I'm developing an idea, from my personal experience, of the following phenomenon:
Sometimes people are aware that they need to do something that they don't currently do. Maybe they need to see themselves as individuals, take care of themselves, have higher standards, put themselves out there, etc.
However, there often seems like a block, where they just can't do it, no matter how hard they try. It just doesn't seem to be possible. People can feel ashamed of themselves for not being able to do this thing they know they should do, that most people do.
There might be a different way to look at it. In my experience, this situation usually means that there is *something else* that the person needs to do first, as a prerequisite for doing the other thing. Until they discover this lower-level task, they might not be able to do the thing they set out to do.
Here are some "prerequisites" I've identified in my own life:
- Before being able to know what I want and desire, I have to be able to feel my body and feelings in the first place
- Before being able to relax and do fun things, I have to cultivate a feeling of safety (I like the exercise in Psycho-Cybernetics where you imagine a really safe environment. even a beach doesn't feel safe enough to me)
- In order to be able to feel things at all, you have to feel your anger first to remove that block to feeling
- In order to be in your body, you have to feel your birth trauma first (before the nerves open up and you can literally start to feel more of the meat and muscle of your body, rather than just the minimum)
- In order to make your life good for yourself and to see yourself as someone worth making happy, you have to be IN your life, to have landed there, and that seems to require having felt any birth trauma (after doing more birth trauma work and trauma releasing exercises, I felt like I was landing in my body as though I had parachuted in, and that I was really "here" now, rather than having one foot somewhere else)
- In order to relax, you need a lot of your bodily processes to be going fairly well, such as not having too many chronic infections, having enough minerals, etc - otherwise you'll be distracted by being spurred to look for whatever you are missing (this is a GOOD thing- you don't want your body to relax and stop looking when you need something you don't have, in the wild)
A lot of the prerequisites seem to involve giving the body large doses of things it tends to need in general:
-Vitamins and minerals and quality nutrition
-A safe enough space to feel and work out its trapped emotions
-Respect, hugs, social esteem, acceptance
The examples of peer-run respite, compared with psychiatric hospitalization and pharmacological treatment, serve to illustrate this contrast.
In the first case, you are giving people very basic things they need: acceptance, belief, a safe space, rest. In the other, you are forcing behaviors from a top-down perspective, or even forcing the behaviors chemically. While the latter might give more dramatic and controllable results, the former approach is more conducive to long-term well-being.
In the end, it's my belief from my experience that the body is REALLY, REALLY smart. It's hard to compete with millions of years of evolution. The whole scientific/rational thing has only been going on for a few hundred years, and it was only recently that we realized that vitamins existed or that plant microRNA existed. Yet somehow without any of this rational knowledge, the humans' whose genes we have were able to survive in sometimes very difficult environments. Animals survive with oftentimes much less awareness and intellect than we have. There's some sort of very powerful machinery inside of us that draws us to things that are good for us.
Sometimes the main thing getting in the way is rationality and social conventions - our assumptions that this thing "can't" be that important.
For example, feeling the entirety of birth trauma has felt critically important to me for years -- so important that I found myself being self-sabotaging at times in order to create traumatic situations that would help me to feel this initial trauma. In some cases, feeling this trauma seems to be more important to people than life itself, exemplified by the way that many suicides parallel people's birth traumas (see research from Switzerland). Taking this innate feeling seriously - that I need to feel this trauma (and the safest way is just drawing up the feelings in a safe place or doing trauma relasing exercises that stimulate trauma release by triggering some of the body's normal ways of expunging it) has been incredibly valuable to me. I would have missed out on this if I hadn't gotten to the point that I take my innate urges very seriously, even if they contradict social assumptions that one's birth "can't" be that important or have such long-lasting effects. (If we just consider epigenetics and critical periods, OF COURSE birth experiences and large drug/Pitocin/epidural exposures at birth can have long-lasting effects.)