Have you ever had something you really wanted but concluded, “That’s impossible!”? Something that you just pushed so deep within you that now it’s buried and you can’t even remember what it is? Well, if so, welcome to Possibility Training 101. Most of us have something we really want. We all have a persistent urge or desire that we can’t shake. Sometimes life values (or society’s) have made it even more “impossible” for us.
What if I told you it is possible to achieve these goals?
You would then think that I am a crazy woman, or maybe that I do not know you, or that I cannot help you. You might even think “I am broken, and I am beyond repair!”. I would then say (in this hypothetical conversation) “Welcome to uncovering YOU!”.
1. A Trauma History Affects Your View of Today's Possibilities
Lots of people have this negative perspective—especially if they have experienced trauma in their past. Trauma changes the brain in such a way that your own brain works against you. This blog is not about trauma, though; it’s about breaking your impossibilities.
2. Treat Anxiety by Exposures on Vacations
About 6 years ago I went on a life-changing and seemingly impossible adventure. I had been testing the water for years and doing things that already seemed impossible. My family (and society!) would say that I couldn’t do this or that, but what do you know: I could! I traveled to other countries frequently. I drove in other countries, a big hurdle for me. I ended relationships that seemed impossible to get out of. I stopped unhealthy behaviors. This list goes on and on and on and on. However, I want to talk about one of my favorite impossible adventures.
The adventure that pushed my limits further than ever before was hiking a trail in Hawaii called Kalalau. In all my naivety I agreed to backpack 11 miles into this beach with a beautiful waterfall. It was totally inaccessible by roads, so the only way to get there was by hiking. We loaded up our backpacks with what seemed essential but was obviously way too much stuff. In retrospect I think my pack weighed 30 pounds. Thirty pounds seems light, but up and down a mountain, it was treacherous! Lesson learned. Pack light for impossible challenges. These 11 miles were just the tip of the impossibility iceberg. I was tired and exhausted and felt at times that I physically could not go on. But what do you know I did. Our bodies and our minds are capable of so much.
DBT Opposite Action to Minimize Anxiety
Often times in life we conclude I cannot do this or that, but I have learned through endurance activities that it is mind over emotional matter. I am not saying these events are easy but anyone that struggles knows how the struggle controls your actions and often the way through them is to choose actions opposite your emotional urge. Even though this part was difficult it was not the worst part.
The worst part of the challenge for me, was walking across a particular part of the trail, a part where if you fell off you would die. This terrified me because I am afraid of heights. So in preparing for the challenge I avoided all videos about this section of the trail. Thats a big part of how I handle life challenges. I am not sure weather it is good or bad but avoidance of anxiety triggers then total exposure to them had become my technique for managing my anxiety. This challenge was at mile 7 of the 11 insane miles, so once you got to that point there was no turning back. The trail was tough on my body considering the weight of the pack. I was ready to get to our destination.
Then we hit mile 7.
Do Exposures with Support of Friends and Family
Several people turned back and said the beach was not worth dying for, an ominous response. One man was terrified on the edge and frozen. He just kept shaking his head and saying he could not do it. His friend was trying to persuade him to cross these 4 feet to the other side. I looked at my friend as she secured her backpack and she said, “ Let’s do it!” as if it was no big deal. I am personally a mix of anxiety and grit. When she said those words, I did not look over the rocky cliff, I could not or I would have been frozen like the man next to me. I sat down and scooted my way across the rocky mountain path in front of me.
I am sure at this point you would expect a sure footed brave run across the path. No not me I am a frightened mess, so I scooted. It was slightly slanted down towards the water until the edge ended, kind of like a slide in the wrong direction. My heart was racing, and I was shaking. All I could do was look at the rocks in front of me with each slide I kept looking in front of me. The ledge I slid across seemed large enough for my seated body. I just focused on each movement. One step at a time. I crossed over to the other side, which ended in a slight incline. My heart pounded even harder, I could not see what was on the other side. I just had to trust that the path continued.
That was all I could handle, Tears burst out of my eyes. “Why oh why do I do these challenges? Is my life worth such actions?” I cried! Unfortunately The answer for me is unabashedly “Yes!”.
Anxiety had made my life small for many long years, limiting choices and what goals I thought I could complete.
Exposures Minimize Anxiety When Done Repeatedly and Increase Self Confidence
Since I started my impossible challenges I was regaining territory in my soul that I assumed was lost to the vast wilderness that can be your inner space. I was reclaiming my body and my choices which my anxiety had formerly had power over. This challenge had broken up even more of my relationship with fear. I was in charge of me now—not my fear. I felt strong like I could do anything.
I know that this is an extreme challenge. Leave it to me to be extreme, but I think the point is all the same. Whether it be speaking to a stranger who seems nice, or skydiving, challenging your emotional barriers is an essential part of healing.
How has your mind, anxiety, or depression limited you? What if the path of recovery starts by listening to your dreams and slowly and surely challenging these internal responses?