When unpleasant things happen, it is so very tempting and almost second nature for us to blame the tangible, the external circumstances, others, malfunctioning things. Unfortunately, blaming, revenge, avoidance, ignoring, and telling ourselves to just forget about it and move on are rarely effective strategies for long term peace and increasing joy. The slippery stuff will not be ignored… it will seep out, bubble up, and get in the way when you least expect it. Even when we work at compartmentalizing, locking it up, burying, freezing the slippery stuff… It. Is. Still. There. Believing we can effectively deal with all the slippery stuff by compartmentalizing and locking it up only serves to use up space and energy we could otherwise put toward more joyful, lighthearted, playful activities and interactions. Okay fine, so how DO we deal effectively with this slippery unpleasant gunk?
Often, our slippery internal experiences move fast and we avoid or are just not used to taking time to internally reflect, observe and name what is going on inside of ourselves. Merely giving the internal experience our awareness opens us to the possibility of choosing a more pleasant response. Yes, it is easier to point at the external circumstances as the problem. But here’s the deal… the actual problem is not out there. It’s not the car or the weather, school or the flu, the traffic cop or the war in Iraq. That is just stuff that happens all the time. No matter what or who we try to manipulate and modify in the world, we rarely experience the internal relief, joy, and peace we deeply want.
THE SECRET: It’s our REACTION to those everyday bothersome, annoying, malfunctioning, rude, ignorant, maddening things… Our reaction is the fast, slippery stuff. Zippy negative thoughts are going to repeat and beg our attention. Those thoughts are capable of churning up uncomfortable feelings which the body can amplify for discomfort resulting in headaches, stomach pain, tears, sore throat, increased blood pressure, decreased intake of oxygen, nausea, back pain, and a host of other possible signs that something unpleasant is happening INSIDE us.
Yes, yes… but HOW do we deal with the reactions, the slippery stuff? Many of us choose to distract away from it. Binge eating, getting intoxicated, shopping, gossiping, overworking, watching porn, gambling, overexercising, sleeping, getting stoned and so forth all have their charms. However, distractions have proven to be only temporary measures and they often have drawbacks which can increase the slippery gunk we want to ditch. Oh, and distractions don’t actually DO anything to reduce the slippery stuff. Nope, the uncomfortable experiences stay with us, trailing behind like lumps of smelly crap in our pants until we stop and consciously, courageously face and resolve the thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
This is where working with a therapist can be a big help.
In a therapeutic environment, you get the opportunity to slow things down and take the time to really look at what’s going on inside. What ARE the feelings? What ARE the thoughts? What unpleasant sensations is your body using to get your attention? As therapist, it is my responsibility to be fully present for you and to create a sacred space for you to do the internal work of transforming your slippery stuff into something useful instead of burdensome. I am trained to assist you in learning how to become deeply present to yourself in each moment so that you are in the most powerful frame of mind to make conscious changes by experimenting with new thoughts, new behaviors, new feelings, new sensations. In therapy, you get to try on doing things differently and decide what actually works for you to resolve all that slippery stuff and transform it from being burdensome to being helpful and valuable in your personal growth.
So, why don’t we just do this slowing down, internal observing, naming, experimenting, and resolving stuff ourselves? Because it’s new and weird and difficult. We don’t have many (or sometimes any) role models in our lives to guide us by their examples. The media makes fun of “soft skills” and “feeling”. Our society is designed to keep us moving right along doing doing doing, fast and faster. Slowing down and stopping is only allowed when we feel exhausted from all the doing or need to sleep. Exhaustion usually translates into things like mindless television viewing, diving into trashy magazines, spending too much money on things we don’t need, or endless surfing the world wide web. Even then, we are externally focused, looking for something to entertain us or distract us until we feel tired enough to sleep.
When you choose to come to therapy, you choose to carve out sacred time and space for yourself and gift yourself with the presence of someone who is committed to BEing there with and for you, caring about your well being. As a therapist, I feel honored to hold the vision of you moving about the world in peace, in joy, using more skills and knowing more options toward being the person you really want to be in relationship to yourself, to others, and to your world.
Are you ready to learn how to effectively handle your slippery stuff? If so, give me a call. I am honored to be of service.