There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Mark Twain:
“I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened.”
Stress and misfortunes are an unavoidable fact of life, it’s the human condition. As we say in A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook:
Here we are again with Monday’s Mindful Quote. Last week I wrote the post 5 Quotes that Can Change Your Life, and here’s one of them by Albert Einstein. Go ahead and read it a few times before moving on:
You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
Okay, so we’ve all been told that Albert Einstein was a genius, so it couldn’t hurt us to explore his wisdom.
It is all-too-natural and all-too-common for us to try and solve a problem with the same mind that created it. For example, when we begin sliding into depression, the automatic negative thoughts seep out, “what’s the point, who cares, nothing ever going to change, etc., etc. …” and this helps lead us into depression. When we’re feeling depressed, all the mind wants to do is find the solution to the “problem” of depression and so it twirls round and round in its depressed state trying to find the explanation for “what’s wrong with me.”
The Mindful Mood that is…
Often times the day seems to become routine and before we know it piles of responsibilities from work and home have stacked up and we feel like chickens running around with their heads cut off.
I suggest taking a couple minutes to practice the video below 2-3 times a day for a week to come down from the busy mind, focus your attention, ground to the present moment and refocus to what you’re really intending to pay attention to in the moment. It may help to actually put it in your calendar at first.
When can you practice? Look for the “in-between” moments. These are moments before you are about to take a break or while you’re waiting for someone. As you get the hang of this you won’t need this video and can practice it when parked in the car, in the bathroom, or while waiting in line.
Note: When the mind says, “forget it, this isn’t going to work,” as much as possible, just note that judgment as a mental event in the mind that is happy to keep you at status quo. Your work is to become aware of these types of thoughts, let them be, and come back to this practice.
Click through to see the video…
Tom was taking a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course with me and really had wonderful intentions to do the practices that were assigned week to week. However, at the time he was to sit down to do the practice, he noticed these thoughts in his mind telling him that doing this practice is a “waste of time” and he could be doing better things like watching television, eating, or flipping through a magazine.
And so it was…
When it comes to procrastination or inertia to make changes in our lives, it’s important to cultivate an awareness of what it really is. In order to do that, we need to break it down and name what is happening.
Once we can name it, we can face it, and when we can face it, we can work with it.
Here is a 3 step process to breaking through procrastination:
There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Henry Ford:
“Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
In my former life (or profession), I used to do sales and run outside sales teams running all over the San Francisco Bay Area talking to executives in companies and trying to find the best solutions with the products we had. It was an exciting time and one where I was often searching for phrases would make sense to my team to motivate them in the right direction.
When I came upon this one by Henry Ford I thought it was powerful. I saw a tremendous amount of negativity and self judgment among the employees in these companies with many of them believing they could not succeed. I saw how this sapped their energy, motivation, and ability to go the extra mile to make the sale.
Applying a mindful lens to this phrase, we can begin to see how we identify with our thoughts and how that then forms our actions, which then lead to consequences often confirming our beliefs.
In other words, if you don’t believe or identify with the thought that y cannot do something, you’re really not going to have the motivation to do it and you will likely not accomplish it.
On a deeper level, we’re talking about our attachment or identification with our thoughts in our mind, mistaking them as who we actually are. We might say “I am a person who never succeeds at being assertive.” Or maybe we think “I simply cannot tolerate this feeling of sadness,” or “I’m just an angry person, I’ll never change” or “I am a person who will always be alone.” There are plenty of thoughts to choose …
I guess we can now say there is a new-ish tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday I will cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding.
Here is a Quote by Viktor Frankl, M.D.:
“Every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”
In real life, this quote doesn’t always appear to be true. When you’re struggling with depression or intense anxiety or you’re already half way down with that bottle of vodka, it may not seem like there was any choice there.
However, in order to fully get the gist of this quote, let me lay out another quote that I’ve said before by the same Psychiatrist, Neurologist and Holocaust survivor.
“In between stimulus and response there is a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I quote this one often because it is so true and so powerful. While there are genetic factors to our mental, emotional and physical challenges in life, there is often a moment in between when we get triggered by something and how we react. In that moment lies the opportunity to choose how we are going to best support ourselves.
The reason it seems like there is no choice in falling into a very deep depression, a panic attack, or using a substance, is because we are not aware of that space.
Mindfulness supports us in slowing time down a bit to cultivate a nonjudgmental awareness of this space and we become able to turn a kind attention toward this difficulty, acknowledging it and then choosing what will be the most effective action in that moment. In time we can identify with Frankl’s quote of having “the freedom to change at any instant.”
This may not mean that depression or anxiety is cured, but it may mean that it doesn’t have to fall to the depths it has in the past.
You can cultivate mindfulness …
In my own life I have always felt stories and metaphors with morals have been powerful in helping me really get a message on a deeper level. This is no secret, that’s why Chicken Soup for the Soul and Aesop’s Fables have been so enduringly popular. There is something about them that seem to hit us on an emotional level where their messages really stick. When I was starting out as a Psychologist I set up times with leading therapists to glean their wisdom to support me in really getting started on the right foot. I asked one therapist the question, “In your time as a therapist, what has been one of the greatest things you’ve learned?” He looked up and began to think. After a few moments, he looked back in my eyes and said, “While people may come in to see me once a week or so, the real therapy happens in their daily lives. I could spend an entire session with a couple trying to explain and enact the therapeutic concept of remaining present, empathic, and compassionate to the other even during difficult times and while this may support them in the moment, the message may or may not stick with them throughout the week where the real therapy occurs. But, if I ask ‘Can you keep your heart open in hell’, this may really stay with them and they are more likely to be able to grab it when difficulty arises. If they use it during difficult times that is when change really happens.
“Can you keep your heart open in hell” to me, says, in those moments when we are wrought by our habits that keep us stuck in perpetual avoidance of what’s uncomfortable or foreign, can we stay with that discomfort and open up to ourselves or another with a sense of compassion and love. What difference would this make? Yes, what difference would it make if we were able to put ourselves in another shoes a bit more often instead of reacting with defensiveness or attacks? What difference would it make if we were able to sit with …
There is a new tradition starting today on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday I’m going to cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding.
Here is today’s quote that Christy Matta, MA reminded us of in her comment from the blog post 10 Quotes for a Mindful Day
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
In everyday life we are guaranteed to have things rise and fall all the time. At one point someone we know is having a baby and close to the same time someone is passing away. Someone is getting married, while another couple is getting a divorce. During a certain phase of life this may seem like the worst time that will ever be and two months later something wonderful happens.
Everyone has ups and downs, sometimes seemingly more extreme than others. To make this more specific to mental health issues. If someone is struggling with Panic Disorder, the panic attacks have an initial lift of the wave, peak, and then eventually come down. Cravings and urges for addictive behaviors follow the same course as well as compulsions for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Those struggling with bipolar disorder certainly understand the rise and fall of these waves.
The distress comes up as waves of sensations coming and going. Our work is to learn how to surf them so that we come to acknowledge the wave when it is there, become present to it, and now have the choice to get on the board and ride it out with a greater sense of ease and grace.
The late Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff, had a chapter that I always appreciate that was titled “Be Grateful for the Good Times and Graceful during the more Difficult Times.” In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran speaks about how all …
So many of us have this incessant drive to be perfect or to do things perfectly, even when it comes to our health. We place unreasonable demands on ourselves and then spread that out to our friends, family, and even our children. But doing things perfectly is just an idea in the mind and our identification to it causes immense suffering. Anything short of this impossible perfect goal creates feelings of pressure and sparks thoughts of disappointment and failure. It’s a set up!
The drive to be perfect has been found in a number of anxiety and depressive disorders. We think we need to do something perfectly. What if we were able to draw the way our mind and body worked on a wall. Imagine drawing a circle on the wall representing a thought that is popping up, “If I make a mistake, others will think I’m a failure, so I better do it right.” Then draw a line over to another circle that represents emotions and put the emotion of fear or anxiety there. Then draw a line from that circle to another circle that represents the body and put words like tension, tightness, pressure and achiness in that circle. Then draw a line from that circle all the way back to the thoughts circle and put in “I hate this, I’m so disappointed.” Here is a classic example of the cycle for a perfectionist.
One question we can ask when looking at that diagram we just created is, “how is that working for you?” For the most part it doesn’t and creates problems for us mentally and physically. In other words, it’s simply not effective in supporting us in our daily lives. It’s important to understand that this drive for perfection may have come from some deep seeded need for approval that we may have never received growing up and we’re still trying to play out today. The answer to “why” can be important as it allows us to realize that that was then and this is now and when it pops up, we can begin to identify with it less.
Another way of understanding this …
In a recent article Charles Elliott, Ph.D. does a very good job bringing to light the issue of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). He begins by reminding us:
“If you’re a human being and live on this planet, you probably can come up with something that you don’t especially like about your body.”
We may not all have BDD, but our minds are often running rampant in the background with ways we wish we were different than we actually are. It is so utterly difficult to accept ourselves for who we are and such a habit for the mind to drift into wishing we were somebody we are not right now and then searches for ways for us to “do it.” The more we allow the mind to try and “fix” the issue it has found, the deeper we sink. One way to begin to unwind this Brain Lock as Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D. describes it is to become mindful of it, noticing and relabeling this obsessive thinking when it is occurring. With OCD, he suggests four steps: