As a therapist, I have observed many individuals experiencing a life crisis. Though a crisis is difficult and painful, within this experience there is also an opportunity for change. The crisis itself is actually a wake up call trying to get our attention. Attention to what, you might ask. Attention to situations that we ignore that are needing to be addressed and resolved. If you had a physical illness, your body is trying to get your attention that something is wrong and needs to be healed. It is the same with our psychological health, our mental health. Too often, we ignore the warning signs, the wake up calls of our mental-emotional health. We use defense mechanisms such as denial, minimization, and rationalization to avoid looking at the difficult thoughts and feelings that drive our behavior. And we avoid looking at our behavior itself, to some extent, preferring instead to hold onto comfortable and familiar behaviors rather than stepping into the unknown to try out something new.
This is where the New Year can be symbolic for us, a true opportunity for change, a chance to take inventory of our past year, celebrate our successes, and look clearly at what most needs to change to allow us greater fulfillment in the coming year. If you view the human condition from a purely biological perspective, evolution shows us that, as a species, we are continually evolving and in a positive direction. I believe that evolution may also explain our innate drive to improve ourselves and our life. To resist change is to thwart this basic human evolutionary drive.
It is true that many cultures have similar traditions of welcoming in the New Year. There are celebrations to say farewell to the old and welcome in the new. There are rituals such as resolutions to symbolize our willingness to change, grow, and try out new behaviors. Too often, resolutions are made and soon abandoned as our tendency is to return to the comfortable and familiar. Losing weight, eating healthy, exercising, etc. are common resolutions we all make. But how about considering things like:
•Being kinder to ourself and others
•Making peace with others we are in conflict with
•Letting go of past hurts and resentments
•Embracing our feelings, especially the difficult ones
•Exploring the inner world of our thoughts-feelings
•Improving our communication with others
As I stated at the beginning of this article, we too often ignore our mental-emotional health. Let this New Year be different. Let it be an opportunity for change. A chance to embrace all the parts of ourselves: our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams, our aspirations, our livelihood, and our relationships. We can decide the specifics of what part of ourselves we want to work on. But do so and do it now. At the end our our life, we may regret more the things we did not do rather than the things we did do. In closing, my wish is for all to have a happy, prosperous, changeful, and fulfilled New Year.
Written by John Johnson