We humans have familiar patterns and habits that give us feelings of control (even when they are not healthy ones). I myself use art-related social media or food to distract myself from and help regulate bodily/experiential/emotional states. The one thing I can count on in life is change (oh…and death!). Yet., with a whole lot of self-growth and related wisdom collected, I still sometimes expect myself and others to be as I wish I/they could be and then something in me that is deeply insecure and anxious takes hold. It is particularly hard to keep anxiety/unruly-emotions, difficult experiences, and negative-ruminations in “right relation” when they are speeding up on me in unregulated ways. I know I am not alone, as many, many people with PTSD will understand.
I am pausing more, without distraction, allowing for, exploring, investigating and being with my experiential states and emotionality…to be clearly present more often. It is the “allowing for” and “being-with,” rather than the swallowing, squashing or putting aside that is making the biggest splash in the “now.” Focusing helps in the most important ways.
I’m thinking of the metaphor of driving a car, and hope this will make some sense to you too: it is very difficult when one is relaxedly, trustingly driving along a lane when suddenly the two lane road narrows into one lane without warning! It is very stressful! If someone else is entering the narrowing lane at the same time…crash! How frustrating when the signs ahead don’t warn you early enough to slow you down…or an anxious back-seat-driver adds to the stress! Slowing down is super hard when one is already speeding over the speed limit! Anxiety acts like uncontrolled adrenaline in this way….it keeps one speeding along without help, ill-prepared for lane changes.
A practiced and experienced driver learns to anticipate these inevitable difficulties, to slow down when necessary and make room for the road changes up ahead….to allow for inevitably poor signage. It is also much easier when someone in the passenger seat helps by being calmly aware and reflective. With speeding-anxiety, and other emotional states, it is similar…one must allow for and prepare for inevitable ups and downs and poor signage, to practice slowing down. The best focusing partnerships are like this: someone is driving and someone in the passenger seat is along for the ride, “pausefully” listening and pointing to the signs up ahead.
Robin Kappy, LCSW is a certified Focusing Oriented Psychotherapist and supervisor. A skillful and empathic psychotherapist with years of professional experience, her specialties include the treatment of recent and early-childhood trauma, issues of creativity, depression, anxiety, relationships and sleep-related problems. She is a certified EMDR practitioner and faculty member and supervisor for the Focusing Oriented Relational Psychotherapy Program. She and Susan Rudnick, LCSW cofounded Flatiron Psychotherapy Associates and offer “Rest Well Tonight,” a focusing-oriented approach to assisting people who experience difficulties falling or staying asleep, or wake feeling un-rested. In addition to a passionate engagement with her work as a psychotherapist, Robin loves to draw and paint. Her drawings and paintings have appeared in a number of venues. She writes about the integration of psychotherapy, creativity and the topic of beauty on her blog: Stepping Through Beauty. See her website.
Published August 2019