When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence; then begins the path supreme.
Literal words from a new Client a little more than halfway through his second appointment.
Working with a Therapist is not at all unlike making a new friend; you need to be able to get along with each other, there needs to be an element of trust and safety and ease. All of these help to create an atmosphere that makes it easy to talk this new person in your life. Many times, at five minutes before the hour is up people will look at the clock and go “Whoa! That was the fastest hour that I’ve ever spent!”.
We’re all human. It isn’t always that easy, but oftentimes it is.
Tamika, 26, was raised in a home with parents who were deeply religious. She was adopted and she was aware that she was adopted from an early age.
A part of her always wondered about her birth parents, but she subconsciously felt trying to learn more about them would be a betrayal to her parents. Regularly, people said things like: “you’re so lucky you got adopted” which reinforced the belief that she should feel nothing but gratitude. She never felt fully emotionally connected to her parents, but she did know that they loved her.
When she meets Aaron, she’s smitten. They move quickly. She knows her parents will approve because he shares similar religious beliefs. But as they get closer she can’t help but feel a lack of trust. She regularly goes through his phone. She questions him consistently about where he’s been. She pushes him to propose to prove his loyalty.
The voice in her head and the alarm in her body speaks loudly: he will betray you.
Aaron doesn’t know how to cope with her insecurity. In his mind, he’s done nothing but be faithful. He’s feeling exhausted and worn down by allegations. He starts to pull away, which only activates Tamika’s abandonment wound.
She doesn’t have the words to communicate the impact of her adoption trauma — and even if she did she fears she’d hear what she’s heard since she was a child; “you should be grateful.”
She also can’t explain why she’s never felt safe in relationships and that her controlling behavior stems from an unconscious fear that people who love her will eventually leave her.
This is where a third party with a trained ear can be of service; to listen, to interrupt at key points during the conversation and ask questions, and gently guide the client towards seeing if the unconscious is influencing the conscious. There is absolutely no shame or embarrassment about looking at oneself and wanting to live more consciously, changing the course of one’s life for the better.
Although its getting better, there is still an enormous amount of stigma and shame wrapped around the subject of mental health and seeking out help. Often times its viewed as embarrassing and/or shameful when the reality is that its no different from talking to your physical doctor about a pain in your knee or taking your car in when the check engine light comes on. Zero difference. Anyone can benefit from talking with someone when the need to unpack comes up.
The month of May has been Mental Health Awareness Month in the US, so lets review some facts about Mental Health.
One in five adults in the US will experience a mental health challenge at some point during their lives. One in five. And over forty percent of people suffering from a mental health event will take over a year to seek out help.
Stigmas around mental health and its treatment can include shame, embarrassment, ego and pride, discrimination and even culture. Many “isms” go hand-in-hand with mental health: substance abuse, food, and sex are common ways that people can avoid themselves. People can overwork, over acquire possessions and people in their lives to numb themselves so that they won’t have to feel what they do when there’s no action around. Simple logic dictates that we see a doctor when we’re physically ill. Working to treat our emotional health is no different.
What is Mental Health?
Mental Health is a state of emotional well-being in which an individual:
Realizes their own capabilities
Can successfully mange the normal stresses of life
Can work productively
Can contribute to their Community
What is a Mental Health Challenge?
There is a major change in someone’s thinking, feeling or behavior that interferes with the person’s ability to live their life.
The interference lasts longer than typical emotions or reactions would be expected to.
How to observe Mental Health Awareness:
1. Take care of yourself. Sometimes life’s ups and downs can seem to be heavy and burdensome.
2. Check up on your friends and family. Often, all people need is a non-judgmental listening ear. Support and encourage your friends and family if they are being treated for any mental problems.
3. The more mental health is discussed, the more accepted it will become. Learn about what behaviors and language to watch for in your friends, family and also in yourself.
The feeling of disconnection and numbness that afflicts so many people’s lives comes from habitually absenting ourselves from our difficult experiences.
Like a mountain climber that is stuck on their rope and would rather die there that way, we’re terrified of sinking down into those places within us that we refuse to inhabit. The grief for what we’ve lost or never had, the longing for a worthiness that we don’t feel, the unknown of it all threatens to swallow us whole. So instead, we insulate in the form of alcohol, drugs, sex or material objects; or we find a way to exist in an anxious suspension above our fears and loneliness.
We can undermine our own efforts to move forward, remaining in fear of becoming self; because to walk the maze towards our next selves means we need to face all that we’ve neglected or abandoned, and relinquish that which no longer serves us.
Sacrifice is a show of trust in the unknown. Like quitting a job only to have a new opportunity appear that very afternoon, or ending a toxic relationship only to meet your true love two days later, there is magic in sacrifice. Life is calling you, and the severance of the tethers that bind you to outgrown thoughts/ideas/reactions is you answering that call.
The idea of a thing, situation or person is often what is fallen prey to rather than experiencing the thing, situation or person itself.
We can see this especially at play in matters of love; in our lives, in our friends’ lives and in fictional characters on TV and in movies. However, very little of what is offered actually leads up to us having an authentic experience of love. It can be that when we grasp for what we think we want and fail to find it, we bring suffering to ourselves and to those around us. We can feel that we’ve not found love, but something else…
Often the feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, and thrill in the area of love are actually romance, and not really love itself. Romance can be a lot of fun as long as we don’t try to make too much out of it; if we do, it could become painful. Romance may lead to love, but it can also fade without growing into anything more than flirtation. If we cling to it and try to make it more, we might pine for a fantasy or worse; find ourselves stuck in a situation that was never meant to last or be to begin with.
Real love is identifiable by how it makes us feel. Love should feel good. And its important to realize WHERE these feelings come from; from within ourselves – NOT from an outside source. True love activates this. Authentic love doesn’t ask us to appear in a certain manner, drive a certain car, live in a certain zip code. When someone really loves you, their love for you awakens your love for yourself. Its SO much deeper than just romance. We realize that we have to trust ourselves, and not somebody else. They remind us that what we seek outside of ourselves is a mirror of what’s already inside of us. Real love is empowering; reminding us that we always were, and always will be, completely enough just as we are.
When you reach a certain age and look back over your life, it seems to have had an order; it seems to have been composed by someone.
And those events, when they occurred, seemed merely accidental and occasional and just something that happened, turn out to be the main elements in a consistent plot.
So, who composed this plot?
Just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so your whole life has been composed by the will within you.
Just as those people you met became effective agents of the structuring of your life, so you have been an agent in the structuring of other’s lives. And the whole thing gears together like one big symphony; everything structuring and influencing everything else.
Its as though our lives were the dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters are dreaming too, and so everything links to everything else, moved out of the will of nature.
You wanna make a resolution? Then start a revolution. Within yourself.
Instead of the morning bathroom mirror pep talks and mantras, tell the person in your mirror that you love them and that you’re proud of them.
Take a walk in the woods. Notice the trees; all the different kinds of trees. Big ones, small ones, tall straight ones, smaller crooked ones. Oaks, maples, and who knows what other kinds. Notice all these trees and then notice how you just accept these different kinds of trees for what they are. You don’t get all hung up about the crooked ones or the pines if the maple trees are your favorite. You just accept them as they are and walk on.
Now try that with the people around you and see what you notice. Can you really accept them for who they are or do you get hung up on something?
Go back to the mirror for a minute. Instead of lashing yourself and telling yourself you can do better, just admit how hard you’re being on yourself. We’re all human, and we’re all gonna make mistakes and we’re all gonna be way too hard on ourselves. Nobody here is an enlightened master. But here’s a spoiler; even enlightened masters screw up. Give yourself a break. For once. Can you really do it?
It’s just three things but it’s so much, isn’t it?
A long time ago, Khalili Gibran wrote “And God said to love your enemy. And I obeyed Him and loved myself”.
Let’s make 2022 so much better than 2021. I have faith in us.