Tag Archives: cognitive behavioral therapy

Do You Need To Think Less And Feel More?

8 Sep

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The other day I was in a yoga class when the instructor encouraged us to “think less and feel more.” As my mind slowly let go of the endless hours spent answering email and making lists, I felt the peace of that intention. “Think less, feel more.”

As a therapist I often encourage individuals to pause from talking so they can discern what they’re actually feeling. Sometimes the feelings are incongruent with the thoughts, which people always find surprising.

Feeling gets a bad rap in a world where cognition reigns but Daniel Goleman dubbed the term “emotional intelligence” to make a case for the innate intelligence of our emotions. However, “feeling more” as the yoga teacher suggested doesn’t necessarily suggest affective registration or release. “Feeling more” can simply imply scanning the body’s sensations.

I would be completely ruined if I didn’t dial into my body. It is the only way I can regulate my mind, which often operates like a wild horse dancing in frenetic circles as if spooked. When I check in with my body, then the true power of the mind expands like a horse galloping freely in the wind.

The term yoga means union. When we slow down, think less, and breathe more, we start to unite body, mind and spirit. The bifurcation of these disparate parts mends. We feel integrated, whole and at peace again. Petty things stop mattering and what is truly of value rises to the surface. With calm comes clarity.

Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Isn’t Enough

14 Jul

I have never been a fan of cognitive behavioral therapy. Sorry. If insight was enough to change, most of us would have quit smoking, lost weight, and kept any other New Year’s resolutions by now. Most of us would know we are worthy despite maybe having been mistreated as a child and most of us would make choices for ourselves that are healthy.

CBT is based on the idea that how we think influences our emotions and behaviors and without a doubt there is some truth here. If I wake up and see that it is raining, a thought such as “Oh, crap! It’s raining. Now the day is going to suck,” will definitely get the day off on the wrong foot. Yet if I wake up and think, “Oh, wonderful! I love the sound of rain on the roof and we need the rain,” then I’m going to be in a much better disposition. But what if you implement the positive thought and yet your mood doesn’t follow suit?

Herein lies the problem. Our thoughts aren’t enough. Here in Western society, we make cognition the King, the Supreme Being. Thinking (pun intended) reins over all systems. We negate the intelligence of our emotions, the secret knowledge of the heart, and the ridiculous accuracy of our guts.

In reality, behind every thought form is energy and energy vibrates at certain frequencies. Not only that, the energy that accompanies subconscious thought patterns often trumps any conscious work on “catch it, change it, change it” strategies.

How then do we break down old narratives?

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I’m a firm believer that some of the deconstruction has to start on the physical, cellular level. We do this using our breath, by having corrective, positive interpersonal interactions, and by creating new neural pathways vis-a-vis kinesthetic movement. In the process we begin to rearrange dimensions of our nervous system, which in turn influences mood, emotions, thoughts and behaviors. We embody new narratives when we create a new reality of presence.

Yet we also have to purge ourselves of the energy associated with the traumas that created the thought forms in the first place. What subconscious contracts did we make with our parents? What energy did we pick up in the household (or in the society at large)? What belief systems do we carry that aren’t even ours? Have we taken on one parent’s issues and energy in order to stay loyal to him or her? Are we subconsciously holding ourselves back because to live a different life would be to betray mom or emasculate dad? Do we dare to be happy if our ancestors weren’t?

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How come the third generation of Holocaust survivors sometimes relate to the terror of the Nazi occupation on a visceral level, when the family history was never discussed or even acknowledged? Why might a child in utero sense the mother’s fears and resentments about an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy? Why do various ethnicities carry historical trauma even when healing has occurred and why can you burst out in tears during a massage when a certain knot in a muscle is expunged? And why can the touch of one’s beloved make you cry out in relief and ecstasy?

Sometimes my clients look at me weird when I suggest a method of treatment that entails flushing out traumatic memories and patterns vis-a-vis the energy centers of the body, or chakras. Yet even skeptics can’t help but acknowledge that when they place their hands on their hearts or throats while declaring a specific statement or pattern unique to their experience, they sometimes experience intense images, feelings, insights, and sensations. The body doesn’t lie; the body keeps the score; the body is a wealth of knowledge. The subconscious, now made conscious loosens, as does the energy and resulting belief systems associated with traumas. Catharsis, as painful as it can be, clears and removes long held defense structures held within the body and cognitive schemas.

We can’t always think our way out of the the energetic ramifications of trauma. In fact, we never can. We feel, intuit, move, and then think our way out of intra-psychic prisons. Prayer too helps because it changes the energetic frequency when you invite in the presence of the Divine. Catharsis of repressed emotion and giving voice to long held anger can also liberate and energize.

Healing is a far more complex process than keeping thought records and dissecting behavior like diagramming sentences in grammar class. This can become mental masturbation and a Woody Allen monologue. Transformation comes when we dive into the energy of our traumas and into the joy of movement, breath, and sensate experience.

 

Litany of Lies

24 Jun

“Could it be SATAN?” Dana Carvey used to ask as Church Lady on “Church Chat”, the hilarious SNL skit that ran in the late 80’s. Satan was attributed to every evil conceivable and Carvey played the kind of Christian that pointed fingers at anyone and everyone committing sins.

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Yet when it comes to the litany of lies we tell about ourselves, others, and the world at large, evil really does have its day. When we distort the truth and buy into negativity, the havoc wrecked is far from Godly.

“I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never find love.” “There will never be enough.” “I fucked up. I always fuck things up.” “I’m fat.” “I’m stupid.” “Why try? It never works out anyway.” “There are no jobs.” The economy is terrible.” “This field is dead.” “The world isn’t safe.” “There will never be peace.” “There will never be change.” “Why bother?” And the chorus goes on and on. I’ve heard these phrases from people all around me, and I recognize some of the statements coming from my own mouth. We all have different scripts but whatever ones are ours, they are hard to re-write.

Many of us have a litany of lies as firmly ensconced as the weekly liturgy. Indeed, many of us recite these untruths with the zombie like quality of someone doing religion by rote.

This doctrine, if not rooted in Satan, stems from thought distortions, which are in essence evil. These usually arise from traumas, causing us to formulate specific beliefs about ourselves and the world based on what has happened to us and what we’ve observed in life. Sadly, distorted thoughts often cause history to repeat itself over and over again.

Thought forms carry energy, which makes them even more complicated and powerful.

Yes, many of us were initially victims in our lives, but if we buy into the lies formed at the time of horrific events, we victimize ourselves. We keep ourselves stuck. We buy into the same damn stories and contribute to them over and over again.

One of the hardest things in the world is to look in the mirror and see how we’re involved in our own narratives. While we don’t have control over people, places, or things, we certainly have control over what we do, what we believe, and our attitudes. This can be extremely sobering.

How then do we change these limiting belief systems?

Very carefully.

It’s hard to create something new because we often can’t envision a different outcome. If we’ve only known disappointment in a given area, why expect anything different? It’s simply easier to cling to the old beliefs because to hope for new outcomes is just too scary, right? Yes, it might work out differently, but if it doesn’t, it will hurt like hell. AGAIN. So why be an idiot and hope for anything more? It’s easier just to give up on having any dreams for a more positive future and life. And if we do cling to any sort of hope, we’ll have to feel the loneliness and pain of desires that might not ever be fulfilled. So wouldn’t it be easier to just eat a bag of potato chips, turn on a video, and shut out the world? And wouldn’t it be easier to just surrender in the face of injustice and never speak up, never vote, never defend others, never write editorials, or lay down our lives for others?

Could this be SATAN? YES! That is Satan.

It’s so easy to recognize the litany of lies when we hear it coming from the mouths of others. It’s harder to recognize it when heresy comes from our own mouths. Yet when we start to recognize crap thinking for what it is, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to “catch it, check it, change it.” Sometimes change feels impossible.

Here are a few things I think are valuable when trying to change distorted belief systems:

Be patient with yourself; Beliefs that have been ensconced for years may take some time to change

Grieve – Feel the pain behind the narrative for there is always a wound beneath it

Pray – Ask God to remove the blocks and to help co-create the new narrative

Seek support from others. People can hold hope as a ray of light when you don’t have a candle or a match while in the dark.

Forgive – yourself and others. We are all a work in process. Progress not perfection.

Imagine – this is a huge element in creating change. Then act. Imagination + action = new creation.

Eliminate the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary. Start saying, “might”, “may”, and “could” instead.

Try new experiences. They help eradicate and/or integrate the previous ones.

Read stories of people who have overcome similar obstacles.

Seek expertise in the area in which you feel challenged. Educate yourself about that subject matter whether it be in love, relationships, health, finance, fashion, etc. Take a class on it, read books about it, join groups on it.

Realize no dreams are realized overnight. Luck doesn’t just happen. It occurs after much groundwork has been laid.

Lamentations

20 Aug

Last night I heard a news story about a baby Orca that had gotten separated from his mother. He was out in the ocean crying mournfully for her and fishermen heard the high pitched wails coming from the sea. Orcas stay close to their mothers throughout their entire lives so the baby was quite distressed.

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To help the baby, they moved the whale along until it could join a pod of other whales.

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As I sat listening to the recording of the little guy wailing, I thought, “How we all lament. If even an animal cries out in anguish, why do we not give ourselves permission to do the same?”

In today’s sanitary culture of cognitive behavioral therapy, where we are told our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors and thus if we but master our thoughts, we can manage our feelings, I reflect on that little Orca and think, “What a load of crap!” Sometimes we need to just cry out. There are some dimensions of experience that can only be expressed in a moan.

A theologian friend of mine the other day, recognizing my rationalizing over a profound wound in my life quietly said, “You know, Lise. God does let us down. You can admit that. It is okay to say, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”

Perhaps that little Orca knew that he had permission to cry out. Perhaps he was simply acting from instinct. But there are places where the intellect has no defense. Where the only words that voice truth are those of the poet or the mourner. And sometimes that is, “Better than a hallelujah” (Amy Grant).