Lessons From Therapy
In our work as therapists, we see as many unique situations as there are stars in the sky, and yet there are often common struggles and, therefore, strategies that can be applied across each personal case to help our clients make progress and ease suffering. These strategies are often used to address commonly held ‘misbeliefs’ that keep us in cycles of shame and feelings of hopelessness. In this article, we will highlight a few of these misbeliefs and approaches that can help shift our client’s perspective and be powerful tools in achieving better outcomes.
What color are your lenses?
We all have goggles that we view the world through...what color are your lenses? Are they dark and dim, or clear and light? The color of your lenses (your attitude and mind-set) will influence your thoughts, emotions, behaviors and outcomes. For sure, our lenses are shaped by our past experiences, brain chemistry, and personality. Familiar attitudes are like channels carved into our brain. But, as confirmed by the latest research on neuroplasticity, we also have an incredible power to shape them ourselves. Practices of gratitude, compassion, and positivity can help shape your outlook. Don’t flow in the river of negativity bias. Though it may feel like you are swimming upstream, developing a positive attitude will change the way you experience life.
It’s not your job to please others.
Some people like brussel sprouts and others don’t. This really doesn’t mean anything about brussel sprouts. They are a unique food with a lot of great qualities, but not everyone likes them. Likewise, some people are going to really like you and others won’t. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything about you. You’re a unique person with a lot of great qualities. When you allow their preference to say something about you, you’ll tie yourself in knots trying to be someone you’re not. It’s not their job to like you, it’s your job to like you.
Happiness is a feeling, not a goal.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Life is 50/50”. Half of our experiences will generate good feelings and half bad. We create a lot of our own suffering when we argue against this truth and resist our own unhappy thoughts and feelings (suffering = pain x resistance). Instead of expending energy and emotional capital avoiding feeling bad, when we are able to accept the entirety of our emotional spectrum without resistance and be open to our lived experience, we are better able to process and move through those negative feelings. Life is full of ups and downs. We wouldn’t know the happiness of life’s highs if we didn’t also know the lows of loss. Savor the happy moments and accept and care for yourself during the lows.
Are your thoughts helping or hurting you?
Have you ever tuned in to the chatter in your brain? While that running commentary might seem objective, those thoughts are not always true nor are they always serving us in the best way… and they are consequential. Our thoughts are the catalyst to our behaviors and often determine outcomes. If your thoughts are not serving you, get curious and question them. What else might be true? How might someone else interpret the same situation? When you try on a new thought, your brain will argue with you due to the fact that thoughts come from deep seated beliefs that our brain is invested in. That’s okay, simply observe your brain doing it’s job and continue to explore. When you begin to question your thoughts, you will find new possibilities and solutions that are waiting to be discovered.
You are worthy!
Perhaps one of the most difficult concepts to grasp: your worth is not based on what you do or don’t do but JUST. IS. As a unique member of the human race you have inestimable value. The greatest gift you can offer the world is the gift of being yourself. Furthermore, our struggles and difficulties do not define us as flawed and alone, but are part of what connects us to each other in our shared, messy and beautiful humanity.
While it can sometimes feel like the work in therapy is arduous and results are long in coming, be courageous and press on - the outcomes are worth it, and SO ARE YOU! These concepts, while easy to summarize, can be a challenge to apply. Underlying mental health issues and circumstances can make it difficult, if not impossible to do alone. If you find yourself struggling, we are here to help.