6 Steps to Self Counsel

When we experience challenging times, conflicts or issues - we all respond in different ways. Maybe we ruminate; play out imagined scenarios, think of what we could have done differently. Maybe we sink into bad form; befriending blame and anger and projecting our struggle outward. Maybe we respond with grace; employing a balanced resolve to overcome and help ourselves in the situation. 

Becoming more self aware allows us to identify which method we revert to. Becoming self honest enables us to evaluate how helpful it may be. But the most important is to establish self motivation - to do something about it.

The fact is we all have our own answers. We know. We've heard the advice, read the quotes and could probably tell anyone else exactly what to do in our situation. But turned inward, it somehow seems different. It's harder or the circumstances are more unique or there's other factors at fault. We might even use our knowledge to beat ourselves up about how we're not applying any of the information, not using the tools we have to hand.

Life will challenge us and things won't go right. We'll act in ways we wish we didn't and others will likely do the same. It's not going to be perfect. We're not going to feel amazing all the time. And it would be a wasted energy to fight that fact. Instead, it's worth learning how to deal with what we're given, regardless how it's presented, and use our own skills to rise up against it.

I can only speak about this because I've personal experience of it. Having attended counselling in the past, I understand the continued usefulness of that facility to work through things - the exchange of questions and answers, the exposition of problems and solutions. So of course, in the face of any challenges now, that's who I need to be for myself. When I'm finding things tricky, it's my job to find solutions and offer the compassion, support and motivation to myself to implement those solutions. That's how I can find my way out.

It's a practice. A process that asks us to show up and thrash it out and act in a way that will improve our situation. It means challenging our discomfort, getting very real and speaking truth to any bullshit strategies we're creating to keep ourselves stuck. We need to be that trusted but trying therapist that gets the best out of us, that sees through the lens of compassion and objectivity, the incredible potential that lies beyond our perception of problems.

And sometimes we won't want to go. Sometimes we might delay on the actions. But always, the options are there and it's up to us to show up and hear what our intuitive truth and impartial wisdom have to say.

Here's 6 things I've found to be helpful in giving my own counsel:

1. Understand

Noticing our behaviours and what we're doing isn't always as easy as we think. A lot of our reactions can be automatic or even just feel quite justified at the time. Awareness means observing without judgement and realising what it is that we're doing and what motivates us to do it. To understand our patterns, we must pay attention and observe the steps that leads us to certain paths. In order to understand, we need to be understanding - to accept the choices made and the thought processes that fuelled them, in an objective manner. Awakening to our patterns of reaction, the birthplace of certain emotions and the reasons for our responses, provides us with a wealth of knowledge about ourselves. Take it all as information and establish what is going on and what can be done about it. 

2. Honesty

Self honesty is crucial in making any personal change. We can't fool ourselves, try as we might. If we want to make changes, we've got to be honest and accountable for our actions. Self honesty can be very uncomfortable and vulnerable but it is incredibly worthwhile and of huge value to our growth. When we are honest with ourselves we enable deeper understanding and a unique catalyst  for growth. We don't criticise ourselves but gain a profound appreciation for how we work. We enjoy improved clarity, self knowledge and an enlightened chance for change. I know personally, that I've an annoying capacity for convincing myself of things, disguising a strong argument as 'truth'. Embracing the opportunity to recognise this strategy, my counsel involves dissecting the honesty from the tall tale. Self honesty tells me to catch the convincing before it starts spinning its story, it encourages me to identify if I'm acting out of love or fear, it alerts me to unhelpful patterns and the motives behind them.

3. Compassion

The unfortunate tendency when we realise truly how we're acting may be to be disappointed or critical or harsh on ourselves - these inclinations however, are not members of the counselling team. Self honesty without compassion can quickly become self deprecation and that is absolutely not part of the process. We need to be the kind and caring counsellors we would be to others. Be genuinely kind, acknowledge your humanity and how wonderful it is that you want to change. Embrace your self awareness and celebrate the opportunity for learning and growth that you get to have. Be the kind of counsellor you would wish to return to; one that is approachable, supportive and nurturing to your journey.

4. Forgiveness

Coupled with compassion, we need to forgive ourselves. What we might have said or done, what we wished hadn't happened, what could have been but wasn't - this all lives in the past. Forgive the you that didn't do everything right. Forgive the you that acted automatically. Forgive the you that knew better but didn't do better. It's okay. We won't get it right all the time. But we cannot punish ourselves for this. Forgiveness is freeing. Let yourself be freed.

5. Simplicity

Justification can lead to us over intellectualising what has happened. When a bad mood takes hold (or in reality we feel guilty or hard done by or bad about ourselves) it can be a natural response to try to make sense of it, we want to feel like there's a bigger reason or more to the narrative. 

Realistically I think this is one of the most important learnings - stop making it complicated. It is what it is. Simplicity is so essential to peace within ourselves. I don't think we credit it enough with how much of an impact it can have. Simple does not equate easy, contrary to what we might think. But it does equate mental space and freedom and energy.

The simple lessons are the ones that will get us out of the biggest holes. The things we have learned time and time again, these keep coming back up for a reason. We need to respect and listen to simplicity. You know what to do, you know what is right - let go of the fight to make it into something more than it is. Often the simplicity of letting go or moving on will be the most significant and empowering moves we can make in progressing forward.

6. Hardship

On the flipside of simplicity is our relationship with hardship - the 'poor me', the victim, the owner of resentment and comparison and the litany of other things that keep us feeling miserable, less and not enough. We may not even realise how much we are valuing or holding on to hardship (until that self honesty kicks in) but it can be one that is very much deep seated within. Relishing in our difficulties and struggles and how tough life is, how hard we have it, how others have it better - these will keep us confined in the chains of immovable inertia. Let it go. Hardship is heavy - let your life be light. Anytime you begin to compare or feel sorry for yourself or become resentful - look for something to be grateful for, look at your own value, worth and qualities, remember what's important. Counsel yourself out of the hole of hardship. It is not part of any progressive process.

***

When you are in need of counselling, I'm by no means suggesting that these ideas will in any way replace that. But my hope is that they will offer supplementary support in between or simply reminders for our daily life. They function more to enhance our own self guidance, our trust in our own knowledge and our ability to begin to use it. They are to inspire action now. We don't have to wait to be told the answers or to be given the solutions - we have them within. We just need to give ourselves access. We need to be there for ourselves and guide our minds to what we need to do. It's a navigation away from the unhelpful paths we keep turning to and instead a redirection to cultivating patterns that will be of true benefit.


You know that you know what to do. Now, let yourself do it.


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