Understanding the forces that shape how we think, feel, act, and respond to others allows us to see how we are influenced to make the choices we are making. Therapy is one way of looking more closely and deeply at ourselves so that we can genuinely come to know how we work. Knowing and accepting how we work naturally leads to a dynamic, real-time understanding of the choices that will move us toward contentment and those that lead to aggravation and suffering. This awareness is the working basis for being who we want to be. We must have a way of seeing closely, again and again, how we are experiencing our life moment-by-moment to know what is possible for us.
Beyond the basic knowledge of how we have come to be where we are now, a special kind of attitude is needed to empower us in our journey. Seeing for ourselves the past experiences that continue to influence us and cultivating an ability to stay present with our experience allows us the chance to leap. A curious, stable, and friendly attention is the vehicle that we will use both inside and outside of therapy as we journey toward a more complete experience of our lives.
While seeing a therapist will help uncover some blind spots that you might not catch on your own, nevertheless your own efforts to increase your awareness are indispensable to success and can give you a head start on changing for the better. Learning to know yourself more deeply, more accurately, and with more warmth and acceptance takes time and attention. In the same way that studying a subject or trade leads to new skills in our working life, studying the emotional, behavioral, or relationship issues that are affecting you will lead to new ways of living in your personal life.
Each of us has our own preference for how we are inclined to gather information or study new material. Some of us prefer a more scientific approach (e.g. using charts, graphs, counting calories), while others prefer a more narrative, journal-type approach or even some combination of the two. Either way can be powerful, the important thing is to get started deciding how that is going to work for us on a daily basis now.
1. Obtain a small, portable journal to carry with you to begin genuinely studying the issue with which you are struggling. If you are going to engage in a significant change, it is an indispensable tool for tracking your journey, highlighting critical experiences along the way, and enriching yourself with personally relevant information about what is shaping your choices and making you happy. As you go through your day, take a moment (or two) to note thoughts, feelings or experiences that seem to directly impact you for better or worse. Plan on keeping this journal active and available for the next few years. It is amazing how the power of insights and experiences can bear fruit when seen across long periods of time.
2. Below are links to pages that contain a brief view, practices (e.g. logs, graphs, worksheets) and other recommendations or links specific to those areas of interest. Please use these at your discretion to get yourself started in knowing yourself more fully and accurately.