The following is a hypothetical situation that you might be able to resonate with: Jackie felt belittled by her supervisor. She was reprimanded in front of her colleagues and felt extremely angry towards her supervisor but she froze and did not know what to do with her anger. After work, she went home, grabbed a pint of ice cream and poured herself a glass (or two) of wine, crawled into bed and slept through the night. The next day, she called in sick to work and stayed home feeling depressed about her work situation and life in general.
When we are struggling with anxiety, depression, and emotional turmoil, we may try to avoid the current moment by turning to something that gives us momentary refuge but in reality does not resolve our pain. Jackie was struggled with her anger towards her supervisor and she did not know how to use her anger to her advantage. Instead she tried to avoid her anger by turning to sugar, alcohol, and sleep as a momentary distraction. However, the next morning, she woke up with guilt for her actions from the night before and fell into a spiral of shame and depression.
Contemporary psychotherapy treatments and ancient teachings both refer to the importance of accepting the present moment. Ancient teachings such as mindfulness practice and contemporary psychotherapy theories such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, all encourage us to stay with the experience in the present moment. Once we embrace the reality of the present moment and our priorities in life, then we can create a productive action plan.
Let’s go back to Jackie. If Jackie felt her anger towards her supervisor for reprimanding her in front of her colleagues, then she can take a moment to just feel her anger in her body. She can then accept that she is angry and acknowledge that her anger is OK. So she does not need to get anxious about her anger. Jackie can take a moment to check in with her priorities– which in this case is to maintain employment but she also wants to be treated with respect by her supervisor. She can then create an action plan. A possible action plan could be to ask her supervisor if they can meet in private. She can then ask the supervisor if they could possibly meet for 15 minutes each week to discuss her work so she can avoid receiving negative feedback in front of her colleagues.
To review, the three steps are:
1) Accept the reality of your current experience and feelings.
2) Check in with your priorities and values.
3) Create an action plan that reflects your priorities, values, and feelings.