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What are Thinking Distortion’s, how do they really affect me, and if intellect alone is not the answer, what is?

26 Jun

by Stephen Ulrich –

I spent the day yesterday, a long day, with good friends and family.   My buddy invited me fishing up at Lake Merwin.  My wife was going to be up there anyway, with his and a few of their old girlfriends.  It is really sweet, they are all in their 50’s and have been together since high school.

I had been working on my own boat all week to get ready for the season, so the conversation started, but Ricky said he was taking his boat up early for the girls, so I didn’t need to bother with mine.  Sweet.  I know Ricky is a solid guy and a good friend, his equipment is all top notch, and he doesn’t do anything half-assed so there is nothing to worry about.

Ricky told me he would pick me up at 4:20AM, and I grumbled just enough that he shouldn’t get used to this kind of hour, but FISHING after all…    I set the alarm, chased the dog upstairs at 9:30 and pulled the blackout curtains to get a good night sleep.  Sleep is critical for me.

3:40 came, and I popped out of bed to pee, slapped the alarm off the table and fed the dog.  The dog eyed me incredulously as she is used to waking ME up. Hour later we were up at the lake and my wife was out in the driveway in her nightgown ta meet us.  It was a hot evening, never got below 75’ all night, so the girls were all up.  We said our hello’s and jumped down to the boat and got out on the water.   It was a gorgeous warm morning, and watching the sunrise neither of us really gave a darn about fishing.  We got a cycle of putting all the gear together, and considered it good prep for someday when it was cooler and the Kokanee might be a little bit more important.  They eat good, but not much of a fight.

The rest of the morning was spent touring on the lake, some of the favorite places of Ricky’s youth.  Leisurely ride back, replete with local Fried Chicken Tenders at Amboy Booze and Bait dumped me home around noon.  We were just in time to meet my wife’s brother and his wife and kids downtown Vancouver for one of their weekend get togethers at Esther Short park.  Great flea market type atmosphere and an amazing violinist (Aaron Meyer) that reminded me very much of the 1960’s phenom David LaFlamme of It’s a Beautiful Day fame.

Point being that it was a wonderful, fulfilling, day.  Crashed and burned and woke up positive and hopeful.

I have a morning meeting I go to at Kaiser, to help me with some anxiety issues.  Seems like drinking too much for much of my life was at least in part, self-medication for some other issues.  Like Ana says, we all have our demons.

The therapist has us list what our feeling number is, and mine is an 8.  I am happy, focused and optimistic.  What is working for me?  I made a conscious decision to enjoy the drive down to the meeting.   At the stop lights, I was enjoying my sports talk radio and the fact that people are still making fun of LeBaby for not being a team player, and trying to run the NBA on his own.  I am thankful my heart is back to sinus rhythm, and when I get telemarketing calls I am thankful for having a roof over my head to take the calls under, and a phone to take them on.

The Distorted Thinking we discuss runs the gambit around all sorts of delusions that range from overgeneralization and expecting perfection, to either/or thinking and other forms of straight negative thinking.  We banter back and forth all of the tools we can us to tell ourselves we are OK, to remind ourselves that most of our phobias are just that, and to predict triggers and convert all of this exercise to good old-fashioned practice.  If this sounds a bit like mindfulness practice, of Buddhist influence, that is because it is.  Kaiser has taken great strides towards incorporating its wellness programs with substance abuse and general mental health programs, and this is no exception.

I asked the therapist point blank:

“OK, I get the recognition of the negative, and the need to remind myself of the fallacies of distorted thinking. I get the logic. I do the practice.  I breathe. I meditated for an hour and a half this morning –  I get that part.  NO WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO.?

There was a palpable hush in the room.

She finally broke the silence, “Well, just practice.”

Me: “Yeah, I get that.   That does not seem to be working, I still feel totally messed up.”

“Well, you are not the only one.   75% of all human thought is negative.”

“Even the Dali Lama?”

“Yes, that is why he practices all the time……”

I had left for the meeting in a wonderful mood.  The self-hypnosis was actually working.  This deflating news hadn’t broken my spirit.  I chose to enjoy the drive home as well, and it worked.

Then a few other things started going wrong.  My dog is still upset that my wife left us for three days, so to punish her, (the dog) won’t eat.   My wife is now going to have to be in Boston at the end of next week, and not only do we have our own puppy, we have another.  It will be fine but its just another thing. The Myrtle Tree between our house and the neighbors looks like it is dying from the 95+ heat of the past few days….

I got depressed.  Something I never do.  Went in and told all of this to my wife who basically said, “Honey, it’s something we all struggle with day to day.  Get used to it.  You are not alone.”

Yeah, I think:  Misery likes company.   So, I am relegated to a life of meditation, counseling, meetings and self-help.  This sucks.  There is nothing more I can do.

Then, the little light bulb goes off.

That is why people pray.  There IS something else.  I know that, because the last time I was in the ER for a week with Pneumonia, it WAS a miracle I survived.  ALL THAT IS, still has the power and has never let me down.  All, I need to do is tap into the I AM and things always work out.  Maybe not the way I want or expect them, but they work out.

It is hard to feel alone when I remember my place in all that is.  Not larger, or smaller.  Not smarter or more important, or less important.  Just part of.  Humility is not a weakness, it is a blessing.

Yesterday was a good day.  So Is today.  I am happy to be present.

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