Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Story I Tell Myself About Myself

We found out there was a problem with the outside wall of our downstairs bathroom in October when we had our windows replaced.  We hired Husband's cousin to come and fix the problem.  The day he came to "open up the wall and see how bad it is," he completely removed the wall, including the studs and the base plate, and took the other three walls, the floor, and the ceiling down to studs.

We started shopping for tile after he finished removing the bathroom from our house.

If you've never shopped for tile before, here's what you need to know: any given tile store has hundreds of options, and tile is expensive.  Husband and I were overwhelmed with choices, and felt immense pressure to make the "right" decision because of the money we'd be sinking into the tile job.  Every evening that husband didn't have a meeting we spent tile shopping, and two weeks in we were both feeling pretty stressed by the whole situation.

I started to tell myself this story: "This remodeling project has me feeling more stressed.  The level of stress I'm experiencing is more than what I should feel.  Clearly I'm not coping."

Sunday morning I was walking to church praying about how overwhelmed I was feeling when I had the sudden realization that the story I was telling myself wasn't helpful, and it wasn't the only story I could tell about the situation.  In psychology, they call changing your internal story cognitive reframing.  Given that reframing fixed our bathroom wall's problem, it seems only fitting that reframing my thinking would fix mine.

Here's the new story: "I feel stressed by this project, but I'm still accomplishing the things I need to accomplish.  Meals are getting cooked, laundry is getting cleaned, and children are being cared for well, despite my feelings of stress.  Clearly I am coping."

I can't tell you the number of times I've counseled someone else on ways to reframe their situation.  Somehow it's more difficult to see the stories you're telling about yourself than to recognize the stories others are telling about themselves.  Recognizing the story, though, is the first step to changing it.  Especially when you can't actually change the situation, changing your perspective can be a huge help.

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