There are two sides to every story, or even more sides the closer you look. Is the glass half empty or half full? Or maybe it’s a huge glass that is very hard to fill?
In CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), success comes from changing negative thought patterns or changing perspective. The challenge is often finding the perspective that is most meaningful and helpful.
Several years ago, I met with a lovely woman who suffered from crippling depression and constant anxiety. She had regular panic attacks and managed her symptoms either by drinking or completely checking out. Consequently, her two children at home, she felt, suffered from her lack of parenting. Her guilt about her absent parenting increased her depression and drove her anxiety. She shared with me that she was so overwhelmed and there was always so much to do that she couldn’t do. She talked about how she slept most of the day and when her kids got home, she was so tired and exhausted that she couldn’t get herself to do anything. The more she sat there, she described, the more her kids made messes, left out their socks, shoes, etc. They asked her unending questions, needed her help constantly, and when asked to help out, either forgot or became defiant. She shared that she loved her children but could no longer handle the challenge of parenthood. Overtime, she became less involved and more agitated.
One day, for some reason, our session focused on perspective. I asked her what the socks on the floor meant to her. She said that it meant that she had a ton to do and no energy to do it. But what else could those socks mean? They meant she had children who were vibrant and active and more interested in the next activity than cleaning up their socks. We discussed how one day those socks would no longer be there as her children grew and left home. We talked of parents who had lost socks on the floor when life had abruptly taken their children from them or people who never got to experience socks on the floor. We talked about how beautiful it was that she had children and that she had signs all around her of those children. The session ended with tears of gratitude for her family and a new perspective.
I think many of us get accustomed to the glass half empty. I know I do. I see the shoes in the middle of the floor, the dishes that need to be done, the bills that need to be paid, etc and wonder how I can keep up with it all. But, what else could it all mean? Is there a way to see these frustrations differently? If we look for it, most of the time we can find the other side of the story. If I sit and think for a moment, these frustrations are indicators of wonderful things. My mortgage means I have a house, the dishes mean I have food, the mess means I have people around me. I wouldn’t ever trade in my little pink sandals left in the middle of my kitchen floor. What they represent means the world to me.