How often do you check your phone? Maybe you search and scroll repetitively through social media apps, looking for something or someone to connect to? Sometimes, it’s channel hopping on the TV, without settling to anything in particular. It may even be reaching out to food when you’re not hungry or exhausting yourself through overworking. If you recognise any of this in your behavior, you have probably lost your state of balance.
What is actually happening here? Are you looking for something to fill a hole in your life? Sometimes, our ‘excess behaviors’ are a response to feeling anxious, sad, bored or lonely. But our solutions tend to add to the problem. Working too hard or becoming a couch potato or even looking for solace in a virtual world means we hardly get to spend quality time with family or real-world friends. The behaviours leave us more disconnected. In seeking comfort we may begin to spend more time with possessions, less time with others, and hardly any time with ourselves.
But there is a way out. We have to address the root of the problem. Some insecurity, pain or negativity has got in the way of our attunement to self, and in so doing we have become disconnected from others. Psychologically, we have the capacity to transmute anxiety and hurt into strength, courage and resilience. We can sometimes do it ourselves, but increasingly people turn to psychotherapy as a resource.
Psychotherapies offer a human connection, forged in a therapeutic relationship. This relationship is characterised by trust, kindness, unconditional regard, attentive listening and a non-judgmental approach, in which we can see ourselves more clearly. We can look at what we are struggling with, resolve our conflict with it and eventually let it go.
We learn in therapy that there may be many situations that we have little or no control over, but we need not allow them to define who we are. After all, we are more than our experience, and much more than what happens to us. Observing what is happening or has happened, without becoming engrossed within it, is the key. When we reach an ‘observer perspective’, choices open up to us – with time and practice, we may choose how we wish to feel in any set of given circumstances.
Facing up to our hurts can be uncomfortable, but growth is something that occurs just outside the comfort zones we make for ourselves. All that we feel, even that which we may be ashamed of or wish to deny, is part of the human experience. These feelings serve a purpose. They offer us a clue to something that must be addressed within, before we can experience change without.
Instead of seeking comfort in self-defeating habits, temporary pleasures and external devices, let us take a more compassionate approach to those innermost places of ourselves that have too long been left unattended. Let us lend dialogue to the places within that have hitherto been quiet or unspeaking. Through working on ourselves at an emotional level, we can reconnect with who we are and more importantly what we can be. In so doing, we begin a process of healing.
Psychotherapy can feel daunting, but therapists work at your pace and walk with you in the journey. It is a caring approach, and is certainly worth trying if you are contemplating change.
IAPT Psychological Therapies Practitioner
Harishtha achieved a first class honours degree in Psychology from the University of Sheffield. She subsequently trained as an IAPT Therapist, using an approach known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). She works in NHS IAPT Services and has kindly written this article for Solihull Well Being Clinic.