Never hold your breath: Finding space, sentences & self

From Florence to Rome, photography by Diedré M. Blake (2011)

Nine months ago, I began travelling once again.  It would seem that much of travelling would involve rapid movement.  Perhaps each day, waking up leads to seeing a new city, or being in a completely different time zone, or realizing that only one hour has passed of a ten-hour flight.  The actions of packing and re-packing and saying goodbyes and hellos only reinforce the notion that time is moving quickly – It becomes a continuous cycle of beginnings and endings.

Then there is the “stuff” in the middle: the time spent experiencing a new culture, new people, or returning to the familiar.  Quick or slow, the hyper-awareness of passing time has become, perhaps, a universal experience for travellers.  For myself, practicing mindfulness has been integral in being able to manage time-based anxiety, to slow down, and to keep myself “in the moment.”

I wrote about mindfulness in other postings, but I thought to share mindfulness expert Dr. Marsha Linehan‘s words on the goal of practicing mindfulness skills.  In her Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder, she states the goal of mindfulness skills is “learning to be in control of your own mind, instead of letting your mind be in control of you.”

Dr. Linehan’s dialectical behavior therapy treatment (DBT), in which mindfulness is the core skill, has been proven to be effective in helping a person gain a more adaptive method of dealing with his or her life.   Just imagine what it could do for managing anxiety related to travel? 😉

On the way home, photography by Diedré M. Blake (2011)

Never hold your breath…

In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Linehan revealed her own struggle with mental illness (borderline personality disorder), and how these struggles helped her in developing DBT.  I was not shocked, or even mildly surprised, by this article.  I imagine that there are some within the field of psychology, who are now balking at her decision to publicly disclose her illness.  After all, based upon my own experiences, I would say that there is a good deal of conservatism on the subject of disclosure and just how “human” (read: have struggles of their own) therapists can reveal themselves to be.

After reading this article, one thought struck me – How terrified Dr. Linehan must have been over the decades because she thought it professionally better to keep her struggles secret?  What does it mean for the field of psychology that one of its most prominent members has only now felt safe enough to disclose her struggle?  Is the field still so rooted in psychoanalysis, in the Freudian desire that therapists be a type of tabula rasa (“blank slate”), wanting for clients to experience transference? Of course… there is a reason for the experience and acknowledgement of counter-transference… Right?

I like the idiom “don’t hold your breath.”  Traditionally, the meaning refers to impossibility of something happening.  What I like specifically is the coming together of stagnation and the flow of time.  For me, the expression reads more like “It is important to continue living, even when waiting for something or someone, because the only actions that can be controlled are your own.”  In the article on Linehan, she states clearly that she did not want to chance dying and not have been brave enough to step forward.  In terms of travelling, it is the idea that focusing on either the beginning or end might cause you to miss the important moments of the middle.

It is the middle, the moment in which the understood and well-regulated reality is held in abeyance, that creates the opportunity for new experiences and self-development.  So, focus on the moment, this moment, because the beginning and end come sometimes faster or slower than can be imagined.

Go, photography by Diedré M. Blake (2011)

Finding space, sentences & self…

I took some time away from the blog to become more settled (it’s a process), to lend support to both my family-of-choice and family-of-origin, and to gain more complete understanding on my reasons for sharing my thoughts with a larger audience.  Like the process of self-understanding, this blog is steadily finding its path.

Taking space has meant the opportunity observe life and experience living without constant analysis, which is its own type of judgement.  Moreover, at the end of the day, if the few or many words I choose to share offer comfort and encouragement to any individual, then I am satisfied.  Remember…

The path to self is never clear, and thus it remains important to “stop, look, listen… and think,” in order to keep living.

  Best of regards to everyone. 

D.

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