When I got up the other morning the world was transformed by a blanket of thick snow. No one appeared to have gone out in it yet and everything looked pristine and beautiful. Walking among the trees and shrubs in the park felt magical and I just had to take some photos, as I wanted to share all this beauty. It was still early, so most of the snow was still completely untouched and my footsteps were the first to appear.
When I came back to the same area a few hours later I noticed that several paths had appeared in the snow that already looked well trodden. This reminded me of the neural pathways that we create in our brain when we practise a skill, or indulge in a habit. When we try to change something about ourselves, we literally create new neural pathways; not unlike walking in the snow for the first time. The more people walk along the same snowy path, the more others will follow, and the path becomes clearer and clearer. Similarly, as we practise doing things differently (whatever that may be) we strengthen the new neural pathways, so that eventually they become the pathways of choice: like the well-trodden paths in the snow.
So transformation can happen both suddenly and gradually. The blanket of snow made everything look different, however, underneath the snow there were the same streets, trees and cars. Similarly, through counselling or psychotherapy we can come to view our life differently. However, for things to change longer term we need to put in the practice.
The more we walk the new path, the clearer it will become.
(See the following articles if you would like to read more about this): http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=36389
There seems to be a trend at the moment that everyone is supposed to feel great all the time. Never mind that you have not had a good night’s sleep for what seems like forever because your youngest child is teething, or that there is a threat of redundancy at work, or you have just got divorced, you are supposed to portray a sunny, energetic, enthusiastic and positive persona. Feeling stressed or down seems to be regarded as a personal failure, to be cured by drugs or CBT. While there is nothing particularly positive about feeling miserable, it does not help, indeed is made worse by the general assumption that when you are not smiley smiley all the time there is something wrong with you.
Where does this idea that we should be happy all the time come from? Life is life, stuff happens. As Sandy Shaw sang in the 60s ‘I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden!’ Scott Peck’s well-known book “The Road Less Travelled” starts with “Life is difficult.” How true! This does not mean that life cannot also be exciting, fun and joyful, of course it can. But we have to take the rough with the smooth. Whether it is sooner or later, one thing is certain, we will all have our share of rough times.
Feeling upset or unhappy when someone you love is terminally ill, for example, is normal. It does not mean that there is something wrong with you. To the contrary would it not be strange if you were not affected at all? Whereas there is certainly a place for all kinds of help, I worry about the over-medicalisation of normal life. When bad things happen we may feel bad for a while. Of course looking for help to get through a difficult patch is a good idea. However, expecting someone or something to take all our pain away is tantamount to avoiding life.
As far as I am aware, we only have one life and should live it – whatever it brings.