It’s the start of a new year. A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions like: lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, save money, and perhaps find Big Foot. You can add your own to this list. Sometimes our resolutions work and often they don’t.
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago because I seemed to forget about them quickly and all my good intentions faded away. However, years ago I made a non-New Year’s resolution to understand resilience. Resilience is the ability to spring back, that is, when trouble knocks you down you get right back up, ready for whatever comes your way. Resilient people enjoy life. I am happy to say I kept that resolution and that is why I write this column.
Some people are great at being resilient, and others struggle. Resiliency is not just a matter of surviving. Instead, it is flourishing, making the best of life even through the hard times.
Here’s where the sly Trickster Thoughts come in to make us weak. Trickster Thoughts like to push us over the edge and tell us that something is going to be a problem, when in fact, it might not be. Tricksters want to get the best of us, so their little lies seem to be true, but they are not true. They trick us into believing the worst. Even though everybody has Trickster Thoughts, resilient people recognize them and chase them away when they come up.
It is easier to catch the Tricksters if you know who they are. One sly offender is “Jumps to Conclusions.” Jumps will tell you things like: “We are going to lose the game,” when it is only half time; or “He is mad at me,” when in fact, the other person is crabby about something else that had nothing to do with you; or “She didn’t text me back. I must have said something wrong,” when she might have been taking a nap or her car battery died.
“Knows the Future” Trickster actually pretends to tell the future and causes problems. Knows the Future will say things like: “They won’t hire you...so why try?” or “Don’t attend the party—you may see that person you don’t like,” and you miss all the fun; or “I know my boss is going to fire me,” but it doesn’t happen. The problem with believing Knows the Future is that you are mentally paying for a problem (stressing) before it happens. Most of the time believing what Knows says only keeps us from enjoying the day. Knows is often wrong. Don’t let Knows the Future win. The best answer to his messages is, “I don’t know what will happen.” It is better to acknowledge that you don’t know rather than guessing wrong and mentally paying for something that does not happen.
There is plenty of time to cry about your situation after it happens, so don’t cry until it is time.
“Name Calling” Trickster wants to make us feel like losers. Name Calling will jump on us when we make a mistake. If you knock something over, Name Calling may say, “I am so clumsy,” when you haven’t knocked anything over in years, so most of the time you are not clumsy. Or he will say, “I am stupid.” If you are reading this, you are not stupid. Tell the Trickster I said so.
Here is the deadly one: “I am a loser.”
Most of the time most things go right rather than wrong. The problem is when we believe the Trickster. Yup, they have you believing things that are not true and you will feel like a loser. Oh, those sly, lying Tricksters.
Resilience is refusing to go under to the Tricksters’ lies. Instead we spring back by seeing what is true and accurate.
Everybody gets Tricksters Thoughts. The key is to recognize them and chase them away by looking for what is true. I hope you will think about learning the Trickster Thoughts as your New Year’s resolution. When you start to see the Trickster Thoughts for what they are, you will find that your resilience will increase. We owe it to our ancestors to flourish, and we can
Dr. Beau Washington received his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Beau grew up at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, where his Father was a teacher. While researching depression, he also discovered the wide range of problems that rumination (dwelling) on problems creates in other mental problems as well. His active understanding of ruminative thought lead to developing a technique for effectively stopping the painful thoughts that plague distressed individuals. In addition, Beau developed cognitive models of depression and addiction.
Beau’s therapy model is entering the clinical trial stage at the University of New Mexico. He is training behavioral health clinics in his therapy. Beau is also adapting his therapy for sports, making it easier for players to focus on the moment.
He has also developed a Native suicide prevention program called “Coyote Thoughts” ©2013. Beau has trained Native mental health clinics and presented at reservations as well as regional and national conferences. Visit his website coyotethoughts.com.