I am certain you have heard of insight focused therapy. I imagine you know the phrase “hindsight is 20/20”. We seek to gain insight in order to understand our past and how it has affected us. And, somehow, by gaining insight we will change. We also tend to analyze our past actions or decisions and how they relate to the outcome or our current situation. We will likely say we made a mistake or say it was dumb or even that we were dumb to have done this or that.
The only value I see with hindsight is to see where we were as compared to where we are at that moment. With hindsight we have more information than we did when making a decision or taking an action. If we had all that information at the time we would have done something else. It wasn’t the mistake we may think it was. We make a choice based on the information we had at the time. When we view those things in hindsight we tend to make ourselves wrong and put ourselves in a negative light. That is never a useful exercise. This can be damaging to self image and self esteem.
Thinking of insight as a valuable tool to help us change our thinking for behavior may not be nearly as helpful as we might think. When I was in therapy I had the belief that if I only knew why I was the way I was and what made me that way, I could change and be happy. I figured that insight would be followed by change. I was so wrong. After a long time of seeking the “truth” I had hardly changed at all. I found quite the opposite. As I began to use healthier coping skills and was changing, I gained insight. I was able to see a comparison between the past and present and was able to understand things like never before. I believe that all the insight in the world won’t change thoughts or beliefs or behaviors. I think that challenging thoughts and beliefs what are not working is the path toward changing behaviors and improving the quality of our lives.
In summary: My verdict is that hindsight and insight are not all that valuable as a way to enable our change and growth as people.
It is important to recognize that fear is one of many emotions we experience. The type of fear that keeps us imprisoned is based on what might happen at some future time. “I might fail. I might look stupid. I might be rejected.” When something we fear is avoided it will increase the amount of control this emotion has over our actions and our lives. The longer we avoid doing something, the more fear we have of doing it. This avoidance has a negative effect on self esteem and can also affect other parts of our lives. Avoiding the things we fear can be based on a belief of not being good enough…this is simply not true. There can be a snowball effect further inhibiting our ability to have a full and rewarding life. Therefore, the first step in overcoming a fear is to recognize that it is just a feeling and based on some imagined threat.
The second step is to challenge the validity of the fear and what real harm if any would result in facing what we fear. We tend to think of the worst possible outcome. That is highly unlikely to happen. Focusing on how facing the things you fear might improve your life or enable you to reach your goals is extremely helpful. For example: If you have social anxiety, introducing yourself to someone you are attracted to would give you the opportunity to know that person. Allowing your fears to control your behavior will be another missed opportunity to have what you want in your life.
Finally, avoid as much of the anticipator fear as possible. When you are facing the thing you fear, acknowledge and even embrace your fear. It is normal to experience some anxiety when doing something for the first time or something we believe to have risks. Trying to repress or ignore an emotion can increase its intensity. Be in the moment and do not judge your feelings. The more often you engage in an activity you fear, the less anxiety provoking it will become.
We are all capable of accomplishing so much more than we can imagine. Overcoming a fear enables us to have the confidence to tackle other challenges. It improves feelings of self worth and self esteem. It gives us the opportunity to have more of things we want in our lives and to improve the quality of our lives.
During the many years I have worked as a counselor and coach, I have found that one thing holds people back from living the lives they want more than anything else. Fear is the one common emotion that inhibits us from making the changes that would improve our situations, our standard of living, the quality of our relationships, and our feeling of self-worth. Fear can keep us safe when our safety is truly threatened. On the other hand, fear can keep us from taking actions that could change our lives for the better.
If you suffer from anxiety or phobias, you perception of danger keeps you from facing those things causing your anxiety. This keeps you in a prison of your own making. If you are in a job that you do not find satisfying, do not like doing, or does not meet your needs, fear of the unknown (or failure or success) keeps you from taking the steps to change your job or career. If you are living somewhere you do not like, fear of the unknown keeps you from exploring other places to live that might be more to your liking. If you are in a bad relationship, fear of being alone or the unknown keeps you from ending that relationship in order to make room for other options.
If you fear dealing with an issue or truly experiencing your emotions, you avoid them with some self-destructive behavior rather than work through the issue. Fear of conflict keeps us from being honest with others and keeps us from resolving our issues with others. The result is that our needs our not being met. In order to live the life you really want, you need to face and other overcome what you fear. If you are unable to do so on your own seek help from a professional.
Have you ever been told that you engage in self-sabotage or self-destructive behavior? For those of us who have been told this, it can be very confusing and frustrating. Others appear to be able to identify our patterns of behavior that cause issues in our lives. They also prevent us from having a meaningful and fulfilling life. These behaviors are habitual and come from a place outside of our awareness. Our life seems to be going just fine and seemingly out of the blue things fall apart. This can happen in one or many areas of our lives.
Others tell us that we are creating the barriers that keep us from having good relationships, stable finances, and other success in our lives. We find it difficult or impossible to identify what we do wrong. This causes us to blame and become victims of one thing or person or another. The result is depression, anxiety, the inability to have relationships, poor self esteem, and feelings of shame. The first step to overcoming any issue is to identify the problem. But, you must first overcome your fear of confronting the issues and changing.
There is a constant conversation in our heads. These are the thoughts that create what meaning we give things and how we feel. Our behavior is based on this process. We all learn how to navigate life by watching the adults in our lives when we are children. As child, we develop of our beliefs about ourselves, others, what to expect from the world, as well as our expectations of others. Be us and doing things how we do things is the only way we know how to be. Unless we are exposed to and open to exploring alternative thinking and/or behavior we are unable to change. We repeat the same behaviors again and again.
The best way I have found to identify the thought patterns that drive our behavior is to keep a journal. There are two goals. The first goal is to increase awareness of that conversation in our head that I mentioned earlier and paying attention to it. The second goal is identifying thoughts or meanings that may not be valid or stand in our ways. These two steps afford you the opportunity for find alternative thinking and behavior. I have found this process is extremely effective.
Working with a counselor or coach can vastly increase the likelihood of very important improvements in the quality of our lives. Give it a try. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.
To be continued……………………………..
Anxiety is one of the most common emotional issues dealt with by people in our society. It is common for many people to rely on medication to control feelings of anxiety. Millions of people carry Xanax and take them when they feel anxious. It is not uncommon to hear, “Do you want a Xanax?” when a friend or acquaintance becomes distressed. Medications like Xanax are highly addictive and one of the most abused drugs on the market. It is easy for most people to get a doctor to prescribe this medication. It may reduce the symptoms temporarily, but does nothing to deal with the underlying issue that is the source of the anxiety. Medication does not allow people to develop the skills necessary to manage or overcome anxiety.
Anxiety is the result of our thoughts and the meaning we give to these thoughts. This is the source of all of our emotions. Most of the time people who become anxious are concerned about something that may or may not happen at some future time. This sets off a variety of physical reactions to these thoughts and that is how we recognize our anxiety (distress, panic, worry). In order to overcome and manage these symptoms people can learn to relax, focus on the here and now, and change thoughts that may be caused by irrational beliefs. People are fully capable of learning how to manage anxiety without resorting to the use of addictive medications.
This is a major part of how I have been helping my clients improve the quality of their lives.
Many of us have come to a point in our lives that are a new beginning. One chapter closes and another begins. Room is being made for new things to enter our lives. It is exciting. But, it is very scary as well. Don’t allow the fear to keep you from exploring a new path and getting out of your comfort zone. Life is about taking risks and is most rewarding when we allow ourselves to explore new territory despite the fears. That a chance today. Do something you have never done before. Challenge yourself to live life every day.