I have classified myself as depressed since around the time I turned 12. This came as a shock to my mother when I told her, after I turned 19. I didn’t have words for the deep sensations of hopelessness, lack of control, and fear of the future I was feeling so long ago. Whenever I told my mother I was worried about something, she would say to me, “Stop it. You’re too young to worry. Go, have fun; be a child.” But I didn’t know how to be a child. I mean, I knew how other children acted, and though I’ve been called childish by demeaning people I like to think of it as being creative, imaginative. And because I spent so much time floating in a fantasy world as a child, I often felt like I had no idea what to do in the real one.
That translated into dead-end relationships and keeping people at arms-length so I didn’t have to feel the pain of their departure. I doubted that anyone could really love me because I could barely love myself. Though much of this is in the past, I do still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and failure. My friends and family tell me how “great” I am, but I always remind myself they are my friends and family.
In other words, I still need to find ways to remind myself that I am a productive and important person with worth: even if I’m not certain of my reason, my purpose yet. I need to remind myself that I’ve seen some pretty amazing things (The Art Institute of Chicago, I’m looking at you) and I’ve been to some pretty amazing places (Myrtle Beach, SC, I’m talking about you). There are so many places left to see, things to do, and goals to accomplish.
And on that path, there are five little things I need to remember. I received the list of Virginia Satir’s Five Freedoms while I was pursuing therapy the first time I attempted a master’s degree. I was studying Public Relations (totally the wrong field for me, but I loved the writing and event planning involved) really because I told a certain ex-girlfriend that I would and I still felt like I had something to prove to her. That I could do something without her. It was really the fallout of that relationship that guided me toward the Depression Screening Clinic the campus medical center was offering. That was a chance to really determine if the depression I saw within myself over 10 years before was really there.
It was. I had a great counselor and she was the one who told me about Satir’s list of freedoms. Reading them in that moment, holding a simple print-out, with no banner ads, all white-space, I felt a strange sensation rush over me: hope. Someone had heard me and finally understood what I was asking for: a sense of control over myself and my future. I thank the universe for that woman every single day of my life, and the power those five short statements gave me. Walking into the new year, running my own business, and keeping my head and heart above water will only be possible if I can remember the power I have over myself and actually exercise it.
From the PsychCentral Blog linked above, Satir gets a nice little introduction:
Satir keenly observed that many adults learned to deny certain senses from childhood, that is, to deny what they hear, see, taste, smell and touch/feel.
Noting the significant role our senses play in our survival, she devised the following “Five Freedoms” tool, essentially affirmations, to help people connect to their body and self in the moment, and focus their attention on their inner resources and creative choices in the present. (Here we see how ahead of her time Satir was; these are mindfulness concepts proven today by neuroscience research.)
The Five Freedoms:
1) The freedom to see and hear (perceive) what is here and now, rather than what was, will be or should be.
2) The freedom to think what one thinks, rather than what one should think.
3) The freedom to feel what one feels, rather than what one should feel.
4) The freedom to want (desire) and to choose what one wants, rather than what one should want.
5) The freedom to imagine one’s own self-actualization, rather than playing a rigid role or always playing it safe.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to get away with not playing it safe–I’m too thoughtful, doubtful, and purposefully cautious for that. But I do enjoy being spontaneous with people I love and with whom I’m comfortable. So, my New Year’s resolution is to remember that I’m productive, capable, and prepared to face the future, even if I don’t know what’s coming or where I’ll be when it’s over.
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
Happy New Year, Everyone!!!