I talk about freedom all the time, to other people but also to myself.
A long time ago I made a promise to myself that one day I would be able to walk through all the corridors and all the rooms of my mind with total ease.
My promise came about because I had an image of myself trapped in a dark corridor of locked rooms full of memories and feelings I was too afraid to open. There was no freedom, no movement and definitely no ease.
What it meant in practice was that I was someone whose opinion of myself and whose expectations of other people were so low that I had no boundaries at all. I was someone who experienced hard ceilings when it came to joy and found it almost impossible to relax, someone who relied on the validation of other people to feel safe and worthy and someone who woke up every day in a world which was absolutely full of triggers for my anxiety.
I want to emphasise that those things didn't seem like anything I was in control of or that I had any kind of choice in, they just felt like the truth about me and the world. They were also so longstanding that I couldn't really imagine living any other way
Even though I can safely say it was a tough place to be I did have what I believe is the most important thing no matter where you are in life - if you don't have it right now that's also okay because you can find it again - but it's worth really looking for it because very often it feels like it's gone and there's still a tiny flutter left.
You probably wouldn't have read this far if you had none.
It's a little bit of hope.
Not hope for a movie ending where everything is suddenly better, I'm too much of a realist for that. I'm not talking about about bags of it either.
If you have a half a percent of hope and a feeling that maybe one day something can change you have everything you need, because hope is something alive. If you give it anything to hold on to it will start to grow and if you show it the light it will lean in. It's okay if the light is weak and infrequent, sometimes that's just how life is.
Hope can be breaking down in tears to a friend or keeping hold of an idea of something you'd like to do one day even if it feels like it will never happen. It can just be about finding something to pass time and get you through difficult days and having the faint idea somewhere that one day you might laugh again.
Sometimes, like for me, it was going to therapy even though I didn't really feel like things could change. The fact that I asked for help and showed up at all says that I had that little bit of hope, it's fine that the bigger part of me thought it was a waste of time.
Sometimes hope and belief in something better is this glorious, dramatic, energised thing and sometimes it's much more delicate.
Whatever form it comes in, it's a lot more powerful than we realise sometimes.
If you imagine those rooms and corridors in your mind, are they peaceful?
If not that's really okay and not necessarily a cue to rush in and try to pull down all the piled up boxes in the room and rifle through them.
If you have gone through a lot of things in your life that never felt fully resolved or you've struggled with negative patterns you might feel there's a lot there. We all collect difficult experiences, it's how our bodies and brains learn how to keep us safe and we might not have had the time or the tools to work things through before.
It's important to say too that there is no exhaustive list of things that might have really impacted you. It doesn't have to be something that feels 'big', it doesn't even have to have happened to you, maybe it was someone you love or you just heard about it. If it stayed with you and if it causes you an emotional reaction there's usually something there that could be cleared.
Isn't it easier just to carry on?
Honestly? Only you will ever know the answer.
There are times when yes, carrying on is what we need to do. Maybe because of our circumstances, responsibilities or an ongoing situation it's just not the time to reflect or give space to the things we could process. For a lot of my life, I was just standing in the corridor stuffing things behind doors and closing my eyes.
Eventually though, my personal experience was that all those things started finding their way back out. I had invasive thoughts and memories, limiting beliefs that impacted my relationships, career and self-esteem and because there was so much I had tried so hard not to look at, I didn't even really know where to begin.
I carried on for a long time but life has a way of showing us when it's time to look.
I remember having repeated anxiety attacks at university and looking for a place to hide. I always ended up in the same set of loos, I always unconsciously went into the same toilet and every time I shut the door I saw the sticker for a counselling service on the back of it. I think that probably happened for about 6 months before I contacted them and started a journey that would last the next 5 years.
Now I am so far away from the life I was living that I can't remember what it was like to obsess about other people's opinions, be haunted by parts of my past and keep myself small because anything else felt too vulnerable. When you are frightened of what's inside you, it can be almost impossible to feel safe in the world.
I knew that I wasn't going to get any further forward without going back to all those things I'd stuffed into those rooms, there was no magic wand. I also didn't have any knowledge of what I was aiming for, I only knew what I wanted to stop - but I did have that little flutter of hope. That quiet thought that maybe, just maybe, something could change.
It's a catch-22 when you're on the cusp of that decision because the world doesn't feel safe but neither does the help. Making the decision was the hardest part and I won't lie, working through things was painful in part, growth often is.
There is an illusion though that not facing what's behind those doors is always less painful and I have to disagree. It might feel that way in the moment but over time it can get harder and harder to force those doors closed and meanwhile, nothing changes. Over years there is inevitably more to avoid and the effort it takes to turn away can use up a lot of the passion and purpose you could put into your life instead. Maybe it feels safer right then but it's not always without cost.
If you ask yourself the questions - Is there anything to look at? Is it time? What would life be like if this wasn't holding me back? - and really listen, it will always be you who knows what's best for you right now. It's not always the right time but fear isn't always a stop sign either.
In the end I would do it all again (maybe just sooner!) because doing the difficult thing means that now I can live with much more ease, and when new things start to pile up in those rooms I can see them and deal with them instead of just throwing myself harder at the door.
Most importantly I have created a feeling of safety in myself and I don't need to cower in that corridor anymore. I opened the windows, I let the light in and now I dance through those rooms.
EFT was one of the main ways I moved forward once I'd decided I wanted something different. EFT is gentle and collaborative but powerful for working with difficult emotions and feelings of stuckness. My sessions are virtual, 1:1 and led by you. You can book a free Zoom consultation here if you feel we might be a good fit to work together.
I'm Jess, EFT Practitioner & mindfulness teacher, adoptive mum to two adorable little fireworks and a passionate advocate of the idea that change really is possible, no matter how far away it feels.