In the current economic environment today it’s quite natural to suffer emotional stress from overcrowded highway traffic and the worries over an affordable personal healthcare system. And think of adding to these, what if you are the spouse of military personnel deployed to war? Often any additional anxiety promotes a magnification of the current problems making them appear larger than they are, propelling individuals to be overwhelmed and possibly dramatic in their response behavior. How do you know if you are magnifying your problems?
Let’s distinguish the difference between ‘drama’ behavior and a true demonstration of over-magnification. Drama behavior is generally a display of a person trying to gain power over someone, manipulate a person or group of people for some specific gain. Sometimes it is practiced for the thrill of introducing energy in an otherwise routine life. We’ve all seen and heard these demonstrations, usually in public, loud accusations beginning with, “how could you?, or I can’t believe you would do this to me!” Very often these expressions are followed by the exit of the accuser with a door slamming or the sound of a car tearing out of the parking lot.
The symptoms of over-magnification of problems can be one or several of these:
• An obsessive focus on any one problem. This problem can result in being the constant basis of conversation in a given day.
• An endless stream of questioning among colleagues and family members over this specific problem. Usually the listener will exclaim something like, “Why don’t you do something? or I can’t hear this issue anymore.”
• The assertion that this problem will domino into a series of action that will cause excessive ruin to the person such as, “This speeding ticket will cause my insurance rates to increase, which I can’t afford and I’ll ultimately lose my car insurance. Then I won’t be able to drive to work and I’ll lose my job!”
• A sense of despair causing the person to be paralyzed for action and resolution. They view their current condition as a stream of cumulative problems and now all is lost.
Magnifying problems has become a socially acceptable activity. Magnification of problems has come to mean that the ‘worrier’ appears concerned over the problem, is actively engaged with current events in the world; and, gives the false connection that cumulative anxiety is an earned trophy from our lifestyles today. Excessive long term magnification can take you over with feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, and watching for signs that the end is arriving.
How do you keep yourself from magnifying your problems? Use any or all of these as a starting place:
• Restore a sense of calmness to your present circumstances or seek a place of serenity when you can. It will be tough to work toward possible solutions when there is mayhem, excessive noise, or chaos in your personal space.
• Arrange a schedule for analyzing your problems, as in your professional life. Assess each of your problems separately; don’t combine them causing them to appear more overpowering than they have the importance to be. Also, limit yourself to twenty or thirty minutes of examination. Usually periods longer than this will spiral your psyche into resignation or despair.
• Learn the skill to control the ‘spin-cycle’ of thought. By allowing the same negative thoughts to ‘spin’ in your head will only propel you to feel powerless over the current circumstances. Identify which thoughts you need to accept as your reality and only act on those.
• Identify which of your problems are short term and which are long term. Some issues can be solved in a matter of days and will not have a lasting impact on your life. For the issues that fall into the long term list, analyze the resources you will need, the costs involved to use them, and the time period you need for final resolution. Take as much time as you need for this process. Your ultimate desire is to improve the quality of your life, not just make these issues go away.
When you think you could be magnifying your problems, ask yourself:
• Have I lost the big picture of what I truly desire in my life? Is this current problem only a minor line issue, not a major factor in my life?
• Are you being called a worry wart by your colleagues? How can you identify which fears or worries are irrational in the events that are occurring in your life right now?
• What strategies can you choose to spend your time with without experiencing dread? What choices can you select so that your life will be full of potential? Can you write a series of steps to evaluate what’s important for you to achieve rather than obsess over?
• Can you determine if you are addicted to adrenaline rushes that accompany drama behavior? Do you have friends or associates that are declining your invitations to events based on recent incidents with you?
• How can you identify the verbal or physical triggers that prompt you to burst out with emotion? Are there any similaries to these triggers? What can you use as positive self-talk to rearrange your responses to others, especially when you may be in the community view?
• If you do fly off the handle, what are you really keen to accomplish? If you are passionate about improving child care at the pool clubhouse, what are more productive steps to achieve that, arrange a community meeting, post safety bulletins, or perhaps write an editorial for the local newspaper?
“Power is so characteristically calm, that calmness in itself has the aspect of strength.” Robert Bulwer-Lytton
Bradley Morgan is a corporate and ontological coach who served as a hi-tech executive for over 17 years, in companies such as, IBM, Bay Networks, and Brocade Communications. Bradley’s credentials include a BS from Georgia Tech, a MS from UCLA, a certificate in gerontology from the University of Boston (CGP); and a Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) through the Newfield Network program. In the telecommunications industry, she developed both domestic and international systems engineering teams for technical expertise and executive level leadership. Bradley is a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), American Management Associates (AMA), the American Society on Aging (ASA), the Northern Age4Action Network (A4AN); and the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce.