Keeping Calm, Trusting Yourself and Other Lessons From My Therapist
We’re all living in worrisome, uncertain times.
Restarting therapy couldn’t have come at a more beneficial time for me (even if it means video therapy sessions in the near future).
I suffered with health anxiety unsurprisingly after a big thyroid operation and cancer-scare 22 months ago which my therapist helped me navigate though, and ultimately overcome. I left 5 months of weekly sessions transformed.
Take today. While, I’m deeply concerned for the vulnerable and elderly amongst us when it comes to this awful coronavirus, thanks to the skills I’d picked up via therapy, I’ve found I’m mostly calm and rational in the face of chaos and confusion.
My operation taught me some powerful lessons including how strong I was, how clever my body is in healing and how agile we all are when it comes to traumatic events. How quick we react and adapt…
I’ve read the stats and I’ve spoken to close friends in the medical community: consultants and doctors and feel as informed as I can be (which granted isn’t much as it’s an ever-evolving pandemic) but either way I’m living life. I’m truckin on.
My therapist told me yesterday that she never, EVER worries about anything until the moment she has to. She went on to share an Aesop’s fable style story about a zebra being pursued by a lion I think you might find useful.
The zebra is chased by a ferocious lion so (literally) runs for its life, sweating prefusely and its heart, palpitating. Soon, the lion tires and turns away, leaving the zebra untouched and safe. Within minutes, the zebra’s head is firmly down as he tucks into grass, his normal life resumed. The same pattern repeats whenever the zebra is chased. He reacts to the emergency, runs for safety and once he is indeed safe, he returns to his usual life.
This is how we must try to live our lives.
This is what ‘living in the moment’ means. Reacting and tackling adversity when you see it. Not before. Prepare for safety of course but don’t become so wrapped up in fear and ‘what if’s’ that you stop living or are simply living on adrenalin. Running for no reason.
My therapist told me that as humans, we’re biologically tuned into negativity and require a whopping 8 positives to combat 1 negative so you can appreciate how easy it is to become affected by everything from a misunderstanding to states of emergency and trolling with that bias in play.
It further highlights how important our inner voice is in building up self-worth and resilience.
My therapist taught me to repeat compliments, affirmation-like for a minimum of 30 seconds each time (and ideally 1 minute), hand on chest if you like for emphasis, repeating, ‘Your book resonated with me’…’You’re a great listener’, ‘You have pretty eyes’ etc etc….If you do not practice repeating these compliments, they shall never be absorbed. NEVER. The negative voices will dominate and you’ll end up hating yourself.
In practising the exercise above religiously, I’ve constructed a lattice of complimentary armour within, a means of defence when harsh words are thrown at me. I have become more centred and balanced in how I see myself, and others. Self-kindness benefits everyone. If you speak to yourself in a reassuring voice, forgiving yourself of mistakes (‘the past is in the past, let it go’ says my therapist) then you are able to forgive others.
The greatest lesson I’m learning is to trust myself more. To acknowledge discomfort at the hands of others, is real and those people who consistently hurt me or make me feel uncomfortable are not my people. I’ve often felt a duty to others and love nothing more than helping and supporting others but I’ve sometimes found I’m generous to an (actual) fault. I trust too easily and whilst it’s wonderful to always expect the best from others, it’s not real life. Not everyone is for me nor I for them.
I’ve distanced myself from those who simply, don’t make me feel good about myself or happy. I’ve made my Facebook personal page just that: more personal. I’ve removed lots of lovely folks too but people I don’t know well. I’ve drawn the drawbridge up more. This crisis has seen me focus. I’ve spring cleaned my home, timeline, friends’ list and contacts. It’s liberating. Ironic that the confinement we’re all facing can offer us greater freedom.
Granted, we don’t have a huge amount of control in some areas, but where we do, we should use it. We don’t need to people please.
We might be social distancing in real life but it’s worth thinking about social distancing from some online too.
So latest lesson is: need to let the past go, continiusly work on our self worth, trust ourselves, and stop worrying (until we need to).
Argh, therapy is such a gift and I shall keep on sharing the clarity it’s giving me with you guys.