Happy New Year 2022!
My average client last year contacted me with a theme of 'joyless emergency'. They had an understanding that life was supposed to be more joyful than this, more authentic and meaningful.
The majority of these clients hated Mondays, lived for the weekend or holidays.
Many of them were compensating personal feelings of wrongness with drive and stamina. As a result, they also struggled to stay on top of everything; working longer hours, getting unwell, and using extra money to buy more consumer goods ... so making themselves anxious.
They come to therapy and they ask for strategies for 'time management' then. Sure, so they can squeeze even more activities in and so that they can fit in better with the economic machine?
For the new year, I wish you to reflect on your productivity, on how you spend more of your finite time on those people, nature, and activities that you care most deeply about.
Happy New Year
You may lose friends if you are too focused on your goals or if you take yourself too seriously
If you want to do something different, you may consider reading old books rather than consuming the same viral content.
Fear creates thought, and then thought creates defence, and then defence creates the offense.
Please find below more evidence to encourage psychotherapists to adopt conscious breathing practices for the purpose of physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing.
Never run back to what broke you.
Everything has a price, but hey do not expect that everything is labelled
Writing for 20 minutes every morning will transform the way you think, feel and act in a positive way.
When you achieve something notice if you are systematically rewarding yourself with food.
As you’re not a dog, perhaps it’s possible to find an alternative way to reward yourself.
Work on your emotions.
It only takes seconds to ruin years of hard work.
Fear and anxiety are natural healthy emotions.
It's perfectly okay if they are in the car with you.
Just don't let them drive.
Is there a link between social distancing and cognitive dissonance?
One of the key methods of emotional abuse employed by people with narcissistic tendencies is the generalised concept called cognitive dissonance. What this abuse tactic does is create in the target a sense of unreality, confusion, and a mindset of not trusting their own perception of the situation
Social distancing is an example of cognitive dissonance as people are expected to keep a 'safe distance'. Safety, protection and support and danger together.
Original version of RAIN (first coined by Michele McDonald, a senior Buddhist teacher and then adopted by Tara Brach):
Recognize what is happening (roots of understanding)
Allow life to be just as it is (grounds of love)
Investigate with kindness (deepens understanding and care)
Non-Identification (realizing freedom from narrow identity)
The only person you need to impress is the person you become in 10 years.
There is great happiness
in not wanting,
in not being something,
in not going somewhere.
Shame is not simply negative thoughts and feelings or low self-esteem. It's a survival response to relational threat and is based in our unconscious neurobiology. That's why it's so hard to shift.
A CBT therapist, who follows an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) approach, will probably tell you that 'you are not your thoughts'.
This is once again borrowed from a Buddist's principle, however, this is only half the concept, as the full concept is 'you are not your body' either.
This is very important especially when you work with trauma because your memories are also part of the body. So this is the whole concept, and imagine applying CFT (Compassion Focussed Therapy) to this and the imagery work you could do.
So, not only you can separate yourself from your thoughts, but also from your body. Your body is stuck with old stuff, but you are not. Create a gap.
The third wave of CBT includes some practices of Buddhist psychology, and this below is borrowed from the book 'Walking the Walk' by Pema Chödrön. She has outlined the practice in a helpful four-step process with the acronym FEAR:
1. Feel the feeling. Don’t resist it but welcome it.
2. Embrace it. Be curious about the feeling instead of becoming overwhelmed by it. Where do you feel it? What are the physical sensations that accompany it?
3. Allow it to dissolve. Simply watch as it dissipates on its own. Neither push it away or stop it from dissolving!
4. Remember that you are not alone. Others are feeling this same feeling right now too.
The message of winter is to become quiet, keep your attention focused inward and stay mindful of the enormous amount of healing activity.
Cold promotes the browning of adipose tissue, which creates an energetic trade-off at the expense of T cell activation: a benefit in the context of neuroinflammation.
You may not need another morning routine, productivity hack or self-help book, but you may need to remove 1 or 2 mental blocks holding you back from being your most successful self.
Find your blocks and everything else may start to fall into place.
Sugar, enemy of health
Comfort, enemy of growth.
Conformity, enemy of creativity
Entitlement, enemy of sovereignty.
To learn, improve your vocabulary.
To unlearn, improve your silence.
-Lesson To Self-
“You do not need to feel guilty for doing what is best for you.”
Do your best to live these:
Don’t be overheard complaining...even to yourself (Marcus Aurelius)
Don’t put on airs about your self-improvement (Epictetus) –
Don’t overindulge in eating or drinking (Musonius) –
Don’t speak more than you listen (Zeno)
Nothing wrong with a 9-5 but if you can spend 8 hours a day working for someone else, why can't you spend one hour a day working for yourself?
Your present is also your past and your future
We are sentient beings and as such we have frontal lobes which help us daily to plan and make decisions, helping us to survive. Some of these decisions are also based on previous experiences or memories. Some of the clients I have worked with have memorised the mantra ‘You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You can find yourself by coming into the present’ (Tolle, 1997). Some clients have also learned to not think about future. If it is true that we easily avoid or get distracted from our ‘now’, it is also true that we also tend to avoid our past and our future (thought suppression is a well know phenomenon) and that we can spend time in the present and not be really present. For example, we might be immersed in our work, and not be very focused on what we are doing, functioning on autopilot, with very little awareness about our thoughts, the way we are feeling, if we are experiencing any pleasure, if we are choosing, if we are accruing frustration, if our body is tense, et cetera. The now, therefore, is when we can make a little gap, a little mental space which allows us to be truly present. That gap/now consists of interrupting a stimulus – response to life, creating that space which enables us to embrace whatever emerges from past, present and future. The now is a way of paying attention to ourselves among these tenses. When something emerges from the past, regardless if it brings pain or suffering, we acknowledge it and we return to our breath. Or our mind can wonder about the future, it can dream too, and if so, in the here and now, we just notice whether our future is squeezing our present. Kipling (1943) put it beautifully when he said, ‘you can dream and not make dreams your master’. On the contrary often very depressed clients are unable to think about their future, they think that their future is bleak and terrifying. They state that they prefer to live in a ‘stimulus-response’ mode and not to think about or imagine their future, even being moved to tears if they are asked direct questions about their future during the session. In The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Barbery (2008) writes: ‘If you dread tomorrow it's because you don't know how to build the present, and when you don't know how to build the present, you tell yourself you can deal with it tomorrow, and it's a lost cause anyway because tomorrow always ends up being today don't you see’.
In my opinion, this brings the conclusion that paradoxically the ‘now’ also embeds the past and the future. Therefore, during meditation and in the here and now a healthy mind can wander among past, present and future while remaining anchored to the present moment. If the meditator is open to creating a mental space over what could be observed, he/she will feel a sense of freedom in exploration which does not block, control or alter the content of whatever arises.
(25/01/202) - 4 digital anxieties:
It’s time we faced it — digital anxiety is real.
The negative feelings about the use of social media, the failure to cut back on it, the fear of missing out, fake news, and cybersecurity concerns. We’ve all experienced it. We’ve all been there.
The first step is recognising the sources of digital anxiety:
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, refers to feeling regret over missing social situations, which can lead to believing that others’ lives are better and more interesting than yours.
THE GOLDFISH EFFECT describes the phenomenon of our attention spans getting shorter due to the information overload we experience daily.
The modern-day news cycle is never-ending. Every day we are overloaded with news stories, and it's becoming increasingly harder to tell what’s real and what’s not.
In a world riddled with cybersecurity threats, enjoying the internet can be difficult. Staying secure, therefore, can become an anxiety-inducing experience.
The flowing process of direction and change in therapy 19/01/2021
Watching a loggerhead sea turtle struggle out of the nest and make its way to the water is an emotional experience. They scramble to the sea and begin navigating an enormous journey, 8,000 miles across the open ocean and back home again. Migrating birds, honeybees, and millions of dragonflies fly thousands of miles from India to Africa.
Scientists have puzzled for years about how they find their way, and they have been looking in astonishment for explanations such as possible guiding particles in the brain. Driftwood, crabs, birds, raccoons, fish etc, are just a few of obstacles that sea turtles may have to overcome for their survival. Before scientists, philosophers pondered the spontaneity of some of the activities of living beings such as the healing of wounds, the regeneration of mutilated parts, the mechanical skill of animals (Schopenhauer, 1844) - as though an internal force, will or instinct may drive the development and maintenance of the body. A ‘knowledge of things in themselves’ (Schmidt in Schopenhauer, 1844).
Like one of these travellers, human beings are involved in a flowing process of direction and change in which autopoiesis, self-organisation and self-determination are fundamental principals, whilst freedom and safety are essential conditions. This seems to suggest there is a risk of malpractice when the therapist's expectations or knowledge is projected or imposed on the patient, driving their processes of exploration, discovery, understanding and constructing meaning. This is aligned to Rogers' core idea that, “as material is given by the client, it is the therapist's function to help him to recognise and clarify the emotions which he feels” (Rogers, 1940).
A client's view: "This is helping me to get my head in order. I like making lists, and if my head is not in order then I don’t know what I am doing. This is leading me to organise my thoughts; it makes me feel looked after and you are helping me to understand. It is an intellectual discussion. It seems like me teaching you about me, and you taking a genuine interest in me. I like when you asked “can you help me to understand this?”
Clients teach therapists about themselves, and not vice versa; paraphrasing Galilei, therapists can’t teach anything - only make clients realise that the answers are already inside them.
4 reasons why clients do not share with their therapists 12/01/2021
(Learning from clients; clients have given their permission to share - thank you!)
Clients sometimes do not share information with their therapists because of four main reasons:
1) Fear of not being understood or believed. Clients were not believed in the past and they are fearful to not be believed again, which could hurt them further.
C: If you break a leg, everyone sees it, but when you have something invisible no one believes you and you can't say this to anyone.
2) The client perceives the 'the other' as incapable of handling an emotion or experience.
C: ‘My problem was so big that even the therapist couldn't deal with it’.
3) Thoughts or feelings are unavailable.
C: Do you remember when you asked me if I could remember any painful emotional experience and I said no, well actually I don’t know how it is possible but I couldn’t remember something very important.
4)The client is concerned or scared about what could happen if a thought or a feeling is verbalised.
C: 'I think what people could think of me? I fear being sick in front of someone, what could they think of me? Is it paranoia?'
C: ‘I could go crazy’
C: ‘I could be sectioned’
Happy New Year 2021
Wishing you all strength, self-compassion, and the joy of living every day 🙏
Syncope / Fainting 9/12/2020
You go to Uni and they teach you that anxiety can't make you faint. You meet your clients and they tell you that they have done all the medical checks and they faint because they are anxious. You go to Uni and you learn that you shouldn't believe them, actually you should correct/challenge their thinking rather than supporting them with the fear of it.
Who tells the truth? The client obviously!
For example, people may experience hypotension which can have different causes including emotional stress or anxiety and which can lead to fainting.
This is so true that "the mainstay of management is education of the patient to avoid situations that predispose to syncope [fainting], with anxiety management, coping skills, and reassurance of the patient and others that this is a benign condition"
How foolish is all this talk of ‘getting over’ grief. How self-negating is the wish that others should not feel sad when they think of their loss? Of course, they should feel sad!
There is no “normal” timetable for grieving, nor ‘get things into perspective’.
We can choose to live inside protected by technological comfort, to work 40 hours a week, to have a full retirement plan and ultimately die comfortably in bed.
However this is not risk-free either, it is an illusion. I think that:
1) there is no safety for anyone from ordinary misfortunes (cancer, car accident, heartbreak etc)
2) when we obsessively seek safety and avoid risk, we get stuck because we are unable to face the challenges that make us healthier and more confident about just about anything.
3) when we become comfortably numb (I love Pink Floyd) we can miss out on the opportunity for unexpected rewards.
What a big risk, isn't it? What if on your deathbed you have to deal with regret?
Practice the pause. 13/11/2020
Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you're about to react harshly and you'll avoid doing and saying things you'll later regret.”
― Lori Deschene
Who is the adult? 12/11/2020
Yesterday I was honoured to present my new theoretical model at 5th USERN International Congress.
In a nutshell, the adult is a product of the early life experiences, emotions and memories of the child and the collection of teachings of the Parent
The presentation will be posted on my youtube channel soon.
In CBT, we are not interested in getting rid of our emotions, rather feeling them fully and responding to them in a more thoughtful and intelligent way. 4/11/2020
5th USERN International Congress 3/11/2020
I am very pleased to announce that I will be presenting in the 5th USERN International Congress. I feel very excited as featured among the international speakers there are several Nobel Laureates.
Over the last years, I have been dedicated to creating a model to merge Dual-Process Theories of Reasoning, Transactional Analysis and Compassion Focused Therapy.
This has previously been appreciated in Japan and now at the International Congress.
Hopefully, this work will contribute to the development of CBT.
Day 5: Wednesday, November 11, 2020
'The Art and Science of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)' at 13:20 – 13:40 GMT.
I have some free limited passes for students or colleagues if you are interested please contact me privately.
Often people come to therapy thinking that there is something wrong with them, but when we look closely we find out that the only thing that is wrong in that moment is the thinking itself that there is something wrong with them.
Sometimes they actually discover that there was something wrong with their parents or society, okay that's a joke or perhaps it is not not...you choose. :-)
One of the biggest mistakes we (psychotherapists) make is assuming that our clients should think the way we do.
In ACT therapy but also in CBT change occurs when you give a person enough comfort to just be themselves.
Has anyone experience in reading scientific papers with e-readers (kindle)?
I found this article pretty useful:
Morning / Daily Spiritual Practice - Sadhana Mindfulness Meditation
I have just made a new video, it is a Morning / Daily Spiritual Practice - Sadhana Mindfulness Meditation
This is a brief morning meditative retreat, for those who are too busy, perhaps working from 9 to 5 but still refuse to live in autopilot and are dedicated to self-improvement, health and wellbeing.
Warning, this practice is not just a relaxation exercise, it has the potential to change your life.
In this practice, I have put together several practices, and there is a clear idea that we should commune with nature. You are encouraged to add other practices such as walking in the fresh air, healthy eating, to place your hands into soil to feel grounded, to go for a swim to feel emotionally healed and to raise your face to the heat of the sun to connect with that fire.
In addiction recovery centres, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air are four natural elements that represent different aspects of life and they are used to allow practitioners to take a step back from their problems and feel less attached to their bodies, possessions, and life challenges.
Thank you 🙏
In many cultures and meditation practices, people sip water, allowing the water to stay in your mouth.
Science is now catching up recognising the role of alkaline saliva to reach the stomach and to neutralise acid levels in it.
Water is the miracle drink that sometimes we don’t acknowledge enough.
Now, this is an interesting question to play with,
“Is the universe conscious?” (yes I know, we should learn to crawl first 😀 )
Neuroplasticity, obesity and trauma
A small study found that obese people had impaired neuroplasticity and a diminished ability to re-wire the brain. Neuroplasticity is critical during learning but also during periods of psychological stress and brain trauma.
on Positive Thinking
As a therapist, I perceive the continual pursuit of ‘positive thinking’ harmful and self-deceptive. I feel sceptical and distant towards those therapists who continuously encourage positive thinking. Negativity is part of us and it is part of life. If you are a therapist, don't make your clients feel bad if sometimes they can't be positive.
Has The Stress of COVID Affected Our Brains?
A new study is getting some attention, as it claims that the COVID-19 lockdown has affected peoples' brain structure.
The authors suggest that the authorities should take heed of these results and consider the costs of lockdown
"My insanity in the year 1783"
It is only rarely that the patient himself has enough strength to describe the story of his illness; most often, this is described by a doctor, who assesses it according to external symptoms, and yet never so exactly as the patient himself can know his internal state.
'Do I understand my father or my mother'? Please find link below
Interesting questions and answers, I also love the atmosphere there, peaceful and not judgemental. People bring their experiences and there is an intention to be compassionate, in terms of alleviating suffering.
There is a common theme for many people which I think many of us can find helpful, that is, when our parents don't understand us or can't understand us, we can ask ourselves:
'do I understand my father or my mother'?
At the end of the video, they also support the idea that for Rogerian psychotherapists is key, about the pace of learning and understanding.
I am not going to spoil this analogy for you, I hope you enjoy the video as I did.
An 8-week #mindfulness #meditation training course led to lower levels of stress hormones and inflammatory biomarkers in people with #anxiety compared to those that partook in an 8-week #stress management course.
and why do you want to manage stress in the first place? 😧
The brain’s main function is to protect us, like an umbrella, from chaos.
The philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychiatrist Felix Guattari contended that the brain’s main function is to protect us, like an umbrella, from chaos.
Order and disorder enjoy a symbiotic relationship.
Are you 'happy'?
Sorry for fooling you with this question.
The moment you think about it, you seek, you compare, you worry, you search your memory
Happiness is not a thought, it is an experience.
Try this thought experiment:
The next time you are bothered by something or you are experiencing negative emotions, ask yourself: “If I did not have a memory, what would this present moment look like?” Would I still be having a negative experience?
The problem of self-regulating thoughts in metacognition (Crisanti, 2019)
If we think about the proverbial question: ‘is the glass half empty or half full?’, we can reflect and notice that some individuals, who are interpreting the glass as half empty, even though they recognise that it would be better to change their interpretation of their perception into ‘half full’, are nonetheless unable to do it. This is an example of how System 2 cannot always make efficient use of metacognition, showing an interference or difficulty of self-regulation and decision-making.
How can I help with trauma?
To help with processing trauma, we need to create a context of emotional and physical safety during therapy sessions. In this journey together, we can explore sensing, naming, and identifying what is going on inside - these are the first steps towards recovery. You can see from the image below (taken from the book 'The Body Keeps The Score') how much more activity appears on the right side of the brain than on the left. What is the role of the right hemisphere of the brain? Well, this is where we process emotions and the perception of safety or risk. We can therefore distinguish two types of trauma processing:
The first is experiential and sensorial (also called Bottom Up approach):
Compassion Focused Therapy and Mindfulness are very helpful here because we learn to enhance the sense of internal and external safety.
The second is narrative processing (Top-Down):
The Top-Down process involves flashbacks and contains more motion words, suggesting that flashbacks are a form of memory that elicits a response such as fight or flight. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278262612001364=.
In therapy, we will work on updating the memory from "I am stuck and in danger" to "I can take action and I am safe now". We need to a) draw out blocked sensory information b) help clients befriend, not suppress, body energies needing to be released and c) complete the self preserving physical actions that were thwarted when the survivor was restrained or immobilized by terror. (p. 96).
From the book the 'Body Keeps the Score' we know that effective trauma therapy involves the following steps for clients to achieve (p. 203-204):
1) finding a way to become calm
2) learning to maintain that calm and focus when triggered with past thoughts, emotions, reminders, etc.
3) finding a way to be fully alive, in the present, and engaged with others
4) not having to keep secrets from self including the ways the person has managed to survive.
And that the trauma has to be revisited in more than the logical brain:
"The fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional part of the brain." (p. 205), this aspect is similar to a paper I published in 2019 (Crisanti, 2019):
"The therapeutic implication is that therapists need to be able to understand and attune to their clients both emotionally - by considering a fundamental problem in an implicit emotional system (Gilbert, 2010) - and cognitively."
The abc of CBT , Discover Your Emotional Triggers:
This worksheet may help to build awareness of how you think and to see patterns of your feelings and behaviours over time. It can also help to track down irrational, illogical and unhelpful thoughts so that we gradually learn to dispute them. This tool is also helpful to detect emotional triggers, for example the need to be in control, to be treated fairly, to be understood, valued, loved or perhaps simply reacting to uncertainty or change, etc.
Awareness is the way out: if we are unable to acknowledge the need that triggers the emotional reaction, we then can become a slave to that need and we tend to react in auto pilot. So, with greater awareness, we are freer to choose our reactions.
The Trauma Egg
The Trauma Egg is an intervention tool that I use with some clients in therapy for treating emotional trauma
In a mindfulness group we asked what music lifts you up when you're feeling down?
This is their playlist:
Problems as “rucksacks”
If we think about our problems as “rucksacks”, we can take the problem/s outside of us,
which makes it easier to change things in a positive way. Before we can make those
helpful changes, we need to understand more about our personal rucksack, and how it
Problems as “rucksacks”