See the video where I ramble through these steps and a myriad of pitfalls and obstacles that I’ve encountered. A general overview for reference:
- Activate your sentient: Choose to be aware. Monitor yourself in a kind and neutral fashion. Look for “odd” thoughts or behaviors. You will know them better and better as you find them. Things as innocuous as deciding not to watch a TV show you were thinking of watching (Why?) can become a deep delving into some old memory of one of your parents saying that kind of show is stupid or for the underclass or a waste of time or harmful or whatever other thing. There is SOME reason you decided not to watch that show, is the reason clear to you? If not, dig. Dig dig dig. Or of course it could be something incredibly obvious like the parent critic voice calling you some cruel and horrible thing. “Yeah of course you didn’t clean the dishes right away, lazy dirty piece of shit,” could be one. Be honest with yourself. Don’t gloss over it because it’s easier. Look at it, if you have even a scrap of wherewithall in you, try to look at it. Stop when you need to.
- Once you have found a thought you think needs exploration, record yourself talking through it. It should preferably be a video recording but a simple audio recording will do if need be in the moment. But talk that thought out. Let all the emotions come to you and feel them and express them if that is what calls to you. Let it out.
- Watch and/or listen to the recording. I understand this can bring up a lot of self-shaming and authenticity issues, so be gentle with yourself. If you can’t watch the video, just listen. If you can’t listen to the whole thing, listen to as much as you can. If you can’t listen to it at all or watch it, then just let it set there. Save it for a time when you feel ready to face it. But if you have even the littlest nugget of energy, of courage, of tenacity, watch/listen to it. While you do so, really see yourself from the third-person, utilize those people reading skills you have undoubtedly developed as a sensitive person (or build them up!) and when you have a feeling or a thought evoked from this exercise, grab it, just as in step 1. Grab it! Slippery though it may be, grab it if you can! Grab all the little orbs you can through the course of the video, anything that seems like it needs attention. It calls to you, however quietly, however nervously.
- Write your reflections on the recording, the topic, anything that you felt deserves mentioning that wasn’t in the recording, or wasn’t in-depth in the recording, but which relates to the original thoughts that inspired it. Let the other parts of your brain add to your perspective. Handwriting is likely more productive here, but typing has done me fine thus-far, so don’t limit yourself. Get it down however you can while you have the thoughts on mind. Sometimes I just have too much to write by hand, I’d be there for hours, but that’s me, I’m a rambler. You do it whatever way makes sense for you. I do not recommend directly reading it back right after, though you should read whatever you wrote in its entirety within the same week. You may want to read it multiple times, if you feel that compulsion, do so. But for the time being, go to the next step before reading your ramble.
- Choose an associative image, something you feel represents the recording, the writing, the topic at hand, and your feelings about it. Don’t waste a lot of thought on this, let your gut guide you. When it comes to this, what feels right is right. Go with whatever it is and pair it up with the writing somehow (Copy paste image into a Word document? Featured image on a blog? Print it out and scrapbook it into a journal? Whatever works, just get it physically associated with the writing somehow.) Ideally, if you have the time and energy, draw, paint, or sculpt with physical tools or virtual, but either way, implement color. Working with color does amazing things for our unconscious expression. But a simple Google search and copy/paste can be equally powerful if you relate with the graphic. That’s all that matters. Relate to the graphic with the topic.
- Optional but highly recommended from here on: Choose a musical representation, like with the graphic, something which resonates with you on the topic at hand. It can be a pre-existing song, one you create, it can be simple or complex, it is up to you, so long as it resonates, you cannot be wrong. Listen to this song as you let the general topic and all the associated feelings sit with you. The song will speak to you, a part of you, and should evoke further thoughts for exploration, if not a downright sense of “completeness”. This is a validating experience, hearing your thoughts, this old idea, these old (and recent usually) feelings, being sung to you, played to you, it connects differently than the visuals, writing, and recording do, closer to the unconscious, closer to yourself. Let the music guide you.
- Also optional but super recommended and I should take my own advice more often: Move your body. If you can combine it with the music and/or visual somehow, do so. As much integration as possible, the better the results, so I highly recommend dance, perhaps with the image nearby and visible somewhere (a computer screen will do). Let your body move to the music you chose. Try to put yourself into a trance where your body is literally communicating with the music and you are simply along for the ride, enjoying the peace, enjoying the movement, enjoying the sensations. It doesn’t have to be fast, but it doesn’t have to be slow. It can be minimal or grandiose. Do what feels right to you, but FEEL the music. Key disclaimer: If entering into a disassociative state could potentially cause you or someone else harm, or would be inappropriate in your environment for actual and very real ethical concerns, don’t do this yet. Be careful and understanding with yourself. If you are scared of what you might do when your body is left under utter control, then hold off until you have worked thru that via all the methods before. Be safe. Always be safe. Don’t push yourself into doing something too much and too fast. The first 5 steps are mostly all I’ve done and I have experienced remarkable progress. These last 2 are, however, important, so don’t give up! Work your way there! That’s certainly what I am doing. I am barely able to do these last two, they are… challenging. A potential softcore alternative to dancing and all this self-expression, would be listening to the music on loop while you hike, or walk around the block, and don’t worry about disassociating, just try to focus on the music and the movement as much as you can, and sit with it all. I’ve personally cried while still moving and going, and somehow, that was incredibly liberating. Prove to yourself while you may be sad, you may feel broken, you may feel like the weakest goddamned shitface on the planet, but gosh-dangit, you ARE moving.
- Finally, within a week or two, rewatch, relisten, reread, and generally review. Any new thoughts? If so, start at step 1 with said new thought. And just keep going. There’s no reason to stop unless you have come upon something you can’t contend with, and you know what? That isn’t a reason to stop either. Put that thought somewhere else. Write down the smallest nugget of it if you can so you can try to come back to it later on a conscious level, but it is OK to shelve a path. You can go down it later. As I said in the video, this is all stuff within you. It isn’t going anywhere. It will crop up again. Face it when you are ready. If you aren’t, much like a test at school, skip to the next thing and face the things you can. And however in the depths of darkness you may be, there is always some little thing, it may seem irrelevant, but there is always SOMETHING you can face. Face what you can as you can and just keep going and trying.
Try not to use these steps as an excuse not to look for a proper, trained counselor. I highly recommend those with more of a humanistic view, behavioralists and even cognitive behavior therapy tend to grate on me and my progress I’ve noticed. Hypnotists have not helped me whatsoever. Psychiatrists are usually peddling drugs as their primary vocation. Humanistic counseling is where it is at, if you can find that.
Short of that, group therapy is probably the next best thing I can think of, if you can find one that doesn’t rely too much on dogmatic principles. Personally, I still can’t get past the whole “Give yourself over to a higher power” 12 step program directive. Directing anyone to do that who has experienced abuse at the hands of an authority figure (a higher power to a child) is an unwise thing to do, in my opinion. It is like asking the child to jump through a hoop and do a trick while burning away in a hidden closet. It just isn’t feasible so much of the time. Now if you can strongly get to a place of “My power is within myself” and work thru the step that way, then you will probably have an easier time than me with finding good group therapy as you won’t be weeding out all the anonymous groups.
Still, do what you can. Find help, eventually, somehow. In combination with all these other steps, the guidance of a well-trained and really empathetic, caring counselor will make all the more difference. But don’t depend on the counselor to fix your problems, work on you, and let the counselor be your support in that journey. Do not avoid counseling if you have a potentially positive option before you. Use all the tools at your disposal. I cannot be more vehement about this. Do not overlook potential help and solutions! At least, give it your best shot not to, and forgive yourself when you realize you did. These things are worth holding onto.
But do not depend on the counselor to give you the answer. Or to solve your problem with a wave of a wand. Or to tell you things you want to hear even 50% of the time. Do depend on them to be caring, empathetic, and truly invested in your well-being. If you do not feel like they are invested, like they care, or feel on the other spectrum like they are judging you, directing you repetitively into really painful and seemingly unproductive fits of emotion without a sense of growing clarity, then find a new counselor. Simple as that. Move on. Try to work it out with them, but if you feel like your beating your head into a wall, then just stop and try another perspective, perhaps an entire different type of therapy altogether.
Such as pets. Oh pets. If you can trust yourself to be responsible enough not to abuse a pet, and really, I mean remembering to feed, groom, exercise them, and not take all your shit out on them, if you can make that commitment, the rewards and psychological benefits are enormous. It can be any kind of pet really, just something you connect with. Gardening and plants can even work, they are also very much interactive and therapeutic too, but a direct, autonomous being, if possible, is simply magnificent. The ways in which they work with you, try to help you, try to love you, try to get what they want, all of it is extremely positive to work with. It lets you feel what it is like to be unconditionally cared for on a level most human beings find themselves incapable of doing in the moment. Let yourself know what that feels like. In whatever manner feels safest to you. I know some experience great fulfillment from occasional interactions like horseback riding (if you have the money for a horse, haha, I don’t) or maybe routinely housesitting/fostering for another pet owner.
Children too, they often share many of the same qualities and benefits as pets, though can be much harder to face. The reflections can be too much to face and the responsibility for a child can feel like too much to take on in your current state. Respect wherever you are, but do try to reach out and connect with something pure in this world. It really grants perspective.
I hope some folks find some solace and progress in these steps and suggestions that have helped me where so much therapy and medication did not. The hardest step really, is the first one, the one to consciously commit to monitoring yourself in a neutral and caring way. Nothing is right, nothing is wrong, and everything is important to look at because, hey, I care about what I think. I care about my true feelings. And I do not want to hide anymore. I refuse to. Getting there is definitely the biggest step. But once you do, these steps will carry you further. Use them well. And be safe.
– Image by Victor Kiam pulled from BrainyQuote.com: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/v/victorkiam120741.html?src=t_moving_forward