The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

After reading online reviews of this book, I decided to join the bandwagon and buy it. This book is literally, as it states, practical. It’s a great read about how and why we may relate to the world as we do.

As you know, I am forever curious about human behaviour, emotion and interaction. I find it fascinating that we can change our habits, perspectives and mindset once we are exposed to a new way of living!

The Four Agreements are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

I read this book in chronological order. Surprisingly, it helped to read each practical guide in this way. To digest the information and apply it accordingly takes time and patience.

If you’re anything like me, curious about human behaviour and finding ways to improve the way we treat others, I’d definitely recommend this book. Below, we can look at each Agreement and how I personally used them to improve my life. I’ve also included a link to the book so you can try these out for yourself!

1. Be impeccable with your word.

This was an interesting agreement. Ruiz defines this simply as not gossiping about others.

When we’re so engrossed in other people’s lives, it doesn’t give us much space to practice self-awareness or empathy for others. We can get caught in a cycle of rumours about people we probably don’t know too well. What’s the point? Not only is this harmful for others, it sets a negative tone in our own minds.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

As we are emotional beings, there are many moments that we can lose our cool or spit out the wrong thing at the wrong time. That’s normal. Paying attention to the way we think and speak can help alleviate awkward foot-mouth situations.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

This agreement really hit home for me. Ruiz explains this rule simply: what other people say and do are a projection of their own reality.

When someone would correct my mistakes, it felt like a personal attack. The story re-played in my head: “I don’t know anything, of course I made a mistake. I can’t do anything right.” I struggled with self-confidence and self-doubt. I was told often that I didn’t know anything, so I believed it.

If I could remove the attachment to another’s words, I wouldn’t find myself in this toxic cycle of pain and belittling.

I fought so hard, for so long to begin changing my mindset. Changing a story we’ve told ourselves for years is difficult to say the least. It’s confronting. It will always be a work in progress. But progress is still progress! That’s a win!

3. Don’t make assumptions

Yet another agreement that resonated deeply for me. I was beginning to think that this book could address universal social/personal problems with unbelievable ease.

The way my brain has been wired, unfortunately jumps straight to conclusions.

Although expecting the worst may prepare us for certain challenges, it doesn’t help in daily life.

Assuming the worst about others or ourselves is sabotaging. It can affect how we trust others and maintain relationships.

Instead of making assumptions, ask. Having difficult conversations have been a struggle for me. I will say after years of working through my fears and building up my confidence, asking to clarify something has improved my life exponentially.

It can be difficult to know the line between clarifying a topic/opinion and starting a fire. So tread lightly while putting this agreement in practice. Our laundry doesn’t need to be aired to the general public.

Change first starts with you. So instead of replaying an assumption in your head, remind yourself that there is no evidence for it. If that person/group of people have not expressed their dislike toward you, don’t assume they do. Of course, we can tell through behaviour and social settings how someone may feel toward us. If it is hurtful or toxic, then leave.

4. Always do your best

This agreement was the easiest to digest for me. Growing up, I knew that my best was the only option.

I learned that nobody is perfect. We make mistakes and we may hurt others in the process. I learned that our best may not ever be good enough to some people. That’s okay. Take the lesson and move forward.

Of course, being hard on ourselves isn’t the way to go about accomplishing all our goals. There must be balance between work and play.

Doing your best can look different when comparing to another person, so just focus on living life according to your best ability. Our best effort changes from moment to moment. For example, we cannot expect the same quality of work or productiveness when we’re sick. Be mindful of yourself and others.

At the end of the day, if you know you tried your best, you’re saving yourself from your own and even others’ judgement. No one can take that away from you. Stand tall in your accomplishments!

Have you read this book yet? If so, which agreement did you resonate with most? What did you find challenging?

Click here to purchase the book! (Paid Link)

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Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Defining childhood trauma

Childhood trauma refers to a frightening, dangerous or distressing event that threatens a child’s life or bodily integrity. This can also include being a witness to a loved ones suffering or pain (vicarious trauma). Events like natural disasters, emotional, physical or sexual abuse can have long-term effects on developing minds and bodies.


A trip down memory lane

It was a normal school day (besides my slipping attendance, which was not new). The year-level coordinator approached me after lunch. I was somewhat nervous but also oblivious to the conversation that would ensue. He asked me a series of questions regarding my lateness, whether I’d lost weight etc. After telling him a small portion of what was happening in my life, he used the word ‘abuse’ to describe what I had mentioned. This was a shock. How was I going through abuse? Wasn’t every other student experiencing this too? When he’d ask how I was faring from then on, I would assure him I was okay, even though I wasn’t. As a teenager, I thought I was right (typically) and it couldn’t be possible that what he said was true. Little did I know, pushing him away (as well as my pain), would cause an emotional overload, years down the track.

A few years later, I was studying Art Therapy. There was a particular module in the course based on The Inner Child. Most modules consisted of theory coupled with practical work. This practical exercise required us to trace the outline of our own body onto large butcher paper. Then, we needed to draw or create an item our inner child needed. I stared at my outline for quite some time. Eventually, I drew a heart shape and coloured it in with a marker. The flood gates had been opened… the next year or so would be one of the biggest struggles of my life.

Throughout my time studying Art Therapy, other peers would share their experiences and I felt somewhat detached. I felt sorry for them but I didn’t have the capacity to truly sympathise. It was like my brain switched off the department to feel pain for others. Including for myself. I began struggling to concentrate. I started skipping class. I didn’t want to do the practical work for fear of all the “shit” coming up in front of my peers. Feeling caged, and somehow ‘in danger’, I didn’t want to face it… face what? Class? Other students? The trainers? I was so confused. What was happening to me? I felt like I wanted to cry most of the time. My personal life was also affected: I was working in a toxic environment that caused panic attacks; my living circumstances were unstable; I had no one to turn to because I withdrew myself. Everything was overwhelming. 

The beginning of healing and discovery

At first, I wanted to see an Art Therapist to shed some light on what was going on. I completed one session but didn’t feel better. I started seeing a counsellor. As I was unravelling my childhood memories however, she mentioned something that made future sessions feel impossible. The college I was at, offered me a list of mental health professionals I could contact for further support. Going through the list, I searched each name on the web. After a few attempts, I came across a counsellor who was located in the city. I read through her website which 1. looked professional and 2. had a calming vibe. Her client reviews seemed positive too, which was great. That was the beginning of discovery and healing for me. 

This counsellor helped me through some harrowing times, past trauma and suppressed emotions. I learned from her how to care, be patient and acknowledge my emotions. I can’t thank her enough for her ability to hold space and offer unconditional support. It was exactly what I needed to begin healing. After a long time with C*, I noticed a ‘heaviness’ that I couldn’t shake – despite all the growth and learning that occurred. I knew then, it was time to find a new mental health professional. 

On-going self-work

A mutual friend suggested I see a specific psychologist that lived nearby. At the first consultation, the psychologist pointed out a possible ‘conflict’ that could hinder progress, if we were to work together. I was then referred on to my current psychologist, N*. 

Since I’ve started seeing N, I’ve grown and learnt SO much. I’ve noticed my thinking has changed a little over this time: I’ve begun thinking critically rather than reacting emotionally. Although my personality traits (that include being emotional) won’t change, I have been enjoying this shift in thinking patterns. Not every action requires a reaction! Sometimes all we need to do is put our ‘thinking cap’ on, and find ways to solve the problem at hand. Give ourselves space to feel what we’re feeling, and when we are able to, get to work on changing what needs to be changed! The power is in our hands. The power, is in our mind.

For me, talk therapy has been really helpful. Perhaps for you, other avenues like creativity coupled with talk therapy could be more helpful. Treatment isn’t a one-shoe-fits-all. What works for me, may not work for you and vice-versa.

Advice for anyone beginning the healing journey or going through it currently.

It may take a few (or more) tries to find a mental health professional that you feel safe with and connect with. Trust the process and be patient. Remember that healing isn’t overnight. Childhood trauma (or any trauma for that matter) can be complex, so be prepared for difficult days and nights. When we experience things during our childhood that shape our beliefs and values we hold, it can be terrifying to sift through memories. I know, I’ve been there. I’m still there. But with what I’ve worked through so far, it’s been the best choice in my life to ask for help and commit to doing the work. It’s time to move forward!

Another piece of advice I wish I had: make a tangible list of coping strategies that help you stay calm and centred in-between appointments. It can be scary, feeling overwhelmed from past memories. However, there is research out there that suggests techniques that help manage symptoms before your next appointment. Things that have helped me (and STILL do): yoga/general exercise, breathing exercises, guided meditations on YouTube, reading self-help books, learning about mental health and treatment, listening to podcasts and seeing friends/loved ones.

If you have any personal questions, contact me here. Please remember, there are people that care about you. Reach out to a trusted person or online community.

Here is a list of organisations that are here to help you:

  • blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
  • ReachOut – youth mental health community support

 

 This kind of self-work is not easy, but worth it to move forward in life.

*Names have been omitted for privacy reasons.
*Some words are hyperlinked for further information/learning.

Image by just_shot_of_jameson.

Welcome back to my regular readers and thank you for joining me if you are new! This blog is about mental-health wellness as well as lifestyle topics like fashion, food, decluttering and travel adventures.
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It is possible to create change and manifest positivity in your life! x

Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

Today, I want to break the stigma of seeing a mental health professional. Yes, it is more accepted in today’s society but there are still negative thoughts out there. This post is for those people who are afraid to be judged. This post is for those who have earned their degree, honours and masters. This post is for those who are curious as to how a professional can help them. Continue reading “Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?”