Psychotherapy is swiftly changing, as are the people we serve. One new element is what we are learning in areas of trauma resolution, particularly methods similar to Somatic Experiencing®, focalizing, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and sensorimotor psychotherapy. A new world of healing is surely upon us—and it is a breath of fresh air.
There’s a shift from the archeological digs of psychoanalysis and cognitive techniques where, in my experience, depression and anxiety often linger and remain unresolved. Although these techniques have been and continue to be helpful, they may not be as effective as newer methods of going within the body. These newer approaches transcend talk therapy, inducing new felt-body experiences that help resolve habitual stress and anxiety.
These graceful naturopathic processes can help us become aware of the separation of the mind (as a tool of execution) and the body and heart as an access to aliveness and well-being. Our minds are a creative tool of execution, yet they are also a reservoir of past conditioned thinking (often wrong, harsh, punishing, and outdated). They tend to regurgitate and ruminate old news from in our heads, “head noises,” if you will, that can make us believe they are who we are. We’ve been conditioned to listen to these noises as they build (or collapse) the worlds we live in today, but still, I find this ludicrous. These regurgitated thinking patterns can often lead us to feel like we are imprisoned and can be major contributing factors in the development of depression and anxiety.
Considering New Possibilities
New possibilities, especially those inspired by the life force that comes from the innate intelligence in our heart, bodies and nature may be helpful at diminishing or silencing these head noises. I lovingly refer to this as a Greek chorus (voices of judgment, voices of cynicism, and voices of fear). Until we learn to befriend them as natural parts of our being and understand how they have been programmed by earlier life events, they may hinder our growth, development, and even typical function. If the chorus never stops, indeed if it runs our lives, it will continue to block assess to our innate wisdom. Our minds know nothing of the future and lack the comprehension of love, multidimensionality, or the nuances of our present realities–this is the domain of the heart and soul.
The body has innate intelligence and grounding in nature, and once we become skilled at accessing our inner wisdom, we may be able to awaken an impressively wiser aptitude, which can allow our hearts and nature to provide an organic inner compass for our next best step(s) forward. As we experience this felt sense of grounding and ability for self-regulation, we may be able to become better custodians of our minds and more equipped to manage the head-noise of conditioned thinking that often produces so much stress and anxiety.
As I’ve heard in yoga practice, you are not your mind. You are not the Greek chorus.
The body has innate intelligence and grounding in nature, and once we become skilled at accessing our inner wisdom, we may be able to awaken an impressively wiser aptitude, which can allow our hearts and nature to provide an organic inner compass for our next best step(s) forward.
Many find these techniques easy to learn, even if it is less easy to adequately put them into the mind’s language of words. Exposure to these techniques may help free us from the entanglements that are wrapped around our potential to receive and experience more from life, such as contentment and joyful moments. This new learning simply teaches us the experience, practice and provides a takeaway proficiency of how befriending our head-noise can manage and reduce stress and anxiety. These somatic, whole-body approaches are often studied through workshops or one-on-one experiences with a trained facilitator.
Here’s a short exercise that can help you start the process of befriending head noise and becoming what I call a “curious observer.” Since it involves closing your eyes, you may wish to read through each of the steps before beginning.
- Set a timer for three minutes. Sit in a comfortable position, feet on the floor.
- Close your eyes or find a comfortable place to rest your gaze, a few feet in front of you on the floor.
- Bring the focus of your attention down into your body. Sometimes I envision the focus of my attention as a magnifying glass or a spotlight. Bring this spotlight down to the soles of your feet. Sit with your attention on your feet. Notice as many sensations as you can and note them.
- What does the floor feel like? The fabric of your socks? The temperature? And so on.
- Once you’ve sat with those felt sensations for a minute, bring your attention up to your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest. See how long you can pay attention to the physical feeling of your breathing without trying to control it. No matter how you breathe, let it be the perfect breath at that moment. The key here is non-judgment.
- Throughout this exercise, notice if voices of judgment, voices of fear, or voices of cynicism come in. For example, you may notice a thought asking “Am I doing this right?”
- When you notice these voices, gently thank them for their presence and then visualize them going to a different corner of the room you’re in. Or, if you prefer, send them to an island where they can stay while you continue focusing on the felt sensations of your breath.
- Each time the voices come back, gently visualize the voice going back to a corner or an island. It’s best that we avoid becoming antagonistic with the thoughts. Just thank them and then visualize them moving on.
- When the three minutes are up, open your eyes. Take a moment to notice your surroundings. Do you notice a sense of clarity with your vision? Did you get an experience of timelessness at any point when you were doing the exercise? Some may notice their thoughts seem quieter than before.
This is the beginning of what focalizing techniques can bring to people seeking help. Focalizing can serve as a starting point that snowballs into meaningful and lasting healing after only a few sessions. As we become a curious observer to our head noise, we connect with a part of ourselves that is beyond conditioned thinking. With this new connection, we may no longer rely on replicating the solutions of the past. Instead, we are likely to find ourselves newly equipped to innovate and find graceful solutions that better address the present circumstances.
© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Michael Picucci, PhD, MAC, SEP, therapist in New York City, New York
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