Many of us can use a psychotherapy session now and then. I’m fortunate to be friends with a licensed therapist, so I don’t have to go to his office and pay full fare. Instead, I can get a session for the cost of lunch. Last week, my friend generously gave me three hours of therapy while we relaxed outside at Old School in Forest Park.
I was seeking his advice about a disease I suffer from. When I receive a negative review or critical comment, it wipes out 1,000 positive messages. This makes writing for a newspaper very hazardous to my emotional health. I can draw negative comments from people by misspelling their names, being misunderstood. Or maybe they think I’m just plain wrong.
He suggested I rank negative remarks, or stressful situations, on a scale of 1-10. If realistically the problem is a 1-3 (can’t find the car keys), there’s no reason to get upset. If something is an 8-10 (lost my job) then we need to pay attention.
It’s strange but I’ve been living my life the exact opposite. Getting stuck by a train — that’s an 8. Worldwide economic collapse that cripples my business — that’s about a 2. As my children often remind me, I overreact to little things (We’re out of flour!) but very calm in a crisis (What’s that? You tore your ACL?).
For example, we had a rather severe leak in our dining room ceiling. My son was visiting during a thunderstorm and watched me calmly set out buckets, bowls and towels. He said if he had that problem, he would make fixing the leak his number one priority. So, I get it — raining inside the house — that should be a 9.
I think I became this way because of my parents. Can’t find the car keys was an 11. Betty Anne broke her arm again: barely a 3. The statute of limitations for blaming my parents expired long ago. But at least I now understand why coffee spilling on my newspaper sends me to the psych ward.
Thanks to my friend, critical comments are now 1-3: Not worth bothering about. He also advised not using my brain as a defense attorney to refute their criticism. He called this “holding onto hurt.” It’s better, as Elsa tells us in Frozen, to let it go.
By the end of the session, I felt like I had been to an emotional chiropractor, who had completely adjusted my attitude. I know I’m not the only one with this disease because I did a survey and found many fellow sufferers. We allow words to cut us deeply and cancel all the positives in our lives.
It explains why people return from a fabulous vacation in Italy only to dwell on the train connection they missed. Or how wonderful the wedding was until that hurtful comment ruined their mood.
So let’s put things in perspective. No chairs available at the pool? That’s about a 2.
Forest Park Review not delivered? That’s got to be a 10!
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.