Feeling Overwhelmed? Find Your Exceptions

One of my favorite approaches in therapy is called solution-focused brief therapy, SFBT for short. Inside of this approach, there’s a particular tool I often like to utilize, both with the patients that I work with, and with friends and families when they’re dealing with a particular issue.
But before I give it away with just the name of what’s actually called, what I’d like for you to do is to think about a thought or a way that you’ve been feeling, or a particular challenge that you’ve been having that it just seems like it’s overwhelming, it’s been too much. Here are some examples:
“I have anxiety all the time”
“I am depressed all the time”
“There’s a particular project at work, which just never seems to … “
“I can’t get any forward momentum with this”
“There’s a person at work that I just don’t get along with.”
Find an aspect of your life which seems to be ongoing, never ending, the truth.
Do you have it?            Got an idea?              All right.
Now, I’d like to ask: Has there ever been a time when it seemed to be just a little bit better? Was there a time during last week, or the two, a month ago, or three months ago when your anxiety levels were lower, your depression didn’t seem as strong, that the person that you don’t normally get along with at work, you actually got along with, or the project actually had some headway unexpectedly? Can you find something like that?
What I’d like for you to do is to just notice where those things are. Also, notice what’s happening when I’m asking you this question. If you’re outright just like, “No, there’s never a good time,” I’m going to ask you, “Is that actually true? There was never, never a time when it was even a slight amount better?
Really? Is it actually true?”
Now, if it wasn’t, even if it’s just a hair better, like the person that you don’t like just gave a flat face instead of giving you a scowl, what was going on?  What was different about that time?
Is it possible then, given that those things were different, that you might be able to do it again? What were you doing? What was your attitude like? How did you engage?
Was there a day when the anxiety just seemed to be normal, or just below, or you didn’t seem to have any major stressors? What was different about that time? What were you doing that was different? Did you not drink any coffee that day? Did you get a good night’s rest the night before? Did you finish a project? And now that that project’s gone, sign of relief?
What was different about that day, hour or minute?
It’s never constant. It doesn’t stay forever. There’s always an exception, which is what this presentation’s all about. Find your exceptions.
Find the exceptions to the things that you have made a rule, a belief, a law, a truth with a capital T. Nothing is permanent. There’s only change. That’s it. So in a way, change would be the only thing that’s truly always going to be happening.
Again, try this exercise. Pick a particular thing, or topic, aspect, feeling, emotional state, desire, and see if there was a day, a time, a minute, five minutes when it was less, when it was more, when there was forward momentum, when everything just seemed to just slow down for you.
See if it’s possible to identify what you were doing at that time.
Then, once you’ve found exception, do more of that.

 

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