Living With Self

Taking Your Own Advice: Escaping Destructive Self Deception

Don’t you think it’s strange how when someone comes to you with a problem, you know more or less what to say to to them, how to calm them down, what’s the best advice to give at that moment — and yet faced with your own problems they seem unsolvable?

I have just had an experience of this myself. Recently people really close to me have been going through a tough time. They had good reasons for feeling absolutely awful about their situations – the circumstances were far from pretty. To them, their problems seems so permanent that it put the viability of the rest of their life into question. Yes, that extreme: ‘I am really suffering and this doesn’t seem to have an end, it won’t get better and I just don’t know what to do, how to escape myself.’

Me, being the solution focused person that I am, rushed in to help and provided plans of action and more positive and hopeful interpretation of their situation. This wasn’t wishful thinking kind of advice, it was sound, more sound than their own for their judgement had been obscured by the excess of negative emotion they were feeling. It seemed so strange, for I knew that if the situations were reversed, they would be giving me very similar advice. So if the good advice is not beyond their ability to grasp and offer it to others when in need, why when it comes to themselves they simply throw the towel in?

But soon after, I suddenly had a problem of my own to face up to and even as I write this, it is making me feel like there’s no clear way through and it casts a dark shadow over my future. I try to remind myself of my favourite quote ‘this too shall pass’ which I know is true: every dark thing in my life has long ceased to be. Yet even though I am 100% committed to this idea intellectually, emotionally this is not so easy.

Every new problem that is big enough to really shake up your life seems special. It seems like this will really be the one thing that will make the rest of your life a long, drawn out misery from which there is no escape. It seems like this negative emotion is that terminal disease of the mind that will plague you for the rest of your days, until it grinds you down into nothing at all, wears away your will until you give up – on everything. There are issues that seem this extreme and my current one is fairly close to appearing like that.

Perhaps there is no way (save for years of meditation and spiritual work) that can put a stop to us interpreting our own life-shaking problems in this way. This is fine. Really. It has to be if there is nothing you can do about it. One of my favourite quotes reads:

“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. ” – M. Englebreit

There is nothing you can do to stop these kind of issues arising. Life pauses for nobody: it will continue bringing periods of happiness and periods of pain like it has always done. So change the way you think about those dark periods: decide to give them all time. One of the most overwhelming things about any issue is that it won’t get better, that these intense feelings will stretch into eternity. You only have to look back at your own life experience to realise that this isn’t true. Take care of yourself in this vulnerable time: go for walks, get a massage, connect with friends, spend time in nature, meditate, write some poetry… Leave the intensity of feelings to time.

Trust that these intense emotions will fade. They really will. You may need some help along the way: support from your family and friends, maybe even a councillor. Be your own best friend, think what you might say to them and advise them to do in this situation and then do it. Your emotional investment in your problem may have you feeling like nothing will work: don’t dismiss it before you have tried it.

It may not pass over night. It may not pass in a month. But if you seek help and take care of yourself more so than usual, it will without a doubt pass like everything else. And the next time you find yourself in another emotional storm, you can look back and remember how the last one did though it seemed back then to have no end.


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