Ten yours ago, I began this journey working with clients to help relieve their emotional pain. Some individuals experienced pain triggered by a specific event such as the loss of someone dear to them. Others walked in the world with a fear that a threat is just around the corner and they need to be vigilant in protecting themselves. Still others looked at their experiences and judged that life has little meaning. Some of my patients have experienced severe struggles that seemed to have taken over their minds – hearing voices, extreme mood swings, deep depression that drive them to thoughts of suicide. Through the diverse struggles of my clients and commonly observing very different paths to healing, I have noticed that some simple things have made a real difference in the quality of their lives and speed of recovery. If I could wave a magic wand and empower my clients toward recovery, these are the simple things I would wish for them.
I wish for my clients to have more self-compassion. Self-compassion means to accept, love, and forgive ourselves as we would others. To accept that we are human and fallible. To love ourselves – our bodies, our quirkiness, our ins and outs, how we are different from others. Loving ourselves also means taking care of ourselves by taking breaks when we are exhausted, enjoying pleasures simply because they make us happy. Self-compassion also includes forgiveness. Just as we might forgive a friend or family member, we forgive ourselves for mistakes, bad decision, things we’ve done that we cannot change.
I wish for my clients to have greater awareness and clarity on boundaries with other people and demands in their lives. Having healthy boundaries means knowing where to draw the line of how much to give of ourselves and stop when giving reaches a point where it hurts us. Consider how much to do for a friend or family member without exhausting our own emotional resources. Healthy boundaries also mean not letting others hurt us. Not letting an employer underpay us for long hours and difficult work. Not letting a parent, friend, or co-worker treat us unkindly. Healthy boundaries enable us to have relationships with people and be a part of organizations and groups while also recognizing our needs. Asserting our boundaries enables everyone to benefit rather than one party benefiting at the cost of the other.
Having authentic connections to others bring meaning, positive regard, and mutual caring to our lives. An authentic connection isn’t a tweet or comment on social media, but rather focused time together. For some, that authentic connection may be with a few close friends. For others, it may be a beloved pet. Yet, for others it may be a group of long-time friends from college that get together every few years.
Lastly, I wish for people to find it in themselves to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that something hurtful that happened is okay. It also does not mean having to have someone who is toxic in our lives. However, forgiveness does mean letting go of the anger and hurt that resurface when we continue to hold onto the hurt feelings. Forgiveness frees us up to live fuller lives because we choose to no longer allow a painful experience to sit in our hearts. Instead, we focus our energies on building positive and loving experiences with others.
Doing these things would put most people on the road to recovery. In fact, much of my work with clients is focused on helping them make these simple changes in their lives. What would you add to this list?