Monthly Archives: April 2014

  • Not Wanting To Be Here, Now

    Many of us, at some stage of our lives, have experienced a feeling of not wanting to be here anymore. This may have been triggered by a traumatic event which caused painful feelings and thoughts we’ve wanted to escape from, or we may not be able to link it to any one reason in particular – it’s just a general sense of discomfort or pain that we’d rather not experience.

    Bringing focus and acceptance to these thoughts and feelings may at first feel counter-intuitive. Accepting the fact that we don’t want to be here, or that someone we care about has expressed such a feeling, may feel dangerous and challenging. There are certain corners of our minds which seem too dark and scary to look at.

    However, studies have shown that mindfulness can be used to not only help people after suicide attempts or suicidal urges, but can also offer significant preventive effects too.

    It’s More Common than You Think

    Despite increasing awareness and understanding of mental health issues, suicide is still a taboo subject, and many of us don’t like to talk about it. We don’t want to bring other people down or worry them, we don’t want to look like a ‘failure’, and we don’t want to look ‘crazy’.

    The truth is that suicidality affects people from all walks of life, and is increasing in frequency. It not only occurs in people with psychiatric diagnoses, but also in people with no diagnosable conditions at all. So there is really nothing ‘abnormal’ about suicide. Finding life difficult to bear is actually a common ground which many of us share.

    Experiential Avoidance

    A number of studies have directly linked the desire to avoid negative or unwanted thoughts, feelings, or sensations with suicidality. Our unwillingness to accept and allow emotions such as anger, sadness or guilt can result in us feeling we need an escape from them. A study by Baumeister (1990) found that the majority of suicide notes expressed the person’s need to escape from emotional pain as the reason for ending their life. When we don’t know of any other way to ease that pain, suicide can start to look like the only effective solution.

    Mindfulness is the antidote to experiential avoidance, because far from exacerbating difficult feelings, it helps to ease their weight. In the same way a distressed child needs a loving hug, our painful emotions need loving acceptance. Compassionate mindfulness enables us to step out of dangerous avoidance. By journeying through our pain, with clarity and acknowledgment, we stop needing to run away from it. Facing it becomes the escape we crave; only this way we are able to continue our lives.

    This principle of acceptance is just as important in the aftermath of a suicide or suicide attempt. When a loved one takes their own life, or tries to, we find ourselves dealing with a range of difficult emotions. Anger, guilt and regret are common reactions, including when it’s ourselves who have made an attempt. We may feel enormous guilt at causing pain to our family and friends, or we may feel guilt for feeling angry at someone for putting us through that pain. It’s a difficult time for everyone involved, and we are likely to feel many conflicting emotions.

    Mindfulness helps us stay connected to us each other during these painful times, provides a much-needed anchor to the reality of the present moment, and will make the healing process easier and more rapid. It doesn’t necessarily mean we share our every thought with others – that may not be appropriate – but taking the time to breathe, to compassionately acknowledge our own emotions without feeling attached to them, or creating stories about what they mean about us, will allow those feelings to arise and fade naturally within us.  

  • 5 Mindfulness Tips For A Happier Relationship

    by Jenni Chante

    Relationships can be a minefield of unrealistic ideals, old baggage, hang ups, habits and misunderstandings. All too often we find ourselves stuck in unhelpful ideas and beliefs, rather than genuinely connecting with our partner. 

    Thinking that we know our partner inside out can sometimes block us from being present and really hearing them. Or we may feel so sure of our role within a relationship that we find ourselves repeating unnecessary behaviours which lead to the same old arguments again and again. 

    In arguments we often place the blame on the other person – they’re not listening to us, they don’t understand, they’re being difficult or purposely trying to wind us up. During this process our partner usually feels the same way about us. Yet by becoming more mindful, we can start to accept some responsibility. Taking responsibility for our feelings and actions is not the same as blaming ourselves. We can take responsibility without layering guilt over the top. 

    By introducing mindfulness we can start to let go of the repetitive dramas and reach a much deeper, more meaningful level of intimacy with our partner, and with ourselves. 

    Here are some useful questions to ask ourselves when things feel difficult or strained within a relationship.

    What are my beliefs about relationships?

    Being in a relationship is important to most of us. We may even attribute our self-worth to our relationship status. It’s useful to be mindful of what we think a relationship should provide us with, or what feelings and experiences we believe shouldn’t arise in a successful partnership.

    Do you have ideals of what your perfect relationship should look like? How does it match up with the truth of your relationship? Are confrontations arising because of some discrepancy between your fantasy and your reality?

    The truth is a real relationship will never meet your idealised expectations. Life is messy and unpredictable. Not only will your expectations cause rifts between you and your partner, they may also be holding you back from experiencing the true joy which can come from honest, real connection. 

    What are my beliefs about my partner?

    We can very quickly fall into the trap of thinking we know a person. We experience a few of their idiosyncrasies and bam – we’ve made up our mind up about them. When we do this with a partner it leads to us experiencing them through our limited lens of who we believe they are, rather than seeing them as they truly are – a perpetually evolving human being with great capacity for revealing new facets of their character.

    Be mindful of whether you’re being present with your partner, or whether you’re stuck in an old idea of who they seemed to be at some stage in the past. 

    What are my beliefs about myself?

    Just as we can become caught in old ideas of our partner, the same can be true of ourselves. We may believe we have a certain role to play within the relationship, or that certain aspects of ourselves are not good enough. But like our partner, we also contain deep potential for change. By bringing attention to the limiting thoughts about ourselves, we can break free of old cycles of behaviour. 

    Do my verbal expressions match my true feelings?

    It’s an ongoing joke that women expect men to be able to read their minds. However, most of us are guilty of wanting our partners to guess or uncover what we’re really feeling, and that’s true of both men and women. 

    How often do we really explain our feelings in full? Or when misunderstandings arise, how often do we truthfully look at what we’ve said, rather than staying stuck in how we feel. Of course, sometimes we ourselves aren’t entirely sure of what’s going on inside our minds, so it’s not always possible to be clear. Yet even during these times we can still bring mindfulness to our confusion, and express that to our partner. Sometimes just saying “I’m sorry, I know I’m not making sense, I feel really confused” can take the edge of a heated argument or miscommunication.

    Am I exaggerating?

    Often when we are in the midst of upset, we project our current feeling into the past and future. For example, say that we are upset that our partner didn’t help us with a household chore. This may trigger some old emotions around not feeling supported, and that emotion colours our view of the past. Suddenly instead of it just being “You didn’t help me with ___”, it’s “You never help me” or “You always let me down”. 

    By being more mindful of the truth of the situation, and of dealing with the present problem instead of raking up the past or projecting our suffering into the future, we can avoid a lot of conflict and remain closer and more connected with our partner.