Thinking can prevent you from both saying and doing many things. Thinking is not saying or is it doing/acting. Thinking is always and ever a virtual action until the act of saying or an actual action is affected.
Doing, saying and thinking are participles and they modify nouns: "What is John doing?" They are a type of verb, which functions to express actions and are similar to adjectives as they also modify actions.
A person can engage in the action of saying something or doing something but wouldn't it seem somewhat odd to say that they were engaged in the action of thinking? Not entirely and I am not attempting to claim that thinking and acting are mutually exclusive behaviors. People just usually make an overall distinction between thinking and behaving, and that they are never the same thing.
But I would like to distinguish and clarify some basic human functions: behavior (acting), saying (language) and thinking (cognition), so it may benefit the process if one was to distance and distinguish the terms.
Ultimately it is probably the case that all of the terms are synonymous and are only differentiated for pragmatic, utilitarian, and everyday reasons--"I am thinking right now about the action I would like to take." Further it is quite possible that some instances of mental health disfunction are based on how an individual's extreme differentiation of these processes (thinking/saying/behaving) lead them to focus too much on any one of the three to the detriment of the others and themselves.
For example: Someone may engage in the behaviors of working, blogging and dating. Any behaviors/actions can be inserted into this chain. All of these are examples of someone doing something. The question regarding mental health would be then to what degree (quality/quantity) does this individual achieve the outcomes they desire regarding each behavior that they have consciously chosen to engage? Ultimately, what barriers do they place before themselves (normally unconsciously) and conversely, what barriers do they encounter that are not self-imposed but that they are incapable of overcoming? Was it simply a goal too high and out of their range?
Let us say that for this example the individual we are referencing is proficient in a descending ability: They are very good at their work life, they have moderate ability to blog and their dating life is abysmal. Why would it be that they are incapable of transferring their capabilities to function very effectively at work to boost their blogging ability and then completely transform their dysfunction at dating?
The simple answer is that they are assessing the data points related to the other two tasks in a different manner than the task that they are proficient. Granted these "tasks" are highly divergent when viewed from the outside but once an individual begins to analyze the individual components in a objective, abstract and metaphorical way, that is through psychotherapy, then the associations and similarities begin to become quite evident. When the similarities are uncovered the potential for change is engaged because the unconscious barriers are discovered through comparison with the higher functioning behaviors, aka work in this example.
There potentially are little to no barriers in some parts of your life. Let's identify those!, no matter how small it may initially seem, because it can be utilized to cast a bright, shining light on the other areas that are troubling and undiscovered.
Just as an automobile maneuvers a street so does your mind a thought, both start and stop, as the vehicle navigates a whole city so does your mind the relationships or dissimilarities between thoughts; both continue, starting and stopping until the final destination or conclusion is arrived at. The most obvious difference is the mind’s distinct ability to differentiate the external environment, a street or city for this instance, from the internal thoughts, the mind’s own internal environment, about the city or any other object it is thinking about.
Troubles arise when the automobile’s driver does not see the green light turn to yellow and then, worse, red. This is so obviously devastating in the real world when an accident occurs; similarly with the mind, but usually with much less obviousness. The street an automobile travels is often illuminated by some source of light, be it a celestial object (sun, moon, stars), street lights or the head lights of the vehicle itself, the mind can have very dark corners a driver is often unable to or ill-equipped to navigate and satisfactorily maneuver. This is when a person may have an unfortunate instance of having a mental or psychological accident.
The human brain could be thought of as the car in the above metaphor and as it houses the mind, the driver could be thought of as the mind. This car is the most complex object in the known universe. How well is it’s driver acquainted with its mechanisms, operation and required maintenance? This being known, how much more difficult is it for any individual to adequately navigate the roads/events of their lives without having breakdowns or accidents due to its inherent complexity?
Not only is the car complex but the roads taken during the maturational process can be highly treacherous and danger filled. The young driver is incapable and ill prepared to handle the obstacles and pitfalls. The barriers and problems that are encountered are more often than not inappropriately navigated and the aftereffects that are not appropriately processed or “repaired” leave the vehicle in a state of disrepair. The driver is no longer able to freely and readily travel the roads that inevitably continue to present themselves.
Therapy is a way for the driver to reacquaint themselves to their complex vehicle and then to better be able to reorient themselves to the roads that they not only must travel, but, then will enjoy, once again, travelling.
The thought within your mind is a road travelled by your mind. The two are as intimately bound as is the car with the road it travels. Unlike the physical road and the car your mind can take “flight” and travel down roads that are so far up in the sky that there has not been yet a physical vehicle manufactured that could reach such similar heights. This can obviously be very good, as when you find a very creative impulse or devastatingly dangerous, as when that creative impulse leads you into a dark space of loss, despair and depression. Distinguishing how to moderate and thereby appropriately navigate how you create your mind-space or mind-set can assist a person in traveling safely.
How does one travel safely? Well, as with a car that has a gas pedal and entropy producing brakes, so does your mind need countervailing mechanisms that produce thrust or momentum and then reduce or eliminate that movement forward or backward when it is necessary and appropriate.
It is relatively simple to manipulate a gas pedal and brake after a few hours of instructed application. The same is not always true for instruction and implementation of the parallel mechanisms of the mind. The way the car has been managed are ultimately the most important factors for producing, re-engaging or reacquainting the driver to their throttle and brake: how well has the car been properly maintained and more importantly how roughly has the car been handled, by its owner and by those entrusted with its safety, i.e. its caregivers?
These factors will play heavily into how easily an individual will be able to begin to right the direction their car has been traveling and a therapist can act as a driver’s instructor.
By Mathew Quaschnick
The ways in which you communicate and accurately identify your emotions can lead to a higher degree of emotional regulation. This can in turn increase your confidence while improving your self-esteem and overall wellness.
If I wanted to put one cup of sugar into my pancake recipe but, instead, I used a cup of salt then the kids are going to have a big Saturday morning breakfast wakeup call when they take their first bites!
Just as salt and sugar are very similar looking ingredients for a recipe so are emotions and feelings very similar experiences for people. I think that the terms we utilize most often for labeling emotions can be similar and accidentally confusing them like salt with sugar can have very serious and long standing consequences.
Emotions are similar to feelings, and people normally will interchange these terms, they both have a physical sensation. But just as food ingredients will radically alter a recipe when confused so will your experience of your life be radically altered if feelings are confused with emotions.
(It maybe helpful to view this diagram of feelings vs. emotions as you read the rest of this article. You can toggle back and forth with the arrow keys in your browser or open it in a new tab.)
EMOTIONS vs. FEELINGS: Labeling
The two terms above are often interchanged but I believe that their assumed interchangeability leads to further emotion uncontrollability. They are vastly divergent things and are experienced in very different ways. While the two terms are often thought to represent similar experiences they are different in fundamental ways:
(1) Feelings are strictly physiological sensations, i.e. hardness, softness, tightness, emptiness, etc...
(2) Emotions have physiological sensations connected to them but also have a "story" or narrative that goes along with the experience, i.e. "I love ____!," "I am beaming with happiness [because I got the job]," "I hate that she did this to me." All of these emotions are going to have parallel physical sensations, some considered "good," some "bad."
(1) Both emotions and feelings are identified using a common word from the English language:
(a) Feelings: hard, tight, soft, cold, warm, etc...
(b) Emotions: love, hate, jealousy, sadness, despondency, joy, etc...
(2) Both have a physical sensation that is normally associated with the experience of them
So emotions and feelings have physical sensations that normally accompany the experience. However, it is this common bond that so often creates a blurred interpretation or misidentification. This may seem innocent enough but just as salt and sugar are "white granular substances" the experience of either is very, very different and their substitution gives you a VERY different result.
In therapy you can begin to untangle the emotional miscommunications that occur when feelings and emotions are unfortunately interchanged. Often the interchangeability of the feelings and emotions occurred at a very early age when the individual was not mature enough to know the difference. These miscommunications then can unconsciously act as a defense against unwanted emotions. For example: A parental figure tells their son or daughter, "you should feel ashamed of yourself!" The response of the child could potentially be very negative as they begin to bury their feelings and, instead, begin experiencing the emotion of shame.
This network of miscommunicated emotions and feelings can then actively restrict an individual's ability to freely and healthfully express their emotions, leading to anger management problems (too much unregulated emotion) or depressive symptoms (not enough or any emotional expression) and potentially many other psychological problems.
By Mathew Quaschnick
Take the first step...
There is one "best" thing in the world to help reduce anxiety, to increase mental clarity and ability to focus, and for increased general well-being: Deep Breathing!
You can live for days without food, up to a month, approximately 44,640 minutes.
You can live for days with water, up to a week, approximately 10,080 minutes or more.
But you can only live for 3 to 5 MINUTES -- without OXYGEN!
Deep breathing is IMPORTANT...
Yet, most of us are unable to spend more than a few minutes bringing our awareness to our breath. And this is usually only during a "sigh" or the point in the day when the stress of the day was too great that we take what we think is a healthy deep breath. The problem is usually with the mechanics or "way" we take that deep breath.
Granted any extra oxygen that enters the system is going to be somewhat beneficial and potentially reduce anxiety or center you, that is as long as you are not hyperventilating.
How to deep breathe:
The most important aspect of deep breathing is making sure when taking an "in-breath" that your stomach is extended outward. Your diaphragm, the main muscle for breathing will be contracted. When you breath out, the diaphragm will be relaxed, and your stomach will move in. It is most important to focus your awareness on this in/out movement of your breath and your diaphragm. If you notice, the "in" breath happens when your stomach is moving out, and when your stomach moves in you should be exhaling the breath "out." So one way to picture this is with a +/- vs -/+. There are never two "+'s," i.e. NEVER an in-breath/in-stomach, nor two "-'s," i.e. NEVER an out-breath/out-stomach.
It is ALWAYS one or the other but NEVER both "ins" or both "outs"...
In stomach - Out Breath, +/-
Out stomach - In Breath, -/+
Out Stomach - In Breath, -/+
In Stomach - Out Breath, +/- but NEVER +/+ or -/-
This may seem difficult to control in the beginning but after time and some perseverance you will be able to re-establish a healthy breathing pattern that will last throughout the day and there is a lot more to learm but this is the "best" place to start.
You should try to learn to deep breath the same way you attempt to learn a new language or to play a musical instrument: Multiple (3-5 times) short (2-5 minutes) per day.
By Mathew Quaschnick
Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISDP) utilizes these maps to assist in guiding each intervention produced by the therapist and each behavior produced by the client throughout each therapeutic session.
ISDP favors this schematic for directing the behavioral as well as interventional material within the immediate moment and moments of the session as they are produced in the here and now. The triangle of conflict represents the dynamic, intrapsychic [the movement of the individual's mind internally] flow of the client's unconscious material. The triangle of people is meant to pictorially represent the basic reality that within the therapist-client relationship there are three main relational components, or active conscious and unconscious relationships. The client draws from these relationships: e.g. the therapist "T," past persons "P," and current persons "C." The client may respond utilizing the "triangle of conflict" when the therapist's attempts an interaction with the client based off of one of the behavioral patterns that the client normally engages with of the components in the "triangle of persons," i.e. a "T," "P" or "C" person.
For example: If the therapist requests information about the client's presenting concern, let's say, "general depression," and the client talks about how they have not been able to "get to work on time" then this could be a defensive, or "D" response. The D response is meant to block the feelings, or "F" response, associated with the actual depressive feelings. If the client was able to answer the question about their depressive feelings then there may have been a chance for processing the emotions. However, the D response by the client instead wards off anxiety, and is an "A" response, in the triangle.
All of the points: D, A and F--are connected and each time that the therapist asks a question or implements an intervention there is a chance for one of the resulting points [D, A and F] to be utilized by the client. It is not as simple as always wanting to get an F response but more so of the therapist being actively aware of each response and then associating the triangle of conflict responses back to the Triangle of People so that the client and therapist can begin to understand the historical as well as current relationships that have and continue to contribute to the client's main presenting problem, aka general depression--but it could be any mental health concern.
By Mathew Quaschnick
The article "Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression" describes eight unique ways to take control some of the most common symptoms of depression. I will, over-time, be incrementally summarizing the ways Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. describes her methods for fighting depression.
1. "Recognize and Conquer Your Critical Self Attacks"
This is one symptom that people suffering from depression most often complain. The critical attack can take the from of "a critical, self-destructive mentality that interferes with and distracts us from our daily lives." This is normally associated with a low self esteem and manifests as a "critical inner voice." This can be internalized at a very early age and makes it one of the most difficult symptoms to actively engage toward positive change outside of a therapeutic relationship. This is not to say that working outside of a therapeutic relationship is in vain but the intimate connection between self-esteem and your sense of self is difficult to separate from your self, alone and by one's self.
Dr. Firestone asks you to view the negative self talk as "parasites" that keep you in your bed during a regular physical sickness. But unlike the physical parasites, which you have no control over, Dr. Firestone advises that you have control over the negative self talk by bringing your awareness to them and actively identifying them as "alien point[s] of view." She then asks you to critically analyze the thoughts via a projection of them onto those whom you love: "would you think such cruel thoughts about a friend or family member?" Ultimately Dr. Firestone wishes that you should have compassion upon yourself and that "awareness" of your destructive thoughts will lead to more clear and realistic interpretation of yourself. By Mathew Quaschnick
2. "Think About What You Could Be Angry At"
The masked feelings of anger can be contributing to your depressive feelings. There is little doubt that unexpressed anger toward an individual, situation or emotionally significant object needs an outlet. Dr. Firestone briefly describes how this is the potential case regarding depression. She makes the suggestion to begin talking to others. This is a wonderful start but not everyone is comfortable talking about feelings of anger and not everyone has someone to healthfully begin this conversation. However, there are positive and therapeutic options people can begin utilizing to assist in the healthy expression of anger:
(1) The long term solution may be to begin talk therapy, and that is not a shameless endorsement of my work. I have help countless individuals with anger management and depression is a normal response to anger as Dr. Firestone states.
(2) Exercise! Beginning a daily or 3x per week workout routine, incorporating a martial arts practice, utilizing a heavy bag for boxing, etc...
(3) Deep breathing: The most important aspect of deep breathing is making sure when taking an in-breath that your stomach is extended outward. Your diaphragm, the main muscle for breathing will be contracted. When you breath out, the diaphragm will be relaxed, and your stomach will move in.
(4) Emergency stop gap intervention: If there is no time to perform the above options the next best effort is simply removing yourself, at the time of the feelings, from the source of anger. You can then "live to fight another day" and not inappropriately express your anger.
By Mathew Quaschnick
UPTOWN THERAPY MPLS
Edited and composed by Mathew Quaschnick
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