Friday, 25 October 2013

Is the road map of your life outdated?

When we last met you asked me how can you perceive your needs and listen to yourself .

Let me tell you the story of the road map of life:

"Once upon a time there was a child who at birth had nothing more than his family and a nearly empty road map. This map already had some streets and roads on it with beautiful names such as: "The Feelings Road", "The Needs Avenue","The Courage Street","The 'No' Street" etc. Those roads were on the child's map to help it orient itself in life. Each day of his life the child tried the different roads and remembered which road it should take and which one it should avoid in order to get as much love as possible. Because after oxygen, this little child longed most for love. This is why the lack of love and security were particularly painful to it and the little child avoided it at any price. So the kid learned day after day in which streets it was not allowed to go and which were especially helpful to receive as much love and attention as possible. And so the child changed and redraw it's map and when necessary it put STOP signs in front of some streets or built others to large highways. Those highways had names such as "The Performance Hwy", "Be good Hwy", "Take responsibility Hwy", "It's my fault Hwy" or "Do not disturb Hwy". The blocked streets were for example the "Show Emotions Street": Next to the STOP sign of this street the child wrote a note to itself that it is quite bad to show emotions such as sadness, pain, fear or anger. Besides the STOP sign of the "Needs Street" the child noted that the needs of others are more important than its own and that it is his fault if it overwhelmed his beloved ones with its needs. Next to the blocked "Say 'No' Street" the child put a note to itself that it must always be there for others and so on. Day after day the child went about his life and corrected the road map of his life until it eventually became satisfied with it. With this final version of the map the child could gain as much recognition and attention as possible and avoid punishment or the painful lack of love. Once the child decided that the map is correct it never reviewed it again. This map showed it not only the safest paths in life, but also taught the child that if it doesn't perform or achieve at its best it has no particular human value, that it must not show any emotions and weaknesses and that his needs are unimportant. It further though it that entirely depends on the affection and approval of others to fulfill his need for love and well-being. So the child grew up, met others, founded its own family and lived on and in all time it followed that road map."

We are quiet for few minutes. At last you whisper: " My map has many blocked roads as well" your eyes fill with tears "I 'm afraid to remove the STOP signs."

" I can fully understand that" I say "Do you want to redraw this map?" I ask after a short break.

"Is that even possible?" you look at me in disbelief  "I've been traveling for so long with this map. I am afraid I won't be able to correct's too late."

"Do you want to redraw the map? " I ask again.

" And what if I remove the obstructions and become vulnerable again?" you persist .

"Do you want to redraw the map?" I repeat myself.

You remain silent for a while.

"Yes!" say you and your voice sounds firm.

"This is the first and very important step," I smile at you. " The next one is ... "

to be continued

© Valeria Petkova

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The depression, your best friend

Typical symptoms of depression include fatigue and lack of energy; sadness; social withdrawal and isolation; feeling hopeless and helpless, worthless or guilty; loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed; trouble concentrating; trouble sleeping etc.

Could you ever think of those symptoms as something positive? How would you react if I'd tell you, it was your best friend who sent you those symptoms?

You shake your head in disbelief and say " What a nonsense! My best friend would never do this to me! "

"And what if I'd tell you this friend is none other but your psyche?"

"Why would my psyche do this to me?" you are still skeptical.

"Because it loves you! " I pause "Because it wants you to finally think about yourself and start paying attention to your feelings and needs."

"If that was indeed the case, if it really loved me as you say, why would it send me pain, sleepless nights, fatigue and deep sadness? If it loved me it would give me strength, endurance and increased self-esteem! This is what I need to be able to continue to function properly and be again the person I used to be! "

"What kind of person did you use to be? "

"Well, I was always there for others, I never said 'no' to anybody, I was always very helpful and reliable." might be your answer. Or: "I was strong and tough! I always gave my very best, my 150% and never allowed any mistake! And now, look at me now, I can hardly even remember what I've just read and have no drive for anything! "

"Is this who you want to be again?"

" Yes!" your voice becomes firm and impatient "Otherwise I am of no value as a human being!"

"How do you define your value as a human being?" I ask quietly.

You are silent for a few seconds "I am only a valuable member of our society if I give my best, achieve high, am strong and always there for others"

We remain silent for a while.

"So" I say " Does that mean that anytime you make a mistake you lose your value as a human being? "

"Indeed! But what has this all to do with the depression?" you ask impatiently.

"Well, maybe your psyche has a different opinion on your human value" I pause "Maybe it thinks that your value does not vary depending on your performance or achievements. Maybe it thinks that you should pay more attention to yourself and your needs. When was the last time you gave yourself a break or allowed yourself a real vacation? "

" A long time ago " you are quiet for a bit " I can't even remember when exactly. All I know is that even on holidays I can't completely switch off and relax. I would either continue working on something or I'd keep myself occupied with worries."

" Well, do you still wonder you feel exhausted?"

"In the past though, I was capable of coping with the stress" you persist "I used to be strong. And ever since I got depressed I lost all my strength. And now you sit here and tell me this depression is my best friend. What a nonsense! To hell with this friend!"

"Tell me  something! If you were to stop eating for a week how long do you think you would manage to keep working hard? "

You think for a moment "A day or two perhaps".

" After that you would be exhausted, wouldn't you?"

" Yeah"

"Well," I continue "Your psyche needs regular nourishment as well. You nourish it when you give it rest and relaxation, when you have fun or when you enjoy yourself. If you don't do this regularly it is like you are leaving your psyche to starve. This is when your psyche starts sending you first warning signals: the fatigue, the feeling of exhaustion. Chances are you'd disregard those warning signals If your core self-belief is something like this: "If I don't perform well and achieve high, I am worth nothing'. So you keep working, you keep giving your best and keep letting your psyche starve.
Eventually your psyche sends you more signals of starvation, it send you the insomnia hoping you would pay attention and take your time to relax and sleep. But you keep running, keep performing, keep ignoring the warnings. Instead of relaxing, you push yourself even harder. You are determined to keep up the pace and perform.
New warnings would follow. Your psyche pulls the brake and makes you lose your drive, it makes you lose interest and withdraw. It gives you bad mood and sadness. But you keep ignoring those cries for help, you keep forcing yourself to perform. At night, instead of relaxing you blame or hate yourself for not meeting up your own expectations.
Finally your psyche sends you the thoughts of suicide or it gives you severe physical pain. It is your psyche's last hope you'd finally pull the brake and start paying attention to yourself, start living a life full of joy and happiness."

You remain silent for some time "What do you suggest I should do now?" you ask insecure "How am I supposed to listen to my psyche? I do not even know what my psyche really needs."

to be continued