Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mindfullness

So I was a bit anxious about seeing a psychologist. I've done it before in the past and the experiences were mediocre at best. I didn't find them particularly helpful in the long term though they did probably provide some short term benefit. I am always worried that I won't like the psychologist. That I won't feel comfortable with them and I will spend the whole time wishing I could leave. I am, to my own detriment, sometimes too quick to judge people. Although I am most often proved right about my gut feelings I do occasionally get it wrong and then have to eat some humble pie while trying to apologise for getting it so wrong.

When I first saw the woman who would be my psych my anxiety levels increased. She had a hard edged look about her, sharp and harsh. Not soft and caring and anything at all like the sort of person I wanted to spill my inner secrets to. Luckily, in this case, I was wrong. Once we got into the session I could see she was very good at her job and was exactly the right person for me to be working with. I breathed an enormous sigh of relief and the chastised myself for not having faith that the universe would deliver to me what I needed. (I'm a big believer in the universe and everything happening for a reason. If that kind of thing offends or upsets you then you're reading the wrong blog. And no I don't want you to explain to me why I'm wrong)

So I've had three sessions with my psych so far and we've barely scratched the surface. We did have a rather big development last session which left me feeling exhausted and emotional but that's ok. My biggest problem when it comes to emotions is that I use a technique sometimes referred to as numbing. I just don't feel the feelings. I push them down, put them in a box, ignore them completely. It means never having to deal with unpleasant emotions caused by unpleasant thing. It also means I begin to experience less and less positive emotion. It means my connection to others is hampered by my numbing. It gets quite tiring. Especially after 20 years. So the breakthrough we had last session that made me feel emotional was a good thing. It meant I allowed myself to feel and that's what I am trying to learn to do on a daily basis.

Numbing has been my most effective coping strategy. Eating was my other one. Since becoming Paleo/Primal in march and spending more time listening to my body and only fuelling it with things that make me feel better, I have stopped using eating as a coping mechanism. Previously if I felt bad feelings rising to the surface I would stuff lots of junk food in my mouth to push the feelings down with them. I've had a couple of minor slip ups but mostly I don't do that any more. So the psych is trying to get me to identify and learn new coping strategies. The first one we are working on in mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined by lots of people in lots of ways but I think this one is my favourite
The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
(Scott R. Bishop, Mark Lau, Shauna Shapiro, Linda Carlson, Nicole D. Anderson, James Carmody, Zindel V. Segal, Susan Abbey, Michael Speca, Drew Velting & Gerald Devins (2004). "Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition". Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice)
There is a lot of research that shows how mindfulness and meditation can actually change the way our brains work and are particularly beneficial for people with depression, anxiety, ADHD, stress, addiction, eating disorders and other such conditions. Tick to three of those (with a possible minor in addiction, just not to drugs or alcohol) and mindfulness seems like something I should really get a handle on. The first step is being mindful about things, the second step is being mindful about emotions. Learning that it is ok to feel negative emotions, that it won't cause some major catastrophe and that it will pass are all priorities for me. So each day I try and practice some mindfulness and/or meditation. Fingers crossed it helps.

3 comments:

Lo said...

Well done for sticking it out with the psych, Tif, regardless of initial worries. I've had a very similar experience with my psych, she taught me all about mindfulness, and the change in me and my relationships has been nothing short of dramatic. She also gave me a book called "Reinventing Your Life: How to Break Free from Negative Life Patterns" which talks about 'life traps' - very helpful, but like many self-help books, you need to glean from it only what is pertinent to your situation, 80% won't have any relevance, but you can never learn too much about yourself and others. x L

tif flynn said...

Stupid phone. I replied to you yesterday Lo but my comment got eaten! Thanks for the recommendation for the book, I'm going to see if I can find it. *squish* x

Lo said...

I ended up buying another copy from The Book Depository, $9 or something crazy. xx

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