The process of embracing one’s emotional pain is not an easy path. It is not for everyone. There are certain innate traits that are prerequisite for this path. We often construct our lives in a careful manner to avoid our personal pain. There are almost infinite ways in which we avoid and escape from pain. Tragically, though understandable, this pursuit only serves to enhance and fuel personal suffering. It thus requires the spirit of the warrior to view the pain of life as an opportunity for growth and not an obstacle to lament or avoid.
Essentially, in my many years of practice, I have come to learn that the greatest prognostic indicator of therapeutic success is one’s ability to allow personal discomfort. The therapeutic techniques that I am discussing in this blog, necessarily entail individuals to directly face their emotional pain in a very deliberate manner. This no doubt causes short term discomfort. The patient however is rewarded with decreased suffering and often a very rapid decrease in painful symptoms. So whereas many therapists, as an example, may endeavor to teach their patients how to “manage” panic and anxiety, I am more inclined to directly lead my patients squarely into the panic or whatever symptoms and pain they are experiencing and so help them “Lose Control”. Though such exercises are difficult, I never cease to be amazed at the rapidity with which symptoms, or other manifestations of suffering dissipate, usually within minutes. As I have attempted to illustrate in some previ0us posts, as individuals practice emotional mindfulness and exposure and place the force of their attention squarely into their pain, the energies that have been bound up rapidly begin to become reanimated and thus become free to circulate and ultimately dissipate.
As a therapist, this is extremely gratifying to observe. But certain qualities are required in therapists as well in order to be effective in these techniques. Therapists are humans too and have been acculturated into the same taboos and fears regarding the “dark emotions”. And so many are uncomfortable with witnessing their patients in acute emotional pain. After all, therapist are invariably caring, empathic folks who are motivated to see people experience decreased suffering. Therefore the idea the idea of confronting their charges with extreme emotional discomfort is repulsive.
Fortunately, while a graduate student, i was mentored by a very influential psychologist Dr. Donald Levis, who co-developed the Implosion Therapy techniques (an exposure based behavior therapy). I was initially extremely emotionally uncomfortable with the techniques though I intuitively grasped that this is exactly what needs to be done to help patients. i once delivered an academic presentation entitled “Whos Imploding Who?” in which I publicly recounted the extreme anxiety I experienced utilizing emotional exposure techniques with a very aggressive and combative woman from the “back woods”who was presenting with extreme symptoms of PTSD subsequent a history of sexual abuse. With very “firm” guidance from Dr. Levis, I was able to expose my own fears sufficient to help this particular woman to confront her own, and over time, we forged a powerful therapeutic alliance and she was helped very considerably.
For those therapists, contemplating such therapy modalities but do not have access to supportive guidance, I do offer my services to provide telephonic or on-line guidance and supervision.
However, it needs to be pointed out, that such techniques are not for everyone, therapists or patients alike. I would never suggest that this is the “best” or “only” approach to consider. In fact, I do not employ all aspects of the techniques with everyone that comes through my door. Some require much more measured and gradual guidance depending on their personalities, conditioning history, and defense structures. But always, i am guided by the goal of helping people to ultimately face their avoided pain so that ultimately they can “Lose Control and Gain Emotional Freedom”.
A (spiritual) warrior is:
–Patient – a principle quality is tenacity and forbearance. Not losing sight of a goal despite obstacles and challenges.
–Tolerant – A warrior is tolerant of pain and discomfort. They are not risk averse and realize that nothing can be gained without sacrifice and discomfort.
–Deliberate – A warrior is not a “fart in the breeze” (as my father used to say) but is deliberate in how they live their lives in light of overarching goals despite short term obstacles and difficulty.
–A warrior views challenge as opportunity.
–A warrior views difficult people and “petty tyrants”, e.g. a mean boss, as a opportunity to create personal growth.
— A warrior will give up his or her life for a cause, but will never kill for a cause.
–A warrior is mindful of the impact of their actions, and speech on the world around them.
–Please feel free to indicate in your comments, other qualities that you feel should be included!