by Rick Fagan, MA, LPC
"I don't know if I can get through this.” “I don’t know what to do.” “How does anyone get through something like this?” Do these statements sound familiar? How about, “I can and will get through this.”? Maybe this statement sounds a little less familiar in a difficult circumstance or situation. The unfortunate fact about life is that life happens to us all…all the time. There is nothing we can do about life but learn to set our sails in the right direction. Believe it or not, some questions do not have answers. The more we ask, the more we wonder, “Why did this have to happen to me?” “What made him do that?” “Why did she have to pass away?” “Why did I have to get a flat tire 10 minutes before my meeting?"
These questions can trap you in an endless loop that will spend all your valuable time and energy trying to answer, and can prevent you from seeing what is in front of you. If you wish to test this theory, try walking backwards while carrying a 100-pound backpack for a significant amount of time (without looking ahead) and please try to keep up the same speed while trying not to run into anything. Sound difficult? You bet it is, yet it is so easy to get stuck in the dreaded question loop.
I know what you’re going to ask now, “But Rick, how do I stop asking those questions?” My easy response would be a one-word answer, “acceptance”. Unfortunately, the road to acceptance is a difficult one. It requires patience, energy, dedication, perseverance, looking forward, etc. Acceptance gives you the reins to the circumstance and allows you to shed the weight of the past from your shoulders. Acceptance clears the fog that once surrounded you so you can finally see where to go next. Acceptance becomes the new set of behaviors to put in place. I used to work with a behavioral therapist who taught me that if you take away a behavior, another behavior must take its place. Otherwise, you have a void where you can fall back to the behavior you are trying to get rid of in the first place.
Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution that involved giving something up only to find yourself going back to that same something you decided to give up? Maybe you missed the feeling or sensation that something you gave up provided you. The dreaded question loop may provide an illusion of control that we are working to solve the questions. If we let go of the dreaded question loop following a difficult situation or experience through acceptance, what constructive and helpful behavior(s) can we put in that place? What activities do you enjoy doing? What new experiences do you wish to try? This transformation can be scary and intimidating. The good news is that you do not have work alone through this process. Please visit horizonhope.org to connect with a counselor who can help you develop the statement "I can and will get through this".