Imagine as if you were a fly on the wall on the day you were born. Was it evening? Was it morning? Were you premature, or did you take your sweet time entering this world? Imagine watching the individual who birthed you endure intense pain all for the sake of bringing you here. They pushed and screamed, or maybe they were rushed into emergency surgery for a c-section. Regardless, your birth was the main event; and ready or not, here you came! After all of the excitement, fear, worry, and pain had been endured, out popped peculiar little you.
We enter this world dependent on others for everything, not knowing how to feed ourselves, clean ourselves, walk, talk, or even poop when convenient. After spending the first few months of our existence inside a body that has all we need, we learn to trust our caregiver to provide us our basic human needs to be seen, heard, nourished, and loved. We don’t know of danger.
And then life happens
We courageously step into society, and our trust gets broken. We are made to feel unloved by others and are taught to wear a mask that makes our existence seem more palatable. We enter the world ready to thrive, only to be introduced to how to just survive. And over the years, what helps us survive (messages, thoughts, and behaviors) sticks with us. Unfortunately, these habits we pick up along the way can often be unhealthy, but they represent a protective armor that provides us with the sense of safety we’ve longed for since infancy.
Somewhere down the line, we learn that what makes us human is what makes us weak and susceptible to harm. We go from feeling and trusting to numbing and guarding ourselves. As a result, we end up pushing people out and trying our best to run away from our emotions in order to protect the wounded parts of who we are.
Take off your armor
Today, I want to challenge you to take off your armor. How? You may ask. Why? You may ask. The answer is healthy coping skills, and the reason is practice being human.
Often, clients come to therapy because the protective armor they’ve been wearing to cope through life has failed them. We tend to sex, drink, eat, caffeinate, and spiritualize our pain/shame/worry/anger/fear and any other uncomfortable emotion “away.” Due to the current nature of society, we can honestly say we are no longer inhabiting an environment designed to give us all that we need. However, we are still deserving of the opportunity to be human- to feel and to trust. And healthy coping skills help us do this.
There are several kinds of coping skills:
Self-soothing: comforting yourself through your five senses
- Touch – hugging a stuffed animal or squeezing a stress ball
- Hear – listening to music or meditation guides
- Sight – viewing pictures of moments that gave you joy
- Taste – drinking tea, mints, candy
- Smell – aromatherapy
Distraction: taking your mind off the problem for a while
Examples include: puzzles, books, artwork, crafts, knitting, crocheting, crossword puzzles, movies, etc.
Opposite Action: doing something opposite to your impulse that is more consistent with positive emotion
Examples include: affirmations, watching something funny, listening to motivational videos or music
Emotional Awareness: tools that help you to identify and express your feelings
Examples include: a list or chart of emotions, a journal, writing supplies, drawing or art supplies
Mindfulness: tools for centering and grounding yourself in the present moment
Examples include: meditation, relaxation recordings, grounding objects, yoga, breathing exercises
Crisis Plan: contact information of supports and resources, for when other coping skills aren’t enough
Initially, you may feel resistant to engaging in healthy coping skills because of the “armor” that has been protecting you thus far. But while that armor was easy to hide behind, it wasn’t truly serving your best interests. Healthy coping skills will help you get through the pain without adding to it in other ways.
This year, I want to challenge us all to “just be human.” Imagine embodying the version of yourself that first entered this world, ready to thrive, trusting and feeling again. I challenge you to trust yourself and others again. As we enter this new year, invite your emotions and feelings back to the table. Make a commitment to numb less; build bridges, not walls; and allow yourself to live out your maximum potential of mental wellness.
Cheers to being human!
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.