Fibromyalgia | Feeling Stuck? Try These 3 DBT Tips

Image from ThisIsYourConscience.com

Image from ThisIsYourConscience.com

It’s no joke when you wake up to feeling that there is nothing you can do to make your life better. This may be especially so when you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia.  There are just sometimes when your life seems to be going nowhere and the only thing you have to look forward to is another day of symptom management.  Such moods can pass quickly, i.e. given your temperament and support network.

Still, what if it doesn’t?  What if you continue such negative self-talk and feel unable to break the cycle that you’re in? Well, the outcome surely isn’t going to be of benefit to you, your self-esteem, and achieving your goals.

So, before you get to that point, I wanted to share with you 3 tips from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that may get you out your rut.

I’ve discussed DBT in various posts, so I won’t go into full details here. Suffice to say that DBT, developed by Marsha Linehan, is a form of therapy that uses the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and incorporates a cognitive behavioral approach to making positive change in your life.

Of course, there is a great deal more that goes into DBT.  The 3 tips below, however, might just be ticket to making this day one that lives you feeling inspired to do more and experience more in your life.

  • Opposite to Emotion Action – Although one of the last suggested techniques to changing your emotional circumstances, Opposite to Emotion is the first technique I turn to when needing to motivate myself.  Opposite to Emotion (from the Emotion Regulation skill set) asks of you to do the contrary action to your present emotion/thoughtsSo, let’s say that your mood is so low and the last thing you want to do is to take care of yourself.  Well, do exactly the opposite, i.e. take care of yourself. In this case, taking a shower, eating well, taking a walk, etc.

 

  • Nonjudgmental Stance – This is one of the last skills that is learned in the first DBT skill set of Mindfulness.  Taking a Nonjudgmental Stance means taking an objective distance from your present circumstances.  It asks of you to 1) observe your experience nonjudgmentally, i.e. without trying to change them, 2) describe your experience nonjudgementally, i.e. without condemnation or praise, 3) participate in your experience nonjudgementally, i.e. allowing yourself to be wholly involved in whatever you are doing.  I use nonjudgmental stance when I find myself in confusion about the actions or inactions I’ve taken in my life.  I aim to get at the heart and mind of my present circumstances, so that I can better understand how to change them.

 

  • Improve the Moment This is one of the four basic skills learned in the Distress Tolerance skill set.  Simply put, do what you can to make the moment better and not worse.  Focus on decreasing levels of stress and, if possible, removing yourself from the environment that may be contributing negatively to your experience.  This is where techniques such as imagery, finding meaning in the moment, utilizing prayer, practicing relaxation skills, taking a one thing at a time approach, taking a literal vacation from the place, seeking or remembering encouragement. 

 

Individually, each one of these 3 tips works wonders.  However, when put all together, I believe that you may experience even a greater shift.  I would add to the tips helping others.  I find that when I take the time to help someone else, it helps me to feel less stuck and more motivated to experience positive change.

 

Until Next Wednesday,

D.

Fibromyalgia & the New You: How to Begin Restructuring Your Life After a Loss of “Self” (Part 1)

hyperrealism,art,swim,swimming,relax,

A decade ago, the word fibromyalgia didn’t exist in my vocabulary.  To be honest, my relationship with illness was that I was never ill in any serious way.  I lived to work and study, which eventually jeopardized relationships.  That way of functioning, however, was what I was taught growing up.  You were suppose to disregard all else in favour of work, whether physical or mental.

I saw my body and my mind as tools to be used relentlessly.  I would work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. at one job, then jump in my car, drive one hour, and then work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. I worked every holiday–a habit that I did not break until I moved to Italy. I volunteered to work when someone else didn’t want to, or called out, or whatever.  I made myself overly reliable, and everyone knew they could ask me to step in to help at any time.

Work trumped all else.

So, what happens when a person who self-defines through excessive work (“workaholic”) loses the ability to overwork or even work?  In Rome, we say sono distrutta/o (“I am destroyed”) when something happens that is overwhelming and/or devastating.  I think this expression is apt: you feel a huge part of you has been destroyed.  There is a shattering of the self, a destructive blow to one’s inner worth.

However, the blow doesn’t happen just once.  There are many blows, one for each thing you realize that you can no longer do.  Moreover, the blow aren’t just internal.  You receive external blows that land in the form of judgement, dismissal, and utter disregard…even from the people for whom you once bent over backwards to help when you were well.

That, sometimes, isthe harsh reality of having this illness.  Some people may begin turning their backs on you as they come to realize that you can no longer do what they want/need.  Although such experiences can hurt, they offer you the great opportunity to begin understanding who your real supports are, who you can really trust, and where you actually stand.

Knowing where you stand with yourself and with others, I think, is the one of the most fundamental aspects of beginning to restructure your life after any sense of loss of “self.”   In an earlier post, I wrote about reality checking, i.e. making certain that you understand what is happening in you and around you. Knowing where you stand with yourself and with others is, in essence, reality checking.  One might even call it being mindful to self and environment. Regardless of what you choose to call it, simply do it.

First, take stock of you, what’s going on within you.  Open yourself up to a non-judgmental inner dialogue, and encourage yourself to express all that is challenging you when it comes to your illness and the impact that it has had on your life thus far, or even what fears you may have about the future. Be honest with you.

Second, speak directly with those around you. Open yourself up to non-judgmental external dialogues, and encourage others to express to you how your illness challenges them, what scares them about it now and what they worry about in the future. Of course, make sure you express your thoughts and feelings as well.

Remaining in a non-judgmental stance is vital, in my opinion, to understanding 1) where you are, 2) where you are going, and 3) where you might prefer to go instead. It keeps you here and now, but with a distance that allows for some objectivity about your life.

It’s true that having fibromyalgia can suck the life out of you. However, you do not have to allow fibromyalgia to suck you out of life. Yes, things are different now. Yes, you have no idea how it’s all going to work out.  Yes, you are scared.  All of those things are okay. Your feelings are you feelings and they should be owned you.

Still, having fibromyalgia isn’t the end of the world.  It may be an ending of a chapter of your life as you knew it.  And now you can write a new chapter.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

FMS | Fibromyalgia is Not the Enemy. Your Attitude Is.

Featured Image -- 5348

This is what we need to aim for every. single. day.

Beyond medical research, I spend a lot of time reading personal stories of people who have fibromyalgia.  After all, I have the illness, and it feels good to have a sense of belonging. However, there is a problem.

What I’ve noticed is that many of these stories, including some of my own, focus on the (for lack of a better word) negative aspects of the illness.  There is nothing wrong with that. Of course, we all need a place to share our grievances, our challenges, and our pain.  This can help those without fibromyalgia understand a bit more about our experiences with the illness.  Sharing, however, the negative of our illness is not always helpful…to us.

What I mean is: isn’t it about time that we share the positive? Share our successes?  If nothing else, in both my personal and professional lives, I learned that focusing on what works helps us to feel better about ourselves and our circumstances.  (Also, reading about the success of others in overcoming their challenges is helpful to those who are struggling.)

For example, let’s say you’ve been waking up every morning (if you even slept) and have felt so tired that the idea of getting up is too much.  Okay, that’s fine. Now, instead of focusing on feeling so tired, how about focusing on the simple pleasure of I woke up today. Perhaps that may seem a bit morbid.

The reality is, however, that if we can take a moment to focus on what is good/positive/working, then what is bad/negative/broken begins to matter less.

So, to give you a boost, I thought I would share with you my 5 steps to feeling motivated for each fibromyalgia day:

  1. Appreciate. Every morning and for the rest of my day, I take moments to simply express gratitude for the simple things in life, whether internally or externally or both. The sun is shining. I am breathing. The birds are singing, etc.
  2. Celebrate. Even if I am stuck in bed all day long, I celebrate myself and my achievements for the day.  Perhaps the only achievement I can point to is my self-care, i.e. not pushing myself beyond my limit and not beating myself up because I can’t do what others can.
  3. Life-dream. Okay, so it’s a rough day today, but guess what? Tomorrow might just be better, and what do you want to do? I take time to make small and big plans for my future. I keep in mind something that YouTuber CharlyCheer expressed in one of her videos: if you can spend 10 minutes today working on a goal, then you are that much closer to achieving it.  So, dream and dream BIG.
  4. One-step.  I take the foot-in-the-doordoor-in-the-face compliance strategies. What does that mean? I negotiate with myself. I ask myself to do something either so small (foot in the door) that I know I can do it, or I ask myself for something so grand that I know I will reject in favour of something smaller. In essence, I force myself into complying with taking a positive action.  What the video below.
  5. Laugh. I spend a great deal of time laughing.  Sometimes it is because of something I make myself watch (cartoons, comedies, etc.), sometimes it’s a memory of something I did (I can be very clumsy), or sometimes it’s listening to or reading something funny (whimsical music, comic strips, joke books, etc.).  The point is, I force myself to experience a positive emotion. Check out DBT technique  Opposite to Emotion Action.

You know, having fibromyalgia does not have to suck.  It’s true sometimes it does, and when it does…man, well…you get the idea.  Fibromyalgia is just an illness. It’s not the bogeyman, nor the devil or some demon meant to torment you.  It’s nothing to really be sad about, in my opinion.

Yes, your life has changed.  However, focus on how you can compensate for those changes/challenges.  Make having fibromyalgia a positive for you.  When people say, “I’m so sorry you have fibromyalgia” (I hear this a lot), respond with “I’m not! It’s one of the best things that has happened to me and has helped me change my perspectives on life!”

And that’s the truth. Fibromyalgia does teach you many wonderful things about life, especially because it forces you to slow down, to pay attention, and to take care.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

 

[Reblog] When the Borderline Becomes the Therapist

[Reblog] When the Borderline Becomes the Therapist

Article by Gerri Luce

“My cousin and I were shopping for work clothes for my new social worker job when I pulled a long sleeved blouse from the rack.

“How’s this for my first day?” I asked her.

“You’ll sweat to death.”

I looked at her.  “I need to cover my scars.”

I had scars on both my arms, on my forearms and upper arms. I had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder about 20 years ago following two suicide attempts. I had been cutting myself for years before that. When I was in a particularly fanciful mood, I would slice words into my flesh, such aspig and cow, becauseI was also anorexic and imagined myself to be round, like those animals.”

Mental Gossip… Allowances & No Rewind

"The Girl With The Field Of Dreams," photogragh by Dolores Juhas (2011). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

“Try hard not to create too much hope and fear, for they only engender more mental gossip.” – Sogyal Rinpoche (Glimpse of the Day)

Today, I was gripped by a sudden feeling of anxiety for someone, whose path is now divergent from my own.  And I allowed that anxiety to take possession of my entire physical and mental being, and a profound worry for this person’s well-being overcame me.

I even went so far as to attempt to make contact to send well-wishes, because I had this fearful thought that “something horrible had happened or is happening.”

Upon reflection, I do not nor did not regret either making contact or wishing this person well.  I wondered only why I allowed this feeling of anxiety to take control of my thoughts and actions… Then I realized…

The anxiety stemmed from one thought, “I no longer know what is happening to this person, whether this person lives or dies. I am not privvy to this knowledge.”

My immediate emotional reaction to that thought was fear/anxiety.  I began to worry whether or not this person were in danger, whether or not this person lived, whether or not this person needed help, etc.  You get the idea here… There was a lot of worrying going on in that moment.

The point is this: Instead of going to the utter negative, i.e. “Something horrible is happening to this person and I am scared,” I could have gone to the positive, “Something wonderful is happening to this person and I am glad.” 🙂

Allowances…

So, allow the thoughts of former loved ones, friends, and acquaintances to come into your mind as they will (seemingly randomly… Although they are probably caused by something in the immediate environment that illicits a memory).  Allow your mind to wonder about where these persons are now, how their lives have changed, and what future they hope to have.  Allow, too, the worries that may come or other feelings that you may find challenging to manage…

Remember, however, that our feelings are based upon our thoughts.

We can paint in our minds images of positive happenings for those, with whom we are no longer connected.  We can see them surrounded by joy, by loved ones, by success, by good weather (I’m just seeing if you are paying attention here ;)).

Yes, even for those who may have caused us great hurt, we can still imagine them being surrounded by happiness in our minds.  At this point, you might ask, Why, D?

Well,  focusing your mind on the positive brings about positive emotions.  Yes, there may be a part of you that wishes that things weren’t going all that well for a specific person.  Remember, however, that spending time focusing on those negative thoughts only brings about more of those types of emotions… You know, the ones that you may find challenging or negative.

And really, who wants to spend all, or even some, of their time feeling angry, sad, envious, guilty, ashamed, fearful, and disgusted?  And if you do, then… you should contact me…

Rewinding the clock

If I were able to rewind the last two hours of my life (because this really all just happened now), I would have done a couple of things differently:

  1. As I mentioned above, I would have reframed my thinking.  That is, I would have confronted that initial thought that provoked such disruptive feelings and found a way to disprove the thought, in order to replace thought.  Seriously, what proof had I that “something horrible” is happening?  None.  Equally, I have no proof that “something wonderful” is happening either.  It is, however, more beneficial emotionally, psychologically, and physically to focus on the positive as it helps me to maintain a manageable stress level (which in general I keep quite low).
  2. I would have waited at least until the morning to decide on whether or not to make contact.  I often find that a good night’s sleep does wonders to refocusing our emotional space and in clarifying our plans of action. (I will make allowances for myself today, because I had a touch of insomnia last night 😉)
  3. I would have contacted a friend.  Talking to friends about the situation is helpful.  Going over worries with someone who knows us well and/or the other person can help to bring necessary objectivity, which will help in gaining insight into our feelings.
  4. I would have written a letter or written in my journal.  Writing our thoughts down truly helps to “get it all out” of our system and offers a creative outlet for expression.  We may even be able to write our way through the problem to a reasonable solution.
  5. I would have remembered that this person is an adult and care take care of his or her own life.  If he or she needed me, then it is easy enough to make contact in this age of technology.  That’s right.  No one has somehow destroyed all cellular phones, computers, regular phones, the post office, or this person’s feet.  If he or she wanted to be in contact, then he or she would find a way.  Trust me.

All in all, it was good to think of and envision wonderful things for this person today (i.e. after the panic).  I am glad that our paths crossed.  And no, there was no response to my attempt at contact… but that was never the point. 😉

Until next time!

Best,

D.

Self-potrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her: d_juhas@yahoo.co.uk.  She has her own blog at http://themax.bloger.hr

Self-deconstruction and self-foundation

"Reaching You," photography by Dolores Juhas, 2011. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas, All Rights Reserved

“Generally, one’s sense of self is formed by observations of oneself and of others’ reactions to one’s actions.  Emotional consistency and predictability, across time and similar situations, are prerequisites of identity development.”  This quote by Marsha M. Linehan summarizes well the process through which each individual goes in constructing a sense of self, beyond the issue of temperament.  It begins from our earliest movements and continues as we move through our lives.  Ideally, our self-identity or self-construct is one that has developed from an initially positive foundation and continues to develop along the same lines, being reinforced by healthy relationships.  The reality, however, is that life may not have afforded many of us such an initial positive foundation and/or the positive experiences thereafter, which would have enabled us to have a current healthy and positive self-construct.

Why not deconstruct

In reflecting on the intricacies of my life history, I remember distinct moments, especially as a teenager and young adult, when I longed to have a kind of “rewind” or “erase” button, to redo or eliminate some experience that I thought should have been different.  This type of thinking kept me for a long time in, what I call, the “mistake” or “error” mode.  I was constantly looking for where or, how, or, when or, why I would make my next mistake…  After all, I knew that it was only a matter of time! 😉  And of course, with my thinking constantly and consistently in this mode, I constantly and consistently “believed” I was making mistakes and that everything was my fault.  After all, everyone else was perfect.  Who I was… was in error.  My self-construct was in the negative.

It took the encouragement of some older, wiser women and men (I call them mentors), during my undergraduate studies, to help me to realise my potential and to acknowledge to my positive traits.  With these new influences, I was able to begin establishing a positive self-construct.

It would be a lovely story to say that all one needs is the encouragement of some nice people, and wham! there you have your positive self-construct.  Having encouraging, supportive, and wise people around me was one part; the other part came later: I had to self-deconstruct.

"Not the self-destruct button" found at http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/4100. I had to include this image... It was just too funny not to do so :).

No… I didn’t write self-destruct.   Self-deconstruction is what I have chosen to label the process by which a person has chosen to thoroughly examine his or her life.  That is, to take apart one’s self: one’s memories, one’s beliefs about one’s world, one’s values, etc.  In essence, to go through the process of continuing to ask yourself the question Why? over and over and over…. Why do I believe this? Why is it so? Why must it be?  Until you have answers that are truly your own and/or that you can see more plainly why you believe as you do about yourself and about the world around you.

It is not an easy process – I will not say that the process can ever be completed, because I believe it is a process that should be ongoing… just like self-construction.  It is in my opinion a type of yin yang: Self-deconstruction and self-construction are interdependent and interconnected, enabling us to reach a state of self-actualization.

"The Sunflower View," photography by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

And what have you found?

As I mentioned above, self-deconstruction is a process of stripping away, and looking plainly at the self.   What is found there, however, may be deemed positive and/or negative.

In English, we often speak of “laying a solid foundation.”  You could substitute the word “solid” with “good” or “strong,” etc.  The point is that we believe that the start or base of something, whether organization or actual building, should be made of the kind of stuff  that will not be easily shaken, or fall apart.   I believe the same is important when laying one’s self-foundation.

In making the decision to undergo the process of self-deconstruction, with the inevitable self-reconstruction process to follow, one must consider self-foundation.  What type of person do I want to be?  How do  I want to be understood by and engage with the world around me?  Self-deconstruction offers the opportunity to lay a new foundation through acceptance of self and establishment of healthier relationships, both with self and others.

Acceptance of self means taking the core aspects of the self, i.e. both what is considered positive and negative.  The key factor is find a useful/effective application for all aspects of the self in the world.  Simply put, allow your strengths to continue doing what they do best, and work on understanding how your weakness (negatives) can become strengths.

Acknowledge who, what, and how you are

AND

Challenge yourself to see the positive in all aspects of you.

It is a path to building your strongest foundation.

Best of Regards,

D.

Monday, 5th of Sept, 2011: Strengths and weaknesses: How we let others divide and conquer us.

Self-portrait by Dolores Juhas. Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at http://www.dolores-juhas.tk or email her: d_juhas@yahoo.co.uk.  She has her own blog at http://themax.bloger.hr 

Una bella dama…even when feeling anything but…

"Seeking Solace" digital photography by Diedré M. Blake (Rome, Italy) 2011.

In general, I am a quiet person… seemingly almost bordering on withdrawn, especially when difficulties in my arise.  The last two months have been somewhat of  a testimony to this aspect of my personality.   For the most part, being quiet helps me to be more observant of the world around me.  On the other hand, it is not always easy for me to express myself when I am experiencing difficulties.  At this point, the question “What’s the point, D?” might be on the tips of many tongues.  The point is that during this period of solitude, someone made me aware of a simple observation.  The observation was about me.

 

Una bella dama

I am a fairly routinized person, and being in Rome does not change this fact.  Each day, I get up and go out for a walk.  Usually, I end up in the historic centre.  On Easter Sunday, I found myself in Campo de’ Fiori, sitting alone at a familiar café (you know the one…the one where I was gratefully accused of being a feminist).  I was engrossed in writing while simultaneously eating (because I, too, can multitask… mindfully).  I was not aware that a man was observing me at the table across from my own. 

Concluding his meal, this man came over to my table and said to me, “I wish you a happy Easter.  You seem so sad, but know that you are elegant and una bella dama.  I hope you know what that means.”  And with that he was gone.

And I, who felt anything but beautiful (bella) or even much of a lady (dama) in that moment, smiled. 

Sometimes the universe provides us with unexpected but necessary solace in moments of sorrow.  For that I am grateful.

In the pagan cemetery, photography by Heather Webster (Rome, 2011).

 

Even when feeling anything but…

The poem below is one of my favourites to share and to explore in group therapy work with female adolescents and young adults.  I find that Maya Angelou strikes an important chord within the self as she speaks about her ability to embrace all aspects of who she is that, in totality, make her a “phenomenal woman.” 

Some people have expressed their awe to me, especially lately, because of their perception of my fearlessness, courage, and spontaneity.  It is true that I have courage (I believe most people do) and that I can be spontaneous (I believe most people can).  It is, however, not true that I am without fear (and if you have read this blog, then you already know how much I write about my fears).

"Dance...Trastevere" digital photography by Diedré M. Blake (Rome, Italy) 2011.

The presence of fear gives me courage… Without fear, why would I have need for courage?  I am sometimes spontaneous, but perhaps more accurate is that I believe in achieving my dreams, and I make necessary decisions to fulfill them…  I suppose these decisions and my actions can seem spontaneous, because I am not always forthcoming with my thought processes.  Then again, who is? 😉

I believe in the principles of Maya Angelou’s poem whole-heartedly.    Regardless of emotional ups or downs, by practicing self-acceptance and pursuing self-actualization, I am continually embracing myself as a phenomenal woman (even when feeling anything but).  This, I believe is an important aspect of self-growth, i.e. to be able to appreciate, accept, make space for and use of the multiple dualities of the self.  We are all shades of black and white, and gradients of grey… Let’s not even get into colour schemes!

These past weeks reminded me that each person is unique and thus a phenomenon in his/her own right.  It’s a matter of whether or not one is willing to embrace it… After all, no one is better at being who you are.  So, what’s preventing you from embracing your inner and outer phenomena?

 

"Hold" digital photography by Diedré M. Blake (Rome, Italy) 2011.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
-M. Angelou

What if I told you… a Secret?

What if I told you that on Thursday, October 14, 2010 as I sat on an airplane travelling back to the U.S. from my very first trip to Rome, I wrote the following words,

“I want to return to Rome and stay for 6 months 1month very soon.”

At the time I had no idea as to how I would do this.  I had no money, no time, and no seeming way that I could make this manifest.  I just knew that I wanted to do it.  I knew I had to do it.  I believed that I could and I would do it, even if I didn’t know how.  From the moment of writing those words, a series of many things happened, both experienced as good and bad.  All moved me towards achieving the above goal. 

What if I told you that by October 27, 2010 I had bought my ticket to return to Rome for less than $500?  What if I told you that along with the above words, I had also written,

“I want to live alone while I am there.”

and that by November 11, 2010 I had met the man, from whom I would eventually rent my studio at an affordable price.

 

The Power of Belief and Self-efficacy

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a fairly popular concept in today’s society, but it can be traced back throughout the ages. 

The idea is a simple one: what we truly believe, we will manifest into reality.  Typically, the self-fulfilling prophecy has a somewhat negative connotation as it may be used in association with “bad” events.  For example, if a man continuously worries that his wife will leave him, and then eventually  she will.  The self-fulfilling prophecy, however, is a simply strategy of thought manifested into reality.  The manifestation, however, can occur in three ways: positive, neutral, or negative. 

A positive manifestation is simple enough.  It is when we desire something positive to occur in our lives and we truly believe that it will, and thus it does.  The negative manifestation is, of course, the opposite of the positive.  A neutral manifestation (and this is my own term) is when we want something to occur in our lives, typically positive, but we do not fully believe that it will – We end up with perhaps a type of “mixed” result, a neutralized experience. 

For example, you may have just been interviewed for a new job and believe you will be hired because you see yourself as the best candidate.  At some point, however, perhaps due to delay in response from the company, you begin to doubt yourself as being the best candidate… you still believe that you are a very good candidate and that there is no reason why the company shouldn’t hire you, but now you are not sure.  So, you get the call.  You are hired!  Yes!  There is a problem, however.   You are offered a lowered salary or a different position altogether, because the company believes you are not as qualified for the position as they would like for you to be.  Do you see?  The situation has been neutralized.  You are happy for the job offer, but unhappy because the result is not exactly the way you had hoped for it to be… It is exactly what you believed it to be – That is, perhaps you were not the best candidate, merely a good one – Why would a company pay top dollar to good candidate or give that person the position when they can hire the best?   

In psychology, we have been quite happy to latch on to the self-fulfilling prophecy to help people to change their thoughts and their behaviours, and thus ultimately their lives.  Regardless of the branch of psychology, in my opinion, the ultimate goal is to have people have better opinions about themselves and a more positive outlook on their lives, in order to live their lives more effectively and successfully.  As a practitioner of DBT, I am constantly asking clients (and myself) to keep themselves open to new ways of interpreting the experiences they have in the world.  Why?  Well, like I said in my post on Saturday (2.12.11), it is our thoughts that dictate our emotions, and our emotions that dictate our actions, and our actions result in direct and indirect consequences (some of which we may not like).  Thus, it is in controlling our thoughts that we have the power to control ourselves, and the impact of the world around us on ourselves, holistically.

What we think, i.e. our thoughts, is one aspect of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  It is, however, not enough.  Thinking something once does not make or break you (and thank goodness for that!  Or else, I would be in serious trouble!) – It is the pervasiveness of our thoughts, i.e. how much we believe in our thoughts.  How often are we thinking these thoughts?  Are they there in the back of our minds as we go throughout the day?  Are they the first of our day, or last thoughts before we go to bed?  Are they the instant thoughts we have in reaction to anything “bad” or “good” happening to us?  This is what I mean by pervasiveness… by belief.  How much do you believe in your thoughts?

There are many of us who would like to say, “Oh, I might think some negative things about myself, but I don’t believe them.”  Really?  Then, why do you say them to yourself?  Ask yourself. 

The truth is that we can see ourselves as quite capable individuals in many areas of our lives, and are able to say to ourselves, “Bravo, you rock!  You’re awesome!” (These are some of my cheering statements – Feel free to borrow.)  There are, however, other areas, where we may not believe ourselves to be as capable and may say things like this ourselves, “I can’t believe I am so dumb!  Why do always crazy crap like that?  Nobody else would have been so stupid!  I’ll never get things right!  I am such a mess up!” (These aren’t my self-doubting statements, but you get the point – Remember, D says, “Don’t use these! Bad for you!”)

I intentionally listed more self-demeaning/self-doubting statements.  Why?  Because, we tend to verbally beat ourselves up more!  That’s why!  Come on, think about it!  For how long do you keep yourself in a state of misery after something not so great happens?  For example, let’s say your boss, or teacher, or parent told you that you did something wrong, and they were angry with you…  I know this must have happened to you at some point in your life (and if it hasn’t happened, then bully for you, and just try to imagine it).  For how much longer after that conversation, were you upset with yourself, with them, with the situation?  Think about it.  No, really, try.  Perhaps, if you are trying really hard right now and remembering a very specific situation, you might even be experiencing the very emotions associated with the situation.  You might even feel a pang of anger, of embarrassment, and/or of fear.  And as I told you before… our feelings are a manifestation of our thoughts.  So, what are/were you thinking?

We are who/what/how we believe ourselves to be – Remember that I did not say “imagine ourselves to be.”  If you believe yourself to be “an incompetent fool” underneath your projected image of competence, then what you are is an incompetent fool.  Moreover, what people see is that you are an incompetent fool pretending to be competent.  (And if you don’t believe me, see the history of, thankfully, former American President George W. Bush.)  Think about that.

Self-efficacy

I decided to give self-efficacy its own subheading, in order to give this rather lengthy post a bit more structure.  

 I am truly a fan of the concept of self-efficacy.  It incorporates so many of the principles that I consider truly important in creating a meaningful and rewarding life.   To develop a sense of one’s self-efficacy is to begin understanding and, yes, believing in one’s capacity to create and accomplish one’s goals and other tasks in life.  These goals are not merely intrapersonal (relating solely to the self), but also interpersonal (relating to others).  It is sort of that idea that no matter what challenges life presents, you have the ability to tackle it! 

To go into the complete ideology of self-efficacy would be time-consuming and perhaps (somewhat) boring.  Thus, I will not.  I will encourage you, however, to look into it.  Also, think about how self-efficacious you are in this moment.  How do you see your ability to take on whatever life throws at you?  Remember, self-efficacy is not about “going it alone.”  It is about understanding your strengths, understanding where you may need help in order to achieve your goals.  It’s about using your smarts/intelligence/wits (however you want to put it) to get you where you want to go, but knowing/believing that your smarts/intelligence/wits will get you there no matter what!  You dig? 😉

A secret… The Secret

I suggested that I would tell you a secret…  And I shall. 

There are very few pop psychology book/self-help books that I really recommend that people read, or that I even read myself.  After all, most of my time is spent reading… well, psychology articles or books that are more strictly pertaining to my professional interests and background, which takes up a lot of time (as you can see… people in psychology like to write and talk… a lot ;)) – Thus, it’s nothing personal, and definitely not an issue of snobbery on my part.

As such… here is my secret:  I have been reading The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne from page to page.  Now…  I will tell you that when my mother bought this book for me back two Christmas’ ago, I was a bit nonplussed.  After all, I am a capable and competent (read “self-efficacious” here) therapist, what do I need with this pop psychology book?…Okay, maybe there was a bit of snobbery. 

I will tell you three things about The Secret: 

1. It is about self-fulfilling prophecy aka the power of belief  with an emphasis on the power of positive thinking (See, Positive Psychology). 

2. It is about believing in/developing a sense of your own self-efficacy (see discussion above). 

3. It is small enough to put in a small bag.

Mind you, I am not endorsing The Secret or any particular thing on my blog.  If, however, you decide to run to your local library, get a copy, read it and like it, then… the only other pop psychology book I have ever bought (besides ones about eating disorders, which is my specialization… so I ought to know what’s out there) is Bryn Collins’ Emotional Unavailability : Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap.  

Let’s just say, if you have ever been in a bad relationship, or if you are in one right now… or perhaps you are always in bad relationships… and you can never understand why… Well, Emotional Unavailability might help give you some perspective.  It’s a slight introduction to some basic DBT concepts on interpersonal effectiveness). 

 

Some thoughts on being a secret-keeper/privacy-holder:

As a therapist, it is my job to be a secret-keeper/privacy-holder for secrets/private thoughts that are non self-harming to my clients.  It is an important role and one that ought never to be violated.  I feel very honoured to be and to have been entrusted with the thoughts of so many who have come to me for help throughout the years.  There are truly not enough words to express my gratitude and humility.  

The title of this post, “What if I told you… a Secret?” though meant with some humour is actually a commentary on the fact that we may not often share with others what knowledge it is that we may have amassed over the years that has been truly beneficial to us in living our lives.  My secret is that I live my therapeutic practices every day of my life – I practice what I preach.  And it is truly my hope that in sharing these thoughts with you that you will benefit in some small way in your own life.

Best regards,

D.   

For the purpose of full disclosure: I am a registered Independent.

Reflecting on week one… and Pressing the “Play” button.

It may be easy to forget, especially amidst my somewhat colourful observations, that when I first started to write about my experience of Rome, I compared Rome to myself.  Today I wanted, to reflect on this.   This is in order for you to understand a little more about why I chose to come to this place; where, for all intents and purposes, I am so utterly harassed and seemingly jarred by its culture. 

In my work as a therapist, I have chosen to focus on two modern approaches to understanding the human experience – I will, however, confess that I am also quite rooted in both humanistic psychology/existentialism and psychodynamics – These approaches are dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and internal family systems model (IFS).  At this point, you might be wondering, “Okay, D, what exactly is the point?” 

Well, the point is that these two approaches have, in essence, saved my psychologically-saavy booty from disaster time and time again!  I suppose, I wish that I could apply these approaches to Rome… If only Rome were a person, with whom I could corner, speak and encourage (Apparently, I am quite good at all three of these actions, particularly the last.  My thanks to April, Doli & Isobel and others who have agreed.) to have a session either with me or someone else (Group therapy even!  I am sure there are some other cities, whole countries,…entire continents, who would want in!). 

Perceptual Organization (Two silhouette/Vase) - Image by Mila Zinkova, who neither endorses this blog or my use of this image.

You see, Rome reminds me of how I used to be, i.e. unable to show my true “Self,” only showing to people (and myself) various “parts” of myself, but never the whole.
   
I will spare you the lecture on IFS (today).  I will, however, try to explain what I mean by the above-statements.  It is like the image on the left – I think most of you know this famous illusion. What do you see?  The two faces? Or the vase?  Either way, your mind will force you to see either one, and then the other, but rarely simultaneously.  In essence, we are seeing only one “part” of the image, and then the other “part” reveals itself to us eventually. 

People are like this too.  We sometimes compartmentalize ourselves, and show only parts of ourselves to the world around us.  At any given moment, ask yourself, “What part of myself am I showing right now?” or “From which part of myself am I operating?”  It is when you begin to realize that you are not whole, not completely synthesized as a human being, that I believe you can begin to make effective change.  Because at that moment, you can begin to become more aware of who you are, the many parts that make up you and why they are.  Now back to Rome.

A restaurant in the Campo dei Fiori neighbourhood.

 
So far, I have been only able to see Rome dichotomously.  I am presenting this picture on the right as an example of the dichotomy of which I have been experiencing.  When I first looked at this area, all I saw was a restaurant.  My eyes, however, were then drawn to the image at the top of the building directly ahead.  Do you see it?  If not, then I will give you a closer look below. 

Religious image on building in the Campo dei Fiori neighbourhood.

Pleasure and religion –  These are the two sides that I have been able to see of Rome thus far.  For me, the merger of pleasure and religion has quite a jarring effect, and has created within me this feeling of Rome as a place of inauthenticity and superficiality.  There are usually and thankfully, however, more than two sides to every story – My own self-development is a testimony to this.  Thus, I am inclined to give Rome a chance to tell her story in a new way, and to keep my ears and heart open to experiencing her differently.  After all, this is what I have done for myself, and as a result I am the most content I have ever been in my life with who and how I am as a person in this world. 

Pressing “Play”

Last night for the first time in a long time, I truly cried.  I cried not because I was angry, or something bad had happened.  I cried because I could actually allow myself to feel a moment of fear, and to let it manifest in tears for myself and my unknown future.   Crying is a healthy action, and I have encouraged it for years in my clients.  It is, however, something I have despised doing for a multitude of reasons.  Allowing myself to cry last night meant something very important to me.  It meant that I was continuing to grow, and to become more emotionally healthy as a human being – And there is nothing wrong in that. 😉

In DBT you learn that our actions/reactions are often triggered by our emotions, and our emotions are triggered by our thoughts, i.e. how we perceive the circumstances that are occurring in our lives.  The point is, if you are able to become aware of your thoughts and to change them, you are more capable of effectively managing your emotions, and thus able to manage your actions.  Why am I harping on about this?  Well, I am going back to my crying last night.

Crying is a reaction to an emotion I felt, which was fear.  Emotions are wonderful and powerful, and a driving force for creativity.  How we choose to manifest our emotional states is important to consider.  Crying is healthy.  Throwing a chair out of a window is not (and no, I have not done this, but I have seen it done). 

As I said our emotions are caused by our thoughts.  So, what was it that I was thinking that caused me to feel fearful late on a Saturday night while alone in Rome?  What caused me to feel fear was that I did not know,… that my life is in an uncertain place – And in that moment, I doubted my own self-efficacyDoubting one’s self can be a difficult and life-stopping experience.  It can ruin careers, relationships, and even actual lives.  When we begin to doubt, we are in essence putting ourselves on a type “pause.”  We are holding ourselves in abeyance until we have some evidence of a direction in which to go that helps us to feel more secure or self-assured.  Being in abeyance can feel safe for a long time, but you are not living if this is where you are.  You have hit the “pause” button on your life, and hoping that “something,” or sometimes “someone” will come to propel you into the play of life once more.

However, the reality is this: you pressed the “pause” button.  Thus, it is up to you to press “play.”  No one can do this for you.  You can get help, and there are always people to help, if you are willing to be helped.  The job, however, is yours…

So, I am taking my own advice… I am pressing “play.”  There is a time for fear, and I have felt it.  My life is uncertain, yes.  What isn’t?  (Oh yeah, death and taxes… I know!)  This uncertainty, however, can also be looked at as a chance for a grand adventure and new opportunities.  So, world (and presently, Rome),  I am opening myself to you and accepting all the life-benefitting, wonderful and rewarding gifts you have to offer!

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
-Anonymous