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Learning to Sit with Depression: The Boulder Center for Mindfulness Psychotherapy

Posted Jan 11 2010 12:01pm
 
During my work with clients either through Online Mindfulness Therapy Skype sessions ( Skype Therapy ) or in the office, I find that one of the central problems most people have is that they do not know how to focus inwardly and create a quiet, safe space in which they can engage with their inner emotional suffering. We develop a plethora of secondary reactions of avoidance, resistance or plain resignation. We busy ourselves in activities, anything to avoid facing the inner reality of our anxiety or depression. We talk about our problems, analyze them, and try to fix things through will power and positive thinking, which are all fine in themselves, but only if they come out of a foundation of stillness and inner listening. The problem is that we do not take the time to cultivate this inner relationship, and that’s like trying to fix a problem without knowing all the facts, and that is never a good strategy. We need to learn the art of being still and completely present with the anxiety, depression, traumatic memory or other upset; in short we need to learn the art of listening within. Everyone knows the importance of listening without, to a friend or child needing our attention and support. Well this very same attitude is needed within if we want to bring about healing. This is the prime work of Mindfulness Meditation Therapy: learning to form a relationship based on listening, openness and being completely present with your emotions, and in therapy-teaching sessions, you will be taught how to do this in great detail.
            Therapy begins the moment a client establishes a mindfulness-based relationship with his or her emotional reactions, and in fact therapy can almost be defined as the process of cultivating the art of inner listening until it becomes the natural response to suffering. Why is this so important? The attitude of listening and being totally present for our experience has many extraordinary effects, and all of them bring benefit. At the most fundamental level, listening is the process in which we stop reacting and start experiencing. This is what is described as the development of “presence,” and this is one of the chief characteristics of mindfulness: being fully present for whatever you are experiencing, without the interference of thinking or further reacting to what you are experiencing. In fact mindfulness can be described as “engaged-presence.” It is that quality of acute listening and openness to experience coupled by a willingness to engage and face our experience, including the painful and disagreeable thoughts and emotions.
            As a therapist, my primary mission is to help my client establish this engaged-presence of mindfulness with his or her suffering. Mindfulness teaches us how to tune in to our core emotions, and as we do that, we create a space around the pain that I call the “therapeutic space of mindfulness.” Reactivity tends to close and contract the mind making it fearful and angry, neither of which helps the healing process. Mindfulness tends to open and expand conscious awareness, and literally makes room in which tight and contracted emotional states can begin to move, unfold and differentiate. In summary: Reactivity inhibits change; mindfulness facilitates change, and this is one of the basic principles of mindfulness psychology.
            Mindfulness of our emotions is not the same as acting out the emotion and it is not wallowing in feeling bad. It is the process of literally “sitting” with the emotion: nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to fix, just being 100% present with the emotion as an object to observe and investigate with care. This shift in relationship from subjective reactivity, in which we are continually hijacked by our emotions, to an objective relationship, in which we can be with our emotions in a state of inner silence, has an immensely powerful healing effect. It literally creates a space in which the emotion can change from within. So, if you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, fear, worry, guilt or depression, then Mindfulness Meditation Therapy will be of great value to you.
            One woman described how she saw herself as being a victim of incessant worrying and anxiety. She had tried several forms of talking therapy, but the anxiety persisted. When I asked her what color the anxiety-emotion was, she seemed puzzled. Apparently, in all her previous therapy sessions no one had asked her to look inside and see what was actually there. Talking about emotions is never as effective as actually looking at them directly. After a couple of sessions of MMT she established an inner mindfulness-based relationship with the anxiety-emotion and immediately noticed that it had a black color and had a hard, tight form. Now, for the first time, she had something tangible to work with, and after several more sessions of simply creating a therapeutic mindfulness space around the black object, it spontaneously began to soften and loosen up, eventually taking on a new color and changing in many other ways. The constricted emotional energy was being released during this process of direct inner experiencing and this led to profound transformation at the core. Out of this change at the core feeling level, her beliefs and thinking also changed and she no longer felt a victim of compulsive worrying. She readily found new solutions and more positive perspectives on things, and all this arose as a consequence of first learning to be present with her worry-thoughts through mindfulness training.
            Mindfulness meditation is like “mental massage” in which we bring warmth and healing energy to those hard, reactive places within, and with each gentle touch, suffering begins to respond by healing itself from within. In the Online Mindfulness Therapy Course, I teach clients how to do this “mindfulness massage” so that they can practice the art of inner healing at the core level and learn a totally different way of being with the many challenges of their lives. The problem is seldom in the challenges, disappointments and issues, but almost always in the way that we react to these events. Mindfulness teaches us how to maintain balance and to avoid becoming reactive. We learn to replace reactivity with responsiveness, based on mindfulness rather than blind compulsion. That is the path that heals suffering in our heart and in our relationships. In fact, many of my clients use the mindfulness skills that they learn to heal the compulsive patterns of reactivity and arguing that destroys personal relationships. It all begins by learning the art of true listening based on mindfulness and engaged-presence.
 
 
Peter Strong, PhD is a scientist, author, teacher and Professional Online Psychotherapist, based in Boulder, Colorado, who specializes in the study of mindfulness and its application in Online Psychotherapy via Skype for healing the root causes of anxiety ( Online Anxiety Therapy ), depression ( Online Depression Counseling ) and emotional stress ( Online Stress Management ).

Visit http://www.counselingtherapyonline.com to learn more about the Online Counseling Service of The Boulder Center for Mindfulness Therapy.

Email inquiries are most welcome. Request a Skype Therapy Session and begin your Online Treatment for Depression today and begin a course of Mindfulness Therapy with Online Therapist Dr. Peter Strong.

 


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