Can you take advice from yourself?
Begin the exercise by remembering an earlier you, a you that was having a hard time, but which you now feel you have moved past. How old were you then I wonder? Remember how you were feeling at the time, remember who you were back then. No need to go into the memory too deeply, just hold it lightly in your mind.
Now from the you who is sitting here in the present, with the benefit of hindsight, what advice, comfort or reassurance would you like to give to that earlier you? Whether it was to be kinder to yourself or that despite how tough it was, you know you will survive. Perhaps it’s more like a tough message from a caring parent of “stop fighting with everyone” or “let people in”. Whatever your message, say it out loud to that earlier you and hold those words and the memory of earlier you in your mind.
I wonder, would earlier you have listened to this advice? Could you have heard what you just suggested? Was everyone around you giving you the very same message but you wouldn’t listen? Or maybe these nurturing words, these warm arms around you would have done wonders for your confidence for your feeling safe. Perhaps you were so determined to be what you felt you needed to be right then, that you wouldn’t have listened. Perhaps if you would have, things would have been easier.
Whatever your message, you know that it comes from a place of care, of wanting to help. A place of better understanding, a more mature you and a you with the knowledge that “it’ll be OK in the end”.
Now comes the tricky part: Imagine a future you, the person you would like to be. Maybe not too far in the future (I suggest as far in the future as the earlier you was in the past). The future you is very real, you can be there one day. It might be hard to picture who that you is, or what you are doing, who you are with or even where you are, but one thing is definite, you will be on the other side of your current obstacle.
Close your eyes and imagine that for a minute; you are on the other side of what you are struggling with now. How do you feel in that place? Say it out loud. ‘Stronger’,‘Calmer’ or perhaps ‘Happier’.
So now take as long as you need to consider what advice future you would give present you from their position of hindsight, care and maturity? What words of comfort would they want to say to reassure you? Say them out loud and hear the words as if they are spoken to you right now.
And that leaves the trickiest question of all; can you hear those words, can take your own advice?
I wonder if by doing this simple exercise you might have changed who that future you is? Perhaps you have set yourself on a path to be that person. I wonder how you are now.
In counselling there can be many exercises that help us to become aware of how we keep ourselves in places we don’t actually want to be. The process of speaking these things out loud to another person, to be shared and understood together, can dramatically change our perspective.