As you fall asleep, do you have a common thought or feeling pattern? As you wake up? In the shower? We are creatures of habit in this regard–we maintain our perceptions (of self, of the world) even in the light of contradictory information or experiences. This is why a pessimist always expects the worst and a narcissist always expects to be right. If you could categorize all your thoughts and feelings, what would your perception pattern look like? Hypervigilant? Discouraged? Embittered? Hopeful?
Now, can you change this pattern? For example, if you are not inclined to be hopeful, can you practice hopeful responses–even when things really do go south? And if you can change the pattern, what does that change look like?
Here are some of my thoughts…I would love to hear from you about what you do to practice something other than your usual way of looking at the world.
1. It is possible to re-write our narratives. How we talk to ourselves about an event either will solidify a feeling or begin to change it. For example, my wife recently had a sleepless night. She was able to use that time to talk to the Lord even while she was feeling out of sorts. In the morning, she had a positive, if also tired, way of feeling about the night.
2. Change does not look like zero experiences of an old narrative running through our head. Change looks like being able to recognize the old but also a new pattern as well. This change is not merely talking yourself out of one schema and into another. Rather, mindful awareness of threads of your experience that have been there all along get more play and so therefore become more salient over time.
3. Change isn’t permanent. Just as a professional athlete cannot go without practice, we cannot expect effortless maintenance of a new way of feeling.
3 responses to “Practicing new ways of feeling?”
In the group therapy I do with troubled adolescents, I constantly remind them that any “techniques” we talk about are not merely “mind games” to help them feel better…they may accomplish that in the short run, but they serve a more noble and useful purpose in the long run: “to keep you out of psych wards, jails, prisons, the gutter and the grave!” And since most of them have been in 4 of the preceding 5 predicaments, that goal appeals to them!
I re-read “The Purpose Driven Life” at least once a year, to remind myself that, when I’m personally employing the stress reduction and anger management techniques I teach to my kids in treatment, they really do serve a higher purpose than merely making my day feel better (although that’s legitimate and enjoyable).
I’m a big fan of taking the pebble out of my shoe as often as I feel one, but occasionally I get the call to walk awhile with the pebble left in my shoe. Both are acts of worship, and I don’t want to be so caught up with taking out the stone, that I forget it occasionally serves a divine purpose.
Mindfulness?? What an amazing provision of God that this was your post yesterday! I have just been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and “Mindfulness” group therapies have been recommended. As someone determined to trust and obey Jesus i am wary of the Budhist influence the approach may take. You obviously believe mindfulness is an approach that can be used within a Biblical framework. Can u pls elaborate? I want to find my identity and security in Jesus but it’s seem (after 13 years of struggles) reading the Bible and asking God for help just isn’t enough.
Naomi, use the search bar at the top right portion of my blog and search the term mindfulness. I’ve written about mindfulness from a Christian perspective and tied it to an ancient Christian practice of watchfulness. Hopefully, that will give you some ideas.