No one else can fix you except yourself. The best counsellor or therapist in the world won’t be able to fix you without your collaboration and cooperation. As a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, I sometimes get clients who expect me to ‘fix’ them. They have this unrealistic expectation that a few sessions with me will somehow completely transform their lives with little, if any, effort from them.
Well, I wish it was that easy and I guess if it was I would be a lot richer! The truth is, no one can fix you apart from you. Others can certainly help, give advice and guidance and provide emotional support but the real work begins when you adapt the new information and knowledge that you learn about yourself to your advantage in your own life.
Self sabotaging patterns of behaviour
Sometimes we get stuck in patterns of thinking and behaving and don’t even realise it. We may be self sabotaging but not see it or we might be blaming others for something that we have to accept responsibility for.
I recently had a client (and thankfully have never had this happen before) who became very impatient with me as she didn’t feel ‘fixed’ after about 4 sessions. She was hearing all the tools and ideas but she somehow expected that I would tell her exactly what to do to miraculously transfrom her life. She became quite irate and reminded me she was paying me a lot of money. This impatience isn’t uncommon but most people realise that therapy won’t be a quick fix. The longer the problem has existed, the longer therapy generally takes to unravel the problem.
Some clients come to see me with issues going as far back as their childhoods. This usually means that they have issues that have arisen as a result of finding unhelpful coping mechanisms as a child to cope with stress. Some of these work as a child but when we become adults, these same coping mechanisms can cause more problems than they solve. For instance, it is common for children who have grown up in a stressful home environment, where their parents were unpredictable ,to develop a coping mechanism of splitting. They see their parent as a nice parent or a bad parent and they have two distinct ways of dealing with that. As a child, thinking can be quite black and white. When we are adults, we are more able to understand they grey areas inbetween. Someone who does something bad isn’t necessarily all bad. What happens though, is that we adopt a certain type of attachment style to our parents depending on how they treated us. If we were treated with love and respect and our parents were consistent, we tend to develop secure attachments. If they were unpredictable we can end up with an anxious-ambivalent or anxious avoidant attachment style and these tend to endure into adult relationships.
As an adult, if we put up barriers the moment our partner does something wrong (as we did as a child) we stop communication and this can end the relationship prematurely. To help with this, a counsellor will help a client understand the cause and the triggers of the problematic behaviour. It is the self awareness and insight of the client that will help transform the client. It is the APPLICATION of the knowledge gained in therapy sessions that makes all the difference.
Choosing a therapist is a subjective experience – I get along better with some clients than others and sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right fit. Seeing a therapist that ‘gets you’ and unserstands your thinking and point of view is very important. Good therapists though are generally good with people and can deal with a wide range of people.
Being insightful and self aware is a good start. Not to the point where you overthink everything (never a good idea) though. Building resilience is possible for anyone and there are a few good ways to do it:
Positive affirmations or coping statements
Create a few positive statements to inspire you or keep you going through the tough days. An affirmation such as “I have coped with struggle before and I can do it again” can helpmus to feel we are strong and capable. A coping statement that is quite popular: “This too shall pass” reminds us of the dynamic nature of life, the natural ups and downs. Thankfully, we can’t always stay down. If you are at rock bottom, the only way is up.
Visualise a safe place
Think of a safe happy place you can go to in your mind when you need relief from the stressful thoughts. It could be somewhere you have been to that you loved or it could be a made up place. I like to imagine a wooden beach on a long expanse of beach. The sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze. This is a technique known as ‘grounding’ to help you regulate your emotions.
Focus on your positive characteristics
What have you done to date that you are proud of? Focus on your achievements and your strengths rather than your perceived weaknesses.I’ll bet there is a lot you have overcome in your life and many great skills you have learned along the way. Focus on these rather than comparing yourself to others. Never be self critical as this in no way helps you. Accept, instead, that you are just like the rest of us – a fallible human being.
Show yourself respect and self compassion
Be your number one fan. This doesn’t mean you have to believe you are better than everyone else but you can champion yourself and learn to like yourself. You are all you’ve got – make the most of you.
Think big, don’t limit yourself by entertaining self limiting beliefs and fearful thoughts. You can often be your own worst enemy when it comes to getting ahead and making the most of your potential.
It’s up to you – you are wholly responsible for your life. Where you are right now in your life is a culmination of past decisions and behaviour. It’s empowering when you consider that you are the artist of your destiny. Make life work for you, not against you.