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Frances Masters • Manage Stress • No Comments

How to Harness your Inner Power When you Feel Overwhelmed

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions - Stephen Covey

How many times have you used the phrase ‘It’s not fair?’

Jill thought she was getting a raw deal from the universe. She’d lost her job and now it looked like her relationship was going down the pan too.

‘I can’t understand it.’ she said, dejectedly. It’s like there’s a big finger pointing at me and someone saying everything is going too well for Jill. Let’s send her a bucket load of trouble to keep things interesting!’

I had to sympathise with her. It was the second time she’d been made redundant and the lack of money had certainly put pressure on her partner to work extra hours to pay the bills. Resentment had started to build. Now David was coming home later and later. It seemed he couldn’t cope with Jill’s fluctuating moods.

Jill needed a real injection of positivity. She’d forgotten just how strong she was. She’d lost touch with her powerful inner resources.

‘Jill,’ I said, ‘do you remember the last time you lost your job?’

‘How could I forget’ she said, rolling her eyes. ‘It was just before Christmas. I spent two months sending out applications before I even got a reply.’

‘Are you sending out applications now?’ I asked her.

‘What’s the point?’ said Jill ‘There’s nothing out there in my line of business right now.’

Don’t give up

I told Jill about Pavlov and his dogs.

In the late 19th century, Ivan Pavlov conducted many experiments with dogs. Some of the experiments do seem rather cruel to us today but, in terms of research, they produced a lot of important information about behaviour which has real implications for us today. One of those experiments was particularly relevant for Gill.

Pavlov trained his dogs to come running for food when he rang the bell.

He divided the dogs into two groups, A and B. Between group B and the source of the food, he erected a glass wall and rang the bell. Group A came running and got the food. Group B came running but crashed into the glass wall. They retreated without food.

The following day Pavlov rang the bell again. Group A got the food. Group B, now feeling hungrier, ran into the glass wall again. And then something strange happened. When he rang the bell on the following day, group A ran and got the food but now group B did not move, even though they were very hungry. They had simply given up trying.

Pavlov removed the glass wall and rang the bell again. Even though the barrier was now gone, group B did not go for the food.

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We can all get to the point of learned helplessness. But it’s way too easy to give up trying. If you stop knocking doors, no door will open to you.

‘Fair seas do not make skilled sailors’– African proverb

I knew Jill loved music and played in a group in her local church. I told the story of the old violin maker who always chose the wood for his instruments from the north side of the tree, the side that had been beaten and buffeted by the harshest weather and winds. He knew the resistance to the elements made for a superior grain.

‘I don’t feel sorry for the tree in the bad weather any more,’ he said. ‘I just think those trees are preparing to be violins.’

The only constant in life is change. If we can learn to ride the winds of change and weather the storm, we become stronger in the process.

Just like a stained-glass window, we sparkle in the sun, but when darkness comes, our true colours are revealed when the light comes from within.

Did Jill’s story help? Let me know in the comments…

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.

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