Leaving the European Union has topped the headlines for many months in the UK and fear has featured in a lot of those stories: fear of leaving with no deal, fear of other member states, fear of civil disorder, shortages, financial crisis.
Some of the ‘leave’ campaign however has been characterised by talk of opportunity, freedom, and regaining identity.
There comes a point when any long anticipated crossroads arrives and becomes a reality. It is a point when things are inevitable and acceptance and commitment take over.
It is a peculiar thing that letting go can be both a frightening and a liberating thing almost at the same time.
Accepting the reality of a situation and committing to those values that are most important in our lives is easier for some than others. For some this means accepting that a relationship is over and committing to being happy with being single again. For others it is may be coming to terms with being overweight and committing to being healthy.
When Aldous Huxley wrote ‘experience is not what happens to a man but what a man does about what happens to him’ , he reflected many centuries of ancient Greek and Eastern philosophies.
The New York psychoanalyst Albert Ellis adopted this approach when encouraging people to move away from the idea that what we feel (good or bad; healthy or unhealthy) is directly caused by what happens to us, or what people say or do to us, or even what life may throw at us.
Our feelings are not in the main caused by what happens to us but by the way we think about what happens to us. For example, Gerald may be terrified about speaking to a conference of 500 people next week. I mean, what if he makes a mistake and they think badly of him. The event is not responsible for him feeling that way – it hasn’t even happened yet!
Geraldine is speaking at the same conference. She feels nervous but excited that so many people want to hear what she has to say. And even though she may make mistakes, it is not the end of the world and at least she will have had the experience.
The way we think about whatever may be coming down the pipe will certainly determine how we feel about it. Unhealthy emotions such as Gerald’s terror, come from a particular type of thinking: absolute demands. Gerald’s is that he must must must be perfect in giving his presentation. The consequences of not being perfect are that people will laugh, roll their eyes or maybe walk out.
Of course we know that Gerald does not have to be perfect and even in the unlikely event that people laugh or walk out, the world will not come to an end and he will have learned something. Often in fact the imperfections in a presentation endear us more to people as they will us on to get it right.
Finding your absolute demands, your musts, is the first step to disputing how you are thinking and enables you to adopt more effective ways of responding to the wrinkles of life.