At the start of a new year, tradition has it that we make resolutions about how we want to change, improve ourselves and live better. When you reflect on your resolutions over the past years, have your promises to yourself been maintained? Or, as is the case for many, are the resolutions short lived and merely an attempt to change the surface behavior as opposed to digging deeper?
Changing behavior is something that can be superficial and short lived, or something that takes place on a deeper more permanent level. When we look at old wounds whether they be large or small, yet are unresolved, we can find the roots of negative beliefs or perspectives that shape our reactions to the world around us. Sometimes just gaining awareness of the impact of those events opens up a whole new world in which to grow.
Take for example someone whose parents divorced when they were 6 years old. If the parents did not handle it well, or were preoccupied with themselves during that time, the child may have felt at the time that it was their fault. The child may internalize a feeling of not being good enough. Fast forward to adulthood and that same child, now an adult, may be struggling with relationships, feeling that they are undeserving of being treated well. Not realizing the root of this, they may continue in the vicious cycle of bad feelings and unsatisfying relationships.
A remarkable therapy, called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help to transform maladaptive beliefs stemming from old wounds into adaptive healthy beliefs. This in turn leads to healthy choices, behavior and wellbeing. EMDR therapy builds on our brain’s intrinsic ability to heal from trauma. Changes on this level are deep and lasting, as opposed to superficial and fleeting.
If counseling is not in the budget right now, consider looking at your challenges in life and which ones elicit a viscerally unsettled feeling. Our bodies hold the trauma in ways that our cognitive minds do not. By listening to your gut, you may find the root of some of the behaviors you want to change. Ask yourself what negative beliefs about yourself do you hold when thinking about that trauma. Do you see a pattern that has developed as a result? What would you prefer to believe about yourself? Although these steps are not a replacement for good counseling and EMDR therapy, they can provide you with some insight and a launching place for change. Recognizing our deficits as just aspects of the journey of life is important as well. While we live, we are never at our destination, but are merely on the path of understanding. Acceptance, objective mindfulness and curiosity can allow us to view ourselves and others with more love and compassion, furthering the ease with which we change and grow.
Here’s to embracing the process of bettering ourselves and setting aside punitive thoughts of not being worthwhile, loveable and perfectly dynamic just as we are. We are each in a place right at this very moment that will guide us in the future. Understanding how we got here is just as important as learning how to move forward and is, in fact, a catalyst for that. Enjoy the journey!