Treating PTSD: Refocusing Your Attention
Monday, August 10th, 2009 • Uncategorized •
For a long time you’ve been in self-preservation mode. Time to loosen things up a little!
On Friday you began to think about who you want to be. How did it go? Did you get a good picture of your future self? Were you able to clearly decide, define and label traits, characteristics and goals?
It’s my hope you have some idea of what you want. If not, don’t worry. Sometimes the question needs to be posed and then given time to percolate. It’s been a long time since you’ve thought about such fun things as self-creation. It might take a little bit of time to make the mental switch from one point of view to another.
It is, however, entirely possible to make the switch from self-preservation to self-creation. An enormous component of the switch lies in how you focus your attention. In PTSD it’s very easy to lose sight of the good things in life. The small and big things that make our time here worthwhile, satisfying, fulfilling and meaningful seem insignificant in the PTSD mindset. But that would be incorrect. It’s precisely knowing what delights you that leads to an enormous storehouse of knowledge about who you want to be.
Your post-trauma identity challenge today: Refocus your attention.
The goal is to think in a more balanced way. Yes, it’s good to be awake and aware and alert so you are safe from bad things; it’s also good to be connected, communicating and conscious of the good things so your mind is not warped in one direction.
What are the good things that happen in each day? Become attuned to noticing them. Maybe it didn’t rain on a day you were walking somewhere. Maybe a project went well at work. Maybe you met someone interesting. Maybe you achieved an enormous goal.
The nature of the good things is irrelevant. The point is to be able to notice them. Shift your focus from seeing the bad PTSD world. Look at the world from the point of view of someone who is not struggling today.
BRIDGE THE GAP Exercise
Sometimes you just need to point your thoughts in the right direction for them to take off on their own. Today, a few things to consider to jumpstart the self-redefinition process or, if you’ve already got it going, to deepen it.
First, if you don’t have a good idea of who you want to be go back to Friday’s post and repeat the BRIDGE THE GAP Exercise until a specific image emerges.
Once you’ve got a clear image think back over your life and answer these questions:
- What do you love to do?
- What have you always wanted to do?
- What brings you joy?
- When was the last time you felt happy?
- When was the last time you felt even the smallest moment of joy?
- When was the last time you felt like the real you – not the trauma distorted you, but the innate you?
Your first instinct may be to think you haven’t experienced anything that would answer these questions, but we all have at the very least fleeting moments when we feel joy. It can come from an activity like drawing, painting, playing an instrument, riding a motorcycle or playing a sport. It can come from seeing a good play or movie or spending time with a friend or a pet. Joy doesn’t have to be as gigantic a feeling as riding a roller coaster; it can be a subtle as a blooming flower. Find your joy.
Spend some time over the next couple of days letting good memories float up to the surface. Write them down. When you’ve got one or two or five sit down with the questions above and use those memories as a way to reconnect with the answers.
(Photo: Tyler – Claudio Martella)