Instant Perspective – Part II

Compare and Contrast

In the Part I of this three part series on Instant Perspective, we discussed Instant Time Perspective, which involves asking the question:

“Will this be a big deal a year from now (or even a day from now)?”

The second form of instant perspective is what I call Compare and Contrast.

This simple form of Instant Perspective occurred to me during a time in my life I was feeling sorry for myself and the challenges I was facing. I stopped in the middle of a solo-whine and thought “Ah… remember what you’re reading right now?”

The answer was “Christopher Reeve’s autobiography.”

That stopped my self-pity.

“Yah know… compared to what he is going through… I think this is small potatoes, don’t you think?”

By comparing and contrasting my little drama to his challenges, I was able to put mine in its proper perspective.

While I still wasn’t pleased with what was happening, I no longer saw it as this grossly unfair “Why is this happening to me?” disaster.

It simply was part of life and a chapter in my life.

Remove the Drama; Dial Down the Stress

By using Compare and Contrast, we stop “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

This simple form of Instant Perspective removes the drama that we create when facing difficult situation, which then lowers our stress level. We recognize that in the scheme of things, this situation we’re facing is low on the Richter Scale, it’s not a major earthquake.

It’s Not About Squashing All Emotions

Now… I am NOT recommending that we use this technique to talk ourselves out of our legitimate feelings when faced with painful situations. I believe it is vital that we allow ourselves to feel our emotions. What I AM recommending, though, is that you use this to get a more measured, mature perspective on a stressful situation.

I do this by asking what emotions are a natural, healthy response to a difficult situation and what emotions stem from my blowing the situation out of proportion.

Then, I give myself permission to feel the emotions I think anyone would have in that situation (i.e. natural, healthy emotional responses) and…

…I challenge the unproductive self-talk that is creating unnecessary stress and angst.

Now…To Put This Into Action…

1. Think of a situation you stress yourself out.

2. Pick a far more serious problem going on in the world or that others are facing (e.g. loss of home in tornado, being a political prisoner, living in a refugee camp, etc.)

3. Look at your situation again, from this perspective.

4. Ask yourself “What is, in my opinion, a healthy emotional response to this situation and what is me adding unnecessary stress and drama?”

5. Give yourself permission to feel the emotions you believe are natural.

6. Challenge the thought processes that are leading to the drama-created emotions. To learn more about how to do this, read Albert Ellis or David Burns or start here