The cute guy you met Saturday night calls and cancels the date you had set up for the following Saturday. Sighing, you think to yourself “I will never have a boyfriend.”
The promotion your boss told you that you were in line for goes to another colleague. “I will never get anywhere,” you tell yourself.
“I look around and see nothing but happy people,” you say to a friend over coffee. “Why doesn’t anything good ever happen to me?”
Its not just the telling ourselves that nothing good ever happens to us, but often these types of events bring up strong, uncomfortable feelings of real loss. We don’t just roll our eyes and say to ourselves “Oh I will NEVER get a date…,” we actually, genuinely, feel that way. The logic is incontrovertible: we have yet to have a relationship, this guy is ignoring us, we’re getting older, therefore…we are most likely headed to a life of loneliness. All the work we have done on ourselves (or for our career, whatever…) is futile. FEELS futile. From every possible angle of looking at it, actually IS futile.
I call this particular pattern of thinking and the accompanying feelings of hurt and loss “jumping to the loss.” We take one look at a disappointing situation, and the next thing we do is jump down into an uncomfortable pit with steep sides and quite likely something smelly at the bottom. Rationally, we know we’re not in a pit – but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to help. The felt body/mind experience is in fact that of REALLY being in a deep, dark pit.
Jumping to the loss really can interfere with genuine progress. Jumping to the loss after not getting that job promotion could very well lead to not recognizing the next opportunity that rolls around. Giving up on that boy who didn’t call you back sets you up for not being open to his legitimate excuse (ok, if there is one!).
So what to do? During experiences of jumping to the loss, the traditional therapy dictum of “getting in touch with your feelings” doesn’t really help. The feelings are TOO real. At this point, you need to get out of them. Here are some techniques for getting out of that exaggerated sense of loss:
~ Remind yourself of past times when you have felt this way, and then ALSO remind yourself of the times that you have felt better. For example, it really is good to remember the painful nights of not sleeping after that guy dumped you – and then, just as importantly, remember the month after when you couldn’t remember his name.
~ Get out of your head. So often, jumping to the loss is a result of getting caught up in our head with our own story lines. “I should NEVER have done this. I was so stupid to get my hopes up. What the hell was I thinking?” Don’t go there – it’s not worth it. Drop out of your head and check in with your body – what does it feel? How is your chest? Your neck and shoulders? Your tummy?
~ Do something generative. Call a friend, update your profile on Match.com, or re-do your resume. Knit something. Cook a meal. Take a hike. These simple generative acts often sooth those strong feelings that nothing good will ever happen.
~ Finally, recognize this for the pattern that it is. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It will go away on its own naturally if we don’t hold on to the negative feelings. Really. It will go away.