Julie had been a “worry wart” all her life. The morning of her big presentation, she found herself at it again. She worried about her presentation, its impact of her future with the company and her kids. She experienced some of the same old feelings that had been around since childhood: dread, nausea, tension, pressure, self doubt and helplessness. But Julie had learned how to identify her worrisome obsessive thoughts of pessimism and she learned what not to do. She didn’t fight it or try to pretend it wasn’t there. She learned how to deal with it and get rid of it.
Julie began by identifying the components of her obsessive thinking. The first component was: how to keep from messing up her presentation and getting fired. This was the impossible problem that she had to solve perfectly four hours before her meeting began. However, she was able to see the absurdity of this fictitious problem. She began to tell herself: “There is no problem. It doesn’t exist. I will deal with the presentation as it unfolds and do the best I can in the moment.” She identified the control component: “I should have prepared more, but now it’s too late and I’m just going to screw it up and forget something.” But she caught herself and instead thought: “I control myself. I have spent hours going over the material. I am prepared enough and I do not have to be any more prepared then that.” She also identified her anger component. “I am angry at myself for not being smarter. If I were as smart as other employees I wouldn’t have to work so hard or prepare so much. I wouldn’t be so afraid of failing.” However, Julie applied the following affirmation instead: “I am smart enough. I do many things well. Perfection is not a requirement for success.”
Julie identified the unfairness component. “If I screw up this presentation I’ll get fired. I won’t have a career. I won’t be able to support my kids. I’ll have to resign myself to being a failure as an employee and mother.” Now she could replace this thought with a healthier outlook: “I have dealt with unfairness all my life, i can deal with this too. I am good employee whether I excel or not. I am not ever going to be superior or inferior. I am good enough. I am free to concentrate on what I have to do. The chances are I’ll do a lot better than I did in the past. All this worry only gets in my way.”
Julie has done a good job sorting through he fears and pain. But the proof of her relief came when she was able to give her presentation and felt calm. She felt competent, confident, secure and focused. She trusted her judgment. She had an independent identity that had nothing to do with how others viewed her. She took action in the present reality and did the best she could. She did what was hard and did it anyways. She experienced feelings of accomplishment and success. She got through her presentation without all the worry and pain that she used to inflict on herself. She learned that she was in control of her judgment and her judgment was good enough to solve her painful problem.
** If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome obsessive thoughts, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule an Initial Assessment.