What do Smoking and Building a Practice Have in Common?
I started smoking when I was about 14. I didn’t much like the taste of cigarettes, but I persisted. There were lots of cigarettes about which made it easy. My parents discouraged us from smoking, but since they smoked themselves, it didn’t have much effect!
Smoking filled a lot of needs for me. Like many teenagers, I was socially awkward, and smoking helped me to feel more grown up. I saw my two elder sisters smoking, and wanted to be like them. Most of my friends smoked, and when I smoked, I felt that I belonged in that group. There were a gang of boys that I was interested in, and they also smoked.
I didn’t stop smoking until I was well into my 30s. Officially I gave it up when I was pregnant with my first child but I continued to smoke for many years after that on a lesser scale. I could go for weeks without having a cigarette, but when I’d get together with friends, or I’d be feeling low or a bit needy, the fags would come out again, and I would sabotage my own resolve to be smoke free.
Even though I criticised myself for not being able to quit, I realise now why it was so difficult. Smoking gave me a reason to connect with others. Smoking was also a little rebellion on my part. Normally very much the good girl at school and at home, smoking in secret was my way of sticking my tongue out at authority. In order to quit, I had to find a new group to connect with, or a means of connecting that didn’t involve smoking. And I had to acknowledge my need to rebel, and find another outlet for it.
You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with creating and running a therapy practice. Well the thing is, those needs, (to belong, to rebel, and to be wanted) continued long after the nicotine habit was broken. Those same needs also unconsciously influence my actions to build and develop my practice.
When it comes to building a practice some of the decisions that we have to make will set us apart from those who are closest and dearest to us. Often we fear rejection or disapproval from those who mean most to us, and sometimes our fears are well grounded. Sometimes we build bonds through our struggles. If I change who I am then the bonds that I have with others around me may be threatened. And even though I know logically that I’ll survive if that happens, it can feel like death to the little child inside me.
If, like me, you have a little rebellious corner, commitment can cause a backlash that presents itself through sabotage. And building a practice takes commitment, so there are lots of opportunities to rebel and undo what I’ve worked for.
In every change, there are consequences. There are both gains and losses. I knew I couldn’t be both a smoker and be healthy. I had to make a choice. I had to consciously choose health and the consequences of that choice, in order to stop smoking. And the same principle applies in creating a practice. The consequences of choosing to have a successful practice will be different for different people. For some it may mean letting go of an old way of thinking, such as imagining that a dire consequence will follow if they promote their practice. For others, the consequence might be allowing themselves to become financially healthy, and so letting go of dependency on others. For someone else, it may mean risking the negative reactions of those around them.
The journey isn’t always an easy one. The consequences can be subtle but strong. And those old needs are still there in the background, waiting to sabotage us if we don’t pay attention.
If you are finding the steps to create the practice you want are challenging you in ways you didn’t imagine, I’d love to help. Please contact me here to avail of your free 20 minute consultation, or to make an appointment.