About six years ago, I was given one of the greatest tools for thinking through life's hard issues: the Clearing Model*. Essentially, it's a process for delineating between the reality we live in and the imaginations and opinions we fashion about that reality. When I've been at odds with someone, confused about an experience, or have just felt hopeless, I've found this tool to be... well, invaluable for keeping myself sane.
For example, here's a hypothetical situation to give a frame of reference -- Someone wronged you in the past, and it's affecting how you feel around them (maybe you feel like they're judging you; maybe annoyed; maybe even disinterested). With something like that, you can guess that it would be hard to distinguishing between your imaginations and how that person really felt/thought/intended.
Before going through the process, I want to point out that I actually use this more often to help me make sense of the less personal things, not necessarily the so-and-so-wronged-me-at-Starbucks scenario. When I'm anxious, depressed, sad, or angry, but can't attribute it to a person or specific event, this has still been extremely helpful!
It's just 5 simple questions to ask yourself. So here we go:
- What are the facts? Here, you just state facts that happened during the event where you were wronged. Think of it as going back to look at a film-reel, frame by frame describing the pictures.
- So-and-so and I were at Starbucks
- I told them about not liking my car
- So-and-so said "You are always dissatisfied in life."
- I quit talking
- So-and-so began talking about their work
- What are my imaginings? This one is simply what you assumed and, well, imagined out of the event.
- They think I'm spoiled
- They don't believe in me
- They're just wanting to be heard, and want to be seen as having it all together
- I'm delusional
- So-and-so and all my other friends probably gossip about me
- I'm nothing more than a problem to fix
- How did that make me feel? This is 100% just about the emotions you experienced because of the event. Be sure not to place an imagining here (i.e. "I feel like they don't like me now..."). To help identify emotions vs imaginings, here're the 5 primary emotions: Mad, Sad, Glad, Ashamed, Afraid.
- It made me feel sad because...
- I'm angry because
- I'm ashamed
- What can I own? It's important to take ownership if you can. Take a look at your part of the event, and see if there's anything that you can own or did.
- I had judgements of that person before arriving at Starbucks.
- I can own that I've done the same thing before.
- I was triggered by something else before walking into Starbucks.
- Maybe I misunderstood what so-and-so said.
- What do I want? This is pretty straight forward. What do you want from this point forward?
- I want to feel harmony between me and so-and-so.
- I want to feel more confident around so-and-so.
- I want to feel safe around so-and-so.
- I just want to be myself from this point forward.
That's it. At the end of the day, it's really nothing different than a guided journaling. But don't overthink it; try it. It's an opportunity to give your mind a break, and begin categorizing all of your thoughts in their rightful place.