Breaking Through Self-imposed Barriers
Breaking Through Self-imposed Barriers by Camilla Watson, Corlight Programmes ™ www.corlight.co.nz
As a Counsellor and Life Coach I often raise the question; What are your barriers to achieving change and healing? Not identifying what is holding us back will often prevent us moving forward. Whether the situation is physical, emotional or mental, it can be very worthwhile taking the time to ask ourselves the very serious question “What am I willing to give up to really change and/or heal this situation?”
We often talk about needing to change – you’ll need to change this in your life, or that, to move into a healing space. And that usually sounds reasonable, if perhaps a little uncomfortable. But often when we begin to really look closely at the situation, we find a reluctance to ‘give up’ something we perceive as having a value or benefit, whatever the cost of staying in the current experience.
Barry* was in a very dysfunctional and potentially very dangerous relationship. On one level it was clear to him that he needed to end it; he was miserable. Unfortunately, his partner saw nothing wrong in the relationship or their behaviour, therefore any change in the situation was going to be up to Barry. So what was holding him back? Ultimately, he refused to give up ‘the relationship’ as a) he perceived being alone as a worse situation, and b) he would then feel like he had ‘failed’. Until Barry was able to contemplate a life after the relationship that would include being alone and, perhaps, feelings of failure, he would not be able to move forward. Sometimes a lack of decision to move will ‘just’ keep someone stuck in misery, but unfortunately this particular situation had the potential of degenerating to a dangerous level very quickly, with possibly long-term, life-altering consequences.
Ruth* was stressed at work. Her manager was bordering on bullying behaviour; it was certainly an uncomfortable, unsupportive, environment where staff were pitted against each other in an unhealthy, demotivating way. Ruth repeatedly said “I hate my job.” Now as you might imagine, this is a fairly common (although sad) statement I hear. Sometimes I work with clients on strategies to change the dynamics between them and their manager, or to boost their self-esteem, or practice skills so they can stand up for themselves in the office situation. But fear is a big chain. Fear will often hold us back from trying something new, or even contemplating another option. I asked Ruth why she didn’t just quit - as you might expect she replied that she needed the money but also, she didn’t think she’d be able to get another job. She had no experience or research to back this up, just a feeling. Ruth’s fear of being without a job was influencing her meek and victim-like behaviour. So we played ‘What If…’ What if you left? What if you could choose somewhere new to work? Where would you want to work? How much do you need to get paid? What commute are you happy with? What sort of team do you want to work with? What type of environment?
At first Ruth was visibly terrified at the thought of giving up her current job but as we went along she began to cheer up and see that she actually had all sorts of possibilities open to her. Over the next two weeks Ruth had a new CV created and undertook a visual brain-storm activity for all the aspects of a job she would love. She looked at the job market and now, with her new CV, she could see there were a variety of positions she would be suited for, and potentially enjoy. Ruth thought seriously about applying for jobs but one day she went in to her manager and simply said she felt like a change and would there be anything available elsewhere in the company. Her manager was extremely supportive of Ruth and assisted her application to another position where Ruth’s personal values and skills were highly relevant and valued, and in fact included a pay increase!
Sometimes facing all the possibilities, and playing ‘What If…?’ is a powerful way to open to a range of options and remove the fear, allowing us to find our way to the path of healing.
(*Names have been changed)