After you have made time to gather and strengthen skills that help you manage difficult emotions such as mindfulness, meditation, grounding, breathing techniques, progressive relaxation etc. you may be ready to use radical acceptance. Among other things, it is a way to experience freedom from the past and weather difficult events and feelings without avoiding or rejecting them. The result is a reduction in the power they have over you and your life.
What is Radical Acceptance?
-Radical means all the way, complete and total.
-When you cannot keep painful events and emotions from coming your way.
-It is accepting in your mind, your heart and your body.
-It's when you stop fighting reality, stop throwing tantrums because reality is not the way you want it, and let go of bitterness.
What has to be accepted?
-Reality is as it is (the facts about the past and the present are facts, even if you don't like them).
-There are limitations on the future for everyone (but only realistic limitations need to be accepted).
-Everything has a cause (including events and situations that cause you pain and suffering).
-Life can be worth living with painful events in it.
Why accept reality?
-Rejecting reality does not change reality.
-Changing reality requires first accepting reality.
-Pain can't be avoided; it is nature's way of signaling that something is wrong.
-Rejecting reality turns pain into suffering.
-Refusing to accept reality can keep you stuck in unhappiness, bitterness, anger, sadness, shame or other painful emotions.
-Acceptance may lead to sadness, but deep calmness usually follows.
-The path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you fall back into hell.
From DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan.
The meaning of dreams has always been interesting to me. In my experience, most people share a certain fascination with their dreams but make little effort to understand them. Dreams fade fast and it's easy to let them remain a curious oddity.
Our confusion about our own dreams seems to reflect a larger ignorance about the meaning of dreams in society as a whole. There are most likely many factors that contribute to this, one being they just seem plain weird! It's not hard to understand how intimidating the task of understanding can be for a novice interpreter. Despite this, with a little guidance, most of us can discover profound messages and direction in our dreams.
If you read my earlier posts about Focusing, or are already familiar with this awareness practice, it may come as no surprise that it can be applied to dream interpretation.
Eugene Gendlin, the founder of the Focusing practice also authored a book called, Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams. This book not only seeks to apply Focusing to dream work but also to incorporate various theories about dream interpretation. One result of his efforts is the formulation of a provocative list of questions that can be used to increase your understanding of dream content.
Here is a link to an abridged version of the questions provided by Leland E. Shields, MS, MA from his book, Dreamwork: Around the World and Across Time.
“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what [one] does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all [one] has, [one] cannot lose what [one] does not have.”
I don't quite remember how I stumbled across Jeffrey Young's, "Early Maladaptive Schemas," but it is something that I found immediately helpful and, since then, I have been using it more than any other session aide in my work with clients.
In Byron Katie's book, Loving What Is, she presents a simple exercise that can help free you from thoughts that cause suffering and paralysis and create possibility for positive change.
If you are suffering from low self-esteem, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, irritability or any sort of discomfort, I invite you to take a moment to identify the thought that lies at the heart of this feeling. Ask that feeling, "What are you trying to say?" If you are feeling lonely, the thought could be, "I'm unworthy of others." If you are feeling are anxious, the thought might be, "I don't have what it takes and I'm going to fail."
Once you've identified the thought. Ask yourself these questions:
1) Is it true? Can you absolutely know it is true with 100% certainty?
2) How do you feel when you have this thought?
3) Who would you be without this thought?
4) Turn the thought around (i.e. "I'm worthy of others," I'm not going to fail."). Is the turnaround thought true, or truer, than the original thought?
I encourage you to take your time with each of these questions and answer them as completely as possible.
This exercise does not promise to immediately take all your suffering away but it does offer a perspective on how to view your pain. This shift in understanding creates empowerment and the possibility for profound change.
For more about Byron Katie, click here.
Exulansis: n. the tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it.
Do you ever have a feeling or an experience that you struggle to put into words?
This is something that happens to most of us. Whenever I experience it, I'm reminded of the importance and the limitations of language.
A person's experience of reality is dictated by the depth of language they have to describe it. As soon as I realized this, it has become something that is hard to unsee.
On a day-to-day basis, most of the phrases we use consist of cliches and conventions that help us efficiently complete our social interactions with one another. We sacrifice depth for utility. We water down our language to make it understandable to others, sometimes at the cost of true understanding and connection.
Of course, this makes sense to do, it would be cumbersome to go through every conversation with the pressure to make sure the other understood the depth and complexity of what you are experiencing.
I think the unfortunate cost of this habit can be lack of intimacy, confusion and loneliness when this superficiality characterizes our understanding of ourselves and the way we communicate with those we are close with.
What if we approached our conversations with the intent of finding just the right words to describe what you are trying to say and we knew we had found those words based on the "aha" feeling inside that we have when we experience epiphany?
How would our relationships be impacted if, when we shared these experiences, we felt that other person was truly understanding and empathizing with our unique inner experience?
This is an invitation to begin to think about how you communicate with others and a suggestion that there is an opportunity for deeper connection right now. The best place to start may be with the person if your life that you trust the most.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Increasing your ability to think and communicate in this way takes practice. Regardless, I believe that, by merely shifting your awareness and intention, you can start having more satisfaction in your relationships.
Focusing is a technique that helps people strengthen this ability to attune, understand and describe inner experience. For more information, watch this video of Eugene Gendlin, the founder of Focusing, introducing the process.
A great book about our relationship with language and how language is both grounded in our experience of the natural world and but can also disconnect us from it is David Abram's, The Spell of the Sensuous.
Below is fun exercise to get you thinking about experiences you may dismiss because you didn't know how to explain them.
Content was taken from Writing About Writing
"Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
-Charlie Brown from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
For all you "Peanuts" lovers, hope your holidays are enjoyable and recharging. This photo is just a reminder that, if they aren't, the "doctor" is in. Feel free to reach out for a consultation. Although, this picture is a little misleading in regards to my rates, I'm confident that you will discover that therapy is worth the investment.
I recently came across this exercise and found it to have profound life-changing potential. The task is simple, answer 3 questions:
What have I received today?
What have I given today?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused?
An excerpt from the To Do Institute's website offers some insight into the value of this practice:
Often we take such things for granted. We hurry through our day giving little attention to all the “little” things we are receiving. But are these things really “little?” It only seems so because we are being supported and our attention is elsewhere. But when we run out of gas or lose our glasses, these little things grab our attention and suddenly we realize their true importance. As we list what we receive from another person we are grounded in the simple reality of how we have been supported and cared for. In many cases we may be surprised at the length or importance of such a list and a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation may be naturally stimulated. Without a conscious shift of attention to the myriad ways in which the world supports us, we risk our attention being trapped by only problems and obstacles, leaving us to linger in suffering and self-pity.
Do you have 20-30 minutes to dedicate to trying something new?
Take 5-10 minutes for each question. Here is an example of what a daily Naikan practice might look like.
If you try this practice and find it helpful, I encourage you to consider incorporating it on a regular basis. If not daily, imagine the impact this could have if it's done even 1-2 a week.
Mindfulness is moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, characterized mainly by "acceptance" - attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong. Mindfulness focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment. (The Greater Good Science Center)
There are many ways to practice mindfulness. One way is represented by the acronym RAIN. RAIN new mindfulness tool that offers support for working with intense and difficult emotions. It emerged relatively recently amongst Buddhist teachers and has been introduced into therapeutic practice by individuals such Tara Brach. It stands for:
R Recognize what is happening
A Allow life to be just as it is
I Investigate inner experience with kindness
For more information visit:
Get to know yourself better and gain insight on why you are feeling unfulfilled with this simple exercise.
This exercise can be done in as little as 30 minutes but the results can expose the reasons why you are feeling stuck. My hope is that, by gaining clarity on who you are, and what you value, you can begin to see where to focus your energy in the interest of improving your life.
I love participating in this exercise with my clients and I find that it's relevant for most people regardless of what brings them in to therapy. Today I am providing information on how to do the
exercise on your own but I encourage you to do the exercise with another person. If you are really struggling in your life, I would strongly recommend doing this exercise with a counselor.
It is helpful to do this with another person because identifying your core values is only half of the usefulness that this exercise holds. The rest comes from the process of deciding your core values.
Doing the exercise with another person allows you to share about what you are experiencing as you go through the steps. For example, you can learn something about yourself based on a strong negative reaction you have to a value card. You can learn something about yourself when you realize that a value you thought SHOULD be more important, doesn't make your top 10 list. Experiences like this can be useful as they may illuminate actual dynamics in your life that contribute to the "stuckness" you are feeling.
The idea is simple; if you are living according to your core values and your lifestyle gives you regular opportunity to do so, you will be substantially happier than if these values were blocked or if you are
living at odds with them.
Of course, it's possible that you already have a general sense of what your values are, but one purpose of this exercise is to identify which values stand out. As you do the exercise, you may notice that there are many values that you resonate with, but the point is to figure out what means the most to you.
There are a lot of ways to use the value card deck. The process described below is largely taken from instructions created by John Veeken and Marie McNamara, but I have expanded on these in ways that I have found useful with my clients.
1) You need a deck of value cards. You can find an abundance of these online.
I prefer the deck created by the Urban Indian Health Institute of Seattle. Their deck should be one of the first results you get if you type in “value card exercise” into Google.
2) Find a large surface to do the work. A dining room table is ideal.
3) Sort through the deck and begin placing the value cards in 3 categories: Most important to me, important to me and not important to me.
(Note: if you are really struggling to decide which category to place a value in, it may help to create a “neutral” stack).
4) As I mentioned above, pay attention to what your experiencing as you go through the deck.
Which cards do you react strongly too? Which are the easiest to place in a category? Which are the toughest? Do any of them make you feel angry, happy, sad, scared?
5) Once you have placed all the cards in a category, reflect on the experience and the choices you have made. Are there any cards and/or placements that are bugging you? Take note of these.
If you really are feeling stuck, you can place the cards in question in the “most important to me” stack and proceed to the next step.
6) Take the cards you placed in the “most important to me” section and pick your top 10 out of these cards. This step is about reducing the stack to 10, not ranking them 1-10. Pay attention to your experience. Were there any cards that were difficult to “give up?”
7) Next, pick your top 5 (again, in no particular order). As the stack gets smaller it can get harder to make selections. One strategy to help with this is to think about which values are similar. Is there a card that can, in essence, represent both values (i.e. solitude can represent independence or love can represent connection).
Note: It is okay to select a value even if you feel you aren't good at practicing it. It can be useful to identify values that you are “striving” towards.
8) Next, pick your top 3. These are your “core values.” These are the things that are the most meaningful above all other things. These values are a big part of who you are and how you understand yourself and the world.
9) Next, select your top value. Which one of these core values stands out above the rest?
Remember, if this process is challenging, that is a good thing. The good news is that you don't actually have to let go of any value. This process is about finding the best of the best.
10) Reflect on your experience. How are you feeling? What was that process like for you? Are you surprised by the results?
11) Take a look at your top 3 values, these are the most important things to you. These values need to be cherished, nurtured and protected. When you think about your life now, to what degree is
your characterized by these values. On a scale from 1-10, pick a number that best represents how much your life is defined by each value. Based on these numbers, are you discovering that
there is a gap between what is most important to you and your everyday life?
Fee free to do this step for your top 5 values. It can also be useful to do this step for your “not important” stack. Is everyday life heavily defined by things that are not important to you?
12) Now it's time to put some of this information into action. Think of ways in which you can increase the presence of these values in your life. For example, if connection is one of your
core values but, currently, you feel that your feeling of connectedness is a 3 out of 10, how could you make efforts to feel more connected this week? It is not necessary to identify life-
altering actions. Small efforts or intentions that can be put in to practice this week are ideal.
13) Take a photo of your core value cards with your phone so you always have them with you as a reminder and for inspiration.
Note: During this exercise you may have experienced some strong emotions or found that your currently lifestyle is at odds with your value system. This could be do to your occupation, habits or a
relationship. There may be no easy or obvious solution to your predicament. If this is the case, I would recommend finding a counselor to help you work through your situation.