January 3, 2015

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At times, we each experience overwhelming and stressful circumstances that burden us physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and/or financially. We may be unhappy in our careers, fighting illness, or feel disconnected from friends, family, and community. Sometimes it is less obvious and we think that we should be happy, but still aren’t.

Our circumstances, and those of our family, friends, and community, greatly impact our mental and emotional health, yet changing them is rarely an easy task. Our first challenge is often to precisely identify the source of our discomfort. How do we change something when we are not sure what needs to be changed? We feel trapped and frustrated. As discomfort persists, we seek ways to cope: another glass of wine, sleeping pill, or anti-depressant, an angry gesture, impatient phone call, or curt dialogue. Ultimately, we may find ourselves struggling with the original issue as well as a drinking problem or angry spouse. With time, unhealthy suppression and coping techniques merely compound mental stress while the original source of unhappiness persists.

Eric Maisel, PhD has written a series of articles entitled, “Rethinking Psychology.” In one of his recent excerpts he states, ”It is common for folks who know that they really must make a certain change to take…five years to make that change. Sometimes the change never happens and the pain persists forever.” He goes on to share that change is risky. We have all intended to change or set a goal and have fallen short, or perhaps the change didn’t yield the desired outcome. The first and often the most challenging step is to identify the source of our unhappiness. What is making the status quo so uncomfortable and unsatisfying?

It is still January, the month of “fresh starts” and a perfect time to identify what is encumbering us. It may be something as concrete as needing to look for a new job, or as abstract as needing to adopt a more healthful perspective. Either way, our intention is the same: to honestly and nonjudgmentally take a look at the source of our distress. We don’t have to commit to making an immediate change, merely to looking at our personal circumstance and beginning to understand its true nature and origin. In essence, we are demonstrating the courage to be authentic with ourselves – to look ourselves and personal circumstances clearly in the eye and say, “I see you.”

Live well/ Be well.

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