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    To Untangle Your Life, Get Started by Looking Inward

    Let’s begin the process of untangling your life by introducing you to self-reflection. I strongly encourage you to write out your answers to the questions below in a notebook or journal that we’ll call your “workbook.” Your workbook will become a valuable asset that you can to refer back to from time to time, particularly during periods of emotional distress, to help further your understanding.

    Use your workbook to begin journaling your answers. You might want to glance at all the questions before you begin writing, because some of your answers may overlap—and that’s okay. If your answers to one or more of these questions makes you feel uncomfortable, sad, or angry that’s okay, too. Don’t rush this process. It could take you a half hour or half a day. There is no right or wrong way to go about addressing these questions; the main goal here is to simply work through all of them.

    Step 1 – Let’s examine how you have been feeling recently:

    • In general, how has your life been going?
    • Are you basically satisfied in your love relationships? If not, why?
    • What about relationships at work – how are they going?
    • Are you satisfied with your job/career? Is it consistent with your interests and aptitudes? Please write out “What I Love” and “What I Hate” about your work.
    • How are you feeling about yourself? Are you able to like and love yourself, recognizing with pride your many strengths, despite your inevitable flaws and shortcomings? If not, how are you feeling about yourself?
    • Do you feel that you are moving forward in your life? Or are you stuck in an unhappy and emotionally painful place? If the latter, list the sources of emotional pain.
    • Do you feel imprisoned by feelings of anger and disappointment? If so, describe how these feelings are affecting you and your life.
    • Do you feel unloved, disliked or disrespected? If so, by whom?
    • Are most days a struggle? Or do you generally feel pretty good, able to weather the ups and downs of life? If the former, describe how you feel on those days.
    • Do you feel that control over your life basically resides within you? Or do you feel battered and blown about by forces and circumstances around you? If the latter, describe those forces and circumstances and how they are affecting your day-to-day life.
    • Is the stress in your life manageable? Or do you frequently feel overwhelmed? If the latter, what are the sources of these feelings?

    Step 2 – Begin to write the history of your problems:

    • When did your life begin to go off track?
    • What was the setting? Describe it in as much detail as you can.
    • Who were the people involved? How did they behave toward you?
    • How might you understand their behaviors in the context of what was going on in their life at that time? What life stresses were they living through?
    • What is their relationship like with their mother, their father, significant others, and how might that influence their behavior toward you?
    • Was there a major disappointment or heartbreak in your life that you need to grieve? What was it?

    Step 3 – Engage in the process of introspection

    Once you have written out the answers to these questions, read them over several times to let them sink in. Write down any associated thoughts that come to mind. Then meditate on the answers and the questions themselves by engaging in the process of introspection: by dedicating thirty or forty-five minutes a day—perhaps in the evening in a quiet, darkened room—to begin to think about these issues. If this feels overwhelming, shorten the amount of time to five or ten minutes. Talk to yourself about what you are thinking and feeling. An inner dialogue in the service of understanding is a good thing.

    Your troubles may relate to something that happened recently at home or at work that you can figure out on your own, by providing yourself sufficient time for reflecting upon it. You can also speak with a trusted friend, family member, or partner who can provide support and advice. Recent upsets or traumas, ones that are not too entrenched, sometimes respond well to ventilating and unburdening to a caring and loving person in your life, and do not require professional intervention.

    If you get stuck and can’t move any further, and your emotional pain persists, consider entering psychotherapy with a talented professional.

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