Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Moving away from past pain and into a more fulfilling future...

I'm always very hesitant to offer my way of doing things, or my solution to problems, to someone going through a tough time.

My way has worked for me, to a large degree, but it might not work for anyone else, and I tend to believe when people find their own way of doing things, their own way of thinking, it usually has more success than just following someone else's path.

But, nonetheless, there is some value in sharing ideas, which might lead people to think about issues in new ways, and to come up with different ways of doing things, they had not tried before.  If everything you've tried seems to have failed to build your self-confidence, and bring you a fulfilling life, then you may get to the point where your mind is open to stuff you might previously have rejected.

A lot of people find they have confidence when they are younger, purely because they are considered attractive, or physically fit, and making friends and getting a positive response from the world, seems easy.

But we all age.

Some people invest vast amounts of money and time in trying to hold onto their youth, or to endlessly try and perfect their looks, in a desperate attempt to cling onto that popularity, that perceived self-confidence, but the sands of time abate for no man, or woman...  The more extreme the measures taken, to try and stay young, the more ridiculous the individual in question becomes.

Most of us have more respect for people who mature naturally, indeed there is something incredibly attractive about a person who embraces the ageing process, and enjoys the wisdom which comes with their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

That self-acceptance brings a deeper layer of beauty, sometimes a beauty that was never even evident, in their younger, more impulsive, more selfish days.

Self-acceptance is the secret, I have found, along with trusting your own judgement, and growing personal integrity.

Personal integrity isn't something you're born with or born without. 

There's no gene for integrity.

The psychologist, Erik Erikson, believed personal integrity naturally comes to most of us, as we reach our retirement years.  He theorised that if we had made some contribution to life, through our work, through raising children and our vocational interests, this would lead to integrity in the remaining years of life.

I think this is probably true.

But, I would also say it's about investing some time and some energy and some love in ourselves.

Certainly, this has been my experience.  When I felt compelled to understand the deeper layers of my personality, I began to accept myself more, appreciate myself more, love myself more.

All of which, probably would make sense to most people.

But in many ways, that's such an abstract concept.  How do you go about understanding yourself more, accepting yourself more, appreciating and loving yourself? And isn't that narcissistic - to love yourself?

Narcissism, in general contemporary usage, tends to be thought of as a negative human trait - selfishness, egocentricity, valuing yourself, above others, thinking you are better than other people and they are inferior in some way. Displaying a lack of empathy for others, an inability to comprehend the suffering caused to others, in pursuit of one's own goals.

But we're really talking about something therapists might call primary narcissism, which is a very healthy self-love.  Genuine love of oneself, is about having insight and compassion.  Valuing yourself, as you value others. Forgiving yourself, as you forgive others.

If you do not love yourself, how can you truly accept the love of someone elseIf you, yourself, don't think you're worthy of being loved, how will you believe that someone else is really able to love you?

You won't.

And a lack of self-love is probably at the root of many relationship problems.

As you begin to appreciate yourself more, you may even feel you are falling in love with yourself. Which can be a strange phenomenon to experience, but it is very healthy and will help you build more genuine relationships with others.

Some people find that, as they start to appreciate and love themselves, their relationships and friendships improve, the connections feel deeper and more genuine, as they, themselves feel more authentic, as a human being. But some relationships may fall by the wayside, sometimes for a while, sometimes irreparably so, as it occurs to them how little they are really appreciated and loved by someone they perhaps invest a lot of themselves in, a lot of time in, a lot of love in.

Thankfully, the growing self-appreciation and inner wisdom, make this as painless as possible.

For I have found, once people embark on the road to self-discovery and self-love, most of us don't want to come off it, such is the feeling of joy that we gain from getting to know our real, and authentic selves.

This tends to be true, even for people who might have led a negative life in the past, in fact, it can be even more profound for people whose lives involved damaging others, for damaging others always involves some degree of damaging ourselves.

So, what are the practical ways people can start to embark on a journey of self-understanding?

Many people try counselling, as a way of exploring past issues they are struggling to come to terms with.  Sometimes that is really helpful, sometimes people don't feel they make much progress with counselling.

I, myself, have had a lot of therapy through my adult years, for various things.  Some of it was brilliant. Some of it was not. Years on, I still can't see the point of some of the therapy sessions I had. Success with counselling, largely depends on the relationship you develop with the therapist.  If you have a good rapport, and feel held, as you disclose more vulnerable feelings, it will probably work.  If you feel patronised or judged, or dismissed, it is unlikely to be of benefit.

You have to look after yourself physically and emotionally, as far as you can, or any sense of healing and personal growth gets impeded by fatigue, poor diet and so on. I don't mean you have to become obsessive about living on a diet of brown rice and radish juice, and always being in bed by 9 o'clock. Some people can do that, some people enjoy that.  Something that confining, wouldn't work for me though.

But I try to get enough sleep, as  often as I can, be that 6 hours or 7 or 8.  If I feel my concentration going, as the week wears on, I'll lie in, at the weekend, till 9, and that seems to help.  Some health experts say you should never nap during the daytime, but if your lifestyle makes getting enough sleep in one go, difficult, I would suggest an hour during the afternoon, or evening, or whenever you can fit it in, might well be of benefit to you.  Our ancestors tended to sleep in two blocks of about 4 hours, sleep being induced, quite naturally, by nightfall.  But they routinely awoke after 4 hours, and would talk, visit sick friends, pray and have sex, (though not all on the same night presumably!) before going back to sleep for another 3 or 4 hours.

Similarly, you could make a commitment to drink a little less alcohol, coffee or carbonated drinks, smoke less and eat less junk food, and perhaps, walk or cycle sometimes, when you would normally take the car. These things will promote self-healing a great deal. The very fact that you are making some kind of effort, any kind of effort, sends signals to your unconscious mind, that you are starting to value yourself more, and more.  

Most people tend to find, investing this time and energy in oneself, starts to build emotional resilience.  We can cope with stress better, and a natural self-confidence grows.

For me, personally, my greatest progression has come only within this last year, through working largely on my unconscious mind, where pain from the past and current stress gets stored, but I didn't find this at all uncomfortable or distressing, as psychotherapy tends to be.  So I would like share what worked for me, in very practical ways.

To begin with, I was introduced to a hypnotherapy recording, which I was advised to listen to, every night at bedtime for a month.  And then every other night for two weeks, then once a week for another month.  Now I only listen to it, if I find myself feeling anxious.  Saying that, I don't tend to get anxious now, but I keep the recording on my iPod, knowing it's there to use, should I feel I need it.  It doesn't go on about God or anything like that (which many relaxation CDs  do, but I am a humanist so searching for God's love wouldn't mean anything to me, at all) it's just a really relaxing recording to listen to, as you drift off to an amazing sleep...
I also developed my understanding of how anxiety develops in childhood, through our parents worry and feelings of inadequacy, and how this is reflected too, by society.  I had always had a deep interest in understanding human relationships, but as I felt stronger emotionally, I gained a thirst for factual knowledge.  YouTube is awash with good little films and lectures, explaining much about this subject. Here is one example of a short talk, which is really easy to follow, and explains so much, in a way everyone can understand, without jargon..

As I thought and learned more about my wounded inner child, so I wanted to use meditation and hypnotherapy techniques to heal that pain from deep in my past.  There are many short videos you can use for this. This one is quite nice, though the music is a little distracting...
I also came across a new therapy, Thought Field Therapy, which is fascinating and offers Tapping as a very active, and fast way, to heal past pain. It is completely safe, very simple to use, and you can use it again and again, as and when you're aware of experiencing unresolved pain.  I had a private session with a therapist, which was incredible, I've not known anything so effective before. There are some excellent videos on YouTube, which are just as effective.  I especially like this one...
These different approaches really helped me to move on, psychologically, and away from the unconscious feelings and behaviours which were holding me back.

As I say, I'm not suggesting people should necessarily adopt my views, or the practices I found helpful, but some of what I have mentioned here, might lead you on to find helpful ways to deal with the aspects of your own world, which might be holding you back, and preventing you from experiencing the rich, rewarding life you deserve.

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