Have you ever had a dream that seemed so out of reach, so impossible to achieve? And the shame of not being able to achieve it became unbearable so overtime you slowly buried it deep within you, and now you have forgot about it altogether. If so, then welcome to my brain, my office, my world– where we will be uncovering and exploring those hopes and dreams hidden in the dark corner of your soul.
For many of us, society including well- meaning family, our own values, our own beliefs, and life events create our "impossibility" story. That is why I am here to tell you: anything is possible if we suspend this story just long enough to take those first steps!
It all starts with uncovering YOU. This journey of discovery starts by looking at how these inner stories are shaped throughout our lives.
1. Trauma History Affects Your View of Today's Possibilities
Lots of people have experienced trauma in their past. Trauma includes single incident trauma, and developmental trauma which is chronic. Trauma changes the brain in such a way that our own brains work against us. You will see metaphorical lions where there are none. You will feel intense anxiety anger or sadness that feels so overwhelming it's hard to take that next step. Take a seat in a therapy chair to see how your own history has shaped you! The next step is treating your emotional world through your behaviors.
2. Treat Anxiety by doing Exposures on Vacations
To illustrate this point, let me share with you my own seemingly impossible journeys. I had been taking steps with this same thinking for some time. I traveled to places across the globe - driving in different countries! I was nervous about being behind the wheel in these insane road environments but I did it anyway. I also ended relationships that felt impossible to end.
And most impressively, I hiked this 11-mile trail in Hawaii called Kalalau - loaded down with a backpack that probably weighed around 30 pounds (a lesson learned - pack light for life's toughest challenges!).
This adventure changed my life. Each step of the way was full of challenges and obstacles that made me feel like I could not take another step forward - but I did it again and again and again, until I got to the most magnificent beach!
3. DBT Opposite Action for Anxiety
This trail was more than just a physical challenge; it tested my mental capabilities as well. The terrain was difficult and exhausting, (remember I had 30 pounds on my back..SMH) yet every time I felt like my body couldn't go any further, my mind kept pushing through until I reached the end. This experience taught me we can do anything we set our minds to– no matter how daunting the task may seem at first! So don’t give up on those dreams, desires, or therapy protocols – no matter how impossible they may seem at times – because anything is possible if you just focus on the next step in front of you!
4. Exposures Increase Self Confidence
Anxiety had made my life small for many long years, limiting choices and what goals I thought I could complete.
How has your mind, anxiety, or depression limited you? What if the path of healing starts by tuning deep within to your core self - to your spark within? And slowly and surely challenging those internal responses that are getting in the way!
Since I started my impossible challenges I was regaining territory in my soul that I assumed was lost to the vast wilderness that was my inner world. 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 but I was still terrified. We often think feeling strong means we are not scared but I am here to tell you a hard truth... strong means doing it even though you feel terrified!
Which brings me to crawler's ledge a piece of the trail that was about 2 feet wide and 10 feet long. The rocky path sloped down towards the rocky coast about 200 feet down. It is the most dangerous part of the trail.
5. Do Exposures with Support of Friends and Family
I felt my heart racing as I looked down the steep, rocky incline. I could feel my palms beginning to sweat as I thought about the possibility of a fatal fall. All of my preparation, all of mental games I had gone through to prepare for this challenge seemed distant, unhelpful in the face of this daunting task. I heard whispers from some of my family and friends echoing in my ears: "It's not worth it...it's too dangerous." But I was determined; I had set out on this challenge and nothing would stop me now.
With a deep breath, I looked at my travel partner for some courage, direction, determination, then I slowly inched forward on my bottom, scooting over the treacherous terrain that seemed to stretch out endlessly in front of me. With each movement forward I kept my gaze focused on the rocks beneath me, refusing to look up for fear that if I did so I might freeze in terror like a man I had maneuvered around. Eventually after an eternity of nerve-wracking sliding and scooting, I finally made it to the other side--a slight incline offering a bit more stability than before but still filled with uncertainty. Tears welled up in my eyes--I couldn't believe what I'd just done! Relief flooded me. I reached out for my friend's hand as she grabbed it we both felt the security of each other and cried.
As I continued to trudge along the rocky path I wondered why I do these challenges - is my life really worth this? But then I remember that challenging myself helps me face my own inner lions, so it's all worth it in the end! I know this is an extreme challenge, but it proves that when you listen deep within to your core self and challenge yourself in small steps, you really can face anything. So I encourage everyone - even if it's just a little bit - to push their boundaries and face their inner lions... the lions you have been too terrified to stare into.
Memories of my office flood into my mind, my clients who have committed to ERP and facing their worst fears. It gives me strength to move on and to know I can do this! Their bravery far exceeds these steps on this path. This is a shout out to you! You guys know who you are! You are my inspiration, and I feel blessed to witness and to be a part of your journey. Thank you!
Back on the trail... my friend smiled at me, proud of our accomplishment. I tried to give her a thankful smile but all I could muster was a teary-eyed one. She understood. We all have our own battles and mine just happened to take place on an 11 mile hike in the middle of nowhere. It's ok for us to question why we do the things we do; it's also ok for us to challenge ourselves and push beyond what we think are our limitations.
So if you're feeling stuck because of your anxiety or depression, take that first step —you never know where it will lead you! You are more than your anxiety, your sadness, and you are more than your impossibility story.
The view from the top was breathtaking. The sun shone brightly on my face, and I felt a sense of accomplishment and exhaustion. I turned towards a bush to vomit. My body needed food but it could not stomach it, so I took in the sun. I let it it warm my face, and fill me with gratitude. My fear had been faced - for today at least! I was proud of myself for taking on such a difficult challenge, and smiled at the realization that I can do anything. Before, challenges like this would have seemed impossible; but now, with each one completed, I realized that you must take risks in life in order to grow whether in the therapy room, in your life, or on a mountain.
I knew then that every effort was worth it - even if it didn't always turn out the way I wanted. Every experience is an opportunity, and there are always opportunities to try again. Knowing that I can make it through tough times and come out alive on the other side made me feel invincible, like anything is possible! So if you're feeling stuck - take a chance and challenge yourself. Step outside your comfort zone and take risks - because you never know what awaits you when you do! You don't know who you will be on the other side. You can face anything - no matter how big or small.
It's been an incredible journey and I'm so grateful for all the experiences that have led me here today. Even when some of them have metaphorical vomit. Being able to look back at where I started and see how far I've come is truly amazing. The evolution of self never stops. Challenges will always be there, they are a part of life. In therapy we will face them together or at least you will have a coach to encourage you along the way, no matter how big or small your next step is. Remember you can be afraid and you can take that next step today!