Being Your Own Therapist
“Believe you can and you are halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” – Plutarch
Even if you see a therapist two times a week, you still need to become your own therapist. Life doesn’t wait to hit you with difficulties until it’s the day of
your appointment. The more you learn to “just swim through it” the easier and easier it will be to navigate through the inevitable ups and downs life presents
to us all.
It does take focus and the dedication to objectively look at your reactions, attitudes and beliefs. It is important to look at your patterns of behavior. It is
important to be willing to change patterns, even when it feels very uncomfortable. Why? Because we are creatures of habit. We like things to stay the
same so much that we usually are resistant at a deep level. In psychology we call this the need for homeostasis. Some of our patterns were formed by
modeling others, like our parents. Some of our patterns evolved from having to survive harsh, even abusive environments. The problem pops up when
these learned patterns give you more grief than safety, happiness or pleasure; it is then time to change those behaviors, attitudes and ways of thinking.
You may be afraid you can’t create new ways of doing things. Keep doing what you can and what you can do will increase. In order to be your own therapist
you need to live life prophylactically. You cannot afford to wait until you feel badly to think and behave in ways that make you feel better. We all need to
persist in doing and doing and doing what is possible to do, what is ours to do, never giving up. To live our lives in ways that prevent harm, help guard against
mishaps, and avoid dysfunction.
Living life prophylactically (avoiding pit falls) can make all the difference in the outcomes in our lives. This is well demonstrated in psychological
research. I am thinking of a study that was presented to me in graduate school. The study was conducted to find out what factors differentiated individuals
who cheat on tests and those who do not and the difference between those who will take something that was not theirs to take and those who will refrain
from taking what was not theirs. Extensive research showed that the students that did not give into temptation whether it be looking at someone else’s test or
taking a candy they were instructed to leave alone BEHAVED differently than the ones who did give in to these temptations. It was the behavior before
the act that proved to be clinically significant, not social status, ethnicity, religion, or verbalized values. The people that consistently behaved well were
the ones that put a barrier between themselves and temptation. For test takers, they put themselves in seats that would be obvious to the teacher so they
would most likely be caught if cheating (therefore an incentive not to cheat); for the people who resisted the temptation to take something that was not
theirs and were told not to take (candy). It was the participants who either moved the candy bowl to the other side of the table or moved their seat to be
out of arm’s reach of the bowl of candy while they were left in a room alone who were able to “resist temptation”. Each person that behaved well (within
the rules) was in effect protecting themselves from not breaking the rules or their values. The lesson here is to live life in such a way that you ward off and
prevent what you do not want to happen. In the case of being your own therapist it is to prevent bouts of negative feelings and self-defeating behaviors.
The best way not to sink in quick sand is to not step into it in to in the first place.
Use a Prevention Mindset. Avoid the 3 Rs:
Resignation – Do not allow yourself to give up on you! Be firm in not giving up on the behaviors that help you feel whole and happy. Do not give
up doing what is best for you, be it a walk or eating vegetables, or saying yes to watching a sunset. Resignation slaughters hope for better things, so do not
resign yourself to a sad fate. Never give up saying a big “NO” to pessimism and a big “YES” to positive thinking. Don’t give up on a dream that is in your
heart. Never stop striving for doing better in any area of your life that matters to you.
Regret – A short period of contemplation to assess and adjust your course of thinking and action is good. However, indulging in regret is a big
mistake. Regret is a thief that robs us of being present to ourselves and others in this moment, in the here and now. Regret keeps us feeling bad and lowers
our chances of doing well. When regret comes to your door, slam it shut.
Resentment – Again, a short period of time to process feelings of disappointment and anger is a human need. Processing our feelings is important
because we are responsible for ourselves emotionally. Denying our feelings does not work but neither does wallowing in the dangerous pitfall of resentment.
This is a nasty place to live. Hanging on to it makes you bitter. Throw it out. You not only don’t need it, you cannot afford it if you want to spend your
resources for a happier life.
Now about the 3 Gs:
Go For It - Get in touch with what you like and what you love. Do what is in your heart to do. Stop putting off what is yours to do. Only you can
truly take care of you. Only you can really create your own peace of mind. Only you can change a negative attitude into a realistically positive perspective.
Say often like the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper teaches: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”
Gratitude – This is the biggest and the best of the G category here. Being grateful fills you with hope, wonder and a love for life. When we focus
on what we truly have to be thankful for it expands us. Gratitude acts as a universal magnet for good to come your way. It is one of the ways life works
for us. When we are complaining and negative we draw in more negatives. When we are positive and grateful we draw more good in our lives.
Gratefulness: Don’t leave home or stay home without it!
Graciousness – Be gracious in the face of turmoil. Be gracious in the face losses. Be gracious in the face of hurtful experiences. It always pays
off. I call it “Staying in the eye of the storm.” It gives us the personal power to manage what needs to be managed while we retain respect for ourselves
and illicit respect from others.
There is more. There are better things in life to grab. Search it out. Do it. Be it.
-Mary Seyuin, M.A. LLP