Thursday, December 30, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Working With Beliefs

Clients image of working with beliefs
We all struggle with having a belief system that supports us. Why is that? Often we unconsciously adopt the belief systems of our parents, friends or peers. Or we experience disappointing or trauma life experiences and then base our beliefs on those experiences. It is difficult to go through life and not experience some self-defeating and irrational beliefs due to wanting to be loved, understood, and respected. Often we feel certain beliefs protect us from getting hurt, even when they are irrational and have the opposite effect. Albert Ellis has worked out a list of basic irrational beliefs that are widely held.
Are some of these beliefs a source of stress for you?  Start noticing in what situations these beliefs pop up. See if you can gently observe them, and give the part of you that is holding this particular belief room to be heard.
In this blog, I have talked about Focusing and the wonderful clarity and changes it brings when you practice it. When we practice Focusing we start to face these irrational beliefs and have a way to untangle or free ourselves of their hold on our reality. We begin to have more choice in what to believe and feel less bound by habitual thinking.

Irrational Beliefs (Ellis)

1.     You must have love and approval almost all the time from all the people you find significant?

2.     You must prove yourself a thoroughly competent, adequate achiever, or you must at least have real competence or talent at something important.

3.     You have to view life as awful, horrible, or catastrophic when things do not go the way you would like them to go.

4.     People who harm you, or commit misdeeds, rate as generally bad individuals and you should blame or punish them.

5.     If something seems dangerous or fearsome, you must become terribly occupied with and upset about it.

6.     People and things should turn out better than they do, and you have to view it as awful you do not quickly find good solutions to life's hassles.

7.     Emotional misery comes from external pressures, and you have little ability to control your feelings.

8.     You find it easier to avoid facing many of life's difficulties and self-responsibilities than to undertake more rewarding forms of self-discipline.

9.     Your past remains all important, and because something once strongly influenced your life, it has to keep determining your feelings and behavior today

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Can making crafts be therapeutic?

Making Christmas angels with clients in Art Therapy
Making Christmas masks with clients in Art Therapy
Why would making crafts be part of an Art Therapy session? 
Because it:
1. Stimulates the imagination. Creating in any way helps stimulate the imagination. Our brains start firing with ideas when triggered by creating something novel. Working with patterns (knitting), lines and shapes (sewing), and/or different smells and textures (cooking) helps shift us from our habitual way of thinking and wakes us of to wonder: "What would happen if I did this or that?" 

2. Calms the Nervous System. The heart rate lowers, the body becomes more relaxed and centered. Often we feel joyful, happy and/or content. 
3. Creating crafts can reduce stress. A report, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that extreme tiredness and stress could be as bad for the brain as smoking. 
4. It helps us create relationships. Craft groups have a relaxed atmosphere in which people can develop friendships and work on communication and social skills. 
5. It allows us to express ourselves. Making crafts gets us to use our senses and improve our motor skills by doing detailed work. We live in a busy overly complex world. It is satisfying and healthy for us to start and finish something beautiful and handmade, especially if we work at jobs where we don't get to see a finished product as a result of our work.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What does it mean to have a Good Relationship with Yourself?

Having a good relationship with yourself means:
- liking to spend time with yourself
- respecting yourself and the choices that you make
- honoring and listening to your emotions and knowing how to release them 
- being a good guardian to yourself
- knowing how to calm yourself
- being present with yourself
- having an inner dialogue that supports you
- holding an open, non-judging attention to your inner sensing 
- knowing how to move past old emotional pain and practicing release
- finding ways to access one's larger potential
- feeling safe and secure in one's own being
- having patience with yourself and your growth
- knowing and living your passions

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about the "RE" Factor

“The most fundamental skill of the creative person is the ability to constantly re-vision the world. Everything is subject to reconstruction and renewal. The “re” factor is the basis of resurrecting, reshaping, regenerating, reviving, and rejuvenating. Create persons live in a state of constant search and exploration.”  
- shaun mcniff Trust the Process 1998

Looking at the world through a creative len, means having the ability to make new meanings of old truths, feel new emotions about known situations or familiar people, and sense new movements where there was stagnation. Re-framing can be the key to help us move away from habitual action into fresh forward movement.
When we act in our lives, we have multiple choices of how that action will take metal, emotional and physical shape. To keep action fresh, new, creative, and free the re-factor allows us to re-vision, re-flect, and re-shape action.
When I am working to increase client’s re-siliency, part of the work is re-framing. It involves re-visiting memories that may be stuck in deficit mode or focused only on what the client didn’t do, say or feel. A re-visit or re-vision of those memories often re-veals an overlooked strength or re-source that helped my client re-sist or even survive. Part of the work of trauma re-covery is learning to be able to be with all of us, all of our life experiences and re-frame the trauma into an experience that can now enrich and add wisdom to the clients life instead of blocking or re-ducing the clients life force.
As we increase our capability to be with our whole life experience, we often need to re-invent our self concept. Trauma or past losses may have re-duced our ability to see ourselves as strong, re-sourceful and intelligent beings. We often need to re-member the parts of our life experiences where we felt successful, passionate, and strong. When we go through a healing process we can play with what the re-connection looks like. As an artist, I am aware that creative practice means the ability to see from many different perceptives, and I have the ability to change that perceptive into something new and exciting. There is no true way to view or create something just as there is no one true way to re-member or re-create yourself.
An example from my own life was my inability to read in early grades at school. I was dyslectic and it was not diagnosed nor did anyone help me with my struggles. This condition resulted in lifelong feelings of shame and failure. As a child I had very little self-esteem and often did not talk. When working in re-frame, often the problem or experience that disturbs you that most may have the most creative energy locked in it. I had to learn on my own to de-code words, learn to pronounce them and read them. This obstacle helped me develop incredible life skills. When I mentally and emotionally re-visit this time in my life, I feel overwhelming sorrow for what I experienced and also wonder at the creative, inventive, and ingenious way that I lived through this time. Since I have re-framed it as a positive time of growth in my life, I now valve the creative skills I learned from having this disability, even though the memories of being shamed are also part of the story. When I used to remember this younger me, I only felt shame and sadness. Now I also am re-ceptive to feelings of compassion, acceptance and pride for my younger self. I am amazed that I could have lived through those years and re-sisted the temptation to let everyone’s option of me defeat me.
It makes me feel excited to look at other areas in my life that I re-sist change, or feel stuck. Instead of being locked in habitual ways of seeing, acting, feeling and thinking I can at any time entertain the practice and play of re-frame. As I become more flexible, I also become more re-silent. This is re-newal.
"RE" art therapy exercise:

Let yourself look at the following picture for 1 minute and then write down what you saw.

Take a deep breath, relax and think of the last time you felt successful in your life. Replay the memory really taking in the good feelings. Now look at the following picture  for 1 minute and then write down what you see. What was the re-frame or difference?

I Spy Christmas    By: Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about Anxiety

Life can be complex and confusing. As we move through our busy lives, it is important to be aware of and conscious of what causes us to feel overwhelmed. Checking-in with ourself helps us stay connected with what, in the here and now, causes us to feel overly anxious.
Right now, what is happening in your life that you need to cope with?
~ becoming overwhelmed by feelings caused by this time of year
~ dealing with the death of a family member, friend, etc.
~ feelings of loneliness, shame, guilt, anger, and abandonment
~ Fear of change 
Clients image of fear of change
Below is a list of things that you can do to help settle the body and mind if you experience overwhelm or stress:
~ Sit down and try to figure how what the triggers were.
~ Make a plan of how you will handle the situation, feelings, emotions, etc. when it happens again, in a healthy way.
~ Call someone and talk about what happened and how you feel. (friend, therapist, family member, etc.)
~ Be gentle with yourself and do something nice for you.

Clients sandtray image of overwhelm

The following tips can be used for containing a flashback, shock or an anxiety attack.  They can be used any time you feel that you need to be grounded and centered in your body. 
~ Blink hard. Blink again.  Do it once more as hard as you can.
~ Change your body position.
~ Breathe slowly and deeply.
~ Go to a safe place.
~ Say your name out loud.
~ Drink a glass of ice water.
~ Tell someone what you need.
~ Move vigorously to release energy.
~ Name the people or objects in the room.
~ Hold something that is comforting.
~ Listen to a tape or something soothing.
~ Make tea.  Drink it.
~ Call a friend.
~ Eat a snack.
~ Find your feet and reconnect with the ground below them.
~ Jump up and down waving your arms.
~ Make eye contact with someone else or your pet.  Now hold it.
~ Clap your hands or rub them together fast.
~ Alternatively tense and relax some muscles.
~ Wash your face.
~ Repeat to yourself:  “I am safe.  This is (month, day, and year).  I am _____ years
old.   I am a big person.  I can protect myself.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reflecting On: Showing up to Practice

I have been reflecting a lot on the value of practice. If I want to feel physically healthy, and have energy for the day, I have to make time to run or workout. I don't always want to, but I feel so good after and I don't think it is any different in other aspects of my life.

If I want to grow spirituality, be more aware and awake, I need to make time to meditate each morning. If I want to be emotionally healthy I need to practice Focusing with my partner. If I want to grow intellectually, I need to read each day and do something stimulating, informative or interesting to do with my therapy work or talk to someone about my ideas and thoughts. If I want to stay inspired and passionate in my life, I have to feed my inner fire by by creating art, writing and exercising my imagination.

Emotionally Exercising:

Practicing Gratitude.  To shift emotions to positive feelings, each morning and evening say one thing to yourself or another about what you feel grateful for in your life.

Physically Exercising:

Practicing movement. To shift the body to feeling more fluid, each day do some form of movement (Yoga, walking, running).

Intellectually Exercising:

Practicing curiosity. To shift your mind to curiosity and interest, each day read books, articles, or blogs that cause you to reflect, think differently or question.

Imaginatively Exercising:

Practicing creativity. To shift into experiencing more imagining and creativity in your daily life, make time for creative play and exploration.

Spiritually Exercising

Practicing meditation. To shift into experiencing more awareness and consciousness in your daily life, make time to be Present and mindful.

For myself, what is important is that I show up to practice. I don't care if I am the best runner, creator, meditator, or emotionally balanced person but I am showing up and doing the practice. This practice helps me check-in mentally, emotionally, physically, intuitively and spirituality to see how I am, where I am, and who I am.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about being Present

I find it helpful to have reminders throughout the day that help me remember to come back to Presence. Being Present simply means being in the here and now, and not pulled into past memories or preoccupied by planning the future.

Here are some reminders:

1) Before taking the first bite of your food, check-in with yourself to see if you are Present.
2) Use walking through doorways as a wake-up call to be Present.
3) Use starting your car as an invitation to be Present.
4) Frame stepping into the shower or bath tub as stepping into a state of Presence.


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