People often tell me of their confusion – and sometimes despair – in working out their feeling states and ‘sense of self’. When we under great stress, it can be easy to lose a confidence in the world and have any clarity of thought or conviction. It may even be that we are caught up in a powerful relationship with someone who has taken over our thinking – I saw the film Big Eyes last night which offered up a vivid and extreme example of this with the abusive relationship between Walter and Margaret Keane. At times like this, life can feel overwhelming and decision-making nearly impossible – how you can we decide anything when we can’t trust ourselves?
When I hear stories like this, it tells me of a dire need to forget about any decision-making and to focus all energies on self-care. Learning to trust oneself and build up confidence in our own wants and desires may take practice and time, but also involves setting an intention to do so. Just as you may go and visit a friend in distress, carving time to hear them and understand their own confusion – the same applies to ourselves. I talk about “pressing the pause button” – a difficult thing to do when we are wired to react and respond quickly – but it may allow a valuable space to connect with our feelings, and then address them as we would to a friend – with compassion.
Building ourselves ‘up’ to a stronger sense of confidence in the world demands a level of attention that we would often give others without thought but is often the gift of a therapy space and what makes it different from other conversations.