I remember being stuck in a never ending pattern of wanting a different life and taking steps towards it, then resisting change. I was frustrated, angry with myself and didn’t know if I would ever break free of the cycle.
I see a similar pattern in other people too. Every day, I talk to people who tell me what they want from their lives but they keep themselves stuck, even if they despise their circumstances, even if they are in a toxic situation and they desperately want out, they stay stuck rather than face the unknown.
Sarah Griffiths is a trauma and abuse therapist, who has a world of knowledge on this topic. She agreed to share her wisdom and the following is her advice on how to embrace chance so that we can consistently take steps towards the life we desire.
The first point that Sarah made was that change is necessary for success – in your personal life, professional life, and relationships. But for change to make a positive, lasting impact, it has to come from you.
Choosing to change might sound simple enough, but in actual fact it can be one of the hardest things we do. It involves recognising toxic behaviours (our own and others’), figuring out where we’re holding ourselves back, and, most importantly, admitting that we really do need to change. This requires a substantial amount of work and willpower – but the end results can be positively life changing.
Our expectations of ourselves and the world around us are cemented at a young age. For Sarah, that meant her worldviews were developed in a childhood riddled with bullying and poverty, and were built on a solid foundation of low self-esteem. When the thoughts that held her back in childhood seemed later to be confirmed by an abusive partner, the way she went about my life ended up becoming driven by a total lack of self-worth.
As a result, her patterns of thought and behaviour were damaging, and almost drove her to the edge. Even the positive things in her life were driven by negative thinking. Her work ethic for example, as productive as it was, was influenced by a need to achieve that left no room for anything that could be considered failure. Then, when a road accident left her unable to work, she sank into a long-lasting, deep depression.
Sarah knew that this was not sustainable, for her, her children, or her career. So, at a distinctly dark time in my life, she chose to make a change.
After a lot of soul-searching and missteps, she came to realise that she had been living her life based on a highly prescriptive idea of what she should be achieving, and with minimal self-confidence. This was having a profound impact on her career and my happiness, and meant that she allowed an unhealthy, abusive relationship to continue unchecked.
She has since worked hard to alter her perceptions of herself and dismiss those damaging “shoulds” that were placing her under undue pressure. But one of the greatest difficulties she encountered on her journey was the realisation that she needed to push herself out of the constant state of fear and anxiety she was living in. Sarah shared that she has found this to be the case with many of her clients who have survived abuse and carry the ever-present burden of trauma.
Therapy helped Sarah, by giving her a safe space in which to reflect and learn about herself, and by supporting and encouraging her to push past fear and move towards learning, growth and fulfilment. It helped her husband too, who has gone from being an emotionally abusive, covert narcissist (undiagnosed) to working on becoming a supportive partner who truly understands that everyone – including Sarah, their boys and himself – deserve to be happy.
Choosing to go to therapy is the first and, arguably, most significant step on the winding road to lasting change. The introspection that you develop in therapy is an invaluable tool that will help you understand how and why you are holding yourself back – and there are certain techniques that Sarah has found to be particularly effective.
In her programmes she combines hypnotherapy, coaching, and the very best of more traditional talking therapy techniques, to help people heal from their past, take steps to implement positive thinking and behaviours in the future, and understand how their minds are functioning (or malfunctioning) right now. This particular mix of methods has been hugely successful, and has helped many of her clients see transformational change, (even when they are suffering long term emotional and mental health issues, due to past abuse) in just 12 weeks.
Ultimately though, it’s about knowing your own mind and understanding your self-worth. Without these two things, not only is lasting, positive change almost impossible, but the motivation to initiate that change is non-existent. The right therapy will help you put these foundational pieces into place.
Sarah wants to encourage you to have a think about how your life could be better, and consider the ways in which you put pressure on yourself or inhibit your personal and professional growth.
It could start you out on the path towards changing your life for the better.