Eyes Wide Open, or Eyes Wide Shut?

“Sometimes you need to stop seeing the good in people, and start seeing what they show you.”

Isn’t this hard. Especially if you’re kind of person who is kind and forgiving, and is always prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt, or to always give them one more chance.

It feels like it is asking us to change who we are, and to turn into a person we don’t really want to be. Someone who’s cold-hearted and, perhaps, more cynical.

But that’s not really what is going on here.

What’s really going on is that you’re learning to distance yourself from people who would deliberately mistreat you, abuse you in some way, or deliberately take advantage of you.

People who aren’t good for you. People who aren’t good for anyone!

So it’s making the decision to take care of yourself. And to be wise and discerning. And have boundaries in place. Healthy, appropriate boundaries.

That’s what you’re doing. That’s who you’re being.

Because you’ve learned there are people who are simply not like you.

And, sadly, that is something that you really need to face.

Because it is the right … the life-giving … thing to do.

And because you’re slowly learning that you must respect yourself

And be there for yourself

And take care of yourself.   

Quote of the Day

“Calm your mind darling.

You’re on no-one’s journey but your own.

Pace yourself and live your life the way you want to.

Don’t let someone else’s idea of success make you feel you’ve chosen the wrong path.

Your journey may look different to everyone else’s,

But it’s yours.”

Quote of the Day

More long walks. More good books. More music. More sunsets. More holding hands. More cuddles. More road trips. More honouring your heart. More being nice to yourself. More laughter. More fun in the moment. More beach. More forest. More memories. More of what brings peace to your life. More of what brings inspiration. More of what makes you feel loved and not alone. Focus on that today.”   

– butterfliesandpebbles

The Characteristics of Good Mental Health

What does it mean to function well in life? What does it mean to have good mental health? It means we exhibit the following traits:

  1. Feeling good about ourselves; accepting that we have both strengths and weaknesses. Understanding that change takes time, and being patient with ourselves. 
  2. Being able to effectively manage our emotions so we’re not controlled or overwhelmed by them (Feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, rage, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, and so on).
  3. Being able to form and enjoy stable, healthy, boundaried and meaningful relationships.
  4. Feeling at ease in the company of others.
  5. Not taking life too seriously; being able to laugh at ourselves.
  6. Respecting ourself, our values, beliefs, attitudes, choices and decisions. Also, respecting others and their right to think, choose, decide and act for themselves.
  7. Being able to accept, and to cope with, disappointment. This includes being able to adapt and compromise when this is healthy and appropriate.
  8. Being able to cope with life’s pressures and demands, and managing the problems we encounter in life.
  9. Being able to think, and decide, for ourselves. Not allowing others to define who we are.  
  10. Being able to influence our world for good, and leaving behind a strong legacy.

These are qualities and traits which develop gradually. They come from experiencing both good and bad in life, and learning what’s important, and what’s a waste of time. They speak of small decisions to press on and persevere, to forgive ourselves and others, to be more compassionate, and to overlook the small stuff, and to focus on the good. 

The Self-Love Tree

“It might be hard to love yourself sometimes, but it is harder to not love yourself.”

The author Christine Arylo says self-love is a tree. Self-worth is the trunk, and the life-giving branches are associated with the following qualities.

– Self-awareness and self-honesty

– Self-acceptance

– Self-care

– Self-compassion and self-forgiveness

– Self-trust

– Self-esteem

– Self-empowerment

– Self-expression

– Self-respect and self-honour

– Self-pleasure, or self-joy.

Let’s unpack this metaphor a little.

The Trunk

Self-Worth is fundamental; it is absolutely crucial. It is knowing you have value because you exist and, simply, because you are you

It is something you’re convinced of in your heart, and at your core, despite what other people might think, or say, about you.

The Branches

1. Self-Awareness and Self-Honesty: This relates to wanting to know – and to own – everything about yourself. Your values, opinions, attitudes, beliefs. Who you want to be, and how you want to live your life.

It’s also being in touch with all your feelings and reactions, and knowing you’re accountable for choices and decisions.

2. Self-Acceptance: This is being at peace with, and accepting, who you are – with your personality, and your weaknesses and quirks.

Also, it’s resisting the temptation to compare yourself to others.  

3. Self-Care: This is being committed to caring for yourself, and honouring your limits, and noticing your needs (Your physical, emotional, mental, psychological, relational and spiritual needs).

Also, it is knowing when you really need to reach out for support … or when you need to withdraw from the world for a while.

And self-care is also knowing when you’re bored, or need a change, or when you need more stimulation, or a new relationship.

4. Self-Compassion and Self-Forgiveness: This is being gentle and kind with yourself, especially when you’re weak, or when you’ve failed, or made mistakes. 

5. Self-Trust: This is knowing you can hear and trust that quiet inner voice, and being willing to respect and listen to your intuition.

6. Self-Esteem: This is seeing you have value, and endearing qualities. It is moving through this world with a quiet confidence, believing you are able to create for yourself a life that has meaning, and is beautiful, and good.

7. Self-Empowerment: This is making the decision to fully own your life, believing you have talents, experience and strengths. It is setting your own goals, and then going after them. It is knowing you’re tenacious, and can push through trying times.

8. Self-Expression: This is being genuine and authentic in your life. It is sharing the real you, in a way that’s comfortable. It is sharing thoughts and feelings, opinions and ideas through honest self expression, and open dialogue.

9. Self-Respect and Self-Honour: This is setting healthy boundaries in every part of life, and requiring other people always treat you with respect.

Also, it is making personal choices that align with your core values, and speaking of yourself in ways that demonstrate respect.

1o. Self-Pleasure or Self-Joy: This is making time for pleasure, for the things that bring you joy. It is doing things you love; things that make you feel alive.

Also, it is nourishing your inner life, and seeking happiness – because these are important; they are things that you deserve.

Some Final Prompts and Questions

Look at your trunk … and at each of your 10 branches … then think through your answers to the following:

– How strong are each of your branches?

– Do any of them need some tending?

– Are you able to identify what has weakened or deadened some of the branches?

– What can you do to encourage new growth?

– Is the trunk the branches spring from strong, and healthy and stable?

As you do this, remember that we have all have some scars, and self-love is a journey that continues throughout life.

Strategies for When you can’t Face the Day

No matter how many people surround you, depression is a lonely, solitary place filled with funhouse mirrors. Your world is twisted and distorted, pain reflected back from every direction.” – Unknown

There are times when life feels unbearable, and it’s hard to find the will to go on. The door has slammed shut, and the key’s been thrown away. You’re in a prison cell and there’s no way of escape.

At least, that is how it feels right now.

So what can you do when you feel like this?  

1. First, acknowledge how you feel. Be aware of your emotions and your state of mind. Don’t try to ignore, bury or repress the pain. You need to respect it. You need to honour it. Denial doesn’t help. In fact, it only makes things worse.

2. Don’t try to rid your mind of negative and painful thoughts. Being mindful means noticing the different thoughts you have. You are simply an observer; there’s no judgment here at all.

However, it is also important that you don’t dwell on these thoughts. Just let them come and go … like clouds that float across the sky.

Also, writing down your thoughts can sometimes help with letting go. It somehow frees us up, and helps us feel somewhat detached.

3. Have a tool box of strategies that help to calm your mind – and then actively draw from this range of strategies.

Examples of useful strategies might include: slowly counting your breaths; focusing on feeling your chest rise and fall; repeating calming thoughts, or a Bible verse, or prayer. Try different things to find out what works best for you.

4. Take steps to nourish your body and mind. Drink some cool water. Get outside; go for a walk; and feel the fresh air on your skin and face. Focus in on nature; notice birds, and flowers, and trees. Smell the flowers and grass, or watching the waves upon the shore.

Also, check your blood sugar and prepare healthy meals using foods that are rich in nutrients. There’s a close interaction between body and mind.

5. Don’t withdraw and isolate yourself. Making conversation, or putting on a mask can feel extremely daunting when you’re low on energy. But maybe you could simply hang out in a coffee shop, or sit on a park bench and watch the children laugh and play. Just being around people often helps us feel alive.     

Following these steps can help to soothe and calm the mind. They can help nourish the body and infuse us with new strength.

Perhaps you will find it was worth the try.

Be You

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with.” – Anais Nin

Don’t live like this. Always be real. Always be yourself.

Who you are is beautiful.

And the world needs the real, authentic you.

Don’t change and alter to fit into a mould. Don’t change and alter to suit other people.

You will die inside if you can’t be who you are.

Don’t hide your truth. Don’t do this to yourself.

If you feel you need to change to be accepted, to belong, then you need to move on. It is time to change your tribe.

An Interview with Carolyn

Carolyn’s husband had a brief affair, roughly 6 years after they were married. That was 5 years ago. As far as she knows, this has never happened again. However, Carolyn still struggles with issues around trust. Below, she talks about what she finds helpful when she is struggling with these feelings.

Counsellor: One of things you’ve told me in our sessions is that you have trouble feeling safe in your marriage, and you sometimes have trouble fully trusting your husband. Would you say that is an accurate summary?

Carolyn: Yes. A lot the time I believe I can trust him, I really do. And I can logically work through all the evidence that tells me he is a different person today. But then I get hit by these clouds of doubt, and I start to feel scared and wobbly again. Those feelings are very powerful and destabilizing. They leave me questioning everything.

Counsellor: Everything?

Carolyn: Not quite everything. But two very important things. They leave me questioning whether I am being deceived and hoodwinked again (because he betrayed me in the past, I know he’s certainly capable of it.) Of course, I know I can’t knowhe’ll never revert to his old ways. All I can do is look at the evidence …and try to be as objective as possible.

The other thing I question is my ability to trust my own judgments. My feelings could be warning bells or they could be groundless fears. And sometimes I don’t know how to tell the difference. Gaslighting does that to you. It makes it difficult for you to figure out reality.

Counsellor: I can see why you find this so unsettling. You’re right. We can’t tell the future … And what you’d like is absolutely certainty … which no-one has about anything. Also, you wrestle with whether you can read and trust your feelings and intuitions … which is understandable.    

What do you do when you feel like that? What would you say has helped you the most?

Carolyn: I try to adopt a rational approach and, usually, that helps me to feel calmer, and more at peace. I start by going over all the things are different about the way my husband relates to me today. Positive things that show he thinks about me, cares about me, and that show I matter to him. Intellectually, that helps … but it isn’t always enough to change my feelings. Often, I stillfeelanxious and insecure

The next thing I do is remind myself that I have a lot of roles in life. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a neighbour, a teacher and so on. Being a wife is only part of who I am. It isn’t my whole identity. It’s an important part. But, still, it’s just a part. If my husband cheated again, I wouldn’t lose myself. I would still be the person I am today.

Counsellor: That’s a very healthy way of looking at things. You are a person in your own right. Being someone’s wife isn’t your identity.

Carolyn: Exactly. I’ve also created a good social circle, and I have a lot of interest, and a job that is fulfilling. All of those help me to feel OK about myself, and remind me I have a life outside of my marriage.

Counsellor: Those are great insights, Carolyn … You also mentioned earlier about not always feeling safe … and, maybe, struggling with feelings of anxiety? How do you handle those feelings when you have to get on with your day … and keep teaching, and interacting with kids, staff and parents? I imagine that could be quite difficult to navigate.

Carolyn: It is. Obviously, when I was in crisis I just couldn’t cope with work and daily life; but I’m not in crisis right now. I handle the onslaught of anxiety – the times when I am triggered – by consciously choosing to focus on the people I am with right now, and thinking about what they need from me at this moment in time. I guess it’s a form of mindfulness. I’m more practiced at it now, so I’m better at it. Also, seeing that I’m able to be there for others, and to not let my feelings rule my life, has given me a sense of being more in control. 

Counsellor: That’s really great. It sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this, and worked very hard on it. Is there anything else you would recommend to others who are in a similar situation to you?

Carolyn: One last technique I would recommend – something else that has worked for me – is assigning myself a “worry hour” when school finishes, and I am on my own for a while. I don’t just ignore or repress my anxieties. I give them the dignity and respect of listening to them and taking them seriously at some point in the day. The funny thing is, often by then I’m in a better place, emotionally. My thinking is clearer, and I have life more in proportion again.

Counsellor: That’s a very interesting technique. I can see why it works so well for you.

Thanks for sharing this, Carolyn. We appreciate your willingness to be honest and, hopefully, to help other women.

Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” — Thich Nhat Hanh