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Strategies for Healing Perfectionism

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Perfectionism is a concept that plagues a wide array of people. When in full effect, it can provide both positive and negative benefits. In the long run, however, it is important to ensure it does not become an overwhelming force. Perfectionism can come from numerous sources, however, it can be dealt with by using several strategies.

Firstly, perfectionism can come from disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder (Star). It is typically brought out by an internal need to be better or in an ideal state created by one’s mind. It can also come from nagging fears about others’ perceptions of oneself. Living with a perfectionist mindset can become both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Additionally, perfectionism can hinder one’s ability to properly manage anxiety and the other symptoms that come with it (Star). Perpetuating the negative emotions of perfectionism by feeding into it will only bring more distress. When the desire to be perfect comes into mind frequently, it becomes a problem.

Let’s try being more mindful by addressing perfectionist thoughts head-on and recognizing when feelings of doubt and/or embarrassment are irrational. Furthermore, perfectionism can be challenged by an array of mindful methods. Professionals in mental health, as well as simple self-help practices, work well in combating anxiety (Star). Thinking about the “need” or “want” to be perfect, what it entails, and why one wants to reach perfection is another method that challenges oneself to delve into the root of perfectionist anxieties. Through deeply considering the nature of one’s anxieties, it becomes easier to dismantle them and deal with the thoughts that push us so hard to be perfect (Jacobs & Antony). If one is feeling courageous, seek out small things that can trigger feelings of anxiety due to perfectionism (Jacobs & Antony). These things can be as simple as missing a spot while cleaning the floor or “forgetting” to put a book away. In doing this, it becomes easier to get comfortable with imperfection and come to terms with it.

Perfectionism is a tricky feeling to deal with. It provides motivation, yet also leaves stressful and negative emotions in the back of one’s head. Managing it can be made trivial by trying to be more mindful and reducing stress. Perfection does not exist; in chasing after it, anxiety and stress will only follow. Remind yourself to relax sometimes and remember that mistakes aren’t inherently bad. Without them, no one would learn a thing.


References

Jacobs, Andrew M., and Martin M. Antony. “Strategies for Coping with the Need to Be Perfect.” Beyond OCD, BeyondOCD.org, beyondocd.org/expert-perspectives/articles/the-search-for-imperfection-strategies-for-coping-with-the-need-to-be-perfe#.

Star, Katharina. “How Perfectionism Can Contribute to Anxiety.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 20 May 2019, www.verywellmind.com/perfectionism-and-panic-disorder-2584391.

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Hakomi: Contact

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

At the level of technique in Hakomi, making contact and staying in contact involves using contact statements. A contact statement succinctly summarizes the situation the client is describing after the client has spoken and then paused, waiting for the therapist to respond. Without interrupting, the therapist offers a simple, direct statement like, for example, “sad, huh” in response to the present-time experience like sadness that the client is sharing. Other examples of contact statements include: “that surprised you, didn’t it”, “that’s scary, isn’t it” or “that was intense, huh” “A statement like ‘you seem a little nervous to me,’ offered without judgment and without breaking the rhythm of the other’s presentation, is a way of making feelings real, okay to have and okay to talk about” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80). Also, after offering a contact statement, it is important for the therapist to pause and wait for the client to respond (Kurtz, 1990).

“Verbal contact is naming the client’s present experience. We contact something we have tracked, something the other person is doing, feeling, or focusing on in the moment” (Martin, 2015, p. 155). This may be something she is aware of or it may be outside her awareness. It’s important to not contact the story or content of what the client is saying, except to let her know that you are listening and following her. Contact statements let a client know you are hearing what she’s sharing and are present in a heart-centered way, interested, nonjudgmental and understanding her inner experience and feelings (Martin, 2015).

“A contact statement is open-ended, almost like a question” (Martin, p. 155-156, 2015). But contact statements are not questions as asking a question indicates that the therapist doesn’t know what’s going on for a client and therefore isn’t really in contact. Questions interfere with spontaneity. Questions also involve thought and distance but contact statements involve experience and intimacy (Kurtz, 1990).

An important part of a therapist’s job is to create safety for the client to dig deeper. By “letting them be, by supporting them taking the lead if they will,” you assist them in feeling safe and understood (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80). If a client is quiet then the therapist can meet them in that quiet place by saying something like, “It’s hard to talk about it, isn’t it?” or “hard to talk, huh” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80, 82). Statements like these address what is going on for a client in the present time.

Also, a contact statement needs to be worded in a way that allows a client to disagree if they want to. We don’t want disagreements but, in therapy, the client is “automatically right” because it’s the client’s experience (Kurtz, 1990, p. 82). It is much more important to have safety and win the cooperation of the client than for the therapist to be right (Kurtz, 1990).

Finally, using contact statements for someone in a crisis situation may not be appropriate since the goal is to stabilize rather than explore deeper wounds and core beliefs. For example, using a contact statement might be too powerful of a tool to use with a more fragile psyche like that of a paranoid client. But to just hold a space and trust that what is coming up for them is a part of their healing process will have a positive impact. You can subtly mirror and adjust your body language and speech to be congruent with whomever you are working with. Clients feel this regardless of whether or not one ever uses a contact statement (Moody, 2013).


References

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-centered psychotherapy: the Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Martin, D. (2015). The skills of tracking and contact. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 151-160). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Moody, J. (2013, March 8). Using Hakomi with clients with chronic mental illness. Retrieved from http://joannamoody.net/blog/using-hakomi-with-clients/

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How Podcasts Boost Mental Health

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I often recommend listening to podcasts to my clients as a tool to help distract their ruminating thoughts are podcasts. Podcasts are in the same realm as music in that it can take you out of your head and help you focus your thoughts on something outside of yourself. What podcasts do differently though is broaden your mind to new information and sometimes even help you feel less isolated in the world. Here are a few reasons why listening to podcasts can boost mental health:

1. It can relieve anxiety

We as humans are less likely to do an activity when it causes anxiety or fear. Thus, we might avoid the situation so that we do not have to experience discomfort and distress. A healthy distraction, such as a podcast, can actually be a way to gain an initial sense of relief from our anxiety and reduce the overall intensity of these symptoms. If something is bothering us, listening to an engaging podcast can be an adaptable way to handle a stressful moment so we can work through an uncomfortable situation. Focusing on something less anxiety-provoking can also give us a sense of control over our anxious thoughts so they do not take command over us.

2. It can increase mindfulness

Mindfulness is about is being in the moment and doing one thing at a time. While listening to an engaging podcast, we can practice mindfulness by solely focusing on the sounds and words being said. By doing this, we do not allow other thoughts or worries to come into our mind. Mindfully listening to a podcast can prevent thoughts from completely flooding and overwhelming us.

3. It creates empathy and connection 

Many people on podcasts disclose their own personal struggles, which can help a person feel less alone in their own personal struggles. In one podcast I listen to, the hosts frequently discuss their struggles with their mental health and the benefits they have received from therapy. They regularly receive feedback from listeners about how helpful it is to hear that another person is going through the same experience as themselves and how they appreciate their candor. There can be comfort in knowing you are not alone in managing your mental health.

There are currently over 750, 000 podcasts focused on many different issues. There are podcasts that are primarily focused on mental health and some that are focused on a specific subject and comedy. The following are some of the podcasts that I currently recommend to my clients:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour An in-depth conversation with a comedian and his guest with a focus on mental health, traumatic life experiences and negative thinking. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Childish
Candid conversation between two comedians about the personal struggles that come with being a parent. The hosts also frequently discuss the personal struggles and triumphs that come with their own mental health journey. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

The Hilarious World of Depression 
Conversations with top comedians about their struggles with depression and anxiety in an attempt to end the stigma that surrounds these disorders. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Note: Some of these podcasts use an explicit language so if this is a concern for you, look for the “E” symbol next to a podcast episode to see if it falls in this category.


References

Agarwal, P. (2018, June 18) Seven Podcasts for Mental Health and Well-Being. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/06/18/seven-podcasts-for-mental-health/#1404e06b233f

Beck, A. (2017, August 3) The Use of Distraction in the Treatment of Anxiety. Retrieved from https://beckinstitute.org/the-use-of-distraction-in-the-treatment-of-anxiety/

Fitzsimmons, G. & Rosen, A. Childish Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://childishpod.com/

Gilmartin, P. The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Podcast retrieved from https://mentalpod.com/
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Winn, R. (2019, June 1). 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research from June 2019). Podcast Insights. Retrieved from
https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

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Decluttering for Better Mental Health

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Cleaning can be a dreadful but necessary chore. We tend to put things like cleaning off. However, taking the time to declutter has proved to be a way to create harmony not only in your physical space but also your mental space.

Clutter can cause stress and is distracting, as additional objects within one’s line of sight can easily avert attention away from the task at hand (Swedish Medical Center). Additionally, stress from putting off cleaning can lead to different stress reactions, like stress eating (Swedish Medical Center). In turn, decluttering is capable of reducing triggered responses to high stress and leaves time for other, more engaging activities. The additional amount of time gained from having an organized home will aid in other healthy and productive habits, as well as reduce anxiety.

One well-known guru of home tidying is Marie Kondo, creator of the “KonMari Method™” and host of the Netflix original series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it,’” she writes in her #1 New York Times bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Goodreads). Kondo developed this method to help her clients and readers rid themselves of their needless possessions. It is important to ask oneself if everything one owns is essential for keeping.

Decluttering is an activity that creates a multitude of desirable benefits. Positive effects will become apparent as one goes. Having a clear mind and a clear space are two traits of a mindful individual. One will find that a cleaner environment may lessen stress and its symptoms. Take a moment to look around your things and clear out anything taking up too much space. It will feel good to know that action has been taken not only to make one’s space look nicer, but also to grow closer to gaining a more positive and stress-free mindset.


References

“How Decluttering Can Improve Physical and Mental Health.” Swedish, Swedish Medical Center, 16 May 2017, www.swedish.org/blog/2017/05/how-decluttering-can-improve-physical-and-mental-health.

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Quotes by Marie Kondō.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/41711738.

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Are We Really Born That Way?

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By Riah Skrinnik, MS APCC

Traditional science once established the notion that our DNA molecules control our mind and program our behavior. But in the groundbreaking book, The Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton discusses how our behavior is instead a subconscious reflection of our beliefs and not our genetic data. “We are not victims of our genes, but masters of our fates, able to create lives overflowing with peace, happiness, and love,” Lipton wrote. With these wise words in mind, we can explore the marvelous discoveries of both seen and unseen abilities of human biology.

The traditional thinking had been that the information from our DNA is flowing in one direction forming the concept that we are the result of our genes and, therefore, we cannot influence our genetic data. This hypothesis was firmly embedded in academia as well as society as a whole. As a larger community, we embraced this limiting belief, leading us to operate as if we were biological machines controlled by genes. This gave many of us the excuse that we were born a certain way and that there is nothing we can do to change. This thinking had relieved pressure of responsibility to heal and had impacted generations to accept the limited idea that we are victims of our DNA.

Later it was assumed that by altering genes, we could alter functions and behaviors. This concept was even tested in a well-known study that discovered what has been coined the “gene of happiness,” a particular gene more active in happy people. (Weiss). But this was unfortunate news for the group of people who showed no extra activity in their “happy gene” because they assumed they can’t change anything about their mood because they can’t control their genes.  This dogma promoted mass acceptance of a victim mentality that is constantly in need of a rescuer. This theory had programmed our minds to believe that the part of our inheritance is to be an expression of our genes.

Lipton is one of the revolutionary teachers who claimed that the notion of how genes dictate our existence was, in reality, a false belief. According to Lipton, our genes do not control our biology, rather, they are just a blueprint that requires our minds to design and produce our behaviors, habits, and lifestyle. We have about 150,000 parts of different proteins in our body that react to the environment by altering their shape. In fact, our life is a movement of our proteins that can create and recreate new designs. “Just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals,” wrote Lipton.

With this discovery, a modern scientific term was born called epigenetics, which means “above genetic.” This new field is a game changer because it challenges us to look “above the genes” and takes us from victim to creator. New research has found that the perception and response to our environment control the genes. We are not victims of our genes because we have the power to change the immediate environment around us and, consequently, change our response. New studies show that our well-being depends not on hereditary dogma, but on our ability to understand the enormous capacity of our mind, which can lead to effective responses for external stimuli so that we can achieve a healthier environment for ourselves, our families, and our communities. There is much we can learn from this new biology, but the most important is the emerging belief that we have the power to create the lives we lead.


References

Lipton, Bruce H. (2016). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles / Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. — 10th-Anniversary Edition.

Weiss, A., Bates, T.C. & Luciano (2008). M. Happiness is a Personal(ity) Thing: The Genetics of Personality and Well-being in a Representative Sample. Psychol. Sci. 19, 205–210.

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Hakomi: Tracking and Loving Presence

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Tracking

Tracking is a skill involving following the flow of the client’s present time experiences and “taking in information about the client on as many levels as possible” (Martin, 2015, p. 152). It relates to the ways the therapist notices “the outward signs of the client’s internal, present-moment experience and the way her experience seems to be organized by core beliefs and habits” (p. 151).

To practice tracking effectively, what is most important is the therapist’s state of mind (Martin, 2015). Tracking involves constantly observing and reading the signs like in “tracking an animal through the woods” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 75). It’s a way to be with someone with curiosity and interest. “It is not about the content of” a client’s story (p. 75). Tracking is about noticing indicators of what is happening for a client in the present including signs “like moist eyes, all kinds of facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures (small or large, but especially small), changes in posture, movements, even the style of a movement or a voice” (p. 83).

Tracking is the way the therapist sets up experiments to see “much more than the verbal story being told” (Martin, 2015, p. 152). The therapist takes in information from things like “tone of voice, pacing, gestures, posture, facial expressions” and more of the client’s inner world (p. 152). The therapist learns to read these sometimes very subtle signs constantly during therapy sessions. The therapist has the dual task of being mindful of a client’s inner experiences while also being able to see that from a larger, more holistic perspective (Kurtz, 1990).

Loving Presence

One is able to observe and track another more adeptly after first mindfully noticing and watching over their own automatic tendencies, state of mind “and habits of perception,” including reactions (Martin, 2015, p. 152-153). Ron Kurtz created a practice called “loving presence,” which helps shift the therapist’s attitude in ways that cultivate “a state of mind most conducive to working with others in a healing way” (p.152-153).

The second step of loving presence is to create a spaciousness that clears away habitual attitudes and projections, which can block clear perception. In this spaciousness, we are able to be more receptive, intuitive and appreciative (Johanson, 2008).

Next, we as therapists can set the “intention to see something in the other that inspires us. We invite and search for those qualities in the other that nourish us – qualities like courage, vulnerability, sensitivity, gentleness, determination and intelligence” (Martin, 2015, p. 153).

Out of this, a client can start to realize, unconsciously initially, that it is safe to reveal herself. “She feels invited, accepted and appreciated, and begins to express even more of herself” (p. 153). As this happens, the therapist notices and feels inspired and nurtured. A reinforcement cycle occurs, which deepens the relationship and supports a context that allows for additional insights and spontaneity to happen.


References

Johanson, G. J. (2008). Artistic Inspirations: False Colors. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 11(3), 28.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-centered Psychotherapy: the Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Martin, D. (2015). The skills of tracking and contact. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 151-160). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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Five Ways to Get Motivated

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Like many people these days, I can feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be completed on my “to-do list.” I have multiple lists of things I would like to accomplish in the long-term and the short-term. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is finding the motivation to accomplish all these goals. There are many things that may block our ability to find motivation such as anxiety or depression or just feeling overwhelmed by all of the work that will need to go into accomplishing a task.

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. With intrinsic motivation, individuals find motivation within themselves to accomplish a goal or task. Extrinsic motivation occurs when people are motivated by factors outside of themselves, through things such as rewards and punishments. Many of us are able to access our intrinsic motivation when we are accomplishing tasks that are part of a goal we have set for ourselves, but sometimes it can be useful to use extrinsic motivation to get us through a task.

Here are five ways to find the extrinsic motivation to complete a task even when you’re feeling less driven.

1. Give yourself a reward after you complete a task can be useful in these moments. It can help us find ways to get through an undesired task and be more motivated to finish it.

2. Break a large goal into smaller goals. When a person is starting to work toward a goal, it may seem overwhelming because there are so many components in completing the goal. When we break a goal into smaller goals, we are able to only focus our attention on one thing at a time, which can also allow us to feel less overwhelmed. This can also reduce any anxiety we may have about working on a task to completion.

3. Structure tasks so that you are performing the least desired tasks first and most desired tasks last In doing this, you are getting the tasks you are dreading most out of the way and using the desired task as a way to motivate you. You may like one of the tasks, so you are motivated to finish the other task in order to be given the chance to work on the desired task. In a way, you are using one of your tasks as a reward while still accomplishing all the goals on your to-do list.

4. Notice things that are blocking your ability to accomplish a task, such as depression or anxiety. If you are highly anxious or depressed at the moment you are trying to work on a task, you may not have access to the tools in your brain that will help you accomplish that task at the moment. Anxiety and depression can shut down areas of the brain that allow us to complete the task, therefore making it even more difficult to accomplish our goals.

5. Practice mindfulness exercises, such as focusing on your breath to regain some control over these thoughts and feelings. You may also want to increase the number of breaks between tasks in order to give yourself moments to calm down. Once you are feeling calmer, try to approach the task again.

Incorporating these ideas into your life can make your ability to access motivation stronger and easier over time. Try to use these strategies regularly to further grow this skill.


References

Meier, J. D. (March 9, 2016). These Are the 7 Habits of Highly Motivated People. Retrieved
from http://time.com/4245079/motivation-habit/

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ASMR: Good Mood via Goosebumps

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

I learn a lot from my kids. Recently, I found my teenage son and his friends viewing videos together. Much to my surprise, what I observed was a great example of a self-care exercise. Upon inquiring about the content of said videos, they told me it was called ASMR.

I had never heard of such videos, so naturally, my interest was piqued. After some research, I found that ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and that it may actually be a useful tool in maintaining well-being and happiness. According to writer (and mother of five) Crystal Ponti, ASMR is a “physical sensation characterized by a tingling feeling that typically starts at the scalp and then travels down the spine.” This can otherwise be known as frisson, a sudden feeling of excitement or even tingling, often manifesting itself in the form of goosebumps.

One may wonder how ASMR correlates with mental health. To begin with, it is brought out by visual, auditory, or touch stimuli in the body that promotes a calming response in the central nervous system (Ponti). A 2015 study in the journal PeerJ reported that, following ASMR, participants experienced “feelings of well-being, improved mood, stress and anxiety relief, and relaxation” (Coleman). Those who experienced ASMR found that they felt more calm and positive. Additionally, it has been reported to induce temporary relief of chronic pain, stress, and depression. Some have claimed that sounds such as typing on a keyboard give small sensations similar to the feeling of love. It puts people in a “womb-like intimacy” (James).

Examples of ASMR inducers include:

  • Whispering (the soft sound triggers soothing tingles)
  • Tapping (this rhythmic trance can aid in sleep and relaxation)
  • Scratching (most commonly practiced on hard surfaces, it can be soft or hard tapping; either produces a nice sensation)
  • Blowing (especially in the ear, the sound and feeling of a gentle breeze can be very relaxing)
  • Page turning (turning pages offers a delicate sound one may find pleasing to the ears)
  • Concentration (while unexpected, concentrating on a single task can make one feel good)
  • Eating (while potentially gross, the sound of chewing food can be immensely satisfying to some)
  • Hand movements (visual appealing, sends viewers into a relaxing and meditative state)
  • Plastic crinkling (think bubble wrap)

 

The sensations triggered by ASMR have become quite popular among youth and adults alike. And for good reason. It is particularly useful in terms of self-care and is readily available to anyone who may be interested. If you’re struggling with finding relief from anxiety, depression, stress, or if you are having trouble sleeping, ASMR is worth a shot!


References

Ponti, Crystal. “What Is ASMR, and How Can It Benefit Your Kid’s Mental Health?” Motherly, 12 June 2018, www.mother.ly/parenting/what-is-asmr-and-how-can-it-benefit-your-kids-mental-health.

Coleman, Erin. “Does ASMR Ease Anxiety?” Benefits Bridge, United Concordia Companies, 5 July 2017, benefitsbridge.unitedconcordia.com/asmr-ease-dental-anxiety/.

James, Paul. “How ASMR Can Relieve Anxiety.” Voices of Mental Health, AMS Creative Studio, 25 July 2018, www.voicesofmentalhealth.com/blog/how-asmr-can-relieve-anxiety.

“15 Of The Most Common ASMR Triggers.” LOLWOT, 17 Mar. 2015, www.lolwot.com/15-of-the-most-common-asmr-triggers/.

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Hakomi: The Essential Process

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

“The freedom to change, to change who you are, happens rarely, during very special moments. These moments are made possible, in part, by something about the therapist. It is this: the therapist is extremely sensitive to what is happening within the other’s experience, especially those signs that indicate where the process wants to go that it has never gone before. Not all processes are alive like that” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 73-74). Many are automatic, unconscious, habitual actions. Automatic, unconscious or habitual responses don’t contain anything new or lend themselves to insights, learning or growth. “For the client to make real choices, the therapist must be following, not leading” (p. 74).

Additionally, a client needs to be committed to the concept of self-study. They must be willing to let the therapist experiment, which can evoke some painful situations early on. The client may get very emotional without necessarily understanding why, until the moment an early memory resurfaces that goes with the emotion. This process requires courage in the client (Prengel, 2009).

“The combined use of the principles as guidelines, mindfulness as a therapeutic tool, and nonviolence as a basic emotional attitude of the therapist make Hakomi unique” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 67). “Within the frame of the process, we do three big things: we establish mindfulness; we evoke experiences of different kinds; and we process the experiences evoked in one of three different, state-specific ways” (p. 67). These three different states (of consciousness) include “strong emotions, the child state, and going for meaning” (p. 70).

“The essential process always depends on the therapist’s ability to create a special atmosphere for the client. The client must feel that the therapist is following what he or she, the client, is doing, needing or wanting. At whatever stage the process is, what happens next must be in line with what the client’s deepest self agrees to” (p. 74).

The process works through establishing mindfulness in the client. Mindfulness is a “relaxed, open, undefended, quiet” and special state, which involves noticing one’s own present-time experience (p. 68). Mindfulness includes observing one’s inner experience through a detached witness state of consciousness (Barstow & Johanson, 1999). In establishing mindfulness, feeling safe and a cooperative attitude are needed, especially the cooperation of the unconscious of the client (and of the clinician as well). Through mindfulness, one can access information related to core material more easily and faster than any other way (Kurtz, 1990).

Different Hakomi techniques that can evoke experiences in mindfulness include little experiments, all kinds of probes, taking over, and acknowledgments. Evoked experiences include thoughts, feelings (mild to overwhelming), sensations, tensions, impulses, memories, images and the inner child state (Kurtz, 1990).


References

Barstow, C. & Johanson, G. (1999). Front Page and Glossary of Hakomi Therapy Terms. Hakomi Forum, 13.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Prengel, S. (2009). Ron Kurtz on the Hakomi Method. Retrieved from https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/ron-kurtz-hakomi-therapy

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Let’s Put a Stop to “Mom-Shaming”

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

The experience of “mommy-shaming” is a common occurrence many mothers have shared. The Urban Dictionary defines “mommy-shaming” as “criticizing or degrading a mother for her parenting choices because they differ from the choices the shamer would make.” I have had personal experience with this as a mom and felt it was unhelpful and toxic. I also know as a mental health professional that it can be damaging to moms who are already questioning if they are doing everything they can and should do for their children. It seems to be more prominent now with the existence of social media.

The focus of mom-shaming has recently changed. A study published in Communication, Culture and Critique characterized the idea of mom-shaming as “combative mothering” and explored what this looks like for today’s moms. Previously, mom-shaming was centered on working moms versus stay-at-home moms. More recently, the issues that come up in combative mothering are related to differences between mom’s philosophies and practices that they chose in raising their children. Sometimes this can be more toxic because moms feel judged based on their choices and it can isolate them from other moms who believe their choices are wrong.

In a recent poll, six out of 10 mothers reported that they have experienced “mommy-shaming” directed toward their parenting choices. Most of the mom shaming reported in this poll came from family members. In four out of 10 cases, moms felt insecure about their parenting skills and sought out professional advice to reassure themselves that they are making fair decisions. One of the directors of the poll, Sarah Clark, believes “family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety, and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice.” Mothers with young children may already be feeling overwhelmed since young children require a lot of additional care, so advice may also be viewed as criticism instead of a recommendation.

Knowing how destructive mom shaming can be, what should we do to support moms? It is disheartening that women are turning against each other when we should be helping each other through the challenging but beautiful experience of being a mother. We should all be each other’s biggest cheerleaders through all the challenges of motherhood. We should be open to being a shoulder for one to cry on when we had a difficult day since we have all had those difficult days. We should be able to be raw in our emotions whether it’s extreme joy or shame.

Being able to be open about the trials and tribulations of motherhood would significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation that results from feeling judged by others. Being supportive rather than judgmental would be one of the greatest tools to help each other through the experience of motherhood. So instead of feeling the need to let a mother know what you think would be best for her children, try to use supportive language and give her the benefit of the doubt that she may know what works best for her children.


References

Abetz, J. & Moore, J. (1 June 2018). Welcome to the Mommy Wars, Ladies: Making Sense of the Ideology of Combative Mothering in Mommy Blogs. Communication, Culture and Critique, 11(2). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcy008

Mom-shaming. (n.d.). In Urban Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mom-shaming

Preidt, R. (20 June 2017). “’Mommy-shaming’ is common, survery reveals.” CBS News, Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mommy-shaming-is-common-parenting-poll-reveals/

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