Self Care Disguised as Training
I recently finished a Professional Training in Mind- Body Medicine by The Center of Mind-Body Medicine at the Institute of Spirituality and Health in Houston, Texas. This training is given around the world in places such as Kosovo, Mozambique, Gaza, Haiti, and Israel to name a few. It is also given with various populations such as Syrian refugees, troops returning from war, or those living in places stricken by natural disaster, war, and poverty. It is a two-part training, and the first part we experience the training while learning foundational pieces of what we are experiencing and then we get to experience what we’ve briefly learned. The second part which will be later I will learn how to facilitate the groups I experienced. The training consists of guided imagery, meditation, biofeedback, autogenic training, exercise, yoga and how they all affect physical, mental, and emotional functioning and wellbeing.
I received the group material prior to the training, but I chose not to look at them or print them out, because I wanted to organically experience the training without developing any chaotic expectations for the training. This training superseded any expectations that I would have set for it anyway. The Mind-Body Medicine training, which I’ve decided to call a magical retreat, because I can’t recall feeling so emotionally rejuvenated after spending four days with strangers. One may ask, what makes this training so magical? Here we go.
I’m an introvert, meaning, I recharge mentally and emotionally when I’m alone, or around very few people who require nothing of me or I don’t feel the need to give them anything. Simply put, my presence has to be enough, and it might not be in the same room. For four days I was surrounded by strangers, there were a few co workers there but I don’t work with them directly so it’s kind of like they’re strangers too. I spent the most time with 10 strangers I had never met before, from various backgrounds, sharing things I didn’t know where there to share until we had completed an exercise. Being vulnerable with people I had just met…I’m not this vulnerable with people I’ve know my whole life. Through the process of this training we grew to know each other in ways that we didn’t know ourselves before. A quote that resonated with me so well during the training is “We[psychotherapist] fit everywhere, and nowhere.” Therapist are trained and usually have a natural gift to be able to connect with anyone in any setting, but have a hard time feeling like we fit everywhere or anywhere. We’re the chameleons of social settings. To find a group of people who you don’t know, and everyone feels like they “fit” and connect with each other in a short amount of time can be hard or impossible in any setting.
As a therapist, I am constantly exploring how, if, and when I am bringing my own issues into a therapy session. So, I am familiar and accustomed to checking myself before I project my issues into someone else’s life. I try to be as purposeful as I can be with my words and actions. That is the balance and burden of being a good therapist. I believe a piece of being a good therapist is getting up every day and look at your inner self. The self that we tell very few people, if anyone, about… check it, fix it, tuck it in, or put a band-aide on it before and during the time you sit in the presence of someone who is seeking your help. Sometimes you don’t know you’re wounded, how deeply you’re wounded, or that you’re wounds are being projected onto the people you help. That’s is why when we look at our inner self we have to do our best to own all of it or what pieces of it you can! It’s the reality of this journey. It’s not to say that therapist have to be or will ever be perfect, however they should be aware and mindful of how they maneuver situations in the therapy room.
With all that being said, participating in emotional work, coupled with unconsciously holding the issues of the people we see daily is physically exhausting. I often tell my clients after I feel that they have processed a lot of information in one session or a few sessions that they may be physically tired. The reason is, in order to process emotional issues which we often think of as work done by the brain is actually done by both the brain and the body. Example, when you talk about something that may make you nervous or increase anxiety; your heart rate may increase, breathing may become rapid, palms may become sweaty, or you get “butterflies” in your stomach. These are all actions that are performed by the body, hence the reason you may be physically tired after processing emotional issues.
So, long story short, I am exhausted. I worked on issues that I didn’t want to or know how to work through. I was aware of them, but honestly didn’t know how to work through or articulate to anyone to give them a clue on where to start to help me. The past four days have been a little euphoric and rejuvenating. The training days were 8 hour days or longer when I got up to be there early for yoga. Not including the time I need for my morning routines. Needless to say… I was so tired from that alone! Then I remembered, I am experiencing what I always tell my clients to be mindful and her I am meditating and being mindful for four days straight and forgot to remind myself that I was going to be tired.
However, this is a welcomed exhaustion. This lets me know that I’ve put in a lot of work on myself over the past few days, and because of that I am better. My friends, family, coworkers and anyone I come in contact with will benefit from this physical tiredness that I feel as a result of emotional and spiritual growth. I’m a little confused on how I will return to work after this because the person I was before this training is not the person that will enter my office Monday morning. The advanced training will take place in February, and I will be there! I know there is a lot more to process, but being physically tired is a part of the process of therapy or “working on yourself” that people may not talk about. I plan to share my experience with others in the form and place that I feel that it will be most beneficial. To be continued….