Not quite at the crossroads

“Those held in highest esteem… are neither the great artists nor the great scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the great sports figures, but those who master a hard lot with their heads held high”. Viktor Frankl

ID-100152029. artur84In his classic book ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ about hope from the Holocaust , Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, describes three phases for those who survived the concentration camps. The first period was the shock of losses and admission to the camps. The second period was the daily life in the concentration camp. The third period was after liberation. Frankl goes on to describe that, rather than love or achievement, people’s main drive in life is having meaning and that he believed those who survived the ‘second phase’ were those who could find meaning in their bleak situation. His own vision and meaning was that he pictured himself after the war helping people find meaning in their lives.

Whilst a divorce is nowhere near the horror of the holocaust, I have found the concept of there being a middle ‘nowhere’ phase as liberating. I have found much divorce advice focuses on getting ‘over’ the loss (phase one – shock) or making changes to your life (phase three – liberation) and there is little help at accepting life in a transition situation; or of making a good life for yourself out of a traumatic situation even while you are still living within that situation. Involved in a lengthy property settlement as I am, it is not only that my life is caught between past and future, I am confronted by the ongoing turmoil of the process itself with little triggers on a nearly daily basis that keep throwing me back into a constant state of trauma and sometimes confrontation.

Focusing on the trauma, unfairness or injustice of the past or the trauma-triggers in my current daily life plunges me into darkness or anxiety. Likewise wishing for my future to come with an ‘I wish this process was over’ attitude sets me up for suffering.

What has helped me most to alleviate my suffering through this process has been instead to focus on:

(1) Creating a vision for my future with a purpose that can give me meaning for my life today. My vision of ‘finding my voice and promote human welfare’ whilst a vision for my future, gives meaning to my current situation. In my future role I will be more able to empathise with others because of where I am today and I see myself in a role alleviating suffering.

(2) Re-framing my transition as steps towards my future; has helped give me meaning to the thankless administrative processes I previously viewed as ‘mud-trudging’.

(3) Understanding and acknowledging my self-worth and significance; has enabled me to appreciate the good in what I am doing right here and now.

(4) Creating a revival identity including conviction to core values has enabled me to reinvent myself right here and now as someone who I can be proud of in my future.

Other techniques that have helped in the more traumatic periods of discomfort have been building foundations of comfort and stability to create certainty in my world of uncertainty, breaking down my list of overwhelming tasks into manageable steps, enlisting help when needed, and making difficult decisions based on core values.

In summary, what has helped me through on a daily basis is acknowledging I cannot force things to happen faster. I cannot bypass the pain of the process. I cannot fast forward to my future. But I can learn to find a place of quiet, not allow myself to get dragged down by the negatives of the situation, and be content with where I am and who I am right here in this present moment. At the same time, I can still hold on to my dreams.

While I am not quite at the crossroads to my new life, I am finding ways of making joy in my present situation, appreciating who I am and what I am capable of, while still working behind the scenes at my dreams for my future, where I want to be for my long-term happiness, and continually striving for a better tomorrow.

 

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You may also want to read:
Lauren Between Fear and Love. Stop, breathe, reframe.
Louise at Dare Boldly, holding onto your dreams. And Dream Big

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Creating my revival identity

 

ID-100129640.africa

When I was swept off course and thrown into a hole, it took every ounce of effort to simply survive. I refused to call myself a victim and instead I became a survivor.

A victim sees something has been done to them beyond their control. Someone else is to blame. The situation is unfair. A victim’s reactions are that of flight, fight or freeze (running away, retaliating, or doing nothing). Although these reactions are normal in the heat of a crisis, there is the danger of the mistreatment becoming part of you and seeing yourself identified with bad treatment, brokenness and weakness. This is victim identity.

As these flight, fight, freeze reactions are accompanied by intensely painful feelings of guilt, anger and fear that I wanted to avoid at all costs; an alternative response that worked for me was survival. In other words I focussed on self-protection. I did not want to see myself as a victim and so I channelled my energies into making sure that I never became one again. I created my survival identity of building up courage, stability and comfort.

Some time ago I read that the term ‘survivor’ is simply another label for ‘victim’. If you identify yourself as a survivor, you are still focussing on the event that happened rather than focussing on how to get out of the hole, heal and recover. Despite my brave stance at seeing myself as a survivor, not a victim, I was still seeing everything through the hurt inflicted upon me and trying to avoid more pain.

Over the past six months, I have been working through a process in a book (see below) which describes breaking away from victim or survivor thinking by creating a healing identity. To create a healing identity, you focus on your strengths, your values, your modes of resilience and a desire to improve your life. By creating a healing identity you overcome victim reactions of blame, retaliation and resentment. Many of the techniques suggested in the book have truly worked for me and especially looking beneath my pain to my unmet needs and striving to find new ways of fulfilling them.

One of the lingering aspects hard to overcome has been my survival comforts that I have used to ground me and protect me from further hurt. When I try to break out of my comfort zone I often go into panic zone and retreat.

Recently I read a blog-post by Ian from Leading Essentially that described how the two zones of comfort and panic can lock you out of expanding your horizons. He described one technique to break free from this mentality is to develop an understanding of your unique capabilities that you may draw on when you get out of your comfort zone. I took that to mean strengths and attributes that have aided me in past achievements, or resilience factors in weathering past adversities. In other words I could venture out from my comfort zone knowing that I had those attributes to fall back on, if needed. I decided to work on this by really thinking about my strengths and my resilience attitudes.

I see this as creating my revival identity as a bridge between surviving and thriving, whilst still in the process of some healing. Here are some attributes of my revival identity –

My education and life experiences provide a stable base for future achievements.
My thirst for knowledge and learning will give me the courage to improve and grow.
I am creative and inventive.
I can draw on my analytical and problem solving skills to get me through any challenge.
I will live by my core values of courage, fairness and kindness.
I will act only for protection, connection, contribution, and appreciation.
I have a new purpose to find my voice and promote human welfare.

While focussing on creating my revival identity, getting ready for my new life, some remarkable things happened.

I stopped thinking about the hole I was supposedly in.
I stopped thinking about being wronged.
I stopped thinking about the pain I was suffering.
The pain stopped.

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You may want to read ‘Living & Loving after Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity and Chronic Resentment’ by Steven Stosny

Contribution and finding my new bike

 

ID-100176056.nongpimmyPersonal roles

Having spent 37 years pouring my heart and soul into being the very best wife and mother that I could possibly be, my purpose in life seemed to end with the ending of my marriage. This happened at a time when my younger two children were spreading their wings. My main two roles in life and the driving forces of my being were suddenly gone.

Work roles

With my world crumbling at my feet, I found that getting up every day for work gave me a sense of purpose. Having meaningful work to do everyday helped sustain my sanity the first year after separation. It also provided me with my sense of normality, as a link to my previous world, and the comfort of a regular routine.

About a year ago I had an epiphany. I realised in that instant the real meaning behind my work had been to provide for my family and that was gone. I resolved that I would change the direction of my life. The drawback to that decision was that it would take some time to logistically change directions and for a while it became a plodding painful process to keep getting up to go into work as my work no longer held meaning for me.

That turned around when I re-framed this current period as my ‘transition to my new life’ and set myself some goals for my transition. One of my transition goals became ‘dignified management of our business’ while-ever it was retained. In that change of focus my daily work shifted sharply from being something that provided me with comfort and stability to one that provided me with an avenue of contribution. Without realising it at the time, my own needs had moved up from the self-focussed ‘I need protection and comfort’ to ‘I need to contribute and give back to society’. In the period since, I have channelled my days at work into being a fair, kind and balanced leader. In return I have received a feeling of accomplishment and contribution.

Community roles

Prior to my marriage ending I had been active in the community by voluntary involvement in an environment group. In my distraught state after my husband left me, I resigned from the group and not not returned. During my cocooning period of reflection when reviewing my beliefs, my mind drew a blank when I reached world affairs I had previously been vocal about. I became concerned my underlying beliefs had disintegrated and I was apathetic and uncaring. I now understand that in my state of crisis, I had to focus on my own survival as a priority. I had to heal myself before I could again begin to help other people.

About a year ago, I found that I had begun again to read articles about national and world issues. It was a defining moment for me. Gradually that moved to reading books, exploring websites and contributing by making comments on other’s blogs. That gave me a feeling of making a contribution, even in a small way. This has fed a growing strength inside me of my need to ‘give’ shifting slowly away from my basic need to ‘receive’ comforts.

My new role

One of my prime instincts within me is a need to care for others. This need was satisfied in my roles as wife and mother. The hole left for my nurturing instincts by my marriage collapsing was deep and painful. I felt my very purpose in life had disintegrated. Whilst I have since channelled those caring instincts into being the best mother, grand-mother, daughter, sister, friend and leader that I can be; I know that is not enough. I know that I have to move on to helping people less fortunate than myself.

Last post I wrote “With the best of intentions of picking myself up, fixing myself up and getting back on the bike; I have come to realise that it is not me that needs fixing, it is the bike.”

My old bike (my drive) was being the best wife and mother that I could possibly be.

My new drive will be to find my voice and promote human welfare.

That will become my new bike.

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Foundations of comfort – I am significant

 

ID-10045481. digitalartAbout eighteen months ago I was in a phase of playing inspirational songs to make me feel better and my favourite one at the time was ‘I am woman’ by Helen Reddy. I happened to mention it to my accountant who laughed telling me that as I was an intelligent, capable, resourceful woman. Therefore he could not understand why I would need to play inspirational songs to make me feel better.

It is impossible to describe the crushing effect the ending of my marriage had on my self-esteem. Whatever self-respect and self-confidence I had before was completely shattered in a single moment. It was not only that my soul-mate and companion of forty years had chosen someone else over me which crushed my self-worth as a person and who I felt I was. The action of him walking away from our life together made me feel that I did not matter and everything I had ever done for him and with him was of no significance. Everything I had poured my heart and soul into was of no worth. If it was worthwhile, why would he walk away from it?

For two years I had let the message given to me by his actions and words become the voices in my head telling me that I did not matter, telling me that what I did was of no significance. I now know that those negative voices are not my voices and what those voices were saying was not the truth.

This is the truth:

  • I am significant because I have raised four magnificent children who admire and  adore me.
  • I am significant because I am fair and kind; and always show respect, empathetic listening and understanding to others.
  • I am significant because I stand up for my beliefs.
  • I am significant because I have provided employment and valuable services to the community for 35 years.
  • I am significant because I have journeyed my divorce with grace and dignity.
  • I am significant because I have been the one entrusted with taking the property settlement to its conclusion and I have done that with integrity and fairness.
  • I am significant because I have fully embraced aloneness.
  • I am significant and an individual person entitled to my own thoughts, beliefs, feelings and needs.
  • I am significant because I have offered inspiration and support to blogging friends.
  • I am significant because I have helped others through personal issues.
  • I am significant because I encourage others to be their best selves.

To get to this point of really believing that I am significant, I have been fortunate to have had loved ones, friends, blogging followers; and professional advisors who have kept reminding me of how significant I truly am over and over and over again.

Thank you to all who have had a firm belief in me and my abilities and have helped raise me up to this point of feeling immense pride in myself and my significance. In turn you may all feel proud of your own significance in helping this individual turn a corner.

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Foundations of comfort – my need for safety

“The pen is mightier than the sword”
unless your opponent happens to be the one carrying the sword.

 

ID-100220275(1).1shotsA feeling that keeps resurfacing for me is intense fear. Looking underneath my fears I now recognise my unmet needs for emotional safety.

What does emotional safety mean to me?

Feeling safe means the absence of thinking that whatever I love and treasure could be taken away from me in a single moment.

Feeling safe means being assured that whatever happens to me I will survive.

Feeling safe means feeling wanted, loved, accepted, supported, secure and waking up in the morning knowing I deserve happiness.

Feeling safe means being able to act authentically by not having to behave in a way that is not myself in order to avoid emotional dramas or criticism of another person which only makes others see me in a light which is not truly me; and thereby makes me feel guilty for violating my own values and self-respect.

Feeling safe is to be free of terrifying thoughts of fear and hopelessness which in turn causes me to become defensive, withdrawn and irritable.

Feeling safe is to be free of my misguided belief that I must suffer in silence.

Feeling safe means regaining my self-respect and self-confidence.

How will I provide for my own emotional safety?

I will keep myself in good physical fitness by following a healthy diet, exercising, sleeping well and relaxing daily. I will modify my workload by following a manageable routine. I know that being stronger physically will assist in strengthening my emotional safety.

When I become fearful I will create a ‘safe place’ to retreat to, whether that is my home, a place in nature, or being in the safety of the present moment. In that place I will look inside for my caring adult persona to cradle and nurture my frightened inner child and reassure her that I am safe. I will practice unconditional love to myself. Unlike before when I would fight, avoid or numb my feelings of sadness, loneliness or despair; in my safe place I will now feel free to express my feelings and accept them as real. Expressing my feelings when they come lessens their intensity and control over me. Moreover feeling them and reading my unmet needs underneath will enable me to address those needs.

I will assure myself that even though I cannot control situations, I can always control my response, as I have done in the past. I can find a solution to any challenge that comes my way.  I can take pride knowing that I am capable of landing on my feet and making my life a beautiful life, one step at a time. I can stop worrying about things that may happen as I know I will cope if they do.

From my own safe place, I have and will branch out and connect with others. I will spend time with people who love me, make me feel good about myself, have my best interests at heart and allow me to act as my authentic me. I will nurture relationships with people who show unconditional acceptance of who I am with no judgement or criticism and with whom I am able to communicate honestly, express my true feelings and not feel ashamed. I will feel emotionally safe with them.

I will develop relationships with people who I am able to trust and where I am able to trust their own feelings and emotions for me as genuine and real. I will trust that I will not provoke emotional drama just by being me when I am with them or by asserting my own thoughts, opinions and feelings. I will reduce or terminate contact with anyone who intentionally belittles me or is disloyal to me.

I will develop compassionate witnessing for others in their plights and time of need.

I will begin to do spontaneous things out of my safe place as I know that I will survive.

I will build up my foundations of safety to drive off my fears.

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