Tag Archives: life

just a dull ache

Constant. Chronic. A dull, dull ache in my chest. In my heart. In my stomach.

So tired of crying over you.

So tired of loving you.

So tired of you loving me back but choosing a different life.

_____

There is not a soul in this world that would not be fine without me.

Tough pill to swallow.

I am no one’s person.

I would have thought I was, to several people, but everyone chooses a different life. One without me. Every single person.

_____

I’m honestly not sure how you can walk away and say you’d be upset if something happened to me. That doesn’t make sense. How would it actually affect you if you have chosen to walk away when I’m alive?

I don’t understand.

Every. Single. Person.

_____

A dull, dull ache that stabs sometimes. Constant. Chronic.

Overwhelming.

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Aha! Moments

Neuroscience is now suggesting that in order to change recurring emotional and behavioral patterns, we can’t just talk about change at the cognitive level, we have to evoke an emotional experience that changes patterns in the emotional regions of the brain. Creating these emotional experiences not only triggers profound transformation, but it can also be fun and uplifting for both you and your clients.

Okay, heads up: this entire post is a re-blog from PESIinc., a company that provides continuing education for a variety of professions. I kind of love them, even when they spam me four thousand times a day with courses I might like to take.

10 Ways to Help Stuck Clients Move Forward

posted Nov 24, 2015.

“I know it’s irrational, but I can’t stop the extreme anxiety I feel around people because I’m a 6’3” tall woman and fear they’ll think I’m a freak,” said Natalie, a 35-year old nurse. Though she was comfortable working with patients, was happily married, and had two very close friends, she couldn’t shake the anxiety she felt around colleagues and large groups of people.

“My last therapist taught me relaxation exercises, how to talk back to my negative thoughts, and encouraged me to get out socially with small groups,” Natalie added. “But none of that seems to work. The anxiety just hijacks my brain.”

She’s right. Sometimes, no matter how we try to outsmart it, our emotional brains are primed to override the rational mind with patterns that persist until we intervene with something this feeling brain can understand: a compelling emotional experience that completely changes how we feel, not just how we think.

Orchestrating such felt experiences with your clients is easier than you think. In this post, I’ll share 10 strategies from my book, “The Therapeutic ‘Aha!’” that you can use to engage the emotional brain and help stuck clients move forward.

Strategy #1: Align, Lift, and Lead

Most of us were taught to validate our client’s feelings. However, if you spend too long merely validating your client’s pain, it can amplify negative feelings in the emotional brain. To help your client access positive states of mind, you have to find a way to lift and lead them emotionally. To make this transition, I recommend a language pattern that I call “Align, Lift, and Lead.”

You align with the client by reflecting your understanding of the problem, and then you lift the client by affirming her strengths, and lead her by suggesting her desired response to the situation. Here is how I used this language pattern with Natalie:

 “Natalie, I understand that you’ve had these experiences where you’ve not felt comfortable around large groups of people because you’ve not been sure how they would react to your height. Being a nurse, you’re obviously an empathic person and are probably pretty good at helping people feel at ease. I’m seeing you using these people skills in other social situations, too, realizing that a person’s reaction just tells you something about them, and you can sense how to put them at ease.”

Reframing her problem in this way helped Natalie feel more socially competent and encouraged.

Strategy #2: Visualize the Desired Response

Because the emotional brain learns better through metaphor and imagery than it does through words, another strategy you can use is to have your client visualize her desired response. I suggested Natalie visualize herself successfully navigating a social situation and imagine feeling curious, secure, and calm. Then, I asked her to imagine something in nature that could represent her mind working this way. Natalie smiled and said, “Muir Woods with the redwood trees.” Visualizing the peacefulness of the tall trees in this forest helped her feel calmer and gave her a sense of belonging.

Strategy #3: Identify Inspiring Goals

Instead of setting dry, lifeless goals like, “Client will practice relaxation skills and talk to two new people per week,” explore potential goals that have real value and meaning for your client.

When I explored inspiring goals with Natalie, she began talking about her desire to have lunch with a group of colleagues. They’d been inviting her to lunch for several weeks, and she liked the idea of connecting with fellow nurses. Targeting a small group of people she wanted to be around felt more intriguing and doable to her and less like a task.

Strategy #4: Locate the Root of an Emotional Conflict

Even though Natalie felt encouraged by this goal, she still felt a knot in her stomach at the thought of going out to lunch with these colleagues. I asked Natalie to follow the sensations in her stomach back to the first time she could remember having a similar feeling. Her eyes widened as she recalled being teased during lunchtime in middle school by a group of kids who called her names like “Amazon” and “Sasquatch.”

She had coped by avoiding the school cafeteria and doing her homework in the library during lunch. As a result, she avoided her bullying classmates and was praised by her teachers for being studious. Natalie gasped as she realized she was doing the same thing at her job­—skipping lunch with peers to avoid fears of being ridiculed and getting praised by her boss for being so dedicated.

Once Natalie made this connection, she understood her emotional brain had simply continued the pattern because it had been adaptive for her in the past.

Strategy #5: Reverse Traumatic Memories

Natalie was excited to have made this connection, but just having cognitive insight into the cause of her social anxiety didn’t change it. In fact, recent neuroscience discoveries have shown us that in order for the emotional brain to change a response that was once adaptive, we have to recall the old memory while eliciting a new experience that invalidates the beliefs that got attached to the disturbing memory.

Strategy #6: Change Beliefs With Imagery and Metaphor

To change Natalie’s negative self-concept, we revisited her imagery of the redwood tree­—tall, beautiful, and majestic. I suggested she imagine the smaller trees laughing at the redwoods for being so tall and see the absurdity of it. Imagining this scene made Natalie laugh and realize every tree had its natural place in the world, and so did she.

Strategy # 7: Conjure Up Compelling Stories

Another way you can reverse the meaning of a traumatic event is to have your client finish her story with a new ending. For instance, she can finish it with a later moment in her life when she was out of danger, in a better situation, or felt competent or empowered.

The first time Natalie told her story about being bullied at school, she ended the story with an incident where a boy asked her to dance, then brought out a chair to the dance floor and stood on it so he could be as tall as she was. Everyone laughed, which made Natalie cry.

When I prompted her to consider a new ending to this story, she said, “Well I’ve been happily married for 15 years, and my husband said he was attracted to me because I was tall. He thought I looked like a graceful dancer.” She smiled and realized that ending her story this way suddenly caused the experiences she had with the boys in her youth to seem trivial.

Strategy #8: Prime With Play and Humor

Using play and humor are also great ways to dissipate anxiety and trigger new perspectives on events. Natalie and I acted out a role-play in which I let her play a woman with a snobby attitude teasing her while I played Natalie. She began the role-play by wrinkling her nose and saying,

“Who invited you to lunch with us, Amazon lady?”

I answered by simply saying, “Linda invited me.”

“Well I hope you don’t think I can be seen walking next to you, Sasquatch,” Natalie continued. And you should really consider doing something different with your hair.”

I smiled and replied, “Oh, what a shame. I fixed my hair this way just for you.”

Natalie laughed and we continued the role-play for a few more minutes. Letting Natalie play the character she feared reduced her anxiety because she realized how insecure a person would have to be to make such insensitive comments.

Strategy #9: Rouse With Rhythm and Music

Music can influence mood and neurochemistry, and it can entrain the brain to calmer states. One activity many clients enjoy is creating a playlist of tunes that evoke desired responses. Natalie started her playlist with “Creep” by Radiohead, which reflected her fears of being a social reject. Then we added “Everyday People,” by Sly and the Family Stone, which was more upbeat and affirmed that humans come in different colors, shapes, and sizes. Natalie ended her playlist with “Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down,” by Mary J. Blige, which helped her feel empowered.

Strategy #10: Integrate Mindful Movement

Movement can also engender desired states of mind. Dancing to her playlist helped Natalie shake off anticipatory anxiety, but I also suggested she could place her hand on her abdomen to calm her stomach and invoke a sense of self-compassion. She practiced this gesture while she slowed her breathing and imagined the beautiful redwood trees. Over the next several weeks, Natalie reported that her anxiety completely dissipated and she was able to comfortably enjoy lunch with her co-workers and other social situations.

Closing Thoughts

Neuroscience is now suggesting that in order to change recurring emotional and behavioral patterns, we can’t just talk about change at the cognitive level, we have to evoke an emotional experience that changes patterns in the emotional regions of the brain. Creating these emotional experiences not only triggers profound transformation, but it can also be fun and uplifting for both you and your clients.

I hope this post has given you ideas for new techniques you can use, and that it leads to many “Aha!” moments for you and your clients.

Courtney Armstrong, LPC, MHSP, is a licensed professional counselor in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the author of “The Therapeutic ‘Aha!’: 10 Strategies for Getting Your Clients Unstuck.” She also offers training and free resources for therapists at her website: www.courtneyarmstrong.net.

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faking it.

When we have a skill or talent that has come naturally we tend to discount its value.

Why is that? Well, we often hesitate to believe that what’s natural, maybe even easy for us, can offer any value to the world. In fact, the very act of being really good at something can lead us to discount its value.

Great article on the Impostor Syndrome in the NY Times. The way I’ve always dealt with – the way I tell all of my friends/clients/patients to deal with it – is that literally everyone feels this way. Everyone I know who isn’t a sociopath feels like they are faking it. So what is even the point of feeling that way? No one is looking to find you out. Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t make it less valuable. And lastly, as always, what’s the worst that could happen?

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no more memories.

Forgot my real journal.

Going up on the lamotrigine. Really pumped about it, only not that pumped b/c I’m super down.

Super.

I hate this time of year. Obviously I think we’ve caught on to that. Waiting on the upswing.

All of my best memories are with you.

^^^^Statements that are false. But you know when you’re sad and lonely how you can only think of one thing? That’s where I am.

“I want you to see it before anyone else.”

Why? Because you love me? Because you know I’ll be upset otherwise? Because old time’s sake?

I want to see it before anyone else. But I want it to be for me.

It’s not for me, is it?

I always hear the lyrics first. You? What do you hear?

I haven’t been hungry or full in a month or more. I eat when I shake, or when I realize I took meds without food and feel nauseated. It’s like my stomach went numb.

I talk about money too much. Fixated.

Selfish.

Things are terrible in the world and I am selfish.

All of my best memories are done. I feel like I haven’t made a memory in a year. Isn’t that weird? All of the memorable things I’ve done this year and I feel like I can’t remember them.

I barely remember anything. Cannot get up for work. Cannot work. But I love my work. But I’m not doing any work.

I need new music. The world needs new music. I cannot write music.

Cannot cannot cannot.

I think of things that I cannot do all day every day. Because I could have done them, if I’d learned or worked hard.

Even the things I could do, I can’t do anymore.

Who am I, if not a runner, or a dancer, or an actor, or a dog trainer, or the one who dresses nice and always look good for work?

Who even am I.

Sorry for this irrelevant stream of consciousness.

Someone write it in a song, because I cannot.

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Doing it Wrong

Last night I had a total breakdown. It was a long time coming, but I’ve been super up and down the past couple of weeks (as if you couldn’t tell) and last night I just lost it.

I realized that for the past 6-8 months, possibly more, possibly the past 5 years…oh geez, possibly the past TEN years, I have been investing in the wrong things. Okay let’s stop with the global look at disappointing things in my life and just talk about the past few months.

My friend who called off her wedding and had an eating disorder return. I invested so many tears, so many hours of counseling, only for her to suddenly decide everything is fine and now the wedding is back on. I can’t even talk to her right now because I have so little respect for what she is doing to her fiance. I haven’t heard from her since the text that said “thanks for being my friend, the wedding is back on.”

My friend who sat on my couch suicidal for a week, for whom I missed days of work and arranged inpatient care and spoke with her family and cried with for days…months. She told me to go fuck myself once she started feeling better. I mean, borderlines will be borderline, but still.

My friend who called me hyperventilating five weeks before her wedding. My best friend, with whom I’d spoken nearly every day for the past eight months, who visits regularly and who is, did I mention, my best friend. The one for whom I worried so much that I didn’t sleep for days and had heart palpitations over and over. I haven’t heard from her since her wedding day, the one where I stood by her knowing that she meant none of the promises she made. I can’t decide if I did something wrong or if she’s ashamed. I’m obsessing nearly every minute over the week that I was with her and what I could have done so wrong for her to go a month without reaching out to me, or answering my texts and calls.

My doctor.

My friend that can’t be my friend.

My ex that I love who loves me.

I tended a lot of concrete that I thought was soil. And I’m getting the blooms one would expect from such pointless toil. I realize that this is a common problem when you’re everyone’s social worker…but man. It sucks.

Glad to finally realize why I’ve been so upset recently. I’ve known that I felt abandoned. I hadn’t realized how used I feel.

Grateful for some patients who are doing much better today. I may owe my alma mater a million dollars, but for now it seems like the only worthy investment I’ve made.

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New music Wednesday.

So frustrating when you’re medicated out of your creativity and someone writes your life in a song. Except I love it. Thank you iTunes radio for this.

Couldn’t stay with a man who would settle for nothing more than love
Wasn’t part of her plan, tied to what she’d grown tired of
She cried over and over, not knowing what words would move him on
He cried over and over, knowing the girl he loved was gone

She said, “I can’t stay here, I haven’t got the time.
Life goes by, dear, I won’t be left behind
And someday, I’ll reach the place where I won’t have to run;
There, I won’t be afraid to say that I am done.”

Couldn’t give her a reason more to stay
Every bit of her heart the girl grew more and more afraid
Couldn’t give her the patience or a guide
Every bit of her heart she felt another second die

I heard her shout, “I’d get out, let me out, get me out!
And someday, I’ll reach the place where I won’t have to run;
There, I won’t be afraid to say that I am done.”

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a quote from a blog from a blog

“This morning I’m wondering what my life would be like–what I would be like–if I could appreciate everything as fully as I am these days. If I lived each season as I’m living this one, with the idea that it is my last one here, in this place, this time, with these people.

Sounds sort of grim and heart-breaking, but I’m seeing that it is just the opposite. In this time of change and loss and possibility, I feel my heart swelling, and mending. Yes, there is a sadness permeating all the joy of these days, but I’m seeing that it is always better to feel grief from loss than from emptiness.”

Wanting this perspective kthx.

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Livejournal Question of the Day

“We all know the saying, “it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” But do you believe in that? If you knew it was going to end badly, with your heart broken, would you avoid the relationship to begin with?”

Yep.

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Yesterday was weird.

An ex texted me out of nowhere to let me know his wife cheated on him.

A friend made a move he never should have tried.

Another ex got jealous.

And a friend broke up with me. Via email. And it hurts.

 

Grateful he didn’t “ghost” like I have so many times to so many others. But man. My heart hurts.

 

Friendship. It’s weird.

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how to.

“But I don’t want to be alone,” we often exclaim. Be alone. Eat alone, take yourself on dates, sleep alone. In the midst of this you will learn about yourself. You will grow, you will figure out what inspires you, you will curate your own dreams, your own beliefs, your own stunning clarity, and when you do meet the person who makes your cells dance, you will be sure of it, because you are sure of yourself. Wait for it. Please, I urge you to wait for it, to fight for it, to make an effort for it if you have already found it, because it is the most beautiful thing your heart will experience.

From Thought Catalog.

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