As I listened to Tom, there was no doubt at all in my mind, that he had several genuine concerns that were quite challenging.
The problem however was not so much the concerns themselves, but rather the way he was going about trying to address them.
When I asked Tom how he was going about trying to deal with each of his issues, it became clear that he was unable to focus for long on any one of the problems that were “ruining” his life.
Because of his severe anxiety, he would flit from one problem to the next, never spending enough time on any of them to be of use. This inability to focus had, in the last few months, eventually culminated in paralysing procrastination which was the “last straw”, causing him to seek help.
Tom was quite a bright person, but his crippling anxiety and procrastination had shut down his natural capacity to think through problems and take effective action.
Fortunately there is a cognitive restructuring technique that can assist people like Tom to regain their capacity to calmly focus on the problems at hand.
This “technique” is a very ancient one, known in all races and cultures around the world. It arose mostly in the religious/spiritual dimension of these cultures, but today can be employed without the necessity of it being rooted in a religious belief system. It is called meditation, and when practised on a daily basis, cultivates a state of consciousness called mindfulness.
Mindfulness describes a way of bringing one’s focussed attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
Mindfulness is the opposite form of consciousness to that which Tom was experiencing.
Tom’s ceaseless worrying and procrastination had the effect of lifting him out of the present moment and propelling him forward into a scary future. Apart from this being a very unpleasant experience, it also meant that he was not able to take any effective action in the present. The future doesn’t exist, the present moment is the only thing that exists, and is the only place in which we can effectively navigate our journey through life.
When practised on a regular basis, meditation helps us to let go of our brain’s ceaseless, worrying, depressing chatter and calmly focus on the tasks at hand.
Many people have the confused notion that meditation is some form of esoteric Eastern religious practice or that it is a very difficult skill only available to a chosen few. Meditation is in fact a practice that anyone can learn and does not require any extraordinary mental powers. When practised on a daily basis it gradually cultivates within us an awake, crisp, calm, flowing consciousness that helps us focus our attention on not just the challenges of life, but on every single experience that makes up our days.
Over a few sessions I was able to guide Tom and Julie to learn the basics of meditation and over this relatively short period of time, Tom reported that not only was his anxiety was subsiding, but his ability to resolve the issues that brought him into therapy had quite dramatically improved.
If you think that the practice of meditation and the mindful consciousness that it cultivates sounds as if it may be of benefit to you, I would be happy to meet with you and teach you mindfulness techniques.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a senior psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping individuals, couples and families to work through their problems and difficulties, and enjoy all that life has to offer.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!
*not real names