By David Joel Miller.
Why your brain may be hiding things from you.
The theme of this blog is recovery and having a happy life. But we can’t create that happy life by hiding from the pain of the past. No introspection or inventory would be complete without a look as some of the negative or the less than positive memories.
In a previous post we explored some of the happy times in your life, now it is time to look deeply at some other aspects of the you and see what is there – deep inside you.
I recommend writing the answers to these questions down if at all possible. Creating a journal or instruction book for your life gives you a reference book to look back at. The process of writing things down helps get things out and often we find that things come out in writing we never realized until they appear before us on paper.
1. How has health and wellness affected your life?
When have you faced prolonged illness or health challenges and how has that affected your happiness? If you haven’t had the experience of being sick how has your good health affected your moods and what have you learned from that?
Many a person’s life has been shaped by a period of illness they experienced in childhood. If you were sick for a while, what did you do during that time? Did you have a caretaker that you spent time with? How did they affect you and how do you remember that time? Did the things that person said and did with you affect who you became.
If you were seriously ill and spent time in the hospital, how have those experiences influence who you became? Did you face those challenges with a family member or friend or did you feel very alone?
Did you have a family member that had heath challenges? Did you help care for them? How has being a caregiver in childhood affected you?
What lessons did you learn and what did you tell yourself as a result of these experiences?
2. What are your bad qualities?
What would you say are your flaws?
Some gemstones are made more beautiful by their flaws. Your defects of character are there for a reason and your life task is to see what use you can make of those qualities others many not appreciate.
You can’t change things you are not aware of.
Asking people about their bad characteristics is a common interview question. It is surprising how many people have no idea of either their strengths or their weaknesses. Even fewer people have faced their weaknesses and done something to overcome them.
3. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Would you change your appearance? Would you change your hair? Would you be taller or shorter? Can you accept you just the way you are?
Would the change you make be on the inside? Would you be willing to give up anger or shyness?
Some recovered people do not regret anything about their past. They have come to terms with their failings and now can see how those problems from their past have made them stronger and better people as a result.
Can you truly say that you do not regret your past, even the mistakes? Can you also say that while you may not regret the past or want to change it, you would not want to repeat those mistakes or have to live through those hard times again?
4. If you could change three things about yourself what would these things be?
Are these things like height and appearance that really can’t be changed all that much or are they things like weight and education that you might be able to change if you put in the effort?
You may not be able to make yourself smarter but you can get more education. The smartest people are not always the ones who achieve the most in life. People who take an honest look at themselves and change what they can, while accepting what they can’t change, go a lot further in life.
We often make the mistake of thinking that if we could change things on the outside, where we live, how much money we have, our job or our partner, change that and then we would be happy.
What sometimes happens is that we change ourselves, do the work of real inner change. As a result of those changes on the inside we become happy and content and then the things on the outside, our external things begin to change.
5. What are your greatest life regrets?
If you got some “do-overs” what things would you want to go back and do differently? Are there things that you would not change but that you hope you never have to undergo again? If your today-self could tell your five-year-old-self something what would that be? You can repeat this exercise for various ages and see what advice you can now give to the you’s that used to be.
Lastly ask yourself what the person you will be in the future, at retirement age or beyond, what advice would that older-self give the you that exists now? Consider taking some of these pieces of advice from the current self to the childhood self and from the future older self to the present person you are. How would following that advice change the way you are living now?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- Perfectionism – good thing or bad thing (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Guilt and Shame (counselorssoapbox.com)
- Danger at the crossroad – changes you can’t take back (counselorssoapbox.com)
- When Mindfulness makes you feel worse – about pain (counselorssoapbox.com)