“Don’t stress about it, it doesn’t really matter.” “Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll be okay.” “You’ll be fine.” “You’re over thinking it, it’s not a big issue.” “That’s not really a problem so I wouldn’t fret.” We’ve all said phrases like these when someone’s anxious about something. We’ve been trying to reassure, to boost the confidence of the other person, to stop them worrying. The problem is it doesn’t work. Instead of a little reassurance convincing you everything’s going to be okay, most people hear “I don’t really understand what you’re worried about – you’re on your own”.
I have been a fan of The Archers for about 30 years. Like every good, long-standing soap, it mixes funny story lines with both hard hitting and gentle ones. One of the harder ones right now is Alice’s alcoholism. There is history between Alice and her sister-in-law, Emma, so the latter’s motives may not have been that pure, but when she went to share her concerns with her brother, Alice’s husband, and Alice herself, things did not go well.
Do you feel suicidal? Does it sound like a shocking question? It’s one I’ve asked many times. I was a Samaritan for over six years and asked it of callers. Now as a psychotherapist, I ask it of my clients. Last month, when I raised it with a new client, she immediately began to cry. It was as if by asking the question directly I got around the shame she felt for thinking about suicide and gave her the space to talk openly about what she was experiencing. Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day. The purpose of the Day is to raise awareness that suicide is preventable. One of the big messages was don’t duck the difficult conversation.
All my life I’ve tried to start everything with a clean sheet of paper and make sure it’s perfect from that moment on. It’s never worked. I’ve never been able to achieve perfection, not even close. To protect myself from this recurring abject failure I’ve ‘split off’ and rejected parts of myself that represent whole periods of my life. It’s not a particularly rewarding way of living and the psychological kicking that comes with not achieving perfection fosters inertia. A healthy dose of self compassion and valuing the process now lead me to much better, more productive outcomes.