When I finally felt like I was done with my ‘healing journey’, I spent a fair amount of time wondering what in heck I was supposed to do now. I’d gotten used to trudging through healing, processing old wounds, struggling through old crap. When it was over (not that I’m “healed”, but the trudging was done), I was a little lost.
I’ve seen this with my clients as well – they’re used to being on the battlefield, surviving. When they realize they made it through, they’re disconcerted. What now?
Sometimes I give them homework – come up with twenty to thirty things you’d love to do. They’re often stumped. Since I was too, I completely understand. In case you’re stumped, this post is the first in a series of three designed to help.
We are starting with the ubiquitous ‘bucket list’ exercise, which I am calling a dream list. Initially I intended to come up with a giant list of potential dream list items for you to ponder, but a quick Google search quickly told me there was no need. (Search ‘bucket list’ and you’ll have days of ideas.)
Instead, I’m giving you a framework and ideas of how to create it. First, though, we have to deal with the two main objections I hear all the time:
“If I allow myself to want something, and I don’t get it, I’m going to be disappointed/it’s going to hurt more.”
Those of us who have been through trauma of any kind have this one pretty deeply rooted in our brains. As a child with no control and no emotional maturity, this life philosophy makes sense in a potentially hostile environment.
As an emotionally healthy adult, this doesn’t make sense even at a surface level. Say you secretly long to adopt a cat, but are afraid to want this in case you can’t make it happen. Which hurts more? Deciding to get a cat and discovering you can’t because you are allergic? Or secretly wanting a cat for your entire life and never allowing yourself to take any action to see if you can adopt one?
Let’s say you want to put “stay in an ice hotel” (don’t ask, it is more popular than you’d think) on your dream list. But…what if you can’t do it and you’ll be hurt/disappointed?
I have two questions for you, the first being…so what?? I’m betting you have already survived things way more horrific than not getting to stay in an ice hotel.
The second…why wouldn’t you be able to make it happen? You’re a highly resourceful person with the ability to choose how to spend your time, energy, money, etc. You are not a passive victim, unable to create what you want in your life. (At least, not anymore…again, old survival thinking coming to the surface!)
You may be arguing now – say your bucket list includes having sex with James Dean. I agree that is not ever happening (maybe on the astral plane?), and you may have to face the disappointment this brings. However, the essence of what you want – wild sex with a hot rebel type – is fully obtainable. We’re going to go into the essence of what you want more in the next post.
On to our second objection:
“I don’t really know what I want. I’m not sure I want anything.”
To me, this is just another symptom of the same problem – wanting things once really hurt, so it was easier to just not want anything at all.
That’s okay – of course after twenty years of cutting off your desires, you’re going to forget you even have them. One of the constants of being human is having desires. I promise you still do. You may just need to slowly unthaw them and get used to paying attention again.
To begin, you can try making your dream list using this method. Think of this like a giant inverted pyramid, with the top layer having all types of crazy ideas you may never actually do, and the bottom tip being the things you are really going to pursue. For the next three weeks, we’re going through a layer of the pyramid, beginning with Phase #1 – the unfiltered list:
Step #1: Shut Off Your Doubting/Critical Brain
This phase’s motto: Absolutely NO editing allowed during the creation process
If you want to put “Climb Everest” on your list and your brain instantly starts telling you ten reasons why it won’t work or wouldn’t be smart, ignore that voice. Put Everest on your list.
Step #2: Brainstorm by Category
List out any ideas you have by the following categories:
- Emotional Experiences (fall in love, experience the joy of oneness, meditate to a state of bliss, etc.)
- Travel (destinations, modes of transportation, etc.)
- Physical Experiences (extreme sports, fitness goals, hour-long orgasms, etc.)
- Skills (learn a language, take a perfect photo, master copywriting, etc.)
- Volunteer (join Peace Corps, work in a soup kitchen, etc.)
- Unique Experiences (dark dining, feed a giraffe, stay in an ice hotel, see the Northern Lights, etc.)
- Fame & Social (get featured in the newspaper, host a New Year’s Eve party for 100 friends, etc.)
- Relationships (get married, father a child, take your favorite uncle to italy, etc.)
- Business/Career (found a company, land a dream job, discover your passion, earn $1M a year, etc.)
I’ve made a guide for you with these categories – you can download and print it here. (The PDF will automatically download when you click on the link.) It’s got plenty of room for you to play with ideas.
Step #3: Search for More
Search for “bucket list ideas” and add on anything that you missed. (Who knew that ‘flyboarding’ existed?)
Keep adding on to this list throughout the week. Next week we’ll refine it with Phase Two of the pyramid.
What was your favorite dream list idea? Leave a comment and share it with us.