One of the biggest questions I get asked in the counseling office is “How?” People understand the concepts we discuss, but they can’t see the pathway from where they are to where they want to go. Let me explain a few things that get in the way of finding what everyone is looking for . . .
First of all, there is no FastPass, Express Elevator, or Direct Flight. You can’t just beam yourself from the chaotic life that brought you into the therapy office to the new peaceful, happy, stable life that you desire. You have to work your way there – and that means being uncomfortable and making some mistakes along the way. Quit looking for the quick route and just take a step!
Secondly, quit trying to change everyone around you and change yourself. This surely must be the single hardest thing to do in therapy. This process requires a mental shift AND vulnerability, which is extremely hard for some people! When we stop trying to change others and work on ourselves, however, we actually begin to see some progress!
Thirdly, you have to accept yourself where you are. Sometimes, when we see how messed up things are, we spend way too much time in denial. No one wants to admit that their lives have become a trainwreck, and they certainly don’t want to admit they had any contribution to it! Until we accept the full weight of where we are, however, we really can’t move forward.
Fourth, we have to learn how to let go of the fantasy. We all have a picture in our minds of how our lives were supposed to go. In pursuit of making that fantasy a reality, we often royally muck up our lives. Learn to truly appreciate what you have instead of constantly lamenting over how things didn’t live up to your expectations.
Fifth, understand the need for forgiveness. You will never truly be set free until you learn how to release the grip that anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment have on your heart. True forgiveness, in my experience, requires a level of understanding of what was going on with the person when they did what they did. This includes you.
Sixth, we must develop personal integrity. This is not the same as honesty. Integrity is about having an internal compass that keeps directing us to be the best person we can be. It is about holding yourself accountable, doing the right thing, living with no regrets, being the person you were designed to be. Integrity is about doing what is right because it is right and for no other reason.
Seventh, there is no substitute for humility in recovery. Learning how to set the pride aside and admit to your faults and failures is not a sign of weakness, it is actually an enormous sign of strength! Humility draws people towards you, while pride pushes them away.
Eighth, respect is essential for us to be able to get along with others. When we criticize, condemn, or try to change someone else or their beliefs or ideas, we kill the growth of intimacy with people. Learning to accept that everyone is different and they each have a unique set of life experiences that got them to where they are is essential to having authentic relationships with others.
Recovery is not easy, but it is such a rewarding journey and can actually be exhilarating if you let it! Best wishes for your growth and recovery in the new year!