At the end of 2021 I found myself in the peculiar position of feeling like I was back to square one in terms of my overthinking and worrying ways.
I’ve written before about the non-linear aspects of change, but there are some things you think you’ve just cracked, and for me overthinking and ruminating fell into that category. I’ve had many times over the past year where I could have lost myself to the rumination monster but didn’t, and yesterday, at the end of a year where I felt I had it conquered this particular demon, I lost an entire weekend to fretting over a decision I couldn’t change, ruminating with a ferocity I hadn’t felt in years.
The catalyst? Well I won’t go into the details (got to keep some mystery about me), but I had to make a quick decision about something under pressure, and after I’d made it and it was too late to change it, I felt like I’d made the wrong one, then proceeded to fret about a situation I could no longer change.
The gnawing worry tugged at my insides, robbing me of all appetite whilst giving me a tension headache that throbbed like a hammer nobbled thumb, simultaneously imbuing me with a frenetic energy that wouldn’t allow me to sit still, (which was my mind trying to push everything bad I was feeling away). I realised this situation was of my own making because of the thoughts I was allowing to run rampant through my brain (like you’re an idiot, and why didn’t you just do X then Y) and I was all too aware only I had the power to change these thoughts, yet all the affirmations, meditations and positive thoughts I could manage did nothing to vanquish my rumination, as I became lost inside the fog of my own negative energy.
My mind has a terrible tendency to beat me around the head with ‘could have’s,’ and its faithful friend ‘should have’, which is a shame, because this state of self-induced anxiety leaves me blind to everything good going on right in front of me.
So how did I get through it? Well, the worry and the fret shifted when I finally allowed myself to feel sad and disappointed. This happened during a meditation when unbidden, the mantra, ‘I accept that I feel sad and know that it will pass’ entered my head. You see, my mind had been so busy trying to rewrite history or plan how I was going to make things better in the future (how I was going to be better, because my personal speciality is self blame), I’d forgotten to just allow myself to accept that I was feeling pretty sad at the moment. Once I gave myself permission to feel this, ironically, it was like a weight was lifted. I was able to see that while things didn’t pan out how I wanted, it wasn’t the end of the world, there were plenty of good things still going on under my nose, and I was able to put down the club I had been steadily beating myself over the head with and give myself a little respite, a little care and a little more sleep.
It was also tempting to be annoyed at myself for allowing my mind to drag my body into such a pickle in the first place, but that route lies the beginning of the cycle again, being firmly in the realm of ‘things I cannot change.’ It was done, and as Peter Crone says,
‘What happened happened and couldn’t have happened any other way because it didn’t’.
Peter Crone also says that life presents us with people and circumstances to show us where we’re not free. These cirumstances helped show me a few areas I need to continue to work myself free.
It’s in my nature to panic, overreact and then to blame myself. That is the way I am. Knowing this doesn’t have to be self-defeating, it can be empowering.
When I panic, I doubt myself. So in future situations I can try to remember that when my brain goes into panic mode, I don’t always make the best decisions. I can put a plan in place: I can try to remember that if there’s time to assess, take it. If there isn’t, I can at least try to stay neutral; there are very rarely decisions that have to be made right in the exact moment, even though it can feel like that at times, and I often have more time to come back to things when I’m in a more relaxed state, which will often lead to me being happier with my decision making.
When the decision has been made, I also need to practice acceptance of the way things are and letting go of the way I wish things were, something I’ve been practicing steadily and still manage to get wrong, but that’s growth and learning for you: messy and sticky and never quite the way we’d like.
Old patterns of thinking are hard to break, but every time I come up against a tricky situation I’ve got a little bit more awareness to deal with it next time, and I will hopefully leave the situation just a little bit freer than I was before (and usually with inspiration for a blog post).
I think it’s time I took Tupac’s advice, so I’m putting this one to bed. Catharsis complete. Until next time.