I am in the habit of going for a daily 30-minute walk around the familiar streets of the suburb I am fortunate to live in. With ear pods pumping out my favourite music, I am absorbed by a world of beauty and wonder as I observe colourful gardens, leafy trees and exuberant birds. Still, I was struck by how easy it is to switch off and become mindless to what is familiar and freely available to us, when walking a different, less known track, while on a brief vacation. My senses took pleasure in the world around me and I slowed down, confronted by alternative pathways and terrains. Returning from that walk, I felt enlivened, exhilarated and freed by my encounter with the unknown, appreciative of this new experience.
When people seek out our help at Watersedge Counselling, it is likely that they are walking a very familiar path, once comfortable, comforting and relatively easy they walked it mindlessly until one day it was no longer comfortable but difficult, painful, and arduous. Common sense invites us to forge a new path when this happens however it is actually very difficult to leave a familiar path, no matter how difficult it is to navigate. Feeling stuck, stripped of resources and options, people will continue to limp upon their well-worn path because it is familiar and therefore less scary and confronting. We develop unhealthy, dysfunctional, self-defeating behaviours that serve to prop us up whilst we tread the same worn path, silently pleading for something to change!
Here are three ways we keep ourselves stuck in self-defeating behaviours:
- Walking rough-shod over the difficulties or the art of ‘not giving a damn’ about our impact on the people or the world around us. We indulge in self-destructive behaviours that hurt the people around us, creating tensions, fractures and broken relationships. This attitude is underpinned by an attitude of entitlement that says, ‘the world owes me’, ‘I have a right to be the way I am’. We shut people out and hurt the people we love by our anger and resentment towards others.
- Walking around our difficulties to avoid them, we shut down and keep our distance. Believing we are ‘keeping the peace’, we fail to take responsibility for our own lives, allowing others to make decisions for us, choosing to avoid uncomfortable conversations and emotions. We deny and remove ourselves from the challenges we experience in our daily life and relationships. In doing so we project our unmet needs and negative emotions on to the people around us, oblivious to our collusive strategies.
- Walking mindlessly, the way of self-deception. It is a well-trod path because being a good, polite, respectful and helpful person is socially acceptable however we need to have an honest look at what drives this behaviour. Guilt, shame, fear and anxiety are very powerful motivators to please people and keep the status quo. We are too scared to take a different path because the unknown seems a whole lot harder to face than the known path, no matter how painful our well-worn path is. It takes courage to say. ‘I am going to walk a different path today’. Shame says, ‘What will people think? They will judge me, laugh at me, look down on me and even call me names.’ On the other hand, freedom whispers, ‘And so what? We will be on our own thrilling new adventure, finally being true to who we really are’.
This New Year I am choosing to walk the unfamiliar path. It means that I will need to check in with myself daily and choose to take responsibility for what I discover about myself. I ensure that as I take this new path and forge new connections, I do so with kindness towards myself and others, letting go of unrealistic expectations and self-thwarting beliefs. I walk the unfamiliar with an attitude of forgiveness and gratitude, walking lightly and gently and taking lots of rests along the way. I invite you to join me on the unfamiliar.
Do you feel stuck and want to change? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. If you are ready to book an appointment with Colleen or Duncan click BOOK ONLINE NOW.