Problem: Assuming the Worst
Solution: Assume Innocence.
How can we train our brains to jump to the solution and in effect, calm the turbulent waters of anxiety?
Exercise One: Changing the stories we tell ourselves that cause anxiety and/or depression.
In the past day or so, describe a situation where you felt anxiety or sadness. Write down your assumption of why that situation caused those feelings. Now take a moment, breathe, and write the story again, this time thinking about how you might interpret the situation differently, in a way that lessens or completely calms your negative feelings about the situation.
Personal Example: My MiL usually wishes me a good Veteran’s Day each year and thanks me for my service. This year, nothing. My MiL is genuinely passive aggressive, speaks it fluently as most people in the midwest of her generation can. So an absence of anything that is usually said often really does mean something.
To reframe. My MiL knows I am not used to being thanked, as female veterans are often overlooked, and I have mentioned that while I appreciate the sentiment and know it comes from a loving place, I do not require it. My MiL also knows I have been having a stressful time of late, and could be giving me space. It’s possible that she is peeved with me for some reason, and honestly, that is about her, her boundaries and feelings and not something I should take personally or try to control. I do not have to be a monkey in her circus.
I find this exercise very helpful. Prompt yourself to reframe with the phase “Assume Innocence” and tell yourself a different story that puts you in the shoes of the other person. Take a moment to reflect on the myriad explanations for their behavior that you may not have considered at first blush of ire or anxiety. Like any mechanism of habit building, if you do this enough, it will become second nature. It is a resource you can utilize right away to help reassert some calm in your mind and body.
I hope you found my example helpful. I do have more personal and impactful examples, but I am a pretty private person. You might find some of my examples trite and lacking significance. I am ok with that. My only goal is to give you a real world model to use for your own healing. Thank you for reading!