You may be wondering what does observation truly mean in this context? Well, it means taking the time to observe your thoughts, emotions and feelings as they are entering your body. The best way to describe this process is this….
X – Something Happens
M – We apply Meaning to the thing that happened
E – We create an emotion or an Emotional label around X
F – Our body begins to create the Feeling associated with the emotion
B – We Respond with our typical Behavior
This is referred to as a “Model of the Mind”. Let’s put it into action shall we?
X – You get an email notification or a text that your phone bill is late.
M – This means to you perhaps that you are going to be in trouble with the phone provider and you may lose your phone service.
E – You start to feel anxious about this situation, because you are not sure why your payment did not go through. You are SURE you sent it!
F – Your body starts to create tension in you perhaps in your jaw, your back or in your chest.
B – You are now experiencing an anxiety attack and your typical reaction is to worry more and more about this until you can find out what happened.
While being concerned about a situation like this is normal, what is not normal, for a person with anxiety is worrying to the point of becoming so overwhelmed that you cannot take meaningful action to resolve the situation in a timely manner. You start to Ruminate, which means the thoughts and the worries just keep circling around in your mind. Looping and looping around and around.
What you want to do with the Observation part of this STOPP technique, is start observing what meaning you are assigning to the things that are happening around you. Then observe what emotions come up for you, and how this feels in your body. THEN and only then can you take action to determine how you will CHOOSE to behave. If you know that you probably won’t lose your cell service because your payment is late, this should help with the emotions of anxiousness. Tell yourself, it’s okay. There must be a mistake somewhere. I will make the time today to call or email them to find out what happened. If you can control the emotional aspect, then the anxious feelings may not enter the body at all. Or if they do, they will not be as strong or last as long. Then your behavior would simply look like, sitting down and calling the phone company and getting to the bottom of what happened and getting it resolved.
It is important to note, that while we cannot control the external environment and the mistakes that get made around us, we can CONTROL our feelings and emotions and how we respond to the situations in our lives.
For today, simply practice every time an uncomfortable feeling comes up, Stop, Take a breath, and Observe what is really going on. It is kind of interesting how sometimes, what is going on is not the situation that happened, but oftentimes it is a series of thoughts and patterns that get stuck in our head and we are not even aware of them. BE mindful about what you are thinking. Are you worrying over things that you have no control over? Are you not taking appropriate action to dissolve the worry?
I would encourage you to keep a list of the things that come up, in essence create an Observation Journal. I spoke about this on Day 2. Once you begin to notice the same concepts or ideas coming up over and over again, you will feel more empowered to take action to either let the worry go, or to resolve the issues you do have control over. In the next step of the STOPP technique, we will take our list of observations and start by gaining some Perspective! See you tomorrow.