I’ve had a really busy start to 2023, however not in the ways I intended or even hoped for – more than ever in an increasingly fast paced modern world, meeting life’s challenges can feel really difficult, especially those that come our way unseen and unwanted. However, part of developing the emotional resilience to not just cope, but feel agile enough to move through those challenges authentically and successfully takes practice and in my experience it’s a messy, imperfect process.
We often learn our best lessons through failing or making mistakes!
As part of my own ongoing personal healing and self-development journey, I continue to learn new and refine existing tools that allow myself the room and grace to feel what I need to feel, yet remain mindful of where I am, who I am with and what priorities of behaviour the situation I am in demands – whilst I have developed some skills to find this balance more often than not, as I said, I often learn through failing as what the best course of action is isn’t always easy to identify ‘in the moment’!
That said, here are some things I have learned along the way that continue to serve me well:
- Identify and get to know my triggers – learn to respond rather than react to them.
- Create space for yourself with boundaries in difficult moments – “I will come back to you”, or “I need time to think about that” are acceptable responses, for example.
- Commit regularly to self-care tools and practices that work for you such as breathwork, meditation and journalling that allow you to self-express and reflect on your experiences authentically.
- Nurture safe spaces where you can express your emotional experiences to others and feel held and seen – create safe spaces for others.
I want to reflect a little on point 4. For me, I first learned the value of what it feels like to be safe, held and seen in therapy in my mid to late 20s. Before then, I didn’t feel comfortable to authentically express what was truly going on for me and I didn’t know how to really listen to others – I certainly wasn’t modelled that as a child. In my experience, the key elements to feeling held and seen are to feel like you can express anything you need to, to another person or group, without judgement, that you are being actively listened to, that confidentiality is assured and without ‘solutions’ being fired back at you.
These safe spaces are often not easy to find and it has taken me years to learn how to effectively hold them for others. However, I believe in the power of them so much that this is where I start with all my clients – to create a space where they feel safe, held and seen. Very often, it is precisely because they have not been able to find such spaces with partners, friends, family or work colleagues that they begin to feel stuck, disconnected from themselves working with me to find their way back to their authentic selves and to grow from there.
We are complex beings, made up of diverse and often contradictory values and beliefs, many of which we may not have decided upon ourselves. We all also have to operate under certain conditions, environments and interact with other humans in our lives, many of whom we may not wholeheartedly approve of or resonate and connect with. While I fully agree and accept we can’t all run around self-expressing freely and authentically all of the time as if we were toddlers again, the flip side is that if for too long we bottle up and deny ourselves the safe spaces to fully feel and honour the diverse, rich, difficult and often contradictory range of our emotional experiences as human beings, I believe this is where dis-ease can begin.
The antidote to dis-ease in my lived and professional experience as much as anything else begins with finding and nurturing safe spaces for ourselves and creating and offering them to others to feel authentically, vulnerably, messily and beautifully human. There is something deeply powerful and connecting about being witnessed by others in this way and witnessing others do the same.