Thanks, Jon for sharing another personal experience.
What makes this advice so good is not the specific method itself —I like your disclaimer that it might not work for others — it’s that you’ve described a specific personal example of a universal ritual process that can help everyone regain calmness and clarity.
But why does it work? Look at how you describe your technique:
You trained yourself over time to prioritize your ritual regardless of the temporary emotions and thoughts going through your head.
If we take your sentence and remove specifics, look at how it reads:
As soon as [emotional trigger] happens, I [blank].
I [blank] in spite of everything that’s making me feel as though my work sucks and my world is crumbling.
Now this process can be describe all kinds of other personal practices: counting to ten, deep breathing, meditation, chanting, praying with rosary beads, hitting a punching bag, whatever. (It’s the same technique I’ve learned from sports psychologists in order to focus on peak performance during elite competitions, both as a competitor and as a coach.)
The emotions lose their power because you have allowed yourself to accept your current state without judgment.
You have become an objective observer instead of reacting to an unbearable reality and then doing real damage to yourself in a more concrete way.
In Buddhism they talk a lot about watching your thoughts travel through your mind, only to be replaced by other thoughts. The ability to sit with things in this way allows us to see that what we think is important is nothing more than an illusion.
By contrast, look at how addicts process stress — the trigger induces them to self medicate to avoid the pain of their current awareness. Calling a sponsor is that safety valve which gives them the chance to distance themselves from their current darkness.
You have practiced this response to the point that it has become your rock.
And each time it works, you gain more belief in the ritual.
Think about how we reacted as teenagers. For some of us, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend after one month seemed like the end of life. Sadly, a small percentage of the population tragically acts on this crazy idea.
But looking back as adults, or trying to advise our own kids, we know that this perception is limited and the tragedy is completely blown out of proportion. Because a couple of weeks or months later, we have completely forgotten our feelings about that event.
The better we get at our individual ritual practice, the larger the amount of trauma we can process.
(This even applies to why certain people come through life and death experiences like ovarian cancer, or Holocaust survivors — the individual methods are different but there are commonalities in the process).
Last thing, you mentioned gratitude.
That might be the most powerful force in our lives, and research proves that it provides huge health benefits. That’s been a big one for me.
Whether it’s waking up or trying to go to sleep, when my head is on the pillow, I do a personal inventory: breathing? check. healthy? check. family okay? check. roof over my head? check. etc. It’s a daily ritual that keeps me grounded. But it may not work for others.