Inspiration is wonderful. It wakes us up to things that we never took notice to before or never thought we would do. When we get inspired there is a powerful surge of energy that takes over and for a moment we expand… then our thinking brain regains control and many times will start to list all the reasons why that idea would never work, why we don’t have what we need in order to do it or it explains that it has all been done before. It usually doesn’t take long for us to begin the process of talking ourselves out of an idea of inspiration. For those ideas that survive our initial attack, sharing them with someone else is often where we are talked back into “reason.”
Inspiration is spirit’s gift, but our doubts and insecurities kill many of the dreams before they get a chance to grow. Inspiration is like a thought seed that is planted in fertile ground. It needs protection and nurturing in order to grow. It also takes time. In working with clients I find that many of them give up before they get the gift. They try something they felt inspired to do and are then crushed when they ‘fail’ or if the results were not what they were expecting. Our power of will is an amazing tool. When we understand that, as Albert Einstein said, “failure is success in progress,” we are able to give ourselves the grace to ask what we learned from the experience and what we have yet to learn. I often use the analogy of the caterpillar with clients. Taking action on inspiration is like going into the chrysalis. Everything has to get broken down and rearranged in there. It is quite messy and not a pretty sight inside, but stay with it. Out of the chaos an entirely new creation is emerging. You have been inspired for a reason.
Many clients discuss how their current circumstances aren’t what they want to be living in for the rest of their lives. They may even be able to identify some goals that they have or dreams for the life they would love to be living. But, then there is the big disconnect. The space between the idea and actually taking action to do something different. There is a lot of fear of the unknown and all kinds of excuses come up for why they didn’t take the action steps they committed to weeks before. Many clients can tell you why they didn’t take the steps, all the reasons why now wasn’t the right time, or how they got distracted with other more pressing issues. There are always plenty of reasons why they weren’t able to do what they said they would do. Many of these reasons are perfectly legitimate, but what very few clients discuss is the why behind why they didn’t take the action steps. They don’t go into how difficult, scary or vulnerable it makes them feel to step out of their comfort zone and into a new behavior. Taking action is having faith that we will be able to get what we say we desire. There is a saying that in order to walk on water we need to first get out of the boat. Many of us cling to the boat for dear life. It may be miserable on the boat, but at least it is predictable. I know what to expect if I live another day on the boat. Of course it is terrifying to take action, but as Mary Morrisey says, “Inspiration, without action, is merely entertainment. ACT on your inspiration today!” Convincing a client that they can do what they say they want to do is not easy work. It takes time to dive into the subconscious mind that holds the belief that they can’t. Taking time to explore the fear and creating empowerment by encouraging even small steps in the direction of the dream become the one degree change in the course of life that leads to a completely different destination.
One of the biggest blocks to flow is difficulty in coming to terms and acceptance of our past. We have all done things we are not proud of. We all have moments when we realize we lost our temper and lashed out in anger, or did things that were hurtful to someone else. While other people are often quick to point out that we screwed up, the fact is most times we know and our internal voice is already giving ourselves a severe tongue lashing. That voice in our head is our most outspoken critic. It will remind us at every chance it gets that we really don’t know as much as we think we do or that we really are the worthless person someone had told us we were. It is often hard to move beyond that critical voice, but that is exactly what keeps us stuck. Take a moment to truly think about how compassionate you are to yourself. Let’s say you accidentally knock a cup of coffee over and it spills on some important papers on your desk at work, what does your internal voice sound like? Is it screaming and yelling at you or is it telling you that it is okay and you will be able to fix it? Put it on a scale of 0- extremely critical to 10- completely compassionate. Now take a moment and imagine that someone you admire at work (or a good friend, significant other or child) just spilled something. While the initial response may be anger, when you see their reaction and they begin to apologize chances are you begin to show them compassion. You let them know that it was an accident and that they didn’t intend to do it. It is often much easier for us to show compassion to someone else than it is to show compassion to ourselves. One of the exercises that I go through with clients is to ask them to imagine themselves lying in bed crying or upset with themselves. I ask them to visualize themselves walking up behind this image of themselves lying in bed and ask them to comfort themselves, just like they would comfort a child. I have found that it is extremely difficult for some of the clients to do this. There is so much self-hatred built up that to even begin imagining any self-compassion brings up a great deal of emotion. I have encouraged the clients to begin with brief visualizations of this self-compassion exercise daily, trying to stay with it for several seconds only at first, but asking them to gradually build up to staying with it for a full minute and up to five minutes daily. There is a space between the life we are currently living and the life of our dreams. Within that space there is a lot of muck and difficult things to go through. For many people is it easier to stay bound by our circumstances then it is to go through the muck in order to get to the life of our dreams. Beginning with self-compassion gives us the strength to get through the muck. It is one of the most important keys to getting unstuck.
One of the biggest problems clients complain about is a sense of feeling stuck. What does that mean and how do we help them? First of all, I feel it is important to understand that there is a flow of energy that moves in and through us. Thinking back to science class, we know that everything is made of atoms that are spinning around with mostly empty space between them. In solids the atoms are more closely packed together, so there is less energy, compared to gasses which are bouncing around wildly with a lot of energy. Liquids have more energy than solids, but less than gas. Since humans are approximately 65% water, that is a lot of energy moving within our bodies. Energy flows, but it needs a path to follow. Just like the law of electricity, we know that if a circuit is connected the energy will flow, but if there is break in the circuit the energy flow stops. To me, health is when there a flow of energy and we are able to be in relationship with others, nature and ourselves in a positive flow. When there are blockages in the flow there is discontent, frustration, anger and resentment. It can manifest in many different ways. We feel cut off and isolated. When we are not in the flow we look for ways to cope with the negative emotions and many people display depression, anxiety or turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. Where are the blocks coming from? Is it our thoughts about what has happened in the past or a fear of the future? Is it emotional disconnect? Are we not able to take action and perform behaviors that we would like to do? Are we stuck in a system that limits our options? Look for the blockages in order to restore the flow. The blocks are our keys to healing.
There are hundreds of counseling theories that give techniques and frameworks to explain how people can heal mental illness, cure addiction and lead healthy lives. There has been empirical research to prove that different theories work. There is no dispute that working through a theory with a client creates change. While the theory discusses how to create change with steps and techniques, what I see as missing in many theories is what has actually changed within the client. In the book, Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, The Overlooked Foundation for Effective Practice, by Sprenkle, Davis & Lebow, the authors attempt to explore the commonalities between differing theories in order to explain the confusing fact that seemingly opposing theories have about the same level of effectiveness. In the book they explore how concepts such as the therapeutic alliance, the counselor’s belief in their theory and the client’s motivation for change all affect the outcome with similar results despite which theoretical orientation is chosen. I agree with everything they say, but what I am proposing is that they missed something. What they didn’t discuss in the book is how using the theories opens people up to a greater flow with source. When a basic understanding of spiritual principles is learned, it then becomes obvious that the theories are opening up people to become more aligned with source and are therefore healing. It is the connection to source that allows each of us to glow in health. We are each more than the physical form, just like a lamp is more than just the base and shade. It is by connecting the lamp to source and allowing the energy to flow through it that it radiates light. We are also a conduit for energy to flow through us and illuminate with energy from source. For many of us, there are blockages in the wiring. It is not that the electricity isn’t there, it is that we have pinched ourselves off from the source and therefore the light that shines is dim. Light is a metaphysical term for understanding. When we light up we understand at a new depth. Each theory helps us to identify our blockages and therefore opens us up to a connection with source. Throughout this blog we will explore various counseling theories and techniques and how each one helps to open us up to the energy of a higher power, which is what leads to our healing.