I've covered a number of times my interest in ecopsychology - see for example here and here - well here comes a guest blog from Stroud-based Jennifer Horsfall (pictured). I wonderful reminder of the need to look at our inner sustainability......thank you!
Sustainability from the inside out (or sustainable living from the inside out)
How many times have you noticed that your initial burst of enthusiasm to create positive life changes has soon dwindled? Or that those promising new years’ resolutions have only lasted until February? Perhaps you have felt disappointed, frustrated or embarrassed that you have not fulfilled your intentions such as to get fit, stop smoking or create a better work life balance. We can probably all think of times when we have became disheartened, wondering if our goal was just too unrealistic in the first place.
Every time we move toward our vision or goal, we inevitably step outside of our comfort zone. In fact the very nature of our goals is that they tend to exist outside of our comfort zone. What usually happens is that as we start to move toward our goals, we reach the edge of our comfort zone where we are faced with challenges. I like to think of these as the three inner gremlins of disbelief, fear and cynicism. At this point many of us decide that the warm cosy comfort zone is far more appealing than the unknown territory of scary gremlins! And yes, at times maybe it is best we stay under the duvet just that little bit longer. However, if ignored for too long, those gremlins can end up ruling our lives! But if we choose to face them, however ugly, we find that these gremlins hold vital keys to unlocking our potential. This involves allowing the ‘emotions’ to be felt e.g. fear, as well as exploring the associated ‘thoughts’ e.g. ‘I am bound to fail’. By facing our gremlins we can start to uncover unhelpful patterns of thinking and explore more helpful and alternative ways of looking at our situation e.g. ‘I am going to give it a go and who knows if I will fail’.
Inner sustainability is the ability to sustain enthusiasm and commitment so that we can bounce back from setbacks and reach our goals. I see this as a dynamic process, which involves cultivating resilience, replenishing resources and drawing upon support. All of which helps us overcome those gremlins and activate our truest desires. As we embark on this journey we tend to draw upon external support, such as friends as well as our inner strengths and wisdoms. However at times it can also be very beneficial to make use of assistance, such as from a coach. This is because they trained and skilled to do so. Rather like your guide, or ally, their main focus to offer practical steps and encouraging guidance to help you achieve your true potential and deal with those gremlins!
Cultivating inner sustainability is also essential if we are to respond and cope with the multitude of problems that exist on earth today. It is clear that as a species we are living unsustainably on the planet. Collectively, we humans are responsible for the widespread destruction of many living ecosystems yet we continue to plunder resources to meet our ever increasing needs – consuming more and more. When faced with these realities it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed or fearful. Yet again we meet those gremlins, who tell us things like ‘what difference can you make you are only one person’. Yet in order for respond we need to allow ourselves to ‘feel’, which is not always easy. However feelings are not only natural, but they have a function alerting us to danger - like the biological alarm bells of the earth. If we don’t respond it may be fatal. By acknowledging our feelings we can reconnect with our sense of interdependence with all of life and feel inspired to act to create a sustainable society.
Jennifer Horsfall is a coach, counsellor and mentor with over 14 years experience of helping people achieve their true potential and cultivate inner sustainability. She has worked extensively in the NHS and higher education providing holistic interventions, training and supervision. She is a highly skilled group facilitator and regularly facilitates ecopsychology workshops.