It is very easy to lose ourselves in this busy, crazy, complicated world. As we grow up we may start to feel more and more disconnected from ourselves. It is understandable. All the experiences we do not know how to define, all the comments, feedback and opinions we are not sure how to take, all the feelings and sensations we experience in our minds and bodies we have no idea how to process. It is very confusing. Moreover, if we are sensitive to other people, we may feel other people’s emotions and be affected by them, therefore enmeshing in other people’s worlds and/or disconnecting from our inner world of feelings, sensations and needs.
This feeling of disconnection from our inner world can lead to fear, loneliness and even depression. It is like we lost our anchor that grounds us in our life.
When people experienced trauma in life, the disconnection (many times referred to as: dissociation) is a significant symptom that needs to be gently worked with in therapy, in a safe environment. If trauma has been part of your life, it is better to seek professional help to try different strategies to manage dissociation, loneliness, depression and other symptoms you may experience before trying any self-help strategies and suggestions.
There are many things that make you: You, the individual with unique subjective experiences and perspectives on life. Here are some things to consider when starting the process of getting to know yourself:
Listen to yourself: Make feelings your friends and guides
Get to know your basic feelings. What are they? When do they appear? How do they feel and where in your body? Ask the feeling how is it trying to help/What message it has for you (i.e. you feel anger, as a strong pressure or burning sensation in your chest, every time after meeting a certain person/environment, as a sign that your boundaries keep getting violated and your needs are not met).
Your feelings and emotions are the anchor in your physical body. They will be your guides about your person (mind and body).
(Note: If you have a condition, your feelings may be dysregulated and may require a different therapeutic approach that needs to be discussed with your therapist.)
Get to know yourself
Like you would do when meeting a new person, or entering into a new relationship: get curious about your own/your person’s desires, values, fears, challenges, life directions, goals, interests, passions etc. Be open minded, be curious. What things in life (people, environments) bring you joy and make you feel alive, and what brings you down, depletes you, overwhelms you? Summarise it to yourself. Use non-judgmental mindset. Many things simply are the way they are, we do not have to change it, just see them for how they are in that moment. See yourself how you are in that moment with utmost compassion: human, imperfect, complex, versatile.
You may also wish to get to know your deeper world of beliefs and ideas you hold about yourself and the world (sometimes known as core beliefs). This is a deeper level of insight that will be best addressed in therapy with mental health professional who can guide you through this process. The consequences of such knowledge may bring deeper understanding of yourself as a person and how these beliefs we hold affect our thoughts, feelings and choices in life.
After doing the work mentioned in previous two steps, another thing to become mindful of. Remember that you are the only person who gets to define yourself now. No longer ‘copy-paste’ of other people’s opinions, thoughts and judgments of us, like we all do growing up, NO MORE! You have the ultimate power to tell yourself how things are according to YOUR understanding, YOUR knowledge of your person, YOUR reflections over situations and YOUR choices. It does not mean that we stop listening to other people’s opinions or advice. We do. We just let it fall near the gate of our awareness, for us to look at, and make the decision what to do with it. We can take the whole thing in if we decide we agree with it and it resonates/helpful. Alternatively, we may only take some bits of the opinion/thoughts/advice of others, or none at all, and just let other people keep their perceptions to themselves. We can also honestly admit that we do not know or understand something about ourselves, situations or life in general, and that is ok.
All that work of getting to know ourselves…well…is work. It actually requires space for mindful reflection and mental work. It can be tiring, and frankly, sometimes overwhelming. Some moments we may feel all caught up again in our own old patterns of thoughts or feelings, or enmeshed in other people’s thoughts, needs and feelings. It is ok. It is expected. Progress is not linear. During these times of confusion, do not try to untangle the knot. Don’t work against the mind when its already overwhelmed. There is no use, you will not win. It may be more helpful to ground yourself in very physical and practical ways such as doing what you can or like in the moment with gentleness and compassion towards your person without insistence on the outcome. Just be there for yourself.
See what can help you with the overwhelm. Some days it is practicing some simple steps to ground and relax the nervous system (put cold pack on your hands or neck, wash face with cold water, listen to soothing or favourite music, movement through exercise/stretch/dance, chewing a gum, putting on a weighted blanket etc. for more suggestions check article: Living with anxiety 2). Other times you may want to just acknowledge how intense the experience in that moment is, and putting one hand on your chest, letting the feeling express itself through tears, cry, moan, scream etc (note: as long as you are not hurting yourself or anyone else, any expression of feeling is good). If these overwhelm moments do not happen too frequently, define them as just unpleasant moments that are part of the journey.
I will be happy to help with this process if you shall require support.
Author: Ilana Gorovoy, B.Arts (Psych), B. Arts (Hons.)(Psychology), MPsych (Couns.)
With a Master’s in Counselling, Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy draws on therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Existential and Strengths-based approaches, Person-Centred and Positive Psychology, to assist her clients to become conscious of their strengths and difficulties, design and reach their goals, live a life of meaning and purpose, and reach their full potential.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy, try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology on (07) 3088 5422.