Face your Suffering on your way towards Freedom and Balance | The Effects of Resistance

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Often therapy is a place for people to face their unresolved issues so that they can move forward in their lives with feelings of inner and outer harmony.

Utilizing energy to “just get over it” suggests that there is something… a feeling… a string of thoughts … a felt sensation that is being denied resolution.

From our cultures we often learn that resistance is the ‘right’, ‘stong’, ‘mature’, ‘masculine’ and ‘rational’ thing to do when faced with difficult emotions (or differing opinion, beliefs, perceptions, customs etc.).

Resistance pushes us to view right and wrong dichotomously, it uses our strength for the process of denial, it inhibits our ability to mature towards acceptance, it manipulates our masculine energy to be rigid and less compassionate, and it inhibits our self-control and ability to choose to act in ways we label as rational.

Resistance restrains our freedom as we find ourselves being unconsciously controlled by that which we resist.

Projection – one of the major ways in which resistance affects our actions is projection. When you deny your suffering you are likely to project that suffering onto other people… you are likely to see your unresolved emotions in the faces of those around you. Example: If a person is repressing feeling foolish for trusting an unfaithful partner they might be highly critical of others who have spouses whom they perceive to be ‘flirty’.

Uncontrollable Anger – frightening outbursts of anger that in no way fit the disappointments of the environment are very often the result of unresolved emotions. Difficult experiences can leave us feeling sad, alone, confused, and lost in a meaningless chaos; when these feelings are left unattended to a person may go through their day in a haze of confused loneliness… when a difficulty arises, they react not only to the specific situation, but also to the pain that they carry for denying the emotions that weigh down their shoulders. We all have a threshold of difficult emotions that we can carry… when we are given another emotion when we are already full, we lose control. Energy is used to deny and repress… when we run out of energy some people will fall into a state of mammalian rage, attacking their environment in a misguided attempt to protect themselves from the emotions they no longer hold the strength to deny. Example: a person feels inadequate for being cut from a sports team… they go home and their partner asks if the remembered to stop and get the milk (he did not remember)… the man goes into a frightening tirade about how the wife “makes him feel.”

Disassociation – People will ‘check out’ and there will be an inconsistency in the way that they are reacting to their environment. In a severe state of disassociation a person will not appear to even be awake… they will be lost in their internally created world (somewhat like a lucid dream) so as to avoid the way that the outer world makes them feel. In a moment of severe trauma, disassociation is possibly a useful adaptation… the person unconsciously knows that the experience is too overwhelming to integrate, so they leave their body. When we continue to deny the emotions that we hold, those emotions can persuade us into a disassociated state though there is not anything too severe in the present environment. Overcoming a trauma will help a person to act congruently with their environment. Ex. A disassociated person might be smiling while they are talking about attending their parent’s funeral… they are quite literally emotionally detached from the present moment.

Addiction – The process of resistance takes an immense amount of energy… it is extremely hard work to deny difficult emotions (ironically way more difficult than facing them). People often seek the assistance of an addiction to aid them in their process of denial. Addictions can numb and distract a person from their emotions… this feels especially good as it reduces the amount of energy a person must allocate to the resistance process. Examples: a person will seek out the comforting and nurturing feelings that accompany the consumption of high calorie foods when they are unable to access those feelings from people in the environment. A person will smoke pot to reduce the ruminating thoughts that surface as a result of unattended stress. A person will drink alcohol to forget about feeling hopeless about employment prospects.

Facing your emotions can look different for different people depending on the situation.

At times the held emotions are too confusing or unorganized and a person needs assistance in finding meaning.

Sometimes an emotion simply requires honest expression from the body… at times a person simply needs to cry to no longer be inhibited by a repressed emotion.

As social animals it is very important for us to feel understood and empathized for by another individual… being empathized for takes away feeling lonely, and can dramatically increase felt security.

Acceptance of an emotion emancipates a person.

A person is free to use their energy in the moment as opposed to using energy to repress their past.

A person is free to engage with their environment as it is in the moment as opposed to having the present moment unconsciously colored by unresolved emotions from the past.

To live in the present moment does not mean that you deny your past or offer inauthentic positivity to what you have experienced… to live in the present moment you must courageously accept your past… to look upon it with openness.

To find balance we must offer observance of all that is on the scale.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Existential Recovery – Emotional freedom inherent in the choice of meaning

Quick summary: Most of us believe that the outside world is responsible for our emotions, that our emotional dispositions are externally controlled (ex. he/she or this event etc made me feel this way). I am going to suggest that the meaning that you place onto an occurrence in often what you are emotionally reacting to… I will suggest that you have a freedom to choose your emotional experience as you have a choice in what meaning you place on the occurrences in your life. Continue reading

Guided Visualization for Emotional Resiliency – comforting a younger you

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Quick summary: I will offer a visualization technique that allows for a person to comfort their self so as to reach a resolution for a strong emotion or a ruminating thought that is being carried. Often we carry an emotional reactivity to certain stimuli that is based in part on an unresolved issue that happened earlier in our life. Very often we have the skills, strengths, awareness, or control now that would have helped us to better navigate a difficulty that we experienced in the past. This technique allows for you to imagine your younger self and to help that self towards recovery with the advantageous traits you now embody.

“What do you mean by unresolved Issue?”

  • Are there certain subjects, activities, settings etc that encourage you do become a bit more emotional than what you would call normal?
  • Are there certain scenarios that you play through again and again in your mind?
  • These ruminating thoughts and these heightened emotional states often occur when a person has experienced something that was too difficult for them to handle at the time… the instance is therefore unresolved.

 

This technique can be used by a therapist to help guide a client, or a person can use this technique by himself or herself.

  • I will recommend that you engage in mindfulness practice which will increase your awareness of your emotional, physiological, and cognitive experience.

 

  • Intentional breath work will also calm your physiology in the moment so that you are best able to comfort the younger you. 

 

  • You may also engage in this experience without first engaging in a mindfulness exercise.

 

Technique

 

Note: start small – if you are doing this exercise by yourself remember to start with an instance of suffering which was not overly traumatic. This exercise can be very effective with more severe types of trauma, but it would probably be best for you have supports on hand (do this with a trained professional) if you are going to face a particularly traumatic event.

 

Guided visualization to heal the younger you

Start by sitting in an upright position or lay down… either way do your very best to keep your spine as long and straight as possible.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath… try and focus your attention on the breath as it: enters your nose, brushes past your throat, and begins to fill you chest and abdomen.

Allow an image of your current self to drift in and out of your mind. Pay attention to your strengths and your resiliency… build yourself up without worrying about being modest… what are the best aspects of you? How are you strong? In what ways do you hold control and freedom?

Visualize accomplishments in your life.

Let your mind drift between positive self-growth experiences.

Hold trust in the relationships which have supported you along the way. Imagine those supportive entities giving your all the strength, nurturance, love and support you can hold.

Picture a younger version of you (could be a year could be twenty years)… allow yourself to understand what that younger you is needing.

Let your self visualize a setting that was very difficult for you in your past… notice your environment… pay attention to the details… visualize a younger you in this environment.

Allow a comfortable separation between yourself and the environment that you are viewing. Know that the image that you are currently viewing is 100% under your control… you have a freedom to react as you wish to this imaginary environment. There was a monument when this environment was your reality… in this moment you control that reality.

Look at the younger version of yourself in this environment as if you were watching a movie of a time now past… identify with the character and remember the suffering that the character holds… as you understand and empathize with this younger self it is important to know that you have grown in resiliency and it is not your job to take on the emotions that your younger self is experiencing in your visualization. Offer compassion to your younger self… you did the best that you could.

What is happening to the younger you character… allow yourself to understand his/her pain while staying strong and hopeful.

Now I want you to imagine your current strong, hopeful, resilient, and resourceful self to enter into this image… this visualization. This means that you can now visualize both your current self and your younger self in the same setting. (There are now three versions of you… the observer who is watching the visualization, and a current and younger version of yourself which reside within the visualized setting).

You are now free to let your current visualized self interact and to offer support to your younger visualized self… offer your younger self something that you now know would be of benefit to him/her.

Be the support that your younger self was seeking. This will mean something different to everyone… there is now right or wrong action… offer the support which your intuition is suggesting.

Gently allow your attention to move back to your breath… breath in deeply allowing your abdomen to fully expand… exhale with a gentle sigh and continue this breathing pattern as you so desire… as you notice that your breath has calmed your physiology let your eyes slowly open.

Examples of support that people give to their younger self:

  • a hug

 

  • a verbalized message.

 

  • advice from the future

 

  • reassurance

 

  • an item of symbolic importance

 

  • defense against something in the environment

 

  • simple presence

 

  • love, compassion, and nurturance

 

  • the feeling that the younger you is no longer alone

 

 

Love your self… love the world

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

The Talking Cure for Trauma – holding freedom – you are the lotus

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Quick overview: There are many aspects to the trauma recovery process such as support, empowerment, finding new meaning, and engaging in techniques which help to ‘rewire’ the brain. In this blog I will talk about the benefits of talking to a trusted, supportive and safe person such as a therapist (or to your loved ones or to a group of survivors with the assistance of a therapist). Talking about a traumatic incidence in a safe and supportive setting can free a person to experience repressed emotions (emotions affect us whether we are conscious of their existence or not), to make new meaning of the occurrence, and to become empowered by his/her ability to take control over the subject.

 

* You dictate your own reality through the stories that you tell yourself and others about how you perceive your world.

 

* Traumatic experiences have many effects on a person’s well being… one noteworthy effect is related to oppression and a coinciding feelings of a loss of freedom.

 

* Your freedom to perceive yourself as in control of your destiny, and your emotional and physical reactions can be taken from you after experiences of trauma.

 

* Talking to someone in a supportive setting is a way of taking back your freedom.

 

* Talking about trauma allows you to control the story line … the very same story line which had historically oppressed you.

  • You then take back your right to dictate the meaning of the traumatic occurrence.
  • You can begin to choose how the experience will shape you by controlling the moral or subjective meaning you reach concerning your traumatic story line.
    • You may move from victim to survivor.
    • You may move from oppressed to heroic or courageous.
    • There is power in finding that you have the ability to create your own story… the occurrences that you experienced were perhaps out of your control… but you control the impact that story will have on you and on others.
      • Your story can in fact take power back from the very thing that traumatically exerted its’ oppression on you.

 

Other people hearing your story – this makes your story more true to yourself as it becomes a truth to other people.

 

Truth is not a permanent entity– it is based upon a chosen collective perception – truth is what we have collectively chosen to agree upon.

  • By sharing your story with others you take control and power over your own truth.

The importance of groups – as you are able to share your story with other people who have survived similar traumatic experiences your powers come together to create a network of support.

  • Emotional support coming from empathy and compassion.
  • Existential support coming from listening to the meaning that others have created.
  • Support for the empowerment of your chosen identity.
    • The group will help to allow you the freedom to create your own identity – an identity that is no longer dictated by the trauma.

 

Humans are relational beings – we heal within the compassion, trust and empathy of supportive people.

  • Though techniques differ from one supportive group to the next the truth is that supportive groups themselves are inherently healing… How they are run (what techniques and theories are used) is not a particularly important variable in relation to outcome (assuming that the leader maintains an atmosphere of safety and support).

 

One aspect of therapy which is difficult to understand is why simply talking could have such a profound effect on a person’s perceived well being – as well as a visible effect on the individual’s brain.

  • Talking allows a re-experience of the trauma in a dramatically different context. The brain can then store the experience differently.

 

As a person speaks of their trauma is a safe and supportive environment that individual takes back a degree of control concerning how the traumatic experience is encoded in their brain.

  • The story can be encoded with different physiological responses, with different views of power and control, with different meaning, and can utilize more diverse selections of the brain.
    • This is the basic idea of why bi- lateral stimulation (EMDR is the most well known) is an effective intervention for trauma – by stimulating both sides of the body (sound, sight, touch etc) at different times (around 4 second intervals) you can encourage both sides of the brain to interact with the story line.
      • This creates different association between the traumatic story line and the person’s emotional and physiological responses.
        • Example: where the story line would have created just fear responses and a sense of no control – you might now receive less or different automatic physiological responses and feelings of resiliency.

 

The lotus flower metaphor – a beautiful flower which grows from the dead muck and compost of a pond.

Some of the most beautiful aspect of this world come from or grow from the suffering, death, the difficult, the oppressed, and the less pleasant.

Many religions (if not all) believe that resiliency and acceptance in the face of suffering and adversity is the surest way to enlightenment.

 

You too have the potential to be the lotus flower – you can grow from the muck into something beautiful enough to be considered enlightened.

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.