written by L. Chris Cannida, LPC – January 1, 2015
Every soul can have its own Springtime. Everyone can begin again.
The dead of winter has set in where I live. While I appreciate the seasons, the seemingly endless dark clouds, wintry weather on the roads, and shortened days, can leave me feeling a bit down. It’s helpful when I shift my thoughts to the idea that Spring is coming. If I can just hold on, I will reap the benefits of earth’s promise to change seasons. While the length of winter varies, sometimes stretching longer than I like, Mother Earth does keep her promise. We would all do well in keeping promises to ourselves just as the earth does to its land. Everyone needs a reminder that we can change the season of our mind by choosing to begin again. And since our mind and soul are co-hosts to our growth, nurturing one brings new life to the other. How? We start by changing our thought-life.
Our mind and soul are co-hosts to our growth.
Do you know how many times I’ve broken promises to myself? Too many to count. Promises to be a better person. Promises to let go of painful memories. Promises to set and reach many goals. I’ve broken every one of them. Repeatedly.
That also means I’ve started over the same amount of times. Starting over and renewing promises to my self requires much self-forgiveness and compassion. It also requires determination and an honesty about my character flaws, my needs, and the ability to communicate with myself in a way that provides just enough admonition without condemnation.
Recently, a young pastor in my church spoke about the effect of condemnation. He called it a “silent assassin”, adding that “condemnation destroys the initiative of the heart”.
“Condemnation destroys the initiative of the heart”. – D’aundre Johnson*
That statement stuck with me. I started thinking about the times I’ve wanted to start something new – initiate a career move, start a personal or professional project, fulfill a promise for self-improvement in some way. When new ideas first come to me, my mind is filled with visions for how I want it all to work out. That sparks a visceral excitement in me. And there is such a hope (some might call it a faith) that everything will work out greatly. There have been times when everything did turn out well. Other times my hopes ended up as faint memories. I can tell you exactly what uproots my plans – self-talk. Nothing will destroy hope faster than defamation of our worth. And trust me, self-defamation is more damaging than all the negative words spoken about us by any number of other people. Self-imposed heartbreak can make us believe we’re stuck in a ‘dead of winter’ that will never end. While winter as a season has its place, an emotional winter can be devastating to our sense of worth.
Draining the initiative and the hope from our hearts leaves us feeling broken.
Heartbreak from self-condemnation is a difficult mend. Especially when the very mind we need to change it is exactly the part of us under attack by our own thoughts. That’s why I am ever-grateful for learning the art and science of beginning again. Beginning again requires resilience. Resilience is grounded in scientific elements, both psychological and physiological. It can be purposefully developed and strengthened.
Resilience is my soul’s springtime. And while that sounds rather trite, I believe it to be true. Life’s stresses can bring fatigue and a sense of hopelessness at times. Resilience is the anecdote that can bring us back to life. And though some elements of resilience exist outside us (social support, circumstances), most of the seeds that need planting are inside our own minds!
My encouragement to you now is to explore any self-defamation or condemnation you might be allowing to drain the initiative from your self. If you discover that you continually make negative statements about your own worth, whether by reviewing past mistakes or less-than-healthy intentions in living, or allowing the negative words of others to become the lyrics you live by each day, stop now. Explore the possibility of forgiving yourself for whatever perceived (or real) shortcomings you may hold. Consider that on any given day, you’ve perhaps done the best you could. Then, make a commitment to seek out ways to do better for yourself.
If self-forgiveness (which is really just flushing the experience of shame from inside you) is difficult, there are a number of ways to gently begin. You can seek help from someone like me, a psychotherapist trained in navigating the mindful steps of healing the soul. Or perhaps you could risk trusting a minister, a chaplain if you’re in the military, or a friend. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable beginning the process privately. It does require allowing emotional vulnerability. In that case, there are books on the topic that might be helpful. If you have a faith-base that has brought comfort in the past, recommit to prayer or meditation. Whatever course you choose, keep the promise of beginning. Go now – find a mirror – make eye contact with yourself and mark this decision. Plant the seeds to begin again. Don’t wait for Mother Earth to change seasons all around you. Change the season in your mind right now.
Invite a renewal of your thought-life. Shift from condemnation to encouragement, determination, and positive intention. Feel free to consider some of those books I mentioned, listed below. Soon, I’ll talk a bit more about resilience and how you can strengthen yours. For now, enjoy the coming of Spring.
I Thought It Was Just Me, Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame, Brene Brown (I recommend this book for men, as well, since shame can affect us all)
Developing Resilience: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach, Michael Neenan
Just One Thing, Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Shame: The Power of Caring, by Gershen Kaufman
Where Is God When It Hurts? A Comforting, Healing Guide for Coping with Hard Times, by Philip Yancey
* A special thank-you to D’aundre Johnson of Presence Theater Church in Owasso, OK for graciously granting permission to use his concept and words in this piece.