When facing a difficult situation, finding yourself in a challenging season, or feeling frustrated in a conflicted relationship, it is essential to take inventory and gain awareness about yourself and your circumstances. This very purposeful and intentional discipline can strengthen your perspective and provide meaningful insight to start your path toward healing and wholeness.
There are three simple but profound questions that I ask every individual and couple to answer in one of their first few sessions with me. These questions are designed to promote vulnerability, advocacy, and positivity in the therapeutic process.
Consider reflecting on and responding to these questions in the context of your own situation.
1. What am I afraid of?
2. What do I need?
3. What do I hope for?
QUESTION 1: WHAT AM I AFRAID OF?
Start with an emotional check-in. Ask yourself, “What in my current situation or relationship concerns or scares me?” Contemplate what fears you may have if your present circumstances do not improve, get worse, or end in losing a job, a friendship, a marriage, a life-long dream, or something else meaningful to you.
Example: In a conflicted friendship, one individual in the relationship may respond to this question by stating, “I fear that if we cannot resolve our conflict, I will lose my best friend. I’m concerned that even if we can reconcile our differences, this conflict will keep us from being as close as we once were. Additionally, I’m afraid to be alone!”
Identifying what you are afraid of requires an incredible amount of vulnerability. Engaging in this posture provides a heightened opportunity for honesty and transparency with yourself and others. In addition to considering your fears, an emotional check-in can help you get in touch with other feelings you may be experiencing. Emotional openness will help you gain awareness and discover insights into your healing process.
QUESTION 2: WHAT DO I NEED?
Take a self-assessment. Ask yourself, “What do I need from myself or others in this season to promote positive change in my life and current situation?” Consider what needs you can provide to yourself, such as a change in a particular behavior, habit, or discipline. Envision strengthening or introducing the skills of self-care or boundary setting for yourself. Finally, ponder what needs you have that others can provide, such as additional support, increased empathy, or a greater respect for your personal boundaries.
Example: In a struggling marriage relationship, an individual in the couple may respond to this question by stating, “I love my partner and am committed to our future together; however, I really need to prioritize myself, work on my issues, and establish healthy boundaries for myself. Additionally, I need some extra support and understanding from my partner through this season of our marriage.”
Identifying what you need from yourself, or others requires an enhanced level of self-advocacy. Unfortunately, many people struggle to strengthen this valuable skill as it may feel selfish, insensitive, or seen as a sign of weakness when communicating your needs to others. Rather, advocating for yourself shows strength, promotes a sense of self, and validates equality in a relationship.
The goal of identifying your needs and assertively communicating those needs to others is not to increase your desire to always get your way, nor is it to decrease your ability to care for others. The ability to prioritize your needs and assertively communicate them to others is essential for autonomy and self-differentiation. Discovering what you need from yourself and others is vitally important to help you establish goals and develop strategies to bring about positive change in your life and current situation.
QUESTION 3: WHAT DO I HOPE FOR?
Cast a vision for your future. Ask yourself, “If I could make a wish that I knew would come true about my current situation or season, what would I wish for?” Imagine what it would be like if you could overcome your fears. Ponder what it would be like if you could have your needs met. Envision a future where your current struggle, tension, or conflict was removed, reconciled, or restored. Consider what it would be like if your hopes and dreams come true.
Example: In a struggle with addiction, an individual may respond to this question by stating, "I long for a time when I am no longer a prisoner to my destructive pattern of behavior. I look forward to being a happier and healthier version of myself. I hold out hope for a future of personal freedom."
Hope is a powerful force! Research reveals clear connections between heightened levels of hope with personal empowerment, motivation for change, discipline persistence, and constructive outcomes. Simply put, when you have hope, you have a greater chance of experiencing positive change in yourself, your relationships, and your life.
The nineteenth-century philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard defined hope as “a passion for the possible.” The twenty-first-century author, speaker, and leadership expert, John Maxwell adds that your hopes and dreams “… don’t work until you do.” Getting what we hope for requires passion, purpose, and persistence. Working towards a preferred future can be hard work, but it can also be incredibly empowering and freeing when you experience progress.
If you’re struggling through a difficult situation, finding yourself in a challenging season, or feeling frustrated in a conflicted relationship, consider seeing a therapist help you process how you feel, identify what you need, and establish tangible goals for your growth. Our team at LiveWell Behavioral Health is ready to respond to provide you with meaningful and effective care. Give us a call at (321) 259-1662 or find us online at www.livewellbehavioralhealth.com. We’re here to help you get healthy, stay healthy, and live well!
Holding on to hope,