How Cognitive Behavior Change improves my quality of life.
I have had many different experiences with different mental health therapies. Within CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) is something called Mindfulness. By far it has been the most helpful method for retraining my mind.
Before I began this work I believed that I was at the mercy of wherever some part of my mind wished to go. And it chose to slip into the painful past every time something in the present triggered it. It is like living in the sights of a revolver with a hairpin trigger. It is an awful see-saw way to live. It’s not even really living at all. It’s using the now moment to cause now destruction. I spent most of my time and energy trying to ignore, fend off, argue with, or just give into this activity.
Then a few years ago I was introduced to CBT and especially Mindfulness, an eastern idea that Jon Kabat-Zinn brought to the west. I had been inching along the healing road in a beat up old pair of sandals. This technique gave me a new pair of running shoes. The work can be time-consuming itself, but the results are mind-blowing. I have become an expert on my triggers. For example I could not notice a house roof without remembering in vivid detail the memory of my father’s house re-roofing project that became a nightmare of bad work and high costs along with all the emotion and self-recrimination I took upon myself about it.
I wonder how many other people relive the past like this?
On a recommendation I started using Mindfulness while making my bed. I make the bed just to be able to use the technique. I focus all my attention on the experience and its sensuality. I listen for the swoosh of the top sheet as it lands lightly on the bottom and the sound of the air as it seeps out. I hear the puff of the blanket landing a little more solidly than the sheet. I pound the pillows into shape and feel their feathers and the air on my face as it leaves the pillows. I notice the light as it plays. I smell the moisture of the night’s sleep. I feel the textures. I play with my cat as he darts in and out of the sheet while I try to get it to lay flat. And I am never triggered. That is the stunner.
Living in this moment makes me glad to be alive. The other way makes me want to disappear. I am not “cured”. I still very often have to stop what I’m doing and “come back”. But I am noticing that I don’t “disappear” nearly as often and the trigger has become much harder to pull. It seems each time I practice mindfulness I get a little more mentally and emotionally adept.