Maria's Headspace - pickled rollercoasters

January 16, 2012

Maria's Headspace - pickled rollercoasters

I recently found myself in a situation where I let people down. I had made the mistake of taking on too much, over-promising and under-delivering in a massive way and the situation ended up in a bit of a pickle (a-before-it-was-pickled-cucumber-sized-pickle). Now as we all know, creating a giant pickle and having to stew in the vinegary aftermath can feel like a truly un-awesome experience, letting others down and letting oneself down is like a beautiful manure to really see how one reacts to the many variants of pickled goods that life throws one’s way. With nowhere to turn and nobody else to blame the mind darts around incessantly, veering from an ‘Its all going to be ok, right? Yeah its gonna be fine, is it going to be ok? How is this going to be ok, no its definitely going to be ok…’ to a ‘This sucks, I suck, I cant believe how much I just sucked, I even suck at sucking’ to a ‘Maybe that eco-lodge in Africa is still looking for a manager, maybe I should just go to Brazil, I’ve heard the Canaries are warm like, all year round...’

A knock to one’s self-confidence seems to spur on a rollercoaster of thoughts that have neither rhyme nor reason but show the mind doing anything it can to escape the icky feeling of knowing one has done a bad job at something. The unfortunate thing about this rollercoaster is that, rather than doing the trick and making everything ok, it tends to solidify the feeling of insecurity and anxiety.

Dr Judson Brewer, our partner at Yale likens it to being shot with an arrow and then, rather than just sitting with the pain of the arrow (which no doubt really, really hurts), we start worrying about the fact that our shirt has now been ruined, thinking about getting the stains out, getting angry at the guy who shot the arrow, wondering what we could have done to avoid being shot- which lead us to a place where are in the crazy-solid made-up world where the arrow and the pain have now been made into a never-ending saga in which we are the victimized protagonist. No longer able to see clearly we don’t take the action that would stop the pain, like going to see a doctor or pulling out the arrow but we perpetuate the problem by thinking obsessively about it.

It was kind of amazing to watch myself go through this and, even though I most certainly did get comfortable in the rollercoaster and secure the safety bar I was able to snap myself out of it before completely identifying with it and allowing myself to wallow in self-pity and anxiety. Yeah it still hurt to come to terms with the fact that I had failed but I was much more able to snap out of it, take a step back and make an educated decision on what the heck I was going to do next and how to avoid the situation in the future rather than flailing about and not keeping my arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

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