Are you familiar with the inner critic or perfectionist? The urge to push toward an achievement no matter the cost?
Read Satyo Sullivan’s insight into how she as a Counsellor & Psychotherapist at Red Orchid Wellness Clinic, recognises these tendencies in herself and approaches them in her daily life with mindfulness.

FROM THE BURDEN OF PRESSURE TO A SENSE OF WELLBEING

This is a personal tale to inspire …

As I sit down to write this post I am aware of an array of inner aspects of myself clustering in my mind and body, somewhat uncomfortably, around this next task of writing a post for Red Orchid!

To name a few aspects, there is the ‘Pusher’ part of me… “You must get this done!” That is true, it is due! But right up close to my dear old Pusher, adding to the sense of pressure, is the ‘Perfectionist’… “You must do something that really excels!” And looking over the shoulders of those two is the ‘Critic’… “You will never get this right!” Any of these familiar to you too? No wonder my mind feels tired and my body tense!
Something in me that is aware of these various aspects, or parts of myself, (or inner ‘selves,’ or “characters’…whatever you want to call them…) smiles and decides that this, yes, is actually the thing to write about here in this post.

From my experience of working with many people in counselling and psychotherapy, a combination of aspects, or inner energies, like this can exist in various forms in so many of us. Left with full rein, they can contribute to a sense of pressure and stress, often pulling us into anxiety and depression. We can get all tangled up in their demands and lose a more wholistic sense of who we are and how we want to live.
I take a big breath as I write that.

Something more spacious is here with me now, my awareness is becoming SO much bigger than when at the mercy of this powerful trio. Even naming them up can help! I can also sense that there is room now for a playful aspect, or playful ‘self’, who is enjoying the creativity of writing this post, seeing what unfolds. And there is a more mindful me too, sitting here, connecting to the present moment, aware of the chair and my fingers typing, of the sounds of my husband putting things away in the kitchen and of little bells on the patio, tinkling. I am experiencing a much more relaxed aspect of my being, integrated into who I am, and the Pusher/Perfectionist/Critic trio are no longer in the foreground. Before this sense of letting go happened, the urge to be more relaxed was experienced in me desperately as… “When will there be time for me? When can I get some time off and have space?” But, ah, here is my relaxed self now, quietly with me as I address this next task on my list. A sense of ease filters through, just as the evening sun reaches me through the blinds.

So how do we step back from some of these more powerful pushy aspects of ourselves, so that we are not running around frazzled by their demands?

How do we bring more awareness into ourselves in the hurly burly of daily life?

It is too big a subject to write on in full here, and I don’t wish to write something prescriptive. However, I hope that from my sharing of my own experience, some of the process I went through just now, to find more awareness, and then more choice, in how I was living this present moment, comes through to you. Perhaps you resonate with some of it? Perhaps you have similar stories of how you brought more awareness into your present “way of being”…especially when it was a “way of being” that could be detrimental to your overall wellbeing.

When clients share their own stories of all the expectations they put upon themselves and the burden they feel, we explore where it all comes from, find how entrenched these patterns of being are, how to unravel more about them, and how to step back from them more. Together we can bring in the lights of awareness and understanding… and often healing….especially when a strong ‘inner critic’ is involved, for this can hurt and hold us back from much that is good in life. New possibilities of being begin to arise as my client and I work together like this. Lesser known aspects of who the person is may want to come more into the limelight of their lives. We look at how to make room for these, while acknowledging the presence of these other parts that have been prone to dominate. Together we grow in more wisdom about pressures, living a meaningful life, our own inner dynamics, and what it is to have a compassionate stance towards ourselves around the struggles we go through as human beings.
The personal tale I have told here, of my moving from a pressured state to more of a sense of wellbeing, is only one small story of bringing in enough awareness to find a more workable and wellbeing way of responding to “pressure.” There are many ‘feeling pressured’ scenarios in our lives and many possible meaningful ways through. In my counselling and psychotherapy practice there are often intensely complex stories of a sense of pressure to unravel…from without as well as from within that person’s own being.

What seems important here, to complete this particular reflection, is that we do attend to the effect of these pressures upon us, that we do what we can to find some way through, so that we can live with enough care and respect to ourselves, even amidst our often immense life challenges. When it feels too hard to do this on our own we can reach out to the companionship of counselling, or to other therapies, to support us in finding our way. Staying trapped in a tangled knot of demands and stressful expectations, our bodies, minds…and our more spirited response to life…suffers. And, inevitably, those around us suffer too! When I am really bound up in a knot of pressure, I can be tight, distracted, overwhelmed, unavailable for relationship or even pushing it far, far away, leaving my partner and myself cut off, isolated from one another.

After the rise in wellbeing that accompanied my writing this post I was able to return to the living room and sit down next to my husband with a feeling of buoyancy and delight. This didn’t come from having “got another thing done.” It was from a far richer and more whole place than that. Something fundamental had shifted. I shared my writing with my husband and we could relate and laugh together, reach out and hold hands. And with that added bonus of “connection” my sense of wellbeing was able to increase even more!