How to be a friend to someone who needs a change

Photography by SciTechDaily

Rewiring your brain can sometimes feel like being a dung beetle rolling a big ball of turd, whilst walking on your hands and keeping the momentum up with your feet.

Then four of your friends come along to help you. Here’s how to find the one that actually helps.

“People who are more compassionate with themselves are better at coping with negative emotions and are less likely to ruminate on their negative thoughts.”

Weiyang Xie

I came across a TedX Talk called Dare to rewire your brain for self-compassion by Weiyang Xie as I was googling kindness to yourself, a topic I am studying right now. She is a psychologist at the Notre Dame University Counseling Centre, which supports the students in all their mental health issues.

Watching the video got me thinking about my own experiences in rewiring my brain. Whilst I’d rather do the work, no matter how uncomfortable it is, I’ve noticed that most people would rather not do the work. They look at me as though they are saying why would you do something like that to yourself. Then a dung beetle came to mind and they might be a more fitting analogy than you’d think.

Not enough

What if the neural pathways in your brain that are belittling you and keeping you down; the shame, the hopelessness that you have on autopilot, could be envisioned as a ball of turd like the ones dung beetles push around all day?

“Shame is almost always destructive and debilitating. In fact, shame has now become such an epidemic in our lives. Many of us are probably familiar with the voice not enough. We constantly beat ourselves up for not being smart enough, not doing enough, making enough contributions for our friends, our team and our community.”

You can keep complaining about the smell and nuisance of its constant presence hoping that pushing the ball with your feet means you no longer have to deal with the constant negative self-talk. When you get tired of your self banter, you tend to call a friend. The trick is to know which ones to call. Here are the friends who don’t help and the one that does.

Three types of friends and the one you need

  1. She is here to tell you what she thinks is right for you on the sole merit of it being what she would have done in your place. Go east, Henry, then you won’t see the big ball of turd when the sunlight falls behind it. Problem solved.
  2. This friend sees you pushing your ball of things that are no longer working for you and will the one that helps you make it bigger by sympathising with you. They might even bring wine which leaves you not only with no new prospects but a splitting headache to boot.
  3. He will smile at you and say nothing. The sheer thought of saying the wrong thing has him tongue-tied and even if you ask if he has any thoughts on the matter, he will just say no.
  4. Here is the friend you need the most. He is the brave one questioning your efforts into your big ball of turd. This friend sees the insanity of your actions, but will not push his opinions upon you. Instead, he’ll ask a question: “what would you really like to spend your energy on”?

I say that the latter one is brave due to one of the go-to reactions to a person who subconsciously knows that they are working against themselves. This friend is willing to receive the reaction: of course, I don’t want to be pushing this thing around, because he knows it has nothing to do with him.

He is willing to be called names. As you change your neural pathways there might be some kicking and screaming as your friend calls them out. He will still be there for you, asking you what you really would like to spend your energy on. He might even add some more questions.

  • If everything was available to you, what you would you choose?
  • What would be fun right now?
  • What more is possible right now?

These open ended questions will often quiet the frustration in your mind and if you keep asking them, new neural pathways are built in your brain.

Rewiring your brain

What already works for you are benefiting from being automated thoughts, as she calls neural pathways that are solid. They don’t need any supervising.

Weiyang Xie suggests that you change your sentences as you communicate with yourself and others with:

“I will…”

“I would like…”

“I hope…”

I would like to add my favourite that I use every day: “I wonder what it would be like if…”

Being in wonder in every area in my life has become my life goal. Which means, I will never reach a sense of completion. That I am done. That I am perfect. As Weiyang Xie rounds off with: whatever you are telling yourself, you are listening.

What’s your story?

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