In today’s blog, I’m going to return to my old life. Maybe because I have been thinking that maybe I should return to it for six months to make some money and buy my own boat.
Then I remember why I left and think anything is better…
My parents have always been amazing parents who tried their best to keep us happy and healthy. Healthy I always was, happy not so much. This wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of a persistent bully. In those days there wasn’t so much awareness and my parents did the best they could to manage it.
Then I turned 12 and a change of schools and hormones caused my behaviour to change drastically. My astute parents promptly took me to a counsellor who was brilliant and helped me put things in perspective. When I needed her again, she had died and I went through a string of horrible counsellors who confused me more than anything.
This is where my passion to become a psychologist started. I wanted to be a good one like Shelley who didn’t put words in my mouth or say that medication was the answer. I like to think for the most part, I succeed in being a Shelley, when I could.
In my last two jobs, we had to follow a manual. Common sense says that human beings don’t fit manuals. If so, we would all have one from birth. But, I was mandated to follow this manual whether or not I felt it was in the best interests of the client. With time, this really started to bother me and disrupt my internal balance.
Two years ago, I completed a yoga teacher training which changed my life forever. The yoga philosophy really clicked with me. I didn’t realise there was more to yoga than a series of movements and “connecting with your breath.” The asana (postures) practice is a tool to accomplish the yoga philosophy. I am going to completely simplify it by focusing on only a couple of elements; acceptance and living in the moment. Trust me, there is much more.
I found the more I just accepted my mood states, the easier it was to work through them. In fact I didn’t have to work through them because they were simply there and would then pass. I learned quickly that all my moods would pass so I just let them be without stressing about it. The message psychology gave me from a young age was that if I was unhappy, there is something wrong that needs to be fixed. This caused me so much stress! I remember telling my Mom how I was frustrated for feeling sad after having so many good days. She said that I was just having a bad day and it was ok, everyone has them. I thought, “What does she know?” Especially as I never remembered her having a bad day.
Turns out her advice was more valuable than all the money they spent on the counsellors. If only they had the hindsight to know that what I needed was yoga!!! Needless to say, I wouldn’t change anything because my journey has made me who I am today.
The more I meditated and focused on the moment, the more easily I found I could manage the stress I put myself under. At work, I was starting to feel more and more like the devil as I repeatedly heard clients say, “Why are you making me talk about the past? I don’t want to go back there, it’s depressing me.” If I had a quarter for every time I wanted to shout, “I AGREE WITH YOU! This is unnecessary torture and there are other ways to deal with this…but I am bound by this manual,” I would have enough money to buy my own boat with plenty of money to fix it up.
I thought, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just some yoga hippy who is misinterpreting psychology. Recently, I sent a message to a friend, who is a psychologist, saying that I was having a sad day and that tomorrow would be a new day so I will accept how I feel today and just let it be. Her reply was that she liked the tactic and would remember it the next time she had a down day. AH HA!!! It isn’t just me!!!
Why do we need to do this to ourselves? As psychologists why do we need to teach or guide others to be perfect? It’s not humanly possible. Psychology is the field that said we all experience a range of emotions. Why have they also said that only certain ones are OK to feel?
Thank goodness there is a (not so) new field of mindfulness psychology and branches of this type. This type of psychology uses Buddhist philosophy and yoga techniques and teaches acceptance. Acceptance that it’s ok to feel super sad sometimes. Acceptance that it’s ok to feel angry as long as you don’t hurt yourself or other people. Acceptance to just be in the moment instead of constantly thinking how to improve yourself or make plans for the future. As I said in a previous blog, plans that may not come to fruition.
Don’t even get me started on the famous psychological questions, “What can you do to help yourself feel better right now?” Or “what plans can you make for the future that you can look forward to when you’re having a down day?” Let me tell you my experience with these questions. For the first one, my answer, usually through tears was, “I don’t fucking know. If I knew I would be doing it instead of crying right now!!” My favourite response is when a colleague came to work after being in a car accident that really shook her up. Our qualified psychologist boss asked her what would calm her down and when my colleague couldn’t think of an answer, she continued to push her for an answer until my colleague started sobbing uncontrollably. Not a very successful technique in this situation…
Future plans? Oh I made them and one of two things happened. They happened and I once again had nothing to look forward to or I planned them with boyfriends who broke up with me before said event. The consequence to this was that I felt worse and dreaded the date happening because it was a reminder of what could have been.
I laugh now because I have a totally different frame of mind about all of it. Back then it made things worse. When I was in a negative mind frame, it gave me more food to feed the negative monster.
Now I simply accept how I feel. I don’t let it affect my self esteem or gravely affect those around me. Sure on my down days I am more quiet which has an impact on those close to me because my energy is different. However, now I don’t get uncontrollably angry or anxious or act out or cause arguments. Do you know why? Because now I give myself permission to be a human being. Before I was always angry at myself because I wasn’t perfect, aka happy and calm every moment of the day. I was acting out and finding faults in others due to my frustration of unrealistic perfection.
I find so much more relief when I have a down day and say to myself, “That’s ok. That’s just how it is right now,” and/or ask Captain Cool for a hug because I just need a little comfort and reassurance. Or maybe I take some time to do my yoga practice and meditate. When I do these things, it really does make it ok and then I can focus on what’s happening in front of me right now, not on some event I have planned in two months that may or may not go well.
This post may seem as though I am being negative about psychology and to be honest, I am. The traditional methods never worked for me. I know many people who it’s also not working for. Yoga worked when I found the right guide. However, that’s not to say psychology doesn’t work for anyone and yoga works for everyone. Obviously psychology helps some or it wouldn’t have lasted for so long. I’m suggesting that maybe if it doesn’t seem right for you or you find yourself playing the same old record time and time again, try a new record. You may find that your record collection becomes more varied and plentiful with more chilled songs than stressful ones.