Magical thinking and the joys of self-inflicted stress

And now, the end is near… the end of my unemployment, that is! What a terrible time this was! But I have learned a few things and in fact, I suppose it was necessary for me to find out what causes a lot of my stress and distress – and therefore it cannot have been such a terrible time at all!

Let me tell you, over the past few weeks I honestly felt like I was steering right into a burn-out / depression. I felt so much pressure as it was, and everything else had the potential to make it worse (like someone asking me to make some room in the supermarket aisle. It was that bad). I had some unique encounters at job interviews – a lot of material for another blog – but I did have interviews and still, I was not able to see that. I just saw that I did not have a job. And I felt stressed, stressed, stressed! Now I am finally getting an idea about the reasons – it is not that I am not resilient, it is the way I deal with stress. So this is what happened:

I live by deadlines. They are not deadlines like “The project needs to be finished by next week”, that would be normal in any work situations. It’s deadlines like “I need to have dinner by 6 pm.” If someone calls me at 5:45 I am getting stressed. See, there is no reason for me to eat at 6. It’s just the deadline I have made up. This alone is not too bad – I can tell the other person that I will call back. But I do it with things that I cannot influence as well. Like “I need a job by June”. Guess what? I did not have one. Ok, so a new deadline: “I need a job by August.” Guess what? – Yeah, exactly!

To my deadlines, I add a good pinch of magical thinking. Thinking that children do – if they have not sent me an email by tomorrow, I won’t get the job. Imagine the stress level until tomorrow – and the email is not there!

I thought I had gotten rid of this pattern over the last few years. Therefore it is interesting to see that I dig them out again when I am under pressure. This will change!

After a disastrous interview two weeks ago I felt like my nerves were cables without lagging. I decided to meet up with my friend Ana then, and that was really the turning point. I finally understood what I was doing! She kind of put things into a different perspective for me. She said “So the job interview did not work out. So what? What is going to happen? Will you be losing your apartment? No? Will you be starving? No! The worse thing that can happen is that you have to keep applying, and something will come up!”

This conversation got me back into a healthier mode. Of course, many people – like poor Mr. Betterhalf who had to endure plenty of mood swings – had told me similar things before, but this time I understood. The next job interview came up and I approached it with curiosity and a lighter heart. And afterwards I felt great. And I thought that even if I did not get the job (because there are millions of other job-hunters in this country, too), I did my best. And I was good. I gave good answers, even made some jokes. And guess what? Yeah. They sent me the email the next morning (without my deadline) saying that they would like to hire me! I don’t have the contract yet and won’t get it until I return from my vacation in Greece (yes! Vacation! Next week!), but I am not applying any more magical thinking. It will work out fine.

I met Ana for coffee earlier today. We got so caught up on other topics like the dubbing of Polish porn (another blog topic, maybe!) that I totally forgot to tell her that our day by the lake was the start of my “getting better”. So thank you, Ms M. 🙂 You are a great friend!!

I am practising my new approach now. I am trying to live more in the moment and not in fear of past and future. It will be hard work, but I know I can do it. I did it before, just not in situations like this! I am reading a lot about Jon Kabbat-Zinn’s approach of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) at the moment. Is anybody here familiar with this approach? I am already familiar with some of the techniques and exercises (also mental ones), but I would like to know more. So let me know!

Yours truly, madly, deeply!



4 thoughts on “Magical thinking and the joys of self-inflicted stress

  1. I never quite told you how much this post meant to me, and how good it felt to know I’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Thank you for being such a good friend and letting me into your life.

  2. Pingback: Perspectives on judging, valueing and being aware | The German Perspective

  3. Pingback: 12 nights – Farewell 2014, welcome 2015! | The German Perspective

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