Give Misery a Chair to Sit On
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
A wise proverb goes “You can’t keep misery from coming, but you don’t have to give it a chair to sit on.” Continual negative thinking about your trials and tribulations sets up a victim belief pattern in the mind. To break a pattern of feeling sorry for yourself, literally give your misery a chair to sit on! When you are unhappy about something, why not revel in being unhappy until you get good and tired of your miserable state.
To captivate on your misery, designate a misery chair in your house. Choose an uncomfortable chair that does not fit your body. Perhaps you can find a wooden chair with no pillows that is too tall or short for your body frame. Place your new acquisition, the misery chair, in an out of the way place in your home that is dull and boring. If you are going to be miserable, then you might as well be as miserable as you can be!
Every time you start to feel sorry for yourself, watch what is going on in your mind. After a spell of observing how you pull yourself down with depressing thoughts and anxiety, take yourself off to the misery chair. Catch yourself in the act of becoming unhappy and give yourself a choice–either stop the objectionable thoughts at once or go sit in the misery chair. The key is to make a commitment to make yourself go and sit if you don’t stop on the first warning. This challenge will be a test of whether you really want to decrease the amount of time you spend with depressive thoughts. If you really want to make changes in your thinking patterns, then make the agreement with yourself to sit in the misery chair as an exercise of self observation and change.
Watch how your mind plays tricks on you to keep you in your misery! Listen to yourself and what you say and think as different events happen during the day. Consciously monitor your verbal and nonverbal reactions to get a better understanding of how you view the world and yourself. If you find the victim in yourself as you age with the aches and pains, beware–the victim in you will define your existence to make sure that you live a life of misery.
Moving out of victimhood is taking one’s own personal power. Your life will be sufficient and happy to the extent you deal with the victim thoughts. Take data on your thought and speech patterns. Be aware of the discomfort in your body when you say certain things and act in certain ways that are not consistent with who you really are. Our bodies provide marvelous feedback in terms of feelings of embarrassment, anxiety and even physical symptoms when what we say or do does not fit.
Paracelsus said, “As man imagines himself to be, so shall he be, and he is that which he imagines.” As a woman thinketh, so she is. Clean up your life by cleaning up your negative thinking and language. Energy follows thought. You actually become what you think. Say and think only what you want to become true in your life. If you don’t want something to happen don’t give it energy by thinking about it. Challenge yourself to use words which promote acceptance and tolerance instead of those which promote separation from your true self and from others. Learn to never say things which limit you or another person.
For example say ” I made an error when I …” rather than “I am bad, stupid, etc.” State undesirable characteristics about yourself as temporary conditions or lessons to be learned rather than absolute facts. The “I am ____ and that’s it” type statements can be modified to include a time frame that takes into account that you are learning something new or the lack of effort that you are willing to put into something to change it. In this framework, “I am fat” could be changed to “I’m temporarily fat” Or “I’m food choices challenged.” “I’m no good in Math” could be changed to “I’m just not willing to spend the time and effort to balance my checkbook.” When nagging, critical self-statements creep into your thoughts, change them by making an immediate positive affirmation.
Listen to your language for words which limit you rather than affirm and empower you. Words like “can’t, never could, trying to, hope or plan to” all suggest the possibility of failure. Don’t let your language limit you in any way. Positive statements about yourself will be more powerful when put in a forthright fashion in the present tense. “I am going to___” is a much stronger statement than “I plan or hope to ____ or I’ll try to___.” The affirmative phrases “I am ___” and “I will ___” are declarations that have a hearty energy of accomplishment to them.
If you can’t bring your misery thoughts under control then it’s off to the misery chair for you. When you sit in the misery chair, give yourself permission to be as miserable as you can be. Bring your unhappy thoughts to your full conscious mind. Go to it with a vengeance. No pleasant thoughts here! As you sit in the chair, feel the physical discomfort of your body that matches the mental discomfort of your mind. Set a time limit on how long you want to be miserable. Beware what kind of thoughts cause your mood to shift downward into anxiety and depression. Allow yourself a set time–five minutes of misery per episode should be a reasonable amount. You might even remain in the misery chair a minute longer than you need, to get the full effect of how you are choosing to victimize yourself.
After making yourself good and miserable, you may decide that you have had enough and go on about your business as usual. You might even start charting how many minutes a day that you are sitting in the chair. The idea is to beat your own record by spending less and less every day. The challenge of this exercise is to clean out your mental attic of cobwebs of victim thoughts and words.
If you find yourself refusing to sit in the misery chair but remaining in negative thinking, then you may not be ready to make the decision to change yet. You may have decided on a subconscious or conscious level that you need to punish yourself for a longer period of time. With the frame of mind of staying as you are in the status quo of negative thinking ask yourself, “How much punishment do I need to engage in? How many times do I have to beat myself up? How much gall do I need to drink?” If this scenario happens, then do it and hurry up and suffer and get it over with. Increase your suffering intensely so that you can “give it up!”
The Course In Miracles tells us “Teach only love, for that is what you are.” One dictate of our older years is to think and say only loving things about ourselves and others and make corrections in a gentle and loving way when we slip up by saying, “Do I have a higher thought than that?”
Practice the art of turning victim thought to higher thoughts. Affirm daily to listen to your inner language as well as the words that you express verbally. By listening with the heart and making good choices about all types of expression, you can promote harmony in your life as well as in those around you. The test of a calm, contented life is to monitor your misery thoughts. Remember, if you find misery coming to you just tell it, “I’m not giving you a chair to sit on!”