Psychotherapists have a unique window into the ‘behind the scenes’ of life. Here are 8 life-truths that form the foundation of our existence:
- We are social beings. Relationships are the cornerstone of our existence, from the moment we are born to the moment we die. Every learning occurs within the framework of relationship. We get wounded in relationship, and we must heal in relationship.
- We are made of mind [thoughts, perceptions], body [feelings, physical sensations], and spirit [a connection to something greater – community, love, God]. Our mind, body and spirit are inter-dependant and must stay aligned for proper health.
- Most of our understanding of life and the world around us is constructed in the primary years (age 0-7). This is quite unfortunate as you think about how skewed a child’s understanding of life is (‘I am the centre of the universe’). This understanding of the world stays relatively stable through life and is responsible for many of our difficulties.
- We can change our brain. Research about Neuroplasticity (a new term that means the ability of the brain to change itself) has shown that we are capable of changing the wiring in our brain that is responsible for how we think, feel, and experience the world. The different wirings in our brain are like muscles that can be strengthened or atrophied and it is up to us to choose which connections we want to make stronger and which weaker.
- We are evolutionarily wired to avoid pain and that is the reason for much of our suffering. The problem is that this very clever instinct (to avoid what can hurt or kill us) doesn’t only stop us from walking into traffic, but it also pushes us to avoid emotional pain (that must be felt in order to be released) and mental anguish (that gets worse the more we deny it). We have filled our lives with devices that help us stay distracted from our experience in the moment (ever pull out your phone when you’re waiting in line at the store?). And we have developed numerous disorders, obsessions, and addictions that possess us to do anything but feel the boredom, sadness, anger, numbness, and shame.
- Mindfulness is the key to wellness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present with your thoughts and feelings without analyzing, judging or reacting to them. The ability to sit mindfully is like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly or it atrophies. With a strong mindfulness muscle, our mind is able to starve off these negative thoughts and feelings until they no longer effect us. You don’t need to be a yogi on a mountain top to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness. Even just a little bit of regular practice (5 minutes a day) can help change the wiring in your brain to be more resilient, calm, and objective.
- Social interest (doing good in the world) has incredible beneficial qualities for both the individual giving and the individual receiving (not to mention humanity in general). It shifts the focus away from your own suffering and displeasure, releases oxytocin (feel good chemical), and engages the system in your brain that is in charge of rewards and other good stuff.
- We all have lessons that we must learn. We chose these lessons for ourselves because we knew we were strong enough to overcome their difficulty. It has been a true honour of mine to walk alongside many clients as they learn their unique lessons.