Mental Health On the Go: FFM
The internet is full of complicated explanations, 10 step solutions, extensive analysis and expensive alternatives to help us navigate psychological struggles. Some really work. Sometimes that’s what we need. But what about those other times?
What about when you have ten minutes alone in the car—the most you’ve had all day—and something has been bothering you. You just can’t figure out what or why.
For those of you who might wonder why a comment someone said really changed your mood, or why you just can’t seem to get over problem XYZ, this simple formula might be just what you need.
It’s foundational to many different types of counseling sessions and sometimes even those deep conversations we have with friends—the ones that leave us feeling better connected, like we just learned something new about ourselves.
This formula is Facts, Feelings, Meaning (FFM) and this is how you can get it to work for you.
Go over the facts. What upset you? It doesn’t have to make sense. If you’re still thinking about it after a few hours, chances are, based JUST on the facts, it doesn’t! Now, don’t Sherlock Holmes it. Getting the basics straight is really good enough.
Don’t rush this one! No real mental health dive is complete without the standard, “And how did that make you feel…?” Say the feelings, write them down, type them up, roll through them. It may seem pointless repeating “sad, sad, sad” if that’s all that’s coming to mind, but that’s what it takes sometimes before new words pop up. Get a few solid feelings out there and use these tips to help you out:
- Anger is a secondary feeling. We feel anger in response to another feeling like hurt or fear, so don’t just stop at anger! Dig deeper.
- Emotional, Upset, Irritated etc. aren’t identifying any specific feelings. Don’t settle with these! Dig deeper.
- Guilt and Shame are different. Guilt is when we feel bad for something we’ve done. Shame is when we feel bad for being who we are. This is an important distinction.
- Looking up feeling words is always helpful too.
Now, if you’ve spent enough time sitting in those feelings and breaking them out, you should be able to answer the key question. “What does the fact that <insert the triggering event here> mean to me…?”
You might find that the comment your co-worker made last week brought up a key belief that you have about your own self-worth. You might realize the entire reason you are afraid to confront a friend is because of a belief you have about hope or taking risks.
You might also realize that you need to go back to step 2 and hash out more feelings. That’s fine too!
The FFM formula might take practice, but after a while, it can be one of the easiest and most effective tools in your psychological tool box. Good luck!