May 3, 2021
Last night my youngest daughter remembered she had left some of her school books in my husbands’ truck. It was 10:30pm. She was asking us to go out to the truck with her because she was scared. She knew it was irrational, but she could not shake it.
I asked her to think of other options and I mentioned a few: she could go get them in the morning when it was light, she could take a flashlight, she could face her fear for one minute, which is all it would take to go fetch the books.
She would hear none of it. In her mind, the only solution was if one of us came out with her.
We were both in our pajamas and in bed comfortably reading. I reminded her that her brain was just doing it’s job, trying to protect her. “If you attach yourself to that fear,” I said, “You’re just giving the monkey in your brain all the control.”
She didn’t care (and she didn’t appreciate the Coach speech either!). Her monkey brain was in full charge here and producing “All or Nothing” thinking.
Can you recognize ways you’ve engaged in this yourself? I admit, even as I sat down to write this post I was believing, “I can’t think of anything to write about.”
It looks like:
Saving money is pointless, something always comes along that needs fixing.
I can’t workout because the gym is closed due to Covid.
She won’t understand, so I’m done talking to her.
I’d never be able to do what you do.
If I can’t be successful, I’m not going to even try
All or Nothing thinking creates resistance to an emotion; and when we are resistant, we are always tied to that emotion, because we have to keep a hand on it to keep it at bay.
What emotions are we being resistant to? Any negative emotion that feels uncomfortable; fear, shame, embarrassment, boredom, humility.
In my training as a Life Coach, it was compared to holding a beach ball under the water.
Can you see in this image how focused the bear is on holding that ball down? If that ball represents your fear of something, it actually takes more of your attention and energy to avoid feeling it than it would to actually face the discomfort of fear.
In between the All and the Nothing are other options. We’re usually just unwilling to walk there because that is where potential failure lies. We fear the options that will require more of us. All or Nothing limits our options to the point of staying small…and miserable.
Letting go of the beach ball causes it to burst to the top of the water, which is what happens when we can’t hold that emotion down any longer. Anger, frustration, bitterness burst upward from our inability to control fear.
If we surrender our need for control and allow the fear, the discomfort actually doesn’t last that long. With my daughter, I initially resisted helping her because I was afraid of enabling her fear.
Then I looked at the other options; maybe she just needed a little support at the moment. Maybe helping her wouldn’t ruin her ability to face her fears for the rest of her life, like my brain was telling me it would.
I walked out to the edge of the house while my daughter grabbed a flashlight. She ran to the drivers’ side to unlock the truck, then grabbed what she needed out of the back seat. I could tell she felt a mixture of relief and shame.
Inside I hugged her and reminded her that she is powerful; that she is stronger than she was allowing herself to believe.
Between All or Nothing is this beautiful possibility:
“There is no way to measure surrender’s impact. We know its efficacy when we see it: After the deep pain of coming close, of failures of all kinds, we break open enough to contain, invite, and triumph over more.” – Dr. Sarah Lewis
Until next week,
P.S. Options to work with me are expanding! In addition to private coaching, I now have a Wednesday evening group class at 7pm MST. I teach a powerful coping tool and you can ask questions and even get coached. Our experience will expand as our class grows, please join us! https://meredithgcoaching.as.me/CoachingandCopingGroup , just $63/month