Dana, a 31 year old engineering designer, has been working on the Step 1 questions, with her friend Annie.  Let’s take a look at how Dana and Annie are using Step 1 and the”Active Thinking” questions:

Dana: I am tired of feeling overwhelmed all the time. It is taking a toll on my health, my relationships, my career.  It’s like I live with a low grade anxiety and I feel stressed most of the time. I don’t want to feel that way anymore.

Annie: Let’s focus on desirable feelings: How do you want to be feeling?

Dana: I want to feel happy. In control. At peace.  Strong. Strong and confident. Not stressed or overwhelmed and afraid. 

Annie: What are the thoughts that you experience when you are overwhelmed?

Dana: I think that I am going to fail. I think that am going to really mess up or that someone will get really angry at me. I have threatening, scary thoughts. Or thoughts predicting some impending failure or crisis.  I stress over every detail, that could potentially go wrong. I don’t want to feel like I am a constant disappointment. I genuinely enjoy pleasing people but it is hard work. I have come to realize that it is an impossible task.  It is as if I set myself up for failure. I am stuck.

Annie: Let’s focus on desirable thoughts: In the past when you have felt overwhelmed what thoughts have helped you?

Dana: When I remind myself that in a month or in a year I may not even remember why I worried so much, I relax.  Perspective helps me feel better.  When I am too close to the situation, I see things bigger, more dramatic, more dangerous than they really are. What I need is perspective.

Annie: Let’s focus on desirable actions. In the past when you felt overwhelmed what actions have help you?

Dana: Making a plan. Having a strategy. Taking specific steps. Evaluating  Leading questions help me make a plan. If I direct my questions towards a solution and feel more in control.  They show me what action to take. Starting with specific questions is like mapping. Like crumbs, leading questions will get me out of the scary forest!

  • The purpose for working with Step 1 “Active Thinking” questions is to will bring the mind in an optimistic state. It is a prerequisite for Step 2. 
  • Step 2 is grounded in optimism created by Active Thinking and takes thinking further to Identifying the specific Problem and Finding Solutions.

So lets go to step 2:

Identify what is a problem in your life at this time and write it down.

Here are three problems Dana came up with:

Problem: My life is good, but there are are certain areas that I have a real problem with.  For example, one problem is that I am afraid to speak up at work. I am the only one without kids and I stay at the office late, so now they expect it.  Every time I want to ask my boss to pay me for overtime I feel shaky and I think he will ignore me or fire me. I don’t want to look for another job right now, plus I really like my job.

Possible Solutions:
Practice saying “no” to the boss. I can start with something inconsequential so I don’t have to worry about getting fired.

Voicing small requests, and opinions, and getting comfortable with asking for what I need.

Not asking permission for everything and taking charge.  Taking responsibility for my work so I don’t have to be so passive about it. 

Less fear, more freedom to be myself!

Problem: Another problem is my “co-dependent” family. I feel pressure from my parents to spend every summer vacation at the family cabin with my parents, my siblings, their kids! Instead I want to go to the beach with my girlfriends, but my parents act hurt any time I mention it.

Possible Solutions:
Let go of depending on others.
Let go of expecting my parents to read my mind and give me permission.
Give myself permission to be honest and to take care of my needs.
Let go of feeling angry about others being co-dependent and focus on me not doing that.
More self-awareness of what is important to me.
More courage to express it in a non combative tone and as a matter of fact.  “Mom, I will not be coming to the cabin in June because I will be spending time with my girlfriends.”
Honesty about my dreams.
Responsibility and focus on my part in making my dreams come true. 

Problem: Maybe my biggest problem is my fear of being alone. My boyfriend of 7 years used to be fun in college but he never grew up. He still smokes pot all the time, and has no money. He is not really the kind of person I want to have kids with. He is a nice guy and he really has potential to be great. Even if I left I could never find Mr Right guy anyway, so I stay. 

Possible Solution:
Some days I dream of packing his clothes and dropping them off at his parents’ house.
Hoping he will find a girlfriend and make it easy to leave him.
Admit that I have become an enabler for his irresponsible habits.
Let go of accusing him for my life and my unhappiness.
Let go of making him responsible for my happiness.

When Dana decides to take responsibility for her life she will take action.
Taking action is Step 3.
 In Step 3 it is important that she is aware of a few pitfalls!  

Step 3 coming soon…