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Flip It

Are you experiencing emotional turmoil? Is there a person or situation in your life preoccupying your mind to the point of distraction? Is there a very real fear or concern overshadowing your peace? Is some hurt you are feeling leading you to ruminate? Are you experiencing anger towards someone or something but can’t seem to express it, process it or get past it?

More often than I’d like to admit, I can find myself spiralling into emotional turmoil. And when I am experiencing that level of emotional pain, it can be so hard to turn my focus elsewhere. It can be so hard to see any shred of good where I am feeling and seeing only pain and angst. It feels so painfully real and I can find plenty of evidence to support my doubts, my anger, my loneliness, my worries, my fears, my beliefs.

Perhaps this is a familiar dynamic for you, too? But what if we have more control than we may think over the unnecessary upheaval we find ourselves in? What if I told you that one simple exercise can start to turn that emotional turmoil on its head…allowing you to liberate yourself from its grasp so that you can go about your day in a better headspace? It would be worth a try, wouldn’t it?

It is with painfully earned experience that I have learned how powerful my mindset is. What we focus on increases. Whether it is positive or negative, it increases. What we give our time and attention to flourishes. If I am holding a negative belief about myself or my spouse or a family member or an in-law or a friend, I am going to find evidence to feed and grow that negativity. Learning how to manage my mindset - choosing where I place my focus - empowers me to find a way out of emotional turmoil and back to equilibrium.

I use this for many situations in my life. But let’s be honest, it is probably towards our spouses or those we live in close contact with that we are most often going to need to use this tool. I’m not proud of it, but on more than a few occasions I have truly believed I was better than my spouse. I have since learned that such a disrespectful attitude is palpable without me saying a word. Rather than becoming stuck in guilt and shame, though, I instead focus on making progress and accepting imperfection in myself. I focus on doing better next time rather than quit trying.

Whatever the apparent cause may be that is leading to the emotional turmoil you can find yourself in, the solution remains the same: FLIP IT!


Before I outline the specifics of how I Flip It, allow me to bridge into the virtue of charity for a moment.

We, as Catholics, have very often heard that we are to have charity towards our neighbour. What is charity? It is “the divine virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God” (Catechism of Catholic Doctrine).

Understanding this versus putting it into practice, however, are two very different things. Practically speaking, how do we have charity towards our neighbour? What might it look like or how can we apply this to daily life?

Well, we can have charity in thought by overlooking the many human faults in the lives of others and choosing, instead, to focus upon the virtues they have. We can have charity by seeing others, loving others and accepting others as God does. We can have charity by first seeking to tend to our own imperfections and faults before occupying our attention with those of others.

That’s a tall order at times! When things are going well, sure, we can have charity. But what about when we’re feeling mistreated? Or lacking patience? Or tired? Or hurt? Or afraid? Or depleted? Or worried? Or feeling not appreciated…not seen…not understood…not considered…not loved? It’s not so easy, is it?

That is when we need to FLIP IT. We need to catch that ‘stinking thinking’, as a dear friend of mine calls it (shout out to you, Robin!).

Flipping It

There are three steps to Flipping It. The first is to identify the story that is resounding in our minds.

What is the thought or belief that is causing you pain? I know it feels more than just a thought or belief. I know it feels painfully real. I know you have a whole lot of evidence to back up what you’re feeling. I know. But just take a deep breath and try to isolate the belief first.

Let’s say, for example, you are feeling overwhelmed and overburdened with all you have to do. Perhaps you feel that your spouse is leaving the lion’s share of the workload to you. That he doesn’t really care very much about what needs to be done. That he isn’t interested in helping you.

This is a story I often fell prey to and it felt 100% real. The belief might be: my husband expects me to do it all…he isn’t interested in helping me.

Flip it.

So now it becomes ‘my husband shares the load…we are a team’.

Once you flip the belief you then hunt for the evidence. Find ten (yes, ten!) pieces of evidence to support the flipped belief. You can do it! Persist. Even if they’re small, find all ten.

The first few times I tried this it felt impossible. I found it so difficult to see evidence to support the flipped belief because I was so convinced  my stinking thinking was 100% true. With practice, though, I can much more easily flip a belief and find evidence to turn my thoughts from negative ones into charitable, balanced ones.

Hunting for evidence that my husband shares the load and that we are a team might include:
1. My husband does the outside jobs (garden / cutting grass / chopping trees / sorting firewood / septic tank & other gross jobs / securing our home)
2. He helps with the kids when I ask and he facilitates daily solitary time for me
3. He works Monday to Friday every week so that I do not have to work outside the home
4. He takes care of our financial needs and responsibilities
5. He cares for and plays with our kids with love and gentleness
6. He helps with bedtime and often does it alone
7. If I leave something undone or if I can’t get to something that needs to be done, he not only understands but he will get to it if he can
8. He takes care of all things car related…shopping for it, buying it, fixing it, servicing it
9. He sorts out various admin tasks - taxes, bank, house maintenance - that would give me a headache to even think about
10. He takes care of weekend sports with the kids

It turns out, when I pivot my attention to hunt for the evidence for the flipped belief - the charitable belief - I can find plenty!

Honestly, I could find ten more right now. When I see the evidence piling up I begin to see and feel that I can trust my husband to share the load. All of a sudden it is easier to have charity in thought. It is easier to be balanced. I can let my faith overtake my fears.

With my mindset refocused my day can proceed smoothly, gently and peacefully. I can get myself out of emotional turmoil and be free to focus on all I have to be grateful for. And I suddenly get to see that there is so much to be grateful for!

I first learned about Flipping It when I immersed myself in the Six Intimacy Skills that Laura Doyle expertly outlines in her work. It started as a tool and with practice has now become a habit.

What are habits? Actions, repeated over time, that become automatic. And what are virtues only “a habit which enables or disposes us to do good acts” (Catechism of Catholic Doctrine).

So, FLIP IT. It is powerful. It is charity in action. It is allowing God to enter deeply into our hearts. The supernatural gift of charity is one of the many beauties of our faith. And with repeated practice, this action of Flipping It can become a wonderful, liberating, empowering habit. 

Charity took possession of my heart, making me forget myself, and I have been happy ever since” 
- Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Just a litte note on what charity is not. Charity is not a denial of reality. Charity is not allowing others to treat us in inappropriate ways. Charity is not letting go of prudent and appropriate boundaries that we have put in place to protect ourselves. Charity is accepting what is and focusing on the good in another. It is giving ourselves and others permission to be human. It is being aware of faults but focusing on the virtues. What we focus on increases.

O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams” 
- Saint Augustine

The next time you find yourself in emotional turmoil, Flip It!
Identify the story… Flip It on its head… Hunt for the evidence. Three simple but powerful steps to practicing charity. And may you then be blessed abundantly to go about your day with a happy heart. 

Take care of you and Let Truth Bloom.

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