Mental block vs self-compassion

It’s been a while since I last wrote an article. Upon reflection, I have come to the conclusion I’ve been struggling with a mental block. Not just in terms of what to write about, moreover, a generalised mental blocking of thoughts and feelings. I started to wonder - how many others can resonate with this?

The year 2020 has been shocking for most of us and has been a far cry from what we thought our hopes and dreams might bring. The virus and all of the knock-on effects have unleashed a tsunami of emotions for all of us. Fear, relating to what-ifs, being right up there for many…

Fear and 'what-ifs'

Just a few examples of fears of what-ifs are:

  • What if I catch it?
  • What if someone I love catches the virus?
  • What if I lose my job?

All of these fears unleash emotional feelings such as anxiety, stress and depression. Physical contributors may manifest in chest pain due to anxiety.

Often when anxiety becomes very intense we can feel like we are actually having a heart attack, the physical pain can be so intense.

Sleeplessness is another factor, negative thoughts race around our heads, annoyingly just as our bodies are trying desperately to relax in order to sleep, thus, creating conflict.  

Negative thoughts may manifest in dreams/nightmares as they creep out of our consciousness into our subconscious while we sleep. Often, when we feel stressed because something is worrying us, we will endure a fitful night, usually resulting in being awake in the early morning hours. Then, just as we’ve managed to drop off again, the irritating sound of the alarm clock grates every fibre of our being…

The instant emotion we feel can often be ‘frustration’; this can lead to more intrusive feelings, maybe defensive and irritable. You’ve not even left the house and yet an internal war of feelings and emotions are battling away. Can you resonate with how this negative spiral can impact so much on your day?

These examples are just a few in terms of how a situation can influence our feelings and the emotions attached to them. When we become more adept at spotting them, self-awareness will enable us to spot the signs of why we feel the way we do and the triggers that generate them. This won’t come easily, it’s a skill to be learnt and homed in on.  

How to rationalise fears

As a therapist, I’ve done many years of study, reflection and critical analysis on myself. I have written thousands of words about myself, why I think the way I do, what constructs I have developed, what my inner critic chips away at; and finally how to forgive myself and learn to actually like - and sometimes love - being in my own skin. So you would think I was well prepared to deal with my own thoughts and feelings this year…

Well, sometimes yes, I can rationalise my fears; are they based on fact or fiction? Are they realistic or are they being skewed by my inner critic? I know that I can have an invisible brick wall. I have used it to protect myself for not years but decades. I can retreat into myself and shut out everyone and everything, it’s not often these days, but this year I’ve noticed myself doing it. The comfort and safety of my home allow me to let go of fear; I can relax. The fight or flight response however, quickly kicks back into gear when I have to go out. Bodily sensations are a give-away for me. My shoulders rise and tense causing neck ache. I can feel my heart beating faster, I clench my jaw and often get a headache.

To let go of this tension I push my shoulders towards the ground as hard as I can. I squeeze my fists and slowly let go; all the while concentrating on my breathing. I love a good shopping trip as much as I love a long walk in the hills, so I won’t let my fear stop me from doing the things I like. When you become aware of the thoughts and feelings that subconsciously are attempting to stop you from doing things you like, you can start to take back control.

Conclusion

I called this article 'Mental Block and Self-compassion' because firstly, a mental block can be a variety of prohibitions. It can be more metaphorical, or it can be a physicality. Whether it stops you from feeling loved or loving someone due to the emotion of fear; or whether it stops you from physically doing an activity there is a mental block. By working through these feelings and emotions with a combination of therapy, self-awareness and mindfulness you can learn about what triggers your thoughts and feelings and what bodily sensations manifest at this time. All of this information will enable you to find new strategies to cope and start to dispel whatever mental block is holding you back.

One last thing, it is not selfish to make time for self-care, whether that comes in the form of spending time in a relaxing bubble bath or treating yourself, or spending some time in therapy, investing time in ‘you’ is self-compassion.        

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Julie Howard BSc (Hons), FdSc, MBACP

I am a fully qualified Integrative Counsellor/psychotherapist.
I offer interventions from a wide range of counselling models such as Person Centred, Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Transactional Analysis and Solution Focused Brief Therapy.… Read more

Written by Julie Howard BSc (Hons), FdSc, MBACP

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