My last two posts, I have looked at very dysfunctional voices in our heads and how easy it is to follow them. They offer quick-fix solutions that have no substance at all. The inner critic will keep you stuck in a situation with its lies and the inner rebel will offer a way out using spontaneity and addiction. It will then give you back to the inner critic when you feel guilty for what you did.
These voices are easy to listen to and the solutions they offer seem appealing. They say “do nothing” or ” run away” and at times, this can seem the only solution to the fix we have got ourselves into or we are trying to get out of. However, I firmly believe that taking the “road less traveled” and facing reality and our issues head on is the only way to bring sustainable change to our lives. It may take longer but it means the end of the road brings positive change.
How is this done, you may be asking? It means listening to the very voice that gets lost and we ignore in the process of rushing towards quick-fix measures or feeling that we cannot do anything about where we are. It is the voice we resist because it means working harder, putting in more effort and working on ourselves. As Scott Peck famously said ” Life is difficult but our biggest issue is that we expect it to be easy. Only by constantly facing and overcoming problems, can we reach our full potential”. Only in conscious awareness can we reach this voice.
How do we do this? Stephen Covey rightly says that we are truly the only species that can use self-awareness to direct ourselves. However, many of us still work on instinct and reaction.That means we make decisions about things based on instinct, experience, fear without really taking the time to work things out. We ruminate instead of reflecting and we tie ourselves in knots on the “hamster wheel” of constant analysis or we throw caution to the wind. There is a very simple technique that I bring to my clients that can help them to listen to the inner champion. Once that voice is present and listened to, it is a question then of an action plan to put any insights into action.
Take a sheet of paper and create three columns. At the top of the paper, write the situation that needs analysing.
At the top of the columns, write critic, rebel and champion.
Try hard to note down any messages you are getting about the situation. For example, the critic will always use “shoulds” and “musts”. In the case of a relationship….”You should be trying to work things out”…”You should stay in this relationship…you will never get anyone better”. The rebel will chime in…” Go shopping…take that drink, holiday…run away…avoid all this”
In the third column, you will now have a chance to bring in some realistic, logical thinking where you can ask yourself some basic questions. In terms of relationships : “Are my needs being met” ” Can I say that there is trust, honesty and respect in my relationship? ” “Am I giving more than I am receiving?”. In terms of being stuck…” What is in my control to influence?” ” Am I focussing on things out of my control?” “Am I ruminating?” ” What do I need to move functionally forward?” ” What is holding me back?”. This is usually the hardest part as we have to face things that mean effort. We also have to resist the voices of instant gratification. This stage is best done in therapy.
Once we see the value of the information gleaned in Stage 4, we can then consider an action plan. There are some simple models to facilitate this:
Look at the situation in terms of ABC…..A equates to where am I now? C is where do I want to be ? B is what do I need to get there and what is holding me back
Look at a cost/benefit analysis. What this really means is assessing the consequences of staying in the present situation compared to the costs and benefits of changing.
I am not trying to say here that this is an easy process. It often takes a good mount of time before these insights are felt. Many people are very resistant to the realisation that change is possible. Codependents especially are often focussed on fixing and not being alone to avoid feelings of abandonment. In this case, it is very difficult for them to see that the path of change is functional or indeed possible. However, in my experience, once this road is started upon, it can lead to a much more functional and realistic situation.