I went to my group therapy class today and we talked about assertiveness, and not giving our symptoms (voices) power over our lives. Both of these topics are great for people suffering from schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and other types of mental illness.
Our group leader discussed ways to keep ourselves from giving our voices power over our lives. She said we should not give our voices power, momentum, energy, or authority. We should not allow our voices to influence our decisions, or tell us what to do. We need to be stronger than they are, although this can be a challenge. I have found that the voices I hear in my head can be overwhelming at times. Often, my voices seem stronger than me. Yesterday, my therapist told me I need to use my own strength in order to manage my voices. This can be difficult. Sometimes, I don’t feel like a very strong person. However, I need to be strong to manage my illness, and keep my marriage strong. I don’t want my illness to break apart our marriage, and that is a possibility if I allow my voices to have power and control over my life. I am the only one that should have power and control over my life. Not my voices.
Sometimes I give my voices power by dwelling on what they say. Other times I will just stop what I am doing, or stop paying attention to what I am doing, and listen to what they are saying. I know I should be ignoring them, but sometimes I can’t help it. Other times I give my voices power by thinking about how I can do what they say, or by trying to negotiate an agreement with them. I will also worry about what might happen if I don’t do what they say. These are all different ways that I give my voices power. In order to keep myself from giving my voices power, I try to keep busy. I write. I read. I visit with friends or call my parents. So far, my best outlet for distracting myself from my voices has been writing. It also helps to clarify what’s going on in my life, so that it doesn’t seem like everything is happening just in my head. It’s much better that way.
We also talked about assertiveness today in group. There are different ways of being assertive. We can be assertive when we want to solve a problem, or just express an opinion. I often have trouble being assertive. A lot of people don’t like to assert themselves because they think they will offend someone, or cause the other person to dislike them. I think I fall into this category. I have a tendency to think that everyone should like me, but I know that this is impossible. For me to assert myself, it seems like I’m taking a risk. Maybe the other person won’t like me if I tell them what I think, or if I express my true opinion about a particular subject. I don’t think that’s what we mean by being assertive. Being assertive does not mean being offensive, or disagreeable. It just means expressing ourselves, and standing up for ourselves. We should not allow other people to walk all over us. This is what it means to be assertive. Sometimes, people may actually respect us more when we do assert ourselves. It takes practice, but is definitely doable.