This exercise is from the article, Attachment, Acceptance and Why “Being Strong” is Not Helpful.
There is no right or wrong answer to this exercise. The results below are in no way shape or form meant to tell anyone how to live or what types of things to participate in, nor is it a black and white comparison of “bad” versus “good.” This is my own personal testimony, and is meant to serve as a guide to maybe help others (hopefully). You have to identify what works best for you. Take out a pen and paper, and work through the following questions concisely and honestly. It might take you some time and you don’t have to share it with anyone.
Question 1: What are some things you used to do in the past?
Think about what types of activities you were involved in, who you used to surround yourself with, and things you perhaps latched onto for support. Try and identify whether these things were helpful at the time and if perhaps these behaviors were used as coping mechanisms. You can go as far back as you want.
Me in the past…
- Listened to ‘angry’ drum & bass and electronic rave music.
- Self-medicated through excessive use of alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, pharmaceutical pills, and various extreme narcotics.
- Flocked to men for attention, jumping from one relationship to the next.
- Constantly surrounded myself with friends to not be alone.
- Pretended like everything was okay when it really wasn’t.
- Lewd speech, excessive cussing, tough “wannabe gangster” mentality.
- Unable to say “no,” constantly wanting to please others.
- Became a “workaholic” (buried myself in work and laboring extra long hours at the expense of my personal well-being).
- Became overly studious (buried myself in schoolwork to get attention from teachers and to gain academic achievements).
- Spent endless hours online on AIM (AOL instant messenger) and MySpace.
- Joined various spiritual groups, meditation classes, and attended new age retreats, of which some turned out to have cult-like tendencies.
Question 2: What types of things are you doing now?
Identify the types of activities you are involved in now, whether they are the same or different from the past, and whether they carry a similar theme. Are the things you are currently doing now used for personal fulfillment, entertainment, or for emotional well-being and support? Are these perhaps your present “coping mechanisms?”
- Listen to various forms of music across the spectrum (more deep lyrically based, or soulful songs and instrumentals).
- Drink warm tea. Cook home cooked-meals. Relax at home.
- Go for walks outside and hikes in nature. Exercise (running and yoga).
- Creative activities: knit, write, draw, play piano.
- Flock to girl friends for support versus men.
- Sing with women in a choir in a stress-free, non-pressure environment.
- Receive acupuncture treatments and massage on a semi-regular basis.
- Set boundaries at work and with others, knowing what my limits are, as well as have the ability to “stand up for myself” and say “no.”
- Unplug myself from the Internet and turn off my phone for extended times throughout the year.
- Talk to a counselor or pastor, when needed.
- Attend and volunteer in a healthy church community (non-cult).
- Attempt to be thankful for everything that’s being presented to me (extremely hard to do during tough times).
- Pray everyday.
Question 3: What behaviors or thought patterns do you currently exhibit that you may still need to work on?
Try and identify situations where you felt stressed, nervous or in conflict (with yourself or with others). How did you “deal” with the situation? What do you do when you are surrounded with others? What do you do when you are alone? How do you feel when faced with a difficult person, a tough situation, or when someone points out your faults or doesn’t agree with you? Are you making yourself or your ideal plan the center of your life and when things don’t go according to plan, how do you handle the disappointment?
- Biting/picking at my nails (eating myself up inside).
- Making unnecessary big deals out of small scenarios (magnifying things bigger than they really are, being “over-dramatic”).
- Vegging out (eating lots of cookies and chocolate when stressed, in an attempt to feel “grounded” or get so “busy” that I forget to eat and nourish myself).
- Crying and excessive outpouring (emotional “breakdowns” and projections).
- Withdraw and hide out at home where I feel safe and the “outside world” can’t harm me (“them” against “me” mentality)
- Communicating a “who cares” type attitude (sometimes takes shape through cynical, skeptical comments).
- Overly talk too much (nervous chatter to fill the space).
- Over-commit and involvement in too many activities (see above list), which leads to feeling “overwhelmed,” retreating suddenly or seen as “flightiness.”
- Scattered-ness and extreme multitasking, instead of focusing on one thing at a time (here’s an explanation of why ‘Being Scattered’ can be a good thing at times).
- Obsessing or becoming fixated on one detail or how things are “supposed to be” (getting so narrow-minded or lost in “tunnel vision” which results in failure to see the “bigger picture”).
- So future-oriented that I become “blind” and unable to see what’s right in front of me (inability to be “present.”)
- Over-analyzing endless “what if” scenarios (swimming in circles).
- Feeling like time is “running out” (this is a self-made illusion).
- Feeling “out of control” or in a “tornado” (versus letting go, being still and accepting my current situation.)
- Focusing on what I don’t have (or have lost) versus what I do have (or what has been given to me).
The goal of this exercise is not to make you feel guilty about all the wrong things you are doing and all the problems you have. It is meant to be used as an analytical tool. Hopefully, working through these questions and answers can help identify some areas that are working well in your life, and ones that may still need attention. The work is never over, however, don’t be discouraged. Throughout all of our imperfections and transgressions, remember to be kind to yourself and to others (though the nature of our struggles may differ, we are all in the same boat in the bigger scheme of things).
Our world is filled with many expectations, and sometimes we get so devastated when someone or some circumstance doesn’t fulfill our every expected need. Knowing what your weaknesses are is a strength, and is something to not be ashamed of. Identifying your weaknesses is also helpful, especially if you continually find yourself in the same situation over and over again and can’t figure out why. In order for true growth and transformation to take place, you may have to break through some of these patterns, yet at the same time not be so hard on yourself if things don’t happen right away. Just take things slow and steady, and make sure you create a safe space to check in with yourself or talk to someone you trust from time to time.
by Kristin Bach