It’s a slow slow process, changing your behaviours. Especially given that I’ve honed mine with decades of practice, all driven by a set of internal rules that have governed every waking second since I was a child. It takes time, but it is happening. Slowly.
A lot of the focus of my counselling has been on self-compassion. Letting myself fail, not predicting the outcome of things in advance, stepping back when I’m under stress, and learning how to live in the moment. I’ve been able to identify various mechanisms that I have in place which, when flight or fight is triggered, can lead to “not good things”. For me it these “not good things” tend not to be displayed quickly (I can be short tempered and grumpy but that isn’t actually one of the signs) instead I’ll have some epic, private, blow-ups that very few people have had the misfortune to see/deal with.
The counselling isn’t easy, or rather keeping an eye on my emotions and reactions isn’t easy, but the whole experience has been worthwhile. It’s not over yet, this is a journey and all that, and for those who know me well, no, you probably can’t see any real difference in me day to day but trust me, it is working, I can feel the difference.
A small example which may mean nothing to you but is A BIG DEAL for me; I no longer break down my every waking hour into 30 minute segments, nor do I check the clock every 5 mins. Equally I’ve been late for a couple of things by a few minutes (things with fluid start times, like ‘I’ll be at your place at 2ish’ now mean just that, not 2pm on the dot…).
So the short version of the above is that there’s a lot of stuff that has been going on and it’s going well. I’m feeling good, balanced, calm and the hard work is paying off. Go me!
Chatting to my counsellor last week and one thing she pointed out – or rather guided me to realise – was that I’m still operating in my ‘comfort zone’. It’s easier to catch myself before I head into fight/flight mode because I’m at the same place of work, or with the same group of people, so I have a level of comfort and familiarity which makes it easier to process my emotions in those spaces.
Next up I need to get out of my comfort zone and find some new things to try.
Current ideas are:
- Get a piano and sign up for piano lessons.
- Go for a weekend spiritual retreat.
- Attend a creative writing course.
The piano idea is a big one. I had lessons and passed most of the exams when I was a kid. Going back to it would mean confronting the fact I ‘failed’ at it (because I gave it up when I was 14) and let my parents down (which I didn’t at all, but my inner critic will gleefully grab anything it can to throw in my way). But… I remember that I did enjoy it at times, particularly as I got more advanced and started to move away from the purely classical pieces and on to tackling things like The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, and some Billy Joel tracks (yes yes, the Piano Man, I know).
The weekend spiritual retreat is the ‘easiest’ as it is really an extension, or heightening, of my current meditiation habit (which has built to almost every day, even if only for 10 mins or so) but it would be unfamiliar and lead me to confront myself even more which, in itself, would be a challenge. 10 mins of meditation is calming, a full weekend could be very revealing and painful. But that’s kinda the point.
Lastly the creative writing course sounds interesting and fun but I’ll need to watch out I’m not approaching it with the mindset of ‘not failing’ it. Equally, given I have a wonky/shoddy first draft of a short novel written, how is that going to look? Ahhh but that’s my inner critic at work again, who cares about the first draft, it is not something to be judged, instead I WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT OF A NOVEL is where my focus should be (and is, I’m really proud I managed that).
I’ve not decided which (all?) of these to try and I might end up doing something else completely, but given where I am now, compared to where I was when I started the counselling, I’m excited to push things on and see how it goes. After all, what’s the worse that can happen?
I also realise that I’m becoming more and more a walk cliche of ‘live for today’, ‘be in the now’, and more, but the weird thing about cliches is that, a lot of the time, they are actually true.
In other news, all those people who say to eat healthily and be more active are on to something… but that’s a different post for another day.