Getting your money’s worth

Money, like our other resources, is important...make sure you get your money's worth out of therapy.

 

Why do people GO to therapy?

Generally, people begin because they are suffering.   They are experiencing emotional distress and would like some help with it.   Often, though,  once people start, they learn that therapy is a productive way to learn a lot about yourself.    The more you know yourself, know your thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns, know your emotional stuck points and your hot buttons, the more freedom  you have in your life.   If I don’t know about my tendencies, about my defenses, about my patterns, then I am doomed to keep repeating and repeating them.   It is only through self-knowledge that I have any chance at all for creating a new life for myself.

You could argue that you don’t need a therapist to develop self awareness, and I would agree.  In fact, there would be no argument there!  But for many of us, we have a pattern of isolation and independence (“I can do this myself…I don’t need any help!”) that can lead to a lack of intimacy in relationships, or can be related to problems trusting other people.   Sometimes allowing ourselves to accept the support and the disinterested perspective of a therapist is a way to break out of a pattern in itself.

But suppose you have decided to start therapy.  What can you do to make the most of the experience?   Therapy isn’t like medicine;  you don’t just go for the hour every week and wait for it to work.     The more actively you involve yourself in your therapy, the more you’ll get from it.

Usually therapy helps you to see things in a different light.   This can be because of the experience of relating to another person in a different way, or because of hearing yourself say something in the presence of a caring other, or because of other experiential processes that happen during the therapy hour.  You can extend this shift by continuing to “process” during the week or weeks between sessions.  The following suggestions might be helpful to you.

  • Reflect on your session.  What have you heard or seen or done that was different for you?  Are there ways that you can bring this difference into your everyday life?  Even if you are not ready to make such a change, can you think about what it might be like if you were ready to do this?
  • Work on body awareness.
    •    Several times each day, take a moment to “check in” with your body.   Notice your energy level, your body sensations, any “felt sense” that arises in your awareness.  Notice any thoughts that are persisting.
    • Use body movement to help you identify what’s going on in your body.  Try grounding exercises,  or alternating vigorous movement with stillness to just see what’s up right now.
    • Journaling.   Handwrite about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Do this without allowing your inner editor to have a voice.  Just write.  This is for you, not for anyone else.
    • Process emotional material.  When you have an emotional response to something, take time to notice it, notice what you do with that response, and watch the consequences.   What was actually happening?   What can you know about how you felt, what you did or said?  Would you like to be able to think, feel, or behave differently in the future?
    • Accept that you are a work in progress, and so is everyone else.   See how close you can get to accepting things as they are, including other people just as they are, and yourself, just as you are.   Acceptance isn’t condoning and it also isn’t necessarily forgiveness, but it is a step that can allow you to relax into reality rather than struggling in resistance.

So…that’s a short list of some ways that you can get your money’s worth out of therapy.   What other tips do you have?

 

 

Leap Day!

Credit: nickshell1983.wordpress.com via Nahno McLein's blog

 

I just had to make sure I got a post up on this special day….Leap  Day, that only happens once every four years.  Of course, every single day is just as special as Leap Day, in that it will never come again, and that my job is to try to make the most of it, even if that means just sitting and being in the day.   But I still have some attachment to posting something on this day.

So I am going to post an information sheet that I’ll be handing out at the group meeting tonight.  I hope you are coming!

Here it is:

               Body-Mind Psychotherapy: Bioenergetic Analysis & Therapy

Are you stressed?  Anxious? Sad? Worried?  Having trouble making decisions?   Things feel like just too much?

Bioenergetic Analysis is a holistic form of psychotherapy that listens not only to your words but also to what your body has to say. Bioenergetic analysis diminishes anxiety and depression, and promotes health and wellness in body, mind and spirit.

Bioenergetics assumes that the mind and body are one.  The experience of living in a body shapes and creates the subjective experience of the mind.  Feelings are a body experience, for example, and our minds use the information from our body experience to construct thought, generate behavior, and motivate our ways of being in the world.

The body-mind approach of bioenergetic analysis helps to heal a split between what our minds tell us and what our bodies experience.  In bioenergetics, we use body responses as a way to understand our patterns of behavior.  When we can feel those patterns in our bodies, then we become free to change them.

Becoming oneself~

When we were children, our feelings were huge.  When a very young child has a feeling, it happens all over the body….joy, sadness, anger or fear is a whole-body experience, filling the child and often filling the room.  As children, we learn that such explosive emotion is not acceptable.  We learn to contain our belly laughs by tightening our abdominal muscles, to constrict our longing by tensing our shoulders, to hold back our rage by tucking in our tails, setting our jaws, and tightening our backs.  In this way, we become socially acceptable but we cut ourselves off from our deepest feelings, including the sources of pleasure. In bioenergetics, we can take back our birthright.  We can learn to feel all that we were meant to feel, and experience our life in all of its fullness.

Working with a bioenergetic therapist is a way to help alter old patterns, heal persistent wounds, and move into a fresh future.

In bioenergetic therapy, you will explore your internal landscape with a trained therapist.  You’ll use movement, your voice, and other tools to help you experience yourself in a safe, comfortable setting.  With support, you’ll find that you can allow yourself to feel more, experience more, appreciate more, enjoy more.  When you can have these experiences in the therapy room, they become more possible in the world where you live and work.

Good to know….

An essential part of bioenergetic training is extensive personal bioenergetic therapy.  In bioenergetics, you know that your therapist has been through this very therapy.  This allows us to create a collaboration, in which you develop ways of moving forward in your life, while becoming more fully the person you were meant to be.

Bioenergetic Bodywork:  become vibrantly alive!

Bioenergetic exercise classes are fun!   Exercises are designed to help you get in touch with your body sensations, getting to know and like yourself in a different way.  Exercise classes are not psychotherapy, but helpful for everyone.   Exercise is tailored to your body needs, and incorporates stretching, sustained postures, vocal expression and fun!

During 2012, we’ll be offering FREE monthly bodywork groups on the last Wednesday of the month at Lokamotion Studio, 7-8 pm.  Call to register or just drop in.

 

Was there anything new and interesting in this post?   drop me a note or post a comment and share….and I hope to see you becoming vibrantly alive!
 

 

 

 

Chicken and egg take two

Which comes first, the thought or the feeling?  Do our thoughts actually create our feelings?  Or does a sensation in the body give rise to a thought, which would suggest that feelings come first?

One of the things I have learned in my studies is that when you have an apparent dichotomy, you can bring the level of analysis down to a finer view and the dichotomy will disappear.  Okay, that’s a fancy way of saying that most things look different when you take a different point of view.

So ages ago, psychologists theorized that a sensation in the body was just that, until the person gave it a label and then it became an emotion.  Much later, pioneers in the cognitive therapy movement suggested that what we THINK can dramatically affect how we feel;  specifically, we can generate a whole lot of personal distress by thinking distressing thoughts.  That doesn’t address the question of where those thoughts actually arise, though.  Lowen (check out the lowen foundation for his writings, and audio and video recordings….http://http://lowenfoundation.org/index.html) was ahead of his time, really, in pointing out that the neural activity of a thought likely arises from a sensation in the body.   Damasio offers a variety of clinical and scientific support for this…that the FEELING of what happens is what creates our thinking and our behaviour.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE?

Okay, I am getting there.   You know that I love the theoretical but the practical is infinitely more, well, useful.   What it means is that everyone has a piece of the truth.  In your own experience, you can point to times when thinking about something in an unhelpful way has made you feel worse than you were feeling before.  So that part is verifiable with experience.   And when you develop your body awareness so that sensations register on your consciousness, it becomes apparent that there are links between body sensations and at least some of the thoughts that seem to arise spontaneously.   Here’s a pretty crude example:   You start to notice an empty feeling in your belly, and then there are some noises from in there, and at the same time, you suddenly notice that someone in an office down the hall must have popped popcorn (that should be illegal unless they plan to share) and you have a thought…..Maybe I’ll go out for lunch.    It would be hard to argue that the internal sensations, the external stimulation and the thought were unrelated.

Try it…try to see what connections you can find between your thoughts and your body sensations.   Or just your thoughts and your feelings (emotions, or overall mood states).   Notice when your thinking is affecting your feeling state.  Notice what thoughts arise when you experience particular body states.   See if you can figure out which is chicken, and which is egg.

Chicken, egg or something else?

Where do our feelings come from?  And why do we have them?  Lots of time, we might wish we didn’t…feeling deeply sad or rageful or terrified are not comfortable ways to be in our bodies.  We might wish those feelings away.  So why were we made or evolved to have them, anyway?

Okay, those are a couple of Big Questions.   If you have been reading here, you know I have a fondness for the way that Antonio Damasio explains the whole “feelings” thing.  He gets right down to the molecular level and talks about how the body works continuously to keep us alive, to maintain blood chemistry that is compatible with life, to keep our behaviour within limits that will keep us alive, and to activate systems to make dramatic changes when necessary for our survival.
But are our emotions necessary for our survival?  He says probably yes. We apparently cannot even make the simplest decision without our capacity for feelings.   Emotions are a movement in the body-mind (not his term) that result from an accumulation of smaller movements of energy and information, many of which have to do with keeping the body alive.  Emotion is an “image” in the body-mind (he uses that term broadly, to mean any thought, idea, picture, or felt sense) and when we become aware, in our consciousness, of that emotion, then it becomes a feeling.  Everyone doesn’t use this same set of definitions but it is useful to separate emotion and feeling when we are trying to figure out what’s going on with us personally.

Dan Stern talks about categorical emotions but he means feelings.  These are the usual:  happy, sad, angry, afraid, disgusted.  He also talks about “vitality affects” which refers more to the overall energy level you may be experiencing.   You may be low in vitality early in the day, but your overall feeling may pick up somewhat.  We experience these overall “feelings” much more consistently than we have categorical emotions.  Both vitality affects and emotions (feelings) are important, but we tend to ignore the everyday vitality stuff unless it is markedly out of our usual realm.

The point of all of this talk is this:  we have emotions/feelings and we have overall vitality affects, which some people will refer to as ‘mood.’   We have these experiences because they are related to keeping our bodies alive.  But, because we are human beings, we actually make a whole lot more use of our emotions than just staying alive.  Emotions, including both categorical emotion and vitality affects, give our lives colour.  They help us to make decisions, to approach or avoid situations or people, to engage in particular behaviour or react when certain stimuli are present.  We also influence our emotions consciously.   We choose a lot of our activities for the effect we expect them to have on our emotional experience.  For example, we go to movies to be excited, to feel good, to get scared, or to enjoy being with a friend while sharing this emotional experience.  We watch TV because we are ‘bored’ or because we need to be distracted from our thoughts.  We call a friend when we need contact to feel different than we do.  We call our mothers because we need to stop feeling guilty.   Many of our behaviours are motivated by a desire to change our feeling state.

The interesting thing is this:  we THINK that we are in control of our emotional lives, and in fact, we do influence our feelings a lot.  But the connections between what we think, do and feel is part of a hierarchy in the nervous system.  This part, the conscious and modifiable part, is higher on the phylogenetic scale than the part of the system that is just about sustaining life.   That’s probably obvious….feeling happy isn’t a requirement of life, but an adequate oxygen-CO2 balance in the blood is.   So even though we think we are making all kinds of changes to our ‘feeling’ life, the essential and essentially unknowable substrate is how our body is keeping us alive.

So why did I start out talking about chickens and eggs?  This post has taken on a life of its own…I was originally going to compare Al Lowen’s assertion that all thoughts have their beginning as a feeling or sensation in the body to the cognitive behavioural tenet that our feelings are the product of our thoughts.   I guess I still have that post to write…another day.