We often undermine our own ability to think, reason, and solve problems. We get caught up in should-thinking such as “I should lose weight,” or “I should be a better parent,” or “I should be more successful.” The word “should,” according to many psychologists, can be as bad as a swear word as if you were cursing yourself. Should-thinking keeps us stuck, depressed and anxious.
Gestalt theory offers a language technique that allows us to change our thoughts and help us feel freer and more in control of our lives. Instead of saying, “I should lose weight,” you would say, “I want to lose weight.” Changing these words allows us to reevaluate and identify what we really want. The result, at times, can be eye-opening because it may actually be, “No, I don’t want to lose weight” or “I do want to lose weight, but I need to figure out how.”
Perspective taking — the act of perceiving a situation or understanding a concept from an alternative point of view — is probably the most successful tool we have in helping ourselves feel freer as we find optional ways to feel less stuck.
Metaphorically speaking, you can hold any issue in your hand, turning it around and from side to side in order to see different perspectives. In the “I want to lose weight” example, you can turn the idea one way and see your history and how you have gained weight over time. Turn it another way, and you can see gratitude, how grateful you feel that you can move the way that you do despite any weight gain. Turn it again, and you can see options for personal success, how you were successful in weight loss in the past and thus how you can be successful again.
After gaining a deeper understanding of the issue, how do you find the motivation to make the change? Where does motivation come from? Two important sources for motivation to get unstuck and change include:
▪ Clarifying your core value or why you want to lose weight (to feel freer in your body, look better, improve health, etc.).
▪ Identifying your strengths that can be applied to make the change (endurance, creativity, patience, etc.).
The way we talk to ourselves — gaining perspective on an issue at hand and tapping into our motivation for change — are powerful tools we can use to feel less stuck in life and more equipped to meet challenges from a point of strength.
Dr. Krista Moe is a licensed clinical psychologist with Baptist Health Psychiatric Specialists.