Our brains are pretty amazing. The Number One Job, the brains Prime Directive, above all our thinky thoughts is this:
SURVIVAL. (Cue dramatic music and a bit of thunder and lightening).
In some ways our brain is pretty slow on the uptake. It takes ages to develop a Good Habit. But, it remembers Really Bad Things incredibly well. It’s the instinctive part of our brain that remembers getting food poisoning from that slow cooked lamb shank, which now means you can’t even THINK about lamb shanks without going a funny colour (yes that’s me, bleurgh).
It can’t tell the difference between mostly-harmless things that we attach Big Feelings to like Monday-itis (dread and loathing) and the shock and fear of nearly being hit by a crazily reversing car in The Warehouse carpark (ie: Possible injury and DEATH).
All it knows is that you feel pretty bad every time you even think about doing something you really don’t want to do. It doesn’t care if it’s actually good for you, like stopping smoking or going to the gym. It doesn’t even care if it’s a little thing like simply checking your shrinking bank balance. It thinks your Big Feelings mean your survival is at risk.
So your brain will set you up to fail, give you blinding headaches and make you drop and break precious things. It can make you kick your little toe on something very, very hard.
It can even give you a fever. Yes, it’s true… When I was a small school-loathing girl I used to get a raised temperature every Sunday night or Monday morning. Irrefutable evidence presented to my mother that I really shouldn’t go to school, the thermometer proved it. And I really did feel bad. Nauseous usually, headaches sometimes. Because, I absolutely HATED school.
Can you think of anything that you’d really rather not do? That gives you a nervous stomach? Or suddenly brings on a crick in your neck?
Like tackling all the things stacked up in your garage from your mum’s house when she passed away. Or… you know those boxes that you haven’t unpacked since you moved a couple of years ago? Those.
Maybe it’s the sliding stacks of paperwork that your eyes glide over with a shudder or a chill and you need to grab a cardi and a hot cuppa to fortify yourself before you start but then your nose starts to run and you’re CLEARLY getting a cold. Or a severe dust allergy. Cue violent sneeze.
And it fits so well into our Anything But This! feelings about the Horrible Thing We Should Do.
So, that thing that popped into your head when I asked the question above. Yes, that one. It was just a little yuk feeling that flashed through the back of your mind, or a looming beast of a dreaded job that made your shoulders tense or gave you butterflies in your tummy.
Question Those Feelings.
Ask yourself this:
“Will I literally die if I do this?”
Usually, the answer is no. Usually. Be really careful with tall, tottering piles of heavy boxes though!!!
Then ask yourself this question:
“What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do this?”
With most of my clients it’s feeling Bad Feelings. Bad feelings like anxiety, depression, overwhelm and good old fashioned stress. They suck and most people simply avoid doing the things that make them feel this way.
If you have upsetting or uncomfortable feelings that are stopping you from doing something you need to do, try to work out a way to ease yourself through those feelings. How?
Question Those Feelings Again.
If your answer is “I’m going to feel TERRIBLE!!”, question that statement.
You can ask yourself “So?”. Resilience and strength grow in us when we deal with crappy stuff and work through Bad Feelings. This may lead to you actually starting to tackle the Horrible Thing.
You can ask yourself “Why am I going to feel terrible?”. (This can lead to deep thinky thoughts which may lead to you either saying “So?” [See above] or it may lead to you asking for help in dealing with the origins of the bad feelings around the Horrible Thing You Should Do).
You can also reframe your perspective by using positive words when you talk about the Horrible Thing. Instead of “I HAVE to tackle this huge scary pile of stuff and I hate it!” try “Finally I have a chance to deal with this pile of random stuff. I’ll feel so much better when there’s less of it.”
Either way, you get the Horrible Thing done AND you work through your Bad Feelings. Both total wins in my opinion. You should be proud of yourself. Tell yourself you are amazing!
This process can be used for pretty much anything, big or small that you are having trouble with. Also it can really help to have support when dealing with overwhelming Horrible Things We Should Do like decluttering, so please ask friends, family or me! (I help with this kind of thing a lot 😊).
Note – The answers to your Why could raise really difficult answers which may trigger some serious reactions. Please find someone to help you deal with serious emotional issues. If you don’t know where to start ask your GP.