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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Four Tips For When You’re Hanging at the End of Your Rope

Having hit rock bottom is generally considered to be one of the most difficult moments in a person’s life. It can be for any number of reasons: professional, personal (relationships, family), financial, or health, and frequently several or all of these are intertwined, making it feel like a nightmare from which you are not able to wake. If you have no tools to help you deal with this, obviously the whole thing just gets that much harder, and then you might resort to alcohol, antidepressants, sleeping pills, recreational drugs, or worse.

TIP #1: Take a reality check

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) we look at reality vs myth. When you’re hanging at the end of your rope, you might be placing more emphasis on the myth, than on the reality. As an example, in a panic attack someone may not be able to get into an airplane due to the fear that planes crash. We could say that clearly the statistical reality is that the possibility of a plane crashing is much lower than that of getting into a traffic accident. Using this kind of ‘reality’ vs the ‘myth’ that the person has in his mind, is one of the ways of bringing about the inner change over time. In the case of hanging at the end of your rope, you might believe you will never, ever get out of the hole you are in. Check the reality of that vs its myth by reading Tip #2. Or you might believe you are in a situation that simply has no solution. Check the reality of that vs its myth by reading Tip #3. You might believe the goal you have set for yourself is simply too large, and that you will never be able to accomplish it. Check the reality of that vs its myth by reading Tip #4.

TIP #2: Look into past experiences of success

My German compatriots have a wonderful expression – actually it’s just a very long word – Erfolgserlebnis, which means an “experience of success”. And of course the experience must be yours! So search around in your past when you did something at which you succeeded. Did you run that marathon? Did you learn that foreign language? Did you write that paper? Did you give that speech? Did you learn how to cook? Did you learn how to use that specialized software? Whatever it was – and obviously there may be more than just a single experience of success in your past, and even if that experience is unrelated to the current challenge – use the knowledge of it; the knowledge of that particular bit of success in your life, to urge yourself forward. To encourage yourself in the present endeavour. To realize that if you were capable of that, you may also be capable of this.

TIP #3: Find a role model who’s been there, done that, and came out the other end

In my own life, as I have always enjoyed reading biographies and autobiographies, it was generally not necessary to go out there and hunt for someone who was going through my own experience, because I already knew about someone like that from those books. It helped immensely to go back and re-read about how they overcame whatever it was that I was going through. Perhaps their solution was not mine, but it felt as though I had an ally – someone who understood my story, my predicament, my pain. When I was 31, my sons aged eight, six, and five were kidnapped. To put labels on what we all went through would be simplifying what was simply the most painful experience – among numerous others - of our lives. Curiously enough, I had, just a year or so before, read an autobiography of a woman who had undergone a similar experience, and I remember thinking, at the time I read it, why on earth are your reading about something so terrible? I had also recently – serendipitously - befriended a woman who had just months before told me of a similar tragedy in her own life, a daughter who had been kidnapped to another continent two decades earlier, and whom she had never seen again. Basing myself at least in part on their tragedies, I willed up the strength in my own life, in order to deal with it as best I could so that I did not fall off the end of my rope. Looking at others’ experiences that are similar to your own may help you find solutions.

TIP #4: Chunk it down

Overwhelm is one of those things that tends to happen when you’re at the end of your rope. You’re so devastated by what is happening, that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Or you focus on the forest and can’t see any one single tree. And so you freeze. By chunking things down into manageable bits, you will be able to move forward, even if slowly, but you’ll gain momentum shortly. So how do you chunk it down? Think: let me just get through today. In order to do that, what do I need to do? Just until after dinnertime. Or think: what is one small thing I can do right now that will help me move forward? Even if it seems quite tiny and unimportant? Or think: what can I focus on just for now, that will help me calm down? Because the more calm I am, the more I’ll be able to assess what is going on and figure out how to move forward … even if I have no idea right now how to solve the big picture.

What comes after?

Clearly, it makes sense that you do all you can to not find yourself in such a situation again. Not controlling situations that create problems in your life, as you will never have total control over that, but ensuring that you never again find yourself hanging at the end of your rope, no matter what. So, how can you avoid that?

My suggestion is always related to being present and aware and very conscious of yourself at all times. This implies mindfulness, about which I have written a multitude of articles, both via this newsletter, as well as in my blogs, and of course in my books. This is a practice that builds on every single time you do it. It grows exponentially until one day you realize that it fills your entire day, almost as though it were background music in your life. By so doing, you realize that no matter what life throws at you, you are able to remain present and calm, you are able to find a place of peace inside of you in the midst of the storm, and hence never get anywhere near the end of your rope.



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