As I sit with my clients and hear their struggles, I can’t help but empathize. I know life can be hard. After all, I’m a person too and have experienced hard times. But I also know there are ways to ease the struggles and to heal from emotional pain making it so they can more fully participate in life and approach their days with hope and a sense of well-being.
We are multi-dimensional creatures and as such we all have different ways of being, feeling, or reacting at any given time. You have probably said some like “a part of me wants to do that, but another part of me doesn’t. I’m really not sure what I should do.” It could be there is a dialogue running through your mind about what you should do or how you should feel. Sometimes you feel caught between adult and child emotions and choices while other times you may feel parts of yourself urging you to do things you later regret. There are times when these parts seem to speak quite loudly to you while but sometimes the voices or thoughts can be just a whisper or expressed through bodily feelings in the form of anxiety, depression, or perhaps pleasure. What is important to know, is that if you become aware of and listen to what is going on inside rather than overreacting or running from these voices or feelings, they may actually help you make better choices or help you heal.
Of course, the question is, how do you do I this? The first thing you do is to become consciously aware of your inner voices, your parts, the feelings in your body. You can do this intuitively or you can go quietly inside yourself more meditatively and with acceptance and patience and explore your internal world. Without judgment and without expectation, be open to what your voices say, what your body is trying to tell you. Notice your responses to situations–consider how you feel and what you do particularly those times that distress you. Do certain situations trigger feelings of confusion or of anger? Or do you sense an internal chaos, dis-ease, or do you recognize that you have certain knee-jerk reactions to words or situations. Become curious. For example, ask yourself why is that every time someone criticizes you, gives you “that look”, someone tells you what to do, or someone doesn’t listen to you that you react the way you do. What happens every time you break up with someone or you are left alone? What do you feel? How do you act?
One of my clients told me that she has what she calls a “go to place” when she feels overwhelmed. She meant that as soon as she becomes overwhelmed she hears a voice inside her telling her she is a failure and is worthless. When her feelings became too hard to bear she hears another part that says, “This is too much! You should just die and you won’t have to go through this anymore.” So, for her, that “go to place” can be thoughts of suicide–the ultimate defense against feeling terrible. For other people that “go to place” could be binge drinking, using drugs, gambling, or sex. Some people have less extreme responses and to defend against negative feelings and inner voices, they find other ways to forget or “shove” them down or away, such as exercising, cleaning, organizing, eating, or even picking a fight with someone exiling those parts that disturb them.
This may lead you to wonder how you can change these behaviors and responses. Of course, working with a therapist is one way, but you can also help yourself. Either way, change takes time and patience and self-compassion. Earlier in this article, I wrote of going quietly into yourself with acceptance, curiosity, and patience and becoming aware of you internal world. Self-compassion, means extending to yourself that compassion that you extend to others that you care about and doing it mindfully with acceptance and without judgement.
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