Whether I’m dealing with ordinary life transitions, difficult relationships, pain, injustice impacting my family, unexpected opportunities, or the need to change, I may cope by slipping back into the patterns of a younger me. The problem with blocking out the pain is that it numbs my ability to notice the world around me, as well as the world within. Nature’s deep colors and complicated textures are invisible to eyes focused on a dirty sidewalk. Distinctive tunes sung by multiple birds sound muted to ears listening to the monotone voice of hopelessness. My dog’s greeting at the door, a friend’s musical laughter, and rhythms and words of favorite songs all fade under the barrage of pain or frustration. The very world within me shrinks and dims, unless I take the time to notice.
A friend of mine once wrote a poem called LISTEN. “Listen to me!” is commonly heard in any household, whether family or roommates. Bosses and customers, spouses and parents all expect to be heard, to be noticed, every bit as much as do children. If I am to avoid being overwhelmed by trauma from my past, changes in my workplace, the expectations of family, or any other call to change intersecting my life, I must take the time to notice, not only these challenges, but also their impact on my life. Which emotions are triggered? Where in my body do I feel them? What thoughts are prompted? When do they affect my motivation to take responsibility — or make decisions? How do they impact my beliefs, my values?
Such intentional reflection requires some people to remove themselves to a silent room, others to run a trail, wander through the trees, journal, or talk with a friend. I have found working with a counselor to be especially helpful when the challenges or issues became intense or complex. Whether I’m facing change or conflict or illness, I know I need to commit space in each day for the noticing that is mandatory for my personal peace, perspective, and wholeness. And you?
~ Karen Bridges MAC, LPCC