Identify and Label Cognitive Distortions

Standard

The following is out of a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) workbook.

Learning about your pattern of thinking can help you catch, modify, or change any distortions or negative thinking errors. Since our thoughts have a strong impact on our feelings and behaviors, there are positive benefits to correcting distorted thinking habits. Listed below are some common cognitive distortions. After reading each description, review your own thinking habits and then answer a simple yes or no if you have ever noticed yourself using the cognitive distortion. Remember, it’s not about good or bad or right or wrong it’s about becoming more mindful of your thinking patterns.

Cognitive Distortion:

Filtering: focusing only on the negative.

Polarized thinking; all or nothing thinking.

Overgeneralization: One negative event means everything is negative.

Mind-reading: Thinking others are thinking negative things about you.

Catastrophizing: Expecting disaster.

Magnifying: Magnifying the size of your problem.

Should statements: Feeling like you should or must do or not do something.

Blaming: Attributing blame to yourself.

Emotional reasoning: Feeling that something is true, therefore it must be true.

Personalization: Seeing yourself as the cause of a negative event.

Fortune telling: Making negative predictions.

Disqualifying the positive: Positive experiences are minimized.

Labeling: Putting negative labels on self or others.

 

From The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David Burns

Why boundaries?

Standard

“If we don’t know what we feel, we can’t know who we are. If we don’t know who we are, we cannot tell someone else who we are. We will be false selves.”

Most of our problems in life have to do with relationships, and the source of these problems in relationships are most likely tied to boundary issues. We will continue to have problems in relationships if we do not establish healthy boundaries for ourselves. Learning about boundaries and learning how to practice healthy boundaries takes time. We will always have to pay attention to them in order to maintain them; otherwise, we may revert back into old boundary habits. They are not established automatically.

Boundaries tell us what is our business and what is not our business. It is our business what we think of ourselves and what we think of other people, but it is none of our business what others think of us (unless we have violated their boundaries and owe them amends). Many of us allow our lives to be manipulated by the fear of what others think of us.

This fear of what others think of us is an indication that we have created false selves. These false selves are the people we were led to believe others would accept and nurture. If anyone appears not to like us or accept us, we we feel threatened because we fear rejection. We fear rejection because we’ve been rejected. We were rejected and our feelings were shamed during our development years. We were shaped by those no-talk rules in our non-nurturing, dysfunctional family: “It’s not OK to say that.” Dad’s drunk and the child says, “Dad’s drunk!” “No, Dad’s not drunk, Dad’s sick.” “Well, he fell down and passed out on the bathroom floor!” “He likes to take a nap about this time of the evening, and that’s just the way it is. He’s not drunk and your father’s not an alcoholic.”

In other words, we didn’t see what we saw, we didn’t hear what we heard, and what we thought was going on, was not what was going on. Those are crazy-making messages for a child and contribute to the creation of a false self.

The child says, “I’m tired of Dad not being here because he works all the time. It makes me angry.” “Shame on your for feeling that.” “Well, OK, Mom, what feeling would you like me to have?” “You should feel grateful.” “Oh, OK, I’ll be grateful that Dad’s never here because he works all the time and drinks the rest of the time.”

The child is made to believe that Dad is working so much and working so hard because of the family’s needs-that’s what makes him drink too much. “OK, now I’m supposed to feel grateful that he works, and guilty because it makes him drink, and ashamed because I feel angry, and rejected because what I think is going on is not what’s really going on.”

The little four or five-year-old is learning how to create a false self. When he’s grown, his feel hit the floor every morning and it’s “HEYYYYY, Mister False Self is here. How are you?” “Just fine, no problems at all.” “How ’bout some feelings?” “No, thank you. All that stuff is too confusing for me.”

We become who we think we are supposed to be and shame the person we really are. We live out our lives from behind those masks. Then, we go find another false self to have a relationship with. We are incapable of having an intimate relationship with another person who is real. We are threatened by the prospects of intimacy. Our relationship is like two pieces of a puzzle. We find a perfect fit and it feels close because we fit so well. We’re in LOVE. But there is no real intimacy. We’re really “in sick” or “in heat.” Together we seem to make one whole unit. But two half-people won’t make a full person. After a while the heat dies down between these two false selves, and she turns to him and says, “Well how do you feel?” And he says, “Well, I think…” “No, I didn’t ask what you thought, I asked how you felt.” “It doesn’t matter how I feel.” Well, I don’t think you love me.” “Of course I love you, I’m here, aren’t I? I haven’t left yet, have I?” Eventually this couple may end up in counseling on their way to the divorce court. The counselor may ask, “Tell me about yourself, Mr. Jones. Who are you?” “I work down at the mill over there, and I build these little widgets, and that’s what I’ve done for the last twenty years, and I’ll be retiring next year, and that’s what I do.” “No, no, Mr Jones. I asked who you are. You told me what you do.“”What do you mean, ‘who am I?'” “What do you like?” “What’s to like? You work, you pay bills, you sleep, you eat, you go back to work again.” “What do you do for fun?” “I’m fifty five years old. Fun is for kids. We don’t do fun.” “What was the last thing you and your wife did for fun?” “It was probably the year before we got married when we went to…”

Neither one of them can tell what they feel, think, want, or who they are. Their identities have been defined by this enmeshed, sick relationship they’ve been in for twenty years. All he knows is that he is sick and tired of her trying to fix him since the day they got married.

“I thought I was gonna, you know, get married and have a wife, and she’d have a husband. I didn’t know I was gonna be a project. And I can’t seem to get it right now matter what, so I don’t even try anymore.”

The more he retreats, the more frustrated she gets and that harder she tried to bring them closer by trying to be who and what he wants. Eventually, she gets so frustrated that she gives up and retreats also. Sometimes she’ll retreat to an affair, but eventually to a place of indifference toward him in order to avoid the pain associated with the relationship.

These situations involve boundaries. If we don’t know what we feel, we can’t know who we are. If we don’t know who we are, we cannot tell someone else who we are. We will be false selves.

Here, then, are some of the reasons we need healthy boundaries.

Healthy boundaries define who we are.

Healthy boundaries can help us to know who we are. They can help us to have a better sense of our separateness from others: where we end and others begin. Knowing who we are helps us to maintain a sense of reality. We will know who we are and are not, what we believe and don’t believe, what we think, feel, like and want.

Linda came in for counseling one day exasperated over her new-found revelation, “I just realized that I don’t know what I like to eat. I have been buying food and cooking all of these years out of habit, and I’ve suddenly realized I don’t even like the things I’ve been cooking and eating. I buy things in large volume just to save money, and I eat things I don’t like, thinking it is the frugal thing to do. I know I don’t like what Ive been eating, but I don’t know what I do like.”

Knowing who we are, what we believe, what we think, feel, like, and want means that people can no longer walk in and out of our lives at will-using and abusing us.

Complete the sentences below describing, as much as you can, some of the most basic things you know about yourself-thoughts, beliefs, opinions, likes, dislikes, wants, etc. Add to this list as you think of things in the future. Make up your own sentences.

I am a…(in relationship to others; for example, mother, father, brother, sister, etc.)

I am a…(things you do; for example, coach, painter, photographer, hunter, swimmer, teacher, student, writer, dreamer, etc.)

I am…(attributes and faults; for example, kind, helpful, selfish, stingy, pretty, ugly, stubborn, a push-over, etc.)

My best friend is…

The things I like are…

My favorite food is…

My favorite restaurant is…

My favorite color is…

My favorite clothes are…

My favorite TV choices are…

The things (or people) I hate are…

I believe God…

Healthy boundaries define who we are in relationship to others.

Healthy boundaries are intended to help us have good relationships. Some relationships are of our choosing and some are not. Often times we are stuck with relationships that are not of our choosing whether we like it or not. Some teenagers feel like they are stuck with their parents. You may be stuck with people you don’t like on the job, in the neighborhood, or in your religious group. Boundaries that define who we are help us to maintain our sanity in these unpleasant relationships. They help us to know what the extents and limits are with those with whom we are connected-how to let in what is good and keep out what is bad.

Coping with Anger

Standard

Anger problems are common among people with dual disorders. Much friction can be caused in a relationship if you ignore your anger or act on it in ways that hurt others physically or emotionally. Anger problems can interfere with recovery if you don’t cope with these feelings in positive ways.

Anger can also empower you if dealt with in a positive way. It can motivate you to set or reach goals or work hard to accomplish things in your life.

It is not your feelings of anger that causes problems but how you think about and express it that determines how anger affects your life. Some people try to ignore their anger and let it build up. They stew on the inside and become upset or depressed. They express anger indirectly by dragging their feet, forgetting important dates of people they feel anger toward, criticizing others behind their backs, or avoiding people they are mad at.

Other people let their anger out much too quickly and impulsively. They lash out at others and yell, cuss, scream, or act in other hostile ways. Some become violent, get into fights, or destroy objects or property. Violence is a significant problem for people with a substance abuse or psychiatric disorder.

The questions that follow will help assess your anger and how you express it.

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a problem is your anger or how you cope with it or express it. 1-Somewhat of a problem  3-Moderate Problem  5-Serious Problem  7-Very serious  10-severe/life threatening.
  2. My anger usually shows in the following ways (i.e., I get sad, frustrated, pace, and feel nervous, etc.),
  3. I usually deal with anger by (i.e., holding it inside, letting it out immediately, talking it out, lashing out at others, fighting, etc.).
  4. I learned the following from my parents about anger or how to express it:
  5. My anger affects my physical or mental health in the following ways:
  6. My anger affects my relationships in the following ways:
  7. My anger affects my use of alcohol or other drugs by:
  8. I am still very angry at the following people:
  9. I can use my anger in a positive way by:

Setting a Goal

My goal in relation to how I cope with my anger is:

Steps I will take to reach this goal are:

Potential benefits of reaching my goal are:

Strategies for Managing Your Anger

  •  Recognize your angry feelings.

Pay attention to body cues, thoughts, and behaviors that tell you that you are angry. Use your anger cues to admit you are angry. Don’t deny, hide, minimize, or ignore your anger.

  • Figure out why you are angry.

When you feel angry figure out where it is coming from. Does it relate to something another person did or said to you? Does it relate to an event, experience, or situation? Or, is your anger caused by the way you think about things?

  • Decide if you really should feel angry.

Are you an angry person who seems to get mad too often or for no good reason? When angry, ask yourself if the facts of the situation warrant an angry reaction on your part. Or, ask yourself if your anger is the result of a character defect (i.e., you get mad frequently for little things).

  • Identify the effects of your anger and your methods of coping with anger.

How does your anger and your methods of coping with it affect your physical, mental, or spiritual health? How are your relationships with family members, friends, or others affected?

  • Use different strategies to deal with anger

These include cognitive (your beliefs about anger and the internal messages you give yourself), behavioral (how you act), and verbal (what you say to other people) strategies. Having a variety of strategies puts you in a good position to cope with anger in a wide range of situations.

  • Cognitive strategies for anger management include:
  • Evaluating your beliefs about anger and changing those beliefs that cause you problems. For example, if you believe you should “let it out” every time you get angry, you may find this isn’t always the best policy and that this belief should be modified. Or, if you believe you should never get mad, you might have to change this belief and give yourself permission to feel anger.
  • Catching yourself when you are angry and changing your angry thoughts.
  • Determining if your anger is really justified given the situation. This requires not jumping to conclusions and getting all of the facts of the situation first.
  • Using positive self-talk or slogans (for example, “this too shall pass,” “keep your cool and stay in control,” etc.)
  • Using fantasy. Imagine yourself coping in a positive way.
  • Evaluating the risks and benefits of expressing your anger or holding it inside.
  • Reminding yourself of negative effects of ignoring anger and holding it inside.
  • Reminding yourself of negative effects of expressing anger toward others in hurtful ways.
  • Identifying the benefits of handling anger in a positive way.
  • Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to see if you are harboring any anger from the events of the day.
  • Verbal strategies for anger include:
  • Sharing your feelings with whom you are angry.
  • Discussing the situation or problem that contributed to your anger directly with whom you are angry.
  • Sharing your angry feeling with a friend, family member, therapist, AA, NA, or CA sponsor. Many find it helpful to discuss anger at support group meetings.
  • Discussing the situation or problem that contributed to your anger with a neutral person to get their opinion on the situation.
  • Apologizing or making amends to others who were hurt as a result of how you expressed your anger.
  • Behavior strategies for anger management include:
  • Directing angry energy toward physical activity such as walking, exercising, or sports.
  • Directing feelings of anger toward some type of work.
  • Expressing your anger with creative media such as painting, drawing, and other forms of arts and crafts.
  • Writing about your feelings in a journal or anger log.

 

 

 

Exploring Anger

Standard

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ANGER?

Do you think you have a problem with anger? Yes or No?

*If the answer is ‘yes,’ you may want to go directly to the next section. If unsure, take note of anything below that you relate to-these are typical signs of an anger problem.

  • You “blow up” at others.
  • You often criticize others.
  • You feel angry but can’t express it.
  • You have impulses to harm others.
  • You “never feel angry”.
  • You hate yourself.
  • You often isolate.
  • You feel bitter.
  • You have impulses to harm yourself.
  • Others have said you have an anger problem.

TWO TYPES OF ANGER

It is important to know that anger is not bad or wrong. Rather, it is information that can be used either to help or to harm your recovery. It can be used constructively to help you heal, to be honest with others, to face your pain. Or it can be used destructively to act out against yourself or others, to give up, to become bitter. Anger itself is not a problem-it’s all in what you do with it.

Constructive Anger: Anger that Heals

“Constructive anger” means anger that is…

  • Moderate or lower (e.g., up to 5 on a 0-10 scale, where 0 = no anger and 10 = intense anger).
  • Explored to understand yourself or others.
  • Conscious (you are aware of it).
  • Handled well (e.g., not acted out in dangerous behavior).
  • Respectful of your own and others’ needs.

For example, if you go out on a date and the other person acts selfish, you may rightly feel angry. If you listen to your anger, you can use it as a sign to protect yourself; perhaps you can talk to the person about what bothers you, or you can calmly end the date early. You can feel good about using your anger constructively.

There are great benefits to constructive anger. It can help protect you from danger…convey insights about yourself and others…give you real power.

Destructive Anger: Anger that Harms

“Destructive anger” means anger that is…

  • Acted out in dangerous behavior (hurting yourself or others).
  • Too intense and/or frequent (e.g., often above 5 on a 0-10 scale).
  • “Underground” (quietly seething or feeling bitter).
  • Unconscious (This type of anger will eventually come up into consciousness and can be very intense anger)

There are great costs to destructive anger. It can destroy your relationships…cause physical harm…weaken you…become an addiction.

Destructive anger can be directed toward yourself and/or directed toward others. Both represent a lack of balance between your own and others’ needs. For some people, both are present.

Destructive anger toward self (e.g., self-harm, suicidal feelings): Putting others’ needs too much ahead of yours.

Destructive anger towards others (e.g., verbal abuse, assault): Putting your needs too much ahead of others’.

With destructive anger toward yourself, you may not be aware of anger. For example, if you physically hurt yourself you may not notice anger at the time. However, such acting out does indeed represent anger-typically anger toward others that you have difficulty “owning”.

How do you tend to handle anger? Constructively / Destructively / both. Toward self / Toward Others / Both

DID YOU KNOW…?

Anger is normal in recovery from PTSD and substance abuse. If you have been through the terrible experiences of trauma and substance abuse, anger is inevitable. You may feel angry at people who hurt you, at the world, at God, at yourself, at life, at treaters (doctors etc), at family, at strangers. Your anger is valid and real. In recovery, the goal is to use your anger as a way to learn about yourself and grow. The task is to face your anger without letting it destroy you or others.

Behind all anger are unmet needs. Anger is a signal that something is wrong. It may mean that your not taking enough care of yourself, or that you have a lot of sadness to work through, or that you are in a harmful relationship. Listening to your anger and caring for the underlying needs can resolve anger.

Constructive anger can be learned. It is never too late, no matter how long you’ve had a problem with anger. Mainly it requires really listening to others’ feedback about your anger, “owning” your feelings rather than acting them out, expressing anger in healthy ways, and learning to tolerate the painful feelings behind the anger.

Destructive anger can become an addiction. Can you see similarities between destructive anger and substance abuse? For example, the more you engage in it, the more it increases. Also, with destructive anger you may feel “high” on it in the moment. Have you “hit bottom” with destructive anger-has it caused serious problems in your life?

Venting anger does not work. An old-style view of anger was the idea of venting-that the solution to anger is to “get it out” (e.g., punch a pillow, write an angry letter, throw rocks at a tree). However, these actually tend to increase rather than decrease anger. Currently, it is understood that anger needs to be handled constructively, not simply vented.

Destructive anger never works in the long term. You may get results in the short term. People may do what you want; you may feel powerful in the moment. It is only later that you can see that these are an illusion. Destructive anger spins you out of control and weakens your bonds with others.

Pros and Cons of Mindfulness

Standard

Reasonable Mind Potential Pros:

  • Emotionally Calmer
  • Rational
  • Focus on the facts rather opinions
  • Logical
  • Plans
  • Pay attention
  • “cool”
  • Intellectuality
  • Teachable
  • Work
  • School
  • Decision Making
  • Problem solving

Reasonable Mind Potential Cons

  • Emotions can drive us into reasonable mind and into “Analysis Paralisis”, being hyper focused, obsession, analyzing too much and we fall out of action and get stuck.
  • Dosconnection
  • Supresion
  • Problems in relationships
  • Problems negotiating
  • Rigididty
  • Apathetic
  • Workaholic

Emotional Mind Potential Pros:

  • Motivates communication and action
  • Love
  • Helps us feel joy and pleasure in life
  • Gives us drive
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Literature
  • Art
  • Compassion
  • Spontanuity
  • “Artistic Energy with beautiful distortion”

Emotional Mind Potential Cons:

  • Emotions are in control
  • Influences our thinking and behavior
  • Hot Thoughts
  • Distortions
  • Behavior matches emotional state
  • Miss the big picture; tunnel vision
  • Self-image distortion
  • Clouds our judgment in a positive or negative light
  • Overreaction or under-reaction
  • Can lead to destructive behavior
  • Making bad decisions
  • Mania is a very emotional state of being and it can be very impulsive as well, just as depression is, which causes people to make destructive decisions and then have shame/guilt after the fact.
  • Impulsiveness
  • Knee-jerk reactions
  • Short term results; long term consequences
  • Drug use/addiction
  • Permiscuity
  • Panic/anxiety
  • Emotions build on one another e.g., sadness turns to anger
  • Aggravated by illness
  • Lack of sleep
  • Chronic pain

Wise Mind is Only Positive:

  • Acceptance
  • True Forgiveness
  • Stress/sense of urgency decreases
  • Knowing what we need through our day
  • Stronger sense-of-self
  • Truth
  • Balanced
  • Integration of Rational and Emotional Mind
  • Intuition
  • Validity
  • Calm/peaceful awareness
  • Respond rather than react
  • People are equal
  • No judgment

Mindfulness. Take two.

Standard

(DBT lectures are meant to be followed in order, because they build off one another.)

Mindfulness consists of psychological and behavioral skills drawn from Eastern Mindfulness practices.

Mindfulness skills help you to:

  • Be grounded with a stronger sense of self.
  • More consciously observe and experience yourself and your environment.
  • Reduce your feelings of emptiness.
  • Reduce cognitive disturbances such as dissociation ( where one compartmentalizes certain thoughts, emotions, memories, or splits off from them because they are too overwhelming) and delusions (ideas/beliefs system that is maintained in spite of evidence to the contrary and where one feels detached from one’s body or mental processes).
  • Increases your awareness of the present moment, without judgment.

3 PRIMARY STATES OF MIND ARE PRESENTED IN DBT:

REASONABLE (RATIONAL) MIND

“You are in your Reasonable Mind when you are approaching knowledge intellectually, are thinking rationally and logically, attend to empirical facts, are planful in your behavior, you focus your attention, and you are “cool: in your approach to problems.”

It is your rational thinking, logical mind. It is that part that plans and evaluates things logically. It is your “cool” part.”

  • Thinks rationally and evaluates things logically
  • Attends to facts
  • Plans behavior
  • Focuses attention
  • Approach to problems is “cool”

Reasonable mind can be beneficial:

  • People can build roads, homes, cities.
  • Can follow instructions
  • Solve logical problems.
  • Do math or science.
  • Run Meetings.

It is easier to be in Reasonable Mind when you feel good.

It is harder to be in Reasonable Mind when you don’t feel good.

We would use the Reasonable Mind to balance a checkbook; figure out the fastest way to get from A to B; etc. Reasonable Mind gives you a way to solve your problems.

EMOTIONAL MIND

“You are in Emotional Mind when your emotions are in control – when they influence your thinking and your behavior.”

  • Thinking and behavior are controlled by the current emotional state.
  • Thoughts are “hot” (In CBT and DBT, “Hot Thoughts” are thoughts that cause a lot of emotional suffering and can cause distorted thinking – thought after thought- like a “snow ball effect” and we can end up spinning with them).
  • Reasonable and logical thinking is difficult.
  • Facts are amplified of distorted to be congruent with the current emotional state.
  • The energy of the behavior is also congruent with the current emotional state.

Emotional Mind can be beneficial:

  • Intense love motivates relationships.
  • Intense devotion or desire motivates staying with hard tasks.
  • Intense love or hate has fueled wars.
  • Feeling passionate about people, causes, beliefs.
  • Emotions are what motivates us into action.
  • Emotions are what keep us attached to others and building relationships.
  • Motivation or reason to want to solve your problems.

Problems with Emotional Mind occur when:

  • The results are positive in the short term but negative in the long term.
  • The experience itself is very painful or leads to other painful states and events (e.d. anxiety and depression).

Emotion Mind can be aggravated by:

  • Illness
  • Lack of sleep; tiredness
  • Drugs; alcohol
  • Hunger, bloating, overeating, poor nutrition
  • Environmental stress (too many demands)
  • Environmental threats
  • Lack of exercise

WISE MIND

  • The integration of Reasonable Mind and Emotional Mind
  • Adds intuitive knowing to emotional experiencing and logical analysis.
  • That part of each person that can know and experience truth.
  • It is the place where the person knows something to be valid or true.
  • It is the place where the person knows something in a centered (balanced) way.
  • It is almost always quiet and calm in this part of your mind.

Mindfulness Skills help balance Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind to achieve Wise Mind. Mindfulness Skills facilitate the development of, and ability to, access Wise Mind.

  • You can not overcome or control Emotional Mind with Reasonable Mind.
  • You can not create Emotion Mind with Reason.
  • Everyone has a Wise Mind. Some people perhaps have not experienced it.
  • No-one is in Wise Mind all of the time.
  • It is easy to confuse the Emotional Mind and Wise Mind because both have the quality of “feeling” something to be true. Intense emotions can generate feelings of certainty that mimic the Wise Mind.
  • Wise mind is in your heart (emotions) and in your head (reason). Certainty comes from both.
  • You must go within and integrate the two.
  • Wisdom, wise mind, or wise knowing is knowing by observing, knowing by analyzing logically, knowing by what we experience in our bodies (kinetic and sensory experience), knowing by what we do, and knowing by intuition.

E.g., Patient makes a statement: “I feel un-loveable” as if the feeling state provides information about the empirical reality. Question the patient: I’m not interested in how you feel. I’m not interested in what you believe or think. I am interested in what you know to be true in your Wise Mind.” The dialectical tension here is between what the patient feels to be true (emotion Mind) and what she thinks to be true (Reasonable Mind). The synthesis is what she/he knows to be true (Wise Mind). Linehan Pg. 42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfullnes? What’s That?

Standard

“Trauma is fundamentally a disorder in the ability to stay in the here and now.” – Bessel Vander Kolk MD (Dr. Bessel Vander Kolk is a doctor who specializes in Trauma. If you type the name into Google you can learn a little more.)

Mindfulness is a subject that ties in to all of the classes I take in treatment. Mindfulness is by far the most beneficial tool that I have learned because it provides support, healing, and coping in each struggle I face. I hope your able to benefit from this information as well.

What is Mindfulness?

Psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn has simply defined mindfulness in this way: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

This sounds simple, but mindfulness is a skill that takes practice to cultivate and maintain. Why? Let’s consider the different parts of the definition…

“Paying attention”

  • How much of the time are you really paying attention to whats happening in your life- as opposed to thinking about something else, remembering things, imagining possible futures, and acting out habitual patterns or more accurately, reacting to people and situations based on old habits of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and behaving?
  • Paying conscious attention can be especially hard when a current interaction reminds us of past hurts or betrayals-and before even realizing it, we can automatically and defensively respond as if those old experiences are happening again.
  • All of us have our habitual patterns, our vulnerabilities to automatic reactions based on past experiences of hurt, our “buttons” that can get “pushed.” This is particularly true when we are already stressed and/or in a hurry. Truly paying attention in our lives is a challenge for anyone.

“On purpose”

  •  It takes a conscious decision, and effort by one’s mind and brain, to pay attention to what’s happening in the present. In fact, such choices and efforts are required over and over again, since we are continually pulled back into habitual ways of processing information and responding to things.
  • Too often we’re on “auto pilot,” not even trying to pay attention to what’s actually happening in the unique situations and interactions that make up our lives. (Personal perception:This happens to me a lot when I am at home and when I have idle time. I believe that having structure and sticking to the “next indicated step” view each day allows me to become more mindful each day.)

“In the present moment”

  •  Most of us, most of the time, are absorbed in memories of the past or visions and plans for the future.
  • For most people, it is rare to be aware, without some amount of distraction or multitasking, of what is actually occurring in the present moment.
  • Particularly when strong emotions arise, people often respond not to situations as they are, but to reactive perceptions and thoughts based on painful experiences in the past. In the most extreme instances, one may not be “here” in the present but “back there,” reliving the past through responses to present situations. (Personal perception: For me this looks like Dissociation and Flash Backs. However, now that I know this information and believe in it’s value, I am now able to “bring myself back”  by using the grounding techniques that I wrote about in another post, and searching for the “trigger” that “sent me back there” mentally.)

“Non-judgmentally”

  • This is one of the hardest things to achieve. We so often react intensely to our experiences, particularly unwanted experiences, and to our initial responses to them.
  • “This is horrible!” “What an idiot!” “How could I do that?!” “I can’t take this anymore!” “Here I go again.” You know the ways you can instantaneously and automatically judge situations, other people, and your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors – often in a chain reaction of increasing judgment and distress.
  • “I need…” “I want…” “I deserve…” Positive judgments and the cravings they evoke can also be a problem, particularly when they are automatic and intense. We can lose out focus, forget what’s important, get caught in cycles of addiction, selfishly take advantage of others, etc.
  • In contrast, the non-judgmental quality of mindfulness brings great freedom – to see things more clearly, to evaluate situations with some distance from our habitual emotional reactions and impulses, to observe emotions and impulses as they arise without either trying to escape them or letting them carry us away.
  • We all have at least glimpses of this potential, when we are feeling so positive and relaxed that something which would normally cause strong judgment and negative emotions is seen as no big deal, more clearly for what it is: a passing unwanted experience or temptation to indulge.
  • But to bring this non-judgmental quality into our daily lives, consistently, even at very stressful times, this is something many of is can hardly imagine. Yes it is possible, by practicing mindfulness (and kindness).
  • And for those who are vulnerable to remembering and reliving painful experiences from the past, to strong waves of emotion, to intense self-criticism – the cultivation of non-judgmental mindfulness can bring tremendous relief and freedom from old patterns. (I am currently in this stage of mindfulness. I do experience memories of painful experiences, strong waves of emotion, and self-criticism, but when I practice mindfulness and stay in the present I am now able to decrease the intensity of the pain, or pressure to engage in familiar cycles of behavior-or destructive coping skills; such as addiction.)

Example of an action/situation where I am mindful: Being at the beach walking the pier creates mindfulness and allows positive sensations to run through my body, which allows my mind to become more open, more positive, more rational, so that I can think about my life as it is at this point, in a positive and peaceful way. Which then creates an ability to think about the decisions I need to make in a rational, emotional, and wise approach. I can not make decisions in the past or future; only in the current moment.

In what areas could you benefit from being more mindful? Practice mindfulness any chance you get. I will be posting a couple more lectures on mindfulness to help solidify the material, the benefits, and ways of being mindful.

To the people that follow my blog posts,

I sincerely thank you for following and reading the posts I create. Having the knowledge that people are reading and potentially benefiting from the information given, inspires me to continue writing. Thanks so much.

Love,

Shadow