It’s part of being good to you.
By Susan J. Elliott J.D., M.Ed. Copyright 2012-2017
I am a fervent believer in support systems made up of friends, support groups, 12 step programs, individual therapy, group therapy, conferences, retreats, seminars and on and on and on. The more you go to places where healing happens, the more healing you get. You don’t have to adhere to everything you hear or learn about, but having a good exposure to different ideas and philosophies, broadens our horizons, especially if they’ve been narrowed by growing up in a dysfunctional family system or being in bad relationships.
But I also believe that we need to learn to parent ourselves and be our own therapist separate and apart from others.
There is a saying that your mind is like a bad neighborhood, don’t go there alone. And for many issues, that is true. When you know that you have certain topics and issues where you absolutely can’t be objective, the help of a good therapist, a good friend, a trusted relative or a support group is essential. On the other hand, you have to learn how to change your perspective and how to change your way of thinking when it’s getting you in trouble.
Getting Past Your Breakup and Getting Back Out There teaches about the importance of observation. It’s very important to turn off the devices, turn off the distractions and learn to observe others. Being unplugged a few hours each week is very important. I write that you should go for a ride on public transportation or go to a mall or go anywhere that people congregate and observe them.
It’s also important to do this when you’re alone. Go for a walk with no devices. Sit and meditate. Take a long bubble bath with no distractions. It not only helps your power of concentration, but helps you key into yourself and your own thoughts. What’s going on? What are you thinking about?
You need to give yourself a dose of reality now and again where you step back and try to see the world through a different lens. You need to check yourself and make sure you are balancing empathy for others with empathy for yourself; you need to face difficult truths about yourself, balancing softness and toughness and being there for you when you need someone. Getting Past Your Breakup teaches that you must balance your grief work with self-care. In the same way, you must balance giving yourself a break and eradicating your negative self-talk with making sure you’re being honest with yourself and working on that which needs to be worked on.
I recently did two YouTube videos on another post I’ve written for Psychology Today: “When the Person You Love Doesn’t Love You”. In Part Two I outline the difference between changing for someone else (to get them to stay) and changing for yourself because you know there are weaknesses that have been problems in relationships and you need to look at them and figure out how to minimize them or get rid of them altogether. Part of treating yourself well is being good to you while acknowledging you can use some changing and growing in some areas.
I once had a client who would meet men and tell them she was a non-smoker. She was a “sneak smoker,” meaning she wanted to quit so she lied about smoking. She never smoked in front of others and thought they couldn’t smell it on her (they absolutely could – even without being close to her).
Several relationships broke up when her boyfriends finally confronted her about it. She would spend time vacillating between, “I smoke and therefore I suck.” and “Screw him. It’s just smoking. It’s not like I murdered someone.” Neither of those attitudes was helpful. We worked on her getting honest about her smoking while developing affirmations that she was healthy and smoke free. We developed some “tough love” affirmations that didn’t denigrate her, with some “soft love” affirmations that didn’t enable her. It’s all about the balance.
It boils down to staring truth in the face. Sometimes the truth is very difficult to swallow and sometimes the road is very tough, but you swallow the truth and you deal with how hard that is and then you go to the places you can find a hug for your hard work. Sometimes that needs to be you being good to you.
I can be a tough therapist but I also lead people to their hurtful places and then sit with them in empathic silence to support them when they get in touch with their hurt. When someone is avoiding issues or in denial, I call them on that and not very gently sometimes. Sometimes you need a bullhorn to get through to people. Other times a soft and simple, “Hey…what about this?” will do. And so it is with your own voice in your own head. Sometimes you need to really take a cold shower in reality and other times dipping a toe in the pool will do.
The secret to being your own best therapist, on a minute to minute basis is to be honest and open and not believing your own rationalizations or justifications. To do the best you can do, even if it’s hard, and then to be good to yourself…to speak lovingly to yourself and say what a great job you are doing…and to do something nice for yourself. If you journal every day, it helps to write about what you’re thinking and how you’re thinking. You can also look at personal, difficult situations and try to see things from the other side while not abandoning yourself completely.
A combination of tough love with yourself: not mincing words, not accepting rationalizations and justifications and having good strong boundaries is the key to getting better…but on the flip side, when the hard work is done, be good to yourself and reward yourself for a job well done. Treat yourself with love…tough love and soft love…and you will be your own best support system.
The other benefit is that when others criticize you or blow smoke at you, you know whether or not it’s true. When you are honest enough with yourself, others can’t hold sway over you with their critical or sickening sweet opinion of you. No one can tell you things about you that will throw you off course.
Others are very important but they are not worth anything until you learn to be there for yourself. As always, remember: You can do it.
Copyright 2007-2017 Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author
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