Anger commands immense psychosomatic energies in a flash of time. Anger is a miracle of body-mind synchronization for self-defensive action.
Anger is a counterintuitive evolutionary innovation: Unlike fear, which takes us away from the threat, anger moves us toward the threat. It puts us on a path of confrontation with what scares us. How amazingly creative!
Anger has its own logic—it’s not irrational; it’s pre-rational.
Adapted from Anger Management Jumpstart (Somov, PESI, 2013)
When paranoia has exhausted its evolutionary utility, there comes a crossroads of choice: to keep on fearing or to fearlessly accept the new normal (i.e. to recalibrate the understanding of what is now normal). The momentum of fear usually pre-determines the direction we take.
Point is: mind wastes itself, leaving absolutely nothing of permanence to hold onto.
The real conservation question is: what remains?
Look into this cosmic mystery that you are.
more: Lotus Effect
The following are the seven Present Perfect habits that, in my opinion, comprise the basis of existentially vibrant living:
(1) the habit of making one’s own meaning
(2) the habit of noticing ordinary perfection
(3) the habit of being present in the moment
(4) the habit of making conscious choices
(5) the habit of self-acceptance
(6) the habit of accepting uncertainty
(7) the habit of forgiving and compassion
These seven vital signs of conscious, meaningful, and mindful living are the goals of the program of existential rehabilitation. Developing these habits will help you feel freer and more alive, more at ease and psychologically invulnerable, more attuned to yourself and more connected with others, and, most importantly, less preoccupied with what should be and more in awe of what already is.
Adapted from Present Perfect (P. Somov, New Harbinger Publications, 2010)
Perfectionism is a Psychological Liability
Flett and Hewitt (2002) write: “perfectionists are more likely than nonperfectionists to experience various kinds of stress” (p. 257) and list four perfectionism-specific mechanisms that contribute to and exacerbate stress:
Brown and Beck (2002) make a convincing summary of how a perfectionistic cognitive style with its rigid thinking constitutes a vulnerability to depression.
Perfectionists and compulsives are a tormented, unhappy lot. William Reich referred to compulsives as “living machines,” highly productive but not enjoying what they produce (Maxment & Ward, 1995), typically presenting with symptoms of anxiety, worry, depression, and dysthymia.
One of the goals of existential self-rehabilitation is to redefine perfection in a manner that would allow you to leverage an unconditional self-acceptance and to become invulnerable to others’ disapproval of you. Furthermore, an effective existential rehab would help you become more accepting of uncertainty in order to reduce your anxiety about the aspects of your life that you cannot control. Your ultimate challenge is to shift from dichotomous, black-and-white dualistic self-perception (that predisposes you to depression and anxiety) to an emotionally-wiser and reality-congruent platform of nondual and dialectical thinking.
Perfectionism is a Relational Liability
Many a perfectionist is encouraged into therapy by family members and supervisors to address the problem of anger and hypercriticism. As such, if unaddressed, perfectionism is a relational liability that leads to social alienation, loneliness, missed social and professional opportunities. Effective existential rehab will help you realize that you are, have been, and always will be “perfectly imperfect,” which, in turn, will allow you to compassionately identify …
Today, in Science Daily I read: ”This is a relatively new technique for neuroscience, called a population and dimensionality analysis. Its goal is to understand how neurons work together in entire regions of the brain.” (my italics, from Researchers Discover How Brain Neurons Work Together, or Alone).
What stands out for me here is language. You see, each of us is a “we” – a neural colony (of a Greater Neural Tribe). A brain, as I have written before, is not an organ but an organization! An organization of billions of stand-alone sentient cells – neurons. Each neuron is its own mind. Once again, each of us is a “we.” And this “we” (that each of us is) is composed of neural networks. At least that’s what we used to call them – networks.
The new technique of “population analysis” finally somewhat anthropomorphizes neurons – a population of entities sounds more humanistic than a network of… neural processors. That’s right: a population, not a network! We seem to be – in our analysis of ourselves – finally shifting away from a computer view of self to a view of self that recognizes neurons as sentient. After all, if they (neurons) aren’t, then how can we be?
The amazing thing about this whole issue is that we – the neurons – look at ourselves (through microscopes) and we fail to see ourselves: instead of seeing our selves, we see our cells. But we are these cells. These cells are our selves. What a phenomenal case of phenomenological blindsight!
The focus on wellness, particularly on the management of overeating, in therapy can be a double-edged sword. While clients often readily embrace the vector of self-care, goal-specific treatment planning and clinical homework can trigger the games of avoidance. Suddenly, the validating therapist is thrown into the role of a wellness expert and becomes an accountability check.
Before too long, mere inquiry into the client’s progress runs a discordant parallel to punitive supervision. With this actual or perceived change of hats, the process of the therapy changes, the wellness goals are eventually abandoned and the closet of therapy fills up with the skeletons of failed objectives. This – in my experience – has been an inherent complexity of problem-focused treatments such as behavioral medicine.
Such experiences have taught me that a non-directive, harm-reduction, humanistic angle of engagement works best in facilitating clients’ wellness goal of weight management. In particular, I have enjoyed better “compliance luck” from the clinical position in which I frame success in overcoming overeating as more of a know-how issue than a motivational issue. With this in mind, as part of the role-induction to behavioral weight management, I let clients know that I am aware of a variety of behavioral exercises that can help them transition from mindless reactive eating to a more mindful and more conscious eating stance, and I then offer the client to look at their weight management “homework” as a kind of experiential journey of gradual acquisition of mindful eating skills, and not as a frantic blitzkrieg of change.
This gradual, exploratory behavioral goal-frame, in my experience, reduces the often arbitrary urgency of the need to change (with the example of arbitrary urgency being: “I need to lose weight to look good at my son’s wedding”). An open-ended stance on behavioral homework (“You have the rest of your life to gain control over this issue and I have several exercises for us to try, so let’s just take time to see what works best for you”) also pre-empts and obviates “compliance relapse.”
Furthermore, a humanistically-permissive therapeutic posture allows the clinician …
Mindful eating (at least the way I teach it) has its own version of “portion control” – it’s got to do not with how many mouthfuls you can have but with how many mindfuls you need to feel full; it’s got to do with shifting from a serving to a savoring.
What’s a mindful? A mindful, to coin a term, is a unit of mental absorption in whatever it is that you are doing. For example, as you look back at a typical day, perhaps most of it was spent in a state of robotic, mindless monotony, with the exception of a couple of moments when you were really present, thoughtful, and mindful of something. Maybe you found yourself scratching your head over some challenging problem. Maybe, at the end of your lunch break, you caught a glimpse of a bird swaying on a tree branch. Maybe, when finally home, sitting in your car in the driveway, you had a sense of perspective. Whatever their content, these moments of being mindful are just that: states of being attuned to the moment, absorbed in the here and now.
In application to eating, a Mindful is a moment of being conscious of eating. Maybe it will last ten seconds, maybe half a minute. But however long, it is a unit of awareness, a serving of mindfulness.
A Savoring, to coin another term, is a unit of mindful appreciation, a moment of conscious enjoyment, a highlight. To have a savoring, you first have to have a moment of eating consciousness (a mindful). After all, how can you enjoy a moment if you are not aware of it? So, whereas mouthfuls and servings are the units of fullness, mindfuls and savorings are the units of mind-fullness.
To help you shift from fullness to mind-fullness, I suggest that at the end of your meals, you look back at your experience and take stock of how conscious you were of your eating and of the moments of eating you enjoyed. How many mindfuls did you have? Which moments were you actually fully conscious? Were you present when you …
In Reality Check #73 I wrote: “Reality is non-negotiable: it already is what it is.” This little “dictum” reminded me of a 1998 German film Run Lola Run.
In the film, Lola is presented with a challenging situation that she fails to successfully resolve despite three attempts, three “runs.” In each run, Lola attempts to replay reality – yes, to replay the very reality that already is what it is.
My advice to Lola(s): Stay, Lola, Stay! Reality – not your legs, not your reaction speed, not even the speed of light, – but Reality itself sets the speed limit on What Is. No Lola can outrun the reality that already is.
Mindful-not-mouthful approach aims to automate mindfulness. Automate mindfulness? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?! Not really. The goal is habit modification. While the goal of making mindful eating a habit may seem paradoxical, it really isn’t. The idea is to help you become habitually mindful of your eating, to get to the point where the decision to be mindful about eating is evoked mindlessly, automatically, effortlessly, and out of force of habit. Yes, I’d like for mindful eating to have the force of habit in your eating life. This kind of habit-forming or conditioning is the only assurance that the book in your hands will help you make a lasting difference in your battle with overeating.
Mindfulness and knowledge are different things. Knowledge is informational awareness. Mindfulness is experiential awareness. To know something is different from experiencing something. In your self-help readings or treatment encounters you might have come across the advice to “eat mindfully” or “slow down your eating and be conscious of taste.” Knowing this advice leads to informational awareness. Applying this advice creates experiential awareness.
Knowing that you need to be conscious of your eating or even trying it a few times, according to someone’s prototype of mindful eating, is insufficient for a change in eating habits. And yet, informational awareness is a vital precursor of change.
The intent of the approach is to help you make the three-point journey: from (1) knowledge (of mindful eating), to (2) practice (of mindful eating), to the destination of (3) habitual application (of mindful eating); from the starting point of appreciating the necessity of mindful eating, to experimenting with it, to the permanent awakening of the overeating “zombie.”
Share your mindfuls on Mindful Eating Tracker: