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Sanity Through Sleep

Posted: January 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A woman sits in my office with tears falling down her cheeks and a look of haunted desperation.  She just had her umpteenth fight with her husband, barely gets through whatever she can of the endless daily demands, and interactions with the kids feel like obligations instead of something she can look forward to.  While it’s tempting to think this is a blend of anxiety and depression, my conclusion was different, “I want you to go home and take as long a nap as you can.  Then, when you have given yourself time to have three consecutive nights of at least eight hours of rest, let’s meet again.”  Although surprised by my response, she faithfully followed my recommendation.  The next time we met, she was a different person.  “I can’t believe everything seemed so bleak.  Sleep helped me take a break long enough to see where balance was badly needed and to stop putting myself last all the time.”

With the start of the New Year, it seemed like the perfect time to begin looking at the ways we could promote a general sense of well-being and stop habits that cause emotional messes.  The best place to start is with some good old fashioned prevention.  Several key activities can help us avoid feeling like are emotions are like raw nerves, but the one that is most undervalued but has profound impact is adequate sleep.

You may not know this, but you have several phases of sleep, one part helps repair the body like tissues, muscle growth and protein synthesis.  Another phase helps with mental functioning like making sense of what we have emotionally experienced, processing what has occurred and then storing it all into usable memory.  If we are not getting enough sleep, we are preventing these vital processes from completing.

Here are a few quick questions to determine if this relates to you?

  • Are you often tired during the day or have moments of sudden sleepiness? This may mean that you have significant sleep debt- your body is like an accountant.  If it does not get what it needs, it will decrease functioning until the debt is repaid.
  • Is your weight stable or are you fighting a gain? Research shows that if you’re overtired, there is less interest in exercising or making the effort to make healthy meals.  In addition, leptin and serotonin levels decrease, which are the hormones that helps you feel full.  This means that tired people are hungrier, have lower metabolism, and crave high-fat and high-calorie foods.  In time, this can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes!  If you want to learn more, talk with your doctor or nutritionist!
  • Do you think clearly and have good memory? Or does your brain feel a bit fuzzy and decisions-making difficult?  Jodi A. Mindell, PhD is a professor of psychology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and author of Sleep Deprived No More.  She states that there are numerous studies that show sleep deprivation “impairs your cognition, your attention, and your decision-making.” There is a substantial decrease in solving logic or math problems, and odd mistakes (like leaving your keys in the fridge) are more common” (For those of you who know me, I do misplace my keys and phone, but never my child).
  • Are you fairly resilient to the common cold or frequently sick, making you want to run from the building screaming when someone sneezes? There are a few studies that have shown that those with sleep deprivation were three times more likely to get sick than those with seven hours or more of sleep per night.  Knowing how gross Nyquil tastes, this might be worth it in and of itself!
  • Are you at risk for heart disease or hypertension? Growing evidence of research suggests that seven or less hours of sleep greatly increased coronary artery calcification- a predictor of a future heart attack.  There can also be elevated risks of hypertension, stroke, an irregular heartbeat, and heart disease.  Yikes!
  • If you have manic or unipolar depression, do your symptoms appear to be extra strong? This relates directly to the story mentioned at the start.  Sleep deprivation looks almost identical to major depression, hence the recommendation to fix the real problem, not the symptoms.  Good sleep sets up the brain for positive feelings, while deprivation has enjoyment of activities reduced and interferes with people’s social lives.  Those with sleep deprivation are also more prone to be angry or violent. (Dement, p. 274)
  • What is your quality of life? How long do you want to live?  As a final thought, three separate studies suggested that sleeping five or fewer hours per night may increase mortality risk by as much as 15 percent.10 

Most of us do not associate these struggles with sleep, but they are very real side effects.  If you want to follow Spock’s advice of “live long and prosper,” then quality sleep must be included in the plan.  So the first step in making this happen is to do your best to get at least eight hours of sleep per night.  For some of you, this might be a huge adjustment.  Just keep reminding yourself that any fears of lost productivity will be countered in gains of a refresh mind and better health.  If you are struggling to make this happen even though you are trying, the next article will address some behavioral strategies that can address the habits that promote insomnia.  In my fourteen years in private practice, I have found that these behavioral changes correct most problems without any need for medication!

Resources

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201308/all-night-the-effects-sleep-loss-mood

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.12413/epdf?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.12413/epdf?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201308/all-night-the-effects-sleep-loss-mood

Dement, W. C. (1999).  The Promise of Sleep.  New York, NY: Dell Publishing.

 

 


Staying Engaged

Posted: November 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

We’ve now had a week to sit with the results of the election.  Whatever is your political persuasion, there is a lot of unknown regarding the political ramifications of the results.  The important thing to do now is to not get comfortable or engage in what is called “slacktivism”, doing things that help us feel better but which have no real impact.  Consider what elements of our country that are most important to support and protect, ensuring that we are not just considering our own needs, but those of our American family as well.

Progress Now sent out a list of some wonderful organizations to consider.  Here is hoping that we each embrace our important roles as citizens and make sure we protect the valuable rights we have enjoyed but are easy to loose.

Ian Silverii info@progressnowcolorado.org wrote:

We have to stand together for what we believe in no matter what the politicians in Washington do. Colorado can be a model for fixing the problems America faces. Sign up now for rapid-response alerts to help us respond.

Once you’ve signed up for action alerts, connect with local organizations working on issues important to you. In Colorado, we have a wealth of strong public policy and advocacy groups working every day to solve problems our community faces, protect our rights, and build a prosperous future. Donate, join their lists, volunteer; we’ve got to start now…

Abortion rights: NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado is the political action leader of the pro-choice movement in Colorado. Connect with NARAL for information on abortion legislation, and take action at the state and national level to protect reproductive rights. Additionally, to learn about more great work being done to protect women’s rights in Colorado, you can also connect with the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

Immigration: the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is a statewide coalition of organizations to founded improve the lives of immigrants and refugees by making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state.

Health care policy: The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit organization working so all Coloradans can get affordable, high-quality and equitable health care.

Education: Great Education Colorado‘s mission is to drive educational excellence for all Colorado students by harnessing the power of grassroots activism, and stimulating wise investment in Colorado’s public schools, colleges, and universities.

Latino organizing: Generation Latino is organizing the collective energy, imagination and creativity of Colorado’s young Latino community and channeling our ideas into policies that will build a path to better jobs, higher wages, affordable healthcare, accessible education, and immigration reform.

Social Justice: multiple grassroots organizations are working hard to promote social justice and end the scourge of police violence against communities of color. Connect with Black Lives Matter 5280, the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference, Together Colorado, and the Colorado People’s Alliance.

Civil liberties and privacy: The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado‘s mission is to protect, defend and extend the civil rights and civil liberties of all people in Colorado through litigation, education and advocacy.

Environmental protection: Conservation Colorado works with communities statewide to ensure that our quality of life, environment, and public health are protected. We work to elect pro-conservation leaders to public office and hold decision-makers accountable.

Economic policy: The Bell Policy Center produces the ideas, analysis and action that make opportunity happen–advancing the debate around family economic security and driving public policy solutions that help Coloradans get ahead and stay ahead. The Colorado Fiscal Institute provides credible, independent and accessible information and analysis of fiscal and economic issues facing Colorado.

LGBT equality: One Colorado is the state’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families.

Progressive communities of faith: Founded in 1998 by a group of clergy and laity to help Coloradans to put their faith into action as a force for good in public life, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado brings together people of different faiths to drive equality, human rights, and opportunity.

Housing and homelessness: the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has been helping the homeless for more than 30 years. CCH considers the definition of homelessness to be anyone who lacks a fixed, regular or adequate residence.

Gun safety: Colorado Ceasefire advocates for freedom from gun violence throughout the state.


Depression: More Than Just An Attitude Problem

Posted: November 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Every year, I am struck by how far we still have to go to learn what is going on in the depressed brain.   7.6 % of US citizens ages 12(1) and up suffer per year, and medications are unable to help at least 1/3 of those afflicted.

Part of the struggle is the sheer complexity of this phenomenon.    For example, Duman et al (2015) cited nutrition, sex sterioids, cardiovascular VEGF, stress, and the immune system all effect and are impacted by depression and anxiety.(2)   Others have noted how brain activity shifts so the sufferer struggles to remember, make decisions, and feel motivated.  The following article adds another component.  It describes how the very structures of the brain are changed, possibly minimizing the ability to recall positive memories while more strongly linked to areas associate with punishment.

http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-say-they-ve-identified-the-physical-source-of-depression-in-the-brain

Of course, these are not taking into account the environmental factors like trauma, social isolation, stressors (like financial, employment, relationship conflict) that also play apart.  In all, I never want to forget that a sufferer cannot easily solve this problem.  Hence why therapists like myself work with the person, and sometimes a team of people, to rebuild and repair.

 

________________________________

1  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/depression.htm

Synaptic plasticity and depression: new insights from stress and rapid-acting antidepressants, Ronald S Duman, George K Aghajanian, Gerard Sanacora, & John H KrystalNature Medicine, 22, 238–249 (2016) doi:10.1038/nm.4050  Received 11 March 2015, Accepted 21 January 2016, Published online 03 March 2016

 


The Orlando Shooting

Posted: June 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I’m still reeling from the news in Orlando that a devastating decision led to the worst tragedy since 9-11.  Someone, fueled by justification and hatred, deemed that the lives of over 100 people no longer mattered.  The victims were people out on the town, enjoying music and friendship, when this stranger burst in and brutally murdered 49, wounded 53, and altered the lives of the survivors and loved ones forever.

Sadly, the LGBTQIA community is no stranger to violence.  Paul Brussard (killed by 10 men in Houston), Matthew Shepard (tricked, beaten, and left to die in Laramie, W), Harvey Milk (shot in California) are just a few of a long list of hate crimes.  And the transgender community has so many murders each year that they have created “The Day of Remembrance” to annually honor their deceased brothers and sisters.  As we come up on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same sex marriage in all fifty states, this recent atrocity is just one more reminder that we still have so far to go before the community can ever feel safe, let alone accepted.

I hope that one day, diversity does not mean different or dangerous.  Where unfamiliar is no longer frightening but is approached with openness and warmth.  For no matter our uniqueness, we are all part of one race- the human race.  We are all part of the same family.  We should celebrate those who are bravely trying to live authentically, and cease turning the one you love into an issue.

We now must make a choice- do we now use recent events to fuel our hatred for the Muslim community?  Do we allow ourselves dangerous permission to dehumanize other people so it is gets easier to be cruel and inhumane?  Do we support institutions or doctrines that teach us that one group of people is better than another?  We must stop the contagious hate that is like a cancer.  We must stop waiting for others to take the lead and instead practice each day to work against bigotry and prejudice.  Finally, we must show solidarity with those who have been brutalized.  Please, consider making a financial contribution to a place dedicated to being a loving force to our traumatized brethren or to those organizations working to eradicate hate.

Meanwhile, may this tragedy offer us the opportunity to change.  May it bring us together, instead of apart.  May we take the challenge to make this world a safer and kinder place for all to live in.

Donation Suggestions:

Resources:


Mindfulness In a Nutshell

Posted: June 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The following article does a great job of introducing us to mindfulness, noting some key benefits and complementary exercises:  http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2016/01/mindfulness/.  Some people get intimidated by the term, envisioning success only by donning a monk’s cloak and meditating for years in a cave.  It does not have to be that way, there are levels of practice and intensity that can range from general stress management to spiritual awakening.  

For those people who want to take a break from the frantic pace and constant noise of our day to day lives, brief meditation is a wonderful tool.  It encourages deep breathing and focused attention, reconnecting us with our bodies, the present, and the rhythm of this life-giving action.  Counting, visualizations, and calming phrases also distract us from nagging pressures that can keep us escalated.  By the end, it’s like the mind’s reset button has been pushed, and we have fresh perspective and a greater sense of center.

There are others who hope to take this a step further, working to become less mired in the constant stream of thoughts that are as persistent as a stalker.  Through specific exercises, a skill is created to observe the inner world with more detachment.  Instead of being controlled by the thoughts and the corresponding emotions, we can consider the health and value of what we see.  It is then possible to determine how the information can help us find positive trajectories and cease reckless reactivity and defensiveness. 

Finally, mindfulness has the ability to change the way we see and approach our life and those we encounter.  It is a spiritual practice, where one has long gaps where the thoughts are quiet, allowing one to tune in to what if feels like to just “be”.  This opens the way for connection to be felt with all living things, creating a blend of humility, gratitude, and contentment.  The ego has little importance here- instead, the focus is on how to be a positive influence in the world, using a sense of peace, wisdom, and compassion.

What you decide to aim for is whatever works for you.  Hopefully the article above can be a welcome introduction and give you a taste of something that could be a powerful balm for the challenges that come with each day.


Trans-Phobia and the Dangerous Legislation You Should Know About

Posted: April 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

There was a recent segment on The Daily Show that had a fantastic piece on aspects of being transgender.  Some elements were subtle, like Trevor Noah not falling for the common trap of asking Angelica Ross about her genitalia, but instead treating his guest like a three-dimensional human being.  But there was also a segment provided by Jessica Williams that highlighted the daily bigotry they have to endure.  Please watch April 6th’s episode:

http://www.cc.com/full-episodes/1b9vdp/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-april-6–2016—angelica-ross-season-21-ep-21087

One important element not stated was that this community is constantly at risk for hate crimes without these policies.  Blazer noted that every third day a trans person is murdered.  Hate crimes released by the FBI in November 2015 gave a startling report stating that hate crimes tripled between 2013 and 2014.  In fact, this is such a painful reality for trans people that each year on November 20th, there is a sobering ceremony called the Day of Remembrance to honor those brothers and sisters who died under these circumstances in the last year.

This means that safety is one of the most important aspects a trans person must be constantly vigilant about.  “Passing”, or the ability to blend in with cisgender majority (people whose gender identity matches their biology at birth) is crucial. Imagine having to be a trans male forced to walk into a woman’s bathroom with a beard, or a trans woman having to use the men’s bathroom wearing a dress.   We are either asking individuals to have bladders of steel so they can “hold it” until they are home, or being instantly outed to a community we already know is hostile.

For those worried that this puts others at risk, there are no statistics supporting this.  Gender identity is separate from sexual deviance like pedophilia, voyeurism, or assault.  Nor is it linked to sexual orientation.  They aptly state in the segment that just because you have a job, like the priesthood, or an identity like being a feminist, republican/democrat, etc. does not mean there are inherent mental health issues.  And in case anyone quotes former diagnostic manuals, realize that the American Psychiatric Association has evolved enough to no longer consider gender dysphoria a disorder.  It is a therapeutic issue because, like other quests about self-esteem and identity, so therapists can help lessen the discomfort they feel every day.

These individuals want what most people want- to live in a world where they can be themselves, be safe, and to be happy.  Please do what you can to help make that possible, whether it is through political activism to educating yourself so you can be a compassionate person to those who need to be welcomed.

_______

Resources:

 Balzer, Carsten (2009). “Every 3rd day the murder of a trans person is reported” (PDF)(3).


Kava: Warnings About This Anti-Anxiety Supplement!

Posted: January 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A local doctor recently share that the common herb used for anxiety, Kava, needs significant caution and doctor’s oversight.  Based on recent research, it not only has risks like impacting the effectiveness of birth control, some users have had liver damage in there have even been deaths.

We must be aware that just because something is a supplement/herb, does not automatically make it safe.  The Diet Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 means that these products are not regulated to insure consistency and purity.  In addition, these plants are medicines that create a chemical reaction within the body.  One needs an understanding of individual history, potential interactions, genetic factors, and research to ensure that a consumer has all the information to make an informed decision.  I highly recommend doing research before introducing something into your system, and consulting your doctor before you decide.  Health is precious- let’s do all we can to protect it.

Supporting articles:

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/features/risky-herbal-supplements?page=2

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/is-kava-safe/


5 Tips to Improve Your Self-Talk

Posted: January 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The following is a lighthearted but great approach to those nagging tapes in our heads that gradually wear us down. The tips demonstrate how we do not have to be at the mercy of these messages, just like we would want to stand up to an obnoxious, arrogant person putting us down. However, do not just read these words- try them out. If you dedicate some time to a tip and create a new habit, it may make enormous changes in your energy, confidence, and outlook.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/


Platitudes

Posted: November 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A client recently shared an article that highlighted another hardship people have to deal with in times of difficult- stupid platitudes. (see below)  I’m sure we have all been there, where someone tries to give “comfort” with some statement that is supposed to put a silver lining around pain. While I the person believes that they are being helpful, it is actually the furthest thing from the truth. The other person usually ends up feeling dismissed and is doing all they can to not throw something.

And for good reason. These “pearls of wisdom” usually come from an objective, removed position where there is no connection to the pain or vulnerability.  Instead, it is shared like a sage who sees with complete objectivity and clarity the way the universe works.   The pain is treated as temporary distress that will wane once the person sees the bigger picture. These are examples I have heard first hand:

  • The mother, whose baby who died days after birth- “You’re young- you can always have another child.”
  • The accident victim- “You should be grateful you’re alive.”
  • The woman who had a miscarriage- “This is nature’s way of clearing out babies with severe defects.

Another problem is that the statement is superficial, simplistic, and sometimes just absurd. This is particularly true when God is used in the statement. For example, I was sitting with someone recovering from an accident that occurred just moments before and a man told her, “The angels were watching out for you today.” As we saw medics rush to put two other people onto stretchers and load them into the ambulance, the survivor said, “Why weren’t the angels protecting them?”  The man had no answer.

For those wondering what is helpful, let’s start with a key principle- that some pain cannot be fixed. It can only be endured. A body altered by disease, an accident, a death, a betrayal- no matter the pain, we are forever changed by these experiences. When we stop trying to pretend that there is a way out, there can be a huge sense of relief that there is nothing we can (or should) do. Instead, it is time for a different but very precious set of skills- just being.

There is a short list to embrace. First, sit in the shit with them. Let their feelings have room to be expressed, whether through tears, anger, or a shrinking collapse. Hand out tissues, get fluffy socks, see the truth in their perspective, and validate. I can’t say more about the value of being heard. A person does not have to measure their words- s/he gets to pour them out, knowing that you are strong enough to handle what s/he is willing to share what’s overflowing on the inside.

Next, do all you can to understand what people experience in a specific situation. So many people begin to project their experience with pain onto others, then become concerned when the process does not follow their imposed blueprint.  However, others in similar situations can and do give insight into what is a normal course, especially the contextual elements that make all the difference in the world. For example, imagine how these situations might differ:

  • Death: natural versus suicide
  • Job ending: retiring or fired
  • Divorce: where two people grow apart or where one partner fears for his/her safety

Finally, realize that healing takes time and most people will get tired of the heavy demands of ongoing recovery. As others drop off, ill-equipped for the marathon, if you are able, gather your patience and if possible, stay the course.   Pain is already isolating- choosing to hang in there is an unmeasurable gift to your heartbroken loved one that will have long reaching impacts you can’t even imagine. One client said to me, “If it weren’t for her, I know I would not have made it.”

There are very few times in our lives when we will be called to be our best selves- this is one of them. We will be tested, tempted to take the easy road of verbal pats on the head that feel nothing more than patronizing. But if we can choose to be more- more understanding, more patient, and as self-less as possible, we become a light that leads those we love through the darkness.

________

Article: http://www.upworthy.com/magic-words-to-say-when-everythings-going-wrong-not-everything-happens-for-a-reason

***If you are needing a little lightness at the end of this, consider watching a quick clip from the people at the Onion, who have their own way of addressing this issue: http://www.theonion.com/video/report-leading-cause-of-death-in-us-is-god-needing-35522

 

 

 


Finding Forgiveness

Posted: September 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

It is so tempting to believe that there is some magic switch that will turn off pain and allow us to move forward.  Not only is this far from any reality I’ve seen in my 19 years working with trauma, it also denies the potential growth and wisdom we can gain by going through the process of letting go.  We cannot go back to who we were before the incident happened.  To quote Anne Lammott, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”  But it also does not mean that we have to feel wounded for the rest of our lives.  We are more than what happens to us and we retain the power to find peace of mind.

I have borrowed from all kinds of sources- personal experience, religious leaders, colleagues, and the generous vulnerability and openness of clients who dared to take this path, to come up with the following steps:

Step 1:  Remember.  Many people do not want to dwell on what happened because it is painful and uncomfortable.  However, unless there is willingness to spend some time making sense of the experience, we remain blind to the harmful impacts that can continue long after the memory.  We must dive in, taking an honest look at all the facets and context we could not have processed while in the eye of the storm.  There are contributing factors, lies we swallowed, reasons behind our reactions, ways dignity was broken down, and meanings we adopted about ourselves and the world.  Robert Schreiter states, “Suffering only becomes redemptive or ennobling when we struggle against these corroding powers and rebuild ourselves in spite of the pain we are experiencing.” p. 33-34.

Step 2:  Identify the harm.  Determine the ways the experience was detrimental either permanently or for the time being.  Grief will be an intimate part of this process, because it acknowledges that some things can never be regained.  A victim cannot will themselves to be without scars nor can innocence be restored.  There might also be specific periods of times where opportunities passed us by.  Or perhaps there have been important segments of life that were deleted (example: lost childhood, independence, or life skills)

Step 3: Find the silver linings.  In many cases, we come out of struggle with greater understanding.  There will be new information about yourself and those who are closest to you.  Perhaps you saw some values that you had not noticed before or there may be strengths that had been dormant until then.   How were you able to grow in spite/because of what happened?  By exploring these factors, the situation is not just a tragedy- you found a way to empower yourself through it.

Step 4:  Identify the lessons.  Consider what information needs to be implemented for you to feel as safe and happy as possible.  For example, what has this taught you about skills you need, information gaps, etc.  Perhaps there are missing boundaries, or new appreciation for your intuition.   Maybe there is difficulty seeing warning signs or being able to determine trustworthiness.  The goal here is to determine how we can wisely interact with others in a way that provides protection from those who may harm but also does not keep us from taking risks and connecting.

Step 5:  Implement.  Insights serve little purpose if they do not turn into action.  Take classes, talk to people you respect, do research, and gain confidence to take risks.  During this time, it is important to remember that there will be a learning curve; you cannot be an expert without lots of opportunity to fall down.  Be kind and remind yourself that every time you try, no matter the result, is a success.

I find it very helpful to touch base with your value system for the next steps.  There is such a strong pull to be righteously angry that there have to be compelling reasons for doing something different.  For me, I try to keep in mind that I want to live a life that allows me to enjoy the moment without a lot of baggage weighing me down.  If I’ve done the work above, I’ve taken everything valuable I can from the experience.  Further review only keeps me upset and stuck, not centered and healthy.

Step 6:  Let go. Make a commitment to releasing the past. Intentionally engage in visuals and activities that suggest closure.  For example- write a brief summary of what happened.  Then create a ritual similar to a burial, where you burn the paper and say a prayer/poem about the life you are ready to embrace.  You may also consider putting all the pain and hurt symbolically onto a leaf.  Breathe the distress onto the leaf, then release it into a stream.  Watch as the leaf floats away, allowing you to breathe in the smell of nature, life, and peace that is left behind.  The Dali Llama encourages visualizing the distress of the incident then a positive state.  Note how each one feels and ask which you would rather have in your life.  There is then a promise made to yourself: “Whatever befalls me, I shall not allow it to disturb my mental joy.”

Step 7:  Focus on the present. The past is over. Bring yourself back into the present, hopefully with delightful enticements. Enjoy little things, play, work, make love, get dirty, feel, and make new memories.  If old thoughts and images return, acknowledge it happened and gently resume focus on the here and now.  If that is ineffective, deliberately distract yourself.  Over time, the pull of the incident will lesson because mental, emotional and energetic resources are no longer feeding it.

Step 8:  Feel compassion. Finally, cease to see the person who harmed you in a depersonalized way. He or she is a flawed human being, like the rest of us.  Since you are not responsible for making them change, you can release them from your grasp (and therefore any hold s/he had over you).   This does not mean condoning what they did- it is ceasing to be saddled with resentment.  Wish them the same happiness you hold for any living being and let a sense of compassion grow in your heart.

As you go through the various stages, please remember that each journey is unique.  Some steps will take little time while others may be tool you use from this point forward. As long as you continue to maintain dedicated effort, things will change.  In the end, you will have given yourself a great gift- peace.

 

References:



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Tania Henderson
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