How to Get Through a Tough Week
-By Aisha Abbasi M.D.-
Have you ever had a really tough week? I recently had one.
In addition to dealing with something that felt extremely unfair in my professional life, which both saddened and angered me, I had to continue my usual work and personal routine. My feelings of anger were exacerbated because I had to give up precious private time with my family, all the while trying to meet writing deadlines for three presentations I’m preparing to give at the upcoming national meetings of The American Psychoanalytic Association in New York City (Feb. 7-9).
Between handling those important responsibilities and dealing with this upsettingly uninvited issue, I wanted to crawl into a hiding place for a long time. I knew, however, that I would have to KEEP dealing with this tough issue, and doing the needful, for months to come.
Psychoanalysis and Internal Good Objects
From time to time, such weeks occur in the lives of each one of us. So how do YOU deal with difficult periods in your life?
find inner sustenance from what in psychoanalysis we call “our internal good
objects.” In simple terms, this refers
to the internalized images of people who were important in our development and the
internal experiences of our relationships with them. During my recent tough
week, I found myself thinking about my important relationships.
My Mother: My mother became a physician in Pakistan in the mid-1950s. By the early 1970s, she had heard about women dying in villages in the mountains surrounding the beautiful town where she had set up her private practice. Remarkably, my mother took it upon herself to go up in those mountains to the remote villages, bringing along her nurse and the necessary medical equipment and medications. She treated and saved the lives of many of these very ill women, who were dying of post- partum infections and complications. Then she educated families in these villages about the importance of bringing these women down to the bigger towns and cities for treatment.
Villagers had previously been reluctant to seek treatment because of a culture of shame and secrecy surrounding childbirth; therefore, my mother acted not only as a deeply caring and competent physician, but she also functioned as a social activist and reformer with dogged determination. Within a few years, rather than being left to die at home in these villages, these female patients were being routinely and promptly brought down to city hospitals for life-saving treatment.
My Father: I thought about my father, a Colonel in the Pakistan Army, who fought in major wars on behalf of his country and endured being a Prisoner of War for three years. He used to tell us about the Infantry’s training for its officers and soldiers. I still remember a piece of Urdu poetry he used to quote, which translates into:
sixty miles a night have I walked,
Dancing with my arm around the waist of
My Psychoanalyst: I also thought of my psychoanalyst, who patiently listened to me day after day, month after month, for 12 years – through my tears, my laughter, stories about my life, and accounts of my internal struggles. He was steadfast through my rage at him, my contempt for him, and my attacks on him as he tried to help me make sense of my life and my conflicts. He remained kind, curious, and confrontational in the best possible way. This is the curiosity and kindness I now approach myself with when life challenges me, again and again.
Healing through Internalized Goodness
Using my “internal good objects” is how I survived a tough week and planned for the next steps I need to take. I imagined my mother climbing up the mountains of Pakistan, at a time when very few women would have had the courage to do so. I felt the spirit of my brave father, a survivor, who danced with death, was shot and injured in one war, and became a P.O.W. after another war. I felt my analyst’s inquiring, sustaining presence in my mind. I found myself gradually moving past the intense anger I initially felt, and becoming able to believe that I too could climb up the difficult mountain trails of life, face the battles life had thrown me into, and still dance.
With that tough week behind me, even though I still hurt, I am able to heal myself with the internalized goodness of important people who cared for me (each in a different way). May you also draw sustenance from the inner goodness of those who have loved you and still love you. Their love allows you to love and care for yourself, no matter what life brings your way.
Dr. Aisha Abbasi , the Founder of Tampa Bay Center for Psychological Health, has been voted (by other physicians ) one of The Best Doctors in America for 18 consecutive years. Check this blog in the coming weeks for more tips and helpful articles. At Tampa Bay Center for Psychological Health, our goal is to offer a safe, confidential, and trustworthy treatment setting for all patients. For more information, or to request your free 20-minute initial phone consultation, please call Dr. Abbasi at 813-492-9241.