In 2019 I was visited by a client who had cited depression as his causes of needing therapy. He arrived in a Ferrari. In our conversation he told me that he had sold his company and had more than enough money for the rest of his life but he was filled with grief at the loss of his former work, status and colleagues. He found extended holidays with his wife and sitting by the pool boring. He hated golf.
This loss of self and self-worth has been noted for years for many who retire or are forced out of a job. Now in our times of uncertainty, it is affecting vast tranches of the work force who don’t even know if they can count on their job being there or of turning their business around. All are missing the camaraderie of work and even the daily commute, that gave busy people routine and a little ‘me time’, is being fondly remembered.
In the movie, ‘The Runaway Bride’ Maggie Carpenter, the character played by Julia Roberts, is the focus of a newspaper story by a city journalist played by Richard Gere because she has already left three grooms at the alter and is about to walk down the aisle for the fourth time. He is certain that she will be, yet again, a ‘Runaway bride’. This seemingly light-hearted movie deals with several important issues concerning small minded judgment and the yearning many feel to escape a life they don’t want. In a scene in a café, Maggie orders eggs and is asked how she wants them. She can’t answer and realises that she doesn’t even know how she likes her eggs because she has always just “had what he’s having”.
She has been a people pleaser. She knows virtually nothing about how she feels or what she wants and her only default action is ‘flight’ that is one of our primeval survival mechanisms (we are hard wired for fight or flight as a species). If you can’t fight it then run away from it. This worked incredibly well for Neanderthal man as proven by the world population today. However, in our modern lives it is only truly useful in very rare conditions and with extended lockdowns that is not even an option.
Women in particular are people pleasers. They try to please everyone; their parents, boss, partner, children, friends, neighbours and co-workers. They want to be appreciated and accepted and are often conditioned to feel that only through such actions will they gain love. Problem is they forget to please themselves and do this for so long that they don’t even know what this looks or feels like.
So now is the time to find out. Call it a ‘Lockdown Look Inside’. Many things are beyond your control at present but your reactions to them and what you do with your free time is still available to you. If you planned to bake bread in Lockdown 1 and after one disastrous attempt gave it up as a bad job then you can give yourself permission to not do it this time. Or to try again but maybe join a baking group.
Hold your hand on your heart, look inside and ask yourself what small act of self-kindness would really please you today? Then do it and turn the ‘Lockdown Look Inside’ to ‘Lockdown Love Inside’.