I hear a lot of doubt in group—but also power. The other day a woman was worried about whether graduate school would work for her, another worried that her sensory challenges would make it impossible to get a job, someone else felt defined as “a sick girl” and wondered if that could ever change. Many of these reflections came during journaling group as we looked at inner truth. As a group we worked to challenge whether these different beliefs were bogus or bona fide. We defined a bona fide truth as being an inner truth, one that makes us stronger. The bogus were psuedotruths—beliefs that might be presented to us but which make us feel weaker.
We looked at the different “truths” which had been raised. When the woman who related that her sensory challenges have made it a challenge to stick with a job and who worried that she’d never be able to find a job that she could tolerate, the group was quick to offer suggestions of types of work that might be appropriate—in a library, data entry on the 3 rd shift, pharmacy tech, counting out pills…. Suddenly a worry—how this condition would limit her life—proved to be bogus. She has options; it will just take work to discover them.
What about the truth that because someone has been sick for awhile—she is now the “sick girl” and will always have to have that role? What about the thought that because school or work didn’t go well before, someone is destined to fail again? No one can predict the future. The past does not equal the future. Yes, we need to pay attention to the past, but we do not have to allow it to limit us. So what do we do?
First we can’t fall into that dangerous black and white thinking. We shouldn’t focus on the past to the extent that we believe that’s the only way things can go in the future. “I didn’t do well in school before—I won’t do well this time either.” One does not equal the other. But likewise, you don’t want to totally discount the past and focus only on the future. One wants to learn from the past so that the future can be different and better. If things didn’t go well before, what happened? Are there ways to get more support this time around? Is there a way to take a different approach which could lead to a different outcome?
The next truth was related to loved ones—the idea that they always know what’s best. Our bona fide truth was that—loved ones try, but they might make mistakes. They might not understand why a certain desire, goal, etc is so important to you. Each of us is different and we all need and want different things. Or they might have their own false beliefs or misconceptions which influence their advice. Or maybe, sadly, not everyone has our best interests at heart. I have heard enough stories of trauma to know that there are people out there who do injurious actions to others.
It is important to design a support system, but as one person in group said—the most important thing is to become our own personal advocate. Merriam-Webster defines the term advocate as coming from Latin—advocareto summon, from ad- + vocare to call, from voc-, vox voice. Let’s think about this—being your personal advocate would mean to summon your voice! It would be to use your voice to challenge bogus beliefs, to ask for support so the future can be different from the past, to advance your ideas, your beliefs, and your own special uniqueness.
· Last time we journaled to discover bogus vs. bona fide beliefs—that’s part of what led to this journaling group. Now work to look further at what bogus beliefs you carry from the past that you’re letting determine the future. If something didn’t go the way you wanted in the past, journal about it, examine it and figure out how to change the course of events in the future if you face this same obstacle. The story might have a similar beginning but it doesn’t have to end the same way.
· Journal to become your own personal advocate. If you summoned your inner voice, what would she/he say? Close your eyes—picture your “inner voice”, listen to it. This probably sounds confusing—we have inner voices that we’ve talked about that help us understand what is important to us—for me, supporting my patients, help others discover their creativity and power, writing, my family. I have to listen to and weigh decisions based on those important areas. But sometimes I need a metaphor—I need to feel the power inside me to know that it can fuel my dreams even when my paths get rocky. You need to journal to discover the images, the metaphors that can inspire you—
If I close my eyes and picture my “inner voice” I would discover that she is a white flame with blue and gold sparks that leaps and licks at doubts and disappointments. She is a fire warrior who like a spurt of dragon flame can warm me when I am lonely and cold, can slay my enemies of self-doubt, can fuel my passions. And in seeing that dragon, I can see her greenish gold scales now like the patina of copper on a glorious dome. I can see her deep brown eyes that are as warm as the richest dirt that is drenched in sunlight. Her smile can be fierce, but for me she is protective and the gleam of light off her sharpened teeth remind me that I can defend myself when I need to—I can pull up the armor, but for now, I can recline against her great huffing side and settle into a quiet confidence and believe in myself. This dragon is inside me, she fuels my creative self and can help power my own personal advocacy.
· Journal your own metaphor and image. Then journal ways within your life that you can be your own personal advocate. Are you supporting yourself enough? If you were trying to help your best friend, would you do more? Put up inspiration quotes around the house to inspire them? Help them design a relaxation spot? Knit a comfort scarf for them? Bead a power bracelet? As you write and discover what you would do to support others, use those techniques to support yourself. Become your own personal advocate.