Last week’s blog was about the fact that sometimes, making healthy choices is hard. This week, I’m looking at one aspect of that in greater detail. When I am working with clients, it is not unusual to arrive at a moment in the therapy where my client is able to label some choice or coping strategy as taking them in an unhealthy direction. It’s also not unusual for that recognition to create some panic or resistance.
The coping strategy or relationship might not be healthy, but it is what is normal, and familiar. To change, and move in a healthy direction, I’m often asking a client to consider letting go of something familiar without having a clear replacement. To move into the empty space. This is how we grow. But it’s darn scary.
Why Space is Scary
We like to know what our next step is. When you change, and create the space to build new patterns, you are doing something frightening. Fear is incredibly uncomfortable. Most of us, intentionally or unconsciously, work very hard to protect ourselves from being afraid. We have all kinds of coping mechanisms to help us push fear away, or to distract ourselves from feeling the fear, or to cover the fear up.
So, when you reach the point of recognizing that a familiar coping strategy is actually unhealthy, or holding you back in some way, you have a choice to make. You can continue to do what you know how to do. To do those things that feel familiar and routine–even though they are ultimately making you feel bad. Or, you can let go of the familiar and take the risk of growing.
One of the reasons that I emphasize to my patients that therapy is a safe space is that I know the work of therapy often means making these scary choices. It means doing the opposite of your reflexive reaction. Instead of avoiding fear, you practice facing it head on. Instead of hiding from your feelings, you sit with them. You learn that you are strong enough to change, to grow, to feel.
You Deserve Healthy Change–Even though it’s Scary
I truly believe that you deserve the opportunity to grow and change–even though getting there is scary. You deserve to see yourself as someone who is strong and capable. You deserve to experience top-notch self-care. So here are a few questions to think about as you go into your week:
- How do you cope when you feel anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or angry?
- Are those coping choices healthy and life-giving?
- If not, are you willing to consider changing from an unhealthy strategy to one that is more truly caring?
- What kind of support will you need to change coping strategies? Do you need a friend, a support group, a family member, a pastor or a therapist?
- Where can you get the support you need?
I hope that answering these questions brings you closer to excellent self-care. If there is something I can do to support you in that journey, feel free to let me know in the comments or contact me directly via the “Contact Me” link.
Image Credit: Photo by Shorts and Longs | The Both And via Flickr