If you were pursuing a new career, or interested in taking up a new sport or a new hobby, would you first work on developing this new skill? Would you practice, gather new information and learn all there was to know, in order to be more competent and gain more confidence in this new area? Of course you would.
With anything new, be it a new career, new hobby or perhaps venturing to a new part of the world you’ve never been before, we at least do a little bit of research to find out more about it, how we’re going to get there, what information we need to know etc. It’s all part of the necessary planning and preparation.
Yet when it comes to personal development, working on ourselves to improve our lives, where there’s a pressing issue or feelings we can’t seem to process or understand, unlike a career, many of us would rather ignore it, avoid it or cover it up, rather than pursue what’s really going on.
Of course we have psychological and counseling services that we can use and do use to get assistance, but counseling alone doesn’t do everything and for most it’s not an affordable strategy that we can use everyday or every week.
In my opinion counseling isn’t a long term effective strategy. For an hour session every 2 weeks, it’s often a session where you play catch up and go over the last 2 weeks of your life since your last session. Or you spend the 2 weeks in between waiting for the next session to offload what’s going on in your head. For many this is helpful and necessary to gain new insights into our thinking patterns and our behaviours. But I don’t believe it’s enough.
In my opinion, counseling is only one part of the solution to changing behaviours and thinking patterns.
As I’ve found on my own journey, a lot of my own transformation was dependent on what I did myself outside my prearranged counseling sessions. Counseling was only ever a small part of the solution of redirecting my life, my thinking, my beliefs and my behaviours.
In between my counseling sessions I actively pursued information on areas of my life I wanted to change. Yes I would think of questions I wanted to ask my counselor when I saw her next, but I wasn’t putting my transformation on hold in the meantime til I got an answer. If I wanted to know or understand anything I would actively seek it out. I would find books on any subject and educate myself on how to, where to and why.
Further on from reading I would use what I had read to then practice implementing it into my life.
For example, my social skills were extremely poor. I had next to no understanding of how to relate to people and how to start a conversation with people I didn’t know. Whilst it may seem like a minor issue for some, it was a huge issue for me that I wanted to overcome.
So what did I do? Did I sit there and feel sorry for myself? Yep, I did. But not for too long. I went and bought books on making friends and how to relate to people. My first book that I read 5 times How to Win Friends & Influence People, was a huge eye opener into how people relate and what their primary needs were. But I didn’t just stop at one book, I kept on reading until I was satisfied that I knew enough. But again reading wasn’t enough I actually had to practice putting this new knowledge into action.
I put myself into social situations where I had to practice what I had read. Did I stuff up at times and make a right royal arse of myself? You bet I did. I made so many mistakes and probably offended a whole bunch of people, but like anything new, I was still learning and I accepted that I would make mistakes. But as I kept trying, I kept improving. I began to see a difference in the way I was relating to people and actually enjoying the experiences from what I had learned.
Depression was another huge issue for me for many years. Whilst I did seek counseling for it, I again did everything I could to understand what depression was, what the symptoms were and how it played out, so I could firstly identify with it. Once I understood what depression was, I then actively looked for ways to get out of it. Many a times doctors just wanted to put me on medication, but I stubbornly refused. I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I wanted to find out within myself why I was feeling this way and for me, I didn’t want the medication to put the issue away. I wanted to actively deal with it. For me it wasn’t enough to sit there and accept something I didn’t want to continue to feel.
So it was educating myself on the condition and finding ways that I could slowly recover from it, so it no longer consumed me. Counseling was a part of recovery, but again it wasn’t the only solution. I had to address my own thoughts and dig deep to find out what, in myself was causing me to feel this way. I had to challenge my own thinking and work to unearth beliefs and challenge expectations I had on myself, and my life. All of these processes and strategies took time, it wasn’t overnight. The point is, is that I had to do the work. I had to be willing to look at some dark stuff, some areas I didn’t want to look at.
I’ve addressed all my other issues exactly the same way; acute anxiety, hypochondria, ptsd, panic attacks and many issues related to childhood sexual abuse. I’ve been hands on with all my issues. I don’t say that to blow my own horn or down play anyone else who’s going through some hard stuff. I say it because I believe we are capable of so much more than we think we are. That we have the ability to transform our lives if we are willing to actively pursue our issues with the same focus, commitment, determination and persistence we would use to pursue another goal in our lives. The same gusto we use to strive for a better career, more money, a dream holiday, or winning a championship in our sports team.
The ability is there for every other area of our lives and we use it. We pull out all stops in pursuit for other things. Yet personal growth, overcoming these tough and difficult conditions, traumatic childhood experiences and other painful issues seems to be avoided and written off as too hard, too painful or not achievable or we accept it as something that we just ave to learn to live with.
Counseling, mentors, friends and other support networks are a crucial part of the process, but it’s what we do in the meantime that will make a big difference to healing and transforming your life. Actively pursuing information and understanding what’s going on for you will also make an enormous difference.
There were 2 questions that I always asked myself when I’d had enough of feeling depressed, anxious or sick of daily panic attacks and it was these;
Do I want to continue feeling this way?
What can I do to deal with this?
Do you see how these 2 questions put me in the drivers seat? Put me in control?
I didn’t want to continue feeling anxious, depressed or continue feeling exhausted after every panic attack. I wanted to end this cycle. I was exhausted, I was tired and I couldn’t be at my best for myself and my children.
So once I acknowledged that I no longer wanted this, I had to actively look for HOW or WHAT I could do to start healing. And as I mentioned above, there were many things I actively did to heal and recover.
So in conclusion I just want to re-iterate that we are so much more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Professional services, such as counseling are definitely valuable and worthwhile and I would highly recommend. But I believe fully that we can do a lot more within ourselves. And it’s what we actively do consistently over time, that will see our lives change as a result of the work we put into ourselves.
Lifeline Australia is such a great and FREE resource too 24 hours a day if and when you need support. Phone 13 1114
I am available as a personal mentor. Please see my mentor page if you’d like to book in a time to chat.
Please Note: These are my thoughts and my opinions based on my own experiences on how I was able to transform my life and recover from childhood sexual abuse and the many issues I developed as a result. These strategies may not work for everyone, as everyone’s needs are varied.