How To Go From Being a Type A(nxious) to a Type P(eaceful) Person
Posted Apr 16 2009 11:00pm
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Nadia Ballas-Ruta of Happy Lotus
You may have heard the following joke: “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one but the light bulb has to be willing to change.” Even though it is a “joke”, there is a lot of truth to the concept. People often wonder if they can change. I think people can change but they have to want to change. Some people are unaware of their issues so they keep doing the same things over and over again; resigned to the idea that this is how things must be. However, life is full of possibilities and the choice is yours as to how you want your life to be.
When we are born, we are a clean slate. Pure and innocent and open to whatever comes our way. But as we grow, impressions are made and lessons are learned. We eventually lose that childlike innocence and we find that we are adults with realistic expectations and tons of responsibility. Who has time to think about the deeper issues, let alone change.
However, some of us find ourselves in situations where we are forced to change. I once was a Type A personality. Here is a glimpse of how I used to be:
There was a time when the only color in my closet was black. One of the items I could never be without was a watch. I had a back-up watch in my drawer in case the one I was wearing stopped working. Without a watch, I felt something was missing. I walked as if I was in a race to get to the finish line and that was true even on a Sunday.
My mind was constantly thinking or worrying about something. I had a 5 year plan and was following it to the letter. I had achieved every little thing I wanted and I was miserable. I was impatient most of the time. I did not have many friends because I was never myself with other people. I was not a mean person but I realize now how much I faked my way through life.
Due to the kind of childhood I had, along with other experiences, I was able to read people very well; people give themselves away by the little things they say and how they act. I was never impressed with anyone because I was not impressed with myself. I was ambitious, determined and always afraid of other people. I was afraid that they would see through my act because I pretended to be this person who had it all together but I was totally and completely lost.
Looking at the two paragraphs above, it is hard to believe I was that kind of a person. Now in my closet, I do not own a single thing that is in the color of black. I don’t even own a watch. I take my time going anywhere and enjoy the scenery whether it is a Monday or a Sunday. I hardly ever worry now. I am extremely patient, although I have moments when I wished some of my goals would be met sooner as opposed to later. I no longer have a 5 year plan. The most I can plan for now is about 3 months.
I am amazed and impressed by people every day. I truly love people and each person has a purpose in life and each person is beautiful in their own way. I am also no longer miserable - I am no longer lost. I would call myself a happy person who loves life and people. I work as an attorney, however, I am also currently working on turning my dream job into a full time job but I am just going with the flow and I will see where life takes me. Do I still have goals? Yes but the journey towards the goals is much more fun now and the destination is no longer an issue. I live authentically and being fake is something that is foreign to me.
From Type A to Type P
So as you can see, I basically went from being a Type A to a Type P person, P meaning peaceful. If I can do it, considering how I was, you can do it too. You may be asking yourself, what caused me to change? In my case, my life went in an unexpected direction which caused me to re-evaluate everything. It began in the summer of 1997. It was a Thursday night; I remember this because I was sitting on the floor of my apartment doing paperwork for my job as I watched Friends. I had just finished my first year of law school and had returned from a dream trip to Paris, France. I had achieved every little thing I wanted in that first year of school. I had the dream apartment, I got the dream summer internship, I had interviewed one of my political heroes (George Stephanopoulos) but I was miserable. I knew I was unhappy and I wanted out of the misery.
As I sat doing paperwork, I had the thought or rather the realization that I was not meant to be a lawyer in the way that I was thinking I would be. It was like the clouds in my mind had parted and reality struck. Who was I kidding? I hated myself. I hated my life because it was not a reflection of my true self. I was living a lie and that was why I was miserable.
At first, I thought I had lost my mind. Maybe it was something I ate? But I put the paperwork down and started to think more about my future. I really asked myself what did I want my life to look like? I realized I had no idea but I knew that I did not want it to look like it did at that moment in 1997. I then became scared because my sense of reality was starting to take on a different view and it was uncomfortable. I had no idea what I needed to do to snap out of this mindset but I did know that something big had happened and there was no turning back. I was a twenty-five year old having a mid-life crisis.
I remember waking up the next morning feeling very fragile but on some level I felt like a load had been lifted off of my shoulders. I thought about quitting law school but decided against it because I knew I was not ready to quit. I lacked the courage. Plus I figured a law degree might come in handy; if anything it would make for an interesting story. I am glad I did stay in school because four months later, I discovered Buddhism and it changed my life. I would consider the last 2 years of law school a preparation for what came next. The year 1999 was when my full transformation began and it was not until 2005 that everything fell into place.
I will not bore you with all the little things that happened but here is a brief list (not in chronological order) as to what happened in those 6 years: I gave up a career in law, traveled the world, met my husband, worked as a freelance writer, was living out of a car for two months, traveled the United States, lived in India for 6 months, studied all kinds of Eastern philosophy, moved to Chicago, moved to California, moved back to Chicago, worked at a publishing house, my mother became ill with cancer, moved back home to take care of my mother, my mother passed away, stayed in the area to be close to my dad, took the bar exam again, went back to law and finally discovered what one of my purposes in this life is and became happy…finally!
The Key Steps
You don’t have to go through similar experiences as I did to find inner peace. Here are some key steps you can follow so that you can unlock the Peaceful side of your self:
Get a notebook or a pad of paper. It does not have to be anything fancy. You can even use a computer. Sit down in a quiet space, take a deep breath, exhale and relax. Then write everything that causes you anxiety or worry. Write down all the things that you do not like about yourself. Even if it is something silly like the fact that your toes look like baby carrots - write it down. Just write what you feel and don’t think too hard about it. We all know what we don’t love about ourselves.
After you have followed step one, look through what you wrote and see what the hidden fear behind each item is. Fear is the root emotion behind every anxiety or worry. For example; I used to be afraid to be myself when I socialized with anyone. I then realized I was afraid to be myself because first of all, if I was myself, then people would not like me and secondly, I realized I had no idea who I was. This lead me to ask myself, why did I not know who I was? I then looked back at my life, recalled some painful memories and realized that along the way I got the impression that if I expressed my true self no one would care for me. So I put myself in a closet, locked the door and had never taken the time to discover what it was that I loved about myself and life. I so much wanted someone to love me; I did not care if I loved myself. No wonder I was anxious - how can I be a peaceful person when I don’t feel at peace with myself? How can someone love me, if I don’t love myself? The kind of love I am referring to is true love; the kind of relationship that helps you grow and become a better person. Anything else is not love.
Please note that to do step two effectively, allow yourself ample time because you will have to face some painful memories but that is the only way to heal. You have to accept your past. You may not change your past, but you can learn to accept it for what it was and learn to let it go. The present moment is all you have and the past is part of your story. Embrace it, accept it and then let it go. No one is perfect.
Then look at the people who are in your life and see if any of those people are what I would call “toxic personalities”. There are some people who will take pleasure in putting people down just for the sake of being mean. There is a difference between constructive criticism and vicious criticism. Toxic people just want to feel good about themselves by thinking they are better than others. So they engage in comments that are intended to cause pain. You do not want people like that in your life. A true friend will do what they can to lift you up and that sometimes does mean engaging in constructive criticism. Please be sure to notice the distinction when looking at the people who are in your life.
Remind yourself that you will not be on this planet forever. Life is short and therefore precious. Each moment is a gift so do not waste this gift by feeling sorry for yourself or anxious. Some of the people you love may not be here tomorrow or a week from now - why waste time being anxious? It will not add to your life, if anything, it will eat away at your emotions, causing stress which will impact your body.
Please know that this process of going from an anxious person to a peaceful person takes time. Don’t be hard on yourself. Life is a journey and the steps above are tools to be used throughout life. Even though I consider myself a Type P person, I do have moments when I will become anxious about something that is happening in my life.
I have learned to see worry for what it is which is fear. I don’t judge it. I accept it for what it is and let it go. For example, I sometimes worry about not having enough money. I realize I have this fear because there was a time in my life where I had no money. I then look to see if there is anything I could be doing to help myself financially and usually I realize I am doing all that I can. The worry then stops. So this is a process. We are all works in progress.
In closing, I would like to remind you that each person has a gift and a purpose in life. Some people have huge and grand purposes but the person who picks up trash for a living, has a great purpose too. Love yourself and realize that the cause of stress and worry is fear and fear is the lack of love. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but we each have the power to control how we handle today.
About the Author
Nadia Ballas-Ruta is the creator and writer of www.HappyLotus.com. It is a blog that is dedicated to promoting happiness, spiritual awareness and living a healthy/natural life. The topics covered are varied but all are geared to help the reader find their version of bliss. You can read her recent interview with the Queen of Green, Renée Loux. If you would like to subscribe to Nadia’s blog via RSS feed or email, please go to www.HappyLotus.com.