In London’s underground stations you hear a mechanized voice say, “Mind the Gap”, as you board a tube train. That “gap” between platform and train is usually quite small and as a tourist, after the novelty wears off, you take for granted the need to watch your step and the recording simply becomes one of those endearing facets of the London experience.
Neil Gaiman, in his book, “Neverwhere,” artfully creates a more sinister reason for “minding the gap” in his fantasy story about London above ground and the London below.
The “gap” no longer is a small precautionary hazard but one of lethal danger as an invisible cloud-like “black smoke” rises out of the crack, wrapping around the ankles of its targeted, unwary traveler, ready to drag him into oblivion.
Gaps in our Lives
It is easy to overlook the “gaps” that occur in our lives because most of them are simply little daily obstacles we step over. But sometimes, those gaps take on the proportions of huge chasms, larger than life and so threatening that we remain rooted in place and stranded on the station platform while the train moves out.
The “gap” then becomes an insurmountable obstacle; a hollow place empty of inspiration and motivation; a place that threatens to swallow us up in mediocrity and depression.
Recognizing Your Gaps
What creates the gaps we easily step over and those that literally suck away our confidence and energy? Usually it is our interpretation of what we see and experience. A small gap to one person can seem like a gigantic gap to another.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches us that in order to change our emotional and behavioral responses to life, we need to be able to challenge irrational or unreasonable thoughts and beliefs. When you feel overwhelmed, anxious and fearful, find and challenge that connecting thought and belief attached. Often we will find patterns of thinking that prevent us from moving forward because we believe the “gap” is too large to cross.
Maybe the “gap” that trips you up is the “all or nothing” thinking that locks you into an “either/or” way of looking at the world – inflexible and rigid. When all we see is gaps too large to cross, we often give up without exploring other options.
Distorted beliefs about one’s ability to find solutions usually focus instead on exaggerated failures from our past that minimize any accomplishments. As possibilities and opportunities are filtered out, we no longer see a minor gap, but an impossible chasm.
We use our interpretations of the past to predict the future. When unrealistic expectations about what we can and cannot do are held, we believe everything that happens is our fault and we beat ourselves up or become a victim.
We choose how we respond to “gaps” in our lives
We have the ability to choose our thoughts and beliefs and therefore our corresponding emotional responses. We can choose to accept setbacks and seemingly impossible obstacles and then consciously explore other options. We are not the center of the universe and cannot predict the future, but we can make new choices.
We can give ourselves grace to fail and start over again. Without challenging our thoughts and beliefs, our feelings direct our behaviors. If we feel it is impossible, it becomes impossible. But if we can accept the fact that we do not need to be perfect we can learn from each experience and find new choices and new options.
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