EPISODE 80: SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA- STOP PSYCHIC MASOCHISM
In this episode, Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, CEO & Founder of The Flourishing Center, worked with a coaching client who came to her because he wanted more happiness and positivity in his life. His wife, the love of his life and high school sweetheart died of a brain aneurysm 5 years ago. COVID has led to a lot of alone time and a lot of time to ruminate on what could have should have and would have. She calls this self-talk: psychic masochism. It hurts to say these things to ourselves, yet it’s like wiggling a loose tooth, it hurts, but it feels good.
Emililya shares how she thinks there’s an evolutionary role in why we beat ourselves up over the past. Most of the time, we’re facing something that was entirely out of our control. Autonomy and having a locus of control are highly coveted human needs, but it’s rarely something we truly have. And when it comes to the past… we have no control over changing the past. The only control we have is what we do with it in the future.
When you imagine the should have, could have, would have… you imagine a different past… you’re imagining yourself actually having control.
When you imagine the should have, could have, would have… you’re imagining a different past… you’re imagining yourself actually having control.
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The power of the mind is that there’s a substantial overlap between what you think about and what you imagine.
So your brain thinks you have control for a moment, and that feels good. But then you’re filled with guilt, sadness, and shame,
How to become happier involves both working with and decreasing the negative and amplifying and building the positive.
What she worked on with one of her clients was first acknowledging – yes, I’m sometimes a psychic masochist. I like beating up on myself; it sickly feels good.
Then, she encouraged him to thank the part of himself that wants to beat up on himself with these thoughts. We say, “thank you, brain… I know you’re trying to help me. You’re trying to give me a perceived locus of control, but I can’t change the past.
Emiliya frequently says to herself that the past is history, the future a mystery and the present is a gift.
That’s become the little mantra that helps Emiliya remember to feel the emotions then let them go.
For her client, this was a real “aha moment.” A part of his brain was trying to play god, trying to change the past.
They came up with useful statements to say when the thought comes up, “Would my wife want me to say this to myself?”
That alone melted so much of his pain and let his psychic masochist put the whip down. It was like taking the emergency break off of his car. Before, he was hitting the gas pedal, but his thoughts were stopping him from accelerating. And from that place, his mind was broadened to ways to build more positive in his life.
So your food for thought, my dear podcast friend, is what is your “coulda’ woulda shoulda chatter? And how can you put down the whip in service of greater peace, acceptance, and forward movement towards your goals?