When Nothing Works

When Nothing Works

“I’ve tried everything and nothing works!” comes up for me instantly when I feel frustrated; or is it the other way around?

Even though I had a great experience working with the designers of our first website, when it came to learning how use the new software myself, a familiar frustration returned.

SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS) to the rescue! This time I noticed the thought behind the frustration and said what I saw to myself:

SWYS:  “You’ve tried everything and nothing works!”


Self:  “No. NOTHING!!!”


SWYS:  “That’s really frustrating! And you’ve tried EVERYTHING!”


SELF:  “Yea!!! OK, OK. Well, maybe not everything…, but what’s the use?  Nothing I do works!”

About then I caught on that my frustration might not be coming from the moment at hand. Absolute words like “nothing” and “everything” are extreme generalizations that ring of a childhood world view—a lot like “always” and “never” that I talk about in my Eye-Opening Introductions for parents and teachers.

As I often say, children live in the now. Although it may be hard for us to picture what that’s like given our linear view of time, when now is all there is and something happens once, it is “always,” and if something doesn’t happen now, it is “never.” Now you know why when you buy a child candy at the store once, it immediately becomes always, and when you don’t buy it next time, of course it is never! Kid’s extreme reactions to these occurrences match their extreme perceptions.  So do ours…

So when you find yourself having a meltdown over “nothing” or “everything,” validate yourself first with SAY WHAT YOU SEE! From the perspective of the child you were when that thought first entered your mind, you were right. You tried something, and it didn’t work, and the possibility of you being helpless in the face of a challenge was planted in your brain.

But here’s the good part: something inside of you knows that helpless is not who you are, so you place a strong emotional marker there and return to over and over until you break through to the other side. Noticing the thought behind an emotional moment, saying what you see, and validating that it was true at least once, are steps you can take to shift your perspective.

Sometimes, you can even remember the exact moment in your childhood when you created the thought in your mind. This is powerful proof that the belief is not an absolute truth, because it wasn’t always true, even for you. Shifting your perspective is all it takes to change a challenging moment into a rewarding one.

In the case of “I’ve tried everything and nothing works,” once I got that it was true at least once in my life, I didn’t have to prove I was right any more that nothing works. My defenses came down, and I could see that indeed what I had just tried didn’t work, but it didn’t have to mean nothing would, which opened the door to thoughts of all the things that I had tried in my life that did work, whether or not I could see it at the time.

Here’s where the STRENGTHs come in: What kind of person would keep trying in the face of believing nothing works? A tenacious one; that’s me. And poof! Self-acceptance broke the everything/nothing belief apart.

Once I got a foothold in the present, I could see my complaint, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works!” was just one way to see things. If there’s one way, there’s a hundred ways, so why not pick one I like better? How about something like, “Everything I do works.” There’s my CAN DO.

If you’re saying, wait! That’s just another absolute and not really true either, my response to you is, “It’s all in how you look at it.” You are right that you need to be able to see some truth in any affirmation for it to work, but it doesn’t take much. For me, I’ve got just as much proof that everything I do works as I have that it doesn’t, and since this thought helps me push through, it’s a great replacement.

Affirmations and negative thoughts simply set your perspective. It’s like deciding on a new car and suddenly seeing it everywhere. If I believe nothing I do works, I can easily find proof. If I believe everything I do works, I can find proof of that, too. For example, I can even see something that doesn’t work as working by getting me closer to a solution through the process of elimination or, better yet, as something to learn from.

It’s as simple as this: “What you look for you will find.” The trick is figuring out what it is you are looking for when it is hidden in your unconscious mind. Awareness can start by simply noticing the thoughts behind your emotions and SAYing WHAT YOU SEE. Try it. It’s something you CAN DO that works.


  1. I’ve really been trying to avoid all or nothing thinking, but I love the idea of jumping from never to always. And saying what I see to myself is also great advice. Thank you!!

  2. Sonya, Thanks for your comment. Setting our own perspective is one of the powerful, simple tools we often overlook. I think we are positive by nature, so when we set a positive perspective, it’s much easier to be present – no defenses or upsets cluttering our vision. Being present is my goal, and clearly yours from your great posts on mamaTRUE.

  3. Wonderful Sandy. Understanding what children really need to find their place in the world, is a gift for both you and the children you touch.
    Stick right with it and know that the children you touch will also touch their children in the same way.

  4. Nan, Thanks for the comment. The ripple effect is unending!

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