Imagine overcoming obstacles, moving past the pain, and feeling hopeful about your situation and your future. That is The Snowball E?ect in action!
Filled with compelling case examples and personal stories, educator and psychotherapist Kristin Barton Cuthriell shows us how to:
- Let go of resentment, harsh self-judgments, and explosive reactions.
- Face our fears and live our dreams without becoming overwhelmed.
- Have better relationships with others.
- Take baby steps to move forward though life.
- Live with gratitude and fully appreciate the moment.
"The Snowball Effect offers a unique perspective on what it takes to move forward through life in the most productive and positive way." -Chrisanna Northrup, New York Times bestseller
"I highly recommend this book...the lessons provide specific and precise tools for people wanting to clear out the negative and learn to focus on the positive gifts in life." -Marney A. White, PhD, MS, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine
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The SNOW-BALL Effect
HOW TO BUILD POSITIVE MOMENTUM IN YOUR LIFE
By Kristin Barton Cuthriell
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2014 Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW
All rights reserved.
Letting Go of Resentment
Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.
—C. S. Lewis
My clients come to me for help, but I often learn so much from them. The other day, a gentleman came to see me for counseling. He was getting up there in years and wanted to talk to someone about the way he had been feeling for quite some time now. As he began to speak, his story unfolded—his story of resentment and his story of regret. He discussed the early years of his marriage, his long, long days at the office, and his children, who had grown up in the blink of an eye. He spoke about the years he spent angry, angry at himself for the things he could have changed. He discussed the precious time that just slipped by while he was busy worrying about tomorrow. "So much time wasted," he said with tears in his eyes.
As I listened to him, I couldn't help but get tears in my eyes as well. His message was, Where has the time gone, and why did I not appreciate the moment? I listened closely—I didn't want his message to be mine. I thought about my kids and about how quickly they were growing ... and how easy it is to get caught up in the things in life that really don't matter.
After taking some time to share his pain, I steered him in a different direction. I helped him to reflect on the things that he did stop and appreciate, and I helped him to see the good in his life. And most important, I helped wake him up to right now—after all, his life was not over.
This client reminded me of an important lesson, and maybe we all can learn from it. Tomorrow, today will be the past and we will wonder what we did with it. Let's not waste today holding on to bitter resentment. Let's appreciate what we do have. Let's enjoy the day.
Author Louis L'Amour said, "A man can lose sight of everything else when he's bent on revenge, and it ain't worth it."
Another client of mine, Sylvia, is chronically angry with her mother, and she has been for years. The anger has been poisoning her and slowly tearing her apart. She has been so consumed with anger that she has been shutting out all of the joy in her life. Sylvia's mother is in her late eighties and is struck with an illness that is taking over her body. "Let go," I stressed to this client. I moved my chair a little closer, but not too close. I looked my client in the eye, and with extreme passion, I whispered, "It is time to let go. Enjoy the time you have left with your mother." Sylvia's eyes welled with tears, and she nodded yes. She knew the time had come—the time to rid herself of the poison, the time to stop ruminating about the past, the time to reclaim her life, and the time to finally let go.
There are many different patterns of behavior that hold us back from being the person we want to be. But one of the most common and most destructive things that we can do to ourselves is to hold on to past grievances. When we are full of bitterness, there is no place for love to dwell.
For a moment, visualize your body filled with a poison that makes you chronically angry, takes away your energy, crushes your enthusiasm, and prevents you from experiencing joy in life. Wouldn't you want to rid yourself of that poison? Well, that poison has a name, and its name is resentment. Resentment not only kills your spirit, but it also can kill your physical body. You see, disease is attracted to resentment. Giving up resentment and releasing it can improve your mental health, your spiritual health, and your physical health. It may even save your life. As long as you are focused on how another person harmed you, you hold on to that poison, which prevents you from moving on with your life and being the best that you can be.
In order to grow as a person and get your life moving in the right direction, you have to decide to release the bitterness from within. The toxic grudge isn't hurting the person who harmed you; it is poisoning only you. Someone may have hurt you in the past, but if you are holding on to resentment, you are the one hurting you in the present. Haven't you been hurt enough? Maybe it is time to let go.
You cannot alter the past, but you can build on today. Let go of those thoughts of retaliation and use that energy to move forward in a new direction. It is important that you realize that you are no longer a victim but a strong, resilient human being, capable of amazing things. Letting go is realizing that the person who hurt you may have once been wounded in the same way. Letting go is refusing to allow the harmful act of another to occupy a permanent place in your mind.
Letting go is ridding yourself of any venomous negativity that may be traveling through your bloodstream, seeping from your pores, and occupying space where happiness could dwell. It is removing the chains that bind you. Letting go is a precious gift to yourself.
A Change in Perspective
Many times people think that letting go is the same thing as approving of the offense. For this reason, people often have an extremely difficult time with the letting-go process. But if we can create a shift in how we perceive letting go, we may be able to embrace it and move on with our lives.
Take a look at the following old beliefs that keep us stuck in a pile of resentment, and the new beliefs that set us free. It is in this paradigm change that letting go takes place.
Old belief: Letting go is about letting the offender off the hook.
New belief: Letting go is not about them; it is for me. I am letting myself off the hook.
Old belief: If I let it go, then I am saying that the offense was acceptable.
New belief: I can let go and still know that it was an unacceptable offense.
Old belief: If I let it go, I am saying that the offense should be tolerated.
New belief: Letting go is for my health; it does not mean that I have tolerated anything.
Old belief: Letting go will make me weak.
New belief: It takes strength to let go and not allow another to take over my mind and take my power away.
Old belief: I have to be friends with my offender.
New belief: The offender does not have to be part of my life if that is what I choose.
Old belief I can only let it go if my offender apologizes.
New belief: I can spend the rest of my life waiting for an apology, and it may never happen. Letting go is for me, so that I can move on with my life, with or without an apology.
Old belief: If I let go, my offender wins and I lose.
New belief: If I do not let it go and move on with my life, I lose. The true winner is the one who lets go and finds peace in life.
Old belief They have ruined my life.
New belief: I will not allow another to destroy my life. It is my decision.
Once you shift your perception, letting go will be easier to embrace. And once you begin to let go, you will begin to gain positive momentum in your life, even during the most challenging times. Letting go leads to true freedom.
Cheryl knows this all too well.
Cheryl's Story: "Finally Found True Love?"
It was Cheryl's thirty-ninth birthday, and Steven was working late again. She had accepted the good, the bad, and the ugly of being married to an emergency room physician a long time ago. Tonight she had fixed a nice dinner for herself and her five-year-old twins and had especially enjoyed looking at the birthday pictures the kids had colored for her earlier that morning. Shortly after she got the kids into bed, there was a knock at the door. Little did Cheryl know that her entire life was about to change. Cheryl answered the door, and there stood a man about her age with an angry scowl on his face. The man was very direct and got straight to the point: "Tell your husband to stay away from my wife!" It was then that Cheryl learned about the affair.
When she confronted Steve, he admitted that he was indeed having an affair with his coworker and that he wanted out of the marriage. He told Cheryl that he had finally found true love, and that he didn't think that he had ever really loved her. "Finally found true love! Finally found true love!" Those words played over and over in Cheryl's head. She had worked sixty-hour workweeks before the twins were born to pay for his medical school. When the boys were babies, she alone had gotten up with them for middle-of-the-night feedings, night after night, week after week, never asking Steve for help, figuring he must be exhausted.
Toward the end of his residency, when he finally began to make some money, she gave up the career that she loved in order to stay at home with their children. As much as she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, some days were tough, and she longed for adult companionship. As tough as they were, she never complained, even on days when she thought she would pull her hair out, and he called to say that he would be working late again. Finally found true love? Cheryl often found herself thinking, Was that not love?
Steve did leave Cheryl and their five-year-old sons and married his coworker as soon as the divorces were finalized. Cheryl was depressed and angry for a long time, which was a very normal reaction given the circumstances. It would be unrealistic to expect Cheryl to forgive Steve and move on with her life right away. She needed to grieve the loss of her marriage and her family as she once knew it.
Cheryl needed to surround herself with a good support system so that she could work through her intense feelings of rejection, anger, and betrayal. It would be necessary for her to nurture herself through the transition and help her children with the crisis, the loss, and the lifestyle change. Cheryl would need to adjust to all of the changes that divorce brings. And eventually, after working through all of these things and fully accepting that her marriage to Steve was over, she would need to forgive Steve in order to heal and move forward with her life.
I first met Cheryl six years after Steve had informed her of his decision to leave the marriage. Her then-kindergartner sons were now in their first year of middle school. Feeling depressed and angry with life in general, she came to see me. As Cheryl and I talked, it quickly became clear that Cheryl had gotten stuck somewhere in the middle of the grieving process and had never reached the acceptance stage, a situation that prohibited her from being able to move on with her life. She had not forgiven Steve, and therefore she remained captive in the bonds of toxic anger and resentment, which were sucking the life out of her and turning her into someone she did not want to know. Cheryl had allowed the anguish to fester and grow. The resentment had taken on a life of its own, and Cheryl had allowed it to change who she was as a person, leaving only a bitter shell of who she had been.
Every relationship in Cheryl's life was affected, especially the relationship with her sons. They were tired of their mother's blaming every negative thing that ever happened on their dad's desertion. It seemed that their mother was so consumed in her own self-pity and anger that she was totally unaware of how her sons were being affected. The boys often felt as if Mom needed their care and comforting when it should have been the other way around. Cheryl's sons needed her to be there for them physically and emotionally, but Cheryl was too bound up in anger to be able to be there for them, leaving them twice abandoned. Cheryl's adult relationships suffered as well. After Steve left, Cheryl began to isolate herself from the people closest to her, fearing that they, like Steve, would abandon her. Cheryl built walls around herself, pushing away people who wanted to provide her with support.
Cheryl needed to let go! Not for Steve, but for herself and her children and for others in her life who had no intention of hurting her. Cheryl had gotten stuck. She had remained angry and depressed for the past six years and had never worked on letting go and accepting what had happened. Cheryl thought that her letting go would be a gift to Steve, and this idea kept her stuck.
Cheryl and I worked together for quite some time continually challenging thoughts that were holding her back from experiencing the joy in life. She finally reached out to friends for support and realized that she had been projecting Steve's behaviors onto them. Cheryl understood that it was not only unfair but also self-destructive to assume others would desert her as she felt Steve had done. Cheryl came to terms with the loss, and she refused to allow it to hold her back from what life had to offer. She refused to allow Steve to have that much power over her. It was a gradual process, but bit by little bit Cheryl's perspective began to change—which is how she ultimately let go.
Because Cheryl was able to release the bitterness that had been occupying valuable real estate in her mind, her momentum began to change. She began to feel empowered and hopeful. The relationships in her life improved—especially those with her sons. Cheryl was able to be there for the boys mentally, physically, and emotionally. Cheryl thrived, and her sons thrived. They were happy to finally have their mother back. Cheryl was happy to finally be back, and she realized that she (and she alone) was in charge of her own happiness and life direction.
Letting Go Does Not Mean "Just Get Over It"
When I recommend letting go of bitterness and resentment, I have to be very careful and very clear. Many times there is one very important step that you need to take prior to letting go. Before you can just let go, you may need to grieve that which was lost. Yes, it was time for Cheryl to let go, but she needed to grieve the loss and feel her pain prior to doing so. It is important not to confuse letting go with "just get over it." It not only would be insensitive, trivializing, and discounting to tell someone to just get over it, it could be very harmful.
When someone has been traumatized in some way and he or she attempts to just get over it without grieving it, a whole host of physical and mental health problems may arise as a result. When trauma is swept under the rug, the emotions related to that trauma go into hiding. They don't simply go away. When they go into hiding and are not processed, they reappear. It may be months or even years later, but they resurface in one form or another. When emotions related to an earlier trauma reappear, they often come in disguise and resurface as symptoms.
We may or may not be able to connect these symptoms to an earlier injury. These symptoms vary greatly depending on the person and the situation. They may appear as emotional triggers causing us to have an intense emotional reaction every time something reminds us of an earlier trauma. Sounds, smells, people, situations, and many other things can trigger strong emotional reactions within us. The disguise may appear as physical symptoms such as back pain, neck pain, chronic headaches, stomachaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. The unprocessed trauma can also show up as disease, anxiety, depression, and many other mental health disorders.
There are many research studies that show the benefits of discussing and processing upsetting events and emotions with another person rather than suppressing them or acting them out in an aggressive way. Norman Vincent Peale wrote in his classic book The Power of Positive Thinking, "Emotional ills turn upon yourself, sapping your energy, reducing your efficiency, causing deterioration in your health. And of course siphon off your happiness." In my practice as a therapist, I have unfortunately seen this in action many, many times. Unprocessed pain, bitterness, and chronic anger have people snowballing in the wrong direction. The snowball is indeed a destructive boulder getting bigger and bigger with time.
Before trauma can heal, it needs to be processed and grieved, and there is no magical time limit for the grieving process. But if you have been full of bitterness and resentment for years, it is time to seek out support, embrace the pain behind the anger, and then let it go so that you can move forward with your life.
Here is another way to look at it. If you were to break your leg in three different places, would you be able to jump up immediately and just get over it? No! You would need to see a doctor, nurture your leg, and give it time to heal. And what if you were to dislocate your shoulder? Would you ignore it and just get over it immediately? If you did, you not only would have a disfigured shoulder that you could never use properly again, but you would always feel pain ... and that just wouldn't be wise.
Excerpted from The SNOW-BALL Effect by Kristin Barton Cuthriell. Copyright © 2014 Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part One How to Avoid the Negative Snowball Effect,
Chapter 1 Letting Go of Resentment, 3,
Chapter 2 Obliterating Harsh Self-Judgments, 33,
Chapter 3 Stopping Explosive Reactions, 63,
Part Two It Is Time to Build Positive Momentum!,
Chapter 4 Pushing Past the Fear to Move Forward, 103,
Chapter 5 Living with Vision, 123,
Chapter 6 It All Begins with One Small Step, 143,
Part Three The Gratitude Cure,
Chapter 7 Finding the Silver Lining, 169,
Chapter 8 Cherishing You, 193,
Chapter 9 Waking Up to the Magic that Surrounds You, 205,