Life is difficult

rainbowWow, this is my very first blog! I feel very excited about this new way of communicating with you all and look forward to your responses.

I want to thank Ian Tomlinson for bringing me into the 21st century. He is my multi-talented ‘transactional analysis psychotherapy’ colleague (at The Affinity Centre), who also helps therapists like myself put together up-to-date websites to promote our services (under the guise of Soul Healer Websites). Thank you Ian.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the first sentence of the book called “The Road Less Travelled”, by Dr. Scott Peck. He states: “Life is difficult.”

I remember feeling stunned, curious and most of all relieved, the first time I read those words 20 years ago. Until that point, I had the idea that life was supposed to be easy and that it was me who was odd, as I often felt stressed, low and anxious. It was a relief to read Dr. Peck’s words and realise there was another world view, perhaps I was normal after all!

Scott Peck goes on to explain that once we fully accept life is difficult, our positive experiences can be enjoyed and our expectations can become more realistic.

I think one of the most difficult aspects of living is how critical and punishing we can be of ourselves. Our ability to be intensely and insidiously self-negative is wonderfully portrayed by J. K. Rowling, in her Harry Potter book the Chamber of Secrets. Here she first introduces the character Dobby, the self-deprecating house-elf. These are some examples of how Dobby berates himself:

“Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!”;

“Dobby will have to punish himself most grievously for coming to see you, sir. Dobby will have to shut his ears in the oven door for this.”;

“Dobby is always having to punish himself for something, sir. They lets Dobby get on with it, sir. Sometimes they reminds me to do extra punishments … “.

When I first watched Dobby saying these words, I felt a huge number of things: sadness for him; some level of self-recognition with his negative process; and also some amusement at just how grossly obsequious and down-trodden he was.

Whereas Dobby spoke out loud about his “badness”, most of us have our critical voices going on inside; sometimes in our awareness and sometimes not. Just like Dobby though, when we are highly critical of ourselves this shows in our behaviour.

We stop ourselves from doing many things when we believe, we can’t or we won’t be able to do them well. We shy away from making friends because we believe other people won’t like us, or we keep our heads down (literally and figuratively), when we feel unable to face the world as an equal.

So what can we do about being overly critical of ourselves?

A useful first step is to increase our self-awareness about our internal process. To notice when we are being self-critical. Then to ask ourselves, “Who do I sound like?”; “Am I being like one of my parents when they were angry or critical of me?”; and “Am I being unduly unfair on myself?”

Next we need to encourage ourselves to refuse or ignore these overly negative messages. To say, “No! This is not me” or “Stop! I’m not going to listen to you any more”.

Sometimes our more intense, blaming, shaming and fearful internal messages are too difficult for us to manage on our own. This is when working with an experienced counsellor or psychotherapist is useful (click here to find a therapist in the North West of Manchester, UK). Our decision to do this can be profound. We need to give ourselves time and space to explore our core issues that interfere with us living to our full potential.

I would like to leave you with one last thought…..

“Notice something beautiful everyday.”

(Emily Ruppert, TA psychotherapist, USA)

Take care and go well!

Blog written by Ann Heathcote, Transactional Analyst Psychotherapist, Manchester, UK on 30 May 2011.

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