I received a text the other day that went like this:
“I looovvveee youuu:) whoever stops this will be unhappy for the first three months of 2011. Tell nine people you love them”
This, to me, seems out of control. And a little frantic. It is an attempt at controlling an unforseen future through statements of love and threats if you don’t text. While none of us certainly completely control our own fate, we do have a hand in it.
Hang in here with me with the psych lingo. Promise this will eventually make sense.
I often work with my patients on “perception of control”. A lot of issues come down to this. Some things we can control, some we cannot. In psychology, we call this “locus of control”. Figuring out what we can control, and what we cannot, and then not worrying over the part that we cannot, is the trick. This applies to situations of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and managing chronic pain, as well as others. For example, if you have chronic pain, one of the first orders on the agenda is to line out what you can control and what you cannot. You cannot control the weather, which may make you hurt more. You can control how much at one time you stress your body. Walking around Wal Mart for two hours and then wondering why you are hurting more is certainly not using the control that you do have. Instead, this behavior results in throwing your own potential control over situations to the wind, and then wondering why things turned out crappy for you.
That’s not to say that I believe that if something unfortunate happens to you, it’s your own fault. Stuff happens. Good stuff and bad stuff. Let me guarantee that difficult, sad, and anxiety provoking things will happen to you or someone you love in 2011. Sorry. A text will not keep you or your loved ones from this. However, delightful, beautiful moments, some larger or longer lasting, some small and fleeting, will also happen. You may not have a wedding or a new car, but your kid may say “I love you” in just that way that makes all the sleepless nights worth it. When I work with my little patients, every session we talk about the Good Stuff and the Bad Stuff. I want them to learn to not only notice the Bad Stuff, as we all so often do, but to give as much credence to the Good Stuff.
Now onto the Bad Stuff. I recall that when I was in high school, a friend of mine told me that she believed that there was a reason God had me develop Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Not so much of a fatalist, not exactly a “things happen for a reason” person, I am more of a “wonderful things can come out of not so good situations you could have never foreseen” person. Adoptions of beloved children occur due to an inability to conceive, for example. I have developed insights I would not have otherwise because of what I have been through with Rheumatoid. That said, it takes work to handle the Bad Stuff. We deal with it in sessions by devising strategies. Sitting around moping because you don’t have a kid is not going to get better unless you get busy on the adoption process. I endured tons of schooling to become educated, which ended up helping focus my perspective gained from the Rheumatoid. The other part of dealing with the Bad Stuff is planning for it as much as you can, as much as is in your control. Facing something that may potentially be a problem head on, if possible. Then, you must give yourself the courage to not fret about the part that you cannot possible control, or for which you are unable to plan.
With that, here are my New Year’s Resolutions, in no certain order. Bring it on, 2011!
I resolve to have the foresight to cherish moments that might seem a mess at the time.
I resolve to do whatever is in my power to advocate for those who need it.
I resolve to find unique ways to give of myself in helping others feel better.
I resolve to notice the Good Stuff.
I resolve to face problems head on.
I resolve to do fun stuff.
I must admit that part of me was disturbed by the text I received because, as I read it, I knew that I would not send it on to nine people I love. There was a part of me that wondered if there were a minuscule chance that, what if, just what if, the part of life that I cannot control would be hidden inside of that text. With that, I am sending this blog to all of the people that I love – surely more than nine of you. I want you all to know that “I looovvveee youuu:)!!” (exclamation points added).