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Section 13
Solitude and Grief

Question 13 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed the part of grief regarding success being intangible.  Aspects of this concept that described include the three myths of success, new sets of values, and true success. 

In this section, we will discuss Investing in Solitude as part of the grief process.  I will describe two techniques for investing in solitude.  I will also discuss the panic of being alone, and the three ways in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness.  

I have found that clients who can spend time alone reflecting inwardly sometimes have the greatest success in dealing with grief because they are in touch with their feelings.  However, many of my clients have a fear of being alone that results in hesitancy to risk an investment in solitude. 

♦ The Panic of Being Alone
Anne experienced the panic of being alone after her husband, David, had died.  Anne, age 46, had lived with David for 25 years before his death.  Their children were a large part of Anne’s life until their youngest child moved away about three years before David’s death.  Alone after years of companionship, Anne stated, "Since I lost my husband, I have been so lonely.  I get phone calls from the kids a couple times each week, but that’s about it.  I can’t stand to be alone.  I got a day job, so that eats up some of my time.  In the evenings, sometimes I go shopping just so I don’t have to be alone." 

Do you agree that, for Anne, the panic of being alone may have been inevitable?  I have found that clients, like Anne, who experience sudden periods of aloneness after a significant loss may actually fear solitude.  Because she had rarely spent time alone prior to David’s death, Anne experienced panic at being alone.  Think of your Anne.  Does she or he fear solitude?

♦ Technique: Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature
To help Anne feel more comfortable with spending time alone, I decided to try the Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature technique.  Evaluate if this may be beneficial for your client who fears solitude.  This technique allowed Anne to spend time alone and reflect inwardly while feeling as though she was actively engaged in something productive.  Clearly, if your client is more disposed to art or another medium which requires quiet thought, use whatever works best. 

Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature
1. Walk, rather than drive, whenever possible.  When Anne walked, she noticed more of nature.
2. Stay alert to the changing panorama of the trees.  Anne began to notice which trees budded first in the spring.
3. Learn to recognize shrubs and flowers.  Anne stated, "I found a free course at the community college on how to recognize shrubs and flowers."
4. Invest in a bird feeder and a bird book.  Anne began a diary of birds which visited her feeder.
5. Keep a pair of binoculars near a window. 
6. Make watching nature a part of your daily routine.  For example, each morning Anne would watch her bird feeder.
7. Take vacations away form the city.
8. Share nature with others.

Not only do the Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature give clients like Anne the opportunity to become self-aware, but grieving clients can find other rewards, as well.  Anne stated, "I’ve found that I’m a richer person when I take the time to accept nature’s gifts."  Could your Anne benefit from the Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature technique?

♦ 3 Way to Avoid Self-Awareness
I have found that some grieving clients avoid self-awareness so they don’t have to face their grief. In my experience grieving clients may try to avoid self-awareness in one of three ways. These three ways are busyness, killing time, and noise. 

a. The first way clients may try to avoid self-awareness is through busyness.  Have you treated a client who effectively blocks any opportunity for inner dialogue by staying perpetually busy?  In my experience, clients may feel proud of their own busy schedule.  Gerald, 46, grieved the loss of his brother.  When I asked Gerald how he felt, he stated, "I really can’t say.  I mean I’m sad, but I haven’t really thought about it.  I’m so busy all the time, I don’t really have a free moment to think.  I’m an important guy, you know." Are you treating a client like Gerald who believes that self worth is linked to busyness?

♦ Technique: Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude
To help Gerald to find time to be alone, I shared with him Six Ways he might consider to Cultivate Solitude.  As I list the Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude, analyze the value of this technique and decide if it is applicable to a grieving client you may be treating. 

Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude
1. Avoid television.
2. Drive with the radio off in your car.
3. Un-clutter your calendar.
4. Plan time to be alone.
5. Go places and do things alone.
6. End the day in a relaxed atmosphere.

As you likely know, periodically cultivating solitude can help grieving clients like Gerald get in touch with their feelings through inner dialogue.  The Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude technique was helpful to Gerald regarding his avoidance of  self-awarenes.

b. The second way clients may try to avoid self-awareness is by killing time.  Clients who may be avoiding self-awareness through killing time are usually killing more than just time.  I have found that, since each person’s life consists of a limited amount of time, clients don’t kill time, they kill life.

c. The third way clients may try to avoid self-awareness is through noise.  Common methods for clients who avoid self-awareness through noise include televisions, radios, and, sometimes, video games.  To find out if Gerald was using noise to avoid self-awareness, I used the noise level survey.  Gerald rated himself for each of the following statements using a 3,2, or 1, with 3 being often and 1 being rarely. 

Ten statements in the noise level survey:
1.   I turn on the car radio as soon as I start the engine.
2.   I turn on the TV or radio as soon as I get home from work.
3.   I watch TV while eating my evening meal.
4.   I wear headphones while exercising.
5.   I take a portable TV with me when picnicking or camping.
6.   I feel uncomfortable when the house is silent.
7.   I’d rather watch TV than sit in silence and sew, read, paint, write or work a crossword puzzle.
8.   While preparing meals I listen to the radio or TV.
9.   I dislike vacationing with no access to TV or radio.
10. I feel guilty if I spend an hour quietly sitting or thinking.

If the client’s score is over 15, he or she may need to lower the noise level in his or her life.  Are you treating a client who is using one of the three ways of avoiding self-awareness?   If so, could your client benefit from listening to this section during your next session?

In this section, we discussed Investing in Solitude.  We described two techniques for investing in solitude, as well as the panic of being alone, and the three ways in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness.  The three ways in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness are busyness, killing time, and noise.

In the next section, we will discuss The Web Construct.  I will describe how The Web Construct works and three goals of the Web Construct.  The three goals are to emphasize individuality, to reestablish equilibrium, and to help reconstruct client’s lives.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Elmer, T., Geschwind, N., Peeters, F., Wichers, M., & Bringmann, L. (2020). Getting stuck in social isolation: Solitude inertia and depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. 

Elsass, P. (2008). Spiritual attachment: Examples of the healing potential of solitude. Nordic Psychology, 60(1), 72–84. 

Glad, K. A., Stensland, S., Czajkowski, N. O., Boelen, P. A., & Dyb, G. (2021). The longitudinal association between symptoms of posttraumatic stress and complicated grief: A random intercepts cross-lag analysis. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication.

Katz, A. C., Norr, A. M., Buck, B., Fantelli, E., Edwards-Stewart, A., Koenen-Woods, P., Zetocha, K., Smolenski, D. J., Holloway, K., Rothbaum, B. O., Difede, J., Rizzo, A., Skopp, N., Mishkind, M., Gahm, G., Reger, G. M., & Andrasik, F. (2020). Changes in physiological reactivity in response to the trauma memory during prolonged exposure and virtual reality exposure therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy

Presseau, C., Contractor, A. A., Reddy, M. K., & Shea, M. T. (2018). Childhood maltreatment and post-deployment psychological distress: The indirect role of emotional numbing. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 10(4), 411–418. 

Kramer, U., Pascual-Leone, A., Despland, J.-N., & de Roten, Y. (2015). One minute of grief: Emotional processing in short-term dynamic psychotherapy for adjustment disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(1), 187–198.

QUESTION 13
What are three ways in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness? To select and enter your answer go to Test.


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