When I look back on last year’s blog post “Resolution: Inner Peace”, I remember how tired I was with the status quo at that time. For someone who is usually seen as positive, upbeat and generally calm, cool and collected, something just wasn’t right. Even in life’s quietest moments, I found my core jumping into “fight or flight” mode and didn’t know why. Little stressors were sparking up stronger reactions within me and anxiety was starting to take over.
I also found myself having a hard time letting go of chapters that were seemingly concluded. This wasn’t me! As this prolonged over time, I found my energy was heading downhill.
Despite having a huge tool kit of stress management techniques that I had accumulated over the years, I just couldn’t keep these stressors in check and to get past them. Negative emotions were festering and growing. I couldn’t get the upper hand on the situation and I didn’t know why.
I felt like I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street and getting farther away from the more serene self that I aspire to be. My 2017 resolution for seeking out inner peace was probably the best declaration I ever made. I was prepared for change.
Three anxiety attacks into 2017, I had hit my limit. It was time to seek help. My referral to a psychotherapist was the catalyst that helped me begin to break the cycle of anxiety.
But it wasn’t easy. I would say this was one of the toughest projects I had ever undertaken, having to recall and relive many of the stressors throughout my lifetime to find out what they had in common.
I have always thought of myself as pretty enlightened and self-aware, but there was no way I could have dug that deeply and figured this out for myself. The therapist was able to see the situations far more objectively than I could and was able to help me identify for myself the likely root causes and then how to deal with them.
While I won’t go into detail, let’s just say that I was brought up to believe the best in people and to give people the benefit of the doubt… perhaps to the point of diminishing returns.
When people cross the line, or have no idea where the line is, we are justified in asserting ourselves. I discovered that was not well-equipped to do that (no matter how justified I was), resulting in disappointment, disillusionment, hours or days of rumination, and worst of all, allowing people to continue to cross the line. Setting boundaries was my Achilles heel.
It was a strange place to be, to still be optimistic about life and believing in the good in people, while at the same time, I was exhausted from having my soul crushed repeatedly in a world with faintly dotted lines for boundaries.
With the help of the therapist, I have learned how to recognize these situations, to deal with them as they happen, to point out the line when the other person doesn’t see it, and if necessary, to keep reinforcing the line, calmly and assertively. It was a hard lesson to learn and to apply.
In the weeks that followed, life started handing me some real-life situations to practice. I was able to recognize the situations and to try out this new approach. To my surprise, it worked. And when other such situations presented themselves where I needed to assert myself and draw the line, it worked again. My confidence started building when I felt I had control over situations that I previously perceived as adversity.
Through therapy, I grew to understand that I didn’t have to defer to everyone. Asserting myself and standing my ground did not make me a bad person. This was an important revelation for me.
But sadly, not every situation can be handled that way. I am still learning how to manage those exceptions, completely beyond my control, where I don’t have the power to discuss or to negotiate.
Despite the huge advances I made in 2017, the work is far from complete. My resolution for 2018 is to continue to learn how to work through these situations to be able to nip them in the bud as soon as they arise rather than a few sleepless, stressful days later.
In retrospect, despite the deep frustration I felt from the people who bulldozed their way in my life, I now think that they deserve my thanks. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been backed into a corner and annoyed enough to seek the professional help, the validation and the courage to better deal with situations. In fact, I now wish I had done this sooner.
For me, the search to find and maintain inner peace is more than just a one-time resolution, it will be an ongoing one. Given how much better I feel after this year’s round of therapy sessions, it will probably be an easy resolution to keep!
Happy New Year everyone!
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Have a great day,
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