Using Focusing to unpack your feelings

Focusing is a simple approach developed by Eugene Gendlin for uncovering the meaning behind subtle feelings and emotions. Use it to increase your self-awareness.

Check out this short video and use Focusing to understand your subtle gut feelings and build sensitivity and wisdom!

Three key areas of psychological health

Most psychological difficulties are in three areas: Issues with your past, Poor relationship with yourself, and Poor relationship skills with others. Often my clients and I assess these three areas of personal development and psychological health together to decide where to start.

Past issues:
Most people have an unconscious that is like a huge cluttered back room. This is where we throw all the stuff we do not know what else to do with. Some of it is new, some of it hasn’t been touched for decades. Buried at the bottom of the mess is the rule book we live by and a ledger of beliefs we have about ourselves and the world. Stacked on top like layers of sediment are all the events we have been unable or unwilling to organize. This may include traumatic memories as well as unaccepted or unprocessed emotions or thoughts. Many people have so much stuff in their back room that it effectively runs their lives.

One of the first steps in psychological healing is to clean up and organize this mess. We want to start with the freshest stuff nearest the door and slowly work our way down until we find the rule book. As we pick up and identify each piece of debris we want to put it where it belongs and retrieve any emotional aliveness that may be stuck to it. Gradually the room gets tidier. We put things in labeled boxes, drawers and filing cabinets. We no longer have to be afraid of the mess from our past spilling out into our current life.
Once we find the rule book and the belief ledger, we can shake the dust off and update things.
This gives us more control over our lives.

It is common in my business to work with a person who seems to have his or her life together and yet has a persistent low level anxiety from the mess in their back room. For individuals with more traumatic histories, the mess may spill out into their lives as unusual symptoms or as out of control behavior.

Poor relationship with ourselves:
The next general area is that of how you treat yourself. Most of us are aware of the “inner committee” nature of the mind that shows up when we have to make a difficult decision. The quandary brings to light the chorus of different voices and perspectives within each of us. Most people are not aware of these “subpersonalities” on a regular basis. And yet this is really the nature of the mind. Some of these subpersonalities are named in popular culture – so we speak of the “inner critic” or the “inner child”. The reality is that each of us have a myriad of different parts. Health in these terms is where 1) we admit this 2) we observe our different parts in action without getting too identified with one or another and 3) we cultivate an internal attitude of mutual respect and compassion. Having an internal committee which is feuding, snide or judgmental is a very painful way to live. Developing internal loving kindness and respect is a crucial part of a joyful life.

Poor relationship skills with others:
Lastly are our interpersonal relationships and the ability to create and sustain intimacy with others. A healthy person in the first two areas may still be dreadfully lonely if he or she has not developed these skills as well. Really satisfying relationships are built on communication skills. These are skills around boundaries, expressing emotion, conflict resolution, knowing how to love, listening, and others.

Unlike the first two areas that require a great deal of introspection and emotional processing, developing and honing these skills is refreshingly straightforward. As with any other skill, if you practice these intelligently, you will improve. Doing this requires that you make it a priority and then get a clear idea of how to proceed. Groups, classes, books and honest feedback from friends and family can be invaluable in this process.

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We can all benefit from working in each of these three areas, but some people have glaring weaknesses in one area or another. How do you assess yourself in this regard? What would your friends say about you? The primary benefit of this sort of map is to help you determine where you are, and what area would be most rewarding to work on. To get the most bang for your effort, work in your weak areas – generally we have already played from our strengths.

Working on any of these areas is much more likely to lead to having a happy life than many of the other things we spend time on. If you want ideas on how to proceed, just let me know. If you are putting it off, what are you waiting for?

Each of us deserves a truly joyful life. Go for it!

Reduce Distresss and Reconnect with the Best in Yourself Fast!

Here is an easy method for reducing distress and reconnecting with the best in yourself.  Everyone should have a rich toolkit of these sorts of techniques.

  1. Notice that you are having an internal experience that you would like to change.  Cues might be physical tension, stress, boredom, spaciness or something else.
  2. Make a sincere effort to shift your focus from your mind or emotions to the area around your heart.  If it works in the situation, actually put a hand gently on your heart area.  Feel the warmth there and pretend you are breathing through your heart to help you keep your attention there.  Keep that up for 10 seconds or more.
  3. Recall a positive, fun feeling or experience you have had in your life and attempt to re-experience it.
  4. Now using intuition, common sense and sincerity, ask your heart for any advice on dealing with the stress, letting go of the past pain or reconnecting with the best in yourself.
  5. Listen with gratitude to your inner wisdom and resolve to act upon it.

This is a skill, so you will get better with practice.  Practice right now!

This pattern is based on the Freeze-Frame process developed by HeartMath.  They have done some great research on stress, heart rate variability and heart and breath rhythm coherence, check ’em out!

7 Ways To Stay Centered In These Difficult Times

I am dismayed at the political state of the United States.  Many of my clients feel scared, sad and hopeless about it.  How do we remain emotionally centered and resilient in these difficult times?  I know that I am most effective in whatever I am doing when I am in a good emotional space.  Allowing external circumstances to drag me down is only going to undermine my value to others and drain my energy for doing the work that is necessary.  So how do we remain hopeful and optimistic despite the discouraging news?

Here are some approaches to use.  An important part of these is to recognize that paying attention to nourishing input deliberately does not require pretending that painful events do not exist.  In a rose garden, smelling the roses does not require denying the existence of the thorns or the manure.  Your day to day experience is like that – spending your time smelling the manure is an option, but not required!  Even if you decide to work with the manure you do not have to stick your nose in it.

7 approaches for remaining centered in difficult times:

Recommit to your self-care.  Most people allow their self-care to deteriorate under stress.  Don’t.  In fact, to make yourself more resilient, notch up the quality of your life-style 10%.  Look at your patterns with diet, exercise and sleep.  How can you improve them?  How can you reduce your reliance on distractions with an addictive quality such as drugs, alcohol, or internet?

Maintain the long view. This country has gone through very trying times in the past.  Despite this, we have been able to create positive institutions, great works of art and loving relationships.  Humanity in general is maturing and behaviors that were socially acceptable in the past have become widely unacceptable.  Persistent effort by people of goodwill makes a difference.

Think in context. Humans have gone through ordeals far more difficult than the one we are facing.  Recall Nazi Germany, recall the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  What frame of mind did members of the French Resistance have to maintain during the Nazi occupation?

Control your thinking by controlling your input.  Be aware of what experiences lift your spirits and which drain them.  For instance, watching the news obsessively every day is a sure way to tax your resilience.  Allowing yourself to express your outrage and upset daily or listening to your friends express theirs will connect you powerfully to energy draining emotions.  I am not advocating denial, but be cautious about what you let in.  The deliberately spend time in activities that leave you happy and optimistic.  Play games with friends, laugh, watch comedies, listen to uplifting talks and podcasts, spend time with animals and in nature.

Strengthen your social network. Spend time with people doing things that are uplifting.  Reach out with kindness to strangers, and explore new friendships.  Join a new group, meet-up or group. Create time to really listen to others.  We are all in this together, and each of us needs support.

Create and act on a plan. It is essential that good people stay committed to acts of kindness and service.  These may be of a political nature, but they may also be volunteering at your local food bank.  What are you going to do over the next 4 years to make the world a better place?  Use your distress over the present to commit to making a more positive future.  Deliberate and effective action is the best antidote to hopelessness and despair.

Set time aside to deeply relax and be in the moment. Despite challenging external events, the present moment is usually still a safe refuge.  Create or find a nourishing external environment and relax into the world of your five senses.  Savor warm tea, good food, lovely natural scenes, yummy scents, great music, or the warmth of a hug.  Let yourself stay with the sensations for 10% longer than you might otherwise..

Staying centered in these times is paddling upstream.  Admitting that, how do you want to feel?  You have more power over this than it may seem.  Looking back over this list, what are you willing to change to be more centered?  Commit and make progress towards that today!

If you need some additional support, feel welcome to contact me!