Human Being Versus Human Doing
Several years ago I started to notice this sense of free-floating anxiety. As I explored it deeper and worked with my own therapist, I recognized that my anxiety was connected to needing to be in motion. I felt the constant need to be doing, completing, and accomplishing. Slowly I began to recognize my struggle with just being, sitting, and really feeling. With being, came self-judgment. I made the realization that my sense of self-worth was tied into my ability to be productive and my fear that if I am not productive and purposeful then I won’t be good enough. As I built this awareness, I was able to explore new ways of showing up in the world. I began to push against my own discomfort, fears, and insecurities in order to embrace just being. This was no easy feat and I cannot pretend to have mastered it. However, I will say that I no longer believe I need to be productive in order to feel good about myself and I no longer feel that free-floating anxiety.
I share this personal tale because I believe that many people in today’s society can probably relate on some level. Also, this idea of learning to be a human being instead of a human doing is a concept I bring to my clients in the wilderness and one of the reasons I love the wilderness setting for therapy. Nature was a key component in helping me slow down, sit, and really feel. There is something incredibly profound and healing in letting yourself be held in the beauty and peacefulness of nature without any other distractions.
A typical client coming into wilderness is someone who has spent months to years numbing emotions and avoiding sitting with their thoughts and feelings at all costs. They have had constant distractions through friends, the phone, and social media to list just a few. At first, being in the wilderness can be a huge shock and often clients panic. Panic is the first step in the process of surrendering. Clients are forced to slow down and face who they are completely; the parts they like and the parts they hate. This can be terrifying and even painful at first. The beauty of this process is that not only are clients held by the beauty of the wilderness setting but they are also held in compassion and understanding by their team including their therapist, staff, and peers. They are surrounded by people who have also had to face themselves and learn to be. People who know how hard and painful that process can be but also how life-giving and rewarding it can be to learn to sit with yourself and be good enough just as you.
There is no right way to become a human being. In wilderness, we recognize that every individual is unique and what might work for one person may not for the other. With that, we embrace the trial and error process of finding what works best be it mindfulness, meditation, journaling, art, music, and the list goes on. One element that I personally believe is crucial is self- honesty, and self-acceptance. Learning to identify, express and sit with what we are feeling and why we are feeling it without running away, avoiding, or numbing. I use the quote, “lean into the discomfort” frequently with clients because in doing so we learn that we are strong enough and brave enough to face it. In facing ourselves fully, we can eventually allow ourselves to stop doing and start just being.