You want a change. Life, however, will not stop being difficult just because you are ready to move on and be whole. Your triggers will not disappear with the snap of your fingers. The people who’ve hurt you, the circumstances that cause you anxiety or depression, they will not change just because you want them to. In fact, that may be the main reason you’ve stayed with your hole for so long, you keep wanting everything around you to change when it is you and your response life’s sufferings that needs to change.
This change will take time. A long time. You’ve conditioned yourself to react to these triggers with unhealthy coping mechanisms for longer than you’ve been wanting to change. And you can’t change your life until you change the way you live your life.
When something happens—when that toxic person in your life pushes your buttons, when you’re faced with the stress of work, finances, family problems, etc.—try to not reach for something outside of yourself to make it better. Accept that it is happening and tap into your internal strength to change what you can and let what you can’t be.
When I was going through a particularly taxing time with my teenage step-sons, my mantra became teenagers suck. Not exactly the most positive or complementary sentiment, but it helped. For me, it was akin to “life is suffering.” It helped me to remember that not only do teenagers suck, but being a teenager sucks. It created this easy way of just accepting the problems we were having as a difficult time and prevented me blaming them, their father, or myself for the situation we were in. And sometimes, it just made me laugh. Sometimes it opened a connection between me and another parent who’d lived through difficult teen years. I haven’t met one parent with grown kids yet who didn’t nod right along and agree, “yes, the teen years are the worst!”
I’m a person who always, and I mean always, wants an immediate solution to a problem. But with parenting, there isn’t always a solution within my control, and rarely, if ever, is there an immediate one. Throwing up my hands during these tough times and simply allowing myself to accept that teenagers suck, helped me move from one day to the next when things I found upsetting remained outside my control.
This was my mantra during that time. I’ve had other much more positive ones, though. For instance, I’m a big fan of “I am” statements.
When I need confidence – I am strong.
When I’m angry and struggling to forgive myself or someone else – I am love.
When I’m being a control freak or inflexible – I am tolerance. (I also used this one and I am love a lot during those taxing teen times).
When I’m anxious – I am safe.
In AA they repeat the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer, which can easily be made non-religious by dropping the mention of “God,” makes for an excellent mantra to repeat to yourself when faced with the triggering times in life.
If none of these speak to you, take time to devise something personal. Choose something that will resonate and comfort you, when you need it. Come up with several. Keep them with you in a note on your phone, in a notebook, in your memory, and repeat them to yourself whenever and however many times a day as you need it until you believe it. Until it is your truth.