Eye Contact

Eye contact is an interesting thing. Sometimes people come up with a goal of keeping a steady, fixed gaze into my eyes during sessions.  This never goes well because there’s not enough leftover energy to allow thoughts/ideas/concerns to come into the foreground for them. So the person goes blank.  And then they’re very uncomfortable because they’re staring into my eyes and they’ve gone blank.

The opposite is also true.  People bring up their genuine concerns and they can feel their eyes moving around to correspond with their mental movement and then they say, “you probably noticed I don’t make much eye contact.” But I assure them they didn’t seem unnatural. They were simply letting their eyes do what they want while the rest of them searches their soul.

So don’t beat yourself up for “not making good eye contact.”

When it’s natural, a person actually “lets go” of their eyes and only occasionally accesses them again at key moments when (1) they’re wondering what kind of reaction the other person is having or (2) they’re putting extra emphasis on a specific (already formed) thought that they want to make sure is fully delivered into the other person.

So let them go. Let them loose.  You’ll know when to access them naturally.

If you make eye contact your primary goal, you’re probably going to get in the way of something.

And the fear of seeming weird by not making enough eye contact is going to make you seem weird from too much eye contact and going blank while staring.

Don’t get mad at. Get mad that.

There is often no bad guy. Events are collisions of millions of forces that leave people hanging with intense feelings with nowhere to point them. It’s really hard to let anger pass through you when you don’t have a place to put it.

The more intense the feeling, the less helpful this post. But maybe it can be a seed.

In situations where there is clearly no bad guy, try channeling your anger into being mad THAT it happened; rather than being mad AT someone.  The anger is pointed at the event.  At the collision.

Sometimes life just freakin blows. And there isn’t a single person in the equation who would’ve wanted an event to unfold the way it did. Nobody won. Nobody’s happy. It’s an abstract concept – and certainly easier said than done – but if you can grab onto glimpses of being mad THAT it happened, maybe this can be an effective channel to release some of the feelings and free yourself up a little.

Feelings never want to stay. They are best handled when they’re welcomed (once they’ve already entered) and then shown back to the place where they entered from.  The ’empty chair technique’ is beautiful when the feelings can be channeled at a specific person and placed right back towards the person who was the creator of the disturbance for you. But it’s not always that simple. So this post is for those types of events where there’s no bad guy, no single disturber whose needs ran into yours. It is wise of you to realize it would be inaccurate to get overly angry AT anyone involved, since not a single person would’ve pre-wished and pre-created this outcome. But then what to do with your anger?

Lastly, sitting with the words, “I am so angry that this happened,” will likely encourage your system to go deeper into the sadness, which is less pointed and doesn’t get stuck as easily (we generally don’t have a wish to stab someone with our sadness like we do with our anger). Finding the softer sadness can be a little more of a landing zone with more restful spaces (though still intensely uncomfortable). It’s a little easier to be sad without a secondary urge to have to “do something about it.” There is sometimes nothing to do. Life has some brutal edges, sometimes completely vulnerable to chance. Nothing can be done. Be sad. Be mad that it happened.  These are the worst.

A Questionnaire for Existential Therapy. Does it ignite anything in you?

Check out this pre- and post- test for measuring the effects of therapy.  Participants rated each item on a scale of how true/relevant it is for them.  (This is out of Yalom’s text: Existential Psychotherapy.)

I communicate openly with my loved ones.

I appreciate the beauty of nature.

I have a sense of personal freedom.

It is important to me to be liked by everyone.

I obtain much pleasure from life.

I communicate honestly and frankly.

I do only those things I really want to do.

I live in the present rather than in the past or future.

I have moments of deep serenity.

I stand up for my own personal rights.

I have a sense of psychological well-being.

I communicate openly with my friends.

I feel I have something of value to teach others about life.

I am able to choose what I want to do.

My life has meaning and purpose.

Religious / spiritual beliefs have much significance for me.


How neat?? I imagine there could be such a wide range of reactions!

Distracting Versus Relaxing

There’s a really big difference between distracting yourself with something versus genuinely relaxing.

Let’s look at it as if it’s physical.

With distraction, it’s like using one of your hands to push against something that’s trying to come at you; and using the other hand to try and grab onto something that’s somewhat difficult to grab onto.

That’s two different directions of effort.

With relaxation, there’s zero effort from either hand.

Relaxation rejuvinates. Distraction drains in two different directions.

If it feels like you’re distracting yourself, you’re so much better off going directly at the thing that’s trying to get to you (the stressor). Then you’re unifying your energy, putting effort into ONE direction, and hopefully knocking it out so that genuine (effortless) relaxation can occur.

Arrogance and Stubbornness. (from fear)

Arrogance and stubbornness look neat if we look at them through fear.

Stubbornness can be defined as a fear of change/loss.

Arrogance can be defined as a fear of vulnerability.

Change ALWAYS has fear built-in. Change is connected to loss which is connected to death.

If anyone tells you “I don’t fear change,” they’re lying to themselves (denial / lack of insight) or they’re lying to you.

And “loss” has a double meaning: not only losing something, like losing time towards death, but also loss as opposed to winning. Competition. So stubbornness can also be a fear of losing TO someone or something.

Then there’s a fear of one’s soft spots being seen; a fear of vulnerability.  A person over-produces strengths and attempts to look down on people in order to hide.

Fear is a profound motivator.  Even arrogance and stubbornness look pretty neat if we view them through the lens of fear.

Sorry for cheating on you, but…

… now I have an instagram.

I cheated on you with Talkspace.

I was mostly curious about whether I’d feel effective if the therapy were limited to only written words; not even hand written! And not even real-time typed! (It was like email.)

I was also hoping it would help us here, possibly providing some opportunities to type up something thought-out to target an exact problem and then copy and pasting it into the blog (with the client’s details removed/changed, obviously).

It was fun while it was novel.  But after a few months I got drained, stopped liking it, and discontinued.  The blog has suffered because (1) there was never a good opportunity to transfer anything here and (2) the thought of typing up more things felt sour for a while.

The next few months were aimed in an opposite direction.  I was careful not to over-work.  My to-do-list and morning routine have a very different structure now.  I even put out an ad for an assistant.

There’s a nice equilibrium now.  And I’m thrilled that thoughts are moving in the direction of the blog again.  Very happy to be back.

Somewhere in there, I started an Instagram.  (Overdose on words.  Need pictures.)

So I don’t know what kind of shape the Instagram is going to take but here’s what I’m imagining at the moment:

(1) Physical suggestions.  Putting up images of what positions you can put your body in to make yourself feel better.

(2) Mantra (repeated self-talk) suggestions.  Doing deep breathing while repeating a phrase to yourself can be weirdly powerful.  There are so many amazing mantras but they’re generally only one sentence.  Neither the blog nor the twitter feed seemed like the right place for them.  So I think the Instagram might be a perfect fit.

(3) Whenever the weight-lifting facility is completely set up, the Instagram can also be a way of communicating to you guys in between lifting sessions.  Active recovery, form and technique, maybe even some nutrition stuff.

So we’ll see what happens with the Instagram.  In the meantime, I’m happy to be back in the blog world.

As always, please let me know if you have ideas of what you’d like to see on either of them.

(I wonder if any of you expected to see a post about the word: “but”.

Here ya go:

The word “but” creates a hierarchy of importance.  Whatever is before “but” is less important than what is after “but.”   It doesn’t necessarily fully cancel out what’s before, but it jumps above it.   “I love you but empty the dishwasher.”  It’s clear the dishwasher is more important than the love in that moment.

When it’s a two person dialogue and Person A says a statement and then Person B starts with “But…” Person A is likely going to feel dismissed.  When Person B leads with “but,” it puts Person B’s point above/superior.

Most of you knew this, so I’m just dropping a couple paragraphs about it since I kind of click-baited the title.

I plan to be back here very soon!  Thrilled to be back!  Keep me posted on what you like….)