Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pt. 23: Finding more stability and "footing" in the anxiety...

Now that the anxiety has been approached, much more perspective and relative control can be obtained just by tolerating being  with these kinds of feelings.  I hinted at a next step for being with it from my last post.  I began asking questions.  This is another way to get through and perhaps surprisingly, learn more from the anxiety (It can teach us things!).  Notice that being able to think about your anxiety and questions likely is starting to help you watch your anxiety rather than simply being completely flooded by it.  Now, ask some more questions. What might this anxiety be about?  When have I felt this way before?  Are there similarities between the other times and this one? What challenge might I be needing to master here before that I have not been able to gain some control of before?  What kinds of images make me feel safe here?  Do I need someone with me?  What other things are comforting and anchor me when I feel overwhelmed?  Let your own questions add to these.  Notice that the more questions you can ask and try to answer that it may start to become more manageable...MY WEBSITE

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"What is right with you?" Pt. 22: Now that I am in the anxiety, what now?

So now that I have decided to enter into these feelings, be open to and be subjected to all that I have been avoiding, what now?  If I allow myself to experience the tension of this, say a situation where I am afraid of being criticized, or making mistakes, or facing a task I am not very competent with, or just simply not knowing how to handle something I cannot control, what can I do?

Because we are so oriented towards taking a side to relieve the anxiety, whether it be to escape, make the other bad, make ourselves bad or any other such way of getting out of the tension, it is hard to be (t)here.  One thing that can help is to try to suspend our prejudgments that insist that the same thing will happen every time.  If we only see the same outcome with the same choices, we will be unable to create the space for any creative thinking to produce other perspectives, other possible solutions.  In short, we need to be able to experience the tension to get out of this trap and find the necessary space for creative thinking, new solutions, and new perspectives. Attempting to solve or work with the situation in the same old way, will only perpetuate the problem and convince us that life will, rather cynically, never change. So try to watch for how you re-create the same thing.  This will not help.

Thomas Ogden tells the story of a toddler who slipped in the bathtub and went under water, who was faced with his next bath.  Terrified, he grips his mother tightly and they are at a standstill. The choice seems to be drown or hold on very tight. The mother suggests a tea party and the toddler asks her to pour him some tea (with the bathtub toys) and slowly (albeit some time) the bath might be experienced in another way.  This infant metaphor is an important illustration for many transitions where anxiety is paralyzing, and how space needs to be explored to find a manageable and creative response to a situation where it has felt like there was no way to go...MY WEBSITE.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"What is right with you?" Pt. 21: What are we afraid of anyway?...

It seems that we are faced with a few choices when it comes to anxiety, at least the kind of anxiety that doesn't seem to go away.  We can medicate it either through our physician with medications, or some other substance.  Or we can try to ignore or distract ourselves with other activities, etc.,  But another option is to can endure it, perhaps even learn from it. In its most positive sense, we might ask what is my anxiety telling me?  What are the "gifts of the anxiety?" as Thomas Moore the author of "Care of the Soul" might say.  This idea becomes more possible if we realize that anxiety is not usually what it seems at a distance, or that actually, if we can have the courage to unmask it, we might find something there that was unexpected, different, or perhaps even smaller than we thought that it was from a distance.  This is somewhat like the childhood experience of turning on the light in our room when we were sure that the coat rack or other foreign seeming object in the room was this frightfully ominous and menacing thing. Shining a light on it reveals.  In this way, we find we have this part of ourselves that is afraid of our own shadow.  The shadow, in this regard, includes our fears, our inner conceptions of what we already have feared from before, not what is being feared right now.  Its like we hold back from finding out because our mind is made up that it must be bad! But another thing is happening beside what can be learned:  we are developing courage, strength and endurance to bear some difficult feelings that we have been afraid to approach.  More later. MY WEBSITE

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"What is right with you?" Pt. 20: More on anxiety...

What is it about anxiety anyway?  Many people try to reason it away, get consumed by it, spent their whole life frantically trying to prevent bad things (that have not even happened yet) from happening, etc.  But lets take a step back from anxiety.  I have always been a curious person, so I want to know, perhaps even with a morbid curiosity, what is behind things, or what will happen.  While this is obviously something we cannot know, when anxiety becomes excessive, we start to worry about something we could not possibly control--the unknown.  We constantly try to play tricks on nature this way, and we try to find many ways to soothe our anxious souls through all sorts of rituals ranging from spiritual solutions, psychological insight, reasoning, etc.  But perhaps we can all agree, that a general overall over-arching feature of anxiety is of something that is quite natural, the unknown.  We have become afraid of the unknown, sometimes more than is comfortable to our sensibility.  You might say in some instances that we have lost faith in what will happen, it cannot be good. And it is made more "bad" by my not having the mastery over, or the ability to somehow have the edge on the unknown.  In some of my following blogs, I will try to de-construct some of the aspects of anxiety in terms of reasons we dread not knowing so much.  MY WEBSITE

Monday, September 23, 2013

"What is right with you?" Pt. 19: Working with anxiety through changes.

There are a few keys to working with anxiety when going through it.  One, is to try hard to not become identified with it.  Just because you feel anxious, it does not come close to defining who  you are.  This takes some work to be able to learn to watch the anxiety, as Eckhart Tolle might say.  Two, realize that the anxiety is more of a doorway into something deeper and more important within you.  In other words, anxiety may be experienced along the way, but it is not the destination.  Your ability to tolerate more anxiety as you watch yourself go through it, rather than being too flooded by it, is an important part of change and inner transformation.  This is not always easy to do and can require someone to help us through these steps, but it can be done...  MY WEBSITE

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"What is right with you?" Pt. 18: Anxiety and Change

Anxiety, like Depression is something we usually treat like something we want to get rid of.  We like to distract ourselves from it, medicate it away, form addictions to escape it, and so on.  It is usually unwanted in our 21st century minds.  However, it is far more uncommon to ask "why am I anxious?" or "what could my anxiety be telling me?"  Being open to change and trying out a new direction, or a "healthy" behavior, or taking more risks to grow, will usually bring anxiety.  This kind of anxiety is to be expected.  Change is unfamiliar, less predictable, and even at times, somewhat disorienting.  We may need someone to reassure us we are on the right track, but this kind of anxiety is often a sign that healthy things are happening.  Other kinds of anxiety may be telling us important things too, but more on that later...MY WEBSITE

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 14: Broken Brains or Broken Hearts?

This question, the title of an Orange County psychologist, Ty Colbert's book, asks us, along with a long line of concerned mental health professionals, whether concepts like mental illness, chemical imbalance, and, whether medications are really the "cure" for our emotional difficulties.  What do our symptoms tell us?  Are anxiety, depression, loss of reality contact (psychosis), going paralyzed emotionally signs that are brain is sick or diseased?  Or are they random?  Or, alternatively, are they a signal that helps us realize that something is amiss, or needs our deepest care, etc.  In other words, are are symptoms an ominous sign, or a guidepost and beginning of the healing process?  One consideration of this latter process is the comparison of these symptoms to a fever.  When we fall ill, the fever is an uncomfortable symptom, but is also the beginning of the healing process.  It signals that the body needs to move to a whole new level of care to bring along the healing process.  More later... My Website

"What is right with you?" Pt. 10: Getting Started

Taking the first steps can be so difficult.  It can mean letting go of something.  Even if you are hurting, afraid, or very down, there can be a comfort in not doing something about it.  For instance, if you are to make a call to a therapist (say me), there is further risk.  What if you do not get the help you think you are seeking?  What will I think of you?  I mean, psychologists learn all kinds of theories.  Will he just fit what I am saying into his theory?  Will I really be heard?  Will he "get me?"  While this could happen, it can miss a very important point.  You know more about you and what is like to be you than anyone.  A friend, a pastor, or helping professional must start there...with you you are.  You are the starting point, not your friend, therapist, or pastor...at least when the focus on who is being helped is yourself.   There is the difficulty of reaching out and not knowing what will happen, but you need to listen to yourself and your experience of how you feel treated and responded to.  That is important too.  You may not trust yourself completely to do this, but you must have a least a bit to try...My Website

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 17: Being open

Being open to experience, to life, and to relationships sounds so good doesn't it?  And who in their mind categorically says no to that?  However, there is a part of our mind that does just that.  Whether in every day life or in therapy, while we consciously want to grow and experience more, a part of does not.  This part, which we call our defense mechanisms, wants to protect us from harm.  Depending upon our personal sensitivities and varying life experiences, we may go to great lengths to shut down our very efforts to grow, to experience freedom, and to more freely relate with others.  So it turns out that we are far more conflicted than we think we are.  In therapy and other forms of growth producing experiences we need to learn about this defensive part of ourselves so we can see how that part of our mind operates and see more clearly that we have a choice.  I want to highlight one thing further about this.  This means that this "defensive" and at times, somewhat sabotaging part of ourselves is not who we are, but merely protective armor.  The essence of who we are tends to be shielded by our defenses, and in growth, we learn not only about our defenses, but how to have more flexible defenses in order to venture further in our life experience...NEXT TIME:  More on the anxiety that challenging our defenses to risk more produces...MY WEBSITE

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 16: If so much is "right with me" why would therapy be helpful?

Many people turn to therapy because they have good intentions and goals, but are unclear on how to reach them, or may find that key keep sabotaging their efforts to reach them.  Often these ways of sabotaging are frustrating and limiting in one way, but they are also there to protect us from something.  A therapy relationship gives a person the opportunity to explore and learn about these "defenses" through the experience of the relationship.  Thus, therapy is a resource for learning in the process of a relationship.  This kind of learning cannot be found in a book, a class, or workshops.  Not that these are not excellent resources at times, but the living, careful, compassionate, intuitive, and feeling approach of mutual exploration helps us safely learn and change parts of ourselves that are not always accessible (we mean well, but we have blind spots).  The goal, which I will continue to say more about in my next entry, is to be more open to life where we have struggled to be so.  MY WEBSITE

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 15: Another word about medications, chemical imbalances...Can medications just be written off that easily?

Are medications this easily written off (see prior post)?  Clearly not.  The prior post takes a harsh look at the lack of data supporting the ideal of "mental illness" or biological/chemical imbalances as causes for emotional problems.  However, it needs to be made very clear that our stress, emotional struggles, and so on, can take its toll on the body and may result in our having symptoms which express these conditions. From this point of view, symptoms are natural indicators of things gone awry that need help.  Sometimes this means that our minds and bodies can go into overload and that medications may be needed to help us cope until we can. Also, some individuals do not always have the resources with their insurance (this is especially increasingly so in a society and a culture that does not value healing relationships in therapeutic settings and seems more inclined towards medical model solutions such as medications), nor do we all have the finances, or psychological resources to cope with the rigors of psychotherapy.  In summary, from my point of view, medications can help.  Our body can be thrown off balance by the stressors of life and need to be held in check until, and if we can find another way through these challenges.  Thus, in this respect "What is right with you?" includes the asset that our symptoms can be to us in helping us back to health. MY WEBSITE

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 14: Yes, but aren't some conditions the result of a chemical imbalance or genetics?

This is a very good question, because we have been strongly conditioned to believe this.  Before I say more about this, I want to affirm that medication helps many people through many things.  At the same time, there are some important considerations to be made regarding the assumption that medications are a cure for a problem with the brain, or a chemical imbalance.
The following represents a summary of the research on the so-called "mental illnesses":
     * No gene has ever been identified as associated with any "mental illness."
     * Despite being able to measure neuro-transmitters, no support for chemical
        imbalance has ever been found.
     * Psychiatry is the only branch of medicine that treats "disorders" or medical
        conditions with no known causes.                            
     * Twin studies' correlations do not rule out environment and artificially inflate
        results by double counting (proband) instead of pairwise tallying.
     * Brain imaging studies do no support any consistent findings associated with
        "mental illness"
An alternative view is that symptoms are not to be blamed on the body, a defective brain, or some kind of chemical imbalance, but rather are the result of the mind's creative ability to protect itself against further emotional pain.  Therefore, symptoms, rather than being something to be disabled by medications, again, seem to play an important part of signalling the clues of what is ailing the psyche (soul).  How does making an unfounded claim that we are brain impaired, etc. have on our already struggling psyche?  MY WEBSITE

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 13: Let's start looking at symptoms

Symptoms or dreams, or other confusing experiences often occur to us as something going wrong with us.  But let us take a closer look.  I once worked with a woman who complained of chronic emptiness, often with depression.  We explored the emptiness together.  It was interesting because as we explored the history of this feeling, she recalled a story of telling everyone about her experience of being visited by a beautiful butterfly, how it landed on her and she interacted with it for some time before it flew away.  She was amazed and gleefully told everyone, but the feeling  was not returned, in fact it was diminished.  Although this was later determined to not be an isolated event, but typical for her experience as a child, we explored how her experience was full of life, and anything but empty.  It was full of life, enchantment and wonder!  It was the response that was so empty and devoid of celebrating her amazing experience.  Apparently she had internalized this empty, callous, and devaluing response in the place of an appropriate one, of affirming her emerging identity and feeling good about sharing her experience.  This was the beginning of many explorations and discoveries around her "experience" of emptiness, something that was accurately reflecting in her mind (as the symptom of emptiness) of her experience. It clearly was not her own void, but representing the lack of response (and her inner experience of it) to her emerging sense of self.  Her experience was full of life, but the reaction lacking.  A rich inner life began to emerge where she once felt only a void, shut off from re-experiencing more pain that might emerge from having an experience of getting excited, only to be ignored and/or diminished.  Her symptom of emptiness was an amazing clue for us in our work.  Symptoms mean things.  More to come...  MY WEBSITE

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 12: "Normal?" What is that?

I apologize for the long break from my blog, but I do find myself delighted to return to write more about the question of "What is right with you?"  Sometimes we make fun of the concept of normal, or ask what it is, as if we know it is quite elusive.  Yet, somehow we are quite afraid to venture towards something of who we are for fear of this strange inner part of ourselves that we have internalized.  There is this "norm" that we must not depart from.  The consequences seem drastic.  And we are not talking about something like whether to wear clothes or not here!  We talking about the slightest risks to share a new idea, or wonder about expressng a feeling, etc.  We are afraid to not fit in.  The release of the newest edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Editon (DSM-5) brings this to mind.  Why aren't normalcy, and the elaborate measures that we can sometimes go to, or at least fear in the back of our minds, and/or trying to be sure that we fall squarely within the bell curve, considered to be a disorder?  I mean, lets stop and think about that.  Do we make ourselves crazy trying to be normal?  I tend to think that efforts to be "Normal" become an emotional straight jacket.  Just try to notice that as you go about your day!  Does trying to be normal take us closer or further from what might be right with you?  My Website

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 11: Really?

Really?  Why would steps into some therapy office be any different than anything that has happened before?  So change has to involve risking that all over again, moving into those places that I have learned to never go to with anyone, and even most of the time, I avoid in myself?  In good therapy, this is called transference.  It is especially good therapy when the therapist recognizes it and works with it well enough.  While we have begun to trust this kind person we have chose to be our therapist, we notice that we are silent on certain matters.  At that moment, we make it about the therapist.  Something we have to hide.  I hide my "childish" emotions, my anger, wrapped up and secured away by my "adaptive self" who makes peace with everyone, and hides what I really feel.  Being able to venture into these "forbidden" thoughts and reactions is...bizarrely enough, some of the beginning of getting back to "What is Right with You?"  My website

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"What is right with you?" Part 9: Taking Steps

Taking (the next) Step can be hard because of the conflict between the desired change and the fears of the feelings of having to give up the safety of the old.  Reaching out is a risk.  If you were to call to set up an appointment to start therapy, or go to a support group, or reach out to a friend in a way you have not before, it can feel like there is a lot at stake.  And there is.  In the case of therapy, a psychologist is trained in many theories of the mind.  Will they just take what you say and fit it into their theory?  Will a pastor or other spiritual guide give you a "one size fits all" platitude or scripture?  Or will they try to really get to know you from your perspective and start from there?  It is scary, because you do not want to feel missed.  That does not feel good.  Every good relationship is not perfect at the "getting each other" part.  However, the better relationships involve both persons being committed to knowing and understanding even when things get mis-communicated.  I think there is a big important truth here.  Are you aware of the most important part of the issue when you sit down with a pastor, a therapist, or a good friend to discuss your issue or problem?  HINT:  It is not them or what they think or even they themselves (though they should feel safe enough).  If it appears that way, trust your gut and run!  I suggest that you set out with new steps taking stock of what is important to you to be able to talk about, how you talk about it, and ways that feel important for you to be felt, known, understood...My Website