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What Does it Mean to be a "Work in Progress"?

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

I have been thinking about the name of this collective and what it means. What happens when I think of myself, or my mental health, as a “work in progress”? I think it encourages me to be more hopeful, patient, and self-compassionate.







Hopefulness

“Work in Progress” is hopeful. It means there will be progress: we are going somewhere, although we don’t know where yet.


Patience

A “work in progress” takes time, it’s not something that happens overnight. Some years ago when I was in despair and having difficulty functioning in my daily life, I was very impatient. I didn’t want to be in pain and I wanted someone to fix it. I consulted all kinds of alternative practitioners, including one who said that my ancestors were speaking through me (I didn’t return to her!). Finally, I came across a little book which is now quite outdated in its language, called Self-Help for the Nerves, by Claire Weekes, published in 1962. It was pioneering both in self help and in understanding various anxiety disorders (and Wikipedia says it is still a best-seller). I found the book comforting partly because I could hear my mum’s voice saying “don’t worry dear, it’s just your nerves.” Weekes’s advice helped me more than anything else. She said I should “Accept— Float— Let time pass.” Although this is a way to deal with anxiety and panic by interrupting a cycle of fear and arousal, it’s really all about patience. It taught me not expect too much too fast. I realised that beating myself up for not feeling better already was part of the problem. Reminding myself that I am a “work in progress” makes me more patient with myself and with the process of therapy.


Self-compassion

If I am a “work in progress” the work will always be incomplete. I am not perfect and never will be; but that’s O.K. Thinking that I’m a work in progress makes me kinder to myself; it reminds me to give myself a break.


Work

But is it a “work in progress”: it means I can’t expect my therapist to fix me; I have to be active in my own mental health, and do the work of self- discovery.


Playfulness

“Work in Progress” is also playful. It reminds me of the road signs “Work in Progress” that we see everywhere featuring a person with a hard hat and a shovel (I won’t explore this further!).


And the Collective itself…

Finally, it occurs to me that the collective itself is a “work in progress”: the therapists, students and associates are all committed to developing their practices and their own education and self-discovery. Mental health is always a work in progress: it takes commitment, patience, hopefulness and self- compassion. As the website says “We are all works in progress.”


By: Maggie Berg, PhD

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