I have come across many people who hide from themselves, they resist the pursuit of finding themselves, and miss out on growing into the happiest possible version of themselves.
Have you learned how to be happy and accept who you are, and ignore the opinions of those who set out to change or criticise you? Have you stopped the force of influence from people who you do not aspire to be like?
Are you authentically true to yourself?
Does your life and character reflect who YOU really want to be?
There are some important steps to pursuing the authentic, untainted version of you! Steps towards learning how to become the You, that YOU really want to be.
I have found these steps to be the foundation of what I have gained during over 6years of honest therapy, with a few different psychologists.
Sometimes, often even, a stigma can follow an announcement of seeing a psychologist. Those who have not had therapy, or not understood the need for it, may vastly misjudge those of us who go regularly, and wonder what is ‘wrong’ with us. Some may avoid therapy even if they think they need it, because this stigma covers them with shame. Sure, the most extreme cases of ‘crazy’ are treated in therapy, and so are a variety of mild to severe mental illnesses, mood disorders and psychological conditions. However I don’t feel you have to have a severe problem to benefit from regular therapy. In fact I think everyone would benefit from seeing a good therapist, even just once in a while.
I have found that a good therapist is a sounding board, a place to express your own thoughts, feelings, desires and concerns about who you are and how your life is going. It is place to escape the onslaught of voices from those who have taught us their own rules of good & bad, right & wrong, should & should not. It can become a place where you get to investigate and choose which rules YOU agree with, which ones you want to alter, and which to delete entirely.
A good therapist will not tell you what they think you should or should not do, but will empower you to eliminate those toxic, unhealthy influences and rules you are not benefited by. Those you have adopted through exposure during your lives, which do not improve your sense of fulfillment and self-acceptance.
Have you spent time digging through your beliefs, choices, actions and habits and figured out what makes you tick? I recommend we question everything we were ever taught and test it against what we have learned in our own experiences. What was true for our parents and teachers may not be true for us. What we teach our children is based on our own perceptions and may not be true for them as they grow into their true selves.
Once you have figured out which rules you want to keep and apply, establishing some boundaries will protect your belief system. Developing your own boundaries in a healthy productive way, gives strength and stability to your choices. Good therapists will help with this. The instability from past attempts at boundaries, I have found, resulted because they were actually walls put up reactively, out of anger and resentment etc. These unhealthy walls will probably crumble at the first sign of challenge, or cause even more of the bitterness and anger that first created them.
A healthy proactive boundary will bring a sense of peace, it does not need to be pushed onto anyone else, but when challenged can be gently, or firmly, reinforced exactly where you have comfortably placed it. It gives assurance of the ‘You’ who you want to be, because when challenged, you won’t allow someone you did not permit to influence your beliefs and your sense of the authentic YOU!
Like many others, I always thought meditation required sitting in the lotus position or lying down, eyes closed, taking time to relax every muscle in your body, imagine your breath is like a river cleaning out your stress, stopping all thoughts, finding that illusive place of calm etc … Honestly, I find this quite difficult.
I have practiced and benefited from relaxation though. Before bed, when I am having trouble sleeping, or when I am really anxious about an upcoming event. But who are we kidding? If we had enough time to do this regularly, we wouldn’t be half as stressed in the first place. Most of the time I am too tired to try to focus for that long. Frustrating more than relaxing, right?
However, after a bit of research, and some great posts from fellow bloggers, I have discovered other concepts regarding meditation.
Simply put, meditation is practicing being present in the moment. That sounds easier said than done, so I will share a couple of my own tips.
The quickest way I find to center myself, is to imagine (in detail) the view God has looking down on me right now. I see what I am doing, where I am, what is around me, what face I am pulling, and how I am holding myself and so forth.
Then I go internal, I pay attention to what my body feels like, what I can hear, what thoughts and emotions I have in the forefront of my mind, what is the pace of my breathing, and then see if I can really slow it down.
I don’t deny or push away thoughts, I just accept them and look at them without judgement, which makes it easier to just let them go and go back to being present. Allowing myself a break from mind-wandering into the past or future.
As some may recall, I made a new years resolution and prayer in my post A Focused Mind. To attempt to become skilled in meditation in order to focus and reach my goals, to be inspired and more present, to relax and make room for my mind to process the changes I am working on as a mother. True to the Lords word He has already begun answering my prayer, I am definitely getting better at this. Showing my children how to learn to enjoy the present moment is becoming increasingly important to me. I believe a more ‘present’ relaxed Mum, means secure, happier children.
I have watched a few TED talks and Youtube Videos on meditation recently and learned more amazing benefits. “Meditating, it is like taking a magic pill that will lower anxiety, pain, depression and anger and will improve attention, immune system, self-control and well-being.”
I want my children to experience these benefits too. Couldn’t we all do with this in our lives? Yet I bet, you can come up with a hundred excuses not to try this, starting with, “I don’t have enough spare time” or “I would forget to do it because I have too many other things to think about” (which is kind of the whole point).
There was a terrific idea on one of these videos. The “Don’t wait… Meditate!” pledge.
Pretty simple really…
We all hate waiting because we are wasting precious time, but we all have to wait, on hold, in lines, at traffic lights, before appointments etc.
The pledge is to be present, to meditate while you are forced to wait. No extra time is required.
I meditate while driving to and from work, I do it when I am waiting to pick my girls up from school, or while someone I’m talking with has to take a phone call. I am learning to do it while I engage with people who I feel most sensitive around, I am noticing that this helps slow my defensive reactions so I can ease them somewhat.
Depending on Christ, along with analyzing and understanding my own behaviour, has been hugely responsible for why things are changing for the better around here. I am excited at the changes on the horizon.
The clip below was extremely valuable in helping me understand the why and how of meditation in more detail and I hope it blesses you all.
The theme of my concerns over recent weeks/months/years, has circled my role as a Mum. I have this tremendous fear that my insecure reactions may have already damaged my children’s sense of self worth. How it is especially hard trying to raise them to be healthy, happy and secure, while I am still trying to get myself there. I get angry at myself for falling short, giving them less than they deserve. Tears well up as I confess this, it is extremely difficult to share, so please bear with me. I will try to allow my vulnerability and shame to create something worthwhile here…
I lean heavily into my faith, repeating the mantra, “Don’t Stress, Do your Best, God will take care of the Rest and You’ll be Blessed”. I trust in this, yet I admit my trust wavers, especially when it comes to me doing my best, am I really? While He develops my faith, I pursue healing… I must for their sake and my own.
My children are older now (9 & 16), they are dealing with emotional issues, more than behavioural ones. They are extremely well behaved, and try their best to be so. Recently I watched my reactions as a parent to my children even more closely; I saw how often my desire to teach them sounded as if they were ‘less than’. How my attempts to help them understand happiness made them confused and sad. How my reaction to their unhappiness made them self-conscious and withdrawn.
I broke down…
“How is this still happening?” I thought to myself. After over 6 years of therapy and 13 years of developing faith, I still have not figured out how to stop the cycle of damage and self-loathing which has infected its way throughout my family tree.
I wrote and wrote, I poured out my confessions on every scrap of paper I could lay my hand to. I let the tears fall as I held myself accountable for their growing hearts, which need to be nurtured by a Mum that loves in healing ways, not toxic ones. Yet I had no idea why my love was so poisoned.
Then as usual I withdrew again…. into distractions and a couple of glasses of red.
I had a 2.5 hour session with my therapist the other week, and we spent time figuring out the core of my parenting crisis. It was supposed to be the usual hour, but he knew I needed more time and gave it willingly, bless him.
After many tears shed and much rambling, probably mostly incoherent, we came to a few realisations. Firstly, that I have a list of responsibilities in the forefront of my mind. Fighting for the top spot of that list is my desire to make my children happy, along with being an obedient, self aware, child of God, and a supportive, capable and loving wife etc.
We narrowed in on my role as a Mum, to find out what causes me to react in unhealthy ways rather than healthy ones (besides the general thesis that my reactions spring from a platform of shame and insecurity). We needed to discover the more specific catalyst.
Eventually this catalyst revealed itself to be a connection between being happy and being right. I grew up believing being ‘right’ was the be all and end all. I spent so many early years unhappy for being so very far from ‘right’, believing many lies were truth, that somewhere along the way of realising this I have attached unhappiness with being wrong.
As we dug a little deeper we found that whenever I see a need to correct my children’s behaviour or teach them how to deal with something new, my fear of their unhappiness attaches itself to them being human (not perfect) and my panic causes an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction is more powerful than my words aimed to teach, more powerful than my good intentions. My way of defending against the fear is what shows on my face as I react. My anger at myself for believing those early lies is what shines out, and all they must see is an angry, scared Mum. No wonder it doesn’t work out well. 😦
We also figured out that I seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle, the place of stability that helps gauge which situations are worth getting upset about and which ones can be met with a neutral, unemotional response. In my desperate mission to stop my girls ending up like me, I have been allowing my fear to unconsciously correct their emotions and even their opinions. I cant express in words how ashamed I am. Forgive me Father, Forgive me Girls!
And so now that I have become aware of this in more detail, I must learn to give supportive freedom for them to experience their own emotions and opinions in each situation and not link them to being right or wrong, happy or sad, damaged or healed. Just to simply accept them, for all that they are. The Lord will teach them in life what I cannot, I need to change my focus to be less about teaching them how to not be like I was/am, and more on helping them be who they are. Using Affection, Approval and Acceptance to help them believe they are good enough, that they belong and are loved.
My psych has given me some tips to practice, in order to attempt to undo some of these patterns.
- Sitting face-to-face with them wordlessly, non-judgmentally, soothing the internal dialogue inside me, which drives me to teach them to control and avoid imagined catastrophes.
- Sit and listen without responding so much. (Oh my, that is hard for me at anytime)
- Try not to challenge any opinion they have unless 99% sure that it is incorrect.
- Try not to challenge any emotions they have, merely SHARE the experience with them.
- Try not to let their emotions change my emotions reactively. Wait until I can think neutrally before making decisions. This will teach what my words could not, that emotional manipulation is unfair and unhealthy.
- Before I respond to anything, ask myself this question, “Do I feel good enough or defensive?”, and wait until I feel good enough before I respond.
- Use soft eyes and a low pitch when correcting and teaching.
- Be aware of my fearful reactions during meditation, run through these tips from a calm relaxed place and allow the fear to pass by without being the catalyst for reaction.
This list is not going to be easy for me to apply, but I have been trying and had a few successes. I hope that someone else out there can gain something useful from this post. So that other children don’t have to stay in unhealthy cycles. I ask for your prayers, pray that this is finally the breakthrough I have been waiting years for and that God will reach down His hand and help me walk these new strategies out in my life. That His love will flow through to fulfill my girls when my love is tainted with fear. That my inner enemies will not win out, but will end up in the pit far away from my me and my family. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name I pray. Amen!
One thing I despise about being a woman is when I have let my emotions take my mouth too far. You know, when you have crossed that line from reason, to some form of alien invasion, frightening your loved one half to death by who you have become, for reasons he cannot fathom for the life of him. It feels like while I’m running off at the mouth I get this ‘slow-motion’ realisation in the back of my mind that I am going to regret this pretty soon, but because it comes in slow motion, it sometimes hits me too late. Both my mouth and my thought are headed to finish around the same time, only my mouth always manages to cross the line first! How frustrating!
Then I have two choices, I can sit on what I have said, letting the emotions hover around in my head, continuing to reason back and forth, in an unreasonable way, waiting for him to apologise for whatever he did or didn’t do that set me off. I could stay in my anger, justifying it to myself and causing tension to hang in the air, which might stubbornly last for days! Deep down I’d be hoping the poor man on the receiving end of my tirade, can see through my raging words into the hurt or fear (or PMS) that is causing them, and try to hear enough of my words to know that I really just need a cuddle and to be told everything will be alright (which, after a slaughtering, can be pretty hard for a guy to get to).
Or I can back-pedal as soon as I hear that thought creep up to meet my mouth. Repenting immediately, asking God to change my mood, then I can swallow my pride and apologise. I can become ‘happy’ in that moment after my remorse has rectified the mood. I have to remember that we women have the fabulous gift of being able to change our minds and I must decide to.
The conversation inside my head would be interesting to watch if it were an animated cartoon, a little inner angel and a little inner enemy going toe-to-toe, battling for the win. Regrettably, in my youth I know which one was usually more victorious. Thankfully finding humility and submission to God has empowered my little inner angel and it is not so little anymore. I love how, more often than not, God can simply help me change my mind and my mood. I just have to be willing to let Him.
This works in so many areas, if I don’t feel like cooking dinner, I can think of something special that will make my family smile and it changes my attitude about cooking for them. I can have my heart set on a night out and when plans change I could either pace the house in a bad mood searching for something to make up for it, or simply find comfort in a quiet night at home with my loved ones. I may not feel like meeting the advances from my man, yet if I try to change my mind, even for a second, I find the reasons against have disappeared.
I was talking with my Sister recently about how women seem to have the role of making changes in their relationships. Sometimes it seems unfair to hear about women who want their men to work on the relationship more, to attend counseling, or couple groups, or mostly simply just to talk about the relationship more. Some men rarely feel the urge to change anything, they find a way to be at peace with the situation, or if it gets beyond a joke they may eventually give up entirely.
Mostly I am grateful that good men are very tolerant of our ‘alien’ mood swings, I notice they rarely hold grudges, even if it may appear so, as they often stay quiet to ride out the storm. We need to show them that it is safe to interact with us again, by softening our mood, letting go of our anger and repenting for any possible harm our words may have caused them.
God in His wisdom designed us women the luxury of being able to change our minds easily, sometimes it can take a while, but sometimes it can be instantaneous. That is why it falls on us to make most of the changes in our relationships, have a happier spirit, and be more patient, attentive, supportive, aiming to meet the needs of our men, as God designed us to.
Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, she was meant to nurture, support, encourage and assist him, not take over, ear-bash and belittle him. We need to remember this when deciding which changes could be made to our relationships, or perhaps quite simply, our mind.