Inner resources missing in action?
According to Solution Focused philosophy, every human has their own inner resources. These are the personal reserves that help us survive during times of crisis or long periods of having to withstand difficult situations. We fall, and we get up again.
But what happens when those resources cannot be found? When we reach the end of our tether? How do we find them, call upon then, use them to help us resolve problems, cope with disaster and gain resilience?
There is no simple single answer, but a range of ideas and activities which can help us find our way back.
In troubled times – whether that’s caused by external events or internal upheaval, we may find we can’t reach down and find the skills and strengths we thought we should possess, or indeed those that we remember having in the past. If we do find them, we sometimes don’t use them as we should, or have lost the energy to wield these tools as before.
I sometimes think about those people who decide to climb mountains. With all the iconography of reaching the final peak and planting the flag (or these days taking an Insta-worthy photograph!), we are rarely shown the steps that led to the big achievement. Who knows what food was packed for sustenance, how long it took to reach base camp, who argued with whom, how long the training took, how many blisters were acquired and healed along the way. Boots, ropes, crampons, camping paraphernalia. All these individually small but crucial pieces of the puzzle are somehow overlooked. And so it is with the fabled inner resources. Very small improvements are crucial.
So how do we find the support and guidance to help us make the long trek?
1. Listen to positive stories.
Reading, listening and learning from others is a good place to start, and these activities are not wasted time. We don’t have to feel guilty for not being ‘productive’; books and films featuring true-life stories of people who came back from disaster are often the stuff of blockbusters. We love to see people bounce back from the impossible. How do they overcome loss, illness, sudden change, difficult upbringing, strained relationship? What was their turning point? What was their ‘lightbulb moment’? Or how did they simply find strength to keep going when all was lost?
2. Enjoy solitude.
Alone doesn’t mean lonely. Taking ourselves away from the crowd for meditation, mindfulness, a walk in the park, a long bath, an hour with a book, can help us reflect, be still, be thankful.
3. Find strong people.
See how they survive, cope, thrive. Try to develop that skill. Surround yourself with emotionally strong people. Watch how they live, emulate their strength and develop this in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support. Someone you trust checking in on us regularly is like a ‘running buddy’ who accompanies us on our mission.
4. Start Solution Focused Hypnotherapy
This kind of therapy combines the power of talking and listening with the influence of the unconscious mind. Rather than talking about past difficulties and dwelling on problems, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy guides the participant to think about what has been good, what could be better and how that might work. Freed from the shackles of negative rumination, the imagination is at liberty to visualise an imaginary existence without our current problem and how such a life could be created.
5. Improve your self-esteem.
We all deserve to be fulfilled and contented. We have a right to live a useful existence where we give and receive. As humans, we should accept that we are flawed, but that we are always a work in progress and are developing. Development is not just about learning a series of skills and a bookcase or two of knowledge. Understanding ourselves, our place in the world and among others is one of the hardest things about being human.
Rarely do I see a client who wouldn’t benefit from improved self-esteem. Esteem comes from the Latin and French words for ‘appraisal’, ‘value’ and ‘worth’. In the 1800’s phrenologists believed that a person’s self-esteem could be seen in the shape of their heads. Practitioners allocated self-esteem its own bump! Thankfully, people of all head shapes can improve their self-esteem by following some or all of the following suggestions.
· Set small goals
People often think they have to achieve great feats, which makes failure all the more likely, and reinforces low self-esteem. Small wins are surprisingly effective at improving our self-worth. When we are at our lowest, getting out of bed and dressed is a win.
· Reflect on past success
Thinking and even listing some of our past successes can pull us into a positive mindset, instead of focusing negatively on what is yet to be done.
· Allow uncertainty to exist
Life rarely carries guarantees. We can choose how we respond to uncertainty. Allowing it to exist as a fact of life, without either a positive or negative evaluation can free us from anxiety. It is fine to let the immutable be, without striving for change.
· Get creative
Painting, drawing, making music, decorating, gardening….find your groove or rediscover a forgotten one. These activities use different part of our complex brain and allow other parts of the mind to heal through unconscious problem-solving.
· Find laughter
Who can forget that friend at school who made us laugh till we cried? As adults we often lose sight of humour in the everyday. Check in online, in print, on Netflix, or commune with your guinea pigs…fun is out there if we look for it.
· Keep showing up
People who succeed don’t just have a goal or a plan, they keep on keeping on. Runners train in wet weather, singers and actors rehearse, artists get the paints out regularly, presenters practise their talk. Repetition and persistence beat raw talent.
Helping others boosts our oxytocin levels – the happy hormone. We give help and receive positive feedback. This most basic of interactions makes its recipients and givers feel good. Your community is bursting with volunteering opportunities formal or informal. Give a neighbour a hand.
· Mix with positive people
The law of attraction suggests that positive mindsets attract their own kind. Negative energy is also catching, so if we have the choice, we should migrate towards positive people and pick up some joy juice!
· Engage your faith or philosophy
Many faiths and philosophies focus on wellbeing in a spiritual sense. If this is your bag, why not increase your immersion or find ideas that chime with your own. Go online, read up, join a group, find your own way to healing power.
· Forgive yourself
Jerry Jampolsky, author of Love Is Letting Go of Fear, says that “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past”. I use this quote often, because it gets to the heart of the negative mind’s backward-looking practice. We cannot change yesterday. We do not know about tomorrow. All we have is now. If we can let go of the mistakes or difficulties of the past, which cannot be changed, we can be open to the positivity of future opportunity.
I once heard an anecdote about a young woman looking at an old lady crossing the street. “Gosh,” she thought, watching her totter uncertainly to the other side, “I hope I don’t end up like that.” Having subsequently received a diagnosis of serious illness, she spotted the old lady again some time later. “Gosh”, she thought, “I hope I can end up like that.” We can choose to see situations in different ways. Reality is in our thought processes.
· Make new choices
Every morning is a day made new; a chance to behave differently, act differently, think differently. There is always hope for a better outcome. Today you can do make a small change.
· Improve wellness
Body and mind go hand-in-hand. Many conditions are improved by good mental health and, conversely, mental health can be improved by good physical health. A plan for a regular 20-minute walk, or a small change to one’s dietary regime can spark long term improvement in physical and mental health. When we feel well, we can see our potential.
So when those inner resources are hard to find – start small, celebrate the wins and cheer yourself on to daily progress.