Intense Pain Exposed, pt. 2

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

One of the most powerful experience I’ve had as a therapist was written up in a post called Intense Pain Exposed. It’s definitely worth a read or a re-read. In a nutshell, it’s the fascinating and powerful story of a client who bought a gun to kill himself over pain he had carried for over 25 years. He had been molested as a young boy by his beloved grandfather and could no longer take the pain. An inner voice told him to try therapy… one more time. He returned the gun, came to see me, and we had great success as he learned how to go there and feel and release the pain. From my vantage point, it was quite a wild ride. His body was shaking, sweating, and crying, and then it just settled down after a few minutes. Sadness remained. He knew that this was probably not the end of it, but he knew the technique and he knew that I was always there to help. And he knew that a major amount of this pain was no longer in his body.

Due to life circumstances, he was no longer coming in regularly. We’d check in over the phone from time to time, but a decent gap had passed. When I talked to him next, I learned that he had been having major vomiting fits that would land him in the emergency room. This is called Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. I wish he had told me when this first started! That’s fine, though – we can’t question timing. I suspected that the cause was pain that was still there, so we had some more work to do. I had also synchronistically met an emergency room nurse around this time, and our conversation had stumbled upon… cyclic vomiting syndrome and sexual abuse! The things nurses and therapists talk about… She had once worked in a setting in which she wasn’t always in a rush, so she actually talked to many of her patients (sounds like the story of a young Elisabeth Kübler-Ross). Some folks were “frequent flyers” as they call them, so she got to know their stories. She noticed a common thread of sexual abuse among the folks with cyclic vomiting syndrome. This fit my client’s story like a glove…

I told my client this theory over the phone, and we agreed that it was time for another session. When he came in, we went right back into the fire. In the safety of my office and that super comfortable chair, he closed his eyes and he remembered. He went there. And he felt. And he released. His body was rocked every bit as intensely as the first time, if not a bit more. It took slightly longer for his body to calm down this time, but not much longer. It definitely didn’t last even ten minutes. I just kept encouraging him by saying, “Breath and feel. You’re doing great. Just breathe and feel. Let it go. It’s been held in long enough. Let it go. Just breathe.”

After his body had calmed down and the bulk of that pain had been released, our work was done for the day. I really wanted him to lick this and stay out of the hospital, though, so I made sure he would stay in touch and would continue to do this at home as needed or else come see me. I preferred that he come in, by the way, but he didn’t have a car and had difficulty getting to the office. There was nothing I could do about that… Anyway, he stuck to the plan and we were in touch as needed, and I can report that the vomiting seems to be totally gone. No more hospital visits. A good bit of time has passed, too, so things are looking pretty good. But he knows how it works – if there’s more pain there, then we know what to do. It looks like most of it has been released, though.

A quick note about staying out of the hospital, and I’ll try not to be too “ranty”… There are obvious reasons for this, like not getting into massive debt. I’m not a huge fan of our healthcare system, which really isn’t all that great. Just look at the world rankings. And don’t get me started on insurance companies… Here’s another angle, though. When a person goes to the emergency room a bunch and they run a bunch of tests and don’t find anything wrong, that person could end up in the psychiatric unit for an evaluation. If it’s determined that the person has “somatic issues,” which basically means that it’s all in their head, then the next stop might be a psychiatric hospital. I’ve worked in one of these places, so I’ve seen it firsthand. Get ready to be drugged until you’re a zombie, while a treatment team determines what’s wrong with you and how long it will be until you can leave. Yes, the doors are locked. Your life is on hold. And it’s not a pretty place. It’s actually just what some people need, but certainly not this particular client I’m talking about.

I didn’t want this to happen to him, even if there were only a slim chance of it happening. Don’t get me wrong – the people at the emergency room are definitely not looking to do this to everyone who walks in! They’re just doing their job as best they can, as well as according to their training. I know several people who work in the ER, and they’re awesome, special, amazing people. Amazing. It’s happened before, though, so I didn’t want to play games. The problem was simple – he was holding a huge amount of emotion from an awful experience of sexual abuse as a child. And the solution was simple – he had to release this emotion. This solution doesn’t involve a lockdown psych unit or heavy duty meds. It doesn’t involve temporarily postponing his life because the system doesn’t understand. I’m really, really glad that what we’ve done has worked and he can move on. I still check in with him from time to time to make sure he’s cool. And overall he is. He can use a tuneup every now and then, but you know what? So can I! But the bulk of the work related to the sexual abuse from his childhood seems to be done. And for that I am VERY thankful.

NYC 9/11 Firefighter Gets Fast PTSD Relief

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

I have a client who was a firefighter in New York City for seventeen years, and he was on the job when the World Trade Center towers went down on September 11, 2001. And of course he gave me permission to tell you these details… He has since retired and moved down to the Pensacola area, and he came in to see me for relief from PTSD. He had found himself short-fused, and he didn’t want this to ruin his marriage. Of course I applauded him for taking that first step of coming in. He said he also has constant memories, nightmares, and anxiety, including panic attacks. His flavor of panic attacks last 15-20 minutes and consist of a racing heart and a body that’s shaky and sweaty.

This wasn’t his first time seeking help. He said, “I’ve been to lots of psychiatrists.” I replied, “You have?” And he said, “And they all suck.” After I stopped laughing, I told him I was sorry he hadn’t had the best experiences with them. Then I confirmed what he already knew, which is that the profession of psychiatry in this country (and probably most others, but I’m not sure) has slowly become one of medication management instead of talking to people. It now treats the symptoms (with pills) rather than the cause (with therapy). This is not to offend anyone in that profession at all – it’s just how the majority of it is these days, beginning in medical school. And yes, the huge companies that make the pills have a lot to do with it. Breathe…

Very quickly, this reminds me of another client who recently got on some medications for depression to act as a crutch to get him through some tough times, which is an excellent use for meds. His comment was that when they give the pills to you, they should also give you a plan for how to get off of them when you’re ready. I thought that was an awesome idea. He felt like he was on his own as far as trying to get off of them. Of course any doctor would help if asked about this specifically. He just thought that should be part of the deal up front. What a different philosophy than we have now. And this is definitely not to say that for some people, meds seem to be more of a permanent fix for adjusting their “brain juice,” as a good friend of mine calls it. But for most, meds are much better as a temporary help. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a rant… Back to the story…

So my client came in for the typical 90 minute first session, in which he was taught about feelings and thoughts. PTSD is a situation in which one or more memories have lots and lots of feeling wrapped around them. I barely remember my lunch yesterday because it had hardly any feeling attached to it. If it had been the best turkey sandwich ever, though, and I was really, really excited about it, then it would stand out more in my mind. The reason is feeling. If I had gotten in a car wreck on the way to lunch, maybe I’d remember it more – again, there’s feeling there. For someone who was at ground zero on 9/11 witnessing horrific things, that’s a memory with tremendous power because of all the feeling associated with it. And you can see what all of that feeling can do if held in and not released – namely, my client’s symptoms mentioned above.

So what do we do with such a client? Have them close their eyes, recall the memory, and just breathe and feel. Let go of whatever comes up and allow it to be felt, but without holding it. He did this beautifully, and honestly he didn’t have the strongest reaction. He said that he felt himself unconsciously holding back, which is totally fine – we go with the flow in this type of work. He said that when he visits Manhattan, though, it all comes back. He particularly remembers the foul smell. What we did in my office was go there mentally, which of course isn’t always as strong. The fancy term for this, by the way, is “in vivo exposure therapy.” Actually returning to the scene of the crime is called plain old “exposure therapy.” Since he has such a strong reaction when visits, what I’m doing is preparing him for his next visit as well as clearing out what we can until then. When he returns next, he’ll go there, sit on the park bench or in his car, and he’ll just allow what comes up to come up – and out! He won’t be analyzing or judging or thinking at all. He’ll just release. When that smell comes up, it won’t even faze him because he’ll know what to do – just allow it to be there, but without holding it. He’ll breathe. And he’ll let go. Now he knows that the smell he smells is normal and not “bad.” HUGE difference.

His next trip to Manhattan will be an excellent opportunity to release what he’s been carrying for all these years. Until then, though, he’s already had some great results. He called me a few days after our first session and said that he was able to sleep eight hours for the first time in years. His nightmares are somewhat better, but he can go back to sleep after he wakes during the night, which he previously hadn’t been able to do. What was I doing on the other end of the line when I heard this? Why, I was high-fiveing the air, of course! There might’ve been some fist pumps, too, like I had just won The Masters. Maybe some bad dance moves, too. I get excited about this type of thing…

He also reports that the panic attacks and anxiety are definitely better. One of the biggest results so far involves major stomach issues that he’s had. It used to be that he’d eat something that didn’t agree with him and then he’d projectile vomit for the next 10-12 hours, with his stomach pain increasing. This would often land him in the hospital, which is a smart move under the circumstances. Since that first session, though, this has pretty much stopped. He’s gotten sick, but only briefly. The 10-12 hour thing seems to be gone, as well as the hospital visits. He’s dramatically reducing his meds, too, which is something he’s been wanting to do. And last but certainly not least, he reports that his wife notices a difference.

I said great job and keep it up! He’s applied what he’s learned form the first day, and he’s gotten measurable results that are no less than major. We’re treating the cause, which is all of the junk that he’s been carrying around since 9/11 (and before since he’s been a firefighter for so long). As that stuff gets released, all of the symptoms should improve in time. And some of them have improved dramatically from day one. This is so cool…

Final note on PTSD treatment… There’s an awesome therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) that’s very effective in treating PTSD. From what I know, the bulk of it involves experiencing the feelings that have been stored since the causative incident, which is what I do. EMDR has more to it, though, like reprogramming the beliefs that were learned. Examples of such beliefs might be that the world is not safe or that a person is not worthy of good things, etc. EMDR is also very structured and specific, which is helpful to both the therapist and the client. I have not been trained in EMDR, but I will be at some point. It’s pretty expensive, which is one of the critiques of it, but I hear that it’s totally worth it. So I’m saving up, and I can’t wait. It really is optional to hold all of that stuff in, and I want to help as many such people as I can. Until then, though, I’ll continue to do my thing, which is still getting results en lieu of the EMDR training. Instant success like what this firefighter has experienced tells me that it’s working some, and for that I am thankful.

Emotion As Color In Your Body

Posted Posted in Other Cool Topics, Tools & Techniques

Here’s a nice tool that might help keep emotion from ruling you – view it as color. This can help you zoom out and see the bigger picture when you’re stuck in the middle of it, like when you’re really angry or really sad.

First, imagine your body as clear. That’s when you’re at peace. When you’re mad, imagine it turning red. If you’re a only a little mad, then it’s light red or pink. If you’re really mad, then it’s dark red or maroon. Since emotions are all temporary, even the darkest of reds will fade with time into a lighter and lighter shade of red until you’re no longer mad. Your body has become clear again.

So here’s the question… When your body is red, is it a good time to be interacting with someone? Is it a good time to make decisions? Would it be a better idea to stop thinking, breathe some, and just let your body cool off? Imagining these colors helps me take the personal sting out of it. I drop the story and remind myself that there’s anger in my body now, that’s all. It’s red, and that happens from time to time. If I breathe for a bit and chill out, that red will fade. Once that happens, I’m in a much better place to interact with people or to try to fix the situation. No big deal. And I can easily acknowledge just how mad I am using colors, too, and it doesn’t seem so personal or heavy. It’s just color in the body. No big deal.

The same works for any other feeling. Sadness might be blue, for instance. The colors themselves don’t matter – it’s the overall concept. It’s just a color in your body, and all colors are temporary. Let’s remove the personal sting from emotion. Emotions are totally normal. Let’s become experts in emotion, though, so they don’t rule us. And if you’ve been reading A Clean Mind and practicing, then you probably know more about emotion than most people on earth, by far. It’s really pretty simple, though I know that practicing in the moment can be challenging.

When I start my next blog, A Deep Mind, I’ll talk about another reason why emotions aren’t personal – because who you really, really are is not a person. Any person is temporary, and who you are is definitely not temporary – and that’s really awesome news! But for now, let’s take the personal out of the equation by simply viewing emotion as temporary color in the body. Go chill out some and that color will fade. And that’s good news, too.

Young Client Teaches Mom How To Release!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

I have a female client who is in middle school. I definitely don’t work with young children, but I’ve been testing the waters with younger and younger people to see if they can grasp what I teach – feelings and thoughts, feelings and thoughts, feelings and thoughts. This particular client had some stressful things going on in her life and wanted to talk to someone about it. She ended up in my office, so we jumped right in with releasing. As she told me about each stressful situation, I had her stop, close her eyes, breathe, and just let go of whatever feelings came up, letting them be there but without holding them. Just breathe and feel and watch what happens to the feelings. And of course the feelings moved on out of her system, as they want to do to begin with. We did this a few times, and I was quite impressed. I saw her a week later, and she was like a different person. She doesn’t have to come in much now because she knows how to do it herself. Remember that I’m always trying to work myself out of a job by teaching clients how to be their own therapists.

Fast forward not too long, and I got a call from her mother. She said that she had been upset about something, as we all are at times, and her daughter told her, “It’s okay to feel upset, Mom. Just feel your feelings.” And her mom said that it indeed helped. Of course I was high-fiving the air when I heard this. Yes!

Letting go of what we’re carrying really is so simple, and this story supports that. That’s not to say that my young client isn’t smart, because she’s very smart. But there really is nothing much to releasing – it’s just different than how most people have learned to live. We think too much and we don’t feel enough. Bad feelings aren’t bad at all – they’re normal under the circumstances. But they aren’t designed to hang around for long. Feelings must be felt to leave. They aren’t called suppressions or expressions. So give it a try. If you’re having trouble or need some practice, let me know. And if I can’t help you, then maybe my young client can.


Posted Posted in Other Cool Topics

We’ve all experienced “venting,” both as the giver and as the receiver. Venting when someone is basically complaining about something in their life they’ don’t like. It can be pretty annoying. A little bit is fine, but the habitual venters need something very important – a quick education about what venting is and why they’re doing it. Like much of what we talk about here at A Clean Mind, it’s not rocket science, but our society doesn’t talk about this kind of thing a whole lot. The problem with venting is that it doesn’t work. It wears out the “ventees,” too. And no, that’s definitely not a word. Actually, it probably is a word in Scrabble. Have you noticed how just about any combination of letters is somehow a word in Scrabble? Wait – why are we talking about Scrabble now?? Back to venting…

Here’s the key to understanding venting – like arguing, venting is a form of expressing feeling. Usually that feeling is anger or frustration. We’ve talked a lot about feelings and the three things you can do with them – suppress them, express them, or feel them (always recall Feelings 101 and The Sedona Method). And only one of things works in terms of letting the feeling leave your system. When we suppress or express, the feeling stays intact. When we feel, it gets it moving. Most people think of yelling, throwing something, or punching a wall when they think of expressing a feeling like anger, but venting has the exact same dynamic – it’s nothing more than an expression.

So what can a person do instead of vent? Feel. There’s an impulse to vent. When this impulse is noticed, the first thing to do is to definitely not talk! Do not open your mouth. Please. Take a breath and feel what’s there. Get it moving. When it has moved some, you’ve done your job and you can continue with what you were doing. Ideally, you’ll notice that the need to vent is gone or at least diminished. You might still need to talk to someone about the issue at hand, but now you’ll just talk. When you remove expression from venting, you have talking. As I said above, the dynamic is exactly the same as it is with arguing, but just toned down some.

Isn’t this simple when you understand it? I love it. You really can cut down your venting and arguing dramatically when you learn this and then actually practice it. Your friends and others in your life will be very appreciative, too. Nobody likes to hear someone vent all the time. When you vent all the time, you wear them out. So give it a try. And if you’re more of a receiver, all I can say is good luck trying to get the venter to understand this and try it out. Be gentle. You can always email them this link and say it was an accident. Good luck and happy non-venting!


Posted Posted in Common Issues

Do you like to argue? If so, then that’s fine. This post might not be for you, though – it’s for people who don’t like to argue and who don’t want to argue. When you’re tired of it, there’s definitely another way.

When you thoroughly understand feelings (see Feelings 101The Sedona Method), you realize that arguing is nothing more than a way of expressing emotion. Usually that emotion is anger, but it’s not so important to pinpoint that. Simply understanding that arguing is a way of expressing is the important thing. When you know this, and you know that expressing doesn’t work (because the emotion doesn’t go away permanently – read those links above), then you can see arguing in a different light. You see that it’s pretty much useless.

So what can you do instead of argue? Talk! If you remove the expression of emotion from arguing, it’s called talking. What do we do with that emotion, though? We feel it and release it, of course! When we recognize something like anger in our bodies, we definitely don’t want to do much interacting with others if we can avoid it. It’s much better to stop, go inward, check it out, allow it to be there, and make sure you’re not holding. Then it can pass when it’s ready. Once it has decreased some and you feel like it’s no longer in control, then it’s a much better time to talk about whatever it was you needed to talk about. So you’re not running away from an important conversation – you’re taking a timeout to cool off. Then you can return and be much more effective in calmly resolving the issue at hand. Arguing generally isn’t the best way of solving problems. And it might give you high blood pressure, too…

People tend to get tripped up because the anger can rise very quickly, and before they know it there’s a full-blown argument or they’re yelling instead of talking. It’s all about catching it early – it’s much easier to release a little anger (or any other feeling) than a lot. The same rules of feeling and releasing always apply, though, no matter how much there is.

If you want to stop arguing and there’s someone in your life with whom you tend to argue, it might help to explain all of this so s/he knows what’s going on. Some clients have reported that when they start to argue and then try to go into a different room to cool off, the other person follows them, yelling about how they’re running away. And this makes the person even angrier, so now the situation is worse. Not a good plan! Instead, let’s get the other person on the same page so s/he can endorse the new plan and have an attitude of, “Yes, please go cool off! That way we can find a solution much more quickly.”

After that, it’s all about practice. You’ll catch the anger earlier and earlier until you notice that it just doesn’t have as much power over you. You can keep your tone calm. And since current anger taps into any unfelt anger you’re holding from the past, as you continue to let this stuff go there’s less and less of it in your body. You notice you’re walking lighter. The same things don’t make you as angry. When you see this, you know you’re making pretty massive progress. Keep it up, and let me know if I can help!

I Don’t Care How I Feel!

Posted Posted in Essential Topics, Tools & Techniques

I have a different view of feelings than many people, and I’ve talked about it a lot on this blog. That’s because understanding feelings (and thus not making a big deal out of them) is so important to being at peace. When you experience for yourself that feelings are nothing more than nameless, temporary energy in the body, then they just aren’t as big a deal as they used to be. You know that no matter what else is true, if it’s a feeling then it will pass. Period. It’s job is to pass – no feeling in the history of the world has ever been permanent. They just don’t have that power. And I know some have seemed pretty permanent, but they aren’t if you look closely.

So let’s ramp it up a bit and give you a tool that might be useful in the heat of the moment. To sum this attitude up, we could say, “I don’t care how I feel.” That’s a nice, succinct phrase that you can tell yourself to snap out of it when you’re not feeling so hot and you’re making a big deal about it. The voice in the head loves to comment on how we feel when we’re not feeling good. And this, of course, makes it worse. When I catch myself doing this, I nip it in the bud right away by saying, “I don’t care how my body feels now – I’m going about my day anyway.” And it works! Pretty cool. It works because I mean it. I don’t have that voice saying, “Yeah that’s cool and all, but… you don’t feel so good and that’s bad.” It’s not like that voice doesn’t try to be heard, but I don’t really let it be heard. And when it does talk, I don’t really listen to it. Instead, I just correct it by saying again, “I don’t care how I feel – I’m going about my day anyway! No big deal.” After a while, you might notice that you feel fine. You basically made the decision to just let those feelings pass. When you went on with your day, they did just that – they passed. Good work.

Let’s note that this is not the same thing as denial or suppression of feelings. We aren’t pretending that the bad feeling, whatever particular flavor it might be, isn’t there. We’re actually saying it is totally there, but we’re not afraid of it. We’re willing to let it be there because we know it’s temporary. And we’re willing to feel it thoroughly, but with absolutely no commentary from the voice in the head. Then it’s just nameless energy in the body that hangs out a while and then goes. No big deal.

Try this out for yourself and see what happens. This is all meant to be experienced by you and not taken as truth – it doesn’t work that way. And know that if it’s a new way of doing things, you should give it some time. And like pretty much everything, it generally takes practice. As always, let me know if I can help! Life is much smoother when we really don’t care how our body feels. Then feelings are able to flow through us without getting stuck. And then… feelings just aren’t a problem in our lives anymore. How nice!

P.S. This doesn’t mean you’re a zombie who doesn’t feel anything. It seems that there’s a natural joy that’s underneath all of this stuff that we’re letting go of. And that feels pretty nice…

Feelings 101

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

Let’s demystify feelings – this alone can totally change your life. Here we go… Feelings are basically the body’s reaction to what’s going on or to what you’re thinking about. They are normal. They aren’t bad, and there’s nothing wrong with them. They come, they stay a while, and then they go. It’s a lot like the weather. When you notice anger in your body, for instance, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just breathe, feel it, let it be there, and let it go. Don’t hold on to it. It’ll pass when it’s time for it to pass.

How do they get stuck? It has to do with the “don’t hold on to them” part. When we resist them and make a problem out of them, like calling them bad, we’re holding on and they can’t pass. When we tell a story about them, we’re holding on. This story includes who, what, when, where, why, and how. It often runs on repeat in our minds, and there’s usually at least some amount of exaggeration. The story might seem totally justified, but we’re still getting the feeling stuck. If you lose the words and just feel and let it go, it’ll pass as quickly as it can. It’s the fastest way out.

When you notice any feeling in your body that you don’t like (i.e. anger, sadness, stress, anxiety, loneliness, frustration), the best thing to do is to stop thinking immediately. Go inward and check out what you’re carrying at that moment. Take stock of what’s there. Then make the decision to let go of it. Don’t hold on to it – just let go. Totally let go. Breathe and relax those specific areas in the body where you feel it. This allows it to be there for as long as it will naturally and normally be there, but more importantly it allows it to leave when it’s ready to leave. That’s the normal, everyday feeling process for a human. No big deal.

When we have the story running in our head that makes the feeling into a problem, we’re not allowing it to pass like it normally would. We’ve made it bigger than it is, and we’ve closed the doors. It came in normally, but now we’re not letting it leave normally. Always keep in mind that feelings are in the realm of the temporary – no feeling has ever been permanent. Some stay longer than we’d like, and I realize that some people can barely remember when they weren’t depressed, for instance, but there was a time. This is still in the realm of the temporary. Feelings come and they go. That’s the law of feelings.

Finally, note that most people suppress or express. And if they suppress, they’ll eventually express when the feelings boil over. Expressing means yelling, fighting, etc. It can be much more subtle than that, too, especially with people who know each other well like spouses or other family members. What can we do en lieu of suppressing and expressing? Feeling. That’s it. If you want to really understand this, I’d read about The Sedona Method. This book goes very deep with it. And it’s as simple as it is deep, which is the kind of thing I like. Serious Jedi stuff. Enjoy!

Pain vs Suffering

Posted Posted in Essential Topics

This is a big one, folks – if you want peace, anyway. And it’s not very complicated. Let me first give credit to the folks over at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). That’s where I found these particular terms, pain and suffering, for what is described below. I think they work very well. Regardless of the terms used, though, understanding the concept underneath them is always what we’re after. And like much of what I talk about here at A Clean Mind, this concept is nothing new, but ACT is where I first saw it stated in this particular way. Let’s get started…

Pain is what happens. Suffering is the story that we layer on top of what happens. Drop the story, learn how to feel, and then handle the situation as best you can. Done. Continue living. Now for a bit more detail…

Pain is a normal, built-in part of life on earth. There’s no escaping it, so it’s pointless to resist it. It’s simply a fact that “good” things and “bad” things are always around the corner. That’s how it works here. People get sick, people die, our cars break down, relationships break down, people are unkind (to say the least), there are natural disasters, we drip barbeque sauce on our white shirt, etc. This is what we mean by “pain.” These things might not be fun, but they happen and that’s not avoidable. If you base your peace on avoiding pain, then you’re screwed.

What is avoidable, though, is suffering. All it takes is practice. Suffering is the story, the commentary by the voice in the head. “I can’t believe this happened. This always happens. It happened at the worst time. Just my luck. She shouldn’t have done that. He should act differently. Damn him. I’m a failure. This sucks.” These are all examples of suffering. What’s the problem with suffering? It makes the pain worse. Two for the price of one – nice! The pain is already unpleasant, so why do this to ourselves and make it worse? Because it’s a habit, that’s all. It’s really no big deal once you start to notice it and catch it. When you bust yourself doing this, just stop. Breathe. Feel. Let go. What am I reacting to? What needs to be done? Then just do it. Why? Because that’s the best you can do.

The reason why this is a tricky habit to break is that it all happens so fast. First, something we don’t like happens. Then in only a split second, we’ve begun telling ourselves a story that makes our normal body reaction (i.e. anger, sadness, fear, resentment) worse than it already was. We feel extra bad now, so the voice in the head comments on that. Which makes us feel even worse. Which makes the voice in the head get louder and angrier. Which makes us feel worse. See the pattern? It’s a classic feedback loop. And it happens really, really fast.

Much of the work that I do with clients is about slowing things down and looking at this process under a magnifying glass. As soon as we catch ourselves in the middle of it, we stop and wake up. We bust ourselves as mentioned above. With practice, we bust it earlier and earlier, until there comes a time when we catch it right away and nip it in the bud. No more useless commentary. Something “bad” happens, and we immediately remind ourselves that that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes a lot. There’s nothing wrong with it. This doesn’t mean that’s what we wanted to happen, but since it has happened, I’m just going to handle it as best I can. Freaking out makes thing worse, so I’m done freaking out. I’m tired of it. There’s already enough pain in life, so let’s eliminate the suffering. Why? Because we can. All it takes is practice…

Anger Management… check!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client “got it” after just our fourth weekly session, reporting the good news in our fifth. That’s one month of his life of learning a new way to live, practicing it, returning to discuss, practicing more, returning to discuss more, etc. Wash Rinse Repeat. And he was forever changed now – he had simply come too far to go back. He had turned the corner so much that I felt like crying tears of joy. It was awesome.

He had come in just over a month earlier because of fairly severe issues with anger – severe enough that his wife was prepared to leave the marriage. He had to fix it or she was done. And it seemed like there wasn’t a huge amount of time.

I began like I usually do, teaching him about how feelings, including anger, work in the body. The mechanism is always the same; his flavor just happened to be anger. No big deal. I talked about the importance of stopping as soon as you notice even a hint anger in your body. And close your eyes, stop thinking, breathe, and feel. Take note of what you’re carrying at that moment and then let it go. It might stay for a while, but the doors are open whenever it is ready to leave. And in checking the anger out directly like this, without a story, you might notice that it’s really just physical sensations or energy in the body. Not a problem. We don’t even need to call it anger at that point. And we certainly don’t need to listen to the voice in the head that tells a very believable story about why it’s there, whose fault it is, etc.

I also talked about the other major component of human life besides feelings: thoughts. The voice in the head is not to be believed. Just stop and let go of it when you notice it. If you need to be thinking about something, then feel free to engage in some conscious, active thought. But that chatterbox voice in the head that has useless conversations with itself all the time isn’t real thinking.

Note: the voice in the head really isn’t as bad as it seems – as long as you don’t believe it. Just stop when you notice it. Over time, and it might take some time, it’ll lose its power. Mine still talks to itself all the time, but it’s literally nothing like it was before I started stopping (yes, you read that right). Stopping means you let go of it when you notice it. You don’t feed it. You just stop, take a breath, and listen to the sounds around you. You continue with what you were doing. And the voice in the head just lost a little bit of its power. Do this for a while and you might notice that it’s not an issue in your life anymore. It just doesn’t carry much weight anymore.

Finally, I told my client to start reading a book called The Sedona Method as soon as he could – this was the game changer. This is how you really release what you’re carrying. I told him he was ready to start practicing a new way of living when he walked out that door and into the rest of his life. He could expect to still express anger, but catch it when you notice it and practice what we’ve talked about. You’ll catch it earlier and earlier until you catch it before you act on that anger. Inner peace, here we come…

One week later was session two. He was enjoying The Sedona Method. He was having success already with traffic. Many people experience anger while driving, so this is a great practice area. He was reacting less and less to other drivers. He had small successes at home, but that was it.

By the third weekly session, he and his wife were still arguing about small stuff, but the duration had been cut in half. That’s huge! He was really enjoying The Sedona Method and finally felt like there was hope for his situation. He had also caught himself in the middle of an argument and noticed that his forehead was all scrunched up. What a great sign! Relax your forehead and then try to express anger. I’m not sure that it’s possible.

By the fourth weekly session, his wife had said that the “scary” fights were pretty much done. I was quite happy to hear this. He still had to work on the smaller stuff, though, like his tone with his wife. I suggested that he catch himself as soon as he said something with a nasty tone and stop immediately, laugh at himself, and then tell his wife something like, “That tone was terrible! Let me try that again…” Then continue like nothing had happened. This brings us to the fifth session. He reported that something had shifted. He was so vigilant looking out for that nasty tone that it took several days for it to slip out (which was huge progress in and of itself, by the way). Finally one day, his wife called to him asking him to do something. He was busy, so he snapped back at her, “What?” in a terrible tone. This was not the tone you’d want to use to address the love of your life. That word, in that tone, basically said, “Shut the hell up and leave me alone – I’m busy doing something more important!” He instantly caught it, though, and he was happy, because this is what he had been waiting for! He stopped what he was doing, walked in the other room to where she was, laughed at himself, and said something like, “I’m sorry – that tone was awful. What was it you wanted?” Yes! Do you know how his wife reacted? She was in disbelief, and she immediately hugged him out of joy.

He had experienced success right away with larger bursts of anger, and now he finally had tasted success with the more subtle stuff. He was very happy about this, as he should be. He wants to stay on top of this, so he’s still coming for the time being, but he’s definitely come too far to be that same angry person again. He learned what was going on and then he started paying attention and busting himself. He practiced and has gotten better and better. This has possibly saved his marriage. He’s starting school while working, and he now knows how to handle stress. And this all happened in about a month. He was ready, though, and we’re all on our own time frame. But this shows that it doesn’t have to take forever to start developing A Clean Mind and to start seeing major results. It’s pretty incredible, and it’s such an honor for me to be a part of it all.

NOTE: All of these client stories are told with no identifying information and of course with permission from the clients. My only interest in sharing these stories is to help more and more people find peace, and these clients are interested in the same thing. There is no pressure on the clients to allow their story to be told. Finally, note that these stories are always told at a certain point in time.

When they are told, it is unknown how the future will unfold. Feelings are powerful, thoughts are powerful, and the past is powerful. New and old issues might emerge after progress is made. If that happens, though, we know how to deal with it. In these cases, I’ll write up the rest of the story if and when appropriate. As said before, it’s all about helping more and more people find peace.