Phase 8 - Practicing Our Mental Health
Once we gain a serviceable level of understanding of our own disordered anxiety, we may then choose to recover. Without this type of understanding we are unable to work down our symptoms because the distinction between symptom and self remains unclear. My own social anxiety disorder resisted my efforts to recover for decades. I mistakenly used compensatory coping modes habitually and they of course sustained and aggravated the condition. I did not understand that any activity driven by irrational fear is a manifestation of that same irrational fear. Thus, my efforts to Impress Others, Seek Approval and Be Outstanding were all sustaining my disorder.
Mindful Recovery has recruited Mindfulness Based Anxiety Reduction to teach us the nature of our disordered anxiety and show us how to treat it. The various types of anxiety disorders have similar structures. There is a core fear that is formed from some experience of deprivation or misfortune. The misfortune suggests negative things about us or our world. These dreaded suggestions are our maladjusted schema or traumatic impressions. We especially fear these mental impressions because of what they may suggest about us and our future. The maladjusted coping modes attempt to escape confronting and evaluating these menacing notions. Maladjusted coping modes do not work; there is no escape from a mental impression. There is, however, the possibility of surmounting and overcoming fear. Through the assessment process we form a conception of our maladjusted schema which encourages us to enter and question our fears. This is the Way of Mindful Recovery.
Getting better requires both insight and method. The “insight” comes with the practices of Assessment. The “method” comes by adopting Treatment practices. Our treatment practices need to respond to our different types of fear. Some fears are very uncomfortable and terrifying. Sometimes these fears form not only as intrusive thoughts and feelings but intrusive urges and behaviors. In these cases it is highly recommended to initiate the practice of Mindful Exposure to the Large Breath at the start of the assessment. We must be able to tolerate gradual exposure to the things we most fear. I have recommended that everyone practice Mindful Exposure to the Large Breath in Phase 1 of this Orientation. For some of us the Yoga Postures and Mindful Exposure to the Large Breath may be the critical factor that will allow us to recover. On the other hand, some of us will not be dependent on these resources. We are all in different conditions. We must however expose ourselves to our fears if we are to work with them. Deep breathing skills like those used Mindful Exposure to the Large Breath (a.k.a. Misogi Breathing) have an anesthetizing affect allowing us to endure our early adjustments in the practice of exposure and Radical Acceptance of our emotions.
I, for one, have never stopped using them.
Imaging is an important part of recovery. In our minds are the representations of our world inclusive of representations of our relationships. Our internal world is a blueprint of our reality. Thus, when we “visit” the world of our images we are provided both insight and a means to change. Imaging upsetting events generally lead us into the realm of our core schema. We see the image of ourselves in relationship with the other images that inhabit our mind. When a relationship is disorderly, inequitable, or oppressive we can “speak” to the image, communicate what is wrong and how we really feel. We can do in our minds what we might have failed to do in life. This adjustment can change our internal blueprint. We change our internal reality opening up the possibility of a new way of being and a new way of relating.
Mindfulness and the practice of Radical Acceptance of our emotional experience supplant our maladjusted coping modes. Instead of trying to escape our experience we observe and accept it. We learn through Mindfulness to stay tuned-in to our authentic state of being. This allows us to discriminate between symptom led behavior and self led behavior. Mindfulness suspends the practice of Being Judgmental. It provides a clearer lens to see our lives and the world. Mindfulness interrupts our fear driven ruminations and behaviors. We see our irrational fear for what it is -- a mental event. Being Mindful of our experience is being present to both internal and external events.
Mindful Exposure integrates all these elements into a healing practice. There are two phases in the practice—exposure and assimilation. In Mindfulness Based Anxiety Reduction we sit in a similar fashion and contemplatively explore upsetting memories, thoughts and events. We expose ourselves to our internal representations—the images of people, places and events that exist within.
Then we let go. In this phase we steadfastly focus on being aware of our breath, bodily sensations, emotional atmosphere and our state of being. Suspending thoughts and remaining present and aware entails practicing the radical acceptance of our experience. We accept what is. This acceptance is not complacency; it is the extinguishing of irrational fear.
Principals and Saying develop within all disciplines. The Sayings and teachings in Mindful Recovery help us to talk to one another about the values and principles in the practice of Mindfulness Based Anxiety Reduction. Being able to site sayings or teachings gives us an authoritative base to coach and support each other in the Recovery process. Mindful Recovery encourages this skill. I have listed a number of Recovery Sayings that may help orient you and others to helpful way of looking and dealing with our disordered anxiety. I recommend that you cultivate your unique grasp of Mindful Recovery and extract teachings that inform your Recovery. Your exceptional knowledge may be of special help to another. You may share your recovery and your proficiency with others in Mindful Recovery groups.
This is the last of the 8 phases of Orientation. In this last phase we focus on integrating all that we have learned and experienced in the prior weeks.
Meditate regularly using approaches from all the Mindful Exposure applications. Integrate your Mindful Exposure work into your day-to-day living. Study the Cognitive Skills by reading and listening to How to Reduce Anxiety, How to Aggravate Anxiety and How to Reduce Conflict. Begin a Journal using the Self-Monitoring Format you find in the Treatment Section. The Self- Monitoring form will help you organize, direct and communicate your recovery strategy. This will lead you to mastering the internal art that is Mindfulness Based Anxiety Reduction. You may supplement your treatment work by attending Insight Meditation Centers and Zen Centers.