Blog : Mindfulness

What’s Opposite Action?

What’s Opposite Action?

We experience a wide range of emotions daily, and yet, our culture encourages people to shove these emotions down by overworking, scrolling endlessly through their phones, watching hours of TV,  or using alcohol and drugs. This is because our society views being in touch with our emotions as a weakness.  When we avoid our emotions, we don’t immediately get the emotional signals our body sends to us, however, that doesn’t mean that these messages aren’t still being sent out. Instead, it stalls the feeling, and later on when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, you’ll be overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, headaches, and stomachaches and you aren’t sure where they stem from at that moment because it’s from something you ignored earlier. It is important to address these challenging emotions as they come up rather than pushing them away. You can do this by using the DBT skill “Opposite Action.” So, what is opposite action, and how can you use it?

Opposite Action is the intentional attempt to act opposite of your emotional urge.

When you experience a strong emotion, an action urge usually follows closely behind. For example, when you feel scared, your action urge might be to avoid, escape, and hide underneath the covers all day. When you feel depressed, that action urge might be to isolate yourself from your friends or wallow in self-pity. When you are using opposite action, the goal is to deliberately contradict the emotional urge that you have and address your emotions in a healthy way instead of harming yourself or others further.  It also remedies the suffering you might feel because of the distressing emotion.

 Here are some ways to offset the common emotional reactions that you may experience:

Fear

Instead of avoiding your fear, confront it. This will help you build mastery over that fear so that it doesn’t effect you as badly.

Anger

If you are feeling overwhelmed by anger, instead of lashing out, take a second to walk away from the situation and take a deep breath. Find a way to feel some sort of empathy or sympathy for the person that you are angry at. Try to approach this from a place of love and understanding.

Sadness

If you are feeling sad, you might feel the need to avoid what you are sad about and isolate yourself. Instead of doing that, address what you are feeling sad about either through journaling or talking to a friend, and spend time with the people that love you to find common humanity and remind yourself that you are not alone.

Shame/guilt

If what you did warrants a consequence, accept that consequence without beating yourself up about it. Ask for forgiveness and try to make an attempt to repair what went wrong. It is important to forgive yourself and let it go. 

It is extremely important to not equate the opposite action skill with suppressing your emotions. The point of using this tool is to gradually change the emotion, making the experience more positive and eliminating unnecessary suffering. This skill is best used whenever your emotions cloud your perception of the truth. Sometimes a strong emotion will encourage our brains to create stories about the situation that aren’t even true. When you use opposite action, instead of denying the emotion that you are experiencing, you are simply challenging it and proving the story wrong.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

How Movement Benefits Your Mental Health

How Movement Benefits Your Mental Health

Have you ever noticed how you start to feel more depressed or anxious after you have been laying around all day? Sometimes, our bodies need to take time to rest and do nothing. However, there needs to be a balance. If you haven’t been active all day and your mind is idle, you may start to get restless, making it easier for you to ruminate or cling to negative thought patterns. Once you step outside and start moving, you’ll start to feel lighter with each step you take. Movement gets more oxygen flowing to the brain, giving you an enormous sense of well being. Here is how exercise benefits your mental health:

Movement  promotes the production of new brain cells

When you get your blood pumping with movement, it encourages oxygen to flow quickly and freely to the brain, which creates new brain cells. On top of that, exercise triggers the neurotransmitters serotonin and endorphins, which are responsible for those feelings of peace, happiness, and overall well being. When your body moves, so does your brain, which then boosts cognitive function and helps creative ideas flow.

It improves your meditation practice

When you are exercising, it’s difficult to think of anything but what you are doing at the moment. IYou are only concentrating on your body’s movements. Sometimes, our brains can become consumed with excess energy that turns into anxiety or depression. In meditation, we are also focusing on the body, noticing how our emotions impact our physical state. It’s important to make a point to shed this excessive energy with exercise, and focusing your attention on moving your body for just thirty minutes a day can help you feel calmer, more energized, clear, focused, and optimistic.

Movement reduces stress

When we exercise, our bodies release cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for stress and anxiety. Because movement emulates the impact stress has on our bodies, making our hearts race and our bodies sweat and shake, it allows us to practice working through the effects anxiety has on our body.

Movement calms the mind and body

After moving your body by doing yoga,running, fast walking, or playing your favorite sport, you will notice that your mind and body feel calmer and more relaxed. This is because you  were able to put your full attention on your body’s movements. You have no choice but to do this when you’re exercising, because you’re so focused on the sensations you’re experiencing in the body. Because you’re able to practice putting your focus and attention on one thing at a time, you can take that experience into your everyday life and learn to complete your tasks with a sense of calmness, clarity, and focus.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

Moving Through Anxiety

Moving Through Anxiety

Have you ever felt like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? If you would have checked your posture at that time, you might have noticed slumped shoulders, tension, and a collapsed chest. The mind-body connection is very much real, and your emotional difficulties are manifested physically. William James, a psychologist and philosopher in the 1880’s, stated that emotion is the mind’s conceptualization of physical sensation. You experience a physical sensation, and the mind assigns an interpretation to the sensation (Osman, 2019).

 

Take a moment to reflect on where you feel anxiety in your body

Perhaps your jaw, shoulders, chest, or stomach. Your mind attaches meaning and thoughts to this emotion (i.e. “I can’t do this” or “I feel out of control”). This effects your behaviors by avoiding situations, people, or places. To break this cycle of anxiety, in CBT a therapist might help you first examine symptoms, triggers, and core beliefs contributing to the anxiety.

All of this is wonderful, however a roadblock to long-term success is in remembering the information and staying grounded while applying what you have learned. Do you recall standing up in grade school in front of the class to read something? Do you remember what you read more or how you felt while you were standing up? Anxiety puts us in a fight-flight-freeze response. If we do not first feel safe and grounded, we will not be able to fully access the parts of our brain that affect speech, complex decision-making, and understanding different perspectives.

 

Get grounded with movement.

Movement combined with CBT facilitates grounding, feeling safe, and creating a stable environment for emotional healing. As a yoga teacher and mental health therapist, I find that yoga teaches us to experience discomfort in the moment, as it is, without attempting to escape. Deep insight into yourself is also achieved by combining the two modalities. My yoga instructor would often say to us “you approach yoga asana (poses) how you approach everything else in your life”. She is completely correct. If you notice yourself consistently pushing and forcing yourself into a yoga pose beyond your current limit, how else might you be pushing yourself too far at work or at home? Sometimes experiencing this physically is so much more powerful and impactful than attempting to understand it with the mind.

 

Find a therapist that’s right for you.

Emotional wounds can also become trapped in our physical body. There becomes a disconnect; we get sad or anxious, but we do not know why. Movement combined with CBT opens the door for you to calm the mind and let go of hypervigilance, deeply understand your body, regulate emotions, and root yourself in the present moment. Our anxious mind lives in a future tense, when we root ourselves in the here and now, anxiety dissipates. One of the responses from a yoga study implemented by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD summarizes the potential benefits of yoga and mental health therapy combined: “I can express my feelings more because I can recognize them more. I feel them in my body, recognize them, and address them” (Van Der Kolk, p. 2014).

 *Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Kristie Powell is a therapist who specializes in yoga-informed therapy, DBT, and mindfulness. Since 2008, yoga and mindfulness have been her constant companions through life transitions, career changes, and motherhood. Through these practices, she was able to gain a deep understanding of herself and the world around her. She had more compassion, fun, and inner peace. One of the most beautiful aspects of life is that we create the meaning in our lives; which puts us in the driver’s seat and in control of our happiness.

“Is This True?” And Other Thoughtwork

“Is This True?” And Other Thoughtwork

Our thoughts have a big impact on the way we feel. Some of these thoughts aren’t even true, but are a result of the stories and beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. Without the proper tools, sometimes these thoughts are allowed to run like a tape in the background. This can take a huge toll on your mental health. We are sharing 5 DBT methods that will help you make changes in your brain and live a happier life:

Checking the facts

Have  you ever had what felt like a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to something and then later regretted it? Checking the facts is a DBT skill that helps you pause before reacting to something. When you are experiencing a powerful emotion, it can be easy to let those emotions cloud your judgement. When this happens, pause, step back, assess the situation, and ask yourself “Is this true? Is the way that I am feeling or thinking about a situation factual?” After you ask yourself this, check the facts to prove whether or not your response is appropriate. What is great about this method is that it encourages you to think before you react, and it also encourages you to respond from a place of rhyme and reason rather than letting your emotions cloud your judgement. You shouldn’t ignore your emotions, but you also shouldn’t act solely on emotion. Balance is necessary! 

“What’s the worst thing that can happen” method

Sometimes, when we are feeling anxious, our brains make things out to be scarier than they really are. This is called catastrophizing–we can get so freaked out and uncomfortable that we feel like we want to run away and hide under the covers all day. This just isn’t realistic, and it’s necessary to learn how to function in the real world despite what your anxiety wants you to believe. To move past this, start by asking yourself these questions: What am I afraid will happen? What possible outcomes give me the most anxiety? What is the worst thing that can possibly happen? Next, you will want to challenge the thoughts that come up by asking yourself additional questions, such as: Has anything this bad ever happened before? Is it likely to happen now? What evidence do I have that supports this thought? What evidence do I have that refutes it?

Then, take what you discovered after you challenged your thoughts, and come up with three truthful and balanced thoughts. Make sure they are accurate and factual representations of the situation.

Benign interpretation 

Benign Interpretation is interpreting situations in the most agreeable way possible. You are seeing things just as they are, descriptively and without inference, interpretation, or judgement. 

Oftentimes, something happens to us in a social situation, like a friend doesn’t greet us the way they normally would, and we assume the worst–they are mad at me, I’ve done something wrong, they now hate me, etc.

Instead of jumping to the worst possible conclusion, benign interpretation is a tool that helps you be less emotionally reactive and helps you give other people  the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t have all the facts, having a benign interpretation helps you avoid unnecessary stress and remain calm. 

Being non-judgemental 

We are so conditioned to judge circumstances as good or bad. Circumstances are neither good nor bad, they just are. What makes things feel positive or negative are the thoughts and emotions that we have about the circumstance. When we observe and open ourselves up to thinking differently, we experience more peace. Pausing to observe and describe what is happening gives you the opportunity to approach your situation without judgement.

Radical acceptance

When we practice being non-judgemental, we are opening the doors for radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is a skill that is used to reduce unnecessary suffering. If you accept reality fully and completely, without judgement, it will be easier for you to move through challenging situations. Instead of giving in to the suffering, you non-judgmentally accept what is happening, allowing the emotions to move through you.  To practice radical acceptance, you can use the DBT skill “turning the mind”, which helps you turn away from what you are resisting and towards acceptance. If you’re still struggling to accept, you can help yourself relax and be more open by acting as if you did radically accept and going from there.

Click here to read last week’s article on how therapy can help your creativity.

 *Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Healing PTSD with Expressive Arts Therapy

Healing PTSD with Expressive Arts Therapy

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that results from a traumatic event. Those who have PTSD are often triggered by memories of the traumatic event, which causes them to feel as if they are experiencing the event again, accompanied by feelings of intense anxiety/panic, touchiness, and/or disassociation.

In order to heal, those traumatic memories must be processed and digested. Because PTSD is mostly experienced through memories, emotions, and the body, traditional talk therapy does not always help. Expressive arts therapy, however, helps people with PTSD safely process these memories when it is difficult to find the right words to express how they feel.

Making artwork and reflecting on it helps you access different parts of your brain, creating more self-awareness and giving a voice to the traumatic experience through visual art. While painting, drawing, using clay, etc, you are allowing the area of your brain that stores trauma to wordlessly express itself.

Creative expression targets the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain, which are visual, sensory and emotional in nature. (The right prefrontal cortex is deeply connected to the limbic areas of the brain and is central to affect regulation.) This allows art and imagery to circumvent psychological resistance, which is typically analytic in nature.

The Arts (in all their forms) also allow for the externalization of these very inner experiences and gives them shape and form outside the body and mind. Creativity gives expression to that which cannot, because of the structure of the brain, be spoken. This, in turn, provides an opportunity to re-imagine concepts of self and identity. Scientists have also discovered that the very act of creating – integrating the brain both vertically and horizontally – reduces anxiety, depression and pain, decreases blood pressure, strengthens immune functioning and improves attention and concentration.

Starting your own, personal expressive arts practice will help your mind in so many wonderful ways. Checkout this article here for creative prompts to help you get started. Additionally, Integrative Counsel hosts an Expressive Arts Group the first Thursday of every month. Our next group meets on July 2, 2020. For more information, checkout our groups page.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, nature, and learning about other people.

6 Ways to Celebrate the Sun This Solstice

6 Ways to Celebrate the Sun This Solstice

The summer solstice is about reflecting on personal growth, important cycles, and transformations. It is the day the sun stays out the longest, symbolizing the illumination of our consciousness. In ancient times, the solstice was believed to symbolize the journey to enlightenment. Sacred texts and traditions throughout the world admire the sun and it’s life-giving energy. This life-giving energy is certainly worth celebrating. Here are six ways you can celebrate the sun:

1. Wake up early with the sun as it rises.

Contemplate the way the earth looks as the rays of the sun touch down on it, and have gratitude for the day ahead of you.

2. Do a sun salutation.

At sunrise or sunset, get balanced by doing 12 rounds of sun salutation. As you move through the sequence, meditate on the energy of the sun and its life-giving light. A local studio might even have a virtual class you would like to take. Check out one of our favorite yoga studios, The Body Electric Yoga Company. They offer in-person and online yoga classes.

3. Have a fire ceremony

Using fire is a powerful way to connect with the sun. It will help you fully harness the energy of the summer solstice. To do this, start by creating a relaxing, comfortable, and still environment. Next, light a fire. If you don’t have access to an outdoor fire pit, you can light a candle indoors and create an altar. Then, write on a sheet of paper everything you wish to release from your life. Roll your paper up and burn it in the fire with the intention that all the things that no longer serve you are being burned away.

4. Make a sun wheel

Create a wreath with flowers and moss. Then, get strips of paper, write wishes on them, and tie them with strings to the wreath. Pass it around the group, giving it your good intentions, and burn it in the fire.

5. Make a sun tea

Making sun tea is a wonderful way to absorb the energy of the sun. You will need a large jug with a lid, a tea strainer, 3 tablespoons of your favorite black or herbal tea, and any additional fresh herbs you would like to include in your tea. This can be lavender, basil, mint, etc. Add your tea strainer in a jar with fresh water and let it steep in the direct sunlight for 4-6 hours. Finally, add ice and enjoy.

6. Unlock your creativity and sign up for our solstice expressive arts group!

On June 18, 2020, explore your place in time with a special summer creative practice – and a celebration of the sun at Solstice! We’ll set the mood with a guided, solar-centered meditation and reflect through art-making on the important cycles, transitions, systems, relationships and seasons of our lives. Click here for more information.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, nature, and learning about other people.

How to Reduce Stress with Creative Writing

How to Reduce Stress with Creative Writing

Lately, it feels as if there is this uncomfortable, worried energy that surrounds us. It affects us even when we aren’t at our most vulnerable, and it can be hard to move past that anxiety and worry without the proper tools. Reduce stress with creative writing! Getting creative and writing about your feelings is one of the best methods for alleviating unwanted anxiety.

Creative writing is a wonderful way to reduce stress because it allows us to really sit with our emotions and dig under the surface. Writing reduces stress because it helps people process their thoughts and emotions. It also helps you view the situation in a different way, because your thoughts have to be processed slowly in order to get the words down on paper. Writing is a safe place for you to let go of your bottled emotions without worrying about other people judging you.

In addition, creativity stimulates the brain, and it allows your mind to only focus on the task in front of you. This makes it more difficult for the mind to wander off to dark places. We spend a lot of time and mental energy on our problems–what if we put all that energy into creating another world?

Furthermore, the work that you create allows you to reflect on yourself. Self-reflection coupled with creative writing can strengthen your outlook on life because it helps you become more mindful. If you have a clear idea of who you are and what you are feeling, it is easier to find a solution.

Finally, if you want to start writing, do not let the fear of “not being good enough” stop you from starting your writing journey. Cozying up in a quiet corner, putting on relaxing music and taking deep breaths will help you focus on writing. If you aren’t sure what to write about, here are some helpful prompts.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people.

5 Things We Love About Art Therapy

5 Things We Love About Art Therapy

1. Art therapy helps express what words cannot

Creating art helps cultivate self-expression, communication skills, and the ability to reach out and ask for help. The creative process helps individuals who are struggling slowly begin to express themselves and take the necessary steps to move forward.

2. Creating puts you in a meditative state

Making art puts you into a calm, thoughtful state because you are using more of the right brain and channeling your intuition. This helps you recognize the feelings that are hidden in your subconscious.

3. Making art helps build self-esteem

Creating art makes you feel accomplished, which plays an important role in improving your self-confidence and helps you to better appreciate yourself.

4. Art therapy uses the entire brain

In art therapy, both hemispheres of the brain are being used. Art therapists are able to promote this by encouraging full creativity and spontaneity as well as the ability to communicate and have a logical understanding of what is being expressed.

5. Making art improves mental health

Taking the time to sit down and make something forces the mind and body to sit with the feelings that come up and work through them. Over time, this practice strengthens the mind and mental health sky-rockets.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

About the Author

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people. 

The Pain of Gratitude

The Pain of Gratitude

There is something fundamentally challenging about gratitude that goes beyond remembering to practice it. If I truly admit how damn fortunate I am, I usually experience a myriad of feelings: pure love, then guilt, and then sheer terror.

Guilt and terror? That might surprise you. After all, we practice gratitude to help us become more positive and serene, and more appreciative of the good things in our lives. But sometimes, when I’m thinking about how grateful I am for the people, places and things in my life, I can become paralyzed by the thought of all of it just…vanishing. And that’s a terrifying thought indeed.

I don’t believe this stems from a fear of abandonment, or an attachment disorder issue. Rather, it comes from a deep understanding that everything is temporary. My four-year old daughter, jumping up and down naked on the bed, laughing with pure glee, will soon be a memory. My almost-seventeen-year-old cat, who likes to snuggle in the mornings, will also be gone. As will my partner someday.

So, the question becomes: how do I allow myself to fully open and experience the absolute love and gratitude that abounds in these moments, while also fully comprehending that it will never be the same again?

This is not a rhetorical, philosophical question. Really, how do we receive and embrace the good, when we know it can’t last?

I’m reminded of a Carl Jung quote regarding dichotomy (the division between two mutually exclusive or contradictory situations): “But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites…”

When I practice tools that help me become more comfortable with dichotomy, I’m better able to sit with this tension without reacting. These reactions typically take the form of any number of distractions and unproductive behavior, including negativity.

While our brains are wired for negativity and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it kept our ancestors alive, we now know we can actually rewire our brains. Ironically, gratitude is one of the best ways to accomplish this. (See Rick Hanson’s work for more on the brain’s negativity bias).

However, if the experience of gratitude can be painful, then where does that leave us?

There are a few mind/brain hacks you can use to hold dichotomy or, as I call it, brain integration. To give an oversimplified description, our brains have two hemispheres, the left and the right, and they quite literally understand the world differently. The left hemisphere sees things in black and white, yes or no, one way or the other. But the right hemisphere allows for a multitude of shades and colors. It can tolerate the tension of division, and can begin to detect webs, or patterns, that are impossible to see when viewed only in a linear fashion (e.g., yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.).

So how do we facilitate the integration of these two parts of our brains? Well, we have to start by flexing the hemisphere that is most atrophied, which is – unsurprisingly – the right hemisphere. When we have an awareness that these right-brain experiences are 1. available, and 2. valuable, we can bring back the subtle, yet powerful, knowledge of the right hemisphere into our everyday experiences.

How do we begin to “listen” to the vast amount of information offered to us from the right-hemisphere?

First, we have to listen in a different way, as the messages we receive will “sound” different from what we’re used to. For instance, our bodies speak volumes and are directly connected to the right hemisphere. We can start to become aware of the ways our bodies “talk” to us. You might feel queasy when you’re about to give a presentation at work. Or you get goosebumps when watching a scary movie.

Our intuition is also talking to us all the time. Intuition has gotten a bad rap over the years, with many people feeling it’s “airy fairy” or “woo-woo”. However, our intuition is actually “the ability to understand something immediately”. It’s a sense of knowing. And it’s the way the right hemisphere works: by instantly taking in and comprehending the whole picture. Think about the feeling you get when you know someone is lying to you. You might not have proof, but you just know. Or when you get a really good “feeling” about an interview candidate. Eureka moments are possible in this state!

I’m not suggesting that analysis and mental dissection, which are classic left-hemisphere attributes, are not valuable. They absolutely are. However, we tend to get “stuck” in this way of knowing without allowing or acknowledging input from the right hemisphere. As a result, we miss out on the opportunity to understand the situation from a different perspective; one in which the whole (or gestalt) can be understood.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually “speaks” without words – you get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram pops into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So, we have to listen in different ways:

  • Making art

  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)

  • Spending time in nature

  • Stepping back to see the whole picture – what I call “zooming out”

  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)

  • Listening to music

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere.

Bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust. However, when we begin to consciously listen and make the effort to become familiar with what might at first feel very foreign, uncomfortable, and maybe even undefined or wishy-washy, and then implement this knowledge, more will follow.

The right brain can become a storehouse of valuable wisdom. And, it can be really fun (humor and wit are also right-brain attributes!). With a bit of practice, we can become more familiar and comfortable with the opaque and the dichotomous. And getting comfortable operating from this place can feel like coming home.

Ultimately, we’ll be able to more easily manage the sometimes terrifying feelings that can come up when practicing gratitude. And that’s something we can be truly thankful for.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science.

Walking Towards What Scares Me

Walking Towards What Scares Me

Like many people, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the love and relationship department.

Once, many years ago, I fell hard and fast for a man. He was smart, funny, handsome, creative, and attentive. And, the chemistry between us was so intense, it was like fireworks on top of fireworks. He wasn’t just good-looking, he was positively dreamy, and I thought he was way out of my league.

I thought I was in love. But deep down, I was holding back. I started to tell myself that the timing wasn’t right, that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. Or maybe it was him that wasn’t ready.  But the truth is that I was afraid. And not just afraid; I was terrified. I was scared that he didn’t like me as much as I liked him, and that made me feel even more vulnerable. I was sure I’d be emotionally devastated if things went wrong between us.

So I sabotaged things and ran from a relationship that could have become something special. I will never know, because I let my fear rule.

I remember recognizing myself in this line from Leonard Cohen’s hauntingly beautiful song, Hallelujah: “But all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you.”

I beat myself up about running away from that relationship for longer than I care to admit. Because even though I felt like I’d glimpsed a possible future that was filled with all the things I’d wanted, I bailed anyway.

I still carried a lot of guilt from past relationship mistakes, so I didn’t feel worthy of the kind of love I craved. I wasn’t ready for it when it presented itself, because I had more work to do: more healing, more work on changing unhealthy patterns, and ultimately, learning to forgive myself.

I had chosen the most familiar path to me – the path of yearning and remorse – rather than the path of living fully. I chose it because it was safe, even if it was painful.

At a certain point, I realized that the story I had spun about past hurts, and the guilt I held so close, was keeping me stuck. Ultimately, I had to question whether that story was true. I had to confront myself and take as an objective, non-reactive look at the facts as I could – the good stuff and the not-so-pretty.

Was this scary? Extremely. The sense of frozen apprehension I felt at the thought of looking at my “mistakes” – or, more accurately, the distractions I had created – was nothing compared to what I felt when I finally took an honest and unflinching look at myself. That fear showed up as a knee-wobbling, stomach-churning feeling every time I took a step forward. Events that I now know were “opportunities for growth”. These included a time when I broke up with someone I loved, who loved me too, because we wanted different things. Another time when I saw clearly how my attitude towards money was intertwined with my relationship with my parents. A time when I confronted people I cared about who had lied to me. And times when I apologized, from the heart, to those I had hurt.

Ultimately, I chose to learn from my past. I didn’t want to sabotage any more relationships. I became mindful of my patterns of grasping and running, and paid close attention to how I felt when faced with something I was afraid to do.

How did I do it? I got good therapy. I practiced what I knew. I trusted the process. I forgave. I surrendered (some) control.

I came to recognize that the sensations I experience in my body when I feel fear – pounding heart, shallow breathing, impulse to flee – are the same ones I experience when I am presented with an opportunity for growth.

When these feelings come up, my first instinct – like most people – is to turn and run in the opposite direction. I did just that for years, and then I’d sit around wondering why my life never changed.

As time went on, I began to realize that I’d experience that fight-or-flight sensation every time I was about to do something I had been working really hard to bring to fruition. Or, when something I wanted to happen, like a new relationship, looked like it was finally going to come through.

Our brains have a negativity bias, and we’re hardwired toward pessimism. Our ancestors stayed alive because they not only ran from snakes, but also from sticks that looked like snakes. So our natural instinct is to run away from the things that scare us. But in modern life, many of our fears are based on nothing but instinct – not facts – and most of them never come to pass.

All that goes a long way to explain why, at the moment I’m on the threshold of something I really, really want, I feel that instinct to cut and run.

About six years after my ill-fated relationship, I had another chance at love. I was still scared, even though the circumstances were different and I felt more “ready”. But I had become self-aware enough to recognize my fear for what it was. And this time, I didn’t let it make the decision for me. I still felt it, but I realized that having this experience meant more to me than staying “safe.”

“I have to walk towards this,” I thought. And I did.

Was it hard? Absolutely. But it didn’t kill me or even wound me. In fact, the fear lessened as soon as I made the decision to move through it.

That man and I are still in a deeply committed partnership, and we have a beautiful daughter together. He teaches me, on an almost daily basis, what love really means. It isn’t always about fireworks (although those are nice, too). It’s more often about showing up, even when it’s hard.

Proving to myself that I could “feel the fear and do it anyway” is an experience I will never forget, and one that serves me to this day. Once I broke through the fear, I knew I didn’t have to let it rule any longer.

Growth opportunities continue to present themselves, as I dare to dream big dreams for my life and my business, and take one step after another – even though I can’t see all the way down the road. Do those feelings of terror still come up? Yes – every single time. But now I know that they signal a chance to engage with life on a more profound level. So I take a deep breath and keep walking, moving through my fear, instead of letting it stop me in my tracks.

This article originally appeared in Elephant Journal.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science.