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Section 4
Emotional Awareness in Depressed Clients

Question 4 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed how living in the present is essential to experience a feeling of happiness.

In this section, we will examine the importance of gaining a personal awareness of a crisis situation through "stopping" and "starting".

To say the holidays are stressful, may be an understatement for you. Everyone is rushing about, getting things done. With all this hustle and bustle, a million opportunities are created for things to go terribly wrong, or in short, not fulfill your expectation. Can you think of a time you have tried to resolve a situation, when at a core level, you know that your actions will only exacerbate the encounter?

For example, trying to tell your teenage daughter how beautiful her face looks when she has a case of severe acne; trying to get just the perfect gift; make the perfect meal; be the perfect host; can you be perfect? Of course not, because everyone has their own perception of you and what they think you should or should not do. But at some level, you feel if you just do, do, do more faster, better, bigger it will somehow turn out okay. But can you think of a time when your doing, doing, doing exacerbated the situation? Pause a minute. When did you do something, when doing nothing would have been better?

So common sense would tell you not to act. Why do you think your mind pushes you to do act in a way contrary to what at a core level you feel is not working? Many times, it happens that when you listen to your anxious thoughts, you will blindly rush forward in a dramatic attempt to maintain control over your surroundings. You've convinced yourself that there is nothing else to try. It's do or die, right? Or is there another alternative? Could this destructive rash of a rushing behavior be avoided or stopped in any way? What do you do when everything and everyone around you is moving at lightening speeds; yourself included?

♦ When Actions Exacerbate the Situation
Well, you stop, of course. You don't have to react to every crisis right away. Think of the circumstance again when your actions or words exacerbated the situation. Your mind and body may have been going into panic mode and have started to break down all solutions into two black and white categories. Category one being "react, do something, recover, save face, smooth things over, just anything to make everything okay" or category 2 is "stand and watch everything crash around you." And how painful is that to do nothing?

Here is something to think about: is everything really going to pieces? Before you turn on "survival mode", just stop and gain perspective on the situation. Is there an alternative that will prevent any more anguish? Is the situation really that hopeless that you have to resort to a solution that's not really a solution? Is your holiday withdrawal pulling you towards a more negative situation because you can't stand to stand still?

How do you feel about slowing down your own flow of activity? While all else whooshes past you, if you feel slowing down would be to your benefit, could you stop and watch it go by, instead of reacting?

♦ Technique: Pearl Necklace Metaphor
How do you stop from reacting like a ball on a ping pong table? One thing that works for me is I can start by analyzing my day. Your day, like mine, is not a "stream" of continuous activities that operate at the same intensity level. Think about it, some activities are more intense than others. Is your day not more like a segmented pearl necklace?

To use a positive metaphor Between each "pearl" or activity, there is a transition, the string. It is in this transition or string that your mind shifts gears, so to speak. Did you ever find yourself saying, "I need a break!"? Sure you have. Did you give yourself that break? Why not?

There were more important things to do, right? But tell me; is there anything more important than your wellbeing? If you don't take time to let yourself be happy while your day is in "string" mode, between the pearls, you can never move on to the next pearl and maintain a sustainable state of happiness. When you do obtain a way to traverse these gaps in the day with a certain level of contentment, this transition state will predispose the activity that follows to be a positive one.

Like concentrating on the present, gaining perspective is an act of awareness. You cannot acquire this sense of awareness without first stilling the body, because the body's activity powers the mind and vice versa. It's somewhat like coming to a stop at an intersection and letting the engine idle for a moment. You're not turning off the car, you're just using less fuel. When you're taking these breaks of stillness throughout the day, don't pursue any one thought. That is not giving your mind a rest. You're not taking time off to "think" about things.

Also, don't attempt to fight yourself. Obviously, a conflicted mind will not come to rest. Your objective is peace, not a solution. Like Archimedes when he discovered the principle of displacement and density by merely taking a bath, by pulling yourself away from a situation, you can view the crisis at hand objectively.

Notice that the day comes in segments, with little beginnings and endings to each. What segments make up your day? Can you see how your day is like a pearl necklace? For the next hour after you play this section, take advantage of as many of these transitional periods as you recognize by merely pausing and stilling your mind for a few seconds.

How do you do this, simple, take a couple of slow, deep breaths. You can do this silently, and no one needs to know what you are doing. Of course do not take one of these breaks if ever the circumstances are such that you could not help worrying about the consequences, because the aim of the break is to become more conscious of the present. If for the course of these two or more days you will be as conscientious as possible about shifting your focus to peace between events, you may become aware of some unexpected benefits.

When working with our own mind we all have a tendency to judge it and jump to conclusions about how it needs to change. But remember that when you feel judgmental in this way you are criticizing your mind with your mind, and all you accomplish is to enlarge the split between your anxious thoughts and your core self.

♦ Technique: "Pausing Between the Pearls"
Here is a structured exercises you can use throughout your stressful post-holiday season. You might find it helpful in slowing you down when the traffic of life is going way over the speed limit. I call this the "Pausing between the Pearls" exercise.

Once a day, for just ten minutes, sit quietly and look at the thoughts you are having. Do this conscientiously some time today, perhaps right now. Shut the CD player off and just be aware of your thoughts. As you identify any idea, list it under one of the five headings suggested below. You may want to turn your CD player off while you get a pencil and paper.

The five headings you want to consider are:

: Your attacks and judgments might include such thoughts as revenge fantasies, feelings of personal inadequacy, imagined arguments, comparisons and categorizations of other people, analyses of your own behavior.

: attempts to understand why something happened; concerns over what you have done or are leaving undone; small worries about your appearance, diet, car, weather, etc.; nagging background questions such as whether you are doing this exercise right.

(3) FEAR:
Worry is a question whereas fear is experienced more as a fact. For example: fear of predictable consequences from something you have been ingesting, such as becoming violent, activating an ulcer, etc. Fear of physical danger to you or others from driving too fast, not locking up at night, etc. Vague fears of general catastrophes: earthquakes, inflation, exposure to disease. Fear of inevitable changes in the course of your life,

(4) PAST:
Among other thoughts, this list might cover: Recalling past successes. Remembering embarrassments, mistakes over Christmas dinner, Reenacting former provocations. Rewriting past conversations. Nostalgic sadness over the old days.

These are common future-oriented ideas: Speculating on what might occur. Longing for some situation to change. Planning before it is necessary. Rehearsing upcoming conversations. "Watching the clock."

If you decide to repeat this exercise, Write down any new insights you have had into your mental patterns regarding these five topics.

In this section, we discussed the importance of gaining a personal awareness of a crisis situation through "stopping" and "starting". You received the tool of the "pausing between the pearls" exercise.

In the next section, we will discuss how to gain an increased sense of difference between your anxious thoughts or ego and your core self via a "Need to be Right" exercise.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bailen, N. H., Wu, H., & Thompson, R. J. (2019). Meta-emotions in daily life: Associations with emotional awareness and depression. Emotion, 19(5), 776–787. 

Bardeen, J. R., & Fergus, T. A. (2020). Emotion regulation self-efficacy mediates the relation between happiness emotion goals and depressive symptoms: A cross-lagged panel design. Emotion, 20(5), 910–915. 

Boden, M. T., & Thompson, R. J. (2015). Facets of emotional awareness and associations with emotion regulation and depression. Emotion, 15(3), 399–410.

Cetinkol, G., Bastug, G., & Ozel Kizil, E. T. (2020). Poor acceptance of the past is related to depressive symptoms in older adults. GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry. Advance online publication. 

Monti, J. D., & Rudolph, K. D. (2014). Emotional awareness as a pathway linking adult attachment to subsequent depression. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 61(3), 374–382. 

What are the five thought categories in the "Pausing between the Pearls" exercise? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 5
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