In the play As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.” Put another way, life is a drama. Sure, there are light moments, but most of us don’t live within some sort of frivolous sitcom. Each of us is called to deal with serious issues and handle difficult situations. That’s just the way it is.
For too long, you’ve allowed your anxieties to set the stage of everything that happens to you. For too long, you’ve allowed your fear to act as the director of your life, determining how you act and respond. For too long, the producer of this play that is your life has produced little relief from the unending concerns and stress. You’ve allowed yourself to be played, to be directed instead of insisting on taking charge yourself. You must decide to write your own script and set your own stage.
As yourself, when you wake up in the morning, whose script you are following, whose stage you are walking on to? Anxieties, fears, and worries set a dark and ominous stage with a script full of negatives. That doesn’t have to be your life. You can refuse to play along.
Every story is told from a particular point of view. Each one of us has an attitude about life. We’re either optimists or pessimists. We expect either good things to happen or bad things to happen. Now, you might say, aren’t there people who expect neither good things nor bad things? What are they – optimists or pessimists? The absence of expecting good things isn’t all that positive, so I would say those people are really not neutral; they are pessimists.
If you’re anxiety-driven about something, you’re a pessimist about it. The more things that cause you anxiety, the more pessimistic you are about your life. This is the script you’ve been operating from. It’s time to fire those scriptwriters and take over yourself, switching from a negative, pessimistic worldview to a positive, optimistic one.
One of the best ways I know to reorient your attitude is to have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Some people do this silently, inside their own minds, and others prefer to hold an audible conversation with themselves. One woman I worked with would argue with herself like an opposing attorney, talking to herself out loud. She said it helped to hear what she had to say out loud because she had an easier time detecting the emotions underlying the various arguments. If something didn’t sound right, she would stop and repeat the statement to herself, working through it until it made more sense. So she didn’t disturb other family members, she would often do this while taking a walk.
Another woman I know would hold her conversations with herself in front of a mirror, looking herself directly in the eye. Other people, will have conversations privately, in the confines of their own minds. There is something valuable in articulation, in requiring yourself to produce the reasons behind what you do and then making those reasons visible and examinable. It’s not unlike what people do with their therapists, or when they talk with trusted friends. All these dialogues can be extremely useful, but you have got to learn how to have these conversations with yourself. Start building trust with yourself.
As you engage in inner dialogue, don’t forget to control the volume. Pay attention to the volume of the negative and the positive. Be aware of when you need to change the dials and allow in more positives. This is especially true when problem-solving. You’ll need to crank up optimism, hope, and joy so you can find the motivation and courage to find and implement a solution.
If you aren’t verbal and don’t process things in an auditory way, I encourage you to articulate how you feel through writing. Many people find great freedom of expression through journaling. This has an added benefit in that you have a written record of your inner discussions that you can review and refer back to.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.