The first step in getting where you want to go, is figuring out where you are. As with wayfinding, how we get to our destination is dependent on understanding our current position.
We tend to forget this. As survivors of childhood psychological violence, we need more planning to overcome and meet our unique challenges. Thus, if we can understand the reality of our situation, we are more likely to meet our goals (and most importantly- less likely to beat ourselves up).
So, where are you?
Looking at where we are is difficult. Further, at times we cannot objectively see where we are. We are caught up in self protection, justifying and stories. This is completely normal and human. However, it can get in the way of making and reaching our goals.
Our work today is simply to try to document were we are in each area of our life, with as much objectivity as possible.
Print off the worksheet for the next month. We will work on one part of this sheet each week. This week we will be working with “Chart your course: Your starting place.”
If your starting place is like its own country, what features does it have? Consider all the aspects of your life: environmental (your home or town you live in), financial (are you secure or barely getting by), relational (do you have supports), mental (are you struggling with mental health), physical (are you healthy, exercising and eating a good diet), career, community, hobbies, development etc. Consider the nature of this landscape with respect to where you want to go.
We must also consider the costs and benefits of your current position. In ACT we recognize that people stay in situations because there are very real benefits- things like comfort or security. What are the costs associated with your current situation? Will things get worse?
Have fun with your map. Use this as an opportunity to really familiarize yourself with your current situation, but in a way that is safe and playful.
My home has a fortress wall around it, because that part of my life is safe. However, my job is where the problem is. A huge piece of the psychological violence was financial and thus I was repeatedly told I was ‘incompetent’ or ‘no one would hire me’. As a result, I constantly struggle to believe I can be successful in my career. Thus, I have stayed in a bad job for close to 10 years because it is safe. I also feel a very strong loyalty to the other people in my company, and I’ve used them as an excuse to stay. So, for my drawing, I have the ‘mountains of self doubt’ blocking my exit from my current situation. I’ve also drawn a village representing all the people that I feel badly for leaving. There is also a pile of gold representing financial security, that will also be sacrificed if I am to follow my dream.
You can do this step considering a particular life area, as the example above, or you can make it of your entire life and its many facets. Be sure to add whatever major benefits and barriers exist for you.
Take this step with compassion. Doing this inventory is all about where to focus your energies and how to proceed. It is not an exercise in self flagellation. Remember, we are simply using this as a way to gain our bearings and to discover how to get where we are going.
I have done my best to make this fun and playful to avoid the internal violence of the critical voice. However, if it shows up (which it very likely will), we let it say what it will say and act ‘in spite of it’.
Hating yourself has never, and will never improve your situation.
Remember, we only have so much energy. We can use that energy fighting with yourself, hating ourselves and remembering all our flaws- or we can work to focus that energy on moving towards what matters.