I believe that there’s something to be learnt from everything we experience in life. It may be that by trying strawberry ice cream we learn that we don’t like strawberry ice cream. Maybe we argue with a sibling, hit them out of anger and are disciplined by a parent thereby learning that violence isn’t okay. Those are all little things though. Things most of us learn and discover growing up. What I want to talk about today is the learning that comes with increased self awareness.
Quite a while ago, when I was completing my Certificate IV in Counselling and Communication, we had a bit of a class discussion about counselling/therapy homework and clients not completing it. I actually don’t remember the discussion at all but I do remember the message I took away from it – even if things (homework) aren’t completed, are ignored or avoided there is something to be learnt. There’s always something behind the avoidance, something that can be learnt from it.
I think I’ve gone on to generalise this message and use it in my life. When I step out of avoidance (because I do avoid, a lot) and look at why I’m avoiding, without excuses, without justifications – there’s something there. There’s a real reason for avoidance that can be worked with. You can’t work with excuses – you just go around in circles.
I’m trying to learn more from negative experiences. At the more extreme end of negative there was the offer of a bed at a partial residential therapy program and the suicidal ideation that followed. Once the crisis was over I was able to look back at the experience and see, more clearly, what had happened. My current understanding is that my inability to cope with the anxiety (triggered by the prospect of staying somewhere new and with strangers) resulted in some of my alters stepping up to do their job. When they think I’m not coping they will take over and do whatever they can to cope. For many of them it seems that self-destruction is the answer.
Knowing what triggers my alters into action has left me wondering what I can do to help them. How can I protect them, and in turn, protect myself? I’ve worked out that I need to drastically improve coping skills in a number of areas – if I’m more able to cope, they’ll have no need to step in and begin self-destruction. It means that from a chaotic and negative experience I’ve found a way to move forward in getting better. The alternative would be to gain no understanding or insight and continue in the same destructive cycle each time a trigger emerged.
I think what I’m trying to say, and with my own examples, is that even from crappy experiences, something positive can be learnt. I will add that this won’t apply to everyone in every negative situation, and doing so could be very unhelpful and potentially triggering. Use common sense and seek professional help when needed.