Retraining My Brain

Like all writers (and humans!), I have moments of jealousy. Sometimes when I see someone post a glowing review of their book from Publisher’s Weekly, I think: I wish I could get reviewed by PW. I want my first thought to be: That’s terrific. I’m so happy for you. I don’t want to be jealous or ungrateful or negative. Those kind of thoughts can end up in a spiral, so I’m currently trying to retrain my brain, especially for how I think and feel about a certain family member. For now, I’m wearing a rubberband around my wrist and I snap myself whenever I drift into negative territory. Primitive and painful, but effective.

Even though most of my unhealthy thought patterns have nothing to do with jealousy, I was reminded recently of how misguided envy can be when another writer contacted me and expressed jealousy for my writing success and my life in general. I wanted to reply with: Don’t wish for my life. You have no idea what I’ve been through and what I still face, possibly for the duration.

I wrote an upbeat encouraging note instead, but the exchange reminded me that everyone has a private life—and likely a pain or stress—that we know nothing about. Many of the successful, beautiful, or rich people I might be jealous of could have a chronic disease or suffer from depression or have a sick child—or all of those things.

Their career success might be the only joy they have, and given a choice, they might trade it all to save someone they love from something they have no control over. So I wish them success, peace of mind, and hopefully happiness too.

Specifically, my renewed goals are: 1) stay positive in my thinking, 2) give everyone as much slack and support as I mentally can, and 3) be grateful for what I’ve accomplished.

Have you had an epiphany or brain reset recently? If so, please share.

 




9 Comments
  1. Thanks, T.J. This has been the most difficult decision (and process) I’ve ever been through. But I know now that what is best for my son in the long run is for me to let go and to stop trying to save him. He’s an addict, and he may die, but as I said, that’s true whether I help him or not. And I have to find some peace of mind.

  2. LJ, I have to speak to your response to Avril. It must be so hard to do that with your son. I had to do that with my sister several years ago. It’s accepting the that last sentence you wrote that is the hardest… I’ve always felt like she’s my responsibility (long family history I won’t go into) and that somehow her choices in life were my fault. I still struggle with that even though I’ve disengaged. For years, she would call and ask my advice only to give me a 100 reasons why that just wouldn’t work for her before I even finished speaking or just agreeing with me and continuing with the self-destructive behavior. Disengaging from her and her problems has put a strain on my relationship with my parents as well, but I had to for my own wellbeing. Accepting that I couldn’t fix her was really hard – possibly among the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I can’t even imagine how painful it must be for you to have to do that with a son.
    Wishing you peace of mind!
    Hugs!!

  3. Avril, you made my day! One of the decisions I’ve made lately is to say no to the family member (son) who causes me so much grief. I still have moments of guilt, but I also feel quite liberated. He may not survive, but that’s true whether I help him or not.

  4. I think when you’re tired and every day is like a wading in treacle day, then it’s very easy to get depressed and with that comes the negative. I keep banging on in all walks of life about moderation, political, religious etc., but I think it is true that everything is relative. I am fatter than Joanny, but thinner than Diane. I am richer than Emma, but poorer – much poorer – than Ann. BUT, nobody, not even Paul McCartney for all his millions can buy the last five minutes or the feeling of walking along the beach with Rufus or when Paul makes me laugh. It’s sad, but true, that one negative outweighs nine positives. So, each morning I try and think of five things that I am unfailingly thankful for. They include Paul, Rufus, my friends, my writing, that I live near the beach – albeit on the North Sea which is usually bloody cold, that my health is pretty good etc. Don’t know if this will help at all, LJ, but I spent my life saying yes and trying to please everyone. When we moved to the coast 4 years ago, I put everyone on notice that I wouldn’t do that any more, that they would hear the word no, and, upon being asked why, would get the answer, because I don’t feel like it. Not one person who means anything to me has objected, but I have lost 3 “friends” I used to run around after. Escape from a long bondage and I should have done it years ago. Don’t feel responsible for everything and everyone. If you went under a bus tomorrow, they would cope and if they could cope then, they can cope now. End of sermon.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments! And thanks, Annette, for your praise and good wishes. I have such high standards for myself that I often feel like a failure, and being a compulsive type (and adult child of an alcoholic), who feels responsible for everything and everyone around me, it’s easy for me to fall into anxious/negative thinking. But I’m fighting it. Life is good, and I’m grateful for all the readers who are giving me the opportunity to live this life.

  6. Well, sometimes writers get a little over-excited sharing their news, and sometimes it smacks faintly of desperation. The truth is we all must not only climb our own ladders, we have to build them from scratch–we can’t knock someone else off the ladder anyway.

    I seek the taoist path of acceptance and gratitude; the fight against smallness is almost a struggle against out basic human fears. I try to remember how incredibly fortunate I have been, and nobody truly has it easy when they feel the pain of being human.

  7. Great post. I found your feelings about the PW review interesting. Maybe because I filtered it through my own personal lens: a perspective that says a PW review doesn’t matter–your readers’ reviews matter. Your sales numbers matter. Don’t get sucked into the old paradigm of deferring to the validation of the legacy machine. You are having wonderful and well-deserved success (because you bust your buns marketing to make it happen and you continue to turn out good books).

    I admire you; I don’t envy you. I aspire to duplicate your ebook success, but I don’t deserve it yet because I haven’t worked for it. Too distracted, juggling too many things at once. But we all run our own race. And I keep reminding myself that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. =)

    Best wishes with your family challenges. Enjoy your career success. You’ve earned it.

  8. Very well-said, L.J. Something people also might not realize are the struggles we’ve endured to reach our particular goals, whatever they are. Truth be told, for those who have, there was likely plenty of of sweat and tears along the way, not to mention great sacrifices–that’s just par for the course. No pain, no gain, and all that…

    My experience has been that the people who the most verbal and negative are usually the same ones who are the most afraid. So when someone is overly harsh or critical of my successes in life, I tell myself, “That’s just fear talking,” and then move on.

  9. My daily gratitude posts on Facebook developed from a need for me to focus more on the positive in life. Some personal problems had taken me to a negative place last year, and I needed to find a way out of it. I went from being so focused on the positive that I denied reality to being buried in negativity in a few months time. That’s when I came up with a plan to begin and end each day in 2011 with gratitude no matter what happened in between.
    It does seem to help…
    I’m fascinated by your rubberband trick to help you focus on the positive. Let me know how that works out. And, I sincerely hope that your family situation works itself out.

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