Monday, May 28, 2012

Mantra: Feelings are not facts

Regular readers of my blog know that I have practicing Dr. Low’s teachings to help me overcome fear of flying. Recently I had a four-hour trip to Phoenix (and another on the way back). I am endorsing for using Recovery tools to help me through the experience. Among those I found particularly useful:
  • When booking my flight I chose an aisle, instead of a window, seat. When things get bumpy I have a tendency to look out the window, which I think is a fear-reinforcing behavior. Therefore, to better control my muscles I chose a seat away from the window.
  • During takeoff, when things are a bit bumpy, I kept repeating to myself, “Feelings are not facts.” Just because I felt something was wrong and was worried the plane was in trouble did not mean that was reality (in fact, quite the opposite). I ignored my body sensations (sweaty palms, racing heart, etc.). For the first few minutes into the flight, this was my mantra.  
  • I focused on reading a graduate school textbook for most of the flight, forcing myself to focus on something objective. This way I ignored a lot of the little bumps that are average during any flight.
  • When the plane encountered some mild turbulence, I returned to my mantra of “Feelings are not facts.” At these times I could not focus on reading. I excused myself for that.
  • Upon landing I gave myself a hearty endorsement. In fact, I’m still endorsing. I am not endorsing because I wasn’t nervous; I’m endorsing because I practiced Recovery teachings and am making my mental health a business. Before Recovery, the flight would have been a lot more uncomfortable.
I have more flights coming up, but I’m not dreading them as much as I used to. Recovery is helping me with everyday, average experiences such as flying.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Keeping my opinion to myself

One of many things I love about Recovery is that it has taught me that I do not always need to express my opinion—something that before Recovery I did all too often. I now practice exercising control over my speech muscles. This may sound simple, but for nervous people this is not always easy.

For example, I recently had dinner with friends at a chain restaurant. My companions said their food was delicious, but I found mine to be wanting. Yet instead of complaining, I chose to talk about something else, thereby not ruining my friends’ experience or making them feel guilty about selecting the restaurant.

Before Recovery I would have felt compelled to share my opinion of the meal. Although there would be nothing wrong with doing so, I decided that I would find it difficult to critique the restaurant without temper. Thus, I was group minded by letting my friends enjoy dinner without my temperamental expression.

That, admittedly, is a fairly simple example, but I have found other situations in which exercising control over my speech muscles was very valuable, such as:

• When my boss says something I disagree with
• When I’m anxious about something and want to talk it up with others
• When someone expresses a political opinion with which I am very opposed to

In each situation I’ve decided that the temperamental outburst would not only not be in the group’s interest, but also would lead to a temperamental reaction I’d later regret. If I allowed myself to express temper in any of these scenarios, I would later worry that I said something I shouldn’t have, that I made someone angry at me, that I am burdening someone with my problems, and so on. However, my Recovery training has taught me the value of controlling my speech muscles. Now I let the temperamental flare quickly rise and fall, avoiding the compulsion to say what is on my mind. And my mental health is better off because of this self-control.