I feel very honoured to be able to help others and to have clients open up to me about their insecurities and fears. Â My job presents me with a very different view of the world. One where the mask of “Everything is fine” is taken off and the real life issues we all face are discussed. I have learned Â a lot from my clients and have listed some of these snippets here:
1) Life is not linear
When we are starting out in life we envisage the usual format- school, university, find a job, earn money, get married, have children, become wealthier and then retire. The thing is that life doesn’t always go according to plan. I have seen some clients take early retirement, have a few months off and then go back to work. I have also come across clients who have never had children. Then there are those who are getting divorced and halving their assets. They return to being single in their 40’s or 50’s. All of this has shown me that it’s false thinking to believe that you should be at a certain stage in your life according to your age. There is no set pattern and it is never too late to start something, nor is it too early to end anything. Be open minded to your specific journey and accept that we all have different phases of life. There isn’t one correct size that fits all.
2) Life is a challenge to us all
It is often the people that you least expect that have serious issues in their lives. Perhaps there is an element of trying to be strong for too long that drives them to seek therapy in the end. Whatever the reason, as a Psychologist, I see many patterns to people’s behaviour and everyone experiences stress in their lives. Those that pretend that life is always fantastic are either very good at hiding their true life or they are majorly in denial – both of which would have negative emotional consequences. Optimists tend to fare better in life than pessimists and learning to adapt thinking and detach from negative thoughts can make a huge difference to anyone struggling in life.
3) We change as we get older
Many clients have admitted to me that if they had to choose a marriage partner today, it would not be the person they are currently married to. Many clients have discussed how they married as they felt it was what they should do at that time in their lives. This indicates that we often feel pressure to do what is expected of us and fail to honour our true feelings. This can detach us from our essential self as the social self takes hold over time. The further we go ‘off the rails’ the more listless and directionless we can become. Change is a good thing and hopefully, for most of us, that change allows us to become better, more enlightened individuals.
4) Life is uncertain – There’s no way around it
Everything we do is geared towards providing security. We buy insurance to allow us peace of mind for possible accidents. We invest in pensions to keep us comfortable in old age. We go for regular check ups to make sure our health is still optimal. There are many behaviours that we engage in, in an attempt to feel safer. The sad fact is that most of this is futile. Life has no guarantees and the moment you accept this and almost develop an attitude of “I like surprises – bring it on”, there is free childlike attitude that can resume. I am saying be irresponsible but rather embrace uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be something to be feared. Â As long as you believe that you will always find a way around trouble and challenges, you will be able to rid yourself of unnecessary anxiety and worry. Worrying does not equal safety, even though many of us think it does.
5) Everyone has self doubt
I have never met a client who is confident 100% of the time. If they say that they are, this usually suggests that there are other issues that need to be dealt with. Everything is about balance and no one feels completely confident all the time – especially when they find themselves in a setting that they are unfamiliar with. It’s not the lack of confidence in itself that causes issues, it is the way we react to this experience. Many of us are so hard on ourselves and berate ourselves for possessing these common human characteristics. It is okay to be afraid and to not know something. It really is fine…
6) Unrelenting Standards
This is becoming an epidemic. So many of us suffer from unrelenting standards. There is this pressure to constantly be busy, be achieving. If we aren’t doing, we feel guilty and slack. We think of everyone else and their busy lives and feel inferior in some way. Perhaps, just perhaps – those of us who can relax without guilt are the wise ones? I used to work in an old age home and when all is said and done, the jobs have been done, the chores have been completed and we’ve rushed ourselves into a stupor – these people in the old age homes put everything back into perspective. No one has pictures of their qualifications, their houses or their cars surrounding them. In their stark single bedrooms, they have photos of family, friends and pets. That’s the real substance of life. Cherish people, living things and experiences. Be clear on your priorities and don’t believe for one second that being constantly busy means you are creating a positive impact on the world.
If anything, being busy (which is not the same thing as being productive) is a smoke screen. A way to avoid the really important issues in life. “I can’t attend to my emotional issues or my failing relationship – I have papers to push around my desk and reports to write. I have to be busy keeping busy!”
It’s a cop out for so many people. Structure and practical functioning allow many people to operate on automatic mode, rarely stopping to check that they are using their lives to the best of their abilities.