By Dr. Lakesha Legree

Greetings and Happy New Year to you! It’s your favorite Mental Health Awareness Doc! This month, we will continue our journey entitled “My Exodus” but we will dive deeper into the topic and begin to focus on resolutions. These resolutions will be important to you as you embark upon not only a new year but a new decade. As the adage goes, you can’t continue to do the same things and hope to get different results. That’s insane. Let us change our thoughts, attitudes and actions in 2020 so that we can get different results. We all know what this is the definition of -INSANITY!

To briefly review, part one of this five-part series, entitled “My Exodus”, introduced and explained the concept and critical need that each of us should have: the need to make a mass departure of preconceived notions, ideologies, behaviors and cultural norms from our present, our past and our upbringing that DO NOT contribute to our current self-worth, self-peace, self-purpose, and self-happiness within this lifetime. 

In part two of “My Exodus” entitled, “Exfoliate the Old, Welcome in the New”, we discussed the importance of separating oneself from the past to be fully present and self-fulfilled in the now. We focused on how carrying forward a mindset that originated from our past can skew our present perspective, ultimately contributing to our decision making about the future. This perpetuates a generational cycle of continuously pushing the past uphill with us into the future. As you can imagine, this can be a heavy load to carry and can place you at risk of entering any new situation, opportunity or relationship already devoid of any space to receive anything new. It very well can render you incapable of making any novel contributions to yourself and to those around you.  It may also bring you dangerously close to growing so weak and weary from the past you’ve been carrying uphill that you carelessly drop unwanted strife, stress, and angst into new situations, opportunities, and relationships. Oftentimes, this will further lead to projecting any old character traits stemming from your heavy load onto new connections, opportunities, and relationships, souring them before they even get started. So how do we go about recognizing and severing these connections to our past?

A great public figure, Ms. Oprah Winfrey once said, “until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. We all have the capacity to heal”.

This is a four-step process:

  1. Do some introspective work to identify any ideas, concepts, beliefs or behaviors that you have carried forward that perhaps your present, adult self no longer agrees with or accepts.
  2. Acknowledge what those things are in #1 above, one by one.
  3. Choose to pull back the covers of shame that may coexist with these things by placing more worth and value in yourself and becoming more fully present than in what others may think of you.
  4. Take some action. Address each, one by one. 
    1. Where does that thought pattern come?
    2. What life event contributed to this thought pattern above?
    3. Does this thought, belief or behavior align with who I currently am?
      1.  Who exactly am I?
      2.  What are my core values?
      3.  What are my priorities in life?
      4. Does this historical thought, belief or behavior align with who I actually am? If not, then why the hell do I keep it around, taking up mental space, keeping me from new opportunities?

Once you have identified, acknowledged and addressed the mindset that is keeping you stagnant and holding you back, commit to letting go irrespective of the historical or familial connection that it may have. You must stop giving energy to the past. Think about it this way, you don’t put your car in drive and then look in the rear view mirror to move forward do you?

Any behavioral change must first start with a mindset change. We often make attempts to change through behavior modifications, particularly at the beginning of the year. These changes are quite often unsuccessful because we never seek to change the root of the issue that created the behavior we are wanting to change. The root of the behavior lies in a lack of identity. A failure of really knowing who we are at our core. STOP HIDING FROM YOURSELF. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. GET REAL WITH YOURSELF. STOP CREATING BARRIERS FOR YOURSELF.  Life already does a great job at this. Life is ever-changing however, the TRUTH about who you are and the purpose of your life never changes. This truth, therefore, has the power to help us transition from being hopeless to becoming hope-FILLED! Transforming your mindset first will naturally lead to a transformation of your behaviors, which then will become new habits, which eventually will lead to a new lifestyle and before you know it, you’ve transformed your health in the process.

Seek intimacy with yourself first and foremost: IN-TO-ME-I-SEE. This is no easy task. It is my clinical recommendation that everyone seek out professional clinical assistance in the form of a licensed therapist or psychologist. It can be to address a specific issue or simply for prevention and maintenance. No different from your annual physical. Yours truly sits on the couch once a month, every single month. #NOSHAME. #JUSTASK.

Now that you have changed your mindset, it is time to create healthy and responsible boundaries so that we can protect and maintain our new way of thinking. Be aware that there are going to be people and places that will purposefully need to be avoided and possibly discarded for us to guard and protect our new mindset. We will delve deeper into how to create these boundaries in part four of this series entitled, “My Exodus”.

“Tranquility and peace are found in identifying our path and in sticking to it:  staying the course–making adjustments here and there, naturally-but ignoring the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks”…relying “on the most uncertain guide–common opinion”

(The Daily Stoic, 23)