Today, I had two very different conversations on the same topic with patients. It happens a lot in my line of work.
People often think their problems are very unique and personal. The truth is that a lot of mental health professionals could tell you that this is not accurate.
Of course, we each have our personal way of suffering, our own personal traumas and their consequential wounds to deal with. But the ways we deal with suffering is not unique at all. It comes down to a few defence mechanisms and a number of mental illnesses, grouped into clusters because of their similarities.
And most of them, because mental illness is nurtured by trauma, imply a disconnect between ourselves and our intuition.
Some of us are so disconnected from our intuition that it gets dysfunctional : it doesn’t work the way it is supposed to be anymore, it brings us to dangerous and toxic places.
Our intuition looks out for us. When we are living our most aligned and meaningful life and healed our wounds, intuition helps us being happy (on the long term rather than short term) and interacting with others in loving ways (creating and interacting with emotional safety and trust).
Good signs we are in tune with our intuition :
- we don’t keep ending up in the toxic and painful places over and over,
- we feel like a valuable part of the world,
- people and life mostly want good things for us.
When we feel like we can trust our intuition, the world and being by ourselves feel safer and more benevolent. Not in ALL ways (systemic oppression is a big no for example), but in some important ways.
It helps to know that intuition’s voice is not hurried, panicked, impatient. Intuition’s voice is calme, grounded, and protective. It knows it matters to go through our pace, and that that pace is rarely a speedy one.
So the panicky voice that keeps telling us we must do things NOW or else everything will be horrible and catastrophic and doomed?
Most probably not intuition, except if there is an actual physical imminent danger.
Intuition doesn’t operate from fear but from love. When it tells us that some place or people are not loving, it does it in a calm way, still. “That’s not for us. I don’t like it here. Let’s leave.”.
That’s probably one of our best tell to differentiate intuition and learned reaction, with the ideas that intuition always loves and respects us (self hate is not intuition), and doesn’t get us into things, people and places that feel worse when we left them than when we came to them (toxicity and addictions are learned, not intuitive).
Unfortunately, our culture and then our families through our culture tend to teach us a lot of things that goes against our intuition.
Rules that are treating some people worse, depending on arbitrary things like race, sex, belief systems…
Rules that aren’t about protecting humans but protecting money, power and status quo.
Rules that are not protecting our health but exploiting it.
Rules that tell us we need to be perfect (which we can’t) or we don’t deserve good things.
The more we listen to those rules, the more we have to ignore our instinct (telling us something’s wrong), and we disconnect ourselves from that precious inner power.
Each of those little betrayals of ourselves are traumatic.
To heal, we all have to relearn how to trust ourselves more. But that can be difficult to achieve, especially if we didn’t for a very long time. Slowly, we need to reclaim our intuition by following it, on things that are not too hard and painful at first.
Recovery is incremental, the more we get violent to ourselves by doing things that are extremely hard and painful, the more we will hinder our process instead of accelerating it as we hope to achieve.
Like, with my clients struggling with food or relationships, it’s not the best place to start to reclaim their intuition.
Instead, we can start from where we feel safe (whatever that means) and go from there.
To some enjoying to walk, I recommend to explore new journeys to go to the same point.
I guided some dancers towards more intuitive types of dances, going away from choreography and precise steps.
Using art as a container to follow our intuition is often appreciated.
It’s often things that we find a little ridiculous, weird or “irresponsible" that can end up the most liberating.
Sometimes, I will jump from a sidewalk because it’s more fun than just walking, or skip in the street, or just dance a little because I feel like it (wether there is music or not, sometimes in public places).
It’s quite fun, despite the puzzled looks (that last a fraction of second anyway).
I remember learning how to dare to stretch a little in the subway or the street to go back and liberate my body during the day, despite the weird looks, was healing to me. When I want to read a lot of different books, I do it, even if that means reading by 10mn increments 5 books the same day.
I play lots of video games in Easy mode because it’s supposed to be fun, not hard and frustrating (it’s supposed to be GAMES).
It can be about eating weird things together, or in a weird way, or at ‘weird’ times. Changing the time or order in which we are doing certain things.
Doing something right when we have the idea instead of waiting for the “perfect” time.
To choose to do things poorly rather than never, in wait for the energy of doing it the “perfect” way.
Simple things like these really matter.
A client today shared that before, she used to force herself to create her art in one sitting, but found a lot of freedom in instead, having breaks when it was overwhelming, restore in some safer setting and then come back to it.
Perfectionism can tell us we can’t trust ourselves to come back to something hard if we stop, because we’re too weak.
But rest and honoring our pace is really important when we do hard things.
Stopping and actually coming back is very healing, it shows us how strong we really are.
For another client today, we created two mantras to help her through a hard time : “I have the right to pleasure and comfort” (bravery can’t be practised at all times) and “I have the right to make mistakes”.
So even if she couldn’t stop herself from doing something she knew wouldn’t be ideal for her, she didn’t have to hate herself in the process.
Choosing comfort and pleasure (even somehow not that good for us) over courage sometimes can be a form of love and self compassion, when we keep abusing ourselves, especially if we are aware of what is happening.
This is still progress over not knowing how much damage we do to ourselves. It’s all a process. And it takes time.
Trust you will find your way through it in time.
That’s one of my current mantras. I tell it to myself regularly when I feel lost and scared. To remind myself that important and deeply healing truth.
What could you do, my dear hummingbird, to learn how to trust yourself and your intuition a little bit better?