No Pain No Gain

Mindset

Hi guys, I know I have taken a break from posting! We bought a house, moved, and ran a marathon, and I have had zero free time. I’m back! I’ll probably post slightly less frequently, I'm noticing my click rate (the rate in which people open the emails I send out) is only about 50%.  I think you’re telling me that you’re busy, too!

 Positive faces! (Isn't Matt a total hottie?)

Positive faces! (Isn't Matt a total hottie?)

Last month I ran my second marathon, and as part of my prep I read Deena Kastor’s new book, “Let Your Mind Run, Thinking My Way to Victory.” She focuses a lot on how a good attitude, positivity, and affirmative visualizations transformed her runs and made her faster and stronger. I ran my first marathon four years ago, and I can tell you that my attitude and mental state really affected that run. I felt negative, scared, and defeated with almost every step. This time around my mental state was a lot better, and I have felt a big difference on my runs. I run with my husband, who is always better, stronger, faster, and less injured than I am. I love running with him, but always feel bad he could be getting a better time in a race than he does.  It can cause a weird negative mental state for me, because instead of focusing on how I’m doing, I am always aware of how I’m holding him back. 

I’m a bit skeptical about positive thinking used as a tool. Sometimes this advice can come from people who are using it as an avoidance to see what is real, and sit with their pain. But I also am aware that I’m often in a negative state of thought because I don’t want to jinx something, don’t want to be too big for my britches, and want to always be aware of how I can improve instead of thinking of how great I am. Reading Deena’s book made me start to question this, though. 

This marathon, I went in with one goal – to maintain a positive mindset throughout the race. For me that means not feeling guilty and bad about myself when I have to go slow and hold my husband back. It’s such a wormy feeling, and it will really affect my running. My mantra when things got really hard physically was, “this is what you came for.” In every marathon, your body is screaming at you to stop towards Mile 20. I knew that would happen. But I wanted to enjoy that, too, even if that sounds weird. I wanted to enjoy how taxing that race is. 

When people ask how the marathon was, I genuinely reply with, “it was great!”. I could focus on how agonizingly slow I ran, I could focus on what hurt, but I would rather focus on how psyched I was to run this thing, and how proud I am of us that we did it. 

Of course, I think of how much this relates to becoming an EFT therapist, which takes so much mental toughness. I do sometimes have the amazing sessions, where I feel on top of the world. But at least for me, I have far more sessions where I am slogging through the process, trying to shift mindsets and beliefs that have been locked in for years, or decades. Or couples where I feel like I can barely track the cycle at all, because their brains are in such a primal panic. 

It’s easy for me to get defeated. And once that defeat sets in, it brings fatigue, and it makes it hard to do great work. The hardest mental challenge for me in being an EFT therapist is that I cannot be better than I am right now. I can’t be trainer-level amazing. I can’t be Kathryn Rheem or Lorrie Brubacher. My clients are getting my best, but they are not getting the best. This is reality. So how do you keep going, knowing that every single day you are working your ass off to only be above average? 

For me, I’m trying to apply the same mental process that I do with running. Every failure, every bad session, every time I confuse and bore clients with psycho-ed instead of staying in the process, every time I put my foot in my mouth or get triggered with a client, I am learning and getting stronger. I am doing this for a reason, to get better, to see what is possible for people’s relationships to heal. It is a privilege to do this work, and to be learning this exceptional model. This is hard, but it will get better. This is what I came for.

 

 

When Everything is Failing

Last week was one of those weeks where I felt like the crappiest therapist. I had some sessions where I felt like nothing I could do was making anything better, and in fact might be making things worse. Wonderfully, there has been a lot of interesting stuff in the EFT community in the last couple weeks about working with tough clients, mainly clients who struggle with self-awareness. Thank you, EFT Universe!

A clinician posted a question to the listserve about how others work with clients who struggle with self-awareness, and there were some great responses. Patti Swope’s response helped me the most. She shared she can also “get caught in ‘trying to help them see’ big time, and it’s what I do when I’m frustrated.”

Those words felt like a huge rush of relief and understanding for me. I realized that’s exactly where I’ve been caught, trying to make my tough clients see what they’re doing and what gets in the way of what they want. I get frustrated with them, and then my work gets crappy. These moments are where I find myself saying the most ridiculous things, and realize I’m in a cognitive battle/cycle with the client. I’m not even going to tell you some of the things I said in session last week, they are so embarrassing.

I also scheduled numerous supervision sessions, since I was freaking out about how badly everything seemed to be going. I saw my former individual supervisor, who I just love. She doesn’t do couples work, however she’s a genius at conceptualizing and also holding the mirror up to me. She reflected to me that I’m approaching some of these clients with an urgency that I need them to be different, so that they can stay in this relationship. She pointed out with my cognitive clients I seem to be chasing them around the room, trying to wrap my logic around their cognitive illogic.

I also watched Annabelle Bugatti’s interview with George Faller and it was so helpful. I’m so grateful to Annabelle for her work in bringing us her wisdom and the wisdom of others. George talked about anger in a way that really helped me see how much I’ve been trying to avoid or damp down my client’s anger, instead of truly validating it.  You should absolutely watch this interview here.

DIAGNOSIS:

So, all of this information and feedback helped me diagnose my problem:

I have been on a little rampage, trying to get my clients to see themselves and be different, in part because they (sometimes both clients) are so angry and escalated. And that has been increasing my anxiety and frustration, and feeling of helplessness.

SOLUTION:

The clinician who originally posted the question followed-up later and summarized the solutions she had heard. She wrote therapists seemed to be following two different camps:

1)   The gentle confrontation – gently asking a client if we can give them some feedback, expressing concern this may injure our relationship, helping hold up a mirror to where we see them not being able to see themselves.

2)   The relentless validation, really trying to understand where they are coming from, and validating their secondary emotions in a way that fits for them (matching affect, really getting into their anger versus trying to get under it). This is also the method George talked about. And most importantly, letting go of the outcome.

 

I think it’s a difficult balance, as therapists, of what we do with the idea of the outcome. On one hand, it helps us hold hope, dig in deep, work very hard, and have stamina to be working towards an outcome of togetherness. On the other hand, it can really drive my pursuer, and I start to pursue my clients and need them to be different right now, for fear they will lose their relationship.

So today I’m trying to sit with not desperately trying to get clients to see themselves, but staying more in my curiosity to understand their experience. I’ve also had to really ramp up the interrupting and deliberate ignoring of cognitive exits, which isn’t my favorite way to practice but has been necessary to stay on target. Whew – what a week! How do you come back to yourself when you’re starting to feel run ragged by intense sessions?

How Learning EFT is Like Baking ...

Last night I watched the episode on Nancy Silverton from Mind of a Chef, Season 3 that was just released on Netflix. If you haven't watched this series yet, you are missing out on some of the most beautiful cinematography and story telling out there. It followed how she taught herself how to be a pastry chef and baker, and not just a baker but the baker in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

I was fascinated to watch how she talked about her "obsession" with figuring out how to make the perfect loaf of bread. She would test recipe after recipe, with slight adjustments each time with ingredients, temperature of water, rise of the yeast starter, and so on. She spoke for several minutes about how much of an obsession it is, and how the desire to get it right drives her. 

I couldn't help but think about those of us who try to learn EFT while I was watching her. We have to be obsessed. We read books, we go to trainings, we watch videos, we watch OUR videos with a supervisor so they can point out what we're doing wrong, we prepare before and after sessions with notes. I think many of us start each session with almost a Buddhist-like mantra we choose for ourselves that day: "Go Slow," or "Validate," or "Stop saying f-ing monologues and just do a simple reflection!"

While I was watching Nancy, I was thinking how much I admire her tenacity and patience, and how I wish I could feel that way about myself in learning EFT. Mostly I just focus on the fact that I'm not getting it right and that we are learning on/failing live people as we practice. The obvious difference is that a couple is far more high stakes than a loaf of bread. And yet what any baker will tell you is that the bread is almost never perfect. Every time there's a little something that could be tweaked, and you're working with alive ingredients and constantly changing temperatures. It's hard to both pursue perfection and also accept non-perfection. I wish I could approach my obsession with EFT a little more like Nancy Silverton bakes a loaf of bread.

EFT and Yoga - they hurt for a reason

I realized this week that as I've been getting deeper into learning EFT I've also been going to yoga more often. I don't think it's a coincidence. I've been feeling pretty beat down this week with trying to learn this model and yoga fits what I need. The teachers have been saying things like, "You can't 'be' without doing, you can't just watch videos of people doing yoga, you have to DO yoga!" This fits perfectly what I'm struggling with about learning EFT. I wish I could watch Becca Jorgensen or Kathryn Rheem and then magically be able to be them. But I have to do EFT to get better at it. THIS IS THE WORST. Anyone else with me? I am all for a Matrix-style upload of EFT into my brain, versus having to feel like I'm failing over and over with couples. Am I being dramatic? I can't tell. On one hand, of course I don't think I'm a totally crap or harmful therapist. On the other, every moment of my tapes could show me doing something better. 

Today in our yoga teacher had us hold frog pose for about 5 minutes, which is unusual. It's an uncomfortable and weirdly satisfying deep hip stretch, and it always makes me feel grateful we don't have mirrors in the yoga studio. As we were holding the pose, she asked us to think about what we want to avoid, or in other words, what we have a hard time sitting with. I have a hard time sitting with being not great at something, which I think most of us do. Especially if I feel like the clients I see could be getting better therapy from my supervisor. But there IS NO OTHER WAY. There isn't a way to be great at EFT out of the womb. There just isn't. We have to do it this way. So …. since it's the only way forward, onward ho.