I will start this short post with one of my favourite quotes from the lovely Brene Brown:
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don't belong. You will always find it because you've made that your mission. Stop scouring people's faces for evidence that you're not enough. You will always find it because you've made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don't negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you (...)
"Someone somewhere will say – don’t do it
Reach deep into our wild hearts,
You reach deep into your wild heart
I am the wilderness"
Where ever you are on your journey, you might have recognised the fact that getting well and staying well is not a sprint. You cannot just "get it sorted or fixed". It's not something you can put on the shelf and say "look at this, it's all finished". The more you learn about yourself, the more you will find that this is the type of journey that might never really end.
There are periods when not a lot of new discoveries are happening, and then there is the opposite, when so much can change in short periods of time that you cannot even keep up (hello 2020!)
I know that a sprint can be tempting. Try to do it fast, rip the plaster off, quick fix, get there quickly (start the new year and it will be better already(?)).
Let's look at an example (not a 100% real one, lots of case examples mushed together to protect confidentiality):
A woman in her thirties comes to therapy. They struggle to concentrate, sleep is not the best, they lose their temper when they don't want to. Everything is becoming a chore. They feel worried and anxious, don't seem to find a way to control these feelings. What they would like to do is change this - be happier, learn techniques to stop anxiety and worry.
As I said, this is not a completely real example, but let's just go with it. As a therapist, I do come across this often - people struggling with keeping everything under a lid, there are lots of associated symptoms, so what they want to do is to learn "some techniques" to manage this better in the future.
This is when I think - "here we go, this is gonna be interesting". From experience I know, that unless this person in the room (or on the screen this year) is willing to unpack what these symptoms are about, and they can let go of the idea of having a quick fix, it's likely they will be back in my office within a year or two.
I don't have a hidden agenda, I don't want people to relapse and come back to therapy all the time. So I help them change mindset, and start to focus on running a marathon, as opposed to sprinting.
Thankfully, most people I treat does accept this quickly, and start to focus on understanding and overcoming obstacles.
This is the type of marathon, which people only start when they are well prepared for it. This part is important.
I can help stagger problems as opposed to running into and opening things up too quickly, sometimes that's not safe, as they don't have the right type of scaffolding in place.
Generally, the process is not gonna be easy, and it takes a lot of grit and determination to accept the fact that they might have to run a lot further (and perhaps not in a logical way) than they originally thought.
However, this is exactly the reason why they might change their own expectations, and get to a point where they live a more fulfilling life - whatever form that might take.
And the end of therapy is usually the start of something new. A life that can be more suited to the type of person they are. The life that is based on a brave, giving it a go attitude.
If you are planning to make changes from January, I recommend enlisting some support and playing around with the idea of preparing for a marathon as opposed to a sprint.
How does that land with you?
Love and peace,