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How to Keep from Stumbling in the Very Same Place

Learn how to create a stumble-free zone in your mind.

Key points

  • People tend to repeat their mistakes, preventing themselves from healing and growing.
  • One way to keep from stumbling over and over again is to use Redesign Your Mind techniques.
  • You can create a stumble-free zone in your mind and visualize yourself no longer repetitively stumbling.

In my new book, Redesign Your Mind, I explain how you can make great use of the metaphor of “your mind as a room” and, by visiting it and making changes, change the way you think and the way you live. One change you can accomplish is to stop repeating behaviors that do not serve you. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

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Human beings repeatedly stumble in exactly the same spot. They marry an abusive mate; they divorce him and marry another one. They fail to prepare for an important audition; they don’t win the audition; they fail to prepare for the next one. They dread going to the dentist; to deal with their anxiety, they drink heavily; when the next appointment looms, they drink heavily again. It is one of our most human traits to repeatedly stumble in exactly the same spot, over and over again.

What’s to be done? Create a No-Stumble Zone in your mindroom. Off in a corner, maybe cordoned off, create a perfectly flat, pristine, object-free surface where stumbling is just about impossible.

Imagine that you are doing a beautiful job of maintaining your mental health and your emotional well-being and up comes a trip to the dentist, a visit from your mother, a broken promise by your mate, or some extra work at your job. Here it comes—that place where you regularly trip and fall.

You know that the visit to the dentist will trigger not only panic but will completely change your personality, from the person you’ve been working to become to that other person who lived out of control for the whole decades of her twenties and thirties.

You know that the impending visit from your mother will create an extraordinary amount of lethargy and sadness in your system, will make you hyper-critical, and will leave you with a bad taste in your system for weeks after she’s left for home.

You know that another broken promise by your mate will create all sorts of bad feelings in you and between the two of you, including revenge fantasies, doubts about the viability of the relationship, thoughts about leaving, and a bout of severe sadness.

You know that your job is already only barely tolerable and that when your boss springs some extra work on you on some Friday afternoon, forcing you to have to catch the last train home, it will ruin your weekend, cause you to yell at your mate and your children, and almost cause you to kick the dog.

If you know from past experience that this impending event will trip you up, that means that you have good warning and can try something to prevent that trip and fall. That “something” might be anything you know to do that helps you not trip repeatedly over the very same crack in the pavement. The simplest thing might be to visit your mindroom, visit your cordoned-off, no-tripping zone, halt in front of the big warning sign alerting you to watch your step—and as a result, not trip.

In recovery work this “impending event” is called a trigger. A trigger for someone who trips and falls around alcohol might be the annual holiday party at work, a visit from an old drinking buddy, or a business situation that puts him among heavy drinkers. In recovery programs, you’re taught to identify these triggers, take them seriously, and know clearly what you will do when you are triggered or about to be triggered.

For someone in recovery, maybe that “something to do” is calling your sponsor or attending a 12-step meeting. Maybe it’s skipping the holiday party, seeing your old buddy but only in the safety of your own home, or letting your coworkers know that you are in recovery and can’t hang out with them. Maybe you would do several of these things or maybe you would do all of these things—including using the no-stumble zone you’ve created.

Picture one of your triggers—that visit to the dentist, that visit from your mother. Examine it without flinching. Adamantly say, “I’m not tripping there,” and explain to yourself what you will do to handle that specific challenge when it looms on the horizon. We journey through life on a road defined by its unevenness. It is buckled in places and it is bound to buckle more, creating countless chances for us to trip and fall. We will come to know some of these cracks only by tripping over them; but many of them are visible from a distance and we can prepare ourselves not to trip and fall.

Wouldn’t that prove a welcome relief and spare you any number of bruises? Not tripping and falling repeatedly over the same challenges and obstacles is a lovely habit to learn. As much work as we may do on ourselves to keep us mentally healthy, we can still be triggered and lose our balance. When you see one of these triggers coming, take it seriously. Take yourself your mindroom no-stumble zone, where, because you are in no danger of tripping, you can marshal your resources and create your tactical plan for dealing with that impending challenge.

More from Eric R. Maisel Ph.D.
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