As therapist, here are six things I want you to know. Some could be considered general life truisms, but they are also things that will help you progress more quickly if you choose to enter therapy.
First, why do we blush? The feeling accompanied by blushing is an exquisite sensitivity to the feeling of embarrassment. Embarrassment is often tied to shame. Blushing is an automatic, uncontrollable response to these feelings. It happens in humans because our facial veins react to this adrenaline. So when the limbic system is triggered, the blood rushes to the face causing the redness to appear. There is a lot of basic (scientific) info on this reaction here, here and here if you are interested.
But what you really want to know is how to control blushing. Right?
A concerned mother wrote and asked me for suggestions for her son who was in his first semester at college in a different state. She was feeling helpless from afar, and wanted to know how to advise him about his long-standing social anxiety and depression, which had flared in his new environment. This is what I told her.
Dear Worried Mom,
What better time than the start of a new year to make change that can positively affect the rest of your life? Let’s assume you have made that brave decision, and talk therapy is part of your plan. What do you expect when you are expecting talk therapy? If you want to know how I do it, read on.
People that have never experienced talk therapy often feel a tad apprehensive about getting started. There are lots of reasons. Some wonder if it will do any good at all, and others have the odd fear they won’t be able to ‘do it right.’ Some people simply don’t know how it proceeds or what is expected of them, and they are anxious about that. Still others believe they will receive all the instructions from the therapist about how to change and be on their way—with no real understanding of the courage, persistence, and work that real change takes. And some believe a pill is the answer.
What is the point of a vacation?
The easy answer is to get away from work and your daily routine. Perhaps it is to relax and unwind from daily stresses that accumulate over time, so much so that we are not even aware of the pile-up. But I think that taking time away from your daily routine makes you a better person for others. It creates the ability to be more ‘there’, more present, for others when you tend to your own spiritual garden. In other words, vacations matter.
Most therapists who treat anxiety disorders will teach you breath work. They also call it diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. But I don’t think that many teach you why this is so important in managing anxiety.
Why does the why matter? Because if you understand a little more about the positive effect this can have on your body during panic and anxiety, you are more likely to use it.
There are three solid reasons to do breath work.
I use hypnosis in treatment when the client agrees it will be helpful. It is part of the sessions, not the entire content. In order to learn hypnosis, I trained specifically with different instructors who teach different methods. In this way I developed my own style. And I don’t care what you call hypnosis: mediation, guided imagery, or hocus-pocus, it works. When you focus with hypnosis, you are quieting and stilling the mind with a gentleness that allows the solutions already within you to surface.
Do you like cheeseburgers? Boy I do, but I also like a lot of other foods. I don’t want to eat the same thing everyday. The same idea applies when you end up with a therapist who relies on just one approach to help you. Some forms of therapy demand a sort of “workbook-stick-with-the-program” pre-packaged approach that can leave a client feeling oddly out of sync with the therapist. It feels forced. Or the person doesn’t feel like the therapist “gets it” even when they are kind and supportive. This can actually worsen your situation by making you feel as if you did something wrong. Don’t give up. There are actions you can take that will help.
I am waiting to return safely to my home in Wilmington, North Carolina. We are currently cut off by flood waters. My husband and I evacuated from Hurricane Florence and the destruction it left behind. While I wait, I am reading the book Grit (2016) by Angela Duckworth. She is a psychologist and researcher at University of Pennsylvania who studies achievement, and has a TED Talk you may wish to hear on the subject of grit. It’s been on my list for a while, and this seemed like a fairly pointed time to dive in.
Grit sounds self explanatory, but if you think you have it, you may be engaging in oversimplification. I expect many who find themselves cleaning up and rebuilding in the aftermath of the horrific destruction by Florence are going to experience either its lack, or its presence, in their lives.
It’s pretty standard knowledge that you go to therapy to change something. But changing a way of thinking or a behavior we don’t like is just not that easy, is it? And it is especially difficult to change our reactions to other’s mayhem. If it was we’d all do it and be on our merry way. Let me share three signs you need therapy.
PAGE RUTLEDGE, LCSW, CHt | Anxiety Therapy
5006 Randall Parkway (close to UNCW)
Wilmington, NC 28403
Free parking at office