The trap is thinking that having horrible scary thoughts makes me a horrible scary person. The trap is believing that what I think and feel is reality. The tricky part is that the fear, anxiety, terror, shame– all of these powerful emotions are very real and very scary to experience… and the tricky part is feeling the feelings and acting opposite. The tricky part is to take care of myself when feeling such intensity and take helpful action. The tricky part is to not avoid, internalize, withdraw, and hide.
The trap is that in the moment, sometimes, I really just can’t tell what’s a distortion or not. And then, of course, what is a distortion? Maybe it is more helpful to acknowledge that my reality is my reality and there are a lot of other realities going on for any given moment.
For example, an imperfectly worded and ultimately misunderstood email. Making a mistake at work is terrifying, and sometimes panic-inducing and then, yup, I can catastrophize until a miscommunication has turned into the terror of being fired, or, on occasion, the possibility of shooting myself in the head just to end the painful emotions. And that’s how it goes some weeks.
And even in my head, this seems somewhat ridiculous. Like, really? Is this really how my brain and heart and emotions and nerve endings work? And the compassionate answer is this is my reality sometimes. The emotions are real. The intensity of the terror, fear, and shame is real. When other people feel these emotions they perhaps act and react in ways similar as I do.
The difference? It takes a whole lot less to trigger these emotions in me. Perfectionism doesn’t help. A tendency towards obsession and compulsion doesn’t help. Self-hate doesn’t help. Avoidance doesn’t help.
What does? What helps me out of The Trap? What helps anyone out of their Traps?
Space. Perspective. Connection. Approaching. Courage.
It takes a lot of courage to become aware of the Trap, and it takes a hell of a lot more courage to work our way out of it once we realize we’re Trapped.
We all need courage.