“You have got to pull yourself together”. That was a general comment I made in a conversation a little while ago. I was told, perhaps tongue in cheek, that this doesn’t sound like something a therapist would say. Really?
I did think for a minute.
No. There are times when you have got to pull yourself together and get on with things. But it’s not as easy as that.
You have got to get the timing right and do it for the right reasons.
When life has other plans
A few weeks later, both my dog and I were diagnosed with Grade 2 cancer. In my case it turned out to be a local recurrence of my original breast cancer from 6 years ago. My 8 year old white staffie girl from Battersea Dogs’ and Cat’s Home dog has had a mast cell tumour by one of her nipples. Talk about synchronicity.
Life had different plans for us, and I was thinking about how well I do with pulling myself together, or not, when difficult things happen.
You may have already had your fair share of difficult things in life – problems in relationships, health, at college, at work, financially, loss, bereavement, mental health, physical health etc.
These things can throw us off balance, leave us feeling angry, frightened, tired, hopeless, sad, lonely, shocked, traumatised – you name it and lot more besides.
We can try and face up to it or look the other way.
Both options can be hard in their own way, especially when we don’t know what to do for the best.
I, too, found myself sinking into a deep, dark hole. And I knew sooner or later I had to pull myself out of it. I would have to pull myself together and dig deep. Because if I didn’t, I would become a silent spectator in my own life. And the longer I wait, the harder it would be.
Pull yourself together – but get the timing right.
Pulling ourselves together, can be helpful, when we have done enough soul searching, analysing, shouting, self pitying, worrying, crying, blaming – you name it.
Then, when you pull yourself together you start putting one foot in front of the other.
Even if you don’t yet know clearly what direction you should take. That will become clear once you start walking. It is like the warming up you need to do, before you start to run.
Pulling yourself together too soon, without having reflected about what is going on, can mean walking, without understanding or wanting to understand.
Then, when you pull yourself together too soon you can end up walk in the wrong direction, or just walking on the spot. And that can do a lot of harm, like undermining our confidence and hope.
The same goes for indecisiveness.
Sometimes indecisiveness is not sitting on the fence for the sake of it. Sometimes it is necessary to sit on that fence, while you work things out.
And when the time is right, you need to jump off that fence, and do what you need to do.
I, too, have to sit with difficult feelings, until I am ready to pull myself together and do what I need to do, to become an active participant in my life. And that does not necessarily mean I know all the answers.
When done right, pulling ourselves together can give us some inner strength, determination, peace and confidence to face up to whatever comes our way, including the things we cannot change. But we can change the way we feel about them.
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Need some advice? Submit your question to my #DearKarin advice column here. Karin Sieger BA (Hons), MA (PsychCouns), Reg. MBACP (Accred) is a therapist and writer. All rights reserved © Karin Sieger. Neither articles nor videos substitute medical advice or therapy.