Hannahs Then and Now Exercise

Problematic Life-Lens

Childhood Image(s)

Current Triggers

Perfectionistic: I feel like I must do everything perfectly And if I don't, it's awful.

My mother would scream at me if I got my clothes dirty

My father was never satisfied with anything but straight As. Even when I got them, he was never impressed.

Both of my parents always talked about other people critically They put people down for just about anything.

If I get a snag or a run in my hose, I freak. And a stain on my blouse drives me insane.

I can't stand being evaluated at work. I lose sleep for days. Even a single ratingjust one notch below "Outstanding"" sends me into a depression.

I judge everything I do — my hair; my housecleaning, my job, everything. And sometimes I judge other people too harshly over trivial things.

Eleven-year-old Adam had a warm and caring family. He lived in a nice neighborhood and attended a reputable public middle school. He was bright but not brilliant. He played sports well enough and had many friends. In short, he was an unlikely candidate for developing problematic life-lenses.

Tragically, one beautiful fall day a highly disturbed classmate brought a gun to school and shot three students. Adam witnessed the event and was slightly injured. Subsequently, Adam suffered from nightmares, experienced intrusive images of the event, and was easily startled. Understandably, Adam developed a vulnerable life-lens.

As an adult, anxiety often overwhelms Adam. His vulnerable life-lens is activated by events only superficially similar to the original trauma. Adam completes the Then and Now Exercise in Worksheet 7-13 in order to help him understand how his past experiences contribute to his current responses. This connection helps him begin to change his life-lens.

Worksheet 7-13 Adam's Then and Now Exercise

Problematic Life-Lens

Childhood Image(s)

Current Triggers

Vulnerable: I'm scared. The world feels very dangerous.

The image of a gun pointing at me is burned deeply into my brain. I hear the screams of the kids. I see blood and feel searing pain. I thought I was going to die.

When someone suddenly cuts me off in traffic, I feel the same surge of adrenaline and fear.

Crowds make me feel nervous. I find myself watching my back.

Whenever I meet someone new, I get anxious and have trouble trusting them. I wonder about the motives of even the nicest people.

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You know the routine. Take some time to fill out the Then and Now Exercise (see Worksheet 7-14) for each problematic life-lens that you identified in Worksheet 7-1 earlier in this chapter. Whenever one of your problematic life-lenses is activated, refer back to this form in order to remind yourself that your feelings and reactions today have more to do with yesteryear than with your current reality.

1. In the left-hand column, write down one of the problematic life-lenses that you rated as 3 or above on your Problematic Life-Lens Questionnaire (see Worksheet 7-1). Also include a brief definition of the life-lens based on your reflections from Worksheet 7-2. Feel free to shorten and/or tailor the definition so that it fits you better.

2. Reflect on your childhood and, in the middle column, record any memories or images that probably had something to do with the development of your life-lens.

Review Worksheet 7-10 for ideas.

3. Be on the lookout for events that trigger your life-lens, and write those events down in the right-hand column as they occur.

Because each lens often has multiple images and a variety of triggers, you should fill out a separate form for each problematic life-lens. And whenever your problematic life-lens is triggered, review this Then and Now Exercise as a reminder of what your reaction is actually all about.

Worksheet 7-14 My Then and Now Exercise

Problematic Life-Lens

Childhood Image(s)

Current Triggers

Check out www.dummies.com/go/adwbfd to download extra copies of this form for your use.

For almost any problematic life-lens, you need to employ an array of strategies in order to feel significant benefit. Don't expect a single exercise to "cure" you, and always consider professional help if your own efforts don't take you far enough.

After you complete the exercise, take some time to reflect on what you've learned about yourself and your feelings, and record your reflections in Worksheet 7-15.

Worksheet 7-15

My Reflections

Tallying up costs and benefits of current life-lenses

The process of changing life-lenses stirs up some anxiety in most people. That's because people believe (whether consciously or unconsciously) that life-lenses either protect or benefit them in some important ways. For example, if you have a vulnerable life-lens, you probably think that seeing the world as dangerous helps you avoid harm. Or if you possess a dependency life-lens, you likely think that it guides you to find the help from others that you truly need.

But you may not have as much awareness of the costs of your life-lenses. This section helps reveal the hidden costs of problematic life-lenses. Only when you fully believe that your life-lenses cause you more harm than good do you have the motivation to change them.

Cameron, a 22-year-old college student, loves to have a good time. He looks at his world through the undercontrol life-lens. Cameron rarely sets limits on himself or others and doesn't think he should have to. He says what he thinks and does what he wants. His high intelligence and easy-going personality have enabled him to get by — until recently.

Lately, Cameron's drinking, which has never been under great control, escalates. He hangs out at bars until they close. Hangovers often cause him to miss classes, and his grades, previously hovering just above passing, sink into the failure zone. Cameron gets picked up for a DWI and is put on academic probation in the same week. He reels from the impact of these events and becomes depressed. Alarmed, his parents encourage him to see someone at the Student Mental Health Center.

After discovering that Cameron looks through an under-control life-lens, his therapist suggests that he fill out a Cost/Benefit Analysis of his life-lens. Because patients often downplay the benefits of their life-lenses when they're in therapy, his therapist suggests that he first ponder the advantages of his life-lens (see Worksheet 7-16).

Worksheet 7-16 Cameron's Cost/Benefit Analysis (Part I)

Life-Lens: Under-control. 1 believe it's best to let it all hang loose. I should be able to do what I feel like. It's good to express feelings and do what feels good.

Benefits

Costs

It feels good to do what I want.

I know how to have a good time.

I don't have to be a slave to rules and to what people tell me to do.

My friends know that I say what I think and that I'm honest.

I like showing how I feel no matter what.

I don't have to deny my needs.

Cameron doesn't have much trouble figuring out benefits for his problematic life-lens. In fact, at this point, he's not even sure the lens is problematic at all. However, his therapist urges him to carefully consider any negative consequences, or costs, of his under-control life-lens. Worksheet 7-17 shows Cameron's completed Cost/Benefit Analysis.

Cameron doesn't have much trouble figuring out benefits for his problematic life-lens. In fact, at this point, he's not even sure the lens is problematic at all. However, his therapist urges him to carefully consider any negative consequences, or costs, of his under-control life-lens. Worksheet 7-17 shows Cameron's completed Cost/Benefit Analysis.

Worksheet 7-17 Cameron's Cost/Benefit Analysis (Part II)

Life-Lens: Under-control. I believe its best to let it all hang loose. I should be able to do what I feel like. It's good to express feelings and do what feels good.

Benefits

Costs

It feels good to do what I want.

It feels good at the moment, but later I get hangovers.

I know how to have a good time.

I have a good time for a while, but my grades have suffered.

I don't have to be a slave to rules and to what people tell me to do.

When I didn't follow the rules about drinking and driving, I got a DWI and spent a night in jail. I never want that to happen again.

My friends know that I say what I think and that I'm honest.

I know I've hurt some good friends by what I've said. I don't like doing that.

I like showing how I feel no matter what.

It's not always smart to express everything I feel. I'm a lousy poker player: And my anger gets me in trouble sometimes.

Worksheet 7-17 (continued)

Benefits

Costs

I don't have to deny my needs.

Eventually, this is all going to catch up with me.

My life is spinning out of control this way

I want to succeed in life, and that's not where I'm headed at all.

A lot of my friends seem more mature than I am. I used to think they were just boring, but I see that, in some ways, they seem happier than I am.

As Cameron wraps up his Cost/Benefit Analysis, he comes to a realization: "My under-control life-lens is ruining my life!" He feels an increased desire to do something about what he now sees as a real problem.

A Cost/Benefit Analysis helps you boost your motivation to regrind problematic life-lenses. Take the time to carefully complete this exercise in Worksheet 7-18.

1. Write down one of the problematic life-lenses that you identified in Worksheet 7-1.

Also, include a brief definition of the life-lens based on your reflections in Worksheet 7-2. Feel free to shorten and/or tailor the definition so that it fits you better.

2. Think about any and all of the conceivable benefits for your problematic life-lens and record them in the left-hand column. Sometimes these may come readily; other times, you may need to reflect a while. Write down everything you come up with.

3. In the right-hand column, record any and all conceivable costs of your problematic life-lens. It's a good idea to start by looking at the presumed benefits and responding with a counterargument. Then, add any additional costs that you come up with.

4. Review your Cost/Benefit Analysis carefully. Make a decision about whether the disadvantages or costs outweigh the advantages or benefits. Write down your conclusions in Worksheet 7-19.

Worksheet 7-18 My Cost/Benefit Analysis

Life-Lens:

Benefits

Costs

Benefits

Costs

Go to www.dummies.com/go/adwbfd to print out extra copies of this form. You need to fill one out for each problematic life-lens you identify.

Worksheet 7-19 My Reflections

Taking direct action against problematic life-lenses

The exercises in the previous two sections were designed to increase your motivation and set the stage for altering your life-lenses. In this section, our guidelines for developing an action plan show you how to prepare for an all-out assault on your life-lenses. Ready . . . set . . . go!

To tackle the action steps, you start by figuring out the effect your life-lens has had on you, your emotions, and your life. For example, if you have the perfectionistic life-lens, you may realize that this lens causes inordinate tension and worry; basically, you obsess over every little error.

The next step in taking action is to devise a plan that tests the assumptions behind your life-lens. For example, an action step for the perfectionistic life-lens tests out the assumption that you must never make mistakes. The test is an experiment in which you intentionally make small mistakes and see what happens.

To help you devise your own action steps, Worksheet 7-20 contains some examples for each problematic life-lens. But don't let our list stifle your own creativity. Be adventurous and take risks.

Worksheet 7-20 Sample Life-Lens Action Steps

Lens

Opposite Lens

Unworthy:

I will ask someone for what I want.

I will repeatedly tell myself that I deserve good things.

Entitled:

I will refrain from demanding that others meet my needs.

I will donate to charity

Abandonment-fearful: I will resist checking on my loved ones so often.

I will quit asking for reassurance that my husband loves me.

Intimacy-avoidant: I will reveal more about myself and express my feelings to people.

I will join a social organization and work hard to get to know the people there.

Inadequate:

I will join Toastmasters and learn to give public speeches.

I will volunteer to lead a project at work.

Perfectionistic:

I will wear two different-colored socks and see what happens.

I will try to make as many trivial mistakes as I can in one day (go in an exit door; park over a line, and so on).

Guilty and blameworthy: When I feel guilty about something, I'll ask a trusted friend if I'm being too hard on myself

When I feel at fault, I will make a list of all the possible causes for the problem.

Guiltless:

I will work hard to find something to apologize for at least once a week.

I will admit to making mistakes.

Vulnerable:

I will do something I'm afraid of such as fly in an airplane.

I will stop overprotecting my kids so much.

Invulnerable:

I will volunteer at a hospital to see what can happen to people who ignore risks.

I will start wearing my seat belt.

Help-seeking:

I will do a project on my own without asking for help.

I will help someone else without them asking me to.

Help-avoidant:

I will ask someone for help on something once a week.

I will start asking for directions when I'm lost.

Lens

Opposite Lens

Under-control:

Over-control:

I will join AA.

I will allow my partner to make more

decisions.

I will join a gym and develop

some self-discipline.

I will keep my mouth shut instead of giving

advice to my adult son.

These sample action steps are just ideas, but if one or more of them fit your situation, great! However, your action steps need to specifically address the ways in which your life-lenses are affecting your life. Make your steps small, doable, and personalized. After you develop your action steps, don't forget to actually do them! And if you have trouble carrying out some action steps, try breaking them into smaller steps.

Fill out Worksheet 7-21 with your Life-Lens Action Steps.

Worksheet 7-21 My Life-Lens Action Steps

Lens

Opposite Lens

Unworthy:

Entitled:

Abandonment-fearful:

Intimacy-avoidant:

Inadequate:

Perfectionistic:

Guilty and blameworthy:

Guiltless:

Vulnerable:

Invulnerable:

Help-seeking:

Help-avoidant:

Under-control:

Over-control:

The life-lenses you see through were largely ground by circumstances and events rooted in your childhood, events over which you had little control. Thus, you don't deserve blame for carrying your lenses around. However, you do own the responsibility for doing something about regrinding your lenses. Regrinding life-lenses is slow, arduous work that takes patience, but the new, clear vision that results from your efforts is worth the wait.

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Squeeze your eyes shut. Now open them up. How is your vision? Any clearer? Jot down a few of your thoughts and feelings in Worksheet 7-22.

Worksheet 7-22 My Reflections

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