May 30, 2008

Excellent article

An excellent article in New York Times talking about using meditation in therapy:

Don't miss it!

May 21, 2008

Living in the moment

One of my favorite authors, Irvin Yalom, describes the aim of therapy as opening up first to your therapist and then to the world. I loved his comment, lived by it and wrote a post about it a very long time ago.

However, with anxiety, I think you can be open all you want and still be anxious. It eases up some of the attempts to hide the anxiety, but it doesn't resolve the problem.

I think that with anxiety, the aim of therapy is to minimize the time a problem hangs out in your head. It used to be that I had problems that we discussed through multiple sessions: I worried about those things constantly for weeks: bad, very bad. Those are stale thoughts.

Let's say you have a 10 minutes phone conversation. You hang up and then start replaying the phone conversation in your head over and over again for days. You beat yourself up over what you should have said, you are very proud of what you said well, you interpret what you heard in numerous ways, you have emotions that might not have anything to do with the actual call, they are just emotions brought on by your thoughts and your interpretation of the phone call.

I knew that therapy was over when any of the issues I brought up were about one day old at most. The problems would come and go, wash over me, were processed in real time and went away. No stale thoughts, no interpretations. You can think clearly and not reactive with a fresh problem.

I am a project manager, so I do have problems that last days or weeks, but when I get back home, they don't exist and they shouldn't exist. Tomorrow is another day that I can deal with them, and looking at them with fresh eyes is always easier. Bringing my problems home is a sure way to trigger terrible-twos behavior and upset everyone else.

I am now working on really living in the moment and being present at any time, no afterthoughts, no interpretation. Something happens: it causes emotion: let the emotion be there, feel it, enjoy it, express it and move on to something else.

This is the aim of meditation and yoga, and I recommend either or both for social anxiety or just any kind of anxiety.

And another reason to live in the moment from Dr Rob.... And from Dr Rob again a great quote for good laughs. It's short enough that I am including it all to spare you the need to transfer over, but Dr. Rob's blog is a must read!

"Why did God make it that you have teenagers at the same time you are going through menopause?"

Wish me luck! I think I'll be there! I should perfect this living in the moment thing by then!

May 18, 2008

We are all in the same bucket

One of the first things that my therapist did with me and the most successful for gaining my trust was to explain that everybody has at some level the same anxieties that I have. She used herself and her experiences as an example and it was extremely powerful.

She made sure I understood that I am not crazy and that my thoughts are reasonable and my anxieties not so unusual.

It is tough and very lonely to have social anxiety without knowing what's going on. You feel really really lonely and you think you are some kind of monster that nobody wants to be with. Once you find out that it's not that uncommon, this knowledge comes with a bit of relief that there are other people having the same thing and that there is hope, but on the other side, you have a mental health issue/disease which officially puts you in a I'm at least a bit crazy category. Deciding to do therapy or taking medication is again a step forward, but it comes with the issue of having to admit it to others.

This is why establishing that you are not crazy is a great first step in therapy. Brilliant!

Once we know that we have social anxiety, we tend to identify all our traits that prove that we have social anxiety. Sometimes what is a simple difference between people's behavior becomes in our mind unbreakable proof of our being abnormal. And I think we feel attracted to people that are different and that we desire to be like and don't realize that there are enough people out there just like us.

Just recently I noticed this with me. I considered as a typical social anxiety trait the fact that I only dated two men in my life. I found out that my latest hero, John Halamka, married his first and only date. I don't know that he has social anxiety or not, I suspect not too much, but maybe some people are just more efficient this way. Friends that I stayed with, I liked from the very beginning, so is that so bad? Just like people that start drinking in college because they think that everybody else does. Some people just don't drink and some people don't need to date a lot! Does that make us unusual? Probably, but crazy... no!

So, take heart! You're probably not as weird as you think, and almost everybody has anxieties in one way or another.