The importance of working on yourself before you find yourself in a situation you cannot cope with
This is was the message from the state fire service as New South Wales faced unprecedented and massively destructive fires. In Australia there is an understanding among the folk who live in the extensive forested bush regions that it is not a matter of if fire will hit your property, but when. So a lot of effort is put into education about fire risk, how to limit the spread of fires near your property to give yourself a precious few more minutes, and to have your exit plan prepared, your survival kit ready where you can grab it, and being willing to abandon your property early enough to save your life.
It seems natural disasters are increasing, and they are interlinked with human behaviour where we collectively act in ignorance of how our own lives are out of balance. So many people come to me as a psychotherapist because their own lives have, in some way, become too hot to handle. Tumultuous change is upon us in this new decade, and we all have to be prepared if we are to thrive in unprecedented new circumstances.
You might wonder what this has to do with psychotherapy, but preparedness for the realities of life is important for everyone. It is not if but when each of us will face emotional and psychological challenges. For some people this happens when you are very young, and then it affects your whole life thereafter. For many people, difficulties gradually creep up on them, and then it is only when a bit of a disaster hits, when there has already been just too much accumulated loss, change, disappointment and damage that they realise they are not coping well. We cannot change the fact that “stuff happens.” However, our attitude to it, our preparedness, our self awareness and some through psychological-spiritual education about how to thrive no matter what life throws at us, will make the difference between being happy or miserable, forward-thinking and productive – or frustrated and stuck, pleased and satisfied – or resentful and envious of other people who appear to have better lives.
This is where making space in your life for some time shared with a psychotherapist can change your life. In fact many people have told me that the therapeutic work they did probably saved their lives. People come to me when they have realised that the quality of their lives is seriously reduced by issues that they cannot resolve on their own. In most cases, these issues have been building up for years and even decades, and they have possibly developed into symptoms that are hard to live with, such as anxiety, depression, lack of confidence or ambition, difficulties in relationships, panic attacks, lack of fulfilment, fear of moving forward in life, or feeling stuck and powerless to change a situation. Sometimes the fallout from trauma, abuse, neglect, abandonment or loss can run and run without resolution, because you simply cannot control it on your own, no matter how you try.
Often people feel that they “should” cope with these disabling symptoms, and “sort myself out” and “just get on with it” without fuss. In fact, these sorts of “independent” thoughts and ideas are often baked into the problems from the beginning – the idea that you are alone in life and you must ignore your inner fears and limitations, ride over them, and hope that they will not resurface. Often they will not resurface for years – until a really inconvenient time, when you are already fighting fires that have cropped up in your life, or they come out in a relationship that you are struggling to keep.
Psychotherapists have made this type of work their life-time study, and are dedicated to understanding and working with human developmental processes, supporting constructive change, and offering therapeutic conditions which act as a catalyst in your life. A good psychotherapist will help you to see the wood for the trees and help you shine a much clearer light on your path ahead, so you can stop going round in circles. Then you can find your way forwards.
Psychotherapy represents an important commitment to yourself, where you treat yourself, your real needs, and your inner state of being seriously. You have to feel ready for this commitment, that it is the right time for you to begin to more forwards in life. If one to one psychotherapy feels too confronting, or is out of your budget, consider self help methods. If you work with these consistently, using a journal, you can make good progress until you are ready to work with someone face to face. There are books in my shop that can help you with this, or you can purchase them on Amazon click here.
You could also consider the New Year, New You 2020 Yearbook. This is an extensive monthly journal format that takes you through a review of 2019, and gives you lots of journalling prompts each month, combined with quarterly planning and review sections. Instructions are included, and the whole purpose of the journal is to give you a structured format where you can focus on your growth and development each month in a constructive way, but not dwell too much on negativity. It is illustrated (black and white images of nature and natural growth), and enjoyable to use, but the writing prompts are far reaching and will enable you to make progress in any life area you choose to focus on. It is a pdf you can use on your computer or print out, though be aware it is over 100 pages and so you might want to get it printed and bound. If you work in this journal regularly, not only will you find it enjoyable and productive, but you will also find it one of the easiest ways to focus on change and to make yourself more future-proof for the decade ahead.