When I met Monica she had recently launched her social enterprise ‘The Everyday Peace Initiative’. The idea of taking peace from this colossal global idea to something you could bring into your everyday life is an idea I absolutely love. It makes the idea of peace a little more tangible; especially for someone like me who often gets overwhelmed by how out of reach world peace seems to be. I saw she was offering peace consultations to families who wanted to have a more peaceful home life and I thought to myself that although I was dealing with anxiety attacks, for the most part my home life was peaceful and I wouldn’t take up her time. But then I saw a video she’d created for her ‘Everyday Peace Initiative’ and there was a message in her video that spoke to me directly. “The key to being a peaceful parent is to find peace for you.”
That was what I needed and I didn’t even realise it until that moment. Instead of focusing on reducing or managing my anxiety, I could concentrate on fostering peace in my life. So we started having sessions together and I was so relieved that they weren’t a thing like my previous experience of counselling. We weren’t constantly talking about past pains, my childhood or trying to tie every little thing to my parents, my partner or some traumatic experience at school.
Instead, Monica helped me gather a picture of my racing brain and see a pattern in my neurological activity. She’s a researcher, she has a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies and she’s also an accessible human being. She brought the scientific information to me and helped me to see how it applied to my life. I was able to step back from my thinking patterns and see that my anxiety was caused by relentless perfectionism. A constant striving to meet what I deemed to be the ideal standard in every sector in my life. A horrible spiral of chaotic thinking that told me if I tried to improve one area of my life, I was going to simultaneously drop the ball in another area. I was convinced that unless I was somehow focusing on improving all the important areas in my life, I was failing.
I really sent myself into a spin, I was so glad that I was able to stay in touch with Monica via an online platform where I wrote diary notes and she shared exercises and questions for me to ponder each week. Together our journey led me to an epiphany, ‘an improvement in one area of my life benefits all areas of my life.’ Oh my gosh, the relief from that realisation was peace personified. I’ll be forever grateful to Monica for her amazing patience and presence at each session where I rambled myself in circles. I’m especially grateful that Monica allowed herself to be a human. And by that, she shared stories with me from her life where she could relate to my feelings. I’ve heard that it’s a big ‘no, no’ in the world of psychology to empathise with your clients, that you’re supposed to be some sort of poker faced robot that now and then utters “and how did that make you feel?” Monica brought humanity into her sessions with me. No, she didn’t burst into tears and cry alongside me but she met me with compassion and a willingness to share her own struggles. Perhaps there’s a misconception that a neutral persona would help a client feel safe in a session? I personally felt more safety from knowing that the person next to me is human, knowing, and understanding my experience on a personal level.
I live with much less anxiety now thanks to the time I spent with Monica. I learned how to carve out space for myself in my own life. Her work really turns the world of problem solving on its head . Instead of talking about what I was going to stop doing we talked about what I was going to start doing. Instead of analysing things to death she softly led me to a practice of observing. And perhaps my favourite part, together we re-framed my focus from problem solving to finding peace and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find when you let go of perfectionism.
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