Walking the boundary between death and life
I met Adam when he came for careers advice. He explained to me how from an early age he had engaged in criminal activities, but was keen to stay on the ‘straight’ path since being released from prison.
Adam had met a partner who loved him and had children, so he was enjoying being a step father and wanted to be a good role model for them.
As I talked with Adam about his past experience and his aspirations for the future, he kept telling me how keen he was to avoid going back to his former way of life.
However, he admitted that his former lifestyle could be seductive. Engaging in criminal activities gave him a high, much like an adrenalin junkie getting their next fix. He explained that afterwards, he would feel low again and need another ‘fix’, so he would do it again and again, until he got caught.
Adam confided that he felt frightened of his new life as he is uncertain of the future. Whilst his former life of crime wasn’t something he wanted for himself, it provided him with a level of certainty – safe and familiar as it’s all he ever knew. Starting in a new direction and not knowing what was going to happen next scared him.
I asked Adam what provided him security and safety in his current way of life.
He paused in thought and answered his partner’s love and the kids, and the love of his family for accepting him.
I asked Adam, ‘What about love for yourself?’
He answered that he didn’t have any.
I continued, ‘If you gave permission to love yourself, how would you be acting?’
Adam answered if he loved himself he wouldn’t have been carrying out crimes as that way of life was like standing at the threshold of death. He knew of people who had lost themselves from getting caught up in it all.
I can empathise with Adam that when people look into the distant future it can seem like a wide abyss of the unknown: scary and frightening.
Although decidedly not on the same scale, I shared with Adam my first experience of rock climbing as something of an analogy. When I first saw the rock that my mentor wanted me to climb I thought “no way”! Looking from the bottom to the top, the sheer scale of the rock from my mind’s eye made the task seem daunting and too challenging.
My mentor encouraged me to focus on taking just the first step. And then the next step. And so with reluctance I gave it a go and it didn’t take long before I reached the top.
When making new changes in life, sometimes it can be useful not to look too far ahead to the point of scaring yourself. Your perception can sometimes be distorted by your fears.
This can lead to doubt about your own abilities. Where possible, break it into small manageable steps. For many people doing it this way makes them feel more at ease and secure than estimating how much you can leap.
Adam also said he feared losing the freedom he felt when doing criminal activities. I asked him ‘Aren’t you given freedom now? When compared to being physically restricted whilst in prison? ‘
He felt he was currently straying too much outside of his comfort zone. I asked ‘what if you used this time to create a new comfort zone for yourself?’ He reflected on this as this is something he had not thought about in this way before.
As the session drew to a close, I suggested to Adam he might want to try out Louise Hay’s affirmation technique: to look in the mirror daily and say ‘I love you’ to himself. He thought that was a bit weird but told me he would try it out.
As we both got up Adam told me how he sees some of the people from the life he led before and felt sorry for them and wished he could help. I said some people have to come to their own realisation of wanting to change when they are ready to.
Josie Diep supports and empowers people through coaching and advising to build confidence, develop self-belief to pursue their career passions. Visit www.josiecoaching.com for free career resources or connect on Twitter: @JosieDiep