For those who would prefer a guided meditation with visual images, here’s a link to the youtube version: https://youtu.be/vP9ILva4lh4
A while back (764th Week’s practice), I wrote about choosing frequencies and engaging practices that make that process more fluid. Another helpful approach is to cultivate an awareness of the “foreground/background” dynamic that is present in every moment. Whatever is in the foreground of your awareness, there is likely to be something different in the background.
One way to think about these foreground/background dynamics could be the distinction between moments of upset in the foreground and an awareness of the present-day observer in the background. The observer is the part of us that notices what we experience and is able to make choices about what to do with what we notice. In this case, we’re exploring finding ways to shift from the foreground upset to a background of a more regulated quality, if that’s what you choose to do.
Drawing on an awareness of foreground/background allows more choice about whether you want to continue with the focus of your attention and experience or if you want to shift frequencies to something else that you may find in the background. For example, you may be upset over a news report you just heard, with your body tense, fear in the foreground, and thoughts of what terrible things might unfold. These responses are natural in these times, but you don’t need to live there. Once you notice how distressed you are, it’s possible to become curious about what might be in the background. Perhaps you notice a quality of quiet, or ease, internal steadiness, or reassurance of some kind. This doesn’t mean you are ignoring or denying issues that are realistically upsetting. Instead, it means that you will be able to respond more coherently if you aren’t caught up in the activation related to them.Read More “778th Week: Foreground/Background Dynamics Revisited”
A friend of mine has been pretty consistently putting posts on Facebook that ask people to focus on what they are forrather than what they are against. These posts have been very helpful in reminding all of us that what we feed grows and that, when we spend our internal time fighting against something, we actually feed the very thing to which we object. From an energy perspective, it’s as though we’re actually turning up the volume on things we’d rather not hear at all.
One example that comes to mind at this time is the pervasive presence of expressions of lack of empathy for each other. Decisions by some lawmakers, treatment of neighbors by other neighbors, seeming lack of concern for one another’s well-being if we aren’t “part of the tribe” are found on every side these days. Rather than spending time expressing helpless rage at these conditions, I want to invite us to explore some alternatives.
First, there are approaches that convey the message, “What you fight, you feed.” This doesn’t mean not to take action when action is needed to change things or to intervene. Instead, it speaks to the habits of mind and self-talk we carry around with us internally every day, all day. From a Solution-Focused perspective (solution-focused therapy is a more modern branch of psychology), we are invited to look at, and to look for, what’s going right. For our practice here, I would add that we can ask ourselves to pay attention to the qualities we would like to see expressed more generously in ourselves and in the world around us.Read More “787th Week: Orienting to Solution-Focused Awareness and Helpful Archetypes”
For many of us, these are trying times and it can be challenging not to fall into collapse and discouragement over our collective political, social, and ecological situation. One of the things I’ve found helpful is to remember that there tend to be natural and inevitable cycles that shift what’s been in the foreground to the background and vice versa. When things look the worst, it sometimes means that change is just around the corner, that the pendulum is reading to swing the other way. Read More “696th Week: Trusting in Cycles”
One of the things that most of us find challenging is to manage uncertainty. It’s a natural response to be uncomfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen next or where we are headed, individually and collectively. For some people, finding conspiracy theories offers an experience of “knowing what’s going on” that calms the discomfort most of us feel around uncertainly. For others, anxiety becomes a constant companion and they have difficulty truly soothing themselves. For yet others, becoming numb and shutting down is their natural response to constant and mounting uncertainty.
Also, I want to affirm that having a response to uncertainty is certainly normal and not necessarily something that needs the kind of process I’ll describe below, so please be gentle with yourself when circumstances elicit discomfort and anxiety about the future.
As I’ve been thinking about how we can expand our capacity to be uncomfortable and find some degree of equanimity, I found myself thinking about a concept I have taught for many years—a process of uncoupling trauma-based associations, called over-couplings in the Somatic Experiencing® world. Let me define these terms as I did when teaching SE.
Trauma over-couplings are associations that become “glued together” during times of overwhelm or distress. These are individual elements of experience or learnings that actually don’t belong together. One common trauma-based, attachment-oriented over-coupling is: If I do what I want, they (whoever “they” might be) won’t love me. Those two things don’t really belong together and especially so in adult life. Another common trauma-based over-coupling is: Unless I know what’s going on, I won’t be safe. The problem with trauma-based over-couplings is that they predict something that may not, or probably won’t, happen. They often arise from childhood experiences where we were not only ill equipped to have options available to us but when we also weren’t mature enough to understand what was happening.
I’d like to offer one way to deal with these trauma-based over-couplings. I called it “therapeutic dissociation” in my book, Getting Through the Day, but it’s actually a form of uncoupling adult awareness and options from those arising from earlier overwhelming experience.Read More “812th Week: Managing Uncertainty”
Walking across Central Park one morning, I watched a dog wiggle and waggle in anticipation of chasing a ball. His attention was absolutely fixed on the ball in his human companion’s hand. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else registered as the ball was finally in the air and he ran after it with great enthusiasm. This got me to thinking about how powerfully the focus of our attention affects what we perceive and how we engage the world. Read More “Week 628: Where Do You Place Your Attention?”