A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice

Demystifying Mindfulness

November 12, 2020 Rebekah Shackney Season 2 Episode 1
A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice
Demystifying Mindfulness
Show Notes Transcript

Mindfulness is a word that you hear thrown around a lot these days, but is often misunderstood. It does everything from decrease depression to improve relationships to making pain more manageable… but how? This season of ATTHO, going is all about demystifying mindfulness, what is it? How is it helpful? And how exactly do you use it in your daily life? I’ll break it down into manageable steps and I’ll interview people with interesting perspectives on mindfulness. Hopefully along the way we can all become more mindful. 

 I spend my days teaching my clients mindfulness skills, and trying to stay mindful myself but mindfulness is an ever- evolving practice and like everyone else, I’m trying to do better. This is ATTHA.  In today’s episode David and I discuss how mindfulness is defined from a DBT perspective.

Rebekah Shackney (00:07):

Hi, Rebekah Shackney. I spend my days teaching my clients mindfulness skills and trying to stay mindful myself. But mindfulness is an ever evolving practice and like everyone else I'm trying to do better. This is A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice.

Rebekah Shackney (00:29):

Mindfulness is a word that you hear thrown around a lot these days, but it's often misunderstood. It does everything from decreased depression to improve relationships, to make pain more manageable, but how this season of a therapist takes their own advice is going to be all about demystifying. Mindfulness. What is it? How was it helpful and how exactly do you use it in everyday life? And today's episode David and I discuss how mindfulness is defined from a DBT perspective.

David Shackney (01:00):

So what is mindfulness?

Rebekah Shackney (01:02):

So mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to the present moment, paying attention to your emotions, your thoughts, physical sensations, anything that you can experience through your five senses without judgment and without criticism or pushing away.

David Shackney (01:20):

So when you talk about mindfulness practice, like what is, what does that entail?

Rebekah Shackney (01:25):

So mindfulness practice can be a number of different things. It can be, um, something you do in your everyday life. You can eat mindfully, you can brush your teeth mindfully or wash the dishes mindfully. Um, it can also be meditation. So it can be focusing a focused meditation focusing on your breath or focusing on a part of your body, or it can be an unfocused meditation just noticing what's coming into your consciousness. Um, it can also be contemplate of prayer and that's not, I'm not advocating any specific religion or religious practice, but just praying to a higher power or to your best self, your wise mind, or to God or whatever your religious practice indicates. Um, and it can also be mindful movement. So yoga martial arts, Tai Chi it, no, it can be any of those things. A nature walk. And a lot of times when my mindfulness is practiced to children, for instance, it is coupled with walking or with movement of some kind, because it just helps them focus more effectively

David Shackney (02:37):

Mindfulness and what you're talking about, but how does that play into therapy and what you do?

Rebekah Shackney (02:43):

Oh, that's a good question. Um, So I mean,

Rebekah Shackney (02:48):

Basically the kind of therapy I do is called DBT a dialectical behavioral therapy, and it's a balance of acceptance and change. And mindfulness is some of the ultimate acceptance. We, we look at this present moment and accept what's going on in our mind and our body in our consciousness here right now. And we move through it. We don't push it away. We just accept it and process it as it comes. And what's really interesting when you notice things, when you open your eyes and pay attention, emotions that feel uncomfortable, you notice they're shifting you notice there's sensations in the body that, um, that shift over time, you don't stay angry. You don't stay sad. You don't stay anxious when you notice and pay attention. You know, you, you begin to relax around these things and you notice the shifts as they come.

David Shackney (03:50):

So what Exactly are trying to achieve with mindfulness practice within a therapeutic environment.

Rebekah Shackney (03:55):

So we want to help people reduce their suffering and increase their happiness. Everybody has pain in their life. Every single person will encounter pain, whether physical or emotional and often again and again and again, but when you couple pain with, with not accepting the situation as it is, or not accepting the pain, when you're fighting against the pain, you're creating suffering. And so mindfulness says, I can relax around the pain. I can tolerate the pain. I can feel it and watch it dissipate. Um, and that helps you move through it. And mindfulness also helps you increase control over your mind. So, um, one of the things that people often do, we live a lot in our heads and especially when we've had, um, difficulty with depression or anxiety, or we're really emotionally sensitive, we interpret things and we interpret thoughts as reality and as beliefs, but they're not, thoughts are just thoughts. They're not facts. Um, when you can take a step back and start to notice the emotions that we're having, the thoughts that are, that we're having, and just, and we can question, is this real, is this true? And we can move through it. So for instance, if you gave me a dirty look and I said, wait, why did he look at me like that? Maybe your just, you know, maybe you've got a pain in your side and you made a face, but I am saying, I'm seeing your face and I'm going, why is he looking at me like that? What did I do to him? Why is he being a jerk? And I'm going off on this thing. And then now you come back and talk to me and I'm like, I'm angry at you. And then you get angry at me. And, and that just creates a huge problem.

Rebekah Shackney (05:45):

Um, with mindfulness, I can say, Oh, I wonder if everything is okay. I see, I noticed that your face is, is scrunched up or you're right. And you can say, yeah, I just got this pain in my side. Oh, well, maybe stretch or something and we can move on. So taking control of your mind, it also helps with concentration and that sort of thing. And then finally, mindfulness helps you experience reality as it is experienced our connection to, um, ourselves, to our physical selves, to our relationships and to our, um, families. It helps us, um, with our connection to the world, around us and to the universe, we're all connected. And, and yet when we live in our heads and we're constantly interpreting things and not communicating with each other, um, we feel very isolated.

David Shackney (06:43):

So how do you actually use this stuff for, to help someone? Like, how does, how does someone come into your office and walk out a better person because of your mindfulness training,

Rebekah Shackney (06:54):

Do it on day one. We don't, um, they don't walk in and walk out a better person on day one, but hopefully they have some hope that they will feel better. Um, so, but mindfulness is a practice. So you have to practice. If you think about, you know, you come in, you're a 30 year old person and you've had 30 years of creating these habitual patterns of thought of emotional expression, et cetera, of mine, less behavior. It's going to take a long time to undo those patterns of behavior. And so you need to be gentle with yourself as you start to practice mindfulness. But what I start with is I start by teaching them the three states of mind. So we have reasonable mind and we have emotion mind. And when you can combine the two it's wise mind and wise mind is mindfulness. So reasonable mind is your logical self that's cool, rational task focused.

Rebekah Shackney (07:53):

It's um, where the rules, the facts, logic and pragmatics are the most important. And the, the thing I like to explain the way I explain a reasonable mind is if you think about a surgeon, a pediatric surgeon, and, um, maybe she's a mother and she's got a three-year-old daughter at home and there on her operating table is a three-year-old. So she's got to separate herself from her emotional self and just be purely logical. And, you know, do this, do that the other thing. She doesn't want to get emotionally connected to this child on her operating table, because she might make a mistake. So she needs to just be by the book, like a computer. So we need reasonable mind, but where does it get us into trouble? It gets us into trouble when we're not able to give empathy. You know, if we only live in reasonable mind, we're not, um, able to connect with our emotions.

Rebekah Shackney (08:52):

We're not able to connect with each other. You, if, if, um, I walked in after getting, uh, a haircut and said, Hey, how do you like my hair, honey? And you're like, ah, well, I liked it better before. Um, and maybe that's the truth and maybe that's how you really feel, but that's not a very wise thing to say to preserve your relationship. And then emotion mind on the other end of the spectrum, emotion mind is hot. It's mood dependent, it's emotion focused. It's where your, your logic and, um, pragmatics kind of go out the window and you're led by your impulses and that sort of thing. And we need that, you know, we need our fight or flight. It protects us. You know, if a kid is running down the street, a little kid is running down the street and there's a car coming at them.

Rebekah Shackney (09:41):

We don't stop to think what should we do? We immediately run into the street, grab them and pull them out of the street. And it protects us. Um, emotion mind also connects us to each other. We feel passion. We feel love we, um, express sadness. And that makes us that elicits, uh, help and support from other people. But then again, emotion mind can get us into trouble because we're when we're at a 10 emotionally, we are led and we're thinking emotionally and, and reacting emotionally, we might punch somebody. We might destroy furniture. You know, at the very extreme, there are those they're crimes of passion that, you know, you've catch your lover in bed with somebody else and you killed them. So extreme emotion can also cause us difficulty. Um, and it's really not the extreme of the emotion. It's the behavior that's coupled with the extreme emotion.

Rebekah Shackney (10:36):

So the coupling of the two of those, when you can access your, your reasonable mind and your emotion mind, that's wise mind, and that's the centered place. That's when you know the truth about something that's when you make the best decisions, you know, when you decide who you're going to, going to marry or, um, where you should go to school or that sort of thing, just when you, when you, you know, should you take this job or should you go out on your own? Um, you make, hopefully do those in wise mind. And one of the ways I like to describe why is mind. People will often say to me, I don't have wise mind and everyone has wise mind, and this is how you know, you're back in wise mind. So we've all done those things where we scream at our partner, say the thing we didn't mean or whatever we act on our emotions. And when you're back in a place where you can appreciate the consequences of your actions, you're back in wise mind.

David Shackney (11:32):

So you start by going through the States of mind. And then, uh, so when one learns to be mindful of those states of mind, what's next.

Rebekah Shackney (11:43):

So then the question becomes, how do you get to wise mind? So there's a number of different activities or exercises that I give people to practice wise mind. Um, one of my favorites is just closing your eyes and breathing and asking wise mind a question. So you've got a conflict in your head. Should you, um, take this job or that job? Should you stay with your partner, a breakup? Should you move? So whatever the question is, you can close your eyes, focus on your breath and imagine your center of wise mind just sitting and calmly breathing. And you ask the question and allow the answer to float, float to your consciousness. And it might take a couple of times a couple of practices, but I've, I've found that to be a really effective practice. And sometimes you don't get the answer while you're practicing, but it'll come to you. So just allowing yourself to quiet your mind and access your wise mind,

David Shackney (12:48):

What are some other ways we can use wise mind in our daily life?

Rebekah Shackney (12:52):

I think the most important thing is to really pay attention and notice when you're in emotion mind when you're in reasonable mind. And when you're in wise mind, you know, start to notice, am I acting on my emotions? Do I feel like my emotions are in charge? Do I feel like I can connect to my emotions? Am I being too logical? Am I able to access my empathy? Am I feeling centered? Am I making a good decision? So really paying attention to noticing when you're in the different states of mind is where I like to begin and then doing some of these practices and I'll put post them in the show notes. Um, some of these wise mind practices can really help you to feel what it feels like to be in wise mind.

David Shackney (13:36):

Thank you for explaining all that, that, that actually makes a lot more sense now. Uh, I think maybe we can do another episode at some point where we really delve into the actual skills that you teach in your sessions.

Rebekah Shackney (13:48):

Yeah. And in DBT, those are called the how skills in the what skills, and those really help you break down the steps to practicing mindfulness and help crystallize your practice for you.

David Shackney (14:03):

Great. I look forward to it,

Rebekah Shackney (14:04):

Me too.

Rebekah Shackney (14:07):

Thanks so much for joining me today for A Therapist Takes Her Own Advice. Remember the information shared here today is not a replacement for treatment with a licensed professional. If you've connected with what you've heard here and want to work with me, go to my website, Rebekahshackney.com and send me a message through my contact page and please subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.