Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: finding the balance

Hello everyone and I hope you had/are having a restful holiday!

The time has finally come. I have had several chats about this and have studied it a great deal since I began practicing yoga and meditation 7 years ago, then during my years studying psychology, and all the way to now, as I continue such studies. Here is part of my answer (as it is quite a heavy subject).

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First things first. I have a degree in Psychology but I combine my knowledge from studies in Health, Wellness, Yoga, and Meditation with that of my studies in Psychology to offer what I can. As a trainee Life and Health Coach that is what I do. Those of you who know me personally know that I am planning on completing my Master’s in Psychology after this one but time will tell what that brings.

In the meantime, let it be understood that I am not a licensed psychologist, nor am I able to diagnose, much less prescribe. In fact, I rarely even give those opinions. Not in any professional way, that is. More to the point, that is not really my interest. I want to help you realise your potential, no matter where and how you stand.

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Alright, now for the fun stuff! 

It takes courage to feel your emotions. The more there is to feel, the more courage it takes. No matter how painful, scary, upsetting, or anxiety-inducing your emotions are, it takes strength, courage, and patience to feel them. By feeling them I do not mean sort of identifying them so you can link them to a few 101 psychology quotes or worse yet, inspirational quotes. I mean really, truly feel them. For the record, there is nothing wrong with accessible psychology or inspirational speaking. I would qualify those things as accessories to psychology and meditation. They accompany. They give you something nice and comforting to hold on to and from which you can gain inspiration. Quotes are great! But there is no quote without content. It is all work. Being mentally and emotionally aware takes mindfulness and effort. Even when you are “experienced”, it challenges you sometimes. Often, even. That’s life. Now whilst people’s needs vary from needing coaching to perhaps requiring further diagnosis and treatment, there are still some common threads and methods in which you can care for yourself.

I will break it down into 5 steps of my preferred method of Mindful CBT.

CBT and Mindfullness

You cannot read a book (or even a couple) and start diagnosing yourself and others. Most of the time, you are reading said books because you have a bias to start with. That sets the ground for misinterpretation straight away. More to the point, if you are reading up on psychological topics during heartbreak or grief, it can be very counterproductive. Additionally, seeing a psychologist and then reading books instead of actually doing the therapy is not really the solution either. Doing research is fine. Finding multiple sources of support and inspiration is fine. Similarly to any decision making or life choices, those are just so you know. In other words, they are there but you still have to do what you what to do. In fact, I find that integrating Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with Mindfulness has been the most effective way for me and those whom I have worked with. This is because, the steps to CBT are effective, but need deeper roots. Mindfulness also needs some more “tangibles” for many. In other words, you need to start from way within, then work your way to the most effective CBT possible.

But there is one thing to remember, and it is the main point of my post: mindfulness used unmindfully does not work no matter how mindfully you are doing it. Equally, CBT used with patterns you have not yet identified will merely reflect a different perspective of what became troubling to you in the first place. 

Solution? You need to be mindful. Simply. Just Feel. Feel it all. Factor in everything. Weigh all your options. Use your thirst for knowledge and your curiosity. Don’t identify it yet. Stop trying to make it something. Just recognise, for now. Only by doing the spirit portion, will your emotions and brain reach their potential. This is not a religious or extra spiritual speech. I am merely explaining the ways in which one can find balance. Silence your brain so you can hear your mind. The two are not the same. Reside in your heart. Express yourself and feel yourself from there. Once the mind and the heart are in harmony, one can find what I call the spirit. The spirit is inside you. It can either be that serene and harmonious place, or, it can be your purest self which is where you feel that harmony, serenity, and eventually peace. I like to believe that I have a spirit. A more pure and present “me”. Others like that call it their happy place. It does not matter, everything I am saying can still apply. Once you are residing in your spirit, you can start to recognise, gently identify, and let go.

Step 1: Recognise

It is my opinion and belief that the recognising bit should be done in a Mindfulness way rather than with the aim of conducting an attempt at CBT. You deserve to create a safe space where it can all come together and be presented to you and you will build the strength and courage that is required of you to feel these sensations and emotions properly. I firmly believe in this one because I feel that once you have stopped being afraid of something, you are no longer afraid of facing it. It does not have to be a fight! And I do not encourage rationalising! Just allow yourself to feel and experience the whole thing. Even if this is for a few minutes a day. You take your time. Sit down, alone, create a safe space, remember to breath and that you are in a safe place, and just let it all out. Let. It. All. Out. Ask yourself questions in your mind. Don’t focus on one emotion as soon as you feel it. Hyper-focusing will not allow you to feel everything else, example physical. The same goes for the other way around. So factor it all in. Feel it all. The emotions and the physical symptoms. As soon as you feel your mind moving elsewhere, calm it down. Don’t tear it forcefully away from thoughts. Simply, say something like: “oh, that’s good, part of me wants to continue with this moment, but I am here now. I am in this phase. This is where I am now. The rest can come later. Skipping will cause anxiety. Here I am.”

 

Step 2: Allow

Now that you have laid everything out, just stay still. It’s all out. Put it in front of you. There it is. All the stuff causing you anxiety and pain. It’s there. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Breathe from your heart. Your heart will be one of the first things to tighten and panic so breathe through it. It is your heart and you will fill it with what you need. If you want no pain, then you will work toward that. Breathe. Feel your light shine through your heart and protect you. Feel the earth upon which you exist hold you and keep you safe. Turn your attention to your head. Your brain is doing a great deal of exercise surrendering to you. Your mind is now yours. Be grateful for it. Feel safe with it. It is yours. It is you. See white light shine from it to help ease the heaviness it feels. All the space being taken up every day by worrying and fear. Free it. You owe it to yourself and your body. Free yourself, one energy centre at a time in whatever way you can feel by inhaling and exhaling. You may not feel light and fluffy here. That’s ok. The blessing is in the effort. Keep on going. Still just allowing life to be as is and allowing yourself to reside in that. Feel and fuel your energies with light. You are safe.

**If you want to stop here you can. This can be very intense and even stressful on the body and mind. Many have cried in these moments. I know I have. I have started sweating and just started balling my eyes out. I knew it was a good sign but I needed a break. So I did. So please, allow yourself the time.**

Step 3: Investigation, Identification, and Mindful CBT

At this point, CBT can be very effective. I always found that conducting CBT was best for me once I started in meditation. I would kindly investigate what I was feeling, what it was causing, and why. This is how I unveiled so many of my patterns and behaviours. It was not always very scientific. Sometimes it was just me feeling A, identifying symptom B, and investigating cause C. For example:

A: I am feeling so insecure and angry. I am in pain. I am hurt. Broken. Stressed, Anxious, nervous, feeling like I’m going crazy.

B: My heart feels weak yet is beating way faster. My chest feels tight. My tummy is uneasy. I’m fidgeting. I keep opening my eyes, scratching myself, shifting. My breathing is shallow.

C: Someone hurt me. They keep doing this. They just did that. I can’t take it anymore. It makes me feel crazy, angry, anxious, sad.

Now, what am I believing? What am I allowing myself to feel? Only I decide how much of this I will take on. Why am I taking some of these things on and not other things? Why do these things matter to me?

You must allow yourself to feel this without judging yourself. It does not make you weak or crazy. Everyone is or has been affected by things and people. We are humans. We are. Anyone saying that they don’t care is lying, I’m sorry. Someone who just brushes things off and gets a quick fix is not someone you should want to follow but rather someone you should hope will find the strength to feel the reality. What you can change, is HOW you care and WHAT you do about it. It doesn’t matter so much that you care about what someone thinks or what they say/do to you. It’s good that you do. That means you’re feeling something and you’re on the verge of a new break through! Pretty cool, eh? So this ties in to your Mindful CBT. Remember:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What is it doing to me physically?
  3. What is causing it?
  4. Why is it having such an effect on me?
  5. What can I do about it?

 

Step 4: Analyse (optional) 

Now at this point, you can either skip to the next step which is about non attachment and non-identification, or you can add this. This is a more in depth CBT process. Identify what is causing your emotional and physical reactions, analyse your patterns and conditioning. This will allow you to understand why certain things affect you more than other and why they lead to the feelings and symptoms you have. By doing this, you realise that you are not just “crazy” or “feeling all this stuff for no reason” or “over-thinking”. You will see what may have been a mini-trauma in your past. You may find a bigger trauma. you will find different triggers and associations that have set forth a perpetual cycle of anxiety, pain, or sadness. You may find that you feel and do certain things because of something that happened to you as a child. You may find that it was caused by some conditioning throughout your life. Alternatively, you may be going through a heartbreak or loss. You may be experiencing your current trauma. Do not ignore the immediate effects of the trauma when analysing yourself. No detail is irrelevant. You may even discover that you have an illness. This does not mean that YOU ARE that illness. Just like you ARE NOT the patterns or trauma or triggers. I cannot emphasise this enough! Either way you want to make an analysis. I think it is important because even if you do have anxiety or depression, for example, it does not mean that you are wrong for feeling what you feel. In fact, you may be finding the cause of it which is even more important. Do not let anyone minimise what you are feeling based on stigma and judgment. At this point, seek professional help and they will decide what treatment, if any, you need. Sometimes you can have tendencies but not require further treatment.

 

Step 5: Non-identification, Letting go, Resting in Natural Awareness

At this point you want to liberate yourself. Whether you uncovered some triggers, or toxic patters, trauma, or mental illness, you must detach. As mentioned above. YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS OR DISCOVERY. Just like you ARE NOT the patterns or trauma or triggers! Free yourself of this. It is NOT by rationalising that you will free yourself. It is not by making this tangible and accessible that it will become so. Accessibility to peace comes when you reside in peace. To do so, you must go through the steps. There is no quick fix. Let me say that again, just for good luck. There is no quick fix! The only way out is through, my friends. 

***As I have always said, we are all a little bit something; some of us are just more something than others and sometimes specific treatment is required to help them live healthy, and happy lives.***

For the record, we all need treatment of some kind. That treatment just varies. People with no diagnosis of mental illness can have way more trouble adjusting because of other factors, so there really is no one way to be. Even meditation is treatment for something. Anyway, let’s not get into that right now… The point is, the quicker someone is to diagnose you (aside from a professional doing their job), the faster they are avoiding dealing with WHY they are trying to diagnose you. πŸ˜‰

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I have combined a RAIN Meditation with Some CBT concepts. This was not by accident. It was the skeliton of my article. What’s more is that you can combine them and have them intersect or replace each other at various points. It’s up to you. This is my main way of doing it. I prefer the combination starting at “diagnosis” and continuing during treatment. However, it starts and ends with Mindfulness. I will be posting the complete RAIN Meditation shortly. I will also be examining and discussing more about CBT and Mindfulness Psychology.

 

Thank you and happy living!

 

Write soon,

Gen x

 

2 Replies to “Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: finding the balance”

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