In the first part of Path(s) from problem to clarification (Part 1), the paralysing initial situation is described: one circles desperately around a problem without being able to see any way out – here I will now go into more detail about some possibilities for clarification that have proven useful in many cases!
The helpful suggestions in a nutshell: we carry the solution to our problem within us, the art is to also perceive it… freedom of thought and a well-meaning counterpart are usually helpful here. But it is about discovering and perceiving our own true self – and there are as many ways to get to it as there are travellers!
Here I will present some of these paths in 6 basic directions:
- Written self-exploration, alone or with others.
- Verbal self-exploration with a counterpart
- Access through movement
- Visualising inner parts, alone or guided
- Access through non-verbal creative expression
- Playful self-awareness, alone or guided
Each of these approaches can lead us to insights. It is better to do something consciously and intentionally, anything at all, than to remain in a mentally and emotionally blocked situation. And if it is the intentional breathing in and out of a meditation. That too is doing.
1st path to clarification: Written self-exploration, alone or with others.
One of the most powerful methods of self-knowledge I have ever been privileged to know is writing. It goes without saying that this is not about writing essays, advertising copy or other everyday texts. It is about writing as a path.
From the so-called “automatic writing”, the capturing of one’s inner monologue on paper, to the conscious processing of one’s own biography – letting one’s own words flow brings one’s thoughts and emotions into flux. The book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron is highly recommended. Among other things, she presents the morning pages as a powerful instrument of mental hygiene: every morning, as a first action, write three large-format pages with your hand, with no other intention than to keep your hand moving and fill the pages. Every morning.
Other, more targeted approaches are offered by poetry therapy, or writing therapy, which has been used more and more in Germany in recent years. You can easily find theoretical literature on this, but above all practical courses at many local adult education centres or educational organisations. Here, tasks such as certain text forms offer a framework that can be filled with one’s own words. Trained poetry therapists are skilled in dealing with the emotions that may come to light.
2nd way to clarify: verbal self-exploration with a counterpart
In Part 1 I already mentioned that as teenagers we had endless conversations with our best friend whenever life got difficult… this elementary form of self-awareness, namely in the mirror of our conversation partner, often no longer occurs in the busy everyday life of a professional. Yet many stones could fall from our hearts if these hearts were allowed to pour out. (Instead of saying “It took a load off my mind!” in German we say” A stone fell from my heart!”) Hardly anything assures us of our belonging and our mental health as much as a deep, open conversation with a well-meaning counterpart.
The fact that I so often write about a well-meaning counterpart already shows how important it is to choose one’s interlocutor carefully. Whoever I pour my heart out to should be on my side! They should mirror me, show me where I am lying to myself, where I am mistaken, blinded. But they should do this in a loving and constructive way because they support me.
Opening one’s heart, admitting one’s problems is an act of trust, I make myself vulnerable. Exposed, unguarded. The setting must be right, the other person must be aware of the situation. The best friend, the long-time confidant, the spiritual succour, Auntie Anne, a social worker, a coach, a colleague, the granny… no matter who you talk to, the rule is: a well-meaning counterpart who is on your side. And then it’s up to you whether you can open up completely and talk honestly about your problem.
3rd way to clarification: access through movement
Many people experience at some point in their youth how liberating dancing can be. Or how wonderful it can be to simply romp through the forest, free and uninhibited, forgetting all work, all homework, and all other obligations. Anyone who also does this as an adult, surrendering themselves completely to the physical experience of being in nature, or of doing sport, alone or with others, already knows this: thoughts are no longer so important, they take a back seat to the necessity of the next step, of holding or catching, of aiming or keeping one’s balance.
This is also a path to clarification. Because sometimes our brains just need the shift of activity to another area, and then we can find new ways of doing things. (Not to mention the health necessity of movement.) Of course, this connection is most obvious in yoga and any active form of meditation. Find your favourite movement. And then, let the body take over.
4th path to clarification: visualising inner parts, alone or guided.
Many people speak of their “weaker self” (“der innere Schweinehund” in German) or “inner critic“, others can name and describe many more inner parts. This thought model helps to clarify the motives for one’s own behaviour in certain situations. It can be helpful and liberating at the same time to get to know oneself in this way. Here I would like to refer to the detailed blog post Was macht dein Inneres Team?
Another visual approach is to work with picture cards. Here, a wide variety of images are used to awaken associations with the help of appropriate questions and thus to perceive new perspectives on the problem. This can be done on your own as well as in dialogue or in a group.
5th path to clarification: access via non-verbal creative expression.
The use of design or art has long proven its worth in therapy. But even without the guidance of an art therapist, painting, making music, collaging, sculpting, or drawing can be exactly the way to break free from a problem fixation. For those who can let go, who can ignore the mental control of the inner critic, this is a wide playground. It is not about art; it is about creativity.
When colours form shapes, or a shape appears in a piece of stone or wood, then what is there on the inside becomes visible on the outside. Without this person, this self, which takes up the brush or the knife or the hammer, this form would not be visible. My gaze and my being shape my painting, pottery, music-making… so afterwards I can look at what I have created and find myself in it. Interpreting my own work, alone or with someone else, is a wonderful way of self-exploration!
6th way to clarify: playful self-awareness, alone or guided.
This is a fuzzy term; I am well aware of that. Behind it lies any form of self-awareness that goes hand in hand with lightness. Whether it is the spontaneous pantomime at a meeting with friends, or the affectionate singing performance for the husband on the morning of his birthday. Whether it’s a visit to a barefoot trail, with family, colleagues or alone, or a riding lesson.
All these situations give us the opportunity to express ourselves and to perceive this self-expression. Every hobby is an expression of our inner self. Every encounter with another person holds up a mirror to us.
It can be helpful, and here we come full circle to point 1, to sit down and with pen on paper explore our own motivations: Why do I like …(pantomime)? What does an hour with … (my horse) give me? What am I looking for … (on the sea while sailing)? Why do I no longer go … (to the choir)?
Every motivation, every desire for something, every dislike paints a clearer picture of ourselves. This is self-exploration and self-awareness.
Self-exploration and self-care belong together!
I am talking here about healthy people who are confronted with problems. All pathological issues belong in the capable hands of a trained therapist! I want to emphasise again and again that we are responsible for ourselves, and that includes admitting when you need help and seeking it. Be mindful of yourself and find a therapist that suits you! (You are allowed and indeed expected to be picky here!)
However, if you belong to the group of healthy people who sometimes think: “I’m usually so clever, why can’t I solve this silly problem on my own?” – you probably don’t need a therapist, but a counterpart. Friend, brother, coach, colleague…. Trust your intuition and look for a suitable partner to reflect on your problem. That is the first and most important step. (About Courage…)
And when you have walked these paths to clarification for a while, do you think it is possible to be a well-meaning counterpart to yourself? What do you think? Write your comments below! Of course, your questions are always welcome!
Heartfelt, wherever you are,
P.S.: What do you think about these suggestions?
Write your comments below!
Of course, your questions are always welcome!