A few weeks ago, I closed off another round of working with the counselor who inspired this blog 10 years ago. When I started seeing him about 7 months ago, my inner guiding voice was a hot mess. Between having an infant at home, the pandemic, and working full-time from home with said infant, things got a little rocky. My inner guide was in complete people-pleasing mode, unsure of herself, and even when sitting still and really listening out for her guidance, sometimes I could hear her but I didn’t trust her. I felt confident in the advice I could give to friends, family, and clients, but it felt impossible to turn that advice around and listen/trust it for myself.
It’s always a bittersweet thing when you graduate/are fired from therapy. A sense of YAY I DID IT but also a sudden and panicky BUT WHAT IF I NEED YOU AGAIN? And then, my inner guiding voice compassionately and confidently answers that question: If you need me again, I am here. I am always with you.
I told that inner guiding voice that I know she is always with me, but sometimes I lose sight of her. 7 months ago, she was so murky that even when I listened and searched for her, it sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown- wah wah wah wah. She made no sense and didn’t sound like ME.
With a smirk, she reminded me that my inner voice doesn’t weaken or disappear, sometimes it just takes the right person asking the right questions to help make her voice, strength, and presence more clear. She reminded me that sometimes a therapist is the right person to ask those questions. Sometimes it’s a friend or family member. Sometimes, I can be the person asking myself those questions.
Counseling with Ken in 2021 was very different from counseling with him in 2011. This time we were able to focus a lot more on nurturing my creative energy and overall personal growth instead of the spiraling anxiety and panic attacks I was dealing with a decade ago. He was magical in helping those, too.
There are a few things that have been especially beneficial over the last several months of working with Ken. He is great about giving me books, articles, and resources to explore to help me get unstuck no matter the issue.
- The Introvert Advantage book. Ken assigned this book to me and said, “Your photo should be on the dedication page.” He was right <eye roll>, it was an incredibly helpful book for me to read. I thought I knew everything about introverts, I am a very proud and well-informed introvert! Alas, this book taught me things that I had never heard before. Big things that I think about weekly, even months later.
- The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. Ya’ll. This workbook. I am only 1/4 of the way through it and it has had the biggest impact on my inner voice/inner critic. This should be required for all humans to work through. And I KNOW…a self-compassion workbook sounds boring and cheesy. But damn if this doesn’t mix research, tips, and activities to help you unlock parts of your brain that you haven’t been able to access before. Even 1/4 of the way through, it has strongly impacted how I process challenges, frustrations, and disappointments.
- Establishing a Morning Practice. Through guidance and encouragement from both Ken and life coach/friend Dawn Geschiere, I finally bit the bullet and established a morning practice. Ken and Dawn spoke of the magic of writing morning pages, a practice outlined by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. I started doing this several weeks ago– as soon as I wake up I spend between 10 and 50 minutes free writing in my journal. I am now a convert and believer. The questions, answers, and insight that spills from my brain onto my journal pages has been powerful. Every morning when writing, I go into “flow” and after writing several paragraphs, I suddenly have clarity, direction, and answers to things I didn’t even know I was wondering. Hard to explain, but I highly recommend it.
- Get Unstuck List. A few months ago I had the thought, “I have all of these wonderful coping tools I have learned through my own therapy, and also through my professional experiences. I just wish I could remember them in the moment– but when I’m stuck in a mental loop it’s hard to recall any of my tools!” I also acknowledged that it’s a combo problem of not being able to recall my tools + not WANTING to use my tools. That was a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes it feels good to be stuck in the loop, right? Being furious at your friend, boss, kid, partner, dog, neighbor, etc. Sometimes we don’t want to get unstuck in the moment.
So, I wrote a list in my phone called Get Unstuck. It contains all of my tools that I KNOW help me through anxiety, stress, grief, anger, and any other emotion that feels overwhelming. This has been helpful not only because I can refer to it when I’m “stuck”, but now when I’m struggling with overwhelming emotions I ask myself, “Should you consult your Get Unstuck list?” and if my answer is “No”, it means I want to ruminate and stay stuck for a bit. And that’s fine, it’s just something to be mindful of.
I have decided to share my Get Unstuck list in case it helps anyone else, but I also want to put the disclaimer that this list works so well for me because it’s my list— it successfully addresses issues that my brain ruminates on, and tools work differently for every person. Many of the things on here are other people’s ideas and tools, I didn’t create them, so of course they are oftentimes universal and will work for many people. But just know that a Get Unstuck list is most helpful when it is created by the person it is intended to help. Feel free to use mine, or take ideas from mine as you build your own Get Unstuck list. After all, 99% of the the things on “my” list are not my creations– they are borrowed from other brilliant minds and practitioners.
The way I utilize this is not necessarily starting at number one and working through the list in order. I observe the problem I am having and the emotions/loop I’m stuck in, and then consult my list to see which tools will be most useful. Sometimes it takes working through 2-3 tools before I “get unstuck.” If all else fails and you’re so stuck you don’t even know where to begin, start at #1 and go down the list.