Friday, January 25, 2013

The power of positive grumbling

I've been grumbling all day today. And for good reason:

·         First, I'm grumbling because I am busy. Really busy. Late-nighters and all-nighters all week busy. And I'm going to be busy for a while yet.
·         Second, I'm grumbling because I am in the middle of a 10-day-long course of antibiotics. One of its listed side effects is irritability. No fun.
·         Third, I'm grumbling because it's cold outside, and the walls seem to be shrinking in by about a foot a day.

So what's wrong with this picture? Here's what's wrong:

First, there are people out there who would give their right arm for the great workload I usually take for granted. To have a regular income coming in. To have the world validate their talents. To be self-employed and happy. I should be jumping for joy to watch the clock turn 2 AM. After all, I'm home, I'm safe, and I love what I am doing.

For some people, their days stretch sadly and endlessly ahead of them. But for me, I look ahead and see guest lectures to give, therapy sessions to hold, lunches with cool people, client projects to finish, even a new book to launch soon. Busy is way cool.

Second, what about the antibiotics? They are the greatest news in the world. At the risk of TMI, I had a health scare this fall when my PSA started climbing after a routine physical. Last week I just learned that I don't have prostate cancer - I have prostatitis. Prostatitis is awesome. It's fantastic. It's fixable. My doctor doesn't even want to see me for another six months. (And my PSA is returning to normal levels.) So I should be wolfing down these antibiotics with glee, irritability and all.

Third, about the cold: I am in a warm house with a beautiful woman, good food, great music, and a picture window that looks out over acres of rolling hills. I live in a great town. I am happy, healthy (prostatitis notwithstanding), and in love. And March is only five weeks away.

What I have just used here is a powerful technique from psychotherapy known as reframing. It is not the same as positive thinking. Rather, it takes reality - keeps it completely real - but frames it in terms that are much less scary. You can use it to describe life events, other people, or the way you are thinking. You could think of it as positive grumbling.

Reframing is very powerful. I've watched it change relationships and lift depressions. Today, it even made me stop grumbling. Try it yourself, and see what it can do for you!