Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Calming the Mind (literally)

Dear Mind:

When it pertains to emotions, I agree with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche-there are times when I don’t know how to relate to your emotions very well, particularly when they are intense. For me, I feel mostly out of control when it has to do with a certain level of anger. For others I know, it may be sadness, loneliness, panic, or anxiety. I have even come across people in whom that feeling could be an extremely low level of energy and motivation. Trungpa writes, “This seems to be the point where emotions become painful, because you are not quite certain what your relationship to your emotions is. There is tremendous conflict, a feeling that you are being overpowered by your emotions, that you are losing your basic identity, your center of command. So the pain of emotion comes from this conflict; the relationship is always ambivalent.”[1]
Meanwhile, while helping myself and clients with this particular issue-what to do with intense feelings, I was reminded while reading Francine Shapiro’s book, Getting Past Your past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques From EMDR Therapy,[2] that we have to practice these calming strategies during more peaceful moments, before being overwhelmed by our feelings. The more we practice, the better prepared we will be for emotional upheaval. And even better, practicing our Relaxation Response can likely prevent emotional hijacking.
Doctor Shapiro suggests a few calming techniques which I know from experience can be very helpful:
·       Safe Place Technique-use an image of a positive, peaceful, relaxing place where you can feel safe, such as the beach, or just off the trail in the woods.

·       Next, practice connecting the associated relaxing feelings in your body to a single -feeling word such as “peaceful” or “relaxed”, that describes the scene and the calm feeling in your body. 

·       Notice your relaxed breathing that comes with this calming experience and practice linking it to the scene. Dr. Shapiro calls this the “Breathing Shift Technique.” 
This can all be reinforced with some gentle bilateral sensory stimulation and within psychotherapy sessions, can be greatly reinforced with EMDR Resource Installation. 

[1] Trungpa, Chogyam (2003). The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa: Volume 3-The Myth of Freedom, Shambhala Press, p. 229.
[2] Schapiro, Francine (2013). Getting Past Your past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques From EMDR Therapy. Rodale Books.