One of my favourite necklaces is a teeny tiny metal robot, called Ian. I sometimes wear him when I am working to remind me that I am not a robot.
Self awareness is an important key to better mental health. If I know myself better, how I respond to situations, who I am, what i believe and what I do - I have a better understanding of how I see the world and what makes me tick. As I accept who I am, then I can begin to change…if I choose to.
I have always found it easy and safe to stay in my head. Thinking things through, making plans, gathering information. Getting my body and emotions to match my thoughts is a whole different bunch of bananas, because I am not just my thoughts, there’s a load of other stuff in there as well.
My head is my safe space, it is where I retreat too when I am feeling uncomfortable, or tired, or threatened. I pull up into my head and make everything theoretical. I distance myself from my emotions, having a tendency to analyse/criticise/problem solve, rather than acknowledging emotions which I struggle with like anger, sadness, disappointment. I think of myself as a robot - there to do a job efficiently.
I can daydream and create wonderful fantasy worlds were I am always right, and the best, and not in any way responsible for the situation I find myself in. I tell myself lovely stories, while ignoring the feelings that are bubbling away underneath everything else - if I pretend they are not there, they will go away. This is usually quite successful for me, in that I distract myself from any emotional turmoil and focus on planning how to get out of the current situation, and oooh what’s that lovely fun thing on the horizon i can focus on rather than all this messy emotion I am currently standing in.
The problem arises when I’m so busy focusing on the next thing my brain is off somewhere else, but my feet and body are stuck in the reality of my life and I am left feeling frustrated and a bit like I have been in a mental car crash - thoughts rushing ahead, high speed, burning rubber, but my bumper is tied to a brick wall bringing me to an abrupt halt, or worse puling me crashing back into reality.
As my brain speeds away I know on some level I’m trying to escape so I work even harder thinking and thinking and thinking…anxiety, stress, all begin to build up. This is not fun, and it’s not helping my situation get any better. But this is part of who I am, how I respond, so how do I help myself?
I have found that if I am all up in my head (being a bit Ian-ish), the best way to change the situation is to bring in some other bits of me. My feelings and my body. These three elements make up my whole, and when I’m struggling I need to use all resources available to me.
I have found that my body is often the best anchor for me when I am feeling anxious. It’s as if I am reminding my brain, that I am more than a brain/computer/processor, I am a physical human being I am not a robot. I am often a little suspicious of my feelings, and sometimes struggle to identity what they are, but I can feel my body, so that is where I start.
This is my body, I can feel my feet in my shoes, I can move my fingers and make a fist, I can stretch and wriggle in my seat. I have control of my body. I can breathe and squish up my face and the change feels good. I become aware of the bit of my body that I have been holding really still, holding the tension and anxiety. As I become aware of that tension, I also become aware of the emotions that are tied to that tension, the fear, the anger, the sadness. I can acknowledge them and it doesn’t feel as scary as it did before.
I am pulling myself together, reattaching my body to my brain, reconnecting with my emotions which are there to give me information and help me engage with the real world and the people I love and the fun to be had.
This is just my experience, and it isn’t always like this, but I hope this might give some words to help you know yourself better, to understand more of who you are.
If you are struggling to know who you are, or need a safe space to reconnect with yourself why not consider counselling. I am a counsellor based in the Nottingham and Derby area and would be delighted to hear from you.