I have been listening to Tara Brach’s latest podcast as part of my bedtime ritual every night. Sometimes I fall asleep and miss a bit then start at the bit I missed the next night. Then on repeat. This recent one on fear one helped me to consolidate the relationship between mindfulness and the simple naming the fear sensations and thoughts and letting them go, and the digging I’m doing with therapy clients to explore the cause behind their distress and blocks. I’m discovering that both have their place.
My son had recently sent me a message questioning mindfulness only as a method for dealing with stress producing thoughts. He thought it may lead to bypassing important understanding of the causes of the distorted beliefs and thoughts and suppression of feelings resulting. I agree that it’s not quite enough, especially for distressed clients with depression and anxiety. Im wondering if mindfulness alone and not making conscious important realisations of the childhood or early life experiences people have which lead to distress, can actually cause some damage.
I’ve been on a journey these last couple of years to find a way of combining this digging and analyses of past causes of current pain, as well as using some mindfulness techniques to help with dealing with habitual recurring thoughts that still occur even after clients have an understanding that they aren’t based on evidence. Fearful thoughts mostly. There is often a lightbulb moment for clients where they see that it’s their adaptation to unhealthy early environments that led to their depression and anxiety. And there’s trauma too, another subject with a different approach.
So in this podcast Tara talks about the usefulness of naming the sensation and the feelings and thoughts. I do this in therapy towards the end. I ask people to give their distressing thoughts a slightly lighthearted name so that they can recognise, name and let go. One chose the name ‘Judge Judy’ for her inner critic, another chose ‘Scary Bob’ for his recurring fear thought. It worked a great and gave them the distance that allowed them to change their relationship with their thoughts, more freedom to choose rather than just believe thoughts as true, often using the feelings experienced as a result as ‘evidence’ that the thought must be true.
Though first they had to understand the origins behind the position they had arrived at. The ways they had to adapt to early life events, often contorting themselves out of shape to feel safe, get attention and love.
The depression and anxiety seems to relate to the sitting uneasily with this adapted self which they really know isn’t them, isn’t authentically who they really are. So we go over how this occurs, that it’s a natural response of a child and that they are not to ‘blame’.
My therapy style is a work in progress. Many breakthroughs and some clients that I feel out of my depth with. I was given a very suicidal gangster on 5 different psychiatric drugs with a psychosis diagnosis that I saw twice and had to bow out. I could not see a way forward, his cognitive faculties were not present enough he was so drugged up. I found this upsetting not being able to help or see a way forward. I passed him back to the agency and asked for someone more experienced to take him.
I’m struggling with the influence of the psychiatric profession on people. A 20 year old girl I was making huge leaps and bounds with in only 2 sessions came in yesterday feeling very suicidal after being put on antidepressants. she made an emergency appointment with her GP and he told her it was a normal side effect for young people and gave her Valium and told her it would only last 6-8 weeks. Oh my god. I so had to keep my mouth shut. I’m not allowed to comment, not being medically qualified though I’m pretty sure it would have been best to try therapy first without being put on both at the same time. What do I know though…..
Meantime I’m feeling a lot of anxiety recently as I treat those with anxiety. This is peculiar and I’m teaching what I most need to learn, and it’s largely working. another client I was saying bye to yesterday thanked me profusely for his new understanding of himself and the tools he’d learned to cope with his anxiety and depression. Tools I use daily too. Maybe that helps, not feeling separate from clients.