Yesterday is a Barrier For Me

I came across this title in an article. It caught my eye, and I wondered how it applied to me.

Many years ago, I was having problems fitting in at work. At least my employer thought so and decided to have me take some sick leave to get better. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. I decided to take vacation time that I had been saving up. After two months of being away from work, I returned with no medical clearance requested. Strange, but not really. I had been caught up in more significant issues.

But things at work would never be the same.

Before this incident, I couldn’t envision myself working anywhere else for the rest of my career. Although I knew things weren’t great in my heart, work-life has an ebb and flow in that respect.

To rapidly end this saga for you, I started a job search at the age of 56 years, and on my second interview, I was hired in a dream job with benefits I had never known in the not-for-profit sector.

But mentally, I had not recovered from the anger, confusion, and deep sadness I experienced in the job I knew I had to leave.

I must have played the last few meetings I had with my boss repeatedly in my mind. I don’t know why. Perhaps I had been looking for answers where there were none to find. I was aware of the pattern but couldn’t find a way to stop it. It wasn’t helping. It was very detrimental.

For over a year after, when I had to walk near the former office, I’d visible vibrate. It was terrible.

Then, while in a waiting room, I was flipping through the pages of a year-old Reader’s Digest.

Compulsive thinking.

A lightbulb went off in my head. The article was talking about me!

I now had a credible path to change my mental gymnastics.

I knew I couldn’t hold two different thoughts at the same time. So I decided to force myself to think of anything else but my last conversations with my boss. I would think about pink elephants, count back from 100 by 7s – 100-93-86…

I would try anchoring myself in the present. I’m walking down the street under a blue sky with no clouds. There was sand on the sidewalk left from winter slip prevention. The person walking toward me was wearing a long black coat and a yellow scarf.

At first, I’d be well into my compulsive thinking before I realized it and switched on my pink elephant. With practice, I got better. It took weeks or months; memory fades now, thankfully, to shorten the time between starting my repetitive thinking and forcing in other thoughts. Sometimes I could anticipate triggers and wouldn’t even get started on my unhelpful thoughts.

Please give this a bit of a think. What is a ‘yesterday’s barrier’ for you? How could you think it into the background? Might you need a couple of professional counselling sessions to get you started? What’s holding you back?

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think below.

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6 thoughts on “Yesterday is a Barrier For Me

  1. Michelle Taylor says:

    Many people, like myself, have a personal ‘white elephant’ that they need to deal with. Learning to let go of past hurts and enjoy the present! Using the ‘pink elephant’ approach to address the ‘white elephant’ is a great reminder to do your best to enjoy each day.

    • glenn says:

      Thanks. The interesting aspect of the Blog is highlighting that there are many different paths we each can take, without diminishing the value of another’s path.

  2. Gail Benshabat says:

    This is a very interesting topic.

    I’ve taken a slightly different approach to addressing the white elephant in the room. Instead of replacing it with a pink elephant, I would acknowledge the white elephant head on. I try to understand it, not run from it. I try to see how I could live side by side with it by turning a negative into a positive. I know, that’s easier said than done. There are no magic bullet solutions but there are different ways of approaching the problem. The trick is to find out what works for you.

    Personally, I’ve found it hard to ignore the white elephant in the room. I’ve found it even harder to suppress intrusive thoughts – next to impossible. I feel that by just telling yourself not to think about something, simply won’t work. I know that’s the advice a lot of people like to give but I don’t know how effective that is for everyone. From my own experience, trying to expunge negative thoughts just intensifies the thoughts even more.

    My daughter went to heaven six years ago. Without going into details, I was left with a horrific memory of her passing no parent should ever have to witness. The days and months that followed led me down a path I never imagined. I developed an insatiable interest in the afterlife. Because I “knew” Lisa was still with us, I read everything I could get my hands on – books that resonated with my belief system. On a soul level, I gained an immediate awareness that the connectedness of all life is stronger than we think. It took a long time but I can honestly say that the sadness and pain I feel can and does co-exist with the joy and love I hold in my heart.

    The uncomfortable thoughts and memories are still there and continue from time to time, but with much less intensity. Why? Because every time an intrusive or troubling thought would enter my mind, I’d acknowledge it, accept it and then let it go. I wouldn’t ignore it. It took a LOT a lot of time. Like you said in your post after that “lightbulb” epiphany, you had a viable path to change your mental gymnastics. You found a way to harness those unsettling thoughts. Nothing is perfect. But it’s better. I’m happy that you found a way to anticipate the triggers and think it into the background of your daily life.

    I think everyone has a white elephant in the room to deal with. It’s finding that pathway. For some people it’s important to think through their thoughts, write about them and talk about them with people they trust.

    In the early days, I felt it was important to express my thoughts to a therapist and bereavement counsellor. A few sessions was all I needed with one therapist and he agreed that I had a good handle on my emotions. Anyway, I intuitively knew that therapy wasn’t going to bring me peace. I had to find that on my own. I know therapy can be incredibly helpful for many people and I’d never knock it. For myself, I imagined therapy to be intense, draining and heavy, (which it is) and for that reason alone, I opted out. I had to deal with the white elephant in the room on my own two feet.

    Thank you for sharing your story and insights. I love your blogs!

    • glenn says:

      Thanks for your supportive comment.

      Telling your personal journey is inspiring and full of hope. Learning about other people’s journeys helps me to adjust and improve my own journey.

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