How to Get Out of Jail Free

Stay firmly rooted in the present and avoid bringing your old baggage to new relationships. 

by Tanja Pajevic • More.com Member { View Profile }

So here’s the super-duper, Get Out of Jail Free Card my therapist friend Scarlet gave me after I’d moaned and groaned my way through dinner, telling her how I completely lost my mind the other day. It's a super-neat trick that's already saved my ass on more than one occasion, and I hope it saves yours, too.

(Unfortunately for Scarlet, I happened to be wired on this particular evening. Below is a partial transcript, so you can listen in.)

Scarlet: “Here’s a tip for you, T. when you find yourself reacting strongly to something someone did, it’s almost always related to something in the past.”

Tanja:  “Uh-oh.  What do you mean?”

Scarlet: “O.K.  Say Ken does something that really bothers you, but instead of saying ‘Hey, this bothered me and here’s why,’ you end up stewing about it for days.”

T: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

S(giving me a look): “Right. So you find yourself thinking about what a jerk he is, how he doesn’t care about you, blah blah blah. You with me?”

T(mumbling): “Yeah.”

S: “What that usually means is that this situation with Ken is probably reminding you of something that happened in the past.”

T: Gulp.

S: “Say your dad was an insensitive jerk—you loved him, sure—but he could barely remember your name, much less what made you tick.”

T, panicking: “Wait? You knew my dad?!”

S: “A therapist would say you’re reacting to something in the past. In this case, the insensitive thing your hubby did reminds you of your dad, so that makes everything that much worse. You start thinking your hubby is just a jerk and why did you even marry him if he doesn’t care about you?”

T: Silence.

S, giving me a look: “You get it now?”

T(Flagging the waiter down for another drink): “Yeah, yeah.  You got me.”

S: “Mmm, hmm.”

(Long pause while a bunch of obnoxious college kids start yelling/singing “YMCA” by The Village People.)

T: “What is it, midnight already?

S(checking her watch):  “9:30 p.m.”

T: “Same thing.”  (Sigh.) “So how do you let go of that past stuff so it doesn’t mess up your life now?”

S: “Exactly. You’ve got to outsmart your thinking. Because once you’re feeling bad, your schema—or your belief system—has you thinking that you suck or nobody cares about you or whatever, it’ll do everything it can to convince you that it’s right.”

T: “That’s a pretty evil schema. Is Wonder Woman going to swoop in here and save the day?”

S: “I sure am. So let’s say you’re mad at Ken, thinking you don’t matter to him, yadda yadda yadda.”

T(nodding):  “OK.”

S: “So this schema, or this belief that you don’t matter, is going to go crazy looking for proof that you don’t mean anything to him. Everything he does and says gets filtered through this belief system, and before you know it, him forgetting to blink becomes just another sign that you mean jack shit to him.”

T: “You know, you should be charging me for this.”

S: “I know. So your schema, because it wants to be right, ignores all the evidence that shows you how good and decent your guy is, and how much he loves you. Because that doesn’t fit with the old story, see?”

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