Something is off. Happiness and peace are eluding you. Perhaps your relationships continue to self destruct or you simply feel stuck.
Most of us can relate to the experience of being off track. It could be an unexplainable blip or there is some unfinished business at hand. Let’s say the latter is the case and for whatever reason, going on a therapist seeking mission doesn’t resonate with you for whatever reason (convenience, cost, beliefs about therapy, etc).
You can be your own therapist and do some self-reflective investigation. It’s important to state that for those in significant distress this may not be enough. But for others, taking the “be your own therapist” approach can work. Or at the very least it can help you drill down to what the real issues are for you so that if there is more work needed, you will be clear about where it lies and if you choose therapy, you’ll know just where to start.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself:
Are there any historical monkeys on my back?
Maybe it’s time to give them some attention.
Painful experiences, particularly involving the ways you were raised and your early years can stick around in ways you might not have ever considered. “Monkeys” might be the quality of the relationships with your parents (lack of security, neglect, criticism, abuse, emotional abandonment, high expectations…), traumatic events involving your physical or emotional safety, rejection by peers or other experiences leaving you feeling vulnerable. Monkeys are born out of assessments or belief systems you created because of these situations. For example, if you didn’t feel emotionally attuned with your mother (she was busy, stressed, an addict or checked out it other ways), you might have developed a belief that you are not lovable which can show itself in a myriad of unhelpful ways as an adult.
Be your own therapist by giving these wounds some of attention. What do they need?
What are my coping mechanisms?
Perhaps they no longer serve you well.
We are all really good at finding ways to deal with difficult situations – and often we don’t even know it. Even young children struggling to get their needs met find the most creative ways to try. For example, a little girl lacking attention from her father might learn that excelling in school and sports is a way to get his notice…but this little girl might become a woman who drives herself into the ground with perfectionism.
A teenage boy who experienced rejection by his mother and early female relationships might learn to defend himself by going inside…by “not needing” or becoming a self-sufficient island. What a great strategy to avoid pain! But as an adult, island behavior becomes challenging in intimate relationships when your partner feels alone when with you.
Take a careful look at your behavior. Do you bring people in or push them away? Do you berate yourself? How you show up for yourself, others and the world can provide you clues.
Be your own therapist by getting familiar with how you’ve coped with difficult situations. If the strategies no longer serve you, consider alternatives.
Do I feel connected to and supported by others?
If not, perhaps it’s time to reach out.
We need each other. People need each other. We were born wired to connect and despite the things that can go wrong, leading us to think we don’t need each other…but it is a fallacy. You only need one solid connection to get the benefit of love and being “held” by another. At any age, validation, empathy and attunement in important relationships are powerful life forces.
Be your own therapist by attempting to connect with others. Reach out to those you know or make an effort to create new relationships. This is only possible if you make yourself available. Be available.
It can be empowering to challenge yourself to go deeper on some of the above questions. Being a therapist to yourself can indeed be therapeutic but requires honesty and guts. But self reflection as I’ve suggested will not always be enough. If you find yourself stuck or unable to find resolution on your own, seek outside help. There are surely therapists, counselors, clergy or helping folks in your community who can guide you. There are also many books, online programs and other tools to help you find the peace and happiness you seek.