My Therapist Told Me Not to Make New Years Resolutions

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The end of December brought me to the end of another benefit’s year and the startling realization that I had yet to use any of the benefits amount that is allotted to psychological services. As someone with major depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder, I’ve been going to varying forms of therapy, counseling and psychiatric care for the last 7 years. It seemed wasteful, and neglectful, not to use the last few weeks to get in a mental health tune-up. I take my car for regular oil changes so I should certainly perform some preventative maintenance on my psyche.

An overstuffed chair threatened to envelope me in its cozy embrace as I relayed my latest struggles and triumphs to my therapist, a lovely lady by the name of Barb. As we chatted, I sheepishly realized that I had not seen her since spring of 2018, not the more recent spring that we had both thought it was. It was interesting to play catch-up and to look at the past year from a wide angle lens to try and see the whole picture. 2019 sucked but it could have been worse. For every crushing downfall, there were lessons learned and new strengths uncovered. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to hoping that 2020 will be a more lenient taskmistress but I know that I am up for the challenges that are ahead.

With such a hopeful look towards the New Year, I was slightly shocked when she told me not to make any New Years Resolutions. Fortunately, there are very good reasons that I pay significant sums of money to another person who has the training, skills, experience, and empathy to pay attention to some of the less-than-helpful quirks that my brain likes to present as solutions.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines resolution as “a promise to yourself to do or not to do something". Making promises that you cannot keep is generally accepted as a mark of poor character or a career in politics. Therefore, making promises to yourself that you cannot keep is an exercise in futility. You end up disappointing the part of you that came up with the resolution in the first place and feeling like a failure for not meeting your own expectations at the same time. As an expert in self-recrimination, I know that this is a path that I should not trod down because I am apt to get very, very lost.

Rather than focusing on tangible goals that can be measured as successful or unsuccessful, Barb steered me towards focusing on the feelings that I hope to achieve by accomplishing these goals. She suggested that I download a copy of Year Compass and fill it out as an exercise in mindfulness to start of the new year, and new decade, on the right foot.

I’ve printed of the booklet, read through it, and placed it prominently on my kitchen table so that I cannot forget about it. For whatever reason, probably stress because that always seems to be a likely culprit, I’ve been particularly scatterbrained lately and have had difficulties in focusing. In am attempt to cut myself some slack, I’m not going to set a hard goal of completing the exercises before midnight or committing to a certain level of dedication. The booklet is there and I will fill it in as the time and energy come to me. I will get there at my own time and that is ok.

Perhaps a reasonable compromise will be my resolution to complete the booklet sometime before next New Years?

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