The Gym Part II
by Mark Sichel, LCSW and Alicia L. Cervini
Welcome to the Psybersquare Gym, Part II!
Mastery and Competence
If you have gotten this far, you already possess some mastery skills.
One of our clients, Judy*, wanted to ski. She was in her mid-twenties and had never been on skis. She was frightened, to say the least. Judy persevered, however, taking lessons and practicing. At the end of three weekends of lessons, she was able to ski down a small mountain. Judy stuck with the skiing lessons, and every year she got better until, finally, she was able to ski down even the most advanced trails.
Her experience skiing became Judy's model for mastery. Skiing had really frightened her, she had found it quite difficult at first, but by saying to herself, "I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can -- I did it!" she developed a sense of her own capacity to master challenges. Now she approaches all of life's challenges with a renewed confidence in herself and her abilities. Challenges are not so frightening because she knows she has the capacity to achieve competence in a skill she is determined to master.
Increasing your competency and mastery in anything gives you an overall greater strength and sense of your own personal abilities. Think back to the many areas of competency you have achieved in your life. Make a list of ways in which you have become more competent over time. You will find, after reminding yourself of how you've mastered challenges in the past, that new challenges are easier to deal with.
Many activities and projects in life require frustration tolerance: writing a school term paper, dieting, bringing up children, or even waiting to make a left-hand turn at a busy intersection. Think of your personal goals and the amount of frustration tolerance that they actually require.
Think of how you have stopped yourself from reaching goals in the past because of difficulties tolerating frustration. Did you turn your paper in late? Sneak a late-night pint of ice cream? Spank your son? Lean on your car horn till your ears were ringing? Did you feel better or worse after giving in to your frustration? Did your inability to deal with your frustration bring you closer to your goals, or further away?
Now, think of the many instances from the past in which you DID demonstrate frustration tolerance. Didn't your ability to stay calm, cool and collected in those frustrating situations help to resolve the problem faster? You DO have the ability to tolerate frustrating situations. Reminding yourself of all the times you have previously done so, will help give you the confidence to do it again and again. Hone your ability to withstand frustration and it will be easier to reach your future goals.
Ability to Delay Gratification
We live in the era of instant gratification. Our technologies have collapsed our sense of time so much that it seems like we should be able to get whatever we want and get it NOW! Bored? Turn on the television and you can have four hundred channels to choose from. Hungry? There's a fast food restaurant on every corner. Overweight? Doctors can give you liposuction that same day. Depressed? You can shop till you drop on the Internet without ever leaving the den.
But, sometimes, if you want something special, you have to delay gratification. There's a reason we have the expression "It was well worth the wait." Even the tasty hamburger you order at your local bar and grill is going to take ten minutes to cook as opposed to the soggy Big Mac that can be in your mouth in thirty seconds. What about the gourmet meal in a fine restaurant? That can take forty-five minutes to reach your table!
It is difficult to learn how to delay gratification in this day and age, but the skill is well worth mastering. What are your personal goals and how do they require delayed gratification? In what ways have you learned to delay gratification? In what ways will developing your ability to delay gratification benefit you? How much will your newfound skill enhance your quality of life, sense of achievement and accomplishments? It may take awhile to answer all of these questions...but it will be well worth the wait. ; )
Interposing Thought Between Feeling and Action
How do you know if you need to work on interposing thought between feeling and action? Well...has anyone ever told you that you were born with a silver foot in your mouth? How often do you wish you had given more thought to something that you said to a boss, a co-worker, a friend, or a family member? How often have you agreed to requests or demands that you did not want to comply with? How difficult is it for you to respond with the statement: "I will give that some thought." Do you find yourself unable to control what you eat? What you drink? Have you been unable to quit smoking?
Sometimes, we get in the way of our own happiness. Impulsiveness, reacting immediately to something without giving it any thought, can sometimes result in hurt feelings, broken resolutions, bad decisions, and poor self-esteem. If interposing thought between feeling and action is something that you struggle with, it can help to decide upon a specific action that you will take before you respond to something impulsively. Even if the action is silly or random, it will give you the time you need to think before you speak or act.
When you feel that urge to blurt something out or to do something that you didn't want to do seize you, try reciting the alphabet -- backwards. Try drinking two 8oz glasses of water. Try touching every window sill in the house. Try saying the middle name of every immediate family member to yourself ten times. All of these silly things will help you to give a measured response or reaction. As you strengthen your ability to control your impulses, your confidence in yourself will grow.
*The names of all clients have been changed to protect their identities.
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