It's such a common phrase as people try to take advantage of a New Year to attempt a change in their lives. Perhaps you're attempting just that, or trying for the umpteenth time to make a change but fear that once again you'll fail. Do you undermine your own chances? Do you doubt your ability to change? Or perhaps you're really not all that willing to change but like to be seen to make the effort? What really gets in the way, and how can you make the changes you'd like to make?
Shame is present to a certain extent in most of our lives. It's an integral part of being human, of being social entities striving to belong to the group. If our behaviour steps outside of what we think the group wants us to think, see, or feel, then our automatic reaction is shame. In most cases, we learn from these experiences, talk about them with other people, and move on with our lives having learnt a lesson. But there are certain situations that cause shame to bury deep out of sight, affecting how we think about ourselves, and how we live in the world.
Negative events tend to stick with us, like barnacles to the bottom of the ship, sticking with us as we journey through life. Things that we know at the time that are not very important, not very meaningful, and probably not about us at all, can raise their heads in our thoughts again and again and again. Another kid in class telling us we're too skinny/fat/dumb etc can stay around well past its use-by date. But why? Can we overcome these thoughts?
Perfectionism is something I see a lot as a therapist. While high standards and operating at your best are worthwhile goals, perfectionism can be a major impediment to living your life as you would prefer.
Do you often find yourself saying "sorry?" Do many of your daily interactions involve apologising for what you think you may have done? Of course, being aware of where we impinge on others as we move through our day is a vital part of the cohesion of society, but there's a way to do it that is a powerful shortcut to happiness.
It's amazing how changing your perspective can completely change your world. We so often get stuck in the rut of the way we look at things that we stagnate, repeat the same mistakes, and gradually become more and more disillusioned. But just how do you set about changing your perspective?
"Coming out" is generally how the process of letting people know you are same-sex attracted has come to be known. This process - and indeed it is a process - is different for everybody. It's also something that all same-sex attracted people have in common, having gone through their own "coming out" process. People often find taking that step to be one of the scariest things they'll ever do. An alternate way is the concept of "inviting in." It's a version of coming out that is increasingly being seen as a way to tailor the process to make it more manageable, and to be less daunting.
I often find people come to see me because they feel stuck. They're unhappy with their life, unhappy with where they're at, but can't see a way forward. Even those who have worked hard on understanding themselves can come to a point where the question becomes "What next?"
Not usually words that I would use as they bring up such strong images of war. But for some men, there is an internal battle being waged daily, a battle to keep up appearances, to not let the family down, to perform at work - all while feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and worth nothing to nobody. And so, we divide, and then we conquer.
People often come to therapy feeling completely overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, by anger or disappointment, confused as to what to do next. People often only come because someone they love has given them an ultimatum - get help or else. The despair that comes into the therapy space is very real, as is the person's belief that they are simply a broken down loser, with no hope, and no right to be. What if you could be separated from that belief, could see that belief is a choice, and begin to build for yourself a different way to be?
Chris is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist at Engage Counselling, Sydney