I am sure it has not escaped anyone’s attention that yesterday was Election Day in the USA. As the world watched on America voted for change (I am being diplomatic). I was just one of the millions of people around the world who watched the results closely and experienced the range of emotions that such an event precipitated.
It was a great chance to practice all the skills I teach my clients. Those of noticing emotional responses without engaging with them; those of distraction; those of acceptance.
I did this by throwing myself into a project and focusing mindfully on the task. Paying attention to my own behaviours, rather than getting frustrated by other peoples’. I am often reminding clients that they cannot control other people, they can only control their own thoughts and behaviours (I remind them that the first ‘automatic thought’ is often not helpful but what they do with this is their choice). It is important that we are not complacent and accepting of everything, there is a need to fight for and live within our values. But there is also a need for acceptance at times, of letting go of the unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and moving beyond the unpleasant emotions.
I have become interested in a branch of psychology called ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and will be undertaking training in this early next year. It is my understanding that this focuses on the above. Identifying your values, observing your emotions without too much ‘holding on’ and accepting unpleasant feelings rather than seeking perfect happiness.
So yesterday I got to live my own advice. I threw myself into making a party dress. I am calling it my ‘Trump-may-be-POTUS-but-I-have-a-pretty-dress’ dress. I used it as a distraction away from both medias (press and social) so that I did not become emotionally wrapped up in circumstances I could not control.
I used a Simplicity Pattern and a 100% cotton fabric. Magpie helped me with the cutting.
Because it was a quick project that I needed to complete in a day (I have a horrible habit of not completing things if they are left overnight), I set up the electric sewing machine on top of the old Singer. Sometimes shortcuts are fine!
The kids watched me from the window as I worked!! I guess it’s been a bit long since i did any sewing as they had no idea what I was doing.
Now, I have had clients ask me in the past if distraction is acceptable. ‘Is it not just ignoring the bad stuff?’ they want to know. The answer to that is that it is often an important step as it helps us to distance ourselves from the immediate emotion. When emotions are big, it is hard to challenge the thoughts that come with them. However, emotions change over time so taking some time out and giving yourself space helps the emotion to become manageable before you do the cognitive work. And it can be productive too!
I just want to leave you with a little quote that I have always loved. It is a prayer, and although I am not particularly religious, the message is a poignant one. Feel free to change the word God or remove it altogether, I hope it is helpful to you!