There are many approaches to psychological well being. Some medicated, some not.
Most studies that have been done since the 1950’s agree that the so called “talk therapies” are among the most effective ones, more often than not without the use of any drugs.
Medication has too many so called side-effects [in reality they are no side-effects at all. That is what the drug does. One unfortunately all too often prescribed medication might lift your mood, yet at the same time it can reduce your libido, cause diarrhea, cause nervousness and anxiety, insomnia and vascular dilation. Need I say more…:-)?] for me to contemplate their use, hence my choice to concentrate on what is most effective: empathy, connection, understanding and the unwavering belief that we are all able to change…for the better, if we put our energies towards it.
Let me take you back to the 1980’s when I was much younger, I was blessed with a gift that arrived indirectly into my hands. Carl Gustav Jung, by many referred to as the father of modern day psychology would have called it with a term of his own creation: synchronicity.
I got a copy of “Feeling Good” by David Burns, MD. At the time, in my teens, I believed I had every reason to be severely depressed and with no outlook in life; a disastrous example at home of how not to connect to life and with others.
An alcoholic mother, a caring father, yet unable to show emotions and hence all the “teachings” I got from him were rather practical and supposedly rational. When I was turning 12, and about to go to a different school, he put me on his knees, and talked adult stuff with me, among which, I remember well: “and, from now on, you are entering a different age, son, you are getting into puberty, and you will be developing an interest in girls. My best advice to you son: leave them alone, as they only bring trouble” …ehmmm….thanks dad, I see your good intention, yet we need to agree to disagree on this one…:-)
Going back now to exercises in David’s book (he is the father of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, see his web page www.feelinggood.com for much more information) helped me connect in a different way with myself, and I will be forever grateful to him for that. Thank you David Burns, M.D.!
Yet, what he also taught me, is that “talk therapies” really, really work and that, going deep within ourselves to see what dialogue we have with ourselves, is the best way to change ourselves.
How can that be?
Let’s imagine a scenario: we feel really fearful about a particular situation that has arisen in our lives, to the point that we can’t let those thoughts go. They take over our lives almost literally 24/7. If we can see what sort of dialogue we have with ourselves in that moment, we can actually bring something more rational to our thinking processes.
For example, I might be telling myself: “I dread speaking in public because I’ll make a fool of myself”
Well, once we identified this thought, we can change it with something more realistic: “while some people might consider me a fool, the vast majority of those coming to the room will find at least some parts of my speech of interest, and I love the speech I wrote, which is really the most important thing. I did it with joy”
Bear in mind this is only a simple, simple example, and in reality this process needs to go on for several rounds, because we will be telling ourselves lots of nasty things about ourselves and our innate slimy gooiness. (And, by the same token, if we apply more components of CBT, we will actually try to identify what kind of thinking is going on here. David Burns created a list of some common types of cognitive errors, such as all or nothing thinking, magnification, minimization, jumping to conclusions, etc…)
As a species, our ability to be unloving, non-compassionate, non-understanding of that person we see in the mirror every day is not to be underestimated…
Let’s assume we have done a round of these searches and understandings of our thinking processes and their flaws. Now, we can take our “quest” to the next level and go even deeper within.
So what do we do now?
We descend into the realm of our most basic human needs. This part of the process is based on the understanding that all human beings have equal basic human needs [well, let me be playful and call them bunees…:-) ].
Before I go on, I wish to point out that now we are entering the realm of Nonviolent communication, the baby of M. Rosenberg [pls see his http://www.cnvc.org for more information]
Let’s come back to our bunees: A set of examples could be a need for acceptance, a need for sexual expression, a need for drink/water, a need for food, a need for being seen, a need for playfulness, and the list goes on [if you wish to have a fuller list, do not hesitate to contact me. I will do work for free with you on this issue, which is far too important to let you just go out into the world with it on your own devices, without some level of guidance. Like any knife, depending how you hold it, it can cut the steak, or chop off your hand]
Now we can combine bunees with our feelings, and very simply: when our bunees are met, we will feel easy, light feelings, when, on the other hand our bunees are not met, we will carry with us a sense of heaviness, a sense of frustration, a sense of lack of energy and, in more severe cases of our bunees not being met, we get to that point that is often referred to as “depression” [ from this school of thought and understanding of humanity, “depression” actually does not exist. It is nothing but a very, very negatively biased dialogue about one’s life, as any study on talk therapy has proven…seriously!…Google it and you will see that CBT alone, in itself, without any other “tools” can be extremely effective in cases of extreme negative thinking, a.k.a. “depression”. The myth that low levels of serotonin in the brain are responsible for “depression” have served some health-related industries very, very well, got los dineros flowing towards them…;-) ].
So, perhaps you start seeing this next stage, the bunees and feeling stage, as very important?
We have, earlier on, brought some clarity and order [ and a sense of more reality which makes us feel better ]to our thinking processes.
Now we have identified that on the whole we feel a bit heavy, hence we know that some of our bunees are not met.
Very important and perhaps heavy step: we need to understand, to our core, that whatever we do in this world is a strategy.
It is a strategy to fulfill some of these needs. For example: I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. What is or are my need/needs?
A need for drink, a need for (physical) well being (and perhaps you can think of others)
Before going to the kitchen to get the glass of water, some of my bunees were not met, and inside I had a feeling of discomfort, which normally we refer to as “thirst”.
Now, after putting into place my strategy, my bunees are satisfied [happy bunees….gee…awful pun…:-) ] and inside I feel fine.
However, this was but one strategy; instead of going to the kitchen, I could have placed a bottle of water next to me (a different strategy), or I could have gone to the garden and drank from the garden hose (a different strategy yet again, normally quite plastic-tasting experience), or I could have gone to the local watering hole to satisfy my thirst (yet a different strategy), or…come up with a few different ones yourself!
In this example, we have 4 different strategies to satisfy the same needs. In practice, in “real life” we do the same thing with most things, be it work, intimate and non-intimate relationships, shopping, financials, etc…
We chose strategies except that, in many cases if not most, we are not really aware of our choices, because we have been culturally programed by all kinds of parties: parents, ethnic/cultural background, schools, religious institutions, political biases, ethnic biases, and so on.
Hence, we go into the world and do things that are actually not really appropriate for us and, when that reaches a certain personal threshold, which is different for each and everyone of us, we fall into burn-outs, “depressions”, suicidal tendencies, addictions of all kinds – from accomplishment to sex, through hard and soft drugs and legal ones such as alcohol – .
So, our second stage of work will be to make sure that your bunees are met, most of the time.
How do we do that?
By seeing what strategies you chose to satisfy these bunees, and by checking what thinking processes are at play.
I have seen it over and over and over with the people I have worked with:
If we manage to start seeing our thinking processes, and their flaws and if we can, together with that, have the courage and immense energy to sink deeper and see what bunees we are trying to meet, then, from there on it is plain sailing.
Caveat emptor: both processes require, as I just said, courage and immense energy. Courage, because you will need to face your worse enemy: yourself. The person that harasses you, the person that tells you you are no good, the person that tells you you need to be less stupid [right…;-) ?]
Immense energy, because after having been drained by the previous part, of identifying and working with your less that empathic dialogue, you will need to take yourself to the next deep level of immersion. Your bunees.
Your bunees require of you that you let go of all the viruses of the mind, a.k.a. Memes, that society at large has put in your head, such as “boys don’t cry”, “ladies only sit in certain positions”, “good girls don’t have promiscuous sex-lives”, “men are achievers”, and you can continue the list on your own I am sure.
Enough to convince you to be in touch…:-)?
And, last but not least: I do lots of free work, as well as paid for work, based on the understanding that:
if you can afford me, please pay the full whack, so that I can help those that right now don’t have enough funds to pay for sessions. If you wish to pay, yet the full whack is too much, write me, we can surely find some agreement.
About Jerry Zondervan
Jerry Zondervan is an Inner Reference counselor/counsellor (a form of person-centered, humanist psychology) and author of many articles, as well as the book “Life is tough…yet it doesn’t have to be that way”. Jerry has a background in the social sciences, psychology and in a former [and present…:-) ] life, a career in hotel management. His work is based on Eastern and Western Philosophies – mostly the Yoga and Buddhist traditions – as well as the research on psychology performed by Jung, Rogers, Maslow, Rosenberg, Burns and many, many more. He counsels (through Skype, phone and e-mail) globally and gives thought-process changing workshops throughout most of the world.