Stop Fixating on HIM and Focus on YOU!

keep-calm-and-focus-on-yourself-8Let me tell you a bit about one of my clients, I’ll call her Molly.

Molly came to see me towards the end of 2009. She’d been divorced for six years and in all that time hadn’t stopped obsessing about what her ex-husband was up to. In the beginning, she would talk about only one thing…

“You know, he is seeing Suzy now and I think they have been dating for a few months (not that I have noticed) and I don’t think she is right for him. He’s also got an earring now and changed his car – why do you think he did that? Well, actually I don’t care but it is strange isn’t it? A lot of our friends say that he’s changed for the worse and just isn’t the same guy now. I would agree. He’s even taken up sky-diving! He is clearly having a midlife crisis! Suzy isn’t even that pretty, she looks strange with her little skinny legs and fake tan. My friend Sally says that she gives them another six months and they will split up, too…”

 

Trapped by her fixation

 

What Molly wasn’t aware of, was that she was fixating on her ex-husband and how HE was doing, what HE was thinking, feeling and who HE was seeing.

This focus on him was actually her way of escaping and avoiding dealing with her own emotions. Although a great deal of time had passed, she was no further along in her healing.

Working with her, the key component which shifted her into healing from her divorce, was supporting her in shifting her focus from him onto herself. It was painful but once her grieving was complete, she found peace, harmony and a new life once she stopped fixating on him.

The last time I saw Molly, I asked her how her ex-husband was doing and she said, “You know, I don’t have a clue. Let me show you some pictures of the hot air balloon ride I did two weeks ago. I have always wanted to do it and now I have!”

 

If you have Target Fixation you’re gonna crash – I almost did!

 

One thing which I see time and time again with my clients is this concept of Target Fixation.

Target Fixation is the process by which the brain is focused so intently on an observed object that awareness of everything else diminishes.

With Target Fixation, the observer can become so fixated on the target that they will forget to take the necessary action to avoid it, thus colliding with it. This is a common issue for motorcyclists and mountain bikers as statistically most collisions are due to Target Fixation.

A motorcycle or bicycle will tend to go where the rider is looking; if the rider is overly focused on something in the path ahead of him, the cycle can collide with that object simply because of the rider’s focus on it, even though the rider is ostensibly trying to avoid it.

As a keen motorcyclist, I’m well aware of the hazards of Target Fixation. In fact, on one motorcycle trip in the Himalayas, I collided with the back of a motorcycle I was fixated on in front of me. This almost led me to fly off a cliff so it was a pretty frightening moment!

 

Stop the cycle of pain… focus on YOU

 

Focusing on your ex and what they are up to leads to no good. You are in essence, fixated on them and end up having daily collisions with unnecessary pain and suffering over and over again.

When I observed this type of fixation on the ex with most of the people I worked with, I realized that tackling FOCUS inside of the naked divorce was very important.

For some of you who have been divorced for years, it may be easy to not think about your ex. However, do notice if you are constantly thinking of your job or your children as a distraction from your healing. The lesson is to think of yourself during this program. It’s time to be selfish and be fascinated in how YOU are doing and to grow your awareness and analysis of yourself, rather than something else.

 

How to focus on Yourself

 

Here are a few examples.

Whenever you want to think about what your ex had for breakfast or if his new girlfriend has remembered to launder his socks – think instead about yourself, your own eating and laundry habits.

Whenever you find yourself drifting off and wondering what your ex meant when he said he loved your new hairstyle, think about the new bath towels you are purchasing on the weekend.

Whenever you find yourself wondering why your ex said what he said, focus instead on painting your nails.

 

Your Action Plan – Three Steps to Freedom

 

Training your mind to stop being preoccupied with thoughts of your ex and what he’s thinking or what he’s up to, or to stop pointless thoughts of your neighbor or friend, or job – is a little like training a new puppy:

Start by gently ignoring the yelps for attention.  If you notice your mind flashing to your ex or another unhelpful distraction, relax. Imagine that the thought is a soft, fluffy white cloud. Imagine this cloud drifting across your mind like a cloud floats across the sky. Just notice the thought and gently let it go.

Tell yourself that this unhelpful thought is just floating across your mind. Engaging with this thought is like engaging with a puppy’s yelps for attention and this is not constructive.

If the yelps continue, keep a short leash.  If you find yourself constantly drifting into an amazing fantasy story or if you find yourself stuck in a cycle of analysis paralysis, sometimes it’s good to reign in that thought with one swift action. Immediately say to yourself, “NO, enough is enough!”

Make a swift sudden action and stand up, saying out loud that this line of thinking is not constructive. Become immediately fixated on doing something else like journaling about your feelings or going for a focused power walk.

The key is swift, intentional action to jerk yourself out of the lethargy of daydreaming. If your leash is too long and you indulge negative thinking for too long, it takes longer to come back into the present.

Reward with healthy treats if well behaved.  If you notice that it’s been a few hours or days since you last engaged in unhelpful thinking, then reward yourself with a healthy treat. Something like taking yourself out on an outing. And soon, like Molly, you’ll be healthy, happy and free in your focus once more.

 

So, do you have target fixation on your ex?

Have these exercises helped you to bring back your focus to yourself and recover?

 

Tell me about your experiences!

I’d love to hear them…

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How To Survive Thanksgiving Tantrums and Torment With Your Crazy Family!

Happy_thanksgiving_funny-7Thanksgiving is less than a few days away and you’re planning a traditional holiday dinner, which includes a golden turkey as the showpiece of the meal. Although the Mercy for Animals Foundation conducted an undercover investigation on the abuse these birds are subjected to – it is NOTHING compared to the amount of stress and anxiety family members endure so they might spend quality time together. I think we need to start a Mercy for Family Members Foundation…

For many, the biggest source of holiday stress is family, so what causes some of this stress?

Unhappy memories. Going home for the holidays naturally makes people remember old times, but for you the memories may be more bitter than sweet. During the holidays, a lot of childhood memories come back and if the memories were not happy ones, this time of year will trigger them.

Toxic relatives and Outlaws. Holidays can put you in the same room with relatives you avoid the rest of the year.

What’s changed. The holidays can highlight everything that’s changed in your lives — a divorce, a death in the family, a son who’s making his first trip back home after starting college. Any of these can really unsettle a gathering and add holiday stress.

What’s stayed the same. For others, it’s the monotonous sameness of family holiday gatherings that depresses them — the same faces, the same jokes, the same food on the same china plates.

More work to be done. During the holiday season, you’re more likely to be stressed out by obligations and errands.

SO, as you begin to mentally prepared yourself for your annual Thanksgiving visit, you might be anticipating some predictable scenes: the Aunt that drinks 5 too many glasses of Merlot? Uncle that wants to summarize the last 6 months of Roy Orbison’s show? Or parents that ask ‘When are you going to settle down and get married?’” On their own, these are all very manageable stressors. Together, though, they create a perfect storm of family-based madness.

If you find yourself in the middle of dueling culinary aunts who constantly criticize each other’s cooking while snidely remarking on all of the dishes or political arguments by opinionated relatives whose lack of facts would be hilarious except for the constant threat of violence and tension: RELAX in the knowledge that you are most certainly not the only person in the world with dysfunctional relatives. If you are lucky, and can find a trusted sibling, cousin or spouse to share your amazement or disgust, then a simple declaration to validate your experience can be a relief. It’s important to keep realistic expectations. Dinner with your family is unlikely to be a magical Dickens-esque Christmas with the Cratchits, but it’s also unlikely to devolve into a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation-like scene of madness (complete with boxed cats, squirrels in trees, and a turkey that deflates with the first cut). If you keep your expectations reasonable, understanding that the day will neither be your worst or best case scenarios, you’ll find yourself prepared to face this encounter with your family.

However, if you find yourself thinking “Am I the only one who feels like there is something seriously wrong with these folks?” then read these tips.

1. Line up some co-conspirators. Chances are you’re not the only one who is irked by your family’s dysfunctional routines. Figure out who you can call on to help make things different. Then do some pre-event strategizing. Agree a game plan with a crew and infiltrate madness before it arrives

2. Ask your co-conspirators to think of brilliant ways to give challenging relatives an assignment: Is someone always critical of the menu? Ask this person if she would please bring that complicated dish that is her trademark so she’ll have a place to shine. Is there a teenager who mopes about, bringing everyone down? Maybe offer to pay him to entertain the younger set for a couple hours after dinner so the adults can talk.

2. Have an attitude of gratitude. Yeah, they may be annoying, but it’s your family.

3. Look for the humor. Try not to take everything so seriously. Sometimes you just have to laugh and say, “It is what it is”.

4. If your Monster in Law is annoying you, tenderize the meat or take some glass bottles to the recycling depot or do some angry baking and knead the dough with enthusiasm. There are some really socially acceptable ways to let off some steam!

5. Resolve previous differences. It is not helpful to go home for the holidays to rectify an old disagreement. Make a phone call, send a text, write a letter with the intention of smoothing out any misunderstanding before you go.

6. Invite a friend: Most people’s manners improve when outsiders enter the scene.

7. Deal with one crisis at a time. If you’re at the table and your aunt is screaming about utensils, an uncle is trying to enlist you in the local chapter of the Tea Party, small cousins are running around screaming, and your dad is asleep on the couch, there’s nothing you can do here except minimize your focus so as to not become overwhelmed. Zone some of this out. In this case, it might be best to offer help with one of these crises, such as the aunt with the utensils. You’ll both be helping reduce another relative’s stress while simultaneously giving yourself an opportunity to get out of your seat to momentarily allow your politics-minded uncle to latch on to another relative (sorry, siblings).

8. Give kids a way to be included. Then set them free. Kids are simply not going to enjoy being trapped at a table with adults (especially dysfunctional adults) for extended periods of time. They get restless. They get whiny. They slump in their chairs. Yes, they should be expected to behave with at least a minimum of decorum during the meal but head off complaints and tantrums by planning something for them to do while the adults linger at the table.

9. Be as cool as a cucumber. Master the art of smiling and nodding. Polite agreement can go a long way in helping you escape rough situations.

10. If they try to parent your children – yes this is very infuriating but it is what it is. Use the Sandwich technique: Surround your feedback with lots of compliments, so they can’t get angry or offended by what you’re saying. So, for example, ‘The kids love being with you and we really like having you over for lunch but when you shout at them for playing with their food, it upsets them and it hurts us. So can we work out a way for us all to help the kids eat properly?’

SO stay sane and try to enjoy the time you can. The final swan song is to simply wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

If your family drive you crazy, may your turkey at least be tantrum-free and golden crispy.

Till next time

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6 Questions Your Future Self Would Ask You Right Now

6 Questions Your Future Self Would Ask You Right Now

The magic is in this moment; let your goals drive you, but do not let them define you. The journey is where the fun is, so give yourself time to be present in this moment because this moment is all we will ever have.

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