One of the challenging things to sit with, once you step into giving yourself permission to rest and replenish, is the feeling of wasting time; precious, precious time. I felt the same way after finishing my cancer treatment back in September of 2013 – the very first time I experienced breakdown – curled up on the same familiar couch as I was this time, weighing in at 38 kilos back then and couldn’t even say I was a shell of my former self. There was nothing of me remotely recognisable – to anyone. Scary place.
Sitting with the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings is a difficult mindset to master. Indeed master is not the suitable word here. Controlling your thoughts and attitude should not be the desired outcome to enable wellness, for it truly is a recipe for further disaster.
Yes, you heard me right.
If there is one powerful lesson I have learned from studying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT for short) is that trying to control our thoughts only adds to the problem… because it’s not possible.
Imagine a really cute, soft, adorable puppy with dark please love me eyes and a blue and white polka dot bow. No I haven’t lost the plot – stick with me for a minute. Here is an image in-case you are having trouble.
I know! Just too cute! Now, I want you to STOP thinking about that cute puppy. Go on. Right now! Find that switch and flick it off. STOP thinking about how adorable it is; how soft and cuddly it would be in your arms.
Stop it right now!
You can’t can you?
You’ve become meshed with that image and your thoughts about it within a millisecond. You’ve already attached a story to it! The thoughts, feelings and beliefs are now in your head. They are stuck in there and you can’t just turn them off. I bet as hard you are trying the image and connected thoughts and feelings keep circling back around commanding attention?
I know I’m right…because I have lived it, as so many others have lived it too.
You can’t turn off damaging thoughts in an instant any more than you can turn off joyous thoughts in an instant.
If you can’t stop or control damaging thoughts, what hope do you have?
There may have been a time in your life where you have felt hopeless and helpless too, so that’s a fair question.
What works for me? Acknowledgement, validation and acceptance. I acknowledge the damaging thoughts uncomfortable presence; I validate their existence working hard not to dismiss or minimalise their effect; I accept they are in my life and if I want to keep living a life of meaning then I have to take those thoughts, feelings and beliefs along with me for the ride – they are in the passenger seats but I need to be driving.
It’s not easy. It’s bloody hard work.
So I say to myself “Here’s that wasting precious time story again! Thanks! Great! Bloody brilliant! Thanks for filling my head again you persistent precious bundle of helpful excrement!” Sometimes I’m sure the thoughts skulk off and sulk for a while because it goes a little quiet, which is nice.
Sometimes it only dials down the intensity or blows the stench downwind for a bit but either way it reduces the power somewhat and opens up space in my head for more helpful thought – or even to think about nothing which is also extremely therapeutic and quite wrongly frowned upon… in my humble opinion that is.
One of the most beautiful gifts you can give to someone is the gift of your time, yet we find it so difficult to give ourselves the gift of time and honour our own healing needs.
You don’t have to do it alone.
Sitting with yourself in your darkness is not only challenging, it’s frightening. All you have to rely on is your mind that has become your enemy when all you want and need it to be is your own best friend.
When I couldn’t be my own best friend, thankfully I had others who unconditionally filled the void. They saw the empty space, walked in and filled it up for me – hoping and wishing their presence in that space would aid in its healing.
Jo is one such friend. Believe me when I say I know how fortunate I am to have friends and family in my life such as her. After Part 3 in this series she left this message for me and it ties in so well with the quote I wanted to share this week that I asked Jo for permission to use the comment here.
Once again I love your raw honesty and truthfulness that is conveyed in every post. You are sharing a part of your life that crushed you so bad, and you are sharing with truth of heart in the hope that you can inspire someone else that what they are going through is survivable and you can come out the other side.
It doesn’t matter what words you use because you are talking from your heart and you can feel the emotion, fear and anxiety with each word expressed. It is expressed in a way that gives your friends and family some understanding of what you went through. It is all too easy to stand on the outside and judge, but no-one has the right to judge as you don’t understand what the mind is doing.
By sharing your deepest emotions you are helping your family and friends understand what it felt like and what we can do to help you. At times I felt unsure what was the best approach to try and bring you out of the dark place that you had visited.
Sometimes we don’t understand the journey that we have been dealt, but without you having experienced what you did, you wouldn’t be able to write and express and help others through the same type of journey, because you got to live it first hand and are now sharing those experiences in order to help others.
So never underestimate the power of your words and how you express yourself. Let it flow, let it be and just write.
Love you to bits and keep writing.
I love her to bits too. Jo needn’t have felt so uncertain about this “At times I felt unsure what was the best approach to try and bring you out of the dark place that you had visited.”
Because her and some others did this…
When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark.
If you don’t know what to do to help someone in a dark place, walk in and sit with them.
You don’t have to point out the positives; you don’t need to tell them how your brother-in-law’s best friend’s cousin recovered; you don’t need to make them smile thinking that will induce happiness; you don’t need to tell them all the things you think they could be doing to look on the bright side – they are already telling themselves all those things and more AND beating themselves up because none of it is making a difference.
Sit beside them. Hold them. Encourage them. Do for them.
Sit with them in the dark.
It’s never a waste of anyone’s precious time.
It is the brightest most powerful healing light I’ve ever known.
Till next week,
Stay safe now. Xx
My original mind map of how this series was to unfold has evolved as much as I have over time so I have decided to do the final wrap up next week.
Feel free to share (because I suck at social media – just saying), leave me a comment or send me an email via the contact page. It’s always a privilege to hear from you.