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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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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

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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Wellness for Caregivers

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Photo Credit: Africa Studio

By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

“Life may occasionally become chaotic, so be prepared for it, accept it and cherish the times of status quo.”
– Future of Personal Health

Being thrown into the role of a caregiver can be a stressful endeavor. Caregiving can mean many things, but typically it involves caring for another who cannot provide themselves with one or more aspects of their well-being. However, often caregivers fail to help their loved ones because of a lack of self-care. They tend to get so lost in their duties that they neglect their own needs, which can become a detriment to emotional and physical well-being for both the provider and the recipient of said care. Below explore ways to manage the stress of caregiving to ensure wellness for both the giver and recipient of care.

All Emotions are Valid

We often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by a flood of negative emotions in stressful situations. We may feel depressed, resentful, or angry at the receiver of care and oneself. You may also feel anxious about your situation, resulting in symptoms such as constant urges to cry or sleeping for long periods. This can result from unchecked emotional stressors, so it is essential to be aware of what is troubling you and how you can change it. Let’s remember that we are human and therefore not perfect. We may make mistakes in caretaking, but it’s important not to let it turn into guilt. Instead, we can learn from our mistakes so that we can lead happier and healthier lives in the future. Whatever the situation, remember that you, too, are important. All emotions, good and bad, about caregiving, are not only allowed but valid (Family Caregiver Alliance).

Seek Support

It can be much easier to manage these emotions when speaking with a support group of others who are in similar situations (Future of Personal Health). And if stuck at home, online support is also available. Members of support groups will know your fears and worries better than anyone else. If you feel overwhelmed by your obligations, there is also no shame in contacting friends or family for help (Future of Personal Health). More often than not, they will not know how to help or what to do, so delegating minor tasks can help guide them and take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Accepting their help can give you more time to maintain proper physical and mental health, such as exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep. It is also crucial to stay aware of when you should contact professionals; we all have limitations. And if you ever feel you are not equipped to handle certain aspects of care, training is available. Even a small amount of professional aid can make a huge difference.

Caregiving is stressful for everyone. It pains us all to see loved ones who need help taking care of themselves. But neglecting your own self-care does more harm than good to everyone in the long term. Managing scenarios such as these can ensure a better quality of life for you and whoever is in your care.


References

“8 Things Caregivers Can Do to Take Care of Themselves.” Future of Personal Health, Future of Personal Health, www.futureofpersonalhealth.com/prevention-and-treatment/8-things-caregivers-can-do-to-take-care-of-themselves.

“Emotional Side of Caregiving.” Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory Impairment | Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiver Alliance, www.caregiver.org/emotional-side-caregiving.

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Hakomi: Healing Relationships and the Hierarchy of Contexts

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

In Hakomi, there is a hierarchy of contextual levels. At the lowest level is the technique. Techniques, like probes or contact statements, are easy to learn. The techniques are powerful and work effectively. Students can have success with them right away and can work more exclusively at this level for months or even years. While a student may look for opportunities to use the techniques, they often don’t yet know how to create such opportunities. Through experience, one learns to notice more of these opportunities, and eventually, they learn to organize the techniques in a more systematic and integrated way which brings them to the next level, that of the method (Kurtz, 1988, 1990).

At the next higher level, the method organizes the techniques. The student uses techniques less often but more precisely. They become aware of the diverse aspects of a client. As an example, they learn to work with the client’s inner child. The basic method involves utilizing the Hakomi methodology to evoke experiences that lead to the discovery of a client’s core organizing material, then to examining, processing and transforming that core material (Hakomi Institute, 2015).

“In studying the method, one begins to think about: what character process is this? What system am I in and how can I jump out? What part of the process is this? How do I create an experiment here?” Mastering this level takes much longer, but the work becomes more alive, rich and satisfying. The method is powerful but still has some limits. This brings one to the next level beyond the method, which is the level of relationship (Hakomi Institute; Kurtz, 1990, p. 54).

At the level of the (therapist-client) relationship, a therapist’s “emotional growth and depth of understanding” help determine which methods will work at any given time (Kurtz, 1990, p. 55). The essence of the therapist-client relationship is about obtaining the cooperation and permission of the unconscious, which includes avoiding triggering a client’s need to resist. Acknowledging and honoring a client’s defenses helps them to relax and helps significant experiences to emerge. This means accepting them nonjudgmentally and letting go of any agendas, even if those are based on positive intentions. “Cooperation of the unconscious happens when the client finds nothing in the therapist to resist” (p. 60). The ideal emotional attitude helps a therapist to be available for assistance and just as available to back off, wait and see “where the process wants to go” (p. 63). In giving the relationship a greater priority, the method and technique become easier. Healing relationships are special. There is an essential warmth and friendliness. “There is no question of healer and healed. Both are parts of something greater taking place. Both feel this. Each is healed” (p. 64). At the highest level are the principles. Hakomi principles include mindfulness, nonviolence, unity, mind-body holism, and organicity (Kurtz, 1990).

With unity, for example, we learn that the locus of control and healing are not in the therapist or anything externally, but that control and healing exist within the client and the therapeutic relationship (Kurtz, 1988). Many interventions involve a relaxation of effort, of allowing the spontaneous to happen. “Effort is an ego function. When one efforts, the act of efforting creates an I and a something the I struggles against. In this drama of struggle and competition, the chief act is the creation of a separate self: an ego. Without the struggle, there is no drama”. In spontaneity, “effort evaporates, and ego relaxes” (p.10).

The principles guide all levels but particularly that of relationship. In Hakomi, the therapist’s emotional attitude is grounded within the principles. There is a focus on how all of us are still learning and growing (Kurtz, 1990).


References

Hakomi Institute. (2015). The Hakomi Method. Retrieved from http://hakomiinstitute.com/about/the-hakomi-method

Kurtz, R. S. (1988). The Healing Relationship. Hakomi Forum, 6, 8-17.

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

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Building a Strong Support System

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(Photo Credit: Sonpichit Salangsing)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

An important principle I talk to all of my clients about is the powerful benefit of surrounding themselves with at least six people who will support them in life. There are many reasons why I tell people this is crucial. It can help people manage the stress they are experiencing outside of therapy. Also, it can increase the number of people in your life who are looking out for your best interest with love and compassion. In addition, it can also bring more happiness to your life by having more people in your life you can socialize with and decrease any feelings of isolation. Building a solid support system is an essential tool for your mental health toolbox.

Why should a person have at least six individuals in their support system? When you have six people, you can also divide issues you need help processing between the six individuals. That way, one person isn’t the only person with whom you are processing your feelings. If you were to depend solely on one person, the person may eventually become burnt out, which would not be beneficial to either of you. By having six people in your circle, you also have access to six different points of view, which can also enrich your decision-making process.

Another useful way to manage and think about those in your circle is to find people who you can trust to help you through each area of your life. You may have a friend who gives great relationship advice. Another friend may offer great advice on working environments or issues with school. Knowing whom these people are in your life and what advise they can assist you with can be helpful when building your circle.

People you include in your circle of six should have several qualities that help you feel secure in your relationship with them and assure that you are getting the type of support you need from that relationship. You should find someone who gives you helpful advice when you ask for it and is willing to help you when needed. In regards to the relationship between you and a person in your circle, there needs to be mutual respect, trust, and admiration for one another to assure that each person’s needs are being met in the relationship. Moreover, people in your circle should have a firm grasp on what healthy boundaries look like and allow you space to make changes in your life on your own.

Confidentiality is also an essential characteristic for individuals in your circle, so you feel comfortable sharing private information with them. A person in your circle needs to give you the space to express your feelings and emotions without judgment or criticism. There should also be a collaborative component to your relationship so people in your circle can help you work through difficult situations as they come up. Lastly, people you include in your circle should always have your best interest in mind.

Some people may not have six people in their life that can fulfill this vital role. If you are currently seeing a therapist, this could be a goal you can work toward with your therapist. You can also practice reaching out to people who are already in your life, through work, school or other activities. If you do not have others in your life you can reach out to; you can also join groups or social events to try and build your circle. There are websites such as Meetup.com or groups on Facebook that can help you connect with other people who have similar interests as you.


References

MentalHealth.gov. (2017 July 11). For People With Mental Health Problems. Retrieved from
https://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/people-mental-health-problems

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How to Have a Strong Resolve for the New Year

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(Happy New Year!)

By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

New Year’s resolutions, depending on who you ask, are something we look forward to or completely dread. One would reason change is a good thing – especially it is a self-guided betterment of oneself. Among the most popular choices are weight loss, exercise, money management, and quitting smoking (Proactive Change). All of these resolutions are good choices; that’s the first part. If only 46% make it past six months alone, where did we go wrong (Proactive Change)?

First, a good start would be to look at what a habit is. According to Professor Clayton R. Cook, Ph.D., habits are “behaviors that are provoked somewhat automatically in response to cues embedded in the environment” (Cho). Examples of such behaviors are brushing your teeth after getting up in the morning. Brushing your teeth is the behavior and getting up is the environmental queue. So, to form a habit, one must replace a behavior with another. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips when you are hungry, instead, you can grab an apple or a more healthy option. What this does is create another behavior to compete with your pre-existing one; realizing you are hungry signals that cue to grab chips, but it will also cue you to grab an apple (Cho). Then, once you grab enough apples (or another healthy option before you get sick of apples completely), it will become a routine. At this point, it does not require any further thought, for it is embedded in your brain. Establishing healthy habits is all about repetition.

Additionally, relapse is a part of making resolutions. The pitfall for many is not being discouraged by this. Only when you overcome relapse and stick with your habit can you can safely say you have made progress. Always keep in mind that slow progress is still progress. You do not have to reach a set goal within a week, but knowing you are inching closer and closer by the day is enough of a motivator to keep on track. Even so, goals can be the undoing of countless resolutions. Visualizing great success far down the line can especially hurt once you reach said point down the line. Maybe you wanted to lose 30 pounds by June, but only lost 20? You should be proud! Look how far you’ve come. If you can make an ounce of progress and stick with it, props to you. That is more than 54% of adults can say by June. For many, things as simple as riding a bike at least four times a week or maintaining a weekly spending limit can do wonders. Concrete guidelines ensure you are maintaining some semblance of progress, even at your lowest motivation.

Imagine how much better you will feel after following through with resolutions, regardless of immense or slight progress. Sticking with a habit and keeping a mindset of bettering oneself can make you feel so much better than you could without it. Better yet, imagine how delicious that slice of chocolate cake will feel when you know you have earned it. Habits can make or break us all – which side do you want to be on?


References

“Statistics: Top New Year’s Resolutions & How to Keep Them.” Stages of Grief & Loss: Grief Cycle & Grieving Process, Proactive Change, proactivechange.com/resolutions/statistics.htm.

Cho, Jeena. “The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Dec. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/jeenacho/2016/12/26/the-science-behind-making-new-years-resolutions-that-youll-keep/#3914f2287491.

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Hakomi: The Principles, Part 2

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(Photo Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Mind-Body Holism

While there are influences that the body has upon the mind, in Hakomi, the focus is more on how the mind influences the body, specifically how core beliefs and early memories affect someone somatically or physically (Kurtz, 1990).

In Hakomi, the focus is on the “mind-body interface” where beliefs, images, and emotions interact with bodily experiences and where these interactions take place in both directions (Kurtz 1990, p. 31; Myullerup-Brookhuis, 2008).

Mind and body are part of one system and interact at different levels. Hakomi looks at some ways that the body reveals one’s beliefs and emotions. Mind-body holism, which borrows from Reichian therapy and Bioenergetics, allows one to view “the body as an expression of mental life” by studying body posture, structure and behavior. The therapist tracks the client’s “bodily signs of inner experiences” (Kurtz, 1985, p. 4).

Unity

Psychotherapists work to get differing aspects of communicating, including family members, body and mind or various aspects of the mind. This requires some skill in order to coax the disowned aspects out of the unconscious and give them a voice with which to speak in a more open and direct way by creating a dialogue. When the dialogue can happen within a safe and nurturing context, then the opportunities for integration are that much better (Kurtz, 1990).

“In therapy, we attempt to establish and enhance communication between conscious and unconscious and between mind and body. In using mindfulness, we create opportunities which allow the unconscious a clear chance to express and be seen, heard and felt. In our focus on the mind-body interface, we work to create channels of communication between them. When we work with the child, we are often hearing from a part that has long been suppressed and silent. When the client comes to insight, meaning and self-acceptance, again it is one part understanding or accepting another” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 33).

In Hakomi, the principles are much more important than techniques. Techniques emerge spontaneously from knowing the principles. It’s better to have the feel of the work than to have the theory (Kurtz, 1990).

“No preferences. No fighting with what simply is. This Zen attitude is basic to both mindfulness and nonviolence.” When there are no preferences, there is no holding on (Kurtz, 1990, p. 37).


References

Kurtz, R. S. (1985). Foundations of Hakomi Therapy. Hakomi Forum, 2, 3-7.

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

Myullerup-Brookhuis, I. (2008). The Principles of Hakomi. Hakomi Forum, 19-21, 69-84.

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Mindfulness: A Brief History, Vision and Purpose

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(Cover Art from the album “The World Is Mind” by KRS-One)

By Jason Briggs, MA, LMFT

“When in our right mind, everything is viewed as an expression of love or a call for love. In other words, the way I am toward you, the way I behave toward you, the way I think about you, the way I feel about you, is not changed by what you do…love would be the content (a perception I have of you), nothing would change.” – Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

There is a place in you, where no change has occurred, nor will occur, and is completely at rest. This place is nowhere and everywhere because it isn’t seen with eyes but is perceived with the mind. Helen Keller, the blind and deaf author and political activist, points to the activity of the mind and wisely names it vision, stating, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” So, it is clear that Helen is speaking to what we perceive, and perception doesn’t require the eyes to see and the ears to hear. This begs the question, what is it that perceives? It is the mind, and here in the mind, we find a vision and a purpose for our existence and our service to others that allows for acceptance.

Extant philosophies on mindfulness point to how long we have been formally studying and writing about the subjective experience. We can trace the history of mindfulness through spiritual and religious texts, back to Pakistan, in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism and later in Buddhism. However, many references to mindfulness exist in other spiritualities and religions as well. “…Some commentators argue that the history of mindfulness should not be reduced to Buddhism and Hinduism, as mindfulness also has roots in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Trousselard et al., 2014). So, there is more to explore here but roughly the earliest Hindu texts put mindfulness in the realm of study at about 4500 BCE and in many other texts, on through to the present and through many philosophic branches.

The movement and practice of mindfulness can be defined as a purposive activity of will, to be present to and aware of what is perceived here and now. One can view therapy as a mindfulness practice of sorts, as research on healing and growth shows that clients unexpectedly at times address many different issues in therapy, that they never knew existed upon commencing therapy. As the client and therapist grow more mindful, awareness of what were once unconscious issues become conscious. Also, for many clients, they see the same old issues they have had and may begin to recognize them on ever-deepening levels. So when we talk about being mindful, we must include the idea of slowing down as a task in therapy, being present to what is here and now and being open to what is.

Being present means we are not only looking with our eyes or hearing with our ears but rather, we are also perceiving with our mind. Our purpose determines what we see. As Kenneth Wapnick instructs in the psychospiritual book, A Course in Miracles, “Do I want to shift my attention from the world out there, to go back in my mind…and look upon it with love, gentleness, and kindness or with anger, judgment, and hate…”.

So whatever decision we make, it is our purpose that determines what our vision reflects, a purpose we may or may not be aware of and one that reflects our right-minded perception or wrong-minded perception of how we perceive ourselves, others and our world. If we look with the right mind, what we see will reflect a vision that is mindfully aware of the fact we are joined with others, and we are accepting of this fact. If we decide a wrong-minded or mindless purpose, we will see separation as the only reality and suffer accordingly. Identification of our purpose is a passive act of will and shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive to normal ways of acting in the world, as we may be busy working with others personally and professionally in many varied roles and we can do so mindfully or not, depending on our purpose.

If what we decide that our vision is of the mind and not of the eyes, then we have been given great freedom as decision-makers. Countless decisions must, of course, be made in the world related to our roles and responsibilities. However, on the level of the mind, there are two decisions possible. One reestablishes vision as an activity of the mind and the other blocks vision and produces conflict within. So if I want to engage my roles and responsibilities as a partner, husband, father, teacher, student, lover, I can do so mindlessly or mindfully. My peace or lack thereof will follow and if I choose to perceive mindlessly, fear will be engendered. Fear indicates a mindless decision and so we can decide to return to the mind, in a way that completely looks at and accepts a mindfulness stance.

As the Course in Miracles encourages, “When your peace is threatened or disturbed in any way, say to yourself:

‘I do not know what anything, including this (the mindless perception we are having, that induces fear), means.
And so I do not know how to respond to it.
And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now.'”

Well, the obvious implication is that we will be willing to have a complete acceptance of what we are seeing and see that it is precisely our interpretation from the past that we are bringing to this experience and to then not decide to interpret it.

Let us take the great Bard of the West’s example when we forget to be mindful, remembering we can be like Shakespeare’s Cordelia who mindfully chided her father’s egoic false love in King Lear. Cordelia, turning away from her father’s demands to profess her love of him in public, pivots instead professing, “I will love and be silent.” The world is in the mind and when we decide to join it, ever so gradually, consciously, increasing our time we spend mindfully, purposely and with a shared vision, we can come to accept where we are right here and now. We can learn to shift our purpose, vision, and way of being from mindlessness to mindfulness.


References

Bibliography

Trousselard, M., Steiler, D., Claverie, D. Canini, F. (2014). The History of Mindfulness put to the test of current scientific data: Unresolved questions. Encephale-Revue de Psychiatrie Clinique Biologique et Therapetique, 40 (6), 474-480. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2014.08.006

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The Attraction of Reality Television

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(Photo Credit: Antonio Guillem)

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I write a lot about strategies people can practice at home to maintain their mental health. One of the strategies I use is watching reality television. It sometimes helps me prepare for my day as I watch the show while working out on a treadmill. Also, I sometimes use it as a tool when I need to decompress at the end of a busy day. Some reality television shows have a bad reputation for being unsophisticated, but it can be a useful tool for decreasing stress.

So why is this the case? One reason I have found reality television to be beneficial is that I can put myself in someone else’s world for an hour, which helps me forget about the stressors in my life. People may also find these shows engaging because they star ordinary people similar to themselves. There are multiple studies now that also support this reasoning for the appeal of reality television. For these reasons, watching reality television can help people manage their daily stress.

One recent study published in NeuroImage showed that reality television can trigger “vicarious embarrassment,” which is feeling embarrassed while watching another person experience something that could be considered humiliating. The scientists who conducted the study researched how the brain was affected when people watched several reality television clips showcasing the emotion of embarrassment. They found that the areas of the brain responsible for empathy, compassion, and suppression of self-interest were activated when a person watched these television clips. Based on both the self-report from participants and the brain activity data, they concluded that watching these shows simulated empathy since the participants had a better understanding of the reality star’s social suffering from their own personal experience. Even though the participants reported no explicit compassion for the person they were watching on television, their brains were able to relate to what they were going through since they related it to part of the human experience.

Another reason many people watch reality television is that the people chosen for these shows are ordinary people just like the people watching them. Reality television stars typically gain fame as a result of being on television. This can lead viewers to develop a fantasy that they could be chosen for one of these shows in the future, and if they were chosen, there is a chance that they would someday become famous too. Even though this isn’t motivating for all fans of reality television, there is a lot of appeal in watching someone similar to you competing on television or having cameras documenting their lives. Being on television is also seen as a status symbol in our society, so some people may also see being on television as a way to climb the social ladder.

Watching reality television can help people escape their lives temporarily and gain a better understanding of the human experience. We watch characters on these shows, season after season, getting to know many of the intimate details of their lives. We become close to these characters from a distance and begin to care about the direction of their lives. These are all reasons why reality television viewing can be used as a temporary, satisfying escape from our own lives.


References

Melchers, M., Markett, S., Montag, C., Trautner, P., Weber, B., Lachmann, B., …Reuter, M. (1 April 2015). Realty TV and vicarious embarrassment: an fMRI study. NeuroImage. 109, 109-117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.01.022

Reiss, S. & Wiltz, J. (1 September 2001). Why America loves reality TV. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200109/why-america-loves-reality-tv

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