What does it mean to help yourself?

Many people think that their personal well-being, the way they feel, their relationships or the way they live their life are "a given", something out of their control, out of their will.

Of course there are things in life that we can’t control, but even in this case we have control over the most important aspect - our attitude or the way we relate to them.

Perhaps one of the greatest sufferings of people is caused by their belief that there is nothing they can do. If you think that "there is nothing you can do", that your fate is dictated by external factors, you feel powerless, anxious, frustrated, and if you carry the burden of this belief for too long, you end up feeling depressed, with no meaning, empty inside. It's as if nothing pleases you anymore, as if nothing is good enough or the way it should be. The joys of life seem like very rare events to you, because after all, you no longer see those joys, waiting for the next problem or unhappiness to arise at any moment.

There are people who feel aggrieved, depressed, anxious or restless, who find that every new day is just an unfortunate repetition of yesterday's suffering and pain, who feel overwhelmed, who have emotional outbursts that are difficult to manage, who bear within shame or guilt feelings  that overshadow their joy of living, who feel that the light will never brighten the darkness, who do nothing but complain, who on a conscious level ask for help, but on an unconscious level reject that help that is offered to them (because they don’t want to give up the roles they have embraced - for example, the role of victim  or of martyr) and who continue to ask themselves "why things don't get better?", "why don't I feel better?".

They don’t feel better because they are still waiting for someone or something to save them. Because they feel even more disappointed when that salvation doesn’t come (because no one can save them from themselves and no one can do their inner work for them), and then they reinforce their belief that they are indeed "damned."

Perhaps the most important aspect that opens the way for self-help is the awareness that we are 100% responsible for the way we live and feel, the awareness of the fact that we are the ones who amplify or temper our emotions and that the way we live in the present and build our future depends on our thoughts, attitude and choices.

Therefore it’s important to understand that even in those situations that seem to be or are out of our control, we have a choice - how do we relate to them? What do we do with what we are given? Because not the problems are the problem, but the way we manage them. Our attitude can be a problem or it can be a saving solution.

People who help themselves...

- are people who constantly work with their thoughts and emotions to overcome any obstacles that stand in their way.  They are people who fight despite the difficulties, who refuse to believe that "it’s not possible", that they will not be able to break through.

Working with your thoughts and emotions means, first of all, being present, aware, attentive to what is happening within yourself. It means to observe the way you speak in your inner dialogue and if by what you say you show compassion, love and respect for yourself. And if not, to think about what you can do to honor your being more.

To be aware of the way you usually react to unpleasant situations - do you panic, lose control, dramatize or stop for a moment, evaluate the situation and start looking for solutions?

To be aware of what is causing you your emotions - what are the thoughts behind them, what is your way of relating to certain situations or certain stimuli? Does the way you think and the way you relate help or harm you?

- they are honest with themselves - they accept reality and truth no matter how unpleasant they may be and seek to change what is in their control; they don’t victimize themselves, but begin to act and make changes to solve their problems.

- they accept themselves - they recognize both their weaknesses and their strengths, and if they are dissatisfied with certain aspects, they strive to improve them. If they don’t want to change anything, they accept and take responsibility for their "flaws" - that is, they will not use them as excuses or justifications, nor will they complain and victimize.

- they seek to overcome their childhood limitations or wounds (with or without specialized help) - some people may attribute their lack of satisfaction, happiness or success to childhood events. That is they can find excuses for their lack of action: "I can never be a successful person because my parents destroyed my self-esteem" or "I can't change my negative thinking because I've suffered too much in childhood”. But if they don’t assume that the way they build their life from now on doesn’t depend on anyone but themselves, they will limit themselves, blaming others and victimizing themselves. We really can’t change the past, but we can change the way we relate to that past, to ourselves and to the world in general. We can heal ourselves, choose to be different than "our life / parents / environment made us become".

- they are proactive / they get involved in their own life – that is they have initiatives and don’t accept passivity and resignation. Even if they are afraid of the unknown or of failure, they try new ways of acting. For example, if they are dissatisfied with their job, they look for solutions to change something in this regard - they develop new skills, they educate themselves, they make an action plan in order to be able to make, step by step, the changes they want to make in their life.

- they take care of themselves - self-care means, for example, regarding your relationships, not to make compromises or to accept being treated with disrespect, to set clear limits and boundaries of interaction (and if you notice a negative relational pattern to become aware of what within yourself "guides" you to the same type of relationship – that is to begin a process of self-knowledge and personal development); physically, it means eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, giving yourself time to relax and so on.

- they set goals meaningful to them - we all have certain desires, dreams or interests, and the way we can achieve, manifest or develop them in our life is by turning them into measurable goals. This way we direct our life in the direction we want and we don’t just wait and hope for what we dream to just happen.

- are grateful and seek to encourage their positive feelings - people often forget to be happy for what they are and what they have, because they are so used to a certain state of affairs that it seems "normal" to them. It seems normal for them to be healthy, it seems normal for friends to be there for them, it seems normal for them to go on holiday or go shopping and so on. Normal in the sense of trivial, ordinary, natural. Only when they lose all these things they realize how important they really are. Being grateful for what you have means being aware, enjoying, thanking and focusing on the positive aspects of life - they are there and they have always been there even though people tend to focus more on what is wrong, on what is not ok.

Encouraging positive feelings means being aware of what makes you feel good and nurturing those aspects in your life - as I said above, people tend to fuel their negative feelings, dwelling too long on what isn’t alright or complaining, but they can invest the same amount of effort and energy in a positive direction. Ultimately, things become important to us depending on how much energy and attention we invest in them - and this energy can be invested in a positive or negative way.

To help yourself also means to trust yourself, trust life and your actions; trust that you can be better. And if you are saying now "but I don't trust myself" or "I can't", I invite you to think if this thought helps or harms you. I invite you to think about how you formed the belief that "you can't" and what benefits you have if you keep it. I invite you to think about whether you want to change something (even if it may be hard or uncomfortable at first) or if you will remain stuck in "I can't". I invite you to notice that you are the one who chooses, consciously or unconsciously.

Choose wisely!

Dr. Ursula Sandner


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