Monday, April 30, 2012

Grief: Training My Brain

I have a friend that says when you live in your head you live in a very bad neighborhood.  That's a reason for showing up where life is and having different experiences.  It's also a reason for checking out your feelings.  There are techniques for changing how you think.  I have spent a long weekend studying neo-Ericksonian hypnosis.  A lot of folks think that hypnosis is mysterious.  It isn't.  Everything is really a form of trance.  Hypnosis is just using a trance - or altered state to create change.

One of the things I have been able to do - not consistently - I still have melt down moments and days - is change the way my brain processes Artie's death.  At the beginning it was a simple:  My husband is dead, the pain is unbearable, my life is over.  Now people get confused because I tell them that I'm quite content to be sad. My sadness honors our love.  There is a form that goes like this:  That's right, I am sad that my husband died and I am happy that I have so many wonderful memories.  And isn't it nice that I can enjoy both at the same time. It even worked at exercise this morning.  I was bending my body back over a big ball stretching my arms down.  It hurt!  I thought, that's right this is hard and it is also easy - and isn't it nice I can enjoy both at the same time.  My arms reached down at least an extra 3 inches.

Whenever I saw something that reminded me of Artie it triggered loneliness and pain.  I trained myself to think differently.  If I see somewhere that reminds me of Artie I remember how much fun we had at that place.  If I see somewhere I bought him things I remember how much I enjoyed finding something he would actually like.  By consciously switching from a sad thought to a happy one it is becoming more automatic to have reminders of him make me feel happy instead of painfully desperate and sad.  I'm curious how this will work as the third anniversary of his death approaches.

The hypnosis techniques are difficult to put on paper because so much of hypnosis is in voice and tonality and of course you can't hear my voice when you are reading.  This is one I have been practicing since this weekend.  Be some place where when your eyes are open you see things that make you feel happy and comfortable and peaceful.  No mixed feelings - just good ones.  It could be outdoors by the ocean or in a forest.  It could be in your room in a comfortable chair looking at beautiful pictures.  There might be music playing that you love to listen to.  Close your eyes and think of one painful memory.  Feel that.  Open your eyes and be present in all the feelings of comfort and beauty and peace.  Close your eyes and go back to the painful memory.  Open your eyes to the present good feelings.  Keep repeating this; changing the time you spend with your eyes closed and then open.  Know that where ever you are whenever you feel pain or sadness you can close your eyes and then open them. When you open them you will see the present moment around you and find comfort and beauty in it.  It happened to me at exercise today.  The song playing was, "In My Solitude".  It always makes me cry.  I closed my eyes for a second or two and opened them to notice all the good things around me in my present moment.  I did this several times and then could stay in the present and not have to go back to the painful feeling.  My eyes were open to the present.  A lot of people have told me that this works for them - including people who are depressed or experts like scientists.  I like it because it is very subtle and no one knows you are doing it.

I still have to sharpshoot thoughts.  I often make this false analogy...someone does something and that means they don't like me.  A couple of people actually don't like me!!  But a lot of times it is my brain tricking me.  Someone cancelled on me several times and I thought she didn't like me - it wasn't that - her life was crazy at that time.  There was someone in my class who I thought didn't like me because she is very quiet and I tend to be loud and funny.  I didn't work with her at all during the weekend.  Before I left on Sunday I went up to her and said, "I feel like I don't know you because we haven't worked together.  Maybe we can  next weekend."  She said I was a beautiful person and gave me a big hug.  I was training my brain to think differently and to take an action.  If I hadn't taken the action I never would have known how she felt - or gotten that lovely hug.

Artie's always going to be dead.  He's going to be dead for the rest of my life.  I can't change that.  I'm trying to train my brain to have that fact not paralyze or limit me.  I want his life and love to inspire me.  When I see his picture or come home to the silence I want to find ways to turn those into happy times.  I'll be with him soon enough.  Time bends.  If I go back to the past I want to pull out the things that give me joy.  When I'm in the present I want to notice the things that give me joy.  I'm still going to be sad and angry.  I'm not one of these people that think it's all good.  A lot of it sucks.  How can I think differently to take actions that make small differences?  Even the smallest step can be heroic.  I had this weird thing happen.  I was looking at someone taking people's money at a take out place. I noticed that everyone was very animated and she had the corners of her mouth turned down. I was thinking it would be nice if she smiled and all of a sudden she turned her head and smiled at me. Later on that same day, I told someone in a waiting room that she had beautiful hair and she surprised me by standing up and hugging me. Small gestures sometimes change the world more than big ones - and they are a lot easier to do!

Strange wondrous things happen when you train your conscious mind and especially your unconscious mind to have different thoughts so you can have different feelings.  Another way - for me - is to get support.  I was concerned that sometimes I feel my love for my grandbaby isn't enough.  I e-mailed a widow I know who has a 3 year old grandchild.  She told me about her mixed feelings - loving her granddaughter but feeling sad that her husband wasn't there to share things with her.  There was a lot more.  It made me feel that I wasn't a bad granny - my feelings are normal.  Now I have to train my brain about that.  Maybe instead of thinking, "It's so sad that Artie isn't here to be Gwendy blue eyes grandpa." I can think, "Gwendy is so lucky that I will be able to tell her funny stories about her Grandpa."  Maybe I can think, "I wish Artie was still alive and I love Gwendy completely and fully and isn't it nice to know that I can enjoy both at the same time.  Maybe I can close my eyes for a moment to feel whatever pain I feel and then open them to the present fun and good feelings of being with my daughter and granddaughter. 

Wishing you all more and more positive trances.  There is a real world that is often unkind. Yet, we can change how we think about it which changes how we feel about it which changes how we live in it.  It may begin like a lawn of pain with one flower pushing through.  Then that single flower spreads its seeds so that the ground is suddenly covered so many with multi colored flowers (ones that don't make you sneeze!) that you have to search (but only if you want to)  to find the blades of pain that might be left.  I wonder when I open my eyes what beauty I will see  now.  I wonder when you open your eyes what comfort you will feel   now.  xo

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