by L. Chris Cannida, LPC – August 31, 2014
In my last blog I set out to consider how it is that we move various thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from ourselves so that we might experience an improved quality of being. I decided that since I was in the process of moving with my family across several states I would make note of the similarities between moving on in a physical sense and moving on from psychological residue that can weigh on us over time. Here’s what I’ve learned or have been reminded of on my journey.
Lesson One: Moving and getting settled in to a new way of living can take longer than expected, though how long depends largely on me and my efforts. When we started packing up in North Carolina and I began to envision my new surroundings, I was filled with excitement that I could once again be enveloped by that sense of freshness, of newness. I told myself that everything would be (or at least look) ‘shiny and new’ in my new place! My unrealistic expectation had me convinced I’d be completely settled in within two weeks. It has now been nearly a month and I’m still surrounded by unpacked boxes and disarray. So it goes when we are trying to move away from unwanted thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. I can recall so many clients who’ve come to their first session believing that we’d meet only two or three times before they’d feel ‘shiny and new’, without the weight of those thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that had become a burden. Many more than three sessions (and sometimes several months) later, they are surprised to realize it is taking longer to move toward a completely different way of being. For some, it can be quick and fairly painless to make changes, though depending on certain factors (the extent of painful experience and personal motivation) it can be a journey that takes more time.
I have decided that changing my expectations, exercising patience, and giving myself permission to move more slowly may be better.
In giving myself permission to move at a different pace I can be more mindful about where I want to place items and how I want to arrange my belongings. I am reminding myself that, in the long run, this mindful way of moving will bring about a more permanent peace and sense of well-being. Taking the time to increase self-awareness or honor processes that deserve your attention – letting go, grieving, re-remembering for healing sake – has long-term benefits for your life.
Lesson Two: Just because you move many miles away from a place doesn’t mean your memories of painful experiences will fade away. It takes much shifting and re-placing to set up my new home in the best possible way. In psychotherapy one of a person’s goals may be to forget bad events that have happened. They look to a professional for ways of moving past the event, hoping it will erase the memory from their minds. In my former city of residence I experienced some painful events. I was hoping, although it wasn’t the reason for moving across states, that a pleasant side effect would be having those events fade from my mind, no longer affecting me. Not many days after I landed in my new home I found myself deeply saddened by those very memories.
Daily, I remind myself that memories of an event or painful relationship are different than still living IN it.
This reminder – that a memory is just that, a memory, helps me as I intentionally move myself away from the unwanted recall by shifting my thoughts to more helpful perspectives. For me, I can now shift my focus to all of the positive elements of my physical move – reconnecting with dear friends, my new yard rich with landscape and color, and a fireplace just asking for a warm holiday celebration. When it comes to moving unwanted thoughts, you can use replacement thoughts – affirmations, mantras, prayers – as ways to shift toward a more positive experience. Even new behaviors – hobbies, routines, self-care exercises – can help this shift take place. As for the feelings – trust me – if you change your thoughts and/or behaviors, your unwanted feelings will move from you, too. While it can be a challenging process, training your mind to change its position and move from one thought to another is possible and quite effective. As I shift my mind away from dark to light, any painful emotions begin to shift as well, leaving me in a better space mentally, spiritually, and even physically. I know that memories remain, though I can build new compartments for those thoughts. Shifting and holding my thoughts differently allows me to have more control over when they come to the forefront. Most of my clients who experience progress eventually say something similar to this – “I still think about it from time to time, but it doesn’t seem to bother me as much”.
Lesson Three: Regardless of how successful the move may be, some things are not going to change. As I wrestle with unpacking, arranging furniture in a new space, finding storage for items that I decided to bring with me, and learning my way around a new city, I discover that there are personality traits of mine (and my family’s) that remain…..ugh. My husband still sees things differently than I do – hence, my compromise to leave the measly little pine tree in the front yard even though I perceive it as poorly placed to begin with by the previous home-owners. My son still takes too long in the shower. And me? I still procrastinate because of ‘second-guessing’ myself when it comes to making certain decisions. There is still, and will always be, healing to be done.
Putting effort toward the changes I most want to see and forgiving myself (and others) for what may not change anytime soon helps me stay energized and focused on what I love most about my life.
In turn, this energy allows me to continue my own journey of healing. Which leads me to the last lesson I’ll share.
Lesson Four: Moving is a journey, though not just forward. Sometimes, it is a journey back. Since landing in this current space – a city I’ve lived before – I’ve begun to realize that over time parts of me were always supposed to remain. I am reminded that some of those thoughts, behaviors, and feelings I needed to shed were a result of building callous, defense, and cover-up from trials I’d faced. As I continue to sort through boxes of stuff I am becoming more mindful of which things I’d gathered out in the world in order to survive and can now be let go. As I settle in to home I am able to see that the me free from thoughts created to rationalize, behaviors to voice angst, and the dark feelings that resulted are no longer needed. I can move those from inside and live more freely.
Moving can be daunting. While I don’t plan to make another major physical move for quite some time, if ever, I know that moving my psychological self from one state to another is possible, necessary, and best for my soul. Moving has brought me home in more ways than one.
“Honey, I’m home”.