I love Psychology. I got my Bachelor’s in it and I read psychological books/blogs/articles for fun pretty much daily. I’ve seen a therapist regularly during two seasons of my life. I wanted to share some wisdom that I obtained through therapy that were pivotal turning points in the direction of my life.
You will run from normalcy because you feel comfortable in chaos. Growing up under abuse made me feel more at peace in a lot of ways when there was some trauma happening in my life. People would often say, “how are you still standing?” or “you are so strong”, but I had plenty of defence mechanisms built up that allowed me to dissociate easier than associate with reality. When I learned how to control this and gave myself the freedom to be vulnerable, trauma got much harder. Crying became a reaction to being sad when previously, crying never really happened for me unless I did it in private. Trauma became hard again. It didn’t feel normal and because of that, I was able to feel when things were out of balance. When normalcy felt right, trauma felt wrong and this was a great thing.
Boundaries are essential to a healthy lifestyle. I don’t know if I will ever fully grasp boundaries in this lifetime. I am hopeful, but I am also realistic. Often times I find myself setting a boundary only to realize later I could’ve been much more affective pouring my energy into a situation a whole other way. My world, up until a few years ago, was overall boundary-less. The hardest, but most essential lesson I have learned through a boundary filled life (and I truly can’t stress this enough) is that people who lack boundaries for themselves will get angry at you when you implement boundaries with them. Some will get incredibly angry and if it’s a new lifestyle for you, the guilt will feel excruciating. But, the comforting news is, the more you implement healthy boundaries, the more you see the benefit of them.
Growing comes with a price. My therapist asked me one day to rate myself on a scale from 1-10 (10 being the highest) based on where I feel I am at in life overall. I rated myself a 6. She drew a circle around the numbers 5,6, and 7. She explained that it’s human nature to attract people into your life that are within a number or two above and below what you view your self-worth to be. The more emotionally healthy I became, the higher I would rate myself. Made sense. What she said next was painful. She pointed to the 8 and said if/when I reached an 8, I would attract 7’s and 9’s. This sounds good at first until she followed it up with “not everyone will grow with you…it will be their choice”. It was at that moment I had to decide between sacrificing my growth to hold on to relationships or love myself enough to keep working like hell to break down my guarded walls and bank on the hope that everyone would do the same….I think we can all guess at the outcome of this logic. Growth is costly.
Surviving and thriving are extremely different lifestyles. Through teary eyes and many justifying pleas to my therapist, she looked me straight in the eyes and said “I see a very intelligent and wise woman surviving through life. I want to see her thriving”. She gifted me the words of approval in that moment. I realized life is about choices and those choices were giving me a life of survival. I was sitting around a small self made fire, eating wilderness food, praying to be rescued….and calling it a life. Once my mentality changed from survival to thriving, the choices I made felt like survival, but I had rescued myself from the wilderness. Each decision afterward, was a step towards the rescue boat where thriving became a closer reality.
It will get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. This was my mantra many times during crisis. A lot of times, it’s the only thing that got me through. So often, I want to throw in the towel during the pivotal moments because it’s the climax, but I would close my eyes, say my mantra and believe it. Then…the rainbow would appear…every time.
Guilt was a misleading emotion. During a session, my therapist stopped me mid-sentence and asked me if I knew what word I kept using to describe how I was feeling towards a certain situation I was in. I had no clue, but she enlightened me. GUILT. I had tied guilt to all negative emotions I felt. She explained that this started with “little Holley” and when bad things that happened to me, I experienced guilt because I believed I could have stopped it, but I didn’t. Because of this, anytime negativity showed its face around me, I immediately felt guilty and believed it. She asked me what I had done wrong in the situation I was currently in. I had nothing. No answer. I wasn’t experiencing guilt…I was experiencing sadness and fear and sorrow and grief… Now, when I feel guilt creeping up in my heart, I ask myself if I did anything wrong. If the answer is yes, I deal with it accordingly and if the answer is no, I spend time sifting through my thoughts to nail down the emotion I am actually feeling. Being able to identify and decipher this has been empowering and life-changing.
Run towards normalcy. Implement boundaries even when they feel impossible. Pay the fee for individual growth. Thrive because we only get this life. Everything gets better in life, no matter how devastating it feels in the moment. Sift through the complex emotions to discover the foundation to how you are feeling.
My new Mantra….I kind of like it.