There was a lot of talk about love and fear yesterday with 2 therapy clients both of whom were experiencing very high levels of anxiety, similar to how I was feeling last week. I could see they were not inhabiting their bodies fully, and stuck in their fearful thoughts coming at them like machine gun fire.
Because being overwhelmed with anxiety is fresh in my memory I knew instinctively what to do. I knew that no amount of talking would sort it at this level of fearfulness, and may even make it worse. I had to help them to reduce their anxiety before I could even have a useful discussion. They need to feel safe enough.
I note that had I still been in that state of anxiety myself I perhaps would not have had access to that intuitive knowing.
So I took them through a 5-10 minute body embodiment exercise that I made up as I went along, drawing on the body scan meditations I’ve done, the dropping into feelings of Tsoknyi Rinpoche and some Eckhart tolle tips too. This was an uncomfortable idea for me, as I hadn’t done it before and didn’t know what I was going to say. It was needed though.
I just trusted. There were times during it that I noticed some negative self reflection trying to creep in if I stumbled and let it go and continued to trust. If I didn’t know what to say next I paused and it came. Those pauses are needed too. I felt guided.
I give them some psycho education explanations beforehand about the purpose and mechanism of fearfulness, and discussed the phrase being beside oneself with anxiety which they resonated with.
We have few deep abdomen breathes first, and then I took them from the toes and ask them to wriggle them, then slowly up through the feet, the ankles, the shins and calves….and up slowly connecting awareness with each part of the body. After that I asked them what they are hearing, seeing, touching. The senses gate.
Then ask them to put a hand on the chest, demonstrate other self soothing touch, like the hand under the arm and the other folded over self hug one. And that opens a chat about self compassion. Being kind to ourselves, being our own ally. I ask them to notice where the sensation of the feeling of anxiety is located in their body, and it’s now not so scary to do that they are physically embodied again, and some heart wisdom is available.
We talk about breathing and using the senses and other tools for interrupting that stream of anxious self depreciating thoughts, like using a phrase as a mantra.
They both reported that it reduced their anxiety considerably and I noticed a visible change in them, much more smiling and lightness after it. And now it wasn’t just fear talking and they could access more of their own insights. These exercises also helped me as I did it with them.
So that was interesting, and it is now part of what I will do where appropriate.
I’m embodying myself much more now, and less thoughts arriving. I still have a lot going on with various design clients construction stage ones and therapy clients, one of those in a few minutes. But much much more space. And I’m working consciously on being present on breathing from the abdomen, and being fully in nature.