Some weeks ago I ran into an old friend of mine. We have known each other for a long time. We got to know each other in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital in the previous millennium. When I ran into her the other day, I told her about my book. She was very happy to hear that the book is nearly finished. She said: “I wish I finished something for a change. For the last 10 years I have never finished anything I started.”
Well, it’s not easy to live with a mental illness. However if you do something to improve your moods and your self-image, you will pretty soon find out you are capable of a lot of things.
I remember back in 2004 when I read a book written by L. Hay* that I didn’t know HOW TO START. Her book is full of affirmations and visualizations you can do, yet I didn’t know how to start. It felt odd back then. However, today I know why I felt that way. It’s called resistance. Our mind resists in a very weird way. As if our mind was saying: “But no! I don’t want to change anything. I got used to the way things are. If I get happy, I won’t know how to live anymore!”
As stupid as it might seem, that was the way my mind reacted. Yet there was a little desperate voice in my head saying: “Look. You are constantly wishing you were dead. It cannot get any worse. Do something.”
And I did. I read one chapter of the book each evening. When I got to the end of the book, I started with the first chapter again. I was doing this for half a year, so you can imagine how many times I read the same chapter over and over again. On one hand I was too reluctant to start doing the mental exercises described in the book. On the other hand I didn’t want to give up and forget about the book. So I kept reading it.
After half a year I decided it was time to start the real mental work. I picked 3 exercises from the book and promised myself to do them twice a day. I chose the 3 exercises that felt the least unpleasant. They took me only 10 to 20 minutes — depending on my level of concentration. I was doing them in the morning on the bus to work and again in the evening in bed before falling asleep. I am not sure, but I think I picked the following exercises: 1. The one when you visualize the person that has hurt you on the stage. Then you let the person experience all the good. It’s an act of forgiving. 2. The one when you visualize how your life should be. It’s an act of allowing you to be happy. 3. And the one when you visualize yourself as a five year old child and hug yourself. It’s an act of accepting yourself and loving yourself the way you are. Then you do the same with your parents — you imagine them when they were five and hug them. It’s an act of accepting and loving your parents.
The wish to finish something we have started is not enough. We have to push ourselves to work. And don’t worry — the first mental work is the most difficult. Anything else in life — any kind of work, not just the mental — will be easier to accomplish, if you hang on. It’s like starting a car in extreme cold. The beginning is always the toughest. And remember: No Pain No Gain.
*: The book is called You Can Heal Your Life and I have mentioned it in several blogs.
You can ask me more about my experience with mental work: email@example.com.