Let’s say one of your best friends announce his/her engagement and your immediate internal response is sadness and maybe even anger. The thought that follows is a painful blow to the self: “I’ll never find someone.” And then you feel guilty for your emotions and thoughts and wonder why you can’t just be happy for your friend. And of course, you are! Feeling happy for your friend and sad for yourself can coexist. This is normal. The thought that you’ll never find someone is likely a self-defeating belief and should best be looked at with some compassionate curiosity. As humans, we constantly have many thoughts racing through our minds. Gaining awareness, especially without bias (or being self-critical) involves simply going through repeated observation of self-talk and reflection.
First, just noticing the thought can be helpful. It takes a sense of emotional security in just holding space for uncomfortable thoughts. Second, asking yourself what emotions go with that thought may be helpful. Like an onion, taking time to peel the multiple and sometimes complex layers of your thoughts can be very helpful upon self-reflection. Through unlayering of the onion (i.e., your many thoughts), you may ask yourself more than once, when reflecting, “yes, and what else?” For example, the first emotion maybe frustration. This is commonly known as surface emotions. Perhaps underneath that feeling is fear or hurt. These feelings are your underlying emotions. You might find you have many layers! Through the deliberate process of self-reflection, ask yourself what may have happened that you are feeling these emotions that led to this thought? An earlier rejection, fear of being vulnerable, or maybe a failed relationship contributed to these thoughts and feelings.
It is also important to exercise self-compassion at this point and validate where these feelings come from and that uncomfortable thoughts would ensue. And then you may be in a more neutral and self-compassionate space to ask yourself what you’d like to think instead. It may not be something particularly heartwarming, but could it be something that is not distorted? For example, a thought of “I’m happy for my friend and sad for myself... I feel the pain that I have not found a significant other yet... I hope I will find an incredible person or a healthy life partner one day.” You could even go a step further to ask yourself, “am I contributing to not having found someone?” You may have a variety of responses. The key is to adopt multiple perspectives and to eliminate any assumptions, generalizations, or all-or-nothing thinking.
How are you with self -compassion? It is important to surrender to reality rather than trying to control everything, the uncontrollable. Expressing how experience makes sense in the present moment and context allows you to combat negative and self-sabotaging thoughts that can keep you stuck. Don't believe everything that you think!!!