3. I don't want to be pushed around by my thoughts and feelings anymore. What can I do?
This section will teach you how to deal effectively with the difficult thoughts and feelings that show up as a result of your cancer diagnosis. The key is to help you live the best possible life that you can live, even when you are experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings.
A metaphor might be useful to get us started
Think of yourself as the driver of a bus. You want to drive towards the things you most value. Think of this as the castle in the below picture.
You may want to complete the passengers on the bus exercise as you work through this. Please download it below.
Worksheet: Passengers on the bus exercise
Or, you can hear an audio version of the passengers exercise.
Passengers on the boat (a variation on "passengers on the bus"; Audio)
What do you most value? What do you most want to do with your life? This is something only you can decide. For the sake of this metaphor, pick something really important to you. It could be something like:
- being a loving parent
- being there for my partner
- learning to do something
- achieving something personally important
- being connected to nature, or
- making a lasting or useful contribution
Write your value down on the worksheet you downloaded.
If you are having trouble thinking of something you value, you may want to go to Question 5 on the sidebar and explore your values. Then you can return to this question.
Most things we value doing require effort. It may not always be easy to be a good partner or parent. It will often feel quite difficult to live a life that matters to you, in the face of stress and difficulties,especially when you are worried about your health, or you feel tired or physically ill.
Taking a risk, and going for something meaningful in our life, often brings up alot of unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Perhaps doing something for yourself feels selfish, or maybe you are afraid you are not "good enough." Think of these unpleasant thoughts and emotions as passengers on the bus (see image below).
So if you want to achieve something difficult, you will often feel anxiety (think of this as the first passenger). You might think: "I'm not good enough" (second passenger), you might think: "What is the use, I never stick to anything " (third passenger), and: "I never have enough time " (fourth passenger). These passengers, or thoughts and feelings, try to tell you that you can not drive in the direction you want to drive.
Can you think of thoughts and feelings that show up for you, and tell you that you can't do something that is really important to you? Write down some thoughts and feelings that seem to be barriers to you achieving the things you want. Write down the passengers you carry with you.
These passengers probably make the most noise and are the scariest when you are doing something that is important to you. So they give you a choice.
Choice 1: You can drive in the direction you want to go, and all these passengers will come to the front of the bus and be scary and often extremely unpleasant. Thus, you can drive in your valued direction, but you are going to have unpleasant thoughts and feelings show up. The passengers can't actually stop you from driving where you want. All they can do--despite beliefs that they can do more--is act unpleasant and scary.
Choice 2: You can agree to not go in your valued direction. Instead you can take a detour (not do what you want). If you do this, the passengers will agree to stay quiet and hide in the back of the bus. So now you do not have the self-doubts and anxiety showing up as much at the front of the bus. But you are also not going in the direction you want to go.
There is another tricky aspect to Choice 2. Although you may reduce your unpleasant feelings by not taking a chance and doing what you want, you never really get rid of the unpleasant feelings. They are still on the bus. As we will illustrated in addressing question 1 and 2, attempts to get rid of unpleasant feelings often fails in the long run.
The first choice involves willingness. It is a hard choice to make. Only you can make it, and importantly, there is no right or wrong choice.