I recently traded in a BMW- the ultimate driving machine- for a more updated vehicle that wouldn’t have the high dollar repair fees. It took me a moment to adjust to the new car because it was not as fast and smooth as my old car. However, I am loving the modernized amenities of my new car. The sales team at the car dealership provided pristine customer service. The sales representative remained in contact with me after the purchase of my vehicle to ensure that I was enjoying my car.
I went back to the dealership after purchasing the car, and I noticed that I did not give the dealership the spare key to the vehicle that I traded in. So, I asked the salesperson, “Do you want the spare key to the BMW?” His response? “That car is gone. You can keep that key for the memories.” I glanced over the key and thought, “Old keys won’t open new doors, why would I want to keep it? This key is going to File 13.”
This was a teachable moment for me. The salesperson advised me to hold on to something for the sake of memories, but it no longer served me. Still, all of my memories, both fun and expensive, were in my head, not in my hand. While there are material objects that assist with pleasant memories, his view reminded me of natural human behavior- hold on to the past.
Holding on to past transgressions and disappointments is a recipe for securing that proverbial sunken place. I’m referring to that tumultuous relationship with a loved one, making the wrong decision regarding employment, and not asserting yourself in social situations.
How many have found themselves holding on to things that no longer served us a good fortune?
How to Get Unstuck
It is a basic premise in therapy that some history is explored. Therefore, clients are encouraged to go down memory lane. Still, the goal is to move forward, move past those disappointments healthily. We are shaped by past experiences; so, acknowledge, remember, and challenge adverse memories.
1) Acknowledge the negative thoughts and feelings that have developed from overtime. Being in denial keeps us in a cycle of perverse functioning. Knowing is half the battle.
2) Remember- Reflect on past events from an empathetic perspective. Forgive yourself and imagine yourself being in the place of that person or situation that repulses you.
3) Challenge those irrational, unproductive thoughts. Do you have the habit of a rigid mindset? Cognitive distortions are irrational thought patterns that negatively impact our daily functioning. This may include the following: magnifying and minimizing, personalizing, overgeneralization, jumping to conclusions, magical thinking, emotional reasoning, all-or-nothing thinking, and disqualifying the positive.
Check out Cognitive Distortion PDF from Therapist Aid
We have to change our focus and distract ourselves when ruminating thoughts intrude on our minds. Recognize those invisible emotional barriers, amuse yourself with pleasantries, create new memories, and surprise yourself with joy. See the symbolic STOP sign in your mind’s eye, forgive yourself, forgive the perpetrator or situation, then change your focus.
Moving Past the Negative Habitual Cycle
A sure method to exit the madness in our lives is to change the habit. It sounds simple, and it is effortless to type. So, I’m not minimizing the process, but developing a new practice is the key to open new doors. As my girl Whitley Gibert (from a Different World), would say, “Relax, Relate, Release!”