Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Practice Will Make You Whole by guest blogger, Amy Eden (Part II of Raise Yourself Up!)


Amy Eden of Guess What Normal Is
Here is Part I of Raise Yourself Up!

Today we'll continue with Guest Blogger, Amy Edens series "Raise Yourself Up!", Part II.

Practice Will Make You Whole - Practicing at Becoming You

Our parents didn’t parent us well, for various reasons.  We can wring our hands and wonder why, why, why about that truly unfortunate fact of our lives and try to extract a bit of comfort from the questioning, but—we cannot change it.  Here and now, however, today—you are in charge of your self, your wellbeing, and you are now your own parent. 

So! What kind of parent do you want to be to yourself? 

You cannot copy the model you were given because the results—well, you already know those bad results.  You must develop a new model, and to do so you need to do some investigation.  Who are you?  Think about what it’s like to really know someone.  Can you think of a person whom you feel you really know? I bet that knowing their history, where that person came from, is a key part of your feeling of knowing them. 

Practice at getting to know where you come from—don’t worry about being perfect at it.  We tend to be perfectionists, so start thinking about self-work in terms of “practice” rather than “results.” Being in practice mode focuses our attention on the present moment—so we can not only enjoy the act of practicing itself, but also become present. (Being present is a valuable lesson because it provides us with the experience of feeling “okay” and safe, and forces us to release our need to control.)

Think of the practice of parenting yourself like yoga, learning a language, or a musical instrument, or exercise—something that needs conscious thought, repetition, and expansion into new areas, and just plain doing.

Here’s a definition from Webster’s:  Practice; (noun) late Middle English; “Repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency.”  

4 Practices for Raising Yourself Up

Practice at Learning Who You Are & What Happened
Practice at Doing Therapeutic Work 
Practice at Taking Care of Yourself & Making Changes
Practice at Being Present in the Happiness you Create

1.  Practice at Learning What Happened and Who You Are

First, it’s essential to understand, fully, what happened to you.  Go there.  It’s not a waste of time, it’s not “digging up old useless bones,” it’s not just “the past” that you can’t change—no, no!  It’s essential to excavate your childhood.  Find out what it means for people to grow up without having one’s self-esteem nurtured, but also what it meant for you in particular, given your unique circumstances, to have grown up as you did.  It’s essential that you dig deep to remember, articulate, and reflect on your own story and unique situation and reactions. Only if we tell what happened can we become truly free. This will begin to dissolve the burden that you carry—whether you realize it’s there on your shoulders or not (you’ll certainly feel it lifting!) 

Learning where you came from and who you are in a honest, formal, and committed way will be painful at first but will bring tremendous relief, and it will begin to provide you with a blueprint for healing on which you can actually take action. 

Be sure to examine, and address, the coping behaviors—especially addictions to food, excitement or work—that have become habits for you.

Clearly, this is something that needs to happen within a safe environment, one that will help you create borders around the old pain and present reality so that you don’t feel…well…like you’re losing your mind!  This work is best done with a therapist who you choose and with whom you feel safe, and who can help you contain the experience.

4 Practices for Raising Yourself Up

Practice at Learning Who You Are & What Happened
Practice at Doing Therapeutic Work 
Practice at Taking Care of Yourself & Making Changes
Practice at Being Present in the Happiness you Create

2. Practice at Doing Therapeutic Work

Although it’ll seem like the endpoint of looking into your past will be a pit of pain from which you’ll forever live, the truth is that you’ll arrive out in a patch of sunlight in an field—with yourself.  You’ll be light years closer to knowing who you are.  This is partly because you’ll see that who you were as a child was someone who adapted and coped to stay safe in whatever way you could.

You’ll come to realize that, while necessary, that’s not the Who you were meant to be, and that you want to get to the Who underneath all those protective survival layers.  You’ll come to have a much clearer picture of who you do not want to be, and simultaneously, begin to see (and with compassion) and feel that you have greater control over becoming who you do want to be. 

If you do this work, you will discover a lightness and freedom—and sense of your Self and clarity about what you need—like never, ever before.  It will be scary at times.  Some might think it would be “easier” to stick with the old way of denial and not feeling your feelings, but as soon as you put one foot into recovery, the rest of your body will ache to get in there, too.  Your heart will guide you. If you do this work, you WILL come through the darkness and to the other side, into the light of a life you want, that you made.

The intensity of feelings that uncovering our past traumas may bring up isn’t for the faint of mind, so you need a trustworthy therapist to help you navigate the terrain.  If you do this kind of work on your own, it’s very difficult to sort out the monsters from the angels—that is, it becomes very difficult to know whether or not your actions stem from avoidance or courage.  In truth, even the best therapist won’t be able to tell your monsters from your angels, but he or she will be able to give you the time and space within which to get enough perspective that you sure can. 

Be sure that you shop for a therapist just like people recommend shopping for a house—don’t pick the first one, evaluate a few (or several if you have to), and choose the one that feels most likely to provide comfort and safety.  Talk to them on the phone first, asking what their area of specialties are, and how many of their clients (not patients!) are trauma-survivors, or children of alcoholics, etc. Tell them what you’re struggling with, and ask what kind of approach they would take.  This saves your time, and theirs.  Any good therapist will spend up to 15, or more, minutes talking to you on the phone.  If you don’t like their attitude, voice, attitude, or answers—move on to the next name on your list.  Ask if they will give you a free consultation (or use your health insurance to cover it), and book a few appointments with a few different counselors—this will prevent you from feeling obligated to go with the first one you see. (Any good therapist will ask you, at the end of your first consultative session, if you feel it’s a good fit and if you’d like to continue.  Only a bad, desperate therapist will obligate you or sell you on committing to them.)  Remember—you’re the customer.

There’s reward in this:  the process of selecting a therapist is the first step in your healing!  It’s an opportunity to say what you want, and to actively choose the person who is going to collaboratively, with you, help you on your journey of self-investigation and self-repair so that you can live a life as you choose to live it.
Your comments, notes and aha's are invited and always welcome:)

Join us here next time for the conclusion (Part III) of Amy's series Raise Yourself Up!

Amy Eden, writer of fiction and creative nonfiction, has been studying and writing about issues of children of alcoholics for over fifteen years.  She has worked in book publishing and magazine publishing since 1994, and is currently an editor for a San Francisco-based book publisher. She has published nonfiction articles in city and national magazines, for educational publishers, and for the Web, and earned a BA in English and an MFA in creative writing.  Amy Eden’s inspiration for her self-improvement blog, “Guess What Normal Is” is to “help people trade armor for courage.”
 Thank you for reading today! Please visit Amy's blog Guess What Normal Is and let her know you found her via A Journey!

This post is property of its author; its publication here in no way implies endorsement nor should it be construed as medical or therapeutic advice. 

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