I was going to make it back for the 3rd week of classes at my new school and where this chunk of change was going to come from.
At first, as I am sure many of you would have thought, I couldn’t believe this was happening. Why me? Why now?
But then, while talking with my dad about the whole ordeal, I realized that it was a good thing this happened how and when it did. I was home, with my parents support in trying to get it fixed and I was able to use my family mechanic whom I trust and know will take care of me and my car. My car hit 100k miles and something was bound to happen and if the transmission had gone while I was 6.5 hours away in a place where I really didn’t know anyone yet, let alone a decent mechanic, what would I have done? And god forbid it crapped out a couple months later when it is winter out here in snowy, mountainous western PA while I was driving it. All of these things were definitely worse.
As it turned out, my parents and I worked it out and I brought my dads car back to PA and 2 weeks later I met my parents halfway to get my fixed car. Because we all stayed calm and didn’t spend our time cursing at the powers that be and asking why this had to happen and to me, we were able to come up with the best plan possible and it’s all a distant memory now.
Even though “changing the tape” was but a brief part of this story, it was still the most important because it’s how I emotionally survived the whole ordeal. If I had not gotten myself calm by changing my thinking, I could have fallen into a depression and not wanted to even try and find a way back to school, just said screw it, I’ll miss my classes and that’ll be it. All of my success could have meant nothing because I could have right then and there lost my marbles and given up. But I didn’t. I took out my tool and I changed my thinking and I got through it. I even helped my parents get through it a little easier by sharing my thoughts.
So, you’ve got nothing to lose! Start trying to “change the tape” and pulling yourself out of a space of negativity and darkness and into a world of possibilities!