Therapy Blog

Murphy’s Law

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Murphy’s Law says, “What can go wrong, will go wrong . . .”

. . . and at the worst possible time.

Lovely, right? We’ve all had these days, where you get up, stub your toe, put on mismatched socks, forget your phone, run out of gas on the way to work, get yelled at by your boss, bounce a check, then come home and realize you forgot to pick the kids up at after-school care. This is a bit of an exaggeration, maybe; some of us have actually had days like this . . . where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, and at the worst possible time.

But wait! There’s more:

Rainer’s Principle: Murphy was an optimist

Rainer’s principle more properly describes our example above. It’s like Murphy’s law on steroids. It’s those days where we practically give up on things getting better, and we just do what we have to do in order to make it home so we can eat and go to bed in order to start fresh in the morning.

Using mindfulness, we are able to acknowledge Rainer’s Principle days, then use Dialectical Behavior Therapy concepts like Distress Tolerance. This is where we realize that we are in the middle of a distressing day, then understand that it is ok to make do until we can simply hit the sack. Quite often, a good night’s sleep gets us out of the distress and we are able to carry on with our week. Insomnia is another story though . . . read my insomnia blog post on how to deal with this bugger.

So what do I do?

First of all, take stock of your day so far. Mindfulness can help you see if you have unwittingly contributed to your own tough day. Things like having set your alarm for PM instead of AM can have a chain reaction that by lunchtime, you find yourself in the company of Murphy and Rainer. Starting your day off in a rush is a common problem that has your brain trying to move at light speed, and therefore more prone to careless mistakes . . . like stubbing your toe after putting on mismatched socks, then getting a heavy foot as you yell at other drivers, etc., all culminating in blowing that big presentation to the boss.

When you’re able to find a pattern, take a few slow, smooth breaths (read about meditation and proper breathing) then if you are able, go outside, or to a place where you can take a couple of minutes to reset. Even going to the bathroom to simply wash your face helps; I should note that for many people, warm water on their hands has a soothing effect. If you have pictures that cheer you up, take a look. Perhaps call a loved one, or text them. I had a client tell me once that they found a great joke website that tends to get them laughing (be careful if using your company’s internet–even if you are on your own phone).

The idea is to break the cycle of bad circumstances leading to bad decisions that lead to bad behaviors. Relaxation, humor, compassion, kindness, communication with loved ones, etc. are great places to start.

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