Is this your new beginning?
Rev. Doctor Gereth Edwards believes that a new beginning is an opportunity, in which our world has dumbed down to a platitude, and through idiomatic overuse, sadly, has lost its value. We turn over a new leaf, start a new chapter or wipe the slate clean.
Over the course of our lifetime, it is inevitable that change will happen and turn our lives topsy-turvy. Whether we have been meticulous or not, things happen. Internal and external forces can change our lives. Then, to use yet another idiom, like a bolt from the blue we are no longer able to follow our chosen direction.
Enough of the trite clichés. Let’s think about this for a moment. Humans, by and large, loathe change. Too indolent to initiate it on their own, they generally need to be shaken awake before considering it. When change does happen, however, an opportunity arises. We can then take stock of things. We can choose the parts of our lives that we cherish and proceed to nourish them, well pruning and discarding the unwanted elements.
Of course we can change, that is not a question. When we are forced by circumstance to change, we are more than capable of doing so. It is sad though, that it requires something so momentous to change. And can we sustain the change?
We often take too much baggage on our journey. I believe that we have to differentiate between stages of the new beginning, and make a calculated effort to filter out the rubbish at the outset. Any such process leaves residue. When panning for diamonds, you have to sift through the gravel with great care to find the valuable gem amidst the dross.
Ordinarily, once we have done this, we think and declare: “Job done” and want to relax. Not by a long chalk, for it is now time to address the tailings. Often we know the parts we dislike and attempt to deal with them, but we forget that we have to deal with it all, otherwise like the slime dams of the gold mines, they slowly leak their toxins back into our lives. A comprehensive rehabilitation programme has to be embarked upon.
The first thing we must do is to acknowledge that change does exist and is needed. A corny joke seems appropriate here. How many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the bulb must genuinely want to change!
How can we change ourselves for the better?
It is absurdly easy. After that eureka moment, the first thing you should do is to enlist allies – family, friends and spiritual leaders. Help from a therapist is a starting point after a cataclysm, as the ripples often go much further than one realises. Please do not get me wrong, this is not long-term therapy; mostly it is preventing just that. Post-traumatic syndrome is real and, if managed correctly, prevents enduring sequelae.
Next, do some research. Evaluate yourself, find out how change management works and, if you are so inclined, delve into the science of change. This will give you a better chance at achieving a lasting result.
A simple thing you can do, is to realise how the human mind is wired. Humans have a preference for smaller-but-sooner over larger-but-later rewards. Consequently, understand the long-term aim, but revel and reward yourself after small victories. Do not dwell on the small setbacks. Acknowledge them, and discern that in the end their impact is based on whether you can get back on track (not necessarily on what triggered them). Never let an event dominate your life. This is easier said than done, but infinitely rewarding if you can achieve it.
You know yourself, so you know which things you will not be able to do (no matter how enthusiastic you are to change). Focus on the techniques you know work. If a visit with a friend buoys you up, do that more often. If solitude helps to arrange your thoughts, sit in the garden. A slightly more adventurous approach would be to find new ways that resonate with you.Trust your gut.
I would respond to my patients, when they requested me to take extra care when operating on them, by saying: “Yesterday when I operated on the person with the same condition, I operated with all the knowledge and skill I could muster. By the time I operate on you, I will have more of the same. What you want is not special care. What you need is me at my best, as I was, the last time I did it.” All of us know what works for us. Take those skills and build on them.
It is important to be realistic. You start off full of hope, and if the outcome is not what you envisioned and, moreover, you hated the journey, it is a double whammy. If along the way you retain a memory, experience an awakening or even manage to see the world in another way, the trip is not a bust.