Therapy via @marcandangel

Lists. Many many helpful lists

If you haven’t heard of Marc and Angel, you’ve been living in a cave or under a rock. Their ubiquitous lists are everywhere. Tweeted daily by their gazillion followers (think ‘groupies’) on nearly every form of social media out there, these snips of self-help, mental health moments are hard to avoid.

And this is not a bad thing.

I’m not sure if this online presence is their entire life, but I can’t imagine how much time they have for other stuff, because the posts of lists for this or that, the quotes, and the blog entries are constant. I usually try to get to the actual blog at least once or twice a week, and I follow them on Twitter because they have stuff worth reading and retweeting. I know they don’t write everything themselves, but they certainly do an incredible job of collecting and passing on  wise counsel.

Recently, via @MagicKeycouk came “9 Lies Unproductive People Tell Themselves.

Brilliant. I’d add ‘That’s all I have to say’ but clearly, it isn’t.

Reading the post this morning, I was struck by how all those same self-defeating lies happen in therapy. People come to see me because something is happening in their lives that they don’t like, or they regularly experience an outcome they can no longer live with, or they feel that their lives are out of control.

I’ve learned over the years that this does not mean they are ready to do the work to make things different. Just the action of making the effort to come and see me produces a positive psychological and emotional response in the client, and because s/he has taken action on what is often a long-standing problem, s/he ‘feels better.’ This can cause a false sense of relief, which then translates into a choice not to engage in the process of actually solving the problem.

This is not an unusual phenomenon. People who decide to ask for help generally fall into two broad categories. Those who want “the problem” to go away, and those who want to know why the problem is happening and what needs to be done about that. Big, big difference.

As human beings, we have an almost infinite capacity for self-deception. Fortunately, we have equal or greater capacity for recovering ourselves from the things/lies/habits that bind us to negative outcomes. Quite frankly, human beings are incredibly resilient. When

Broken and damaged …but repairable. If you’re not actually sunk, you can sail again.

I hear the stories of the wounded, broken, or damaged people who come to see me, I sometimes wonder how they’re still functioning. And yet they are. They have suffered abuse, trauma, tragedies, and consequences that should really have flattened them. But they’re not. Wounded and hurting, yes. Flattened, no. These people have decided they will do whatever it takes to be healthy in mind, spirit, and body. And they’ll say something like that to me, usually in the first session.

Puddleglum the Marshwiggle

Then there’s the “People of the Lie.” This is not to say that people come to see me, planning to lie to me. Whether or not they lie to me is actually irrelevant. It’s that they lie to themselves. These “9 Lies Unproductive People Tell Themselves.” are common self-deceptions I hear and when I do, I think of Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh‘s catastrophizing friend, and Puddleglum, the doom-and-gloom companion from “The Silver Chair” (C.S. Lewis) “It’s going to rain, I shouldn’t wonder.” 

In fact, we all know someone whose first reaction to nearly anything is negative. Their perspective of life and of themselves is universally black -or very dark grey- and they have great difficulty in seeing the positive side of anything. This is self-defeating behaviour, and it’s learned programming. The lies we tell ourselves make us negative, unproductive, afraid of the world, too tightly bound by doubts to take that step into something new. We (and that wretched internal deceitful dialogue) are often our own worst enemy. It’s not just about being unproductive, it’s about LIFE. These lies become the framework from which the world is viewed, and any experience that doesn’t fit within this paradigm is hacked and chopped until it does. There’s times I’ve attended a happening with an Eeyore, and when I hear that person describe what went on, I wonder if we were at the same event!

What to do?

Start with looking in the mirror and deciding to be willing to at least admit that maybe some of the issues in  life might be because of hiding from the truth. The truth about yourself, the truth about the world, the truth about life. Then purpose every day for a week to read the articles Marc and Angel tweet. Go to their blog. Read back posts. Look at the comments. Keep a running list of the quotes, ideas, articles, and lists that resonate (provoke an internal response) with you. At the end of the week, review your list. I would bet that reading over that list will give you a good idea on how/where to start to begin to address self-deception in your life (and let’s be clear – we ALL deceive ourselves in some way at one time or another).

Ask for help. It doesn’t have to be a psychologist or formal “therapy” – it could be a good and honest friend. An life coach, the local career counseling center often has trained counsellors or social workers. Join a support group. Form your own support group. Check what’s available at the nearest community mental health center.  Just don’t be unproductive. Pick one thing on your list, and work on it. Get the better of it. Take your life back from the shadow-world of denial and self-defeating behaviours.

Following @marcandangel is a good place to start. Marc and Angel Hack Life

Some samples

12 Things Happy People Do Differently

50 Questions that Will Free Your Mind

30 Life-enhancing Things You Can Do in 30 Minutes

Talk amongst yourselves...

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