If we can change one thing about us, what will it be?
Would it be our appearance, personality, ability, physical health, mental wellness, emotional well-being, family, relationship, finance, career, education or environment?
Sadly, each one of us is always unhappy with ourselves in one way or another. It is our human nature to always look for something better and better, from time to time.
While there may be nothing wrong with wanting a better Quality of Life, the key question to ask is, when is enough is enough?
Making Peace with Myself
Sometimes, in the pursuit of a better Quality of Life, and at one’s height of career success and financial independence, people may turn to substance abuse to cope with their stress and past traumas.
Let’s take the example of an ex-client of mine.
Ms C (name changed for client confidentiality) was a young and successful finance executive in the Financial Services Industry. Some would even call her a high-flyer who is not even at her peak of success yet, especially when she still had a promising career ahead of her.
Yet, her personal life was the opposite of her career success. She was living alone, estranged from her family, while in a toxic romantic relationship for many years. Unfortunately, she took to substance abuse as a coping mechanism to life stressors in an attempt to escape from her struggles and sufferings.
Due to her substance abuse, she had to resign from her promising job with her then employer because of her dysfunctional lifestyle, caused by her serious addiction issues.
After three years of unemployment and continued substance abuse, with her savings depleting, she decided to take the first step to recovery. Ms C sought professional therapy from the Counselling Centre that I was with. And I was assigned to be her therapist.
Ms C and I spent some time and energy together processing various dimensions of her life milestones, such as her childhood, family, growing years, education, relationships and employment. It was not an easy process for her as she had to be aware of and recognise how some of the unfavourable elements and incidents in life had shaped and moulded her into what she was.
Even so, an insightful moment came about during one important session. After some memory processing works were conducted on her and some deep contemplation in her, she uttered to me: “I want to accept myself first.”
Let It Go vs Let It Be
To me, there are five basic directions for a therapist to guide a client with challenges. I call this my "5Rs" Model: Reflect, Reduce, Resolve, Remove and Recognise.
Here’s how it helped Ms C.
As Ms C was suffering deeply, it was crucial for me to empathise and support her in a non-judgemental disposition. This also laid the foundation of a strong therapeutic alliance between us.
During the process, the acknowledgement and validation rendered to her were a form of reflection for her to see her situation clearer. Just being heard, understood and affirmed were effective relief for Ms C to process her grief and loss of the past few years.
The immediate goal was to facilitate Ms C to stop self-harm.
This was not only in terms of the substance abuse in frequency, duration, intensity and severity, but her victim-mentality of self-blaming, self-criticism and self-judging as well.
Leading Ms C to review her unfulfilling relationship with her life partner was another important goal.
After much evaluation and introspection, she decided to start her life without this toxic relationship anymore.
Ms C was guided to examine and analyse her career direction, re-employability and stop living on her dwindling savings.
For this direction, we were also looking at the various preventive measures for Ms C to return to substance abuse.
This is the hardest direction to move forward for, as it is a long mental process.
What’s important to know about "recognise", as an acceptance, is this. Don’t “Let It Go” because this stance implies that we still have some
· sense of control over it
· ability in making decisions on it
· power on how much to let go
· capacity on when to release it
“Let It Be”, on the other hand, demands for
· a complete surrender to it
· not posing any questions to it anymore
· a state of no negative emotions and feelings to be stirred up by it totally
· reckoning that no efforts are needed to change it further
Yes, it sounds scary, demoralising and even defeatist!
Here’s the thing. If we do not take this disposition of a full recognition, in acceptance to some irreversible and unamendable misfortunes that had happened to us, what else could we do about them? These mishaps in life could be a traumatic incident, a sudden death, a forced separation, a terminal illness, a deliberate humiliation, a deep hurt, a wrongful decision, etc.
I must stress that “Let It Be” is not an excuse for some self-indulgence that harm ourselves and others. Instead, we sometimes should just accept things “As It Is”, wisely.
Back to Ms C, the traumas that happened in her childhood and family of origin are some unfortunate events that were unalterable and impacted her greatly and negatively. It took a lot for Ms C to perceive such adversities in a new interpretation, and finally forgive those people involved. Most importantly, she had ultimately forgiven herself fully as well, and moved on with her own life.
I am happy to be informed that Ms C has returned to the Financial Services Industry and leading a substance-free life, not long after the full therapy service was over.
The first step toward change is awareness.
The second step is acceptance.
Dr. Nathaniel Branden
Note: As this article is mainly catered to general members of the public, the case conceptualisation, intervention formulation, discussion and terminologies used are deliberately simplified and presented for an easy reading, comprehension and relevancy.
This article is written based on Krish Phua's greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore "Inside Mind Insights" for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.
Other articles of Krish Phua:
Sow a Seed - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/sow-a-seed
Last Man Standing - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/last-man-standing
In or Out - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/in-or-out