On Listening To Ourselves, And Making Room To Play.

I am on the first vacation I’ve taken since last summer, and it is well worth the wait. I am looking at palm trees, hearing birds and a lovely wind chime, and watching scuttling lizards. I am with people that I love and trust deeply, with whom I can wholly be myself. I am taking time to breathe and to check in on what’s going on. Inside. With me. 

I have been a bit frenetic about work and I know it. Taking this time out to re-center and relax is necessary and is overdue. While I’ve been generally attentive to myself this past year, I have a tendency to be over-productive and to neglect my need for fun and relaxation. Many of the clients with whom I work are similar – we go and go and push and push, and at the end of several years look back to discover that we forgot to enjoy ourselves. We don’t hear or outright ignore the part of ourselves that says Wait! I need to rest/play/laugh/do nothing/do something utterly impractical but also creative or inspiring or lovely, just because. These parts of us become neglected over time, and need attention and healing. 

In order to initiate healing, we must first acknowledge that these parts of us that are neglected. To get in touch with those parts (many of which we’ve completely forgotten about), we must give them room to make themselves known. This requires quiet, and stillness, and intention. It is not a comfortable process to unearth these parts, and it is even more challenging to sit, squirmy, while they tell us what hurts, what needs to change, and what they might require from us. 

It is human to want to avoid discomfort, and there is no shame in taking breaks or going about the process slowly. Things become sticky, however, when we end up so invested in distracting ourselves from our neglected parts that we stop hearing from them altogether. This happens when we find ourselves utterly absorbed by our work, or a relationship, or in fixing others’ affairs, or in numbing ourselves with a wide variety of behaviors.  We distract ourselves to create noise that is momentarily relieving and interesting, only inevitably find ourselves in the intolerable quiet once again, and so we distract again, and around and around the wheel we go. No wonder we feel exhausted so much of the time. 

When I’m working with clients on sitting with their parts, we start with just a few minutes at a time. We try to feel where the part lives inside of our physical being, and focus in on that area to bring that part of us to the surface. In the beginning, that is often as much as can be tolerated, and that is perfectly okay. It is the process of developing this awareness, this practice of sitting with ourselves, that is important, not how far along we manage to get. 

We are not demanding or impatient. We carve out time and space. We understand that after a lifetime of distracting ourselves, sitting with ourselves will feel alien and scary, and that is okay. We will be brave together, and, if we don’t feel ready for something, we won’t do it. Tiny, gentle,  compassionate steps forward. 

This is the process I am allowing for myself on this vacation. I am hearing from parts of me that long to play and to go on adventures, and I am letting them know that I have brought them to just the right place for these things. I will give them my time and my energy, and let them know how important they are to my well-being. I will promise to try hard not to neglect them, and not to distract them away. 

There are lizards and palm trees and sunshine that require my attention. Today, they are the most important things in the world. 


Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych Central.com. To read more, visit https://blogs.psychcentral.com/common-humanity/
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