It can be an uncomfortable experience to be vulnerable with a complete stranger. Even harder sometimes, to figure out what type of therapy is right for you.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, I’m sure you’re aware of just how terrifying the experience can be. Although an attack may only last a few minutes, it can leave you feeling very unsettled. These attacks generally stem from intense anxiety and can appear suddenly, out of the blue. While a panic attack itself may be brief, it can lead to an increased anxiety and fear of experiencing another episode.
Many of us have a list in our minds of the things we want, and most of us go through life trying to get these things. Sometimes we rely on our beliefs as a roadmap on this journey –follow these rules and you’ll be enlightened, be happier and have healthier relationships. I used to think that there was a secret recipe to life, and when things are going great, I do tend to think I have it all figured out. However, reality eventually sets in when we realize that’s not always the case, and when that reality hits, we turn inwards and think that something is wrong with us because if nothing was wrong, we’d be getting what we want. Right?
When life isn’t easy or when we are dealing with a major transition we often look for the ‘bad guy’ and sometimes blame ourselves or our partners instead of turning towards each other or asking for help. An all-too-common negative dialogue emerges where we think, “I must be a bad person or a failure because [insert reasons here].”
That ‘looking for the bad guy tendency arises during periods of transition when we are overwhelmed, scared, or uncertain. However, I want to remind some of you that transitions are hard because they are opportunities for growth and growth is hard.
“Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them.” — Jim Carrey
Marina Keegan wrote a wonderful article on her perspective of what her university experience meant for her. Although graduating university, much like starting university, can be a difficult period of transition; it is both natural and expected. It should, in fact, be something we aim for.
Some transitions are marked as natural development for many of us unless interrupted and then problems can emerge with some sort of pathology. Some transitions happen unexpectedly: loss of child, being diagnosed with Cancer, losing one’s job. Then sometimes that “find the bad guy tendency” arises and we need to deal with it.
No matter the type of transition you are struggling with, I find it helps to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what is happening before moving forward. Whatever that new you or situation looks like: Stop, Breathe, and, Reflect. By reflecting we help clarify how far we have come and it helps to recognize our own strengths and areas of growth and future growth. Reflection can also allow us a time to see if we are moving in a direction that corresponds with our values. Many of us fail to reflect and end up having a life based on being reactive and non reflective vs living life inline with our values.
Some tips to help navigate transitions and avoid ‘finding the bad guy’ tendency:
1. Go back to get to the future
Sometimes we need to think about passed struggles we have dealt with and how we overcame them. What skills or resources you’ve used that helped or didn’t help you. And then think about your current situation and see if these same character strengths or skills may help you deal with your current situation. Con with this technique: some people keep using the same strategies and don’t try to develop new ones.
2. Remember to ABC which means: Always Be Curious.
Things that help us be curious is having an open mind. Another thing that helps us to be curious is asking ourselves questions that force us to think about alternative solutions and ways of doing things. Noticing emotions and really questioning where they are coming from and what they are telling us may help us deal with the current situation. Con with technique: Overusing this technique so that you end up naval gazing and it prevents you from taking the leap or making a choice.
3. Learn to ride the Wave
You may not be able to change your course or whatever event you are dealing with and you may need to grab onto some coping skills and hold tight. Some may find learning mindfulness or learning to connect with the support system as 2 ways that help people ride the wave when dealing with a particularly hard transition. Con: Some people will ride the wave and end back at the same place they started at. When dealing with transitions sometimes we have to accept things will not go back to how they use to be.
Moving from one of life’s milestones to the next can be exciting, but if you are struggling with it, remember that it is a normal reaction and there are ways of managing it. For example if you are unhappy with your job and are thinking of taking a leap to something new, you may be interested in Barbara Hagerty’s article here that talks about the upside of making a mid-life transition. If you like the article I would suggest you read her book, Life Reimagined. Instead of relying on finding the bad guy try one of the above techniques, read Barbara’s article or book and see if it helps or perhaps considering booking a session to process your life transition in counselling.
Kayla is new to the Shift team, but we're so excited to introduce her! She's a phenomenal writer and an awesome therapist who specializes in helping clients cope with anxiety, emotional trauma and parenting.
We sat down for a fun Q&A with her.
1. Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
Definitely a gatherer
2. What were you like in high school?
Shy and serious and very creative
3. What do you think about when you're alone in the car?
Where everyone else is going. Who are they? What are their lives like? What brings us all here sharing the road at the same time?
4. If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be and why?
A puffin - because they can fly, swim, and are adorable!
5. What's your favourite '90s jam?
If you could read my mind - Stars on 54
6. What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
New Girl because it actually makes me laugh out loud
7. What are you known for?
Being honest but also my love of small boxes and tins
8. What inspires you?
People who tell the world who they are and fight to be their true selves
9. What's your favourite memory from childhood?
Spending all my time swimming
10. What is your greatest fear?
Being lonely - but also heights
11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"That's amazing," "perfect," "it's an experience," and "what if both are true?"
12. What is a talent you would most like to have?
The ability to dance!