I might be jumping the gun a little bit here but I have to start somewhere. Therapy (talk) had helped me to process my pesky and uncomfortable emotions. Group Therapy had given me a sense of belonging and reassured me that I wasn’t alone. Working with the Tarot had allowed me to utilize the talk Therapy process at a deeper level; that allowed me to see patterns of behavior that needed change and led me to feeling like I had control of my life (albeit fleetingly).
I say fleetingly because awareness may let us feel like we are in control but the act of changing something that has become habitual and therefore unconsciously done can be frustrating. It is a bit like talking one step forward and 3 steps back, you might be making progress but it doesn’t feel like it for the longest time. It’s okay and the secret is to not give up. It is all part of the process.
You need those backsliding moments and the equally frustrating “limbo” moments too. Limbo moments come after those giant leaps of awareness and then things just plateau and stand still. They are important to the process because it is allowing you to assimilate the new information and process it so it sticks…you are essentially making new and hopefully positive habits/patterns of behavior to replace those that no longer work in your best interest. You are re-training your Brain, a remarkable personal computer that was desperately in need of an upgrade. If you rush the upgrade or don’t run it things get buggy and glitch.
Why do we develop bad habits that don’t serve us? Mostly it is from conditioning and our attempts to survive and manage uncomfortable situations and scenarios or in order to belong to an established familial or societal group. Some of my bad habits were in the form of negative self talk, “You can’t do anything right.” “You always fail.” “Why aren’t you perfect?” “You are too abrasive and outspoken.” “You should be soft and gentle.” “You are never going to amount to anything or marry well in life if you don’t alter your demeanor.” “Girls shouldn’t do that.” “Ladies should be seen not heard.” “Your opinions mean nothing so stay quiet.”
These were constantly in my mind spinning into a frenzy that physically manifested in me being a control freak and a tyrant (sadly I bore the brunt of that burden most people received sugar and spice and everything nice). I would push myself to extremes trying to be all things to all people and selling myself short. Here are the valuable lessons I learned: A). Those negative self talk voices running amok in my mind didn’t originate with me. B). Trying to be what other people expect you to be, rather than being yourself, is a bit like swimming against the current. C). Altering yourself to be other than what you are not only makes you feel like a fish out of water but other’s sense an incongruence and think something is wrong with you. It becomes a vicious cycle.
A cycle that only I could break and so I systematically started chipping away at all the walls and facades that I had built up over the years. It felt awesome…most of the time. The plus side is I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. The downside is there was a mass exodus from my life. Entire groups of people vacated my life with a verbal slap of “we don’t even know who you are anymore.” or “what happened to that sweet, young lady that would drop anything to help a poor soul?”That sweet young lady developed a spine and started setting boundaries. My personal favorite: “we just want you to be happy so why change what was working for you?” It wasn’t working, obviously, so I am attempting to find what does. It was working for them.
The lesson here (and it did help me to stand firm with setting boundaries) is: after grieving the loss of these individuals I realized they were fair weather friends/family. I was always helping them when they needed something but they had never helped me…not even when I was in the hospital or after my release. They did show up, conveniently, after enough time had elapsed that I might be well enough to help them and luckily I wasn’t. On the rare occasion that they did help it was conditional. I helped you so you must do X for me (X being what ever condition they needed met).
I wasn’t, however, immune to their hurtful accusations and spiteful banter when I told them I couldn’t help. I had yet to develop that thick protective skin and that didn’t happen until years later. This did help me to see how important it is to align yourself with supportive people, they help you to balance out the others. I understand that no one likes to be around difficult people and so the ‘in” thing to do is run as fast as you can in the other direction but difficult people are always going to be around and it is almost impossible to avoid them all together. I have learned to avoid them only when I am particularly fragile the rest of the time setting boundaries helps with my interactions.
Breaking habits is going to be a lifetime affair. We are always evolving, always changing and things that once worked for us will eventually not be as helpful as it once was. The goal is to be the best you possible all the rest is a revolving door of experimentation. Keep what works for you, as long as it works for you and discard the rest.
Photo: The Hanuman Temple Monkey. Shimla, India. Taken by Pamela with a Nikon DSLR 5300