Is the Glass Half Empty or Full?

Have you ever heard of the old question: “is the glass half empty or full?”  This phrase was often used to determine “optimists” and “pessimists”.  It was said that optimists would answer this question by stating that “the glass is half full”, whereas pessimists would answer the question by stating that “the glass is half empty”.   More recently, people have been asking, “how long have you been holding the glass for?”   The answer to this would vary depending on what the glass represents.  If the glass represents struggles and situations that are out of our control, chances are we have been holding onto it for a while.  If the glass represents situations that we can do something about, then chances are we have put it down.

Holding onto things for prolonged periods of time will eventually wear down even the most optimistic person.  This is because we are all human which means that we are supposed to experience emotions.  It’s normal to feel sad if something sad has happened.  It’s normal to feel angry if someone has been dishonest with you.  It’s normal to feel nervous if you’re about to give a speech in front of a crowd of people.  What’s not helpful is if these feelings last for prolonged periods of time.  Sometimes we can’t let go of the glass because of situations that are out of our control, but what we can do is “let it be”.

Letting things be as they are is another concept that is consistent with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  Letting things be does not mean that you like it or want it; it just means that you see it for what it is.  As you can imagine, letting things be is incredibly uncomfortable because too often we fall into the trap of trying to change how we feel.   What could be helpful instead is:

1.     Acknowledge your struggle by identifying it,

2.     Notice any physical sensations you might be feeling in your body, and

3.     Make a choice to keep going in the direction that is in line with your core values. 

For example, if you were feeling intense anger and disappointment because a friend had been dishonest with you, then you could apply the three steps with the following self-talk:

“I can acknowledge that I feel hurt and disappointed because my friend was dishonest with me.  I feel anxious.  I can’t change the fact that they were dishonest with me, but their friendship is important to me so I can try to talk to them about why they were dishonest with me”.  

Using self-talk in this way to let things be can seem confronting, however with support and practice it can be a powerful tool to help manage struggles.  If you need help and support with letting things be, then give us a call to arrange an appointment with one of our qualified clinicians on (03) 9882-8874.

~ Dr Celin Gelgec and the team at Melbourne Wellbeing Group.