We will experience a variety of problems in our lifetime. Some will be small, others almost overwhelmingly big. Regardless of the “objective” magnitude of the problem, we often keep on thinking about our unfortunate circumstance which further compounds the negative emotions we experience, both in intensity and duration.
One time I was going through an overthinking situation, struggling to “snap out” of a negative thought loop. Suddenly my girlfriend gave me an incredibly helpful suggestion that I will coin The Grandparent Approach 1. She said:
Think about how you would tell the current problem you’re dealing with to your grandchildren many years in the future, as if you were telling your life’s story
Wow. This was such a powerful exercise for a few reasons.
First, it puts the problem into perspective - will you care about this in 10, 20, or 30 years? How big is the problem when sized up against your whole life’s experiences?
Second, it makes you visualise a future in which you overcame the problem. You’re forced to remember that there will be a time by when the current challenge you’re dealing with will not be there anymore (or you will have learnt to live with it).
Finally, grandparents tend to be loving, caring people around whom you tend to feel safe and worry-free (at least I do). This visualisation exercise is just that much better when you imagine an elderly version of yourself, having lived an entire lifetime, telling your story to future generations.
So whatever you’re dealing with, try viewing your life as an epic autobiography being told to your grandchildren.
This is similar to a technique William B Irvine discusses, but he explains it as doing an autobiography of your life. I prefer the added bonus of the cozy grandpa feeling, though. ↩