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In my previous column ("Managing expectations", The Weekend Mix June 22), we looked at modifying our expectations so they are more reality-based and, therefore, less likely to cause us a world of hurt if things don't go to (our ideal) plan.
So when we find our expectations have been dashed and we're left feeling disappointed, sad, angry, etc what do we do about it?
One of the first steps to take is to identify what it is you are feeling. To help, you can use the RAIN acronym. This is an excellent tool to use in any situation in our lives when things aren't going well.
Recognise the feeling. What's the root emotion? It may be one or a combination of emotions. If you can't name it, then simply describe it in terms of being unpleasant/uncomfortable if you do/or don't like it. By acknowledging or naming the emotion or feeling we are noticing the emotion or feeling and how it effects us. We are not the emotion or feeling itself.
Allow the feeling to be present. If you are resisting it, feel the resistance. Notice if you're telling yourself you shouldn't be feeling it or if you think the emotion is "bad". No emotion is good or bad; they are comfortable or uncomfortable. Allow yourself to feel the feeling.
Investigate your feelings. What do you notice? Is it shallow or deep? Hot or cold? Where do you feel it? How would you describe it to someone else? What do you notice about it? What happens over time?
Nurture with self-compassion. Self-compassion begins when we recognise we are hurt or suffering. Try to sense what the wounded, frightened or hurting place inside you most needs, and then offer some gesture of active care that might redress the need. Does it need a message of reassurance? Forgiveness? Companionship? Love? Do you need to take some quiet time, listen to music, get a massage. Experiment and see which gesture of kindness helps most to comfort, soften or open your heart.
Once you've identified what you're feeling about the situation it may be time to take action.
Firstly, be honest with yourself about the situation.
Ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do in this situation?"
If the answer is "No", then do nothing. That's not a smart answer, it's plain common sense. If a situation is beyond your control then trying to do something or worrying over something you can't change creates more stress. Use RAIN to help you process the emotions.
If the answer's "Yes, I can do something", then make a list of options with pro's and con's for each of the options. Add as much detail as you can.
Does any option "feel" better? You may not like any , it may be that one simply feels less awful than the others.
Does one option make more sense than another?
If you're stuck, seek help. Asking for help can be hard, but it's not a sign of weakness. Others have skills we don't have, why not utilise them?
Do you need professional help? Identify who could help you - life coach, doctor, financial adviser, community law office etc - and contact them.
The point of checking your options is to take action when you're stuck: do something, take some control back.
Deciding to do nothing is also a decision. However, it's one that means you have no control over the outcome and one that adds to the feelings of fear and powerlessness.
If you've been in this situation before and the action/inaction you took didn't result in a useful outcome then you'll have to do something different.
Once the dust has settled, if you've been in a similar position before, ask yourself why you're there again? Is there a pattern? Is there a root cause that needs to be dealt with once and for all?
If so, do something about it now; get a coach, a counsellor or another professional who can help you work it out. If you don't, chances are you'll be here again asking yourself "Why does this always happen to me?".
None of us like being on the receiving end of a curve ball. However, we can handle them in ways that minimise the pain and hurt for ourselves and those around us. Remember, asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's the first step to freedom.
Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.
For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.