Recently, I wrote here about making the most of time. This month, I have been asked a lot about how people can overcome paralysis and self-sabotage, so I thought I’d pass on my ideas on the subject. Getting in your own way is all about how you relate your yourself. In addition to not managing your time effectively, there are many ways you can stop yourself from getting the most out of life—not enjoying what you have or have accomplished; not being able to get motivated, or finish what you begin; and having a negative focus, which leads to discouragement, anxiety, despair and even depression.
When you aren’t able to get yourself motivated, to complete what you start, or to follow through when you need to, it’s called emotional paralysis. The main factors that lead to paralysis are Lack of Self-Trust, Being Outer-directed, Overwhelm, Perfectionism and Negative Thinking. Let’s look at each of these roadblocks, and what you can do about them:
Lack of self-trust
When you don’t trust yourself, your own judgement, your intelligence, and your ability to manage yourself and make your own decisions, life is too frightening to move. Here’s an exercise abbreviated from It Ends With You to help you strengthen your self-trust.
Steps to self-trust
1. Ask your own opinion. Frequently ask yourself: “What do I think about this? Do I like it? Does it make sense to me? Do I agree or disagree with the others?”
2. Listen to the answer. Listen to your opinions as you would to the ideas of a respected friend. Consider them, weigh them, and even discuss them with yourself from time to time.
3. Repeat until it’s a habit. After a few weeks, you’ll become comfortable with your personal opinions, which will have a profound effect on what you do and how you act. Decision-making will be faster and easier, and you’ll feel much more secure in making decisions.
Knowing and acting on your own opinion is being inner-directed. Making decisions based on what others want or just reacting and responding to events is being outer-directed. You get along like that for a while, then you grind to a halt and become emotionally paralyzed. You must be the one in charge of your life—I believe it’s what we were designed to do, and I see every day what happens to people who don’t take charge of their thoughts, words and deeds. Once you know your own opinion, you need to act on it. The opinions of others are helpful input, but your decisions must be your own.
When you don’t take time to think clearly about the issues and problems in your life, and get mentally organized, you try to solve everything at once, and become overwhelmed and paralyzed. To overcome this problem, write down the thoughts that are racing through your head, make a list of everything that needs to be done, and prioritize. Then, pick one thing, break it down into steps, and begin doing the steps. You’ll find that organizing your thoughts like this makes everything much more manageable.
The final paralyzer is wanting to do things so perfectly that nothing is good enough. To break the paralysis, lighten up on your demands of yourself. Be a supportive, encouraging friend to yourself, not a demanding boss.
By far the biggest roadblock in your relationship with yourself and with life is negative thinking. Many of my clients are afraid that recognizing problems, difficulties and grief is the same as negative thinking, and therefore, they ricochet back and forth between pretending to be happy and feeling hopeless.
Grieving is not negative thinking, it's an adjustment in feelings. If you allow yourself to acknowledge whatever feelings you have (anger, fear, sadness, joy) you’ll be able to feel real happiness when it comes. Negative thinking is actually scaring oneself. To latch on to only the negative things, to “catastrophize” about how awful things are or will become creates unnecessary tension and stress—and eventual paralysis.
The antidote to negative thinking is trust. Trust yourself—you have a direct line to eternal wisdom, and expressing your feelings clears up the static so you'll know what is most important for you in this moment. Trust your family and friends—they love you, they want to help, so let in the love they give you. Living as truthfully as you can—including when you're upset, frightened, or hurting—will put you in harmony with God’s plan for your life. Above all, trust Love—trust that you are surrounded with it, that your loved ones love you back, that you were created by Love, and, when it's time, you will be re-created by Love. Trust the blessings of life—even the worst things will somehow turn out to be a blessing, though you may not be able to see it now. Eternal Wisdom is so much bigger than we are, and we cannot understand all its workings, but “all the Power that ever was or will be, is here now” and we are all safe.
Whatever threatens our little ego-based world cannot touch that which is real within us. There is no need to be paralyzed, to be afraid, to hesitate. Goethe, the beloved German poet, said
Some of your ills you have cured
And the sharpest at least you’ve survived.
But what torments of Hell you’ve endured
From evils that never arrived.
(From It Ends with You) © 2005 Tina B. Tessina
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., "Dr. Romance," is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Long Beach, Calif. since 1978 and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again and Lovestyles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She publishes the Happiness Tips from Tina email newsletter, and the Dr. Romance Blog. She has written for and been interviewed in many national publications, and she has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live and many other TV and radio shows.