Wednesday 11 January 2017

Are You Ready? The Black Ribbon Box

Some say dealing with sadness, grief and emotional pain takes time. What if the time has passed and yet the sadness, grief and emotional pain stay? When are we ready to open the ‘Black Ribbon Box’ of our life? 

What is the 'Black Ribbon Box'?

People often assume that psychologists or counsellors spend a lot of time solving their client’s problems or ‘fixing’ all that is ‘wrong’ with them. 

While they do try to support people in managing specific issues, what most people do not understand is that more often than not, the client is the one who holds the knowledge and the key to their own success.
A few years ago, as a recent graduate, Ciara Togher, Intern Pyschologist, worked with a young girl who illustrated this beautifully and in fact, offered her some tools to assist with her future practice.  

Sophia (not her real name) was 14 years old and had survived a traumatic early life characterised by neglect, violence and abuse. The fact that she had survived at all was a testament to her strength!

Of course as a relatively new counsellor, Ciara thought she had countless ideas on how to assist Sophia in working through her past experiences. When Sophia went to see Ciara, Ciara immediately felt compelled to help Sophia ‘fix’ her past, address her pain and minimise her trauma. 

What happened next could be described as a short, but powerful lesson in human resilience. 

Sophia declared that Ciara was not going to make her open her ‘Black Ribbon Box’ unless she was ready. She explained that she had a lot of horrible feelings that made her feel sad and depressed.

So one day Sophia decided to see her mind like her bedroom:  

She decided she would tidy all of the things away she didn’t need at that time. So, after thinking about how much her ‘bad’ feelings affected her life and were not useful to her at that time, she made the decision to put these ‘bad’ feelings into a box with a black ribbon on it.

What was most profound was Sophia’s acknowledgement that she knew she would have to take out these ‘bad’ feelings one day, but for now, they were not going to help her.

And, so she used the ‘Black Ribbon Box’ as a means of managing her own traumatic pain, and she committed herself to living a life that would break her history of addiction and poverty.

Now, while she did not realise, in her childlike fashion what Sophia actually described was a powerful way of managing negative emotions.  

In recent years, psychology has developed new therapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that help individuals do more than just alleviate symptoms: they focus on accepting what is out of your control while committing to living a more fulfilling life. 

It requires some commitment from you, but if you are willing to do this, your ‘Black Ribbon Box’ can be permanently unpacked and you can begin to live a life that no longer weighs you down.

Some questions to ask yourself: 
  • Have I experienced some form of trauma or issue in life that is difficult to deal with?
  • What life experiences have I had that might be holding me back from living a fulfilled life?
  • What’s in my ‘Black Ribbon Box’?
  • Am I ready to open the door to the possibilities of a life free from excess baggage? 

All you need to begin this new journey in life is the desire to open your 'Black Ribbon Box'

This post originally appeared in inSync for Life: Just What Do Psychologists Do? The Black Ribbon Box by Ciara Togher and is reproduced here with permission. 

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IMPORTANT: The information on this blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have concerning your health or anything related to it. 

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