Most of us grow up exposed to the habits and beliefs of our families of origin. We learn from them the way to do things and the way to think about and see things. Most of our beliefs come directly from them. It is common to adopt those beliefs or rebel and do the opposite of what we were taught. Neither is the best approach to life. Most of us grow up limited in our exposure to the variety of options available to us. My experience with clients and people entering a recovery process is the common view of seeing things in black and white.
Black and white and all or nothing thinking can cause people problems and inhibit their ability to solve problems and succeed in life. Many of us go through life unaware of how limited we are by our inability to recognize all the choices we have and choices we never consider as options. We have the beliefs we learn as children and carry with us into adulthood. Many of those beliefs do not apply to our adult lives. We have many choices for how we interpret the world around us. Keep this in mind. Many things mean many different things to many different people.
Most people tend to do what they are in the habit of doing and what is most comfortable for them. If we have not be raised in an environment of exploration and being open to new ideas it is difficult to go out of our comfort zone. We have to learn to think outside the box and explore all possible option in order to make better decisions and have a more fulfilling life. It is important to avoid black and white thinking and be able to see all the shades of grey.
I have been working in the mental health/addictions/human sexuality for field for over 20 years. I have counseled hundreds of individuals and couples, as well as facilitated hundreds of groups. For nearly 10 years prior to this I was in my own process of learning, growing, and overcoming many years of depression and low self-esteem. I worked with counselors, attended 12 step and support groups, kept a journal, and read many self-help books. Am I cured or immune from all my old thinking, beliefs, and behaviors? No I am not. Am I much better at maintaining a more positive and realistic frame of mind? I certainly am.
During the past couple of years I have posted many helpful ways of looking at life and managing feelings and the events we encounter. I hope this information has helped the thousands of people who have viewed my blog. But, offering this information and making suggestions is much easier that applying these things to my own life. I do a pretty good job for the most part maintaining balance in my life and my emotions. Am I able to apply these each and every day to each and every hurdle I encounter? The truth is that sometimes it isn’t so easy to reach into my bag of tricks and I experience the anxiety, anger, and depression that we all do. I don’t always remember the things I know. I have human experiences just like everyone else.
One way I benefit from all the work I’ve done on myself is that any emotional upheaval I experience is not as deep or long lasting as it once was. It is much easier to find my center once again. The things I suggest in my blog as well as ways to see the world which make it easier to manage are things I apply in my own life. Many people I know and many of my clients use what they have learned working with me. I have seen amazing changes in my life and in the lives of many others over the years. It took applying what we have learned consistently and being persistent. If you have the desire to improve and change your life you can. It takes time to change.
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.
One question I am asked on a pretty regular basis is whether it is possible to change things about ourselves. The answer is “Yes” we are capable of changing how we act, think, and feel. Much of what we do and think are the ways we learned to and these have become habits. The next question is normally is: How do I do that?
The first step is to identify what it is you want to change. What behavior or way of acting causes you problems? What way of thinking do you wish to change? You need to start by increasing your awareness in order to start changing. You will also need to find out what you will replace those thoughts or behaviors.
The next step I call catch and correct. Every time you catch yourself thinking or doing what you want to change, you correct your behavior or thinking to what you would rather it be. This takes vigilance and persistence. It takes time to break habits and establish new ones. It will take time.
Some counselors make it seem so easy. These are simple steps. But changing isn’t so simple and easy. Give yourself time and be gentle with yourself. You can do it!!!!!