A Life Steering Act

by Catherine DeAngelis

 


“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

– from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

What would it be like if we were to imagine ourselves steering our way through life, setting goals as if we were a captain at the helm of a ship? We could control and navigate the ship across ocean or sea waters skilled at facing from mild and calm, severe and harsh to wet and cold weather. Some might say we can do this travelling alone or have done it alone, but even a captain needs help with actions and tasks before setting out onto open waters.

We have read story books about ships that sailed the many seas around the world and heard the myths and legends built famous on superstition.

With a sea map in hand, the captain’s duty is to make it across waters safe and with smooth operation, securing the ships seaworthiness, meeting conditions even those potentially hazardous.

Think about our life map and how ready we are to adjust and meet head on the task or situation that tests our abilities whatever life throws at us.

What is a Life Steering Act?

A Life Steering Act is about being the captain at the wheel of our ship in life. As captain, we are in charge of the movement of the ship’s rudder and the direction in which it is going. Similar to life, we address our life map regularly and make a commitment to plot our goals in such a way to get us a desired result in our daily life.  

Keeping track of goals is never an easy momentum to maintain. We can reinforce the skill of steering in the direction we want to go by relying on either mechanical equipment or the tools to aid us.

The values we live by are important to help us understand what we deserve, especially to know our worth and usefulness and where all the stuff of life we are needing or wanting is coherent with our values. Also, to live and learn is by managing what we want or what we need and aim for the most important to us based on what are our life’s priorities.
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A ship’s construct differs significantly from a human body. However, casually liken a human skeleton to a ship’s parts and connect them both as requiring a skill to operate that offers a miraculous ability to manage or guide someone or something.

SkeletonOur physical form for example is the mechanism that gets us to sit or stand, walk backwards or forwards. A ship has its various sizes but able to float on some of the deepest ocean waters. It too has its various structural components to get it to do what it does – float and, as humans we move.

Someone has to be present with the knowledge on how to reach a place or get something. And to get our brain and physical body in motion to steer into the channel to act the way we want to, can be a feat in itself.

Our Will In Action

Victorian Poet, William Ernest Henley aptly writes in his last line of his poem Invictus, “I am the captain of my Soul.” This poem was life affirming for Nelson Mandela. He used it to keep himself alive during his 27 years in prison. Mandela suffered incarceration. He lived with tuberculosis and during this period of solitude he had to grieve being unable to attend his son’s funeral. All this took place before becoming South Africa’s president. His force of reckoning got him to leading a nation out of apartheid and into democracy.

Another person with a will-in-action-of-another-kind is high-wire performer Nikolas Wallenda, the first accomplished aerialist who performed a tightrope walk over a 1,500-Foot Grand Canyon Gorge. Who would plan and scheme for such a feat let alone imagine ever doing it but instead succeeding at it non-fatalistically.

Our Emotions

Curiosity leads us to think what does it take to undertake such an astounding task. Wallenda is master of the all pervading emotion “fear” and he appeals to the crowd’s obsessiveness: how does he obliterate fear from knocking out his knees?

What might have been the optimism pumping through Mandela’s blood which gave him the fortitude to prevail over the depravity he felt in his prison: within the walls and within himself?

As captains of our soul, we ensure our vessel has prudent conduct and does what is needed to adhere to the discipline and stand by go in the path that is most compelling in us to get us there.

Our Getting Unstuck 

We do not need a brand new year to get ourselves revved up, ready to contemplate the list of goals for what we need and what we want. The crunch comes when we think and feel and dig deep into the essence of who we are and to who we know ourselves to truly be. Go ahead and pull out the pieces of our own scheming, whatever these may be, and add them to the list.

Get ready to boot-camp ourselves into realizing goals and making it a time of completion.

  • Who will make the changes in us whatever we think are the most important at work, at home, emotionally, physically or spiritually?
  • What is it we need and what is it we want that will bring us to a place to take better care of ourselves?
  • Why do we avoid that dreaded state of non-functioning and delay the leap to make changes without or with help?
  • When do we know it is time to get started on the almighty task list of wants and needs and succeed at attaining them?

In answer to these, we may find ourselves overcome by a whirlwind of thoughts that bring us to a full stop and get nothing done. The scenario replays itself over and over in our head and we anoint ourselves number one procrastinator and stay stuck there.

How to be Captain of Our Soul?

These things we are trying to get done or balance out, whatever we define them to be, are they calling out from under the despair of procrastination or from a depression creating a behavior to prevent us from achieving our aim?

Dr. Timothy A. Pyschyl explains the relation of Depression and Procrastination in his article of the same, that these are two common problems or experiences that people share – depression and procrastination — and that they are related. And, he teaches us that procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which “needs” to be accomplished. We get into this mode of procrastination because we prefer to be doing the more pleasing things in place of ones that are not so pleasing or are easier to tackle.

It is vital to ask ourselves what is in the way of meeting our needs and our wants and how come we are not the captain of our soul, the captain of steering our own life map?

Our human vessel is sensitive during times of e.g. loss of a parent or a child, being fired or laid off from a job, uncommunicative relationships or physical illness. The body and mind shuts us down and emotional exhaustion tears away at the tendons; exercise or practice of some sort to get to the bull’s eye of the matter of identifying these needs and wants becomes just another four letter word in our minds.

Psychologists report procrastination and depression are related. And, if we are poised for awareness of these, then we can apply managing tools so that we can feel better. At the same time, we can zero-in and identify what are the priorities, the goals we want and need to set for ourselves, and steer toward it all within our choosing based on our values that matter to us the most.

Taking action to steer our life in the way we want it to go is to know what it is we need or want simple as that. True, maybe we already know like Mandela knew or Wallenda knows (true captains of their souls). Maybe we need or want specific things we haven’t yet been able to navigate onto the right course to bring to us what exactly we need or want right here, right now.

For us to make it a time of completion, i.e. a time of letting go of procrastination, talking to a doctor and getting assessed for depression is a magnanimous move forward to where we need to start off for a restored life map.

Taking a Life Steering Action

Find a quiet place to sit or take a a meditative walk to think about what are the things in life that are a want or a need and matter the most?

Write a list down of the multitude things that need to get done or want to get done – just write it down and hold yourself back for shoving this task aside.

Answer below truthfully:

  • What is I WANT now? – to have a desire to have or do (something); wish for.”I want an apple” synonyms: desire, wish for, hope for, aspire to, fancy, care for, like. Explore the  WHAT? HOW? WHY? WHO?
  • What is it I NEED now?  to require (something) because it is essential or very important. “I need help now” synonyms: require, be in need of, have need of, want; WHAT? Start off by working off Deviations: regroup/ replenish/restore and look at real issues that have made you deviate from getting things done or simply procrastinating and feeling less than.
  • What are my Life Steering ACTION Goals? – To get us to identify what we need and what we want within the realm of our Life Steering Action Goals we may check our life skills and how comfortable we are with our emotional; physical; spiritual, financial, relationships and work life. We prioritize the identified wants and needs in these areas and place them in the order of our choosing to gather them into our life – we may ask if we are effectively balancing these life skills.
  • HOW? – Change Environment/perspective – e.g. Change Beliefs – better nutrition, more exercise, develop meditative/spiritual Practice, play and have more fun.
  • WHY? Embrace/expand Strengths – e.g. Lesson learned and opportunities or any violation to your values that may have been experienced.
  • WHO? Partnerships/collaborate – e.g. do I need further tools, more training/education, need to go for a routine check up or ask a family member, or friend for a shoulder to lean on? Are you a lone wolf?

Captain of My Soul WorksheetA Life Steering Act Worksheet – Download this Worksheet for easy use for a quick and easy getting started tool. This will help set you off to a start or continuum in defining needs and wants.

Many services are available for people to work on setting life goals and support for overcoming the debilitating affects of depression.

Everyone is different! We are our own captain steering our own life-ship.

Life coaching is available to give supportive listening — without attempts to repair but help resolve some strong feelings that may arise in the writing of our list. A life coach offers strategies to help map out a life plan and work together on creating a renewed method of managing life skills.  Other helping professionals are available e.g.: social worker, psychologist or psychotherapists.  Talk to a family doctor to work through if any concerns about mental well being. Giving up is never an option and seeking self-love and understanding; find support to uplift and build a life map which declares “…I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

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Break free from emotional blockages standing in the way of your potential. Catherine DeAngelis’ Out of Pocket Emotions’ 5-way tool is customized to fit your needs and guide you
to meet goals head-on.

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Life Skills and Trauma Stressors

by Catherine DeAngelis

Health professionals may be baffled when survivors of trauma come to them after recovery, on reassessment, find out symptoms have recurred.

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Trauma is a serious assault on a human’s life functioning.

What happens to get in the way of a regular day-to-day activity like paying the bills or problem-solving to suddenly make it all seem like a monumental feat?

Could it be a day or two before, or after a holiday gathering that negative emotions or physical symptoms got triggered, and a survivor remembers a traumatic moment that surfaces without a warning?

Trauma happens to people who experienced a psychologically distressing and life-risking event.  A person having survived an accident, injuries, illness, physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse, or other crime; a person who is a war veteran, army officer, or settlement refugee who comes from war-torn or a violent country;  it can happen to a search and rescue worker; natural disaster survivor, or a bystander of a traumatic episode.

A survivor can relive moments of terror, feelings of culpability, remorse, rage, or disillusionment about life.

Reliving a traumatic event can arouse emotions that cause fatigue, low energy, weepiness or lack of concentration or impatience with others.  Outbursts of anger happen for no reason.  The memory of trauma comes by flashbacks and nightmares, and it can become so severe it’s difficult to lead a normal life.

Unbeknownst to a survivor of trauma, belief that healing has taken place and recovery is over and done with plays havoc on the mind. Thoughts, feelings and emotions are stirred-up. Without warning, symptoms return to cause grief. The ability to manage simple home or work tasks becomes daunting.

Joint pain or inability to sleep throughout the night can occur during a traumatic flashback. Agitation and self-inquiry like “who am I” and “will I ever feel normal? Or “am I going crazy?”

Disharmony grows in relationships and clouds of doom become a veil over the survivor.

The Canadian Mental Health Association reports this kind of impact can develop into acute anxiety or more commonly “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

PTSD is one of several conditions known as an anxiety disorder. It affects about 1 in 10 people, characterized by reliving a psychologically traumatic situation, long after any physical danger involved has passed.

Taking care to know and understand disruptive emotions that could arise after flashbacks are vital life skills tools.

Self-awareness and self-care is arsenal for a trauma-episodic memory.

Life can suddenly become crushing because an onset of images, conversations, smells, or sounds, serve to remind something happening now related to a traumatic event back then.

Psychology Today reports PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults. It is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, gambling, eating and anxiety disorders.

When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

Mayo Clinic oncologist Edward T. Cregan M.D. explains coping with traumatic stress is an ongoing process. He explains we’ll be of more help to our loved one (to ourselves) if we learn about the effects of trauma.

Life skills can help people draw from a broad range of problem-solving behaviours to meet the challenges at work, home or socially.   The extent to which an individual with trauma integrates survival behaviours in their lives after their trauma is in itself a measure of success and deserves much support.

In trauma recovery people learn during their healing it is important to accept feelings of denial, to keep active, seek support, face reality of the triggers, and to ground themselves after a flashback.

Trauma survivors need to take time to process feelings associated with the experience and know how to find quiet time to be alone or find someone in the family or among friends to share the experience. They need to know sharing the experience is accepted without judgment.

The key is to recognize trauma might surface at different times of the year.

Dr. Cregan describes the best way to approach trauma is by finding some ways of normalising it – thinking about not being overwhelmed or frightened by symptoms and difficulties (as opposed to catastophising thoughts like, ‘It’s happening again, I am back to square one’ and emphasising coping strategies like staying active, taking care of yourself, seeking social support).

Family members and friends care deeply, yet hold beliefs healing should be done with quickly. This can hinder a trauma survivor’s healing.  Advocating “life is too short” and “stop focusing on the past – get over it” prolongs the curing period.

healingHealing takes time and it is different for everyone.

Family physicians notably agree it is part of essential life skills for a survivor to understand and express feelings, deal with anger associated with trauma, and safeguard thought processes so as not to undermine the ability to cope day-to-day.

Awareness is essential.

Emotional wounds take time to heal, or some cases may never heal.

Emotions from a traumatic event can take years to show up and when they do, it’s a rude awakening. A realization surfaces to reexamine the memory and the pain associated with it. What can happen is a recall of more memory, adding to the original trauma. Once this happens, it deserves the processing time for the survivor to work through it, and get ready to come out at the other end stronger for it.

Trauma can cause ongoing problems with self-esteem. It affects management of simple life skills.  Overcoming trauma is easier for some than others. Some go on to inspire others who is just entering the dark stage of a life-changing journey.

The impact of trauma on the entire person and the range of therapeutic issues are what need to be addressed. Recovery happens when the person is ready to move past the pain of it.

Symptoms come back in bits and pieces, like a flashback in a movie trailer – it can subside.

Dr. Creagan believes we can help a loved one with post-traumatic stress by being willing to listen, but don’t push. Choose a time when you’re both ready to talk.

During the process of recovery from trauma, it can take months, years, even decades.  For some, PTSD never leaves.

Trauma assaults a person’s ability to manage simple life skills. Generally this is needed to help understand the world around or know the tools to allow a fulfilling life. Daily tasks, going to school or work, building relationships, or one’s personal feelings of belongingness or connectedness become visibly exhausting.

Trauma symptoms get in the way of meeting ambitions to live to one’s full potential.

Many treatments are available for PTSD to meet the unique needs of the survivor.

Everyone is different, so a treatment by someone experienced with PTSD may work for one person and may not work for another.

Life coaching is available to give supportive listening — without attempts to repair but help resolve some of the strong feelings such as shame, anger, or guilt.  A life coach can offer strategies to help map out a plan to get beyond PTSD and work at meeting life goals based on a new method of human functioning.

A life skills approach to trauma is about finding a new personal life balance. Breaking through another wall of understanding and self discovery during recovery of trauma, is about learning to live with a new agenda of coping skills. Taking time to find what works best during healing from the effects of trauma is worthy of investment.

Giving up is not an option,  but seeking self-love and understanding, or getting the help needed all bring added successes to an especially brave life of a survivor living with the stresses of a past trauma.

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