Whenever I find a lovely chunk of free or open time on my calendar, I like to reflect on paper….capture thoughts and feelings and do some deeper level thinking about “where I am” and “how I feel” right now. If you sound even vaguely intrigued by the idea, try the questions I’m providing…and then perhaps even think of turning it into a process of periodic contemplation. I do it whenever I can grab some stretches of alone time, and that might appeal…or perhaps something more structured — like quarterly — or some other time frame that appeals to you.
A good basic approach is to pick a quiet place where you know you won’t be interrupted. Perhaps spend 10 to 20 minutes relaxing and meditating before you start. And if you don’t like the approach I’m outlining, just write free form — anything that floats into the foreground of your mind is legitimate!
The process/questions I’m suggesting are found in more detail in my book: RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE. You can find it on my website if you want to see a bit more of what it’s about. Regardless, give this outline of ideas/reflections a try.
Obviously you need paper and pen. I typically suggest that rather than your computer because a pen and paper impacts your brain in a truly positive manner! Well, at least THINK ABOUT IT!
This set of questions helps you look at your history in segments of time. And the structure WILL help you with recall. First, focus on your life from the ages of 1 through 7. Really you say? Yes! Just sit back, see if you can picture yourself at that time in life. And answer these questions:
1- What messages did I get from my family at this time in life? Messages about behavior, about what’s important, about what’s okay and not okay. Just jot down anything that comes to mind. Words, phrases, images, specific memories.
2- Next reflect on the feelings that surface. Are the memories vague or very concrete? Are they positive or negative? What do you believe you learned about yourself during those first 7 years?
3 – See if you might come up with an “appropriate and descriptive label” for this time in your life: “I learned I was loved” or “I learned I had to behave all the time” or “It was the time I learned to love reading” or “I had to work too hard too early”. Clearly there are no right or wrong answers — it’s just an effort to surface some thoughts and feelings from this earliest time in life.
Now Shift to the period of 7 to 14. Answer the same questions.
Next, 14 to 21
Next 21 to 28….. and now just keep going until you reach your current age. At the end of each 7 year period, reflect on a way to describe the specific period of your life. Typically, something pops into the foreground! If not, just go on to the next question… or the next time period. And one useful question for each time period is: Do I remember anything I always wanted to do, to pursue, even to BE when I grew up?
When you finish, take some time to read what you’ve written, and think and pay close attention to how you feel. Feelings will range from pleasant and happy to sad and perhaps distressing, so be kind and easy with yourself. Old memories sometimes need “metabolizing” and that’s typically what the writing does. Reflection brings disturbing recall into the foreground where you can focus on anything that needs healing and perhaps even continued reflection or problem solving; and it gets positive recall into the foreground where you can enjoy, build on it, and feel grateful for the “good stuff” in your life.
Finally reflect on how you might use the information, the recollections, going forward. Does it make you think of things you’d like to 1) change? 2) do again? 3) resolve an old conflict? 4) make a much needed change in your life? 5) set some new goals? Clearly it’s about seeing how resolving or building on things from the past can impact you positively right now!
And go slowly. This isn’t an easy reflection. It’s challenging in order to help you look at both good and difficult periods in life — then hopefully focus on any necessary healing — and on any gratitude that you need to reinforce and build on. We are all a mix of the good and the challenging, and I think we can learn to build on the good and heal the challenging. Naming our reality helps identify what needs to be the focus going forward. What do I want to do that’s DIFERENT? BETTER? PRODUCTIVE? FUN? HAS MEANING AND PURPOSE?
AND Change is hard. Consequently it’s important to go slow, be kind to yourself, and talk to someone if you feel the need to. And as always you can always ask me questions….and as always, remember you deserve to feel better!