Counselling session 4: Security and Justification
Now I am moving towards what I really need from my sessions.
Learning to let things go.
As usual all- the below is my interpretation of a counselling session I had- I am likely hearing and writing what I wanted to remember. In no way am I a counsellor or mental health expert. If you find any of what I say relatable or something positive to work with then that is awesome- but if you are struggling with your own mental health then seek professional advice or relay to family and friends. Enjoy my session!
Biography of a nobody day 43. February 12th 2021.
I actually woke up to my counsellors call this morning- not a great start. I asked for five minutes to make a brew and get dressed, so he did, and I did.
Covering the week just gone.
The session then started, as usual, asking about my week. I confirmed that it had mostly been really good. I had one afternoon where I entered disconnection but thanks to these sessions and me relaying to Bee what to look for- she got me mobilised and I climbed out of that pit by the next morning. That in itself is a massive achievement- normally even if disconnection only effects me for a day, it knocks me off my routine for the rest of the week. This time it didn't. This conversation took around five minutes and my counsellor confirmed that this was excellent progress. We then moved on to my past again...
In what ways do we seek security?
Apparently, there are many ways of seeking security. Your relationships, your friendships even your career can be based around this need- it seems in part mine definitely has been. My counsellor has determined over the past few weeks that I am likely the friend people call when they need help- and this is actually the case. I have prided myself on the fact that I will drop pretty much anything to go help a loved one in need with whatever they need. I have repaired roofs, help console after death or break up, repaired cars, built fences, encouraged and pushed to successful job roles or helped with auditions and interview techniques. Obviously, this is standard good friend stuff- but it is the frequency that these things get requested and how often I oblige regardless of if I actually have the time. Generous to a fault my Mum calls it- because I help even to my own detriment.
This all sounds fantastic until my counsellor broke it down. I do these things because I seek security.
I seek security by being needed- If someone needs me then they won't abandon me. We feel our most secure when we are needed.
This doesn't mean I have in the back of my mind consistent worry that if I don't bow to my family and friends every request they will never talk to me again. This relates exclusively to when I really don't have the time, energy or mental capacity to help someone but I do anyway. Helping to my own detriment. An inner worry that if I don't help with this thing, whatever it is, I am a bad friend, a bad person or I am not worth keeping around. Like I said- this isn't every time- there are many many times when I would seek to help with something because it is also something I really enjoy.
How can this be a bad thing?
As above- In seeking to feel wanted subconsciously, that inner need to be needed, I sometimes look past what I need. This is a normal thing to do for people you care about- absolutely normal- but it depends on how often and how long for. You also need someone else doing the same back for you or you burn out eventually. This is what happened to me during my marriage.
My friends and family all give back as much as I put in and more. That is not why you help people, but it feels good- that isn't you taking on others burdens- that is sharing the burden. You share theirs, and they share yours. My family and friends have rallied around me numerous times when I have really needed them, even without me asking. After my divorce, during my custody battle and now with my depression just as a few small examples.
During my marriage, however, this was not happening. I was putting in all my time and energy to make sure my ex-wife felt as great as she could, that she was loved, that she had all she wanted and needed. I helped share her burdens... But over time she stopped sharing mine. Eventually, that weight got too great and I ended our marriage. We spent over a year working on fixing something I had recognised was broken- but she did not engage with it.
This also needs context- If someone you know has just gone through a major life-shaking event- like the loss of a loved one, severe illness, assault, etc- then you are going to be giving help a lot more than receiving with that individual, possibly for a long time. That is also normal. You do need to make sure you take time for yourself though. You can't properly help someone if you are struggling yourself.
None of that reflects the relationship as a whole. I do not regret my marriage, or the many wonderful and amazing things we did together. We saw the world together, we had massive ups and massive downs and she was my first true love. I also have my incredible, intelligent and beautiful daughter to thank for it. I will never forget it and I choose to remember it positively now for the sake of my daughter so that I can tell her and show her she was born out of love.
That took a long time to do, to remember my marriage in a positive light, but that can be talked about another day. After this session though, I understood how I had managed to do this.
How to recognise it going from good to bad?
I was then told I need to teach myself how to not go too far. Recognising when I am helping because I want to and can- and starting to understand when I can't and I need to say that I can't help.
The above is so easy for me to type, but I have found it so so so hard to recognise. I love helping people, it is one of the reasons I am now a lecturer, but trying to understand when I should learn to not help? This is a big part of what took me to depression in the first place, amongst many other big life events, but taking on too much of other peoples problems when I have my own. That is an issue. I suppose it learning that you won't all of a sudden be hated if you can't help someone with something. Maybe it is just me, but I worry that if I cant help- they won't bother asking me next time... But I love helping. Maybe it is some ridiculous fear of missing out inside me. Maybe I am subconsciously worried about abandonment?
I always saw myself as having a sort of impregnable emotional armour. Other people could tell me their problems and they just washed off me. I would help as best as I could and sleep soundly because I knew I couldn't do any more. This was absolutely fine until I needed help. I then failed to recognise this in myself and so tried to do the same with my own issues that I had done with others. I tried to let it just wash away, slide off my back. Your own issues have a nasty habit of following you around though. Once my own issues cracked my 'impregnable armour' other peoples issues didn't slide off me. I felt pain like never before, I felt broken like never before. Then helping others became painful too, something I had enjoyed for so long. Then if I wasn't needed to help... maybe they don't need me, maybe I will be abandoned. What was healthy assistance to others became a burden for me. Needless worry.
I think listening to my own behaviour will stop me from worrying about others. I know if I call a friend with an issue and they can't help me solve it- I think no less of them at all. Surely then this is the same back? Why do I get so worried then? Ridiculous.
Learning to reflect on your own reactions...
You need to first understand that you cannot control others behaviours- but you can control your own. Letting go of trying to understand someone else is really important. Whether in times of need or times of anger and love, they aren't you. Everyone has a breaking point and you can never be 100% sure of where someone else is- but you do know where your own is. If emotions are high and someone else snaps and decides they want to fight you- do you oblige, or walk away? that is your decision. You can control your own behaviour patterns. You couldn't control that they wanted to fight you or what they were saying- but you can control completely how you react. Do you react with anger hoping to receive fear? Do you react with fear hoping to receive sympathy? Do you remove yourself from the situation? I am starting to sound like Yoda here. I will move on.
What it boils down to is learning how you react in times of protest, times of fear, times of anger. Learning to reflect and improve your own responses. Ask yourself:
Why did I react like that?
Am I happy I reacted like that?
Would I do it differently next time?
Can I justify my reaction?
Can I justify it...
This is the most important thing according to my counsellor. We always come back to problems that we struggle to justify. This was the absolute key part of the session for me. It is not about being able to justify anything to anyone else- it is being able to justify it to yourself.
This isn't just after a bad reaction to something. It is just important to check that you can justify to yourself your positive reactions. If you can truthfully (internally to yourself) justify your actions then it is something you are likely to be able to live with. I don't regret how I was during my marriage, I tried as hard as I could to make it work. I also need to relate this back to the earlier points made- you cannot and should not try to justify other peoples reactions. whatever the reason. There are many times where arguments pop into my head or things that have happened to me or things that people have done to me- and I have tried to justify them. I haven't been able to. It now makes sense why- They may be struggling to justify their own reaction during their own internal reflection- How the hell could I?
I can't justify why someone would treat me how I have been treated- but I can justify how I react to it.
Learn your boundaries and let others know.
In summary, we can't justify other peoples reactions or feelings. We can justify our own. We can't help with all the worlds issues if we are overloaded with our own. Learn to recognise when you need help and ask for it. Learn to say no to helping others if you can't justify it internally because you have a lot of other things going on. Or nothing. Up to you.
To help figure out your own boundaries ask these questions:
Why do I protest at this?
Why do I allow this?
Why did I accept that and let it go?
Why do I hold onto that?
If you can recognise those things and look for justification, awesome. I know a lot of things I have held onto, things I have struggled to justify, are because I have struggled to justify others actions. I have been proud of my reactions... now I can start to let them go. I feel like this is something I used to do automatically- when my 'emotional armour was impregnable'- because I never worried about things I couldn't control- I only bothered about if I had done enough to help. Though this time if I get to that stage again- I will ask if I have done as much as I can to help Given my Circumstances.
The rest of my day after my session...
mainly consisted of me trying to process what I had learned. Where and when had my brain started trying to try to justify other peoples actions rather than just my own? It is very illogical to try and do that, I am normally so logical. I think I just accepted that each thing that happened since my divorce- custody battles, selling my house, death of friends, someone assaulting my partner, etc... I stopped being logical about what I can process. It all just became too much. Now I am starting to identify different things that I am holding onto and realising I am trying to justify what other people have done. I can't. So I can start to process them and let them go- especially if I can justify my reactions to them. I am proud to say that regardless of the shitstorm that the last two years have been, I am proud of how I have handled myself. That in itself is a real internal boost.