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!


Dr. Rob said...

Thanks a lot for the compliment. I do think that as much as we can live in the moment, we will be able to avoid anxiety. Fear is usually about the unknown, and dealing with what is in front of you is a good way to avoid anxiety. I always tell my patients that anxiety is caused by trying to control things you cannot control - be they the future or the past. The present is the only thing in your control.

Again, thanks.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and The Power of Now. Living in the moment is the whole basis of his books. I so totally understand this but it's taking so much work for me to get to that point. Actually, I don't think I'm even close but I am trying. The chatter in my mind is so strong sometimes!