Tag Archives: ANXIETY

What is NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming)?

Image taken from expertmind.com

Image taken from expertmind.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, I want to take a moment and share with you what NLP stands for; Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a name that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (Neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (Programming).

To define “Neuro” more clearly for you, I want to add that it includes our nervous system (the mind) through which our experiences are processed through our five senses: More specifically Visual (sight), Auditory (hearing), Kinesthetic (touch), Olfactory (smell), and Gustatory (taste).  In NLP, we believe that we encode and give meaning to our sensory experiences through our use of Sub Modalities.  Visual Sub Modalities, for example, include whether or not the images in our minds are in black and white, color, near or far, bright or dim, focused or unfocused, moving or still, framed or panoramic, associated or disassociated, etc.  Auditory Sub Modalities include whether or not what we hear is loud or soft, internal or external, fast or slow, high in pitch, low, etc.  Kinesthetic Sub Modalties include whether or not our felt sense of our experiences have a shape to it, a texture, a size, a weight, a movement, a location in our bodies, etc.  In NLP, Master NLP Practitioners like me change a client’s Sub Modalities (with his or her permission and collaboration) so that we can change the way he or she has encoded and given meaning to his experiences, if it will serve his or her highest good to do so.

For example, if a client of mine has a daunting picture or movie in his mind’s eye of an upcoming tennis match, and it appears to him in black and white, dim, and loud with the sound of tennis balls being whacked all around the court, I might encourage him to make the picture or movie colorful, bright, and accompanied by the sight of tennis balls moving in slow motion with a muted sound. If his opponent appears to him in his picture or movie as 10 feet tall, I might encourage him to freeze the frame, shrink it in size, and make his opponent appear 1 inch tall with big ears and bushy eye brows.  I might even encourage him to add a circus soundtrack to his picture or movie to help him laugh and see his tennis match as funny and therefore something to look forward to.

If the nervousness he is feeling feels like a cold, rectangular piece of sharp glass located in the pit of his stomach, I might encourage him to make the cold, rectangular shape of sharp glass in the pit of stomach warm, round, soft, and ask him to then imagine pushing that rectangular object out of his stomach to the opposite side of the room.  By changing his Sub Modalities, or the ways he is encoding and giving meaning to his tennis match, I’m changing his “internal representation”, or interpretation, of what his tennis match really means; It’s an opportunity to have fun, embrace the challenge, and do his very best.  After all, Master NLP Practitioners don’t believe that there is such a thing as failure; there is only feedback.

Changing his picture or movie of his match will change his “State” (feelings), which in turn will change his physiology and body language.  This is one of the many goals of NLP; to change a client’s  “internal representations”, or his  interpretations of events that are being influenced by his senses and 5 senses and respective Sub Modalities, so that he can change the way he sees the past, the present, and the future as well as how he sees himself, others, and the world around him.

When I use the term “Linguistic”, I am referring to the language and other nonverbal communication systems through which our neural representations are coded, ordered, and given meaning.  These neural representations include pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells, and words (Self-Talk.)  These words also include the metaphors, similes, and analogies we use as well as the many symbolic ways that we express ourselves. When we change these neural representations, we are able to change our states and internal representations of the world, and we are also able to communicate with others far more effectively.  The language used in NLP is often sensory grounded to code what we’re capable of doing behaviorally.

When it comes to “Linguistics”, Master NLP practitioners like me wholeheartedly believe that only 7% of communication with others consists of the words we use; 38% of communication consists of the tone that we use; finally, 55% of our communication with others consists of our physiology, or body language.  Therefore, when we choose to mirror someone else’s words, tone, and body language, we’re able to build rapport with them almost instantly.

Another way that master NLP practitioners use language powerfully is by incorporating hypnotic language when working with clients.  When NLP originators John Grinder and Richard Bandler teamed up with the father of hypnosis, Milton Erickson, they realized that using NLP techniques and patterns in concert with Erickson’s hypnotic phrasing helped them to affect positive change in their clients even more rapidly than they did beforehand.  Erickson’s hypnotic language is merely a way of using words to bypass a client’s conscious resistance so that he or she is receptive to the very changes in their lives that they want to create!!  A typical Erickson language pattern often used is called “tag questions.”  If a client of mine wants to believe that she’s capable, but she consciously believes that she’s incapable, I might use a tag question by saying, ” You know better than anyone that you’re capable, don’t you?”

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I know that speaking to a client’s conscious mind and saying, “you’re capable” will likely go in one ear and out the other; my words will be met with resistance.  However, my use of the tag question, “Don’t you?” will bypass his or her resistance to this new truth, and his or her unconscious mind will be far more receptive to agreeing with my empowering assertion. In light of all that I’ve shared with you about “Linguistics,” I would offer to you that NLP is clearly a powerful way of using the language of the mind to consistently achieve specific and desired outcomes.

When Master NLP practitioners use the word, “programming, ” they’re referring to a person’s unconscious belief systems, their memories, emotions, neuro-associations (the feelings we associate with certain people, places, and things), value systems, “parts” to their personality, communication styles and patterns, habits, strategies, behaviors, and the countless other ways we’ve been conditioned to perceive, experience, and show up in our lives and in the world.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that NLP is so powerful because its techniques allow us to access and get in rapport with our unconscious minds. This is so significant because it is believed that only 8% of our moment to moment awareness is conscious, and 92% of our moment to moment awareness is unconscious, or presently inaccessible to us; instead, everything else that we that don’t know that we know is housed in the bejeweled warehouse of our unconscious minds.

Almost magically, NLP patterns, techniques, insights, and experiential exercises help us to reprogram our minds and come up with new programs, strategies, and behaviors  that we can  run in our neurological systems to achieve our specific and desired outcomes. When we assimilate these specific set of unconscious strategies, we create the differences that make the difference in our lives.  When our unconscious beliefs, values, and personal self-concept/sense of ourselves are in alignment with our conscious set of beliefs, values, and self-concept, we feel integrated, whole, complete, and newly empowered!!

Although you may have never heard of the following NLP techniques and patterns, some include the Time Line Technique, Parts Integration, Anchoring, Future Pacing, Visualization, Mental, Emotional and Psychological Rehearsal, the Swish Pattern, Mapping Across, The Modeling Process, The Inner Sage Pattern, The Charles Dickens Pattern, the Walt Disney Pattern, Voice Dialogue Technique, Rapport Building, working with Primary Representational Systems, Developing Sensory Acuity, The Falling Out Of Love Pattern, The Enough is Enough Pattern, The Movie Rewind Pattern, etc.  As a Master NLP Practitioner, I have found that NLP tools and skills work powerfully in the development of states of individual excellence and enhancing human performance. In addition, they establish a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions that reveal what human beings are, what communication is, and what the process of change is all about.

NLP is therefore a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior.  At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity, and mission. It helps us access the treasure trove of wisdom and resources that are housed in our unconscious minds and brings our wisdom and resources to the surface of conscious awareness so that we can access our full human potential.   In addition, it also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the ‘spiritual’ part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence; it is about wisdom and vision.

According to Master NLP Practitioner Robert Diltz, NLP is essentially founded on two fundamental presuppositions:

1. The Map is Not the Territory.  As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our ‘neuro-linguistic’ maps of reality that determine how we behave and that give those behaviors meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.

2. Life and ‘Mind’ are Systemic Processes. The processes that take place within a human being and between human beings and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form ecology of complex systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate any part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on certain ‘self-organizing’ principles and naturally seek optimal states of balance or homeostasis.

All of the models and techniques of NLP are based on the combination of these two principles. In the belief system of NLP, it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality. Wisdom, ethics, and ecology do not derive from having the one ‘right’ or ‘correct’ map of the world, because human beings are not capable of making one. Rather, the goal is to create the richest map possible that respects the systemic nature and ecology of ourselves and the world we live in.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that the people who are most effective in life are the ones who are most flexible and have a map of the world that allows them to perceive the greatest number of available choices and perspectives. They use NLP patterns and techniques to enrich the choices that they have and perceive as available in the world around them. They recognize that excellence comes from having many choices, and they believe that wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives.

Through the years, NLP has continued to develop some very powerful tools and skills for communication and change in a wide range of professional areas including: Psychotherapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, Counseling, Life Coaching, Education, Health, Business, Creativity, Law, Management, Sales, Leadership and Parenting.  NLP is now in its third decade as a field of study and has evolved considerably since its beginnings in the mid 1970s. Over the years, NLP has literally spread around the world and has touched the lives of millions of people. Since the 1990’s, a new generation of NLP has been developing.

If you’d like me to teach you leading-edge NLP techniques and patterns to help you get into rapport with your unconscious mind, accelerate your personal growth process, and unleash far more of your full potential as a man, woman, and/or athlete than you have ever imagined before, please reach out to me and let me know!! Like so many of my other clients, I trust that you will find that NLP tools and techniques will serve as a powerful catalyst in your pursuit of personal growth and transformation.

Thank you very much for taking your time to read my article/blog on NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming).  I hope that you that you’ve found it informative, thought-provoking, and enlightening!!

image from purenlp.com

image from purenlp.com

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT

(Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer/Certified Hypnotherapist)

 

What Is Codependency?

photo by Christiemanning.com

photo by Christiemanning.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve been keenly aware of the fact that the term codependency has been around for almost four decades. Although it originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics, it then became abundantly clear that family and friends also constituted a network of codependents whose lives centered around the alcoholic, or addict.  Researchers have since revealed that the characteristics of codependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. In fact, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you’re likely codependent.

Dysfunctional families often include family members that are narcissistic, borderline, emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive,  passive, helpless, dependent, manipulative, enmeshed, dramatic,  and prone to martyrdom.  In this unsafe and chaotic environment, children never have the opportunity to develop a solid sense of themselves. Instead, they develop a list of characteristics or symptoms that include many common traits.  Before I present this list of symptoms to you, though, I want to credit Darlene Lancer, MFT, for putting together the bulk of what’s in the list below.  In doing my research on codependency, I found her list to be so clear and comprehensive that it seemed foolish for me to try and reinvent the wheel.  Never the less, throughout the list, I’ve added additional insights on the traits that characterize codependents to make your understanding of this phenomenon even clearer.

Incidentally, before reading through the list below, please bear in mind that most American families are dysfunctional, and therefore most people have some codependency traits!!  As a matter of fact, I would offer that most people have unwittingly entered into a codependent relationship at some point in their lives.  Therefore, if you recognize aspects of yourself in the list below, you can rest assured that you’re in the majority!!  In addition, if you worry that believe that you’re a codependent person or that you’re in a codependent relationship, there are ways to get treatment and reverse this trend.  I will happily list treatment options for you at the end of this blog.

Alas, the following is a list of symptoms of codependents.  You needn’t have all of them to qualify as codependent.

  • Low self-esteem.  Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable, fraudulent,  or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame.  Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.
  • People-pleasing. It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.  They usually engage in people-pleasing to seek acceptance and approval and to preserve their attachment to someone else; Their people-pleasing stems from their wish to keep their fears of imminent rejection and abandonment at bay.  Codependents who engage in people-pleasing often gravitate towards narcissists because they are all too willing to set aside his or her own needs to feed and fuel the narcissists ego. This gives the codependent a sense of purpose and a sense that they are needed, and codependents can’t stand the thought of being alone with no one needing them.
  • Poor boundaries.  Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. Their poor boundaries often stem from their underdeveloped sense of self and their lack of individuation and differentiation from their family of origin. In turn, codependents often responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else. Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.  When their boundaries are weak, codependents are willing to be victimized, abused, coerced, manipulated, etc.  When their boundaries are rigid, they may be too afraid of being victimized, enmeshed, or lost in yet another codependent relationship, and so they choose to withdraw become isolated from others.
  • Reactivity. A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.
  • Care-taking. Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.
  • Control. Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control. Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
  • Dysfunctional communication. Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear of rejection or abandonment.
  • Obsessions. Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.”  The assume that if they make a mistake, they will be cut-off, abandoned, or rejected.  Codependents often engage in mind reading, and presume to know that others are thinking poorly of them.  They are prone to projecting their own sense of worthlessness and fear of rejection onto others, and this in turn often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy where the other person eventually does leave them!!  Sometimes codependents lapse into fantasy about how they’d like things to be or about someone they love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps them from living their lives.
  • Dependency. Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. As I’ve already mentioned before, they’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.
  • Denial. One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem. Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy, for example. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.
  • Problems with intimacy. By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.
  • Painful emotions. Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.

In my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve learned that when two people enter into a codependent relationship, they often enter into what is known as the Drama Triangle.  Imagine, if you will, the triangle below, and notice how at each of the three end points of the triangle are three separate roles that each codependent person in the relationship potentially plays at one time or another.  When each person in the relationship plays at least two out of these three roles often enough throughout the course of their relationship, it’s a tell tale sign that they’re in a codependent dynamic. These three habitual psychological roles include the following:  The Rescuer, the Victim, and the Persecutor.

photo by traumahealed.com

photo by traumahealed.com

The Rescuer, for example, plays the role of the care-taker, and he sees his partner as a victim in need of help.  He sets aside his own needs and becomes singularly focused on caring for his partner, who he believes is weak, helpless, wounded, and fragile.  The rescuer is not consciously aware, though, that by playing this part, he may be avoiding looking at his own anxiety, underlying feelings, absence of meaning in his life, hunger for a sense of identity and purpose, etc. In addition, he may be denying the sense of self-esteem and status he feels as he plays the role of rescuer nor the joy that comes with having someone depend on them. As he is rescuing his partner, his partner in turn is being treated as though she is a victim, incapable of caring for herself.  She is his damsel in distress, dependent on his heroic love, nurturing, and resources.  At first, his partner may welcome his wish to rescue her.  However, in time, she may come to feel smothered, and she may resent the tacit message that she is a victim who is unable to care for herself and therefore is in need of rescuing.  In turn, she may grow weary of his overbearing interventions and attempts to rescue her.  Soon she may grow more and more resentful of him, and she may finally lash out at him and reject his help all together.  In this moment, she has switched from playing the role of victim to playing the role of persecutor.  She feels angry, and she rejects his care-taking overtures and verbally accosts him instead.

In the aftermath of this confrontation, her caretaker may feel that his efforts to rescue her have gone unappreciated, and he may in turn feel very hurt.  Suddenly he finds himself playing the role of victim.  With his head bowed down and bent, he appears visibly wounded.  When the dust settles after this contentious fight, his persecuting lover may feel compelled to assume the role of rescuer again and make efforts to care for his hurt feelings.  If she doesn’t make this nurturing effort, he may take on the role of persecutor, and he will vent his anger and disgust at her for taking his rescuing overtures for granted.  In turn, she may feel victimized and wounded.  Seeing her in emotional distress, he may move away from playing the role of persecutor  and assume the role of her rescuer again.

Incidentally, Co-dependent relationships, of course, take on more patterns than just those presented above  in the Drama Triangle.  However, this dynamic is one that is very common among codependent couples and/or families.

Unfortunately, in my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen first hand how unresolved patters of codependency can lead to more serious problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, and other self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors.  People in codependent relationships are often more likely to attract further abuse from aggressive individuals, more likely to stay in stressful jobs or relationships, less likely to seek medical attention when needed, and are less likely to get promotions and tend to earl less money than those without codependency patterns.  In addition, for the codependent person who lacks a solid sense of self and feels like victim at times in his relationships coupled with feelings of  intense anxiety and a profound fear of rejection and/or abandonment, his or controlling ways can eventually turn violent.

The great news is that there are treatments and recovery paths for individuals, couples, and families that struggle with codependency.  Psychotherapy, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Bibliotherapy,  Psycho-Education, Psychodrama,  Gestalt work, Hypnosis, EMDR, Assertiveness training, and support groups like Co-Dependents Anonymous ( CoDA) and AL-Anon are all powerful ways and places to go to overcome your codependency and feel happy, healthy, and whole again.

If you feel as though you’re a codependent person, stuck in a codependent relationship, or enmeshed and/or triangulated  in a codependent family system, please e-mail me or call me if you’d like help breaking free from this old pattern. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I know of tools and techniques that can help you to feel more independent as well as learn how to participate in interdependent, reciprocal, and happy relationships instead.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you found it educational and informative.

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

Checklist for Hidden Anger

Image taken from rottentomatoes.com

Image taken from rottentomatoes.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often met with clients of mine who seem determined to put on a happy facade and deny their own anger.  Unfortunately, when they bury or hide their own anger from themselves, it can come out sideways or morph into anxiety and depression.  Instead of burying or denying your anger, it’s far healthier to acknowledge it’s presence and find safe ways to discharge it.  In addition, it’s far healthier to see anger as a metaphorical alarm clock that is signalling to you that beneath your anger you may be feeling wounded, hurt, powerless, ashamed, afraid, etc.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve learned through years of experience to hone in on the many signs of hidden, unexpressed, systemic anger.  These signs include the following:  obsessive preoccupation with the completion of imposed tasks, habitual lateness, a liking of sadistic or ironic humor, aloofness, impatience, closed off body language, unconsciously turning their hands into fists, contemptuous glares, sarcasm, cynicism, and flippancy in conversation.  In addition to these hidden signs of unacknowledged, unexpressed anger, people who carry with them the heavy, toxic burden of anger are prone to sighing a lot, yawning, getting drowsy at inappropriate times, slowing down their movements, speaking in a monotone voice, getting tired more easily than usual, withdrawing, isolating, and sleeping more than usual, maybe up to 12-14 hours a day, and being prone to boredom and apathy.

Other signs of hidden anger include over politeness, constant cheerfulness, smiling while hurting, and an attitude of grin-and-bear-it.  In addition, people who tend to deny or hide their anger rationalize or minimize their emotions, become excessively irritable and agitated over trifles, hold onto grudges, struggle mightily to forgive others, make cutting passive-aggressive comments, see things in black and white, and carry around a chip on their shoulder accompanied by a sense of injustice and self-righteousness.  On another note, they are also prone to having disturbing or violent dreams, clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth while awake or sleeping, and have facial tics or spasmodic foot movements that they’re entirely unaware of.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also learned over the years that people who hide their anger from themselves often experience health problems, such as a chronically stiff or sore neck, aching shoulder muscles, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, etc.  Their bodies become physical manifestations of the anger they keep locked inside of them.  People who hide their anger may even experience chronic depression and extended periods of feeling down for no apparent reason.

Finally, another sign that people are hiding their anger is the many ways they act out in self-destructive ways: Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their anger; Others have marital affairs; Finally others refuse to get help of any kind to angrily protesting to those that love them that they are no longer accessible to them and that they would prefer to be alone and disconnected rather than connected and within reach.

In my professional experience, hidden anger that’s been cast in the shadows must come to the light to be addressed.  It’s an emotion that can be worked through, often relatively quickly and effortlessly.  If you or someone you know is hiding your anger to yourself or showing signs of hidden anger that you weren’t aware of until now, rest assured that I have the expertise and resources to help you feel more serene and more at ease.  You’re welcome to call me or e-mail me anytime to arrange a time to visit with me in person so we can work together in helping you feel much better.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I hope that you found it useful and informative!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

BECOME THE WATCHER AND REALIZE YOUR FULL POTENTIAL

human soul

image taken from squidoo.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I used to hear spiritually inclined people say that we are “spiritual beings having human experiences” with skepticism and a touch of cynicism too.  I was more secular then, and I was convinced that I was defined by my mind, my body, and my emotions.  Heck, it was the world renown philosopher, Descartes, who once said, ” I think, therefore I am.”

Time and exposure to new thoughts about who we are as people have changed my perspective quite a lot over the last few years, though.  After reading  Tolle’s  The Power of Now, and after chatting with several mentors of mine, it’s dawned on me that we are not our minds, bodies, or emotions after all.  Our Egoic minds, for example,  are actually quite primitive,  and they’re prone to cognitive distortions, storytelling, generalizing, black and white thinking, and propagating lies.  This is how come Zen masters call our minds “Monkey Minds”, because they’re prone to making messes and creating chaos.  Our Monkey Minds are trouble makers, and they often spew out lies about ourselves and others that damage our self-esteem and create disconnection with others.

If we were really our minds, then how come we’re able to step back from our thoughts and examine them, challenge them, explore them, etc.  In addition, how come we can go about changing our minds and still remain who we are.  No, we are not our minds nor are we our thoughts.  Our minds ( when they’re functioning optimally) are merely powerful tools that we can use to problem solve,  make good decisions, etc.

In addition to not being our minds, we are also not our bodies.  If you take our legs away, for example, we still exist, don’t we?  There have even been people who have literally flat lined and died on hospital gurneys who have come back to life hours later able to recall everything that took place in the operating room during and after they were declared dead.  These people generally say that while they were dead they took on spiritual forms and were able to watch their lifeless bodies and hear what the doctors and nurses were saying to each as they were being pronounced dead. In light of these happenings, it’s become clear to me that we are not our bodies either.  Like our minds, our bodies are tools as well.  They help us to move, play, etc.

Finally, we are not our emotions and their accompanying sensations.  This is because our emotions always have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We don’t vanish or perish when one of our emotions dissipates and goes away.  In addition, how can we be our emotions if we’re able to step back from them  and watch our emotions with curiosity, awe, and wonder.  This is precisely what people do when they practice mindfulness and meditation.  They notice their emotions and observe them.  Sometimes the feelings intensify, and sometimes they soften and fade away. Emotions, like our minds and bodies, can serve as useful tools as well.

Instead, we are the Watcher that peacefully resides in each and every one of us.  The Watcher has many names. It has been called our Soul, our Essence, our CEO, our King or Queen, our Highest Self, our Light, etc.  The Watcher has also been described as being timeless, perfect, whole, and complete.

When the Watcher in us is in a resourceful state, brimming over with compassion, unconditional love, and unconditional acceptance  for ourselves and others, it is able to access the deepest truths that we hold about ourselves.  Some say that the Watcher is receiving our deepest truths from a Higher Power, the Universe, the Super Conscious, the Source from which all life comes, or from God himself.

Others who are less spiritually inclined might say that the Watcher represents the Essence of who we truly are deep inside:  Inherently good, wise, forgiving, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving and  accepting, intuitive, and discerning.  For them, the Watcher is able to see things as they truly are.  If their more primitive Egoic minds trick them into believing, for example, that they’re unlovable or inadequate, the Watcher in them knows better and can remind them of their deeper truths:  They’re deeply lovable and very worthwhile.

If you tend to get swept away by your thoughts and get overwhelmed by the lies that your Monkey Mind is relaying to you,  it’s high time that you learn how to access the Watcher inside of you and get in touch with the deepest truths about you really are.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have a specific experiential exercise that I teach my clients that helps them to effortlessly tune out the lies that are being propagated by their minds.  In addition, my clients are able to worry less and less about their body image and their bodily aches and pains.  Finally, my clients rarely feel  paralyzed by their emotions, and they no longer feel as though they are drowning inside of them.

My Deepest Truth Exercise is very powerful and life-changing.  Last night, for example, in my Men’s group, a man originally heard his Egoic mind tell him that he’s unlovable, and by the time the group exercise was over, tears welled up in his eyes as he  shared with the rest of us that his deepest truth is that he’s lovable, a great father, and a great friend.  A week ago, a woman in my co-ed group originally received the false message from her Egoic mind that she is invisible, and that no one cares to know who she truly is.  After accessing the Watcher and listening for her deepest truth, she shared with the men and women in our group that her deepest truth is that many people do see her and appreciate her.  In particular, she told us that people often share with her that they see how much she cares about others, and they really appreciate how big a heart she’s got.

If you want to learn how to access the Watcher, become acquainted with the deepest truths of who you really are, and realize your full potential, please call me or email me to arrange a time to meet with me in person.  In the meantime,  kindly remember:  You are not your mind, body, or emotions.  Instead, you are the Watcher, the Soul, the CEO, the King or Queen, and/or the Light that resides within you.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post.  I hope that you found it thought-provoking and helpful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

About John Boesky

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THE PERFECT RECIPE FOR SUCCESSFUL GROUP THERAPY

image taken from mehealthyliving.com

image taken from mehealthyliving.com

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating Men’s groups, Women’s groups, co-ed groups, Sports Psychology groups, and groups for therapists and life coaches looking to support each other in learning new ways to facilitate growth in their clients.  Along the way, I’ve discovered that great groups don’t just  come together by chance.  Instead, great groups have a balance of both structure and flexibility in them.  In addition, I use my family therapy skills to incorporate rituals, metaphors, transformational  vocabulary, experiential exercises, and interactive group exercises to bring group members together and create a strong rapport among them.

In addition, I strongly encourage group participants to be mindful of how important it is to create a feeling of safety within the group container that we’re co-creating together.  With this in mind, shaming, judging, blaming, and attacking others have no place in a group therapy setting.  Instead, group members are encouraged to actively listen to one another, deeply see one another, and be as emotionally attuned to one another as humanly possible.  They’re also asked to validate one another, empathize with one another, offer each other words of affirmation, and be respectful of one another’s different temperaments, belief systems, values, etc.  It’s also important that group members allow for moments of silence, which often allows someone to process or integrate a new learning more deeply.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that vulnerability is the birthplace of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness.  Therefore, I encourage my clients to be courageous enough to tell the story of who they are, warts and all.  I also encourage them to be compassionate towards one another, patient, flexible, open-minded,sensitive, curious, and fully present.  In addition, I encourage each group participant to be authentic, to be accountable for their actions, to be in integrity with their word, to own their projections onto others, to own their shadows, and to own their gold.  Group members are also encouraged to be resourceful, creative, and imaginative. I believe that everyone is full of wisdom, so I also encourage each group member to share their wisdom with their peers.  If someone has something to say to another group member that he or she believes will be helpful,  I remind that person to ask  first if the other group member is open to receiving  feedback. I remind them that it’s always important to honor and respect another person’s autonomy, and asking permission to share an observation or thought-provoking question does just that.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often encountered group members who seem more focused on fixing other group members or calling them out on their stuff than on working on themselves.  This is often a way of feeding one’s ego and hiding from oneself at the same time. In addition to all of the other aforementioned ingredients that lead to successful group therapy experiences, it’s very important that each group member understand that first and foremost they’ve elected to participate in a group setting to work on themselves!!  By doing so, they will be stretching outside of their comfort zones and stepping into the light, and this is where the greatest growth occurs.

If this article has piqued your interest in participating in one of my groups,  please call e-mail me or call me at (619)280-8099 and let me know.  In my experience, group therapy settings become sanctuaries inside which personal growth and transformation inevitably take place.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on groups!!

Your Marriage and Family Therapist,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

 

LIFE IS SHORT

image taken from www.us-funerals.com

image taken from www.us-funerals.com

It’s trite and redundant to say because it’s been said a million times before:  “Life is short, so make the most of it while you’re still here.”  In my teens, 20’s, and 30’s, I heard variations of that same message echoed by strangers, friends, and family members alike.  I suppose that I understood the whole “life is short” thing intellectually, but I hadn’t really known anyone who was close to me that had died.  Like many young adults, I had felt somewhat invincible through the years.  I hadn’t thought much about death or my mortality, and it’s always felt to me that the grim reaper was doing his thing somewhere else.

I’m 41 years old now.  And lately, I’ve had several close friends lose their Mother or Father.  In fact, I’ve attended more funerals in the last 6 months than I have in my entire life.  Right now a close friend of mine has only 3 months to live, and she’s only 62 years old!!  A 40 year old client of mine recently came into my office to tell me that she has stage 4 inoperable cancer, and she has between 2 to 4 months to live as well.  Finally, a family member of mine just suffered his second heart attack in 6 weeks, and he’s being tended to in a hospital right now unable to breathe on his own.

I’m not writing this blog to depress you.  Please know and trust this.  However, I feel compelled to join the chorus of people who have come before me, and I want to remind you that life is short.  Our time here is ephemeral.  In light of this, do your best each day to not “sweat the small stuff.”  Practice gratitude.  Be of service to others.  Open your hearts and share your love with others.  Practice kindness.  Cultivate deep and meaningful connections with others.  Embrace and cherish this moment Now.  All the while, please bear in mind that a glimpse of  tomorrow’s sunset isn’t guaranteed for any of us.

I realize my recommendations to you may sound cliche.  But the truth is, we’re only on this Earth for a short while.

Carpe Diem!!

Seize the Day!!

John Boesky, LMFT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EMDR PROCESS HELPS YOU TO REALIZE YOUR FULL POTENTIAL!!

Image taken from ridgewoodcenterwellness.com

Image taken from ridgewoodcenterwellness.com

EMDR

Thoughts to Consider in Therapy and in EMDR

EMDR is about allowing, accepting, and holding space for things as they are right now. It is not about fixing things. Fixing confounds the healing process. To the extent that you judge something as bad, wrong, or needs to be fixed, you are stuck with it. You are attached to it.
If you want movement to take place inside of you, you will need to be able to hold still. The body is always present in the moment, and it has a lot of truth and wisdom to deliver if we can just hold still, notice it, and allow for its self-revelation.
If you want emotional well being and to be free of trauma, you must engage in a free, full, and appropriate expression of your emotions. When you deny, disown, repress, or resist your emotions and pieces of your true self, and relegate them to the basement of your psyche, you will yield symptoms of anxiety and depression, and you may suffer from chemical imbalances and/or suffer from any variety of psychosomatic illnesses.

EMDR

EMDR is a therapeutic technique that acts as a catalyst for healing traumas, shifting perspectives around traumatic life events, and changing the subsequent self-defeating beliefs we’ve unconsciously internalized about ourselves, our relationships, and our world.

The technique is Neuro-Physiologically based, and it encourages people to enter into a mind/body free association. In other words, they are encouraged to notice and be mindful of the feelings, sensations, and movement of energy that is taking place in their bodies, as well as bear witness to the thoughts and images that come to their mind, without judging them, trying to fix them, or make them go away.

During this mind/body free association, clients receive alternating bilateral stimulation to the hemispheres of the brain. Clinical trials and subsequent results have shown that the alternating bilateral stimulation achieves 3 therapeutic objectives:

1) Alternating bilateral stimulation seems to lift the veil that keeps the conscious and unconscious parts of our minds separate from each other. This process enables our conscious mind to receive and benefit from the wisdom housed in our unconscious.

When we’ve experienced a traumatic event in our lives, (particularly when we are children) we come to believe things about ourselves, relationships in general, and the world around us. These beliefs often dip beyond our conscious awareness, and settle into the basement of our unconscious. They are often self-limiting and maladaptive in nature, and compel us to seek out experiences that serve to validate and reinforce how right they are.

Because EMDR seems to lift the veil that separates our unconscious from our conscious awareness, we can receive some of the wisdom that is housed in our unconscious, and in turn we can challenge old beliefs that we’ve held onto as a result of a traumatic event and replace them with adaptive, positive ones.

2) Alternating bilateral stimulation seems to greatly improve the communication between the rational parts of our brain (the Neo-Cortex), and the emotional parts of our brain (the Limbic System). New neural networks that facilitate communication between these two parts of the brain get formed, and as a result new information, awareness, and wisdom travel back and forth to each other. This new information, awareness, and wisdom can serve to dim the memory, affect, and emotional charge associated with old traumatic events that remain housed in our limbic system.

3) Alternating bilateral stimulation facilitates the movement of energy throughout our bodies. Our bodies house the memories, feelings, and sensations associated with old traumatic events that we’ve lived through. When we pay close attention to the movement of energy in our bodies, it begins to shift, and the feelings and sensations associated with it lose their emotional charge.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that EMDR is a therapeutic technique that often accomplishes the following tasks:

Accesses new information that helps us to change our perspectives and beliefs that have arisen from traumatic life events.
Lowers the emotional charge that is stored in our bodies from those traumatic life events.
Achieves a connecting up of memory networks: (There are memories that are thematically similar, and they belong to the same “Memory Tree.”) The earlier the memory, the closer to the trunk of the tree we are. When we work through the memories closest to the trunk of the tree, the feelings of resolution, peace, and tranquility spread to all of its thematically-related branches.
Achieves a de-coupling of false associations.

Psychological Concepts Relevant to EMDR

1) Pie Chart of the Mind:

Imagine that your mind is shaped like a pie, and the pie is sliced up into 3 pieces. The first slice of the pie represents the conscious part of our mind, and it houses the part of our awareness that knows what we know about ourselves, the world, etc. (For example, I know that I am a Marriage and Family therapist, and that I presently work in Kensington, which is a town in San Diego.)

The second slice of the pie represents the other half of our conscious mind, and it houses the part of our awareness that knows what we don’t know (DK). (For example, I know that I don’t know how to play the harmonica, or the flute for that matter).

It is worth noting that we have access to a fair amount of awareness in these two places in our conscious mind. As a result, we rely on these two places to help us problem-solve and make any number of choices in our daily lives.

The third slice of the pie, however, represents the part of our mind that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know (DKDK.) It is the part of our mind that is entirely beyond our awareness. It sits in the basement of our psyche, and it’s often referred to as our unconscious.

In is here in the unconscious that we’ve relegated pieces of ourselves that we’ve come to believe are bad. Moreover, it is here that we may have buried the memories surrounding traumatic events in our lives, and the subsequent beliefs we’ve created about ourselves, relationships, and the world around us. It is also here, though, that we house wisdom, new information, brilliant ideas, and resources that we can access for the purposes of healing and growing.

When we become aware of the unconscious, self-limiting beliefs that compel us to act-out and/or act-in in ways that don’t serve us, we can then strive to turn those beliefs entirely around. In turn, we can then make conscious choices to behave in ways that are in alignment with our new belief system.

*Note: These maladaptive, self-limiting beliefs generally relate to the following 3 themes: Safety, Lovability, and Worth.

Pie-chart of the mind as it pertains to EMDR:

During the EMDR process, the alternating bilateral stimulation to the hemispheres of the brain seems to lift the veil that separates our unconscious from the conscious part of our mind. In turn, our conscious mind is given access to the pearls of wisdom shimmering beyond our reach in the dark depths of our unconscious. We can now pool this wisdom from these depths and use it to help us move through the feelings and sensations that we currently experience as a result of a past traumatic life event. We can also use this wisdom to help us change for good the unconscious, self-limiting beliefs we have about ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us.

2) Emotion

Emotion is the movement of energy through our bodies that the mind notices, interprets, names, and tells a story about. When triggered emotionally, the hypothalamus in the brain pumps molecules down into the body and in turn the body gets excited, pissed off, stirred up, etc. The body reacts, and we then experience all kinds of physical sensations.

The physical sensations are the first things the conscious mind becomes aware of. The conscious mind then interprets these sensations and this movement of energy as being emotions, and it proceeds to give them a name. The 4 most common names given to emotions fall under the following 4 categories: Mad, Sad, Glad, and Fear.

Emotion as it pertains to EMDR

A) As I mentioned earlier, EMDR is essentially a mind/body free association. It can be helpful to know that the sensations we feel in our bodies signal that energy is moving. The bilateral stimulation that accompanies the EMDR process tends to facilitate this movement of energy. More energy moving throughout our bodies gives us more opportunities to track it, and this type of mindfulness causes it to lose its charge. As a result, the unpleasant physical sensations that are stored in our Limbic System after a traumatic event get flushed out of our bodies for good.

*Note: It is helpful to not judge these feelings and sensations, but rather to allow for them to come and go, ebb and flow, wax and wane, rise and fall, just as they wish.

3) How the Brain Stores Trauma

The human brain has many parts to it. Two separate parts of the human brain that are worth knowing about for the purposes of understanding how EMDR works is the Neo-Cortex and the Limbic system.

The Neo-Cortex is the most recently evolved part of the human brain. It is the rational part of the human brain that enables us to problem solve, think logically, etc.

The Limbic System is a far more primitive part of our brain. It happens to be well connected (unlike the Neo-Cortex or “rational brain”) to what we are sensing, feeling, and experiencing in our bodies. It is so primitive, in fact, that it has little sense for the passage of time.

In the Limbic system, the Amygdale stores snapshots and/or slow-motion videotapes of unique and novel life experiences. These experiences can be pleasant, but more often than not they tend to capture moments in time that are acute and/or traumatizing.

Whereas the Amygdale files away the snapshots and/or slow-motion videotapes, the Hippocampus (along with other parts of the Limbic System) stores the emotional charge and/or energy that coincided with the original trauma. When a sensory cue triggers in us the memory of a traumatic event, we are confronted again with the Amygdale’s snapshot/slow motion video that has captured that unsettling moment in time.

When this happens, the Hippocampus discharges the unpleasant feelings and sensations associated with that event. Because our Limbic System is unaware of the passage of time, we feel as though that experience is happening to us all over again in the here and now.

This re-experiencing of old traumas takes place a lot, for example, with soldiers who return from war. They get triggered time and again by sounds and other sensory cues that leave them feeling as though they’re still in grave danger on some battlefield thousands of miles away. Images, flashbacks, and disturbing memories along with unpleasant feelings and sensations overcome them.

While these soldiers may understand rationally that they are no longer in the midst of battle, their Limbic System lacks the presence of mind to assimilate this Neo-Cortical information.

How the Brain stores Trauma as it pertains to EMDR

It has become evident after many case studies that the alternating bilateral stimulation that takes place during the EMDR process helps to create new ways for the thinking, “rational brain” (Neo-Cortex), to talk to the “emotional brain”(Limbic System). This more highly evolved part of the brain brings a new wisdom, maturity, and enlightened perspective around the traumatic event, and because it is communicating far better with its primitive counterpart, the wisdom it offers has a calming effect on it and on our bodies as well. In turn, the emotional charge associated with the original trauma fades.

4) Resources (A Safe Place where you can go to, and protective and/or nurturing figures you can turn to)

A “Safe Place” is a sanctuary in your mind’s eye where you can go when you are feeling overwhelmed with emotion, troubled by unpleasant sensations in your body, and/or burdened by intrusive thoughts and unsettling images entering your mind. The safe place where you take yourself to can be somewhere that you’ve already been to in your life, or it can be a place where you’ve always wanted to visit. It can even be a place that you’ve seen in a movie, a magazine, a children’s book, a cartoon, etc.

It can be particularly helpful for you to envision yourself feeling safe, calm, protected, nurtured, and/or empowered there. It may also be helpful for you to imagine nurturing and/or protective figures (known as “resources”) in your life joining you in that safe place, for the purposes of offering you comfort, support, counsel, and love.

These nurturing and/or protective resources can be a favorite pet animal of yours, God, Jesus, the Universe, Mom, Dad, a shaman, a favorite teacher you once had, an action hero, friends, family, wild animals, a mythological figure, a Walt Disney character, etc. It can also be very helpful for you to turn to your “Adult Self” and use him or her as a resource.

It is very likely that when you were traumatized as a child, you felt powerless over your circumstances, exceedingly vulnerable, and helpless to do anything about it. Your “Adult Self”, however, has a lot more life experience under his belt, and he is able to look back at traumatic events in your childhood with more objectivity, wisdom, and insight than the child in you can. With this in mind, it can be very helpful for your Inner Child to call upon your “Adult Self” when he or she is feeling scared, helpless, frozen, and/or out of control. Have him or her seek out your Adult Self’s love, compassion, forgiveness, and wisdom.

Safe Place as it pertains to EMDR

During EMDR you may experience unpleasant body sensations and feelings, and/or you may feel burdened by troubling thoughts or images that come to your mind. If the level of disturbance that you feel is greater than a 7 on a scale of 1-10, it may be helpful for you to stop the EMDR process and take yourself to your safe place. When you are there, take deep breaths, take in the soothing sounds and beautiful scenery that surrounds you there, and turn to your nurturing and protective resources for warmth, love, guidance, wisdom, and comfort.

Resources (protective and nurturing figures) as they pertain to EMDR

As I said before, it can be very helpful for you to turn to your nurturing and protective resources when you could use some comfort, guidance, and support while spending time in your “Safe Place.” Also, it can be very helpful to rely on your resources for strength and courage when you are revisiting an old trauma, and you have chosen to address the very people that victimized you back then.

For example, if you’ve gone back in time and see yourself being mistreated by your abusive Mother, you can call upon one of your resources to stand by your side. You can even ask that nurturing and/or protective figure to hold your hand or hug you, or you can have them confront your abusive Mother on your behalf. Having done this, you may come away from the scene that you’ve re-created believing differently about yourself, your relationships, and the world.

Rather than believe, for instance, that you’re unable to protect yourself in your relationships and that your’e unsafe in the world, you may come to believe instead, “I can protect myself” and/or “I am safe and sound.”

*It is important to note that when we revisit old traumatic memories with fresh eyes, an adult’s wisdom, and protective and nurturing figures at our beck and call, we can change our perspective on what took once place. With the help of bilateral stimulation, and the wisdom and resources shared between the conscious mind and the emotional mind (Limbic system), the emotional charge dissipates.

Image taken from thestonescollasaldream.blogspot.com

Image taken from thestonescollasaldream.blogspot.com

EMDR PROCESS

1) Keep your eyes open or closed.

2) Float back in time to where and when the original trauma took place in your life. (This is known as the Target Memory). Imagine the most disturbing part of that moment in time. (This is known as the Original Picture). Allow yourself to feel the feelings and body sensations as if that moment in time is happening to you right now. Please be sure to report back to me what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, and smelling in the present tense.

3) Enter into a mind/body free association. Do not try to make anything happen or try to control anything. Just go with it.

4) If you want to stop the bilateral stimulation before I stop it, please let me know. If I stop the bilateral stimulation too soon, and you would like it to continue, kindly ask me to turn the bilateral stimulation back on.

5) I will periodically ask you how disturbing or distressing the old memory is to you in the present moment, out of 10, 1 being the least disturbing, and 10 being the most disturbing. Ideally, after going through the old memory a few times, you will say that you are at a Zero, and that there is no emotional charge left.

6) When you are at a Zero, I will ask you what you believe now about yourself, relationships, and/or the world around you. We’ll be looking for a change that comes from you. Then we’ll go back to the original picture and target memory one last time, with your new belief in tow.

7) If you are stuck, looping, and/or nothing is happening while you’re revisiting the original picture and target memory, we’ll get active. I may ask you to call upon your resources, or I may ask you a few questions that may help free you from your “stuck” place. If you’d like to, feel free to change the scene in ways that help you to feel more empowered. For example, turn your tyrannical father into a midget, and then imagine yourself as a giant having your way with him. Better yet, have Superman appear out of nowhere and watch him whisk your father away to another world.

It is important for you to remember during the EMDR process that you are the producer, the director, the script writer, the set designer, and the casting agent. You can manipulate that old scene in any way that you see fit. In addition, you can call upon any and all resources that you think will help you to face old fears and work through old traumas.
During EMDR, you may find that new resources that you hadn’t thought of before spontaneously appear. This is because you have greater access to the creativity and resourcefulness in your unconscious. This spontaneous, natural, effortless rising up of resources, wisdom, and healing from the unconscious is one of the things that EMDR facilitates.

8 ) If you’re feeling overwhelmed, kindly let me know, and then go to your safe place. I will be more than happy to help guide you there.

9) Sometimes the original picture and target memory will lead you down other paths, or memory networks. You and I will decide together if it’s worthwhile to explore these new territories. We want to be careful not to move in too many different directions at once, thereby opening up a Pandora’s Box. If we do decide to explore other memory networks, we must always come back to our original picture and complete our work there, in order to get the resolution we’re looking for.

10) Sometimes after an EMDR session, cognitive processing may continue and additional insight and awareness may rise up. They may be revealed in your dreams, for example. It is important to be gentle with yourself, and treat yourself with extra good care.

If you are feeling overwhelmed for any reason, consider going to your Safe Place. If you are still feeling upset, feel free to call me and we can spend a few minutes on the phone together.

WHAT’S YOUR SELF IMAGE?

Anxiety and Depression: Its Symptoms and Treatments

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john boesky marriage and family therapist anxiety and depressionAnxiety and Depression affect millions of Americans each year. These two illnesses manifest themselves differently in terms of the degree of severity and the type of symptoms. In this article, I will touch upon the most common anxiety disorders; Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder. In addition, I will address one of the most formidable mood disorders, Major Depressive Disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), afflicts more than five million adult Americans each year. While the exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, a person’s biochemistry, family history, psychological and spiritual profile all seem to contribute to the development of anxiety.

Twice as many women than men suffer from this disorder, which often develops gradually in adolescence, but can begin in adulthood as well. It is characterized by excessive, exaggerated, and disproportionate anxiety and worry about everyday life events. To GAD sufferers, the proverbial glass is always half empty. They anticipate the worst even when there is reason to expect the best. They always expect disaster, and life becomes a perpetual state of worry, fear, and dread, which interferes with daily activities and relationships.

GAD affects the way a person thinks, but may also manifest in physical symptoms, including restlessness, muscle tension, headaches, nausea, trembling, sweating, difficulty concentrating, and being easily startled.

Biological causes can be attributed to genetics and a person’s brain chemistry. Sufferers often have an imbalance of neurotransmitters, which are chemical “messengers” that help move information from nerve cell to nerve cell. When out of balance, these “messengers” cannot travel through the brain properly, which can lead to anxiety.

Psychological and social causes are generally the result of life experiences which may result in feeling out of control. Some individuals may suffer from an unresolved trauma or abuse. Financial constraints can also trigger GAD which results in a fear that one’s material needs won’t be met. Moreover, it may be the result of one’s own unrelenting perfectionism, or perpetual fear of rejection and abandonment. It can result from a living situation where one is being constantly put down, ridiculed, or made to feel ashamed. A person may experience perpetual fear for their own safety.

john boesky marriage and family therapist anxiety and depressionSpiritual causes that may lead to GAD are more existential in nature. Many people feel unsupported in their lives. They don’t feel grounded, and feel as though they are drifting aimlessly. These individuals often feel as though their life has no real purpose and their existence has no meaning.

Psychotherapy effectively treats the symptoms of GAD by addressing the psychological, social, and spiritual variables that trigger it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in particular, challenges people to confront the unconscious thoughts that often trigger anxiety, thoughts that are often distorted in nature. Therapy challenges these cognitive distortions, and counters them with more rational, reality based thoughts. Core beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the world are challenged and transformed, which in turn strengthens self-esteem and empowers people. One’s sense of helplessness and powerlessness, which often induces anxiety, largely diminishes. Finally, psychotherapy encourages individuals to stop engaging in self-defeating behavior that lead to troublesome feelings.

Medications used to treat GAD include Benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium and the newer antidepressants, SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Paxil and Effexor XR. These medications balance the neurotransmitters in the brain. When the brain is deficient in neurotransmitters, these newer antidepressants can help replenish the chemical messengers in the brain.

Panic Disorder is defined as recurring panic attacks or episodes of intense fear and afflicts three to six million Americans. Fear and anxiety are normal reactions to stressful events in our lives. Panic Disorder, however, strikes without reason or warning, and the fear response is out of proportion to an often non-threatening situation. Over time, an individual develops a constant fear of having another attack, which can lead to avoidance of places and situations, ultimately affecting the general quality of life.

Symptoms of a panic attack can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, choking or smothering sensations, dizziness or feeling faint, trembling and shaking, sweating, nausea, chills or hot flashes, and tingling or numbness. There is often a feeling that you are losing control or are about to die. Fortunately, panic attacks tend to be brief, generally lasting about ten minutes. Like GAD, the exact cause of Panic Disorder is unclear, however, studies have shown that the same set of biochemistry, family history, and psychological factors bring on this disorder. Social or environmental factors include stressful life events and major life transitions, such as the death of a loved one. In addition, substance abuse has been a correlative to panic disorder.

Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy works on the theory that panic attacks are basically a learned response to something the patient fears. Therapy focuses on helping patients “unlearn” the physical reactions. A therapist might suggest breathing exercises or medication that can help prevent the hyperventilation that often occurs during a panic attack. Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanaz and Klonapin and anti-depressants like Paxil or Zolft have been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of Panic Disorder. With this combination of therapy and medication, at least 70 percent of people can reduce or completely prevent future panic attacks. Many people feel substantial relief in just weeks.

Both of these anxiety disorders are often accompanied by depression which is a serious medical illness, much like diabetes or heart disease. It is estimated that 19 million Americans suffer from depression each year. If left untreated, depression can worsen symptoms or other illnesses, lead to disability and increase the risk of suicide. Untreated or improperly treated depression is the number one cause of suicide in the United States. Conversely, proper treatment relieves symptoms in most depressed patients.

The shades of depression are many, ranging from mild depression (Dysthymia) to Major Depressive Disorder. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socio-economic status can suffer from this very serious disorder.

The most common symptoms associated with Major Depressive Disorder are trouble sleeping, loss of interest in activities, weight loss or gain, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, or preoccupation with death or suicide. The risk factors that lead to depression include a deficiency of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. Family history of mood disorders, chronic health problems, divorce, and occupational stress can bring on depression. Experts estimate that women experience depression twice as often as men. Over the course of a lifetime, nearly one in four women will experience a major depressive episode. Women are more likely to act in, and experience guilt, weight gain, eating disorders, and increased sleep, while men tend to act out their unrecognized and denied feelings of depression. They are apt to experience deep seeded feelings of shame for having fallen prey to the disease. They experience anger and hostility toward others or numb their feelings with alcohol or drugs.

john boesky marriage and family therapist anxiety and depressionWhile depression is increasingly more common, only a small percentage of individuals will seek help. This is a tragedy, since with proper treatment, four out of five patients will improve. Even still, only one in five women suffering from depression will get the treatment they need. Men often worry that depression is a sign of personal weakness or a character flaw and choose to “tough it out.” Without treatment, depression can last for weeks, months or years.

Effective treatment for depression, much like anxiety, is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. There are three classes of anti-depressants: MAOI inhibitors, trycyclic anti-depressants, and SSRI. All three classes of medication work to correct the imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. SSRI’s are prescribed most often because they have fewer side effects.

Psychotherapy can take place in individual or group sessions. As in the case with anxiety, psychotherapy targets the psychological, social, and spiritual variables that lead to depression. It is aimed at helping a person develop new ways to identify and cope with their depression.

Many of the psychological and social issues leading to depression center around grief and loss. This includes not only the loss of others, but can be the loss of oneself. People often choose to abandon parts of their true selves to ensure survival. Some may abandon their true nature by learning how to take care of others, while some become helpless, self-effacing, and apologetic. Others will become inflated, grandiose, and narcissistic. While these adaptations may ensure self-preservation, it can bring on feelings of loss, grief, and ultimately, depression.

Depressed individuals often have low self-esteem and may believe they are unlovable and inadequate. While these individuals already feel unlovable they are likely to seek out negative experiences that will only reinforce these beliefs. The unlovable woman, for example, will seek out a partner who is abusive and degrading. That way her experience in this relationship will reassure her that she is right to believe that she is indeed unlovable. After all, if she was lovable, her partner wouldn’t find reasons to degrade her.

As is the case with anxiety, a spiritual deficit can lead to depression. In our culture there seems to be a one-sided pursuit for enlightenment, to the point of exclusion of the darkness. Spirituality that is understood in its appreciation of psychological opposites is called “grounded” spirituality. It is my belief that “ungrounded” spirituality can lead to self-denial and depression, while “grounded” spirituality leads to self-acceptance, self-compassion, and a genuine sense of well-being.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps a person counteract negative core beliefs and find new adaptive coping techniques, which help them reclaim their authentic self. Ultimately their depression lifts as their self-esteem rises, and feelings of hope and optimism settle into their heart and mind.

In conclusion, I want to strongly emphasize that while anxiety and depression are illnesses that are almost as pervasive in our culture as the common cold, both can be treated successfully. The combination of medication and psychotherapy can effectively target the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual variables that often bring on troubling states of mind and body. Individuals who suffer from anxiety and/or depression stand an excellent chance of not only overcoming these illnesses, but moving on to experience inner peace and deep joy, while leading productive and fulfilling lives.