"Finding yourself"/transitions/deprogramming *on a budget*
March 3, 2013 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I want to shift my thinking style. I do therapy when I can afford it, which isn't a consistent option right now. I suspect there's a pea under the mattress at the core of several faulty thought patterns. I've shifted the pea in some contexts but not others. What are some concrete exercises and activities I can use - with minimal cost - that will help me unravel limiting beliefs, increase self-worth, highlight unproductive expectations so I can address them? Particular parameters inside.

Ultimately, I want a stronger sense of my individual self/wants/needs/preferences, and I want to feel like I have healthy relationship ideals. My therapist does not want me using labels like codependency, and I agree with her reasoning. I have used this sort of goal in the past to feed my inner critic, so tips for avoiding that trap are also appreciated. So along with this, I would like to discover how to navigate this process of personal growth without adding to the pop psych, labeling, assumption/judgment mentality that has contributed to cognitive distortions.

I have difficulty with consistent internal focusing, due in part to what I suspect is a kind of dissociative amnesia for some things I've experienced. Avoidance. So I need approaches to this self-discovery and increased sense of myself that don't threaten my sense of safety.

I've been trying to stay in tune with my emotions and feelings throughout the day, and am making some progress. I've had days of feeling very strong in myself, but I suspect it's related to empathizing with friends who have a strong sense of self and being around people who express confidence in me/validation.

Ultimately, I just want to feel happy and healthy. I want to feel like I have a healthy mindset about relationships and self-love. I want this stuff to be natural, not something I have to work at. Currently I feel like there are two worlds of people - (1) people who are secure/ have had good enough relational experiences/have not had too much trauma/well-adjusted and (2) people who struggle to feel normal and healthy about themselves or who have to work at it. The "broken" and the "pristine." I know that it isn't helpful to divide things up that way but it's a visceral feeling. I want to move from 2 to 1.
posted by hungry hippo to Human Relations (5 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I have difficulty with consistent internal focusing,...I've been trying to stay in tune with my emotions and feelings throughout the day
First cut yourself some slack. You don't seem to realize that the things you are trying to do are hard for almost everyone. I had a wonderful non traumatic childhood but for years if you had asked me what I was feeling, most often I would have said "I'm just thinking, not really feeling anything". Over the course of years (like maybe a decade) of paying attention I have gradually gotten better so if you are making "some progress" you are doing really well.

Some specific suggestions:
- Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman (precursor to the positive psychology movement) This is one that worked for me - looking around for books on positive psychology will lead you to others that show you how to build on your strengths and become happier.
- Feeling Good by David Burns - if you haven't done formal CBT, get this and do the exercises - great tools for changing your thoughts.
- At least once a day (or maybe exactly once a day), ask yourself, "What do I want, right now, in this moment?" And then do it. (If it isn't a safe, smart choice then ask "What can I do right now that would make be feel more happy than I am right now" (Not "happy" just "more happy than now") You ask it when you are standing in front the refrigerator (what do I really want to eat - not just what is easy or habitual) or when you sit down on your couch in the evening. (do I really want to watch TV? or would I rather take a walk, read a book, call a friend, take bath? - not which is better for me but what do I want?)
- If you can, try to get a chance to do process painting or intuitive painting. It is about having a super safe space to do something (paint) and express yourself without worrying about results. MeMail me if you want some links on this.
- start a journal where you write a paragraph and then go back and rewrite it in a more positive way.
Example : I've had days of feeling very strong in myself, but I suspect it's related to empathizing with friends who have a strong sense of self and being around people who express confidence in me/validation.
could become
I've had days of feeling very strong in myself. I have chosen to be with friends who have a strong sense of self and I am learning from them how to do this better. I can also create and maintain good relationships with people who express confidence in me/validation and I am able to take in some of their positive input. Yay you!!
posted by metahawk at 3:19 PM on March 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think the first step might be to examine your first "world" of people a little closer: people who are well-adjusted aren't necessarily people who have always been that way. You don't know how much others have to work at their day-to-day interactions because covering that is part of the work.

Like metahawk said, identify what you want. Live in the moment, at least once a day. If you can, do that.

If you're getting strength from others: good! That's part of what being around other people is for. It doesn't diminish how you're feeling if it came from an external source.
posted by RainyJay at 3:29 PM on March 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Definitely check out Feeling Good by David Burns.
posted by RogueTech at 3:47 PM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Vipassana meditation might be a good fit. Many people I know who have done it have reported results similar to what you are looking for. It's free, but it takes 10 days. And it's a real pain in the butt. Literally.
posted by Freen at 6:48 PM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of getting outside your head and actually doing something to challenge yourself and create a solid place for yourself in the world. It could be anything from learning how to stop that dripping faucet to designing a garden to walking through a neighborhood that makes you a little uncomfortable and learning to accept that discomfort. Rather than thinking-thinking-thinking about your thoughts, go out in the world and do things that are a bit of stretch, observe how you react, and watch how increased mastery gives you increased clarity and self-esteem. For tons more about this, see The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.
posted by ceiba at 8:07 PM on March 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

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