Self Study

I should probably call this “Studying My Self.” I’ve been in therapy for 32 years. Off and on. More on than off, but there were some short periods when it wasn’t possible. Therapy is basically the study of self.

I’ve learned a lot, and therapy has helped me put some demons to rest that were the result of a messy childhood and adolescence. It has been very valuable.

I tried to cope with all the crap in my head by drinking to excess. That did not work, and I eventually had to get help to quit drinking. AA taught me well, but it did nothing for the demons. Therapy helped me unmask those and take their power away. After 19 years of sobriety and 32 years of therapy, I can honestly say I never think about drinking. During the pain of the break up last summer, drinking never once crossed my mind. I’m grateful that’s over.

I saw my ex yesterday, and it brought up a lot of emotions that I didn’t know what to do with. I had therapy this morning and was able to talk about them.

Last week, my therapist recommended a book that I bought and devoured: Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin. I highly recommend it. It talks some about the biochemical processes that happen during dating, but the bulk of the book is about how we attach to people in our lives. I learned a lot about my way of attaching, and I was able to see my ex’s way, too.

In therapy this morning, I was able to see how I had triggered my ex, even though that was not my intention. I was also able to practice some ways of saying things that won’t be as triggering.

I was also able to see that I tend to get very hot in the early stages of the relationship, and that might scare a partner. Since my ex and I are talking again, I’ll get to practice moving slowly. We’ll see what happens. It might work out; it might not. I can’t predict.

I am really grateful to have my best friend who reminded me yesterday that emotions aren’t permanent. I’m grateful to have a good therapist who helped me work through how I can trigger other people. I’m grateful to have meditation that lets me release so much fear. I’m grateful for all my tools.

I’m grateful for you readers. I’ve had some comments in the past few weeks, and it really is nice to know that a few people really connect with some of the stuff that gets written here. Thank you.

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How to Meditate

I was just reminded talking to a friend how our preconceptions of meditation are wrong. It is not emptying the mind.

Meditation is breathing.

Sit comfortably. I sit on a stool with a cushion. Relax. Try to relax as much as you can while maintaining yourself in the seated posture.

Now simply concentrate on the motion of your diaphragm as you breathe. It rises when you inhale, and falls on the exhale.

Thoughts will come. It’s completely natural, and you cannot stop it. When you realize your mind has wandered, tell the thought that it has had its time, but now you’re going to go back to concentrating on your breath and diaphragm. Return your concentration to that.

Give yourself a small goal of trying to concentrate for 3 breaths. Then you’re mind will wander again, and you will return it to your breathing.

Don’t judge the thoughts. Don’t judge the fact that your mind wandered. Just allow it. If you find that you do judge it when your mind wanders, ask yourself why you’re judging. Then return your thoughts to your breathing again.

Concentrate on breathing. Allow the wandering mind. Return to concentrating on breathing. Over and over.

That’s it. That’s all meditation is. Nothing more.

Reflecting

I had a number of really unpleasant days recently, and then yesterday morning, I woke up feeling good. The change was literally overnight. What happened? I wish I knew the answer so I could bottle it and sell it.

Here’s what I know.

While I was feeling down, I concentrated on the certainty that it was temporary. I was positive the negative feelings would pass, and they did.

In the middle of that malaise, I continued to use the tools I have to help myself feel better. I got extra help from my therapist. I used the medication I have been prescribed as directed. I continued my daily meditation routine. I ate well. I got as much good sleep as possible. I continued exercising. Basically, I continued doing the things that I know work for me.

I didn’t sugar coat anything. I was hurting, and I didn’t lie to myself pretending I felt good. I allowed the pain to have its space all the while knowing it would pass. The pain was not permanent. I was sure of that. I didn’t lie to my friends either. When asked, I told them the truth. To strangers who asked, I lied. I see no contradiction in that. It’s healthy to maintain boundaries with people. Strangers don’t need to know the details of my life.

It’s quite possible one of the reasons I woke up feeling good was that I did the work to process the memories that made me feel bad. I did that in therapy and by reaching out to a trusted person whom I could share the details with. I let it all come out in therapy, and I told the trusted person the reasons for the pain. I have learned after many decades in therapy that when I share the pain or fear, it loses its power.

That’s it. There’s no magic. I maintained my routine and kept walking through the stuff. I kept walking. One footstep at a time.

Staying Grounded

I like to dream. I like it a lot. I have dreams about what I want in my life, and sometimes I get carried away with it.

I’m dreaming about something right now, and I’m letting the dreams soar. It’s harmless fun, but I can feel the edge of the dream. It feels a bit much. It borders on mania, which is not where I want to be.

So, I’m concentrating on work. I had a good speed walk this morning. I’m thinking about what I’m going to say to my therapist tomorrow. I was dissatisfied with my last session, and I’m going to tell him. I’ve been in therapy for 30 years, so I have no anxiety about confronting a therapist. He’s very good. We’ll talk and get through it.

I’m using grounding techniques, too. I’m concentrating on exactly what’s going on around me. The sights and sounds keep me in the present and out of my head.

My head. It does me a lot of good. It works well except when it doesn’t. It’s been working pretty well for quite a few years now, but I have to keep it in check. It’s dangerous for me to let it get too low or too high. It’s no fun having to be diligent and on guard.

A Rough Week

I’ve had a rough week. I got some unexpected bad news at work that really threw me for a loop, and it caused my anxiety to skyrocket. I’m extremely lucky that I work at a place with generous understanding of mental health issues, so I took off a day and half to recuperate. I really needed it.

I used the tools I have to get through the difficulty. I took the medicine the doctors gave me to help exactly at times like this. It really worked. It didn’t solve the problem, but it helped.

I also called and got an extra appointment with my psychologist. He had an opening, so I was able to get in. He was not mild with me, and I plan to tell him that I think some of his responses were inappropriate when I see him next week. I feel like I should be allowed to grieve for the problem at work, and he’s not giving me space to do that. He wants an immediate shift into the solution, and I want to grieve first. I know that sounds like I want to wallow in the problem, but dammit, if I want to wallow, it’s my wallowing. I get to own that wallowing. I get to feel it the whole way through. No one gets to tell me to “get over it.” I get to decide that for myself.

I meditated, and that helped. Again, it didn’t solve the problem, but I felt better doing it.

Walking helped, too. It got me out of my house and into the fresh air.

Now, I need a dog. It’s a dream.

Another Point of Gratitude

Today, I am grateful for a quiet place to meditate. I woke up late this morning, so my routine was curtailed a great deal. I only had time for a very short meditation. I could really feel it at work. I was distracted, and I could feel irritation starting to build.

I finished a task at work, and I walked down the street to the cathedral during my break. I sat in the back row and meditated. I sat there and breathed. The New Moon was last night, so I made some wishes, too. I felt so good when I finished. I’m calmer, and I don’t feel any irritation building.

A Point of Gratitude

Today, I am grateful for the exercise I get from speed walking. I walk early in the morning after I’ve meditated. It’s still dark most mornings, and the world is quiet. It’s really nice. I walk by some gardens, and one has a night-blooming jasmine that smells divine.

I went out and walked during my lunch break, too. That’s not usual, and I got really sweaty. Still, I enjoyed it. I love the feeling of moving. It’s very comforting.