Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Tonight is the final session of the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course that I have been leading in Pasadena. In this group, we learn how to either prevent or diminish depressive relapse. The following is taken from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale:
The task becomes that of holding whatever thoughts, feelings, or sensations we become aware of in mindfulness along with the breath. As we have seen before, we never know what we might find! In due course, people may come to understand, and to experience at a very deep level that the mind has a way of processing the "stuff of everyday life" in a way that is wiser than they might have imagined. Learning to trust that this process will occur without interference from other, more problem-solving modes of mind is difficult...

Not all situations call for action or efforts to make changes. In the realm of emotions, things often don't follow logically. It might be that in some areas of our lives, the harder we try, the more we can achieve. But this rule seldom applies when we are dealing with feelings that we don't want to have or aspects of ourselves of which we are critical.

It may be a paradox, but if we cope with our unpleasant feelings by pushing them away or trying to control them, we actually end up maintaining them. This is the last thing we would expect; yet it remains true. In avoiding or "pushing away" our experience, we remain limited in understanding its wider context. Yet as soon as we accept that we feel sad or anxious, in that moment, it is already different. Accepting that we feel a certain way doesn't mean that we have to approve of it, nor does it meant that we are finally defeated by it and might just as well give up. Quite the contrary, by accepting how we feel, we are just telling ourselves that this is our starting point. We are actually in a better position to decide what to do.

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