By Deb Kennard, Founder of Personal Transformation Institute
Have you tried relaxation techniques? Maybe you have used a variety of podcasts, guided meditations, or other resources to help you relax after a long, tension-filled day. Those exercises may have helped you feel better in the moment but relaxation techniques are like putting a bandaid on an open wound. They may help at the time, but they are not a long-term solution.
For the past 5 years I have dedicated my life to teaching and consulting with fellow psychotherapists. I have founded the Personal Transformation Institute, a teaching institute that has unfolded out of my desire to help bring effective mental health treatment and healing to the world.
As I work with mental health professionals one of the biggest barriers I see for them is the desire to have clients feel good. Although feeling good may be a by-product of effective psychotherapy, I see the ultimate goal as freedom.
Although freedom may be pleasant at times, it is different from feeling good. The freedom I am referring to is the ability to be present in this moment, aware of whatever is here and knowing that you have a variety of options to deal with this moment.
The process of being human means we will have both pleasant and unpleasant situations and events. Our ability to flow through life responding instead of reacting is a part of freedom. So what is the road to freedom and how do we get on it?
As a trauma-informed psychotherapist for the past 24 years and a meditator for the past 10 years, I believe the only road to freedom is a direct path through experiencing whatever is here in the moment without pushing it away or trying to make something happen that isn’t.
How do we push the present moment away? One way we push away the moment could be through relaxation techniques intended to make ourselves or our clients feel better. It may sound like a paradox and it may take a moment to wrap your head around this concept.
Take as long as you need…. I’ll wait.
Maybe an example will help. Let’s say a client comes into therapy with a symptom of experiencing frequent anger outbursts. That angry client may be desperate to change because of the threat of losing connection with a loved one due to the angry behavior. A well-meaning psychotherapist may begin by suggesting calming exercises or cognitive restructuring techniques as an attempt to help the client stop their anger. This process may even help reduce the frequency of angry outbursts and may work in many situations to help the client feel calmer. But when that client is in a very high-intensity situation that activates the anger response, those techniques are likely not available. The relaxation techniques were only a bandaid– the client is not able to call on them when something triggers them intensely enough because their present moment is still affected by their past wounds.
Going through the difficult memories, emotions, and body sensations while knowing you are present and safe is the only path I have found to true freedom. As we do this we are facing the truth of this moment, the manifestation of unresolved past painful events, with the understanding that there is a wise observer who is just noticing the experience and recognizing it as a memory.
It is also important to note that most memories show up as a body sensation. There is really no need to know what happened in the past or put a story with it, that actually may hinder the process on the path to freedom. If we can activate curiosity and even amazement as a body sensation arises, we are creating a new pattern in our mind-body relationship and allowing the knots of the past to be untied, often resulting in the unfolding flow of the present moment.
If you enjoyed this, please feel free to share it with your friends. You and your friends are welcome to attend the monthly free webinars I offer, in which we dive deeply into big ideas and exciting concepts! You can register here.
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May you be Happy, Peaceful and Free!