Mental Gym

I’m not feeling inspired to write anything with flowery language, anything well put-together. I am, on the other hand, feeling raw… the kind of raw that hurts when pressure is applied. Pressure was applied during my most recent therapy session & I’m in processing mode.

Processing takes energy. It takes courage. It takes work. It takes vulnerability. It takes time.

Processing takes a willingness to expose wounds. Then, when you reach into them to unpack what’s there, you come up with hands full of puzzle pieces. There is no reference photo, nothing to help you put the pieces together. A smell wafts out of the wound & it stinks. When you reach back in, you wrap your hands around flaky spheres. As you bring them out of the wound & closer to your sniffer, the scent is familiar. The exposure to the light confirms what your sense of smell detected… flaky onions with layer upon layer to peel back & stuff to uncover. Awareness/recognition/labeling are great ways to get started, but that’s only the beginning. You must then retrain your thought processes that will fuel future choices in situations you have no way of predicting or actually preparing for. So, since you cannot actually prepare for future situations (even though we often play scenarios out in our minds), you must train in a mental gym. You must be able to recognize, in a situation that initially elicits strong negative emotions, that rationally evaluating reality will (in most instances) help decrease the strength of the negative emotions, leaving you with more energy. You take a few deep breaths & choose to rationally evaluate the reality of the situation, especially trains of irrational thoughts in your head that led to the strong negative emotions. Choosing a rational thought over an irrational thought, in the midst of raw emotions, is the retraining. Just as each rep gets you closer to bigger traps in the gym, each time you choose rational thought over irrational thought, that figurative muscle gets bigger.

I am quick to think that this retraining process is only useful for the “big” situations. In the mental gym, each machine is representative of the small situations in my life that require me to either muddy up the waters worse by choosing to not challenge my feelings & thoughts or take the time to challenge my feelings & thoughts. Having a boyfriend really helps provide more opportunities to work on challenging my thoughts & feelings. When we have an argument, I am not forced to choose to set my feelings aside for a minute & rationally evaluate the situation. In fact, I don’t have to do that at all, but I know it will be better for both of us if I do. It always is a more productive conversation if I’ve taken a time-out to challenge my thoughts & feelings. The conflict styles I saw exhibited by my parents & step-parent are all 3 not healthy styles… no one calmly talked things out. It is easy to fall into what I had modeled before me, but when I go against that tide, when I choose to retrain my brain, the results are better.

The retraining process includes learning to how view myself differently. This is what my therapist & I discussed this week. At the end of every day, the fact that I’ve gotten a promotion (sometimes multiple) at both of the companies I’ve worked for since high school does not make me important or good enough for my dad to have a relationship with me. At the end of every day, my degree does not make me important or good enough for my dad to have a relationship with me. My dad always taught me to work hard & getting a degree was always a “when you get your degree” kind of thing, not an “if you get a degree” kind of thing. I have excelled at the things he taught me to excel at & nothing. Absolutely nothing. That’s what I have with him & that’s what his actions tell me that I am. Oh & let’s not forget that, when  I do see him, he hugs me & tells me he loves me. How’s that for confusing? How’s that for some Daddy issues?

Needless to say, I struggle with separating what my parents have done & continue to do, especially my dad, from who I am as a person. My therapist challenged me to strip away every role I was born into (daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, etc.) & list out what’s left of me. I plan on journaling this out & I haven’t done that yet, so I don’t have any answers to that. Also, these are some questions that have been bombarding my mind since the session: Do what others do actually have anything to do with who I am as a person? I’ve determined that the answer to that is no, but I haven’t journaled about that either. I know that nothing anyone else does actually says anything about who I am as a person, but it’s hard really to take ahold of that, believe it & live my life in a way that defies everything my parents’ actions say that I am. Once I journal about it & process it further, I know I’ll be in a different place with it all, but that’s where I am right now…

Anyways, sorry for being long-winded & all over the place today… there’s a lot floating around in my brain. Thanks for sticking this out with me 🙂









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