This is the third of three weeks of questions to stimulate your thought and awareness about ways in which you may be distracting yourself from greater self-understanding and knowing.
1. Do you have feelings about having feelings?
Do you start to feel sad and then get angry that you are sad? Or do you feel angry, but consider anger unacceptable, and then you feel disappointed that you’re angry?
Or feel embarrassed that you’re disappointed? Having feelings about having feelings acts as a distracter from your initial reaction and most authentic feeling experience.
It acts as a second layer covering your real feelings, and that second layer creates more emotional distress and emotional problems.
There are countless variations on this theme. Does this ever ring true for you?
2. Do you engage in a lot of negative self-evaluation, negative self-talk, or harsh self-criticism, thereby turning your feelings into a mean or hateful judgment about yourself?
Many people are skilled at this form of distraction, whereby you change an unpleasant feeling into a thought or belief.
Common examples include turning a feeling of helplessness into beliefs that you are inadequate, undeserving, or worthless; or believing embarrassment is a reflection of your inherent failure.
Understand that unpleasant feelings such as disappointment or embarrassment are not reflections of your character.
How might you be converting feelings into self-destructive judgments?
3. Do you compare yourself with others?
Comparing yourself to others is a variation on harsh self-criticism. It dismisses your own experience because you are placing your focus on others instead.
The only positive reason to compare yourself to others is for aspirational purposes—in order to see yourself as able to accomplish what others have done.
Otherwise, it’s a way to distract from feeling vulnerable, disappointed, sad, or frustrated.
To whom are you currently comparing yourself? Do you do it for aspirational reasons or as a form of distraction?
4. Do you focus on one issue to distract or move away from your real concern or feelings?
I often listen to women who consistently return to fears that their respective boyfriends will leave them for other women they find more interesting.
This concern often becomes a focus when, in truth, they feel vulnerable or are preoccupied with distressing feelings or other concerns that are actually unrelated to the fears they express.
Is there a nagging fear that seems to creep up every time you find yourself facing unpleasant emotions – even if that fear is totally unrelated to your present experience?
5. Do you pay too much attention to irrelevant details in order to distract from feeling?
Rather than focus on one particular issue, you might do the opposite and get caught up in paying excessive attention to unimportant details in any given situation as a way to distract from what is really important in your life.
This kind of over-focus on details can be paralyzing because it allows you to analyze but never actually act.
Is this a distraction trap that you fall into at times?
This week’s question:
Before you put your pen and paper away, I want you to write down three distractions you have been struggling with the most.
Then at the end of the week, write down next to them what exercises you have used to best help with those distractions.
Dr. Joan Rosenberg