One of the main reasons someone decides to go to individual or group therapy is because they feel stuck. Experiences like anxiety, depression, trauma, and unhealthy relationships can leave you feeling like you are not in control of your life. Like being on a merry-go-round of misery, the same bad things keep happening and/or your painful feelings do not change. You want things to be different, but you don’t know how to actually make that happen. You want to find a way to get off the ride.
How do you get some traction to get out of metaphorical quagmire? I believe that one of the answers is mastery.
What do we mean by mastery?
When we learn something new or overcome a hurdle or stumbling block that used to hold us back, we have mastered it, or an element of it-- it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Progress of mastery can be incremental like chipping off chunks of a looming iceberg in your way. Conquering obstacles, whether physical, emotional or mental is a motivating factor to keep going, to keep you learning and mastering more in your life.
The experience of mastery is a part of the Hero’s Journey -- something that has been a part of our storytelling for thousands of years and continues to be how we structure books and movies today. Think about all of the montages in action movies where the hero spends time training and studying in order to become strong enough to beat the villain.
While mastery can be a fairly simple concept to understand, that does not mean that it is easy to attain. Mastery takes patience and tolerance of the process; and the process involves starting out as a beginner, making mistakes/failing, and hanging in there until you get better. Until you level up and earn your wings.
In therapy, I like to help people find solutions for issues that stand in their way. When clients are feeling stuck, I assist them in finding some area of their life that they can begin to work towards mastery. This does not necessarily have to be THE thing you want to change about your life. More often than not, I have clients start with something maybe more manageable, something other than their white whale, so they can build momentum before they start to work on mastering the bigger, more intense challenges in their life.
Here are two ways to focus on mastery:
Working Out -- Physical activity is an easy task to keep track of, and notice your progress. The type or amount of exercise does not matter, what matters is your consistency with it. For people feeling depressed, it gives you a helpful boost of energy. For people dealing with anxiety and/or trauma, it gives you a positive experience of your body feeling stimulated that you are in control of. As you begin to master whatever the activity is and get stronger, faster, or more flexible, that is intrinsically motivating to make you feel like tackling other things you want to change. And nowadays with accountability trackers, apps and smartwatches, there are even more ways to make simple and significant steps to mastering mastery.
Saying No -- Teaching yourself to decline an invitation (whether it be social plans, request of your time for favors, family commitments, etc.) is something that you have many opportunities to practice each day. Your life can feel like it is not your own if you are always saying yes to others. Learning how to say no is the first step. Once you get comfortable saying no, then you feel like you can set other boundaries with people in your life. Communication is much like exercise, you have to be practicing it to get better at it.
You CAN change.
Many people need to feel or see that there has been progress to want keep going. You want and need to feel like you are learning more or getting better at something to continue. And that can be anything, even what seems to be the most insignificant progress is still a start. Don’t listen to your inner critic who judges you for only having small victories or for getting better at something other than the largest obstacle in your life, that devious voice is acting as your own personal super villain. You can’t skip steps, you need to get from Level One to Level Two before you can earn your superhero stripes.
And every hero has a supporting cast.
Talking to someone can give you the support and accountability you need to get started in your process of mastery. Individual therapy can help you to develop a plan of how you are going to take action, how you are going to track your progress, and how you can keep challenging yourself. Click here to schedule your FREE consultation.