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Anxiety Therapy by Page Rutledge - 1M ago

I thought that today would be a good one to round up a few simple facts about feelings, so here goes. This image is a feelings wheel that can expand your emotional vocabulary. The purpose of feelings and emotions is to get you to act. However, sometimes we don’t choose the best course of action.

Facts About Feelings

1. Feelings, unlike thoughts, involve a physical reaction which often “takes over” the body. It’s that anxious feeling in your gut or the tension you are holding between your shoulder blades. You carry them around and may feel as if they are weighing you down or causing muscle pain as you go about your day. Where do you physically carry your biggest emotions?

Where do you physically carry your biggest emotions?

2. Feelings do not just appear “out of the blue.” Feelings are a direct result of your thoughts and perceptions about an event, memory, or person, either in the future or the past. You can easily test this by becoming more aware of your triggers, and the story you are telling yourself about that event.

3. Feelings are categorized as simple or complex. Simple emotions are things like anger, sadness, grief, fear, love, or excitement. Complex feelings are a combination of more than one simple emotion. Often we say we have mixed emotions about something.

4. Feelings give you energy. If you withhold or suppress feelings, you go through life experiencing a certain numbness or emptiness, or anger builds and gets expressed inappropriately. Suppression will show up in your temper, as depression, or as anxiety. Suppressing or tamping down feelings does not work. They leak. They seep out, and sometimes they explode.

Suppressing or tamping down feelings does not work. They leak. They seep out, and sometimes they explode.

5. Feelings can be contagious. You’re likely to feel sad, weepy, and/or depressed when in the company of someone who’s depressed or tearful. (This is a key reason in mental health institutions that suicide victims are quickly removed; it’s contagious.) Conversely, if you surround yourself with positive, enthusiastic company, their positive vibes rub off on you.

6. Feelings are not “right” or “wrong.” Feelings exist as reactions. They just are.

7. Unexpressed feelings can be as damaging as secrets. When you feel something strongly, find your words and speak about it to those you love and who love you. That is not a license to cuss out your boss or your spouse, it means learning how to express what you need, not what you don’t need. This is a valuable skill that can be learned and practiced.

8. Feelings and moods always change. They come and they go, sometimes as fast as we flit from one thought to another. Don’t make the mistake of deciding your mood is here to stay. And don’t make the mistake of deciding a thought is valid just because you had it. Just because you think it doesn’t make it so.

Don’t make the mistake of deciding your mood is here to stay. And don’t make the mistake of deciding a thought is valid just because you had it.                                                                                 

If you don’t like the way you feel on an ongoing basis, you have the power to change that. Come and change your story with me. Call or shoot me an email here

P.S. You can schedule online here by clicking the blue button.

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What Is Your Inner Critic And Where Did It Come From?

To answer that, here is a story for you.

The Story

There was once a dreadfully wicked hobgoblin. One day he had a simply marvelous idea. He was going to make a looking glass that would reflect everything that was good and beautiful in such a way that it would look dreadful or at least not very important. When you looked in it, you would not be able to see any of the good or the beautiful in yourself or in the world.

Instead, this looking glass would reflect everything that was bad or ugly and make it look very important. The most beautiful landscapes would look like heaps of garbage, and the best people would look repulsive or would seem stupid. People’s faces would be so changed that they could not be recognized, and if there was anything that a person was ashamed of or wanted to hide, you could be sure that this would be just the thing that the looking glass emphasized.

The hobgoblin set about making this looking glass, and when he was finished, he was delighted with what he had done. Anyone who looked into it could only see the bad and the ugly, and all that was good and beautiful in the world was distorted beyond recognition.

One day the hobgoblin’s assistants decided to carry the looking glass up to the heavens so that even the angels would look into it and see themselves as ugly and stupid. They hoped that perhaps even God himself would look into it! But, as they reached the heavens, a great invisible force stopped them and they dropped the dreadful looking glass. And as it fell, it broke into millions of pieces.

And now came the greatest misfortune of all. Each of the pieces was hardly as large as a grain of sand, and they flew about all over the world. If anyone got a bit of glass in his eye there it stayed, and then he would see everything as ugly or distressing. Everything good would look stupid. For every tiny splinter of the glass possessed the same power that the whole glass had!

Some people got a splinter in their hearts, and that was dreadful, too, for then their hearts turned into lumps of ice and could no longer feel love.

The hobgoblin watched all this and he laughed until his sides ached. And still the tiny bits of glass flew about…

Adapted from “The Snow Queen,”by Hans Christian Andersen

Why This Story?

The resonances of Andersen’s story go far deeper, providing a way of looking at a parent’s mental illness, alcoholism or substance addiction, poor parenting skills, or outright cruelty that can make perfect sense to an eight-year-old child’s mind while confirming her worst suspicions about the world. What follows is the creation of an adult who struggles, and has their innocence stolen.

When a child is confronted with the unspeakable, that a parent simply does not care about them, appear to want them, or even worse, engage in outright abuse, they do the (seemingly) only logical thing: assume it is their fault. If they can only be better, make good grades, never cause any trouble, provide extra help around the house or with siblings, walk on eggshells…

The Inner Critic

This is how the Inner Critic becomes like the bit of mirror that makes us see a distorted picture. It is that inner voice that criticizes us and speaks about us in a disparaging way.—tells us we will never be enough. It can cause you to push for perfectionism in the everlasting hope that if perfect, you will be enough.

It makes everything look ugly. Most of us are not even aware that it is a voice or a self speaking inside of us because its constant judgments have been with us since early childhood and its running critical commentary feels like a natural part of ourselves. It develops early in our lives, absorbing the judgments of the people around us and the expectations of the society in which we live. It most often develops in people who experienced a lot of childhood emotional and/or physical abuse. It was the child’s way of surviving, but it becomes unbidden faulty wiring in the adult world.

Your drive for perfectionism has become like unbidden faulty wiring in the adult world, causing you to seek your self-worth from the opinion of others.—Paqe Rutledge, LCSW

It is a supremely painful way to live.

Your inner critic is a pretty good ventriloquist. It will have you blaming everyone else for saying (or implying) all the negative stuff you are actually saying about yourself (while you ruminate). There are lots of us blaming ourselves in order to “protect” ourselves from outside criticism. You are not alone in this! This goes straight back to the painful rejection some experience from abusive or addicted parents. Sometimes we’ll even short circuit potential relationships in order to avoid our (faulty) forecast of pain in a failed relationship. Self sabotage at its finest.

Sometimes we’ll even short circuit potential relationships in order to avoid our pain in a future prediction of a failed relationship. This is self sabotage at its finest.—Page Rutledge, LCSW

You can learn that beating your imagined critics to the punch by criticizing yourself sooner and harder than anyone else would is not really helping, but rather acts to push you deeper into the quicksand of depression.

Instead, you can learn to listen to your inner critic as kind of distant early warning system, a helpful “heads up” rather than a broadside of self-loathing. You can reform that Inner Critic enemy into a potential ally rather than fighting it, albeit mostly internally.

Our Inner Critic is so negative and overbearing that it squelches our other, often best, inner selves—our other helpful parts. In managing the Critic, we don’t extinguish it. Instead we negotiate with it; ask it what it wants; what it’s afraid of. Once we know its fears, we can allay them, question the current evidence for the fears, and allow our more playful, and less judgmental, selves to come out.

If you need help with this, contact me here. You are worth this hard work; it can be truly life changing.

P.S. You can schedule online here by clicking the blue button.

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Word. This is the number one anxiety related sleep issue I hear about: “I wake up and can’t get back to sleep.” That is closely followed by: “I can’t get my monkey mind to stop at night when I am trying to get to sleep.” I am going to help you with both issues. It’s up to you to actually implement the help. Horses, water, drink…well you know the drill.

First we are going to get the blah, blah, blah, sleep hygiene talk out of the way. You have heard it all before, BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT, duh. If you can’t get these principles under wraps, you may as well stop here, even if I am going to give you some mostly secret knowledge later on.

Here Goes…The Blah, Blah, Blah Sleep Hygiene List
  • The vast majority of people need between 7-9 hours sleep per night. Period.
  • Your room needs to be dark, cool, and distraction free. Get the pile of past due bills out of there.
  • Get a decent mattress for heaven’s sake. And whatever kind of sheets make you feel comfy.
  • No screens an hour before bedtime. The blue light they emit inhibits melatonin production, which you need for sleep.
  • No going to sleep in front of the TV. The light can and will penetrate your (very thin) eyelids and signal your brain to produce “Hey buddy, it’s time to wake up hormones.” The nap you took will then interfere later on with getting good REM sleep—the most restorative deep-rest portion of sleep.
  • Have a predictable bedtime routine. One that tells your snugalicious body “Ohhh goody! She wants us to go to bed and rest now.” That routine might include a warm caffeine-free drink, a good read, and your bathroom ablutions.
  • Use your bed for sex and sleep only.
  • And ditch the caffeine from noon on.
That Evil Middle Of The Night Waking

Middle of the night waking is not cause for panic. When this happens to you, just go with it. I tell clients to have a list handy of little, mindless projects to complete.  Things that do not require your full-on brain power, but instead are kind of relaxing. Straighten your junk drawer. Make a menu plan. Look up a new recipe to make and create a grocery list. Write a letter with an actual pen and paper to someone you care about. Draw, color, read a real book.

When you wake at 2AM, don’t panic, just go with it. You will make it through the next day and the built up sleep pressure means you will sleep well the next night.–Page Rutledge, LCSW

There is an evolutionary reason that we sometimes have spells of acute insomnia. (That means it doesn’t last forever.) Acute insomnia typically lasts between three nights or more in a week to less than three months (Perlis 2018), and is a normal occurrence for humans. When early humans believed a bear or an enemy might attack in the middle of the night, their defense would hinge on the ability to stay alert. Today we do not live in this kind of peril, but our bodies react the same whether our threat is perceived or real. When under threat, you need time to figure out what to do and staying awake buys you that time. The insatiable 24/7 news maw doesn’t help either. Now we know instantly when local or world disasters occur, and the hits just keep on coming. So today’s insomnia really does masquerade as a false need for time that fools us.

When you have acute insomnia, and one study showed that 100% of Americans over a four period experience this, do nothing. I repeat, do nothing. When you try to compensate, you end up creating a mismatch between when you can sleep (sleep opportunity) and whether (sleep ability) you can sleep. Just let the sleep pressure rise and you will naturally cycle out of your insomnia. If it is taking you six hours to get eight hours of sleep, then you need to move your bedtime later. And don’t kid yourself that falling asleep during the day doesn’t count.

Build Sleep Pressure

DON’T lie in bed awake for hours. That turns your bed into a conditioned stimulus for wakefulness á la Pavlov’s dog. Get up and move to a different room to do the above suggestions until you feel sleepy again. So what if you’re awake longer. That will help build up sleep pressure so that tomorrow night you will sleep better. It’s best to take the overview of getting enough sleep over the course of a week vs allowing your anxiety over one night of lost zzz’s to freak you out. In general, most adults need between 7-9 hours sleep per night. The joke’s on you if you think those rules don’t apply to you. People who don’t get enough sleep are much more easily irritated, and have fewer emotional resources to manage what comes their way the next day. It also has the tendency to make you withdraw, which can devolve into self isolation, an even bigger problem than lack of sleep that can lead to depression.

Good Sleep

Good sleep helps us take out the day’s mental garbage. Literally. It restores activity in the prefrontal region of the brain for effective emotional regulation. Lack of sleep actually interferes with regions of the brain that support understanding of another’s intent. This means you too easily interpret wrongly, and misfires in communication, especially at work, can really hamper your career progress. People just like you better when you are well rested. It is also important to rule out other medical conditions that cause insomnia, like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. If you need help, the American College of Physicians recommends CBT-i, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. This would include behavioral interventions, sleep hygiene, tracking your current habits, sleep restriction and stimulus control. I can help with this; contact me here if you’re ready.

One Last Tip

I advise clients to do a what I call a ‘brain dump’ before going to bed. Keep a notepad by your bed, and when your monkey mind starts up, jot down every single thing that is worrying you. Make a list. Don’t write a novel. Bullet points will do. Dump out those worries. Whatever they are, it will keep until tomorrow. Then get some good zzz’s. Good sleep to you.

Resource: This post is a partial summary, plus a few more of my bits from The New Science of Sleep, Psychology Today, June 2019.

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Anxiety Therapy by Page Rutledge - 3M ago

The Speed Of Want is a chapter title I read in the recent (great) book by therapist Lori Gottlieb Maybe You Should Talk To Someone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). In it she alludes to what I think of as the human evolutionary trait of finding faster, easier ways to the goal, with none or less of the hard work necessary to accomplish it. Witness the recent college admissions cheating scandal. In modern times, think of the changes that have occurred simply between the start of the industrial age and the present that have impacted our lives with mass production, instant worldwide communication, and outsourced labor due to advanced robotics alone.

But there are unintended consequences to this ‘need for speed.’

Why The Push?

Here are some examples. The push for our high schoolers to do AP coursework, then test out of those courses, is one example of this desired speed. Another example is the sense of disconnect (read loneliness) you often feel in society even though social media and the internet infiltrate our daily existence. Often you cannot go more than few seconds without checking your phone for the latest comment. You hurry to check as you leave one meeting and head into another. You have to constantly monitor work/school/your children’s deadlines, lest a competitor beat you to the punch. You hurry in traffic, only to be slowed by congestion, a detour, a speeding ticket, or a wreck from someone else’s need to rush.

We push to hurry because we believe we lose something if we don’t hurry, but what do we fill our “saved” time with? More social media? A faster graduation time? A new social comparison? Another product we don’t need? Netflix? Or cramming something else into our lives?

I’m not railing against progress. I’m questioning excess and harmful shortcuts. The speed of our want generates requirements we believe we need, and need now. Many profit financially and otherwise from these anxious needs.-Page Rutledge, LCSW

Who Benefits, Really?

To live a life that is meaningful requires that we choose carefully what we fill in the spaces with. And to ask ourselves “Who benefits?” from this almighty rush? Perhaps it is the entire AP testing industry, where a “non-profit”, the College Board, had revenue of $200 million and a profit of $62 million by capitalizing on the angst of students and parents. Maybe Facebook’s 2018 ad revenues of $16.6 billion are an indicator of how social manipulation wins that corporate honeypot. Could it be that the diet industry (it alone is worth over $66 billion in profits) and the healthcare industrial complex profit by our sedentary habits and our drive for immediate gratification? Food soothes. Screens soothe. The “right” test scores soothe.

One industry I know for sure that profits is pharmaceuticals since 1 in 6 ( and that is 2016 data!) Americans are ingesting psychiatric medications. Swallowing a pill is so much easier than living the examined life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to medications when absolutely necessary, but 1 in 6? Really?

You hurry, you push, you plan, you anticipate, you worry, but you don’t get this day back. Time is a non-renewable resource. Less of us are choosing to spend the “extra” time we gain by our advances with our family and friends–I mean actual face-to-face time, deepening our most precious relationships. If you are interested in looking inside of yourself to discover what makes meaning for you, call me. If it makes sense to you to do this work before you look to antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications for the “solution”, I’m here, waiting. You can message me here.

P.S. You can also schedule online by scrolling to the bottom on the homepage and pressing the blue button. Select new client if it is your first time. Existing clients may simply select “existing.”

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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 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?

Social Anxiety Is Associated With Blushing

People with social anxiety may often feel they are being judged or criticized harshly, and some have trouble with any public performance or social interaction they consider less than perfect. You often look back on particular social interactions, feeling the need to continually rehash what went wrong with what you said, did, wore, or expressed.

You may also be afraid of physical sensations that are part of felt triggers such as a racing heart, shaking hands, dry mouth or our topic today: blushing. There is a great deal of comparing themselves with others to see how they stack up, and a lot of their self worth is derived from what others think, or what they believe others think of them. A casual tossed off opinion can destroy their day and send someone with social anxiety off into a downward spiral of rumination and self incrimination. They also tend to worry days or weeks before a dreaded situation such as a presentation, exam, new responsibility, or social engagement.

So How Do You Control Blushing?

First, you must realize that the first blush response is automatic, the same way our first response to something worrying is. Your amygdala’s (or lizard brain’s) job is to warn you of any impending danger, real or not. No one can stop that. But what you CAN do is to monitor how you react to the sensation as you feel it. Changing the level of importance you assign to your red face will, paradoxically reduce how often it happens, and how long it lasts. This takes practice, and a shift in how you judge yourself.

“Blushing is evidence of authenticity in a world woefully short of it.”—Page Rutledge, MPH, MSW, LCSW, CHt

Second, if blushing is endemic to self judgement, shame, and embarrassment, then changing your self-evaluation is paramount. Let’s say you have to give a presentation at work, and you are pretty sure you will blush. Is it because you think you will sound dumb? Inexperienced? As if you have no confidence? If you are nodding yes, then I submit to you that you are discounting the fact that you have been asked to do this assignment in the first place.

And if you gravitate towards the introverted end of the spectrum, your voice is even more important in a world of shouters! Companies, which means people, often rush past those who take a bit longer to tell their stories. They do this at their peril. When you don’t give equal voice to those who may not be as loud, or as comfortable with public expression, you quash creative problem solving. And that leads to the death of innovation.

Your Voice Is Important

Your voice is important. Learn to tolerate your discomfort with a bit of practice. And if you learn this, you are well on your way to changing your relationship with your anxiety—a permanent solution that requires courage and consistency.

If you would like a bit of help with this, call me or contact me here. I have helped a lot of people realize that soft is not weak. And I can help you, too

P.S. You can also schedule online by scrolling to the bottom on the homepage and pressing the blue button. Select new client if it is your first time. Existing clients may simply select “existing.”

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Anxiety Therapy by Page Rutledge - 6M ago

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,

I can certainly understand and empathize over your anxiety from afar concerning your son’s depression and social anxiety. I have been there.

My general advice to you comes as a number of standard suggestions.

  1. First the physical. If he is not sleeping, eating, and exercising adequately he needs to start. A physician’s exam to rule out any physical causes is important.
  2. If there is a known cause to the start of his social anxiety, that is a starting point for him to explore. Sometimes that is a part of one’s personality, and the desire to address it must be present.
  3. Does he have any hobbies or interests that could lead him to join a small club/organization/group with a shared interest? Even if he just starts peripherally by observing a gathering.
  4. Does he have even one person he trusts he can talk to? One idea if he does is for that person, while staying present, to introduce him to another person in a safe environment. Your son might need to be able to control when he comes/goes and how long he may want to interact. Starting small is key to expanding your friendship circle.
  5. He can just go to a small coffee shop and be around other people without engaging. Sometimes just the interaction of ordering something can help, especially if he makes an attempt to engage and be pleasant with the staff.

When someone lives with social anxiety, they experience a level of anxiety beyond what most of us do. This is based on what they assume others may be thinking of them. The sensation of constantly feeling judged is very real.

The Reality Of Social Anxiety

In reality, most people don’t think much at all about a single interaction. It’s just the story we tell ourselves that keeps us miserable. It can easily lead to depression and low self esteem, the opposite of happiness. And the thing is, most don’t realize that happiness is simply a byproduct of accomplishing goals that stretch us. Happiness is not a goal in and of itself. I say this to you as I often hear parents say “I just want my child to be happy.”

If your son does not want therapy, let go of trying to make him attend. Feel free to forward this email to him, and let him know I would be happy to see him if he changes his mind.

The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8355. The Trevor Project is another important source for the LGBTQ community. Their number is 1-866-488-7386. These people understand what it is like and want you to reach out, 24/7. The Trevor folks even have a texting option. Your son’s school will also likely have a counseling center, which is a place to start as well.

In short, there is help available, but your son must initiate it. I hope your son finds his way forward. He absolutely can change this if he is willing to do the work.

My best to you both, and to him, for change in 2019.

Page Rutledge, LCSW, MPH, MSW, CHt

P.S. You can also schedule online by scrolling to the bottom on the homepage and pressing the blue button. Select new client if it is your first time. Existing clients may simply select “existing.”

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Anxiety Therapy by Page Rutledge - 8M ago

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.

First, your lungs. They have several sets of lobes. When you are panic breathing, your breath stays in the top portion, up in your chest and is shallower. This is your limbic system in action helping your body to get ready for fight or flight. When you don’t actually NEED to flee or fight. Staying in the shallow breathing mode keeps your body revved up unnecessarily. So you need to slow it down by taking deep, diagrammatic breaths that reach the bottom set of lobes.

Second, breath work buys you time when you are spinning out into panic. When panicked, the sympathetic nervous system has been engaged. This means your emotional brain, seated in the amygdala, has hijacked your reasoning power. Your brain needs a few seconds to get from the emotional brain to your reasoning brain, the frontal cortex. When it doesn’t get this buffer of time, we often say or do things that we can’t easily unsay or undo, setting the stage for regrets and rumination. Can you think of a time when you did or said something you regretted? This is what’s going on.

The most miraculous part of this skill is that your body cannot be in both the fight/flight mode and the calm-at-rest mode at the same time. Therefore simply doing the breathing can shift you to a calmer place.–Page Rutledge, LCSW

Third, and the the most miraculous to me—is that your body cannot be in both the fight/flight mode and the calm-at-rest mode at the same time. Taking several good deep breaths will shift your limbic system back into a more calm state, allowing you to regroup and refocus, and to recalibrate any regrettable actions you might have been contemplating.

So remember: The 3 reasons to practice your breath work are:

  1. It helps you to calm the physical aspects of anxiety, especially the shallow breathing.
  2. It buys your time to let your rational brain come up for air, and finally…
  3. Taking 6-10 good deep breaths will move you from that panicky fight-or-flight feeling to a calmer, more at-ease state. This helps you to not only feel better, but to make better decisions. It increases the sense of control you have over your anxiety and your body’s reactions to it.

Daily practice will make the breath work a habit (your goal) that you will use automatically to manage your anxiety. Use TV commercials, stoplights, standing in line, and other times you find yourself routinely waiting to snatch a couple of minutes to practice a few good deep belly breaths. You will feel better and more centered every time. If you need help focusing, the breathing zone app is a great way to practice and is available on both android and apple platforms.

Would you like to learn more coping skills to manage your anxiety? Go ahead and call me or shoot me an email

P.S. I’m now offering online scheduling capability (the blue button at bottom of home page) and the option of online counseling sessions. Go to my web site for more information, paying attention to the FAQ’s in this area.

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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.

There is no such thing as a bad hypnosis session. You can’t “do it wrong.” It can’t “work” or “not work” because whatever you experience is valid. Your session becomes your internal laboratory for learning. Whatever comes up becomes your teacher. And each session is conducted with a purpose that both you, the client, and I, the hypnotist, agree upon.

Doing vs Being

Hypnosis, like meditation, cultivates awareness, but in a different way from what your active, thinking mind insists upon as problem solving. We are doing machines. Yet we carry within us the most powerful of all untapped resources: that of simply being. Learning and creating our own awareness of the difference between the two is incredibly powerful. How often do you find yourself evaluating how things are and wanting to change them immediately to something different? That’s the doing mind. It traps you into useless rumination. You sit and think and think without change; in fact you will sink further into depression or a low mood if you continue. This doing-thinking makes you feel as if you are problem solving, but you are not.

Either when in trance, or after one, sometimes clients may start to scold themselves and decide to think of a particular session as “good” or “bad”, or “working” or “not working.” Because we do not like to feel unpleasant emotions, attachment to feelings like this cause us to discard the experience or think of ourselves as failures. Often people may imagine that others are having this fantastic rate of success, and this just becomes one more reason to think they have failed. Self-comparisons are not useful or helpful in this case.

There is no such thing as failing at hypnosis if you are mindful that it is your experience, whatever it is.–Page Rutledge, LCSW, CHt

What Is The Point Of Learning The Difference?

The experience is valuable precisely because it offers you the opportunity to grow and learn without getting stuck in the self-perpetuating cycles and preoccupation with unhappiness, and how to “be happy.” There is a freedom in observing things as they are vs wanting them to be different from in that moment. Whether the experience feels pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, there is value in observing it without attempting to dismiss it. Observation will offer your mind a bigger container with less feelings of being trapped than instantly trying to change something or avoid it.

With stress, this can mean simply recognizing feelings of tension or restlessness instead of trying to force them away, or entering a mental harangue about why you are feeling stressed. It is the paradox often present with learning to create a less stressful life that you must first recognize the pain and look at it without trying to rid yourself of it immediately. This is what creates avoidance in our behaviors, often to the detriment of choices we might prefer to make.

You don’t have to dig frantically to find this, but you will need to practice to get better at it. If you want to experience hypnosis as part of living a less stressful life, contact me. It is about learning to be instead of always frantically trying to do— especially when the doing is in your head. Aren’t you more than ready to feel the strength that comes from within? That you already possess? Go ahead and call me or shoot me an email

P.S. I’m now offering online scheduling capability (the blue button at bottom of home page) and the option of online counseling sessions. Go to my web site for more information, paying attention to the FAQ’s in this area.

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I can’t stand feeling this way! My heart is racing. My stomach is churning. I’m sweating like a racehorse. I can’t stop! What if it never stops? Your thoughts are meanwhile trying to keep up with your racing heart at 160 beats a minute and you are well on your way to a panic attack.

This is what is happening in the more extreme moments of panic. And the first thing you must learn to do is neutralize these BIG feelings, and deflate the strength of those thoughts. It is the first step in quieting the limbic system, your central nervous system, so that you can stop a panic attack before it becomes full blown.

Most people I see do not know the cause of their panic attacks, as they often come on unbidden. But we are ruled by our unconscious minds, and the patterns formed start when we are quite young. Unconscious beliefs, learned in our environments, often do not emerge until we are in our late teens. By then they are so well formed, or habituated, that we no longer see them. They are affected by our caretakers, our environment and our own cognitive makeup. As with all habits, they start because they necessary at the time. These behaviors are typically designed to protect us, as that is the primary job of our brain. As adults, they have often lost that function, and now keep us stuck in unwanted patterns of behavior.

Habits Have Hidden Underpinnings

Habits like brushing our teeth, taking a shower, or the way we put on our shoes and socks make life easier, but the unconscious habits we develop play out under the disguise of individuality and freedom of choice. When clients enter therapy knowing what they want to change, that can be very helpful. However, it is what they are unaware of that holds sway over their behaviors and choices.

The beauty of discovering these hidden patterns is that once you do, you can never “unknow” them. That kind of knowledge can be very powerful in accomplishing your goals, and it is what creates those aha moments in therapy. Sometimes those realizations happen all at once, but typically they gradually stack up for the person as the evidence slowly unfolds in the therapeutic relationship.

Mindfulness Skills For A Panic Attack

Earlier I hinted that the first step in learning this is gaining the ability to neutralize the powerful emotions that keep you trapped and parked in unwanted behaviors. How do you do that? By learning coping skills that buy you time to process your thoughts in a more productive manner. All of those skills are easily learned, and consistent practice is the ONLY ingredient necessary for success. Again, mindfulness skills are easy to learn, easy to do, but require daily practice to master. That practice does not have to be time consuming or difficult, just consistent.

Coping skills are easily learned, and consistent practice is the ONLY ingredient necessary for success.

Coping skills are simply a “tool kit” you carry to help you slow the lightening quick range of emotions that comprise panic. They start with the type of breath work that  is actually effective, the first skill I teach my clients. If you are rolling your eyes at this, then you do not understand the limbic system and its response to panic. I also teach that. I want my clients to know the basis of what will help them so that they get the importance of the practice. Other wise it is too easy to slough off. For a fun video that shows you how habits form, check this out. Just like learning any new skill, you have to stick with it.

If this approach to a neutralizing panic attack makes sense to you, call me or shoot me an . Let’s untangle those anxious thoughts together.

P.S. I’m now offering both online scheduling capability and online counseling sessions. Go to my web site to check it out.

The post How Do You Neutralize A Panic Attack? appeared first on .

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