Individual treatment is often termed as psychotherapy, and is meant to help people with their emotional issues, which can range in order of their severity or intensity. The main aim of this form of therapy is to change the quality of life by defining the path of life clearly, and bringing in more clarity. Whether it is the problem of repressed childhood that you are facing, or an emotional breakdown due to divorce, failure or loss of a loved one, a professional psychologist can help you revive your mental health through systematic counselling.
So as I sat in yoga for the first time in a while, I had a realization. I spend a lot of time worrying about what I think I should be doing to be the person I want to be, and in turn, feel worse when I don’t live up to these standards. I compare myself to other successful people around and think- what are they doing that I’m not? I should do more of that. For example- I want to be reading the bible daily, going to yoga more often, going on hikes, traveling, going to fun events, enjoying the summer with outdoor activities, writing more blogs, spending time with friends and family. What do all of these things have in common? They represent what will make me “a better person”. If I’m doing all of those things, I will be the person that I want to be. Or so I think. Then I start to feel guilty when I’m not doing these things.
As humans, we use language to conceptualize our lives. We want to understand and “fix” whats wrong, so that we can be the people we want to be and live the life we have imagined. While this is a good goal to have, there lies a trap which many of us fall into, including myself. This works well on the outside (if something is not working in your house, you can problem solve and fix it), however, does not work as well with our internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, beliefs etc.). In the moments when we are doing something enjoyable, instead of being fully present and enjoying it, our mind takes over. There is a part of us that will chime in during these times and say “ohh yes, this is nice, I need to do more of this” and then you drift off into fantasizing what it would look like if you could do this all the time- how you would feel, what your life would be like, and what sort of person you would be.
This is a natural part of survival that has been ingrained since our ancestors- the basic need is to increase pleasure and decrease pain. However, they applied this survival instinct to external triggers (such as, lets stay on this part of the land as it is ripe with harvest or lets avoid that part as there are bears and it is not safe). As humanity has evolved, we utilize this same survival instinct, but apply it to our internal experience (thoughts, feelings, beliefs). So when we feel good, we associate that feeling with our action and want to do more of it. While this may be partly true (as our behaviors/actions do influence how we feel and vice a versa), it can be detrimental when its sets us up for black and white thinking. So it’s either all or nothing, I need to do yoga everyday or not at all to “feel like a better person, or to truly enjoy it”. Where is the room for flexibility? And when we feel a negative feeling (hurt, pain, shame, lonely etc)- we want to do everything we can to avoid it.
So we turn to fixing our external world (the things we do) to fix our internal world (how we feel). These two worlds are incredibly intertwined, but the freedom, joy, peace, authenticity and congruence we all long for requires a different approach. It is very hard to get there when you are stuck in this trap. Instead, I wonder if you could just start to be mindful of each activity that you are doing as you do it. And enjoy it. Notice the part of you that will chime in and try and analyze what you are doing and how it fits with the picture you have of who you want to be and what you want to be doing. Notice and just allow that to come and go, while you return your focus and attention to what you are doing right in this moment. This is freedom. This allows for much richer and fulfilling experiences, which in turn, will lead to a much richer and fulfilling life.
Call me today to explore how you are getting caught in this trap and can break free to live inspired!
If you would like to read more about this, please check out “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life”- by Steven Hayes.
Do people at work like me? Am I smart enough? Do I work hard enough? Am I thin enough? Do I eat healthy? Do I work out enough? Do I dress well? Am I a good friend/ family member? Am I good spouse/partner? Am I motivated enough? Do I make enough money? Do I talk too much? Am I too quiet? Do people think I’m annoying?
Any of these resonate with you? The questions are endless and I find myself plagued by these thoughts daily. All of these questions have one theme in common- self-worth. What am I worth? Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves basing our self worth on the questions above, creating measurements and expectations… “if_____(I’m smart, thin, rich, successful, in a relationship) than I’ll feel ok, worth it, good enough, HAPPY”.
The problem with this formula is that it often only results in more suffering, never finding any sense of relief, and in turn- feeling more disconnected from yourself, the people in your life, the world around you and most importantly out of touch with what you truly value. Eckhart Tolle touches on this beautifully in his book A New Earth, when he discusses the ego. Ego is identification with form, seeking yourself and commonly losing yourself in some form (not only physical bodies or material things, but thoughts and beliefs). As humans, we are divinely made for survival- everything we do is intended to increase pleasure and decrease pain. However, when we are caught up in those thought forms- always striving to meet some form of expectation of feeling “good enough”- our pleasure comes at a steep price that you must work hard to continue to achieve. I wonder if you have ever reached that place? Have you ever set a goal (e.g. once I lose enough weight than I’ll be able to start dating again)? I would bet that once you reach your first goal, your mind doesn’t stop there and sets another goal- nothing is ever good enough. And as long as you continue to run this race, you will always lose. Plus it’s exhausting! No wonder so many of us struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction- freedom lies in increasing your awareness of your Being- the awareness that is consistent and behind all the foreground of the world (what you see, do, think, feel, believe).
Is it possible to let go of the belief that you should or need to know who you are? Can you STOP looking to thought for an identity? You are enough just as you are! Don’t believe me? The only way to believe that for yourself is to start to recognize the thoughts and expectations of what you NEED to do to be enough as they arise (and they will continue to), and stop believing them. Don’t fight to get rid of them, just change your relationship with them- just because you think it does not mean it’s true and most importantly- it’s not helpful. Instead, try taking 10 deep breaths and re-connecting with your reality and present moment just as it is. That is enough!
“Peace- it does mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”- Anonymous
Isn’t this so much easier said than done? As humans, we have this desire for things to go a certain way and create expectations of how things should be in order to be “happy”- which in the end, only creates more suffering. Instead of living in each moment with wonder and curiosity, we are so busy creating stories in our head about whats next and how things should be or ruminating on whats happened in the past. All of this takes you away from the only moment you really have- right now. Happiness has become an idea, something you need to work to obtain- which is not really possible. You can add things in your life that may help you feel better, have more energy, increase your satisfaction and bring you joy (eating healthy, spending time with friends and family, working hard, going on new adventures, exercising), but there is no set of rules (“if this… then that”) on how to be happy.
This is especially true for the beginning of a new year. Many people start January 1st with a list of things that need to change with an expectation that they will then be “happier, more successful, the person they have always wanted to be”. We compare, evaluate, criticize ourselves, focus on what we’re lacking, all in hopes of reaching this fantasy image of the person we would ideally like to be. However, instead of reaching this ideal- people often end up loathing in shame and self-hate- never feeling good enough. Happiness has no pre-requisites- however, and it is only attainable right now- in this moment. So, what if just for this year, you make a resolution different than any one in the past that will bring peace, joy and vitality. It is not hard, but it is a conscious practice- to bring willingness into your day to day experience. This means to be willing to experience the ups and the downs that life inevitably will bring- being present in each moment- which allows you to experience everything more fully- not avoiding the pain, but making a life worth living despite it.