A Relaxing Invitation to Hypnosis, offers a brief hypnotic experience in a unique style.
The concept of grief is mainly applied to the loss of a loved one to death or to traumatic loss such as losing a home to fire. Yet as human beings we experience many other types of loss simply by living our lives.
We lose things every day. Although we may not realize it, a friend moving away or a change in job represents a loss and generates an inner response.
Change is a constant in life and all change contains an aspect of loss — even wished for changes. The new job means I don’t get to see my former co-workers and I miss them. Having a baby, such a joy, means I now have no time for myself.
Each of these changes creates its own emotional repercussions. We may not be aware of these emotions because our lives are so full and fast that we often don’t stop to notice. Even when we do, our culture teaches us to avoid pain and uncomfortable feelings and provides many ways for us to do so… shopping, food, work, drugs, alcohol, and sex are some examples.
Unacknowledged emotions, especially sadness and grief, do not disappear but can emerge in indirect ways, through irritability, anger, depression or physical problems. Often the body will carry the burden of disowned emotion.
If, instead, we allow ourselves to become aware of our emotions, we strengthen our ability to feel, to name our experience, and to keep our emotional energy moving. That energy is blocked when we push feelings away, ignore, or deny them.
Learning about our feelings through our everyday losses has several advantages.
Observing and naming the sensations, emotions, thoughts, and behavioral reactions to the loss, rather than ignoring or judging them, can free energy for other things — such as healing, empathy, and self-care.
The emotions and reactions evoked by these smaller losses are less intense and therefore we can challenge ourselves to stay with the feeling longer, label it, sense it, and understand it. We learn that we can withstand uncomfortable emotions without being overwhelmed by them, or needing to suppress them.
When we intentionally check in with ourselves and ask, “What am I feeling right now?” we begin to notice sensations, thoughts, and emotions related to daily events. We become sensitive to ourselves and develop the capacity to regulate how much emotion we can tolerate at a given time. As with any skill we build the ability to feel with practice. The fact that feelings are temporary and constantly coming and going becomes an observed reality.
Learning in this way to recognize the felt sense of loss will not inure us to strong emotion when faced with major losses in the future. However, any increased ability to recognize, feel, and express feelings will help us to be more compassionate toward ourselves and others in pain.
Try this: For one week notice and write down the losses that you experience. Think back over the week, What has changed? Did a colleague leave a job or a friend become ill? No loss or change is too small to consider. The new piece of furniture didn’t arrive as expected. Your brother didn’t return a call. How did you respond?
Spend 10 to 20 minutes two or three times during the week writing about these specific changes or losses. Write about the thoughts, feelings, sensations and memories that have been stimulated. Write without thinking too much. This does not have to be neat or orderly or even make sense.
The point is to give yourself time and permission to practice naming and expressing your experience of feeling. Notice how the “judge” shows up as a voice in your head that says, “This is no big deal why are you bothering with this?” or “You can’t write,” or other critical thoughts. Don’t let it stop you. Notice it and turn the volume down, and go on with the writing.
When dealing with difficult emotions or events, writing about the same thing several times in a week can assist with healing. It can be reassuring to see how your emotions shift with time as your healing progresses.
Try this: Write for 10 minutes about the difficult event. Then ask yourself, "When did I feel this way before?" Write about that for ten minutes.
Try This: Ask yourself, "What can I do to comfort myself?"
Write about things you usually do to feel better. Notice if these are things that actually create comfort — like a walk in nature, talking with a sympathetic friend, or taking a warm bath — or if they are things that avoid feeling like smoking or shopping or keeping busy.
Writing this way can be helpful whenever you feel out of sorts and aren’t clear what is causing the discomfort, or when you have a specific event that you know is creating difficult feelings. Treat the writing as important and be discriminating about sharing it. Think of it as something you are giving yourself. Time for yourself to be…. It does not have to be shared.
By expanding our awareness of everyday losses we can gain access to our feelings. As we develop greater capacity and range of feeling, we open ourselves to the possibility of a richer and more authentic life.
Linda Silver, MFT, conducts a psychotherapy practice in San Francisco and San Rafael. She has over 30 years experience working in the mental health field and is a founding member of the Milton H Erickson Institute of The Bay Area. Linda integrates hypnotherapy and EMDR in her work with individuals and couples. With a background in nursing and hospice, she has special interest and experience helping people with health and well being as well as with the challenge of illness, medical procedures, loss and grief. Linda is also an intern supervisor for CIIS. 415-257-8872