For many years I spent my time managing and controlling my outside circumstances (and, honestly, still work with this!). My belief I could find safety through control was a purely unconscious drive. All I knew was that the world felt overwhelming to me, and that I was restless and irritable. I would make the connection that when I was in a certain situation or with a particular person I felt anxious, so I tried my best to stay out of or control those situations or people. I rarely thought that my real problems were my internal reactions and unacknowledged fears, which drove me and dictated my life.
I knew that if I was in a different situation, with different people, or had more control over myself then I would be ok. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I could never get people, circumstances, or my internal life under control. What I’m left with is myself: My fears, anger, vulnerabilities, waves of emotions, uncertainty, body sensations, thoughts, and memories. I don't mind being left alone with feelings I enjoy, it's all those yucky ones I want to get away from.
Much of the beginning of my healing journey was about fulfilling the fantasy that I could get rid of those objectionable states of mind and body. That I could somehow find the smooth flow of life and the universe, or god, would gift me with pleasing circumstances and people. In a powerful throwback from my religious upbringing “God would give me ___________, if I was good.” It hasn't worked out that way.
In all my striving for perfection of my internal and external reality I haven't found it. This has pissed me off more than once. I don't want life to be about acceptance, patience, and imperfection. But so far the basic truth I keep coming back to is I have very little control over my emotions, body sensations, or life, but I do have some say over how I respond to them. And it's best to grow in those qualities that enhance my ability to settle in and remain connected to myself on this wild turbulent ride so I can respond rather than react. Through this, at times herculean effort, what has happened is that I have continued to live, no small feat for some of us, and continued to lose fear of internal experiences.
Staying connected to myself and settling in to my body is indispensable. I can only lose fear of myself when I am present with myself. If I'm checked out then my feelings, body sensations, thoughts, and perception of reality are unknown scary things. And ultimately all my controlling internally and externally is about mitigating fear of my own experience.
Basically you gotta show up to what happens to metabolize life, grow in resilience, and ultimately experience some internal peace. And somehow through this process your external world becomes more peaceful too. It's not because you're being good and getting rewarded, but because in real time you're contributing to understanding, patience, and love, which has an immediate impact. I'm always amazed how people who have annoyed or enraged me seem so much more lovable or enjoyable to be around when I keep the focus on myself. When I can allow what surges through me space and acceptance I learn how to respond from a non-judgmental place of myself and them. It's like I don't have to meddle with reality to manage my internal states and everything goes a lot better.
What has helped on this long, and messy, journey is prayer and meditation, therapy, 12-step programs, community, curiosity, and passion. Passion for growth and change, passion for fun and pleasure. And a passion to know my truth in any given situation, which when I’m in reaction more often than not is “I’m scared/angry/hurting, I don’t know what to do, and I really want this to stop.” Then waiting till the storm rolls through, reaching out for help in the midst of it, and not making any major decisions till it all settles down. Give it a try! See what happens; only your own experience can guide you and you can trust that!
Karolina Walsh Psychotherapy
Providing psychotherapy, counseling, and support for grief, addictions, trauma, PTSD, relationship issues, and GLBTQIA.
“Karolina walks her talk, her ability to meet another in their capacities is sensational because she has done her own work” -Diane Israel
"An effective therapist needs to do at least two things: be compassionate and provide constructive feedback that actually changes the way people experience the world. I see many therapists who can do one or the other. I routinely watch Karolina do both..." -Patrick Weeg