Whilst I spend A LOT of my week researching and writing as part of my PhD, I am becoming super aware of how important it is for me to create the time and space for other things in my life…not easy! One of the things I learned during my Master’s degree is that although I had to spend lots of time reading textbooks and journal articles I absolutely had to continue reading novels before I went to bed because otherwise I would just have a whole bunch of science going around and around in my brain at night – not helpful for a good night’s sleep!! So, I’ve definitely continued that habit and have even set myself a novel-reading goal for the year to keep me accountable (to myself).
I’ve also redirected my attention to podcasts that I used to listen to but had forgotten about, which this last week or so has included ‘The Imperfects’ by Hugh van Cuylenburg, his brother Josh, and Ryan Shelton. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, I STRONGLY recommend you get on it because it’s a beautiful space to explore all sorts of facets of mental health but from a super relatable space. Listening to an episode this week inspired me to reconsider a whole bunch of things – it was like one little comment sparked a whole series of curiosities, reflections and opened up some new possibilities in my really boring day – to – day functioning.
And that’s what got me thinking about the importance of having opportunities in our lives that show us what it is to have novel possibilities, particularly if we’re trying to work through a particularly challenging time for our mental health. When we have experienced trauma, or we are so stuck in a depressive episode that it feels like it will never end, it is absolutely vital that during our recovery phase that we have the chance to experience glimpses of the possibility that it might not always be the way that it is now. It can’t just be about talking about our pain over and over and hope that it might just go away if we can just be heard differently.
Now don’t get me wrong, having a compassionate and empathic listener is SUPER important, as is having a safe place and person to share our deepest hurts with. However, we need to be able to experience moments of something different in order to believe that there is an end to the pain, and to feel motivated to keep going with whatever it is that we’re working on. In therapy that might look like working through a visualisation exercise or a somatic practice that for just a few minutes gives us an experience of another way of feeling or being. It might also provide an exceptional space for our nervous system to get regulated and have a break.
One of the things that clients often say in response to these experiences of possibility is something along the lines of ‘but it’s not something I can experience all the time’, or ‘what’s the point if it only lasts while I’m in the room with you…all of my problems are still there’. What I explain gently at this point is that firstly, having opportunities to downregulate our nervous system is always a good thing because the more often we get used to feeling settled in our body the better able we are to do all the other practical things that make daily functioning better and easier. And secondly, for many people who have experienced trauma in their lives, it’s almost vital to experience possibilities of alternative ways of thinking and feeling in this very gentle, managed, and titrated way because it just wouldn’t feel safe otherwise. Lastly, possibilities give us hope, and hope is something we all need for recovery.
If you’d like to explore some new possibilities in session with a member of our team, please reach out to us at Thea Baker Wellbeing: firstname.lastname@example.org / 03 9077 8194.