Bette Davis and I have been part of the Green Zone Team from the very beginning. Bette, who has served as a therapist, leader and teacher in mental health for more than forty years, is my colleague, co-therapist and co-author of the Green Zone Book Series. I have always been impressed by her knowledge, experience and wisdom. She has inspired so many people in her life and has been a role model for many students and patients. So when I invited her to share some of her wisdom in our Blogs she kindly agreed. In the next few weeks you will read her Blogs but I will still be here to read and respond to your comments.
Thus far in our Green Zone Blog, Sohail has been in the driver’s seat, but I am thrilled to switch places with him for a few weeks and share with you initially some of my personal concepts regarding our individual emotional health. Then a little later I’d like to talk about some of the Green Zone strategies that work in our relationships with our Dear Ones.
Okay? So here we go!
It is my deep belief that one of the central gifts and goals of the Green Zone Philosophy is to help people develop tools in their Toolkits to enhance emotional and relationship intelligence, to become smarter about how we behave in relationships with ourselves and others.
I grew up surrounded by incredible dysfunction, which was confusing and distressing. Later when I was in charge of my own life and had to figure out how to create a Green Zone lifestyle from Red Zone roots, I was really stumped.
Overtime, I figured it out. The strategies I developed were grouped together in what I eventually called my Policy Manual. So let me share with you some of my strategies in my Green Zone Policy Manual.
First up, Triggers and Red Zone Thinking.
I knew I needed to figure out the situations and people that triggered me to go to the Yellow and Red Zones, and I also needed to figure out strategies to get me back to the Green Zone. Although I found there were toxic people who needed to be dealt with, my main way of getting derailed was Red Zone Thinking. I gradually realized that the first step to being happier and coping better is an inside job – in other words, changing the Red Zone Thinking or the inner dialogue in my own head.
They (you know, the Wise Ones) say that we have over 50,000 thoughts every day and 90% are the same as the day before! We have these perpetual thought patterns of self-talk that go unchecked and unchanged automatically day after day, year after year. And many are as old as when we made our foundational thought patterns, before the age of 7! I realized my self-talk was full of unkind, pessimistic and highly inaccurate information. Wow, what a shock to realize that a traumatized 7 year old was running my life!
Sohail and I have written about Green Zone communication within a relationship and, of course, that is vital for relationship health, but it all starts with having kind, respectful, loving and accurate self-talk in your own head! When I am working with clients I don’t often have to ask what their self-talk is, because they tell me in the comments they make about themselves!
So the first Step, was to be aware of how I talked to myself and then how I felt. I stood back a bit in my own head and observed – What am I thinking? How do I feel? At the beginning, I found it helpful to do this several times a day, particularly when I was feeling something intense. So I would just try to get a little distance from the situation and ask: What am I thinking? How do I feel? Sometimes switching it around also works. How do I feel? What am I thinking? I have to say at the beginning, many years ago, it wasn’t a pretty picture! But gradually I realized I was able to control the accuracy and kindness of my thoughts which helped me treat myself better. I learned to treat myself as well as I treat others, and to surround myself with people who nurtured and respected me.
The second Step, was to find the fastest and most effective ways to correct this Red Zone thinking. I learned that there are over 50 techniques to correct our twisted self-talk! But there is one that became my favourite. I think it is the quickest and most magical of them all. It is called the Double Standard. It is where you consider how you would speak to a Dear One in the same situation, compared to how you speak to yourself. If someone we loved was distressed about a mistake they had made, for example, you would show some compassion in your comments and you would be aware of your language. You likely wouldn’t be as overwhelmingly harsh as many people are with themselves, sometimes years later.
So now it’s your turn. First, when you are distressed through this next week, ask yourself: What am I thinking? How do I feel? and listen to what you are saying to yourself. And then, think about how that inner dialogue would affect a Dear One in the same situation and how you would change it to be more accurate and kind.
Wishing you a great week in your Green Zone.
Bette Davis RN BN MN with Dr. K. Sohail