“live your life so loudly that people can’t hear what you’re saying”
We all need to breathe with awareness more every day. When you feel stress, take a moment to notice your breathing. Notice what happens in your body as your breathe in and breathe out. Gently bringing yourself back to the breath will ground you back to your body. This is basic mindfulness. Try it. It works!
A big part of mental health is the ability to move fluidly between the emotional and the logical. Tor example, in my marriage that means being able to go from an argument, where I may feel triggered or angry or perhaps misunderstood ….. AND THEN ….. calm myself down and think logically. The logical thinking takes me back to thoughts like: “it will all work out” or “this is not that big and deal” or “get over yourself Ed. ” etc, etc.
So, try out this game: next time you get angry or stuck in an emotional state, take a minute and get curious and observe yourself and notice how long it takes for you to calm down and access your logical mind. Doing this will improve your mental health and give you more serenity.
We all get moody and have bad days. Try this for a mood booster: when you feel a negative emotion or thought pattern hit you take a five minute break and write down 20 things in your life that you are grateful for. Be specific. You will be surprised at the upward bump you will feel in your mood.
No matter what the situation, today if I believe down deep that I am a helpless victim then I am in dangerous emotional territory. Although we all feel victimized at times (and in reality there is great pain out there caused by other’s actions) it is a powerful emotional position to shun “victim-hood” and to take 100% accountability for how I feel and what I will choose to do. I have watched many clients transform their lives and gain great personal power when they give up feeling like a victim and instead live in a place of accountability and choice and gratitude. It is hard to do at times, but the rewards are huge.
Recently a client showed me how and when to take a calculated risk
(of course never ever do anything unethical or inappropriate or potentially damaging — “first, do no harm”)
In this moment she led me out of my comfort zone and into new and important emotionally territory for her.
Here’s what happened:
(I changed all names and details of the experience to insure confidentiality)
She walked into the office and shared in detail a passage from a favorite book. She shared why she loved it.
At that moment, I had a choice to make — stay with this topic or move into usual “therapy talk”
My choices were:
1. Start the session with the usual questions like; how are you feeling? how was your week? what would you like to work on today? — all very typical “therapist” questions — nothing wrong with these questions
2. Follow her lead and ask her to talk more about the book, ask her to pull up the scene on her phone and read parts of it to me, question her about what the book tells her about her life and life in general
So, by taking the second option good things happened. Her talk about the book led us directly into key fears and upsets that she had never shared before.It led her to compare here emotionally life with pains and joys to the characters in her book.
Note to self: pay attention to what the client says in first 5 minutes of session. What may seem like idle conversation often will be the key to finding the emotional center of the therapy session.
Ideas from Dr. Block’s book Come To Your Senses:
He talks about the “depressor” that we all have in our heads. This is the voice that takes normal thoughts and catastrophizes them.
Quote from page 26: “What are you to do, for example, when you think, “I will never get this right,” “I’m lazy,” “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have enough self-control” or “I’m not clever enough” ? These appear to be negative thoughts that you should avoid. On the contrary, they are wonderful, natural thoughts. The problem arises when the depressor steps in and creates a body-mind that is full of misery. Let’s look at an example. The thought “my husband forgot our anniversary” leads to a story line like “he doesn’t appreciate me; why did he forget? what did I do? Am I lovable? Mother said no one would ever love me. I have been jilted before ……”
What a great description of how our mind (ego) takes an event that is not emotionally charged and
then runs wild with it and leads us down the road to emotional upset.
The exercises in the book teach us to identify this wayward “voice”, label it as the “depressor”, and thus take away its power.
I am reading a book called Come To Your Senses, by Stanley Block, MD, that is changing how I look at mindfulness and meditation and mental health. I am using it with clients and the feedback I am getting is very positive.
Dr. Block’s practice is called “bridging.” The key idea is that by bringing ourselves back to our present-time experience of our body (taste, smell, sight, touch, sound) — which he calls bridging — that we can move away from anxiety and fear and move toward living in the now or in the “zone.”
I will address this more in the future.
For now, try this: when you feel yourself moving into any fear or agitation — take a moment and notice what your senses are experiencing in the moment. You could notice the hum of a light, the ticking of a clock, the temperature in the room. Whatever you are sensing, take a moment to notice it completely. Put all your attention on it. The process will ground yourself in present experience and you will move away from your focus on the fear or agitation.
Give it a try.
Check out the book.
It is pure gold.
About Peterson Family Therapy
Peterson Family Therapy is a family-owned counseling practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s operated by Ed and Candace Peterson, life partners with the desire and skill needed to help couples in crisis, individuals suffering from addiction issues, and anyone dealing with depression and anxiety. Peterson Family Therapy is a member of The International Centre For Excellence In Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT).
Peterson Family Therapy
Kaizen Center For Mental Health
4505 Wasatch Blvd, Suite 260
Salt Lake City, UT, 84124
(801) 809-7990 (Ed Peterson)
(801) 809-3410 (Candace Peterson)