Taking a Systemic Approach (to yourself)

There’s a phrase that gets used a lot in physical therapy:

“the symptom is the victim, not the criminal.”

This has incredible implications (truth) in our psychological functioning as well.  This post emphasizes and encourages a certain attitude you can take in order to boost your growth and create widespread change.  At the end of this post, I’m going to contrast a “systemic approach to yourself” versus “systemic therapy,” even though they’re definitely made of the same stuff.

So let’s examine “taking a systemic approach to yourself.”

It’s the idea there isn’t a singular thing going wrong.  The more you hunt for a singular thing –  the one root cause to your unhappiness – the one thing that needs to be found and fixed – the more time you’ll spend spinning your wheels and the less time you’ll spend enjoying living and reaping the benefits of your efforts. If you want to create change, the best approach is to try to turn over every rock. It will be rare to find a golden ticket under one of the rocks, but the landscape will look entirely different once you turn over enough of them.

This post is the encouragement to examine more aspects of your life… to get wider in your efforts.

How many minutes of your day are spent going through the motions? How much doesn’t get a second glance?  How many of your settings are set to default?

Here’s a range of examples:

How many steps a day do you take without feeling your feet on the ground? How many interpersonal interactions are completely routine (and lacking in satisfaction)? How many shallow breaths do you take a day?* More importantly, how many huge ones do you take on purpose? How much of your diet is habitual and hasn’t been adjusted in a while?  How many calories are in liquid form? When was the last time you changed your exercise routine? How long have you used the same mouthwash?   If you wear heels, do different pairs have different lengths?  When was the last time you made a really weird face? How do you normally sit? Which leg is the crossed-over one? When was the last time you crossed over your other leg? How much hazelnut creamer do you put in your coffee? How long have you done that? When was the last time you tried out some different pillows?  When was the last time you imitated your mom?  How different is your Monday morning from your Friday night?  Are you getting something auto-debited that you really don’t need / use?  Do you really like the tv shows you watch? What do you do during commercials?

Sure, your mouthwash isn’t causing your knee pain and your heels aren’t causing your depression, but how fast do you want change to happen?

Sometimes things stick around in our lives for far too long. The only thing that keeps them there is we’re not consciously choosing them anymore. They’ve become default. “Taking a systemic approach” to your self-improvement is taking the extra time to see what default motions could be adjusted. I deliberately put really big things and really small things on that list of questions. Your pillows probably aren’t killing you. But if you want to make some really significant change, the idea is to shake things up and get wider as opposed to having a magnifying glass on a ‘symptom’ and hoping a singular root cause will present itself. There are infinite causes. Things have been in motion for a very long time.  But we can only fully do one thing at a time. Taking a systemic approach to yourself takes thing-by-thing and examines it. It stops looking for the magical thing. It starts looking at moment-by-moment movements to see what can be examined – conscious choice by conscious choice.   This is hard.  It’s easier to wish for a magical thing.

The up-side:  this hard work is a safeguard against helplessness.  When we go directly at a symptom, we are agreeing to a losing battle. Everything else in the overall configuration supports that symptom and there’s truly no way to move it without reconfiguring the connections. We are webs. We are a “system of contacts” (PHG). If we go at a symptom and try to simply remove it from the field, we will eventually feel helpless – because we will lose.

In sum, taking a systemic approach to your development is the effort to get wider. It’s the understanding that everything is interconnected. It’s a commitment to the details, to the smaller things, to the whole of your growth.  We really can’t make this wide commitment to rethink our defaults unless we have the belief (hope) that it will pay off – that it will only be short term suffering and hard work – that we will yield fruit after the labor. That’s the purpose of this post: the encouragement towards that belief – the hope – that hard work pays off.  We pay for it now or we pay for it later.

* There’s a pointed phrase in yoga: “most people breathe just enough to stay alive.”

As promised, some contrast.  More often than not in this blog, I’ll be referencing a “systemic approach to therapy” rather than a “systemic approach to yourself.”  They’re made of the same stuff but there is a contrast that’s warranted.  This post emphasizes an attitude you can take on a moment by moment basis in order to boost your own growth.  I am encouraging you to shake up and second-guess as much as you can handle, even if it doesn’t seem immediately connected to a symptom or a goal.  If a therapist took this hyper-diligent approach with clients, it would be exhausting for everyone.  I literally just laughed out loud.  “Hey, did you notice how we just shook hands?  Maybe we could do that better.  How did I just shut that door?  Was that the best way? How did you engage your hamstrings when you sat down on the couch?  Want to try that again?  How’s your water?  Do you think we should try turning the fridge temperature up or down a few degrees?” Lol.  So when I speak of ‘systemic therapy,’ I’m really talking about the beliefs about symptoms.  It’s the interconnectedness and the embedded-ness of supports/symptoms.  It’s the understanding that a direct attempt at removing a symptom is playing whack-a-mole.  Another mole pops up.

Despite the contrast, the common ground is this:  it’s best when clients take a systemic approach to their own self-improvement (with this wide hyper-diligence) in between meetings and then use their therapists to co-create some different frequencies and find where even newer rocks can be turned over, rocks that wouldn’t have shown up on the radar if someone else didn’t call attention to them.

 

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Full (Physical and Psychological) Makeover

I am extremely excited to finally offer this service to the public. My long term career goal to be a part of a facility that seamlessly integrates physical and psychological fitness is coming to fruition and I’m so excited to be turning the corner towards that goal.

I’ve trained a handful of people (friends and family) and have experienced immense joy from witnessing progress. There is nothing like achieving something today that you could not have done before. I am so excited to open this up for other people.

What I’m offering is a formal strength-training program (weight-training) coupled with gestalt consultations.  You can skip to the bottom of this post to see a quick outline if you don’t want to read the details.

Formal strength-training is probably different than any type of exercise you have ever tried. I became obsessed with it years ago when I started realizing the Central Nervous System adaptations and the psychological effects involved. I was an athlete through college and lifting weights in the off season was a regular part of the process. Once sports were done, I started learning about strength and weight-training from a very different perspective and, in conjunction with the health and psychological growth aspects of my formal education, began realizing what an amazing impact strength-training has.

I want to do a quick contrast between “training” and “exercising.” When you “exercise,” you do whatever fits for that day. Maybe you feel like going for a run, or doing some yoga, or jumping rope, or doing lunges. “Training,” on the other hand, has a very specific result in mind and it formulates a clear plan to get there. In this case, the result is functional strength. You literally get stronger.   And you KNOW you got stronger because pounds are an objective measurement.  One day, you won’t be able to move X pounds.  A couple weeks later, you move X pounds. You become able to do things that would have been laughable before. It’s very different than exercise.  There’s nothing wrong with exercise. I just get sad when I hear people who try exercising and then they get frustrated about the lack of results.

I also want to contrast strength-training with “body building.” Body building is a sport in which you train in order to go on stage and be judged for how you look. That’s not what this is. Yes, you will look better from strength-training.   Yes, you’ll be more comfortable in a bathing suit.  But that’s not the direct aim.  Understandably, a big component of exercise for a lot of people is the desire to look better.  I have no beef with body builders or people who exercise to look better. I’m just saying that’s not what this is about. You will feel better. You will BE better. And, as an additional bonus, you’ll look better.

Being a holistic therapist, the psychological and philosophical parts are where I find the deep worth and fascination. There’s a specific moment in strength-training when you feel yourself wanting to negate your responsibility.  You confront the realization that it’s you who needs to do the work in front of you. This realization starts to generalize to other areas of your life, your struggles, your challenges, your goals.  If there is any laziness down in the depths of you, strength-training will find it and give you the opportunity to clean it out.

Form and technique are crucial, for both safety and performance.  You learn how your body works as a whole.  You learn the correct structure of your parts in order to confront possibly the most difficult (physical) thing you’ve ever done – and to come out of the challenge unharmed. Focus and determination get developed. This, again, carries over: the confidence and focus from successfully overcoming legitimate challenges to your structure. You learn stabilization, groundedness, and centrality while taking on challenges to your range of motion. See how that phrase could be talking about the physical or the psychological? I love it.

In addition to the formal strength-training, you’ll learn two types of yoga.  I teach the opening portion of Ashtanga Yoga for the warm up.  It takes about ten minutes and this, alone, can change your life.  I was just talking to an experienced yogi the other day and she said, “if people would just take a few minutes everyday and do the first several Ashtanga movements, it will really clear up so much of what’s going on with them.”  Agreed.  That’s our warm up.  The other type of yoga you’ll learn is Yin Yoga.  Ashtanga and Yin are polar.  Ashtanga is active and powerful. Yin is passive. Yin is the “let go” yoga.  It is equally crucial to helping your body recover from the strength movements we’ll be doing.  The psychological and overall health benefits of both types of yoga are extensive and beyond the scope of this post.  If you decide not to utilize this service but you still would like to invest in yourself, learn Ashtanga and Yin.  In the Harrisburg / Camp Hill area, you can find Ashtanga at Befit Yoga and Yin at Om My Yoga.  I have no affiliation with either of them other than having gone to (and approved of) both.

Lastly, within this service, you’ll also receive two Gestalt Consultations a month.  In these, you’ll learn the functional flow of your awareness and techniques on how to clear your mind, free up space, and have more direction and control.  I’m not going to write too much about Gestalt in this post because it’s available elsewhere.

The training includes three weight-training days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6.30am – 7.30am.   Yes, you only train 3 days a week.  Yes, you’ll get serious results from only 3 days.  But I do HIGHLY recommend you do the Ashtanga and  Yin portions on the other days as well, preferably Ashtanga in the morning and Yin in the evening before bed.  You just need a few minutes.

The price is $530 a month, due at the first Monday of the month.  I can’t imagine working with you for more than 8 or 9 months.  By then, you should have a firm grasp of how your body works, the correct form and technique to keep you safe, understand how strength-training works (concepts of adaptation / over-training / over-reaching / linear progression / deloading / supercompensating), and what the other variables are (active recovery, sleep, hydration, nutrition) in order to carry on by yourself and continue having a blast with it.  You’ll have an Excel Spreadsheet with your lifting logs and you’ll know how to use it to keep making progress.

A great example for anecdotal purposes is my wife, to whom I introduced strength-training a couple of years ago.  She’s now having so much fun doing it on her own and she comes home and is proud to tell me about the “PR” (Personal Record) she set on a specific lift on that day.  You become excited about getting your body to do something that it couldn’t do before.  It also changes your relationship with those “other variables,” like hydration, nutrition and sleep.  Those things start to fall into place with ease because you quickly realize if you’re not fueling your body correctly, it’ll show up in your performance.  This is largely why I’m calling this program a “Makeover.”  And if you’re willing to track those other variables, I can help you stay accountable in that area as well.  Apps like Myfitnesspal allow you to track your food/water intake and easily email it to me.

Last but certainly not least, we can have up to 5 people in one training group.  It’s very valuable to watch others train in order to learn proper form.  To encourage you to find someone else to take this journey with you, I’ll drop the price to $600 a month ($300 a person) if you find a partner.  The only caveat:  the partner needs to be a similar height as you.  We will be squatting and it’s impractical to change the squat rack height for each lifter.   It doesn’t matter if you start at different levels of fitness.  Height is the only thing that matters.  If we have someone who is 4’10”, they can’t lift with someone who is 6’2″.

Please email me at kip@gestaltdevelopmentcenter.com in order to get things started.  The first person to respond will set the height requirement.  :-p

And since I’m so excited to get this service off the ground, I’ll throw in a free Withings Scale (“Smart-Body-Analyzer”) ($149 Value) no strings attached, yours to keep, to the first person who starts up.  I also have one. I love it.  It tracks your weight and your body composition (how much muscle / how much fat) and wirelessly syncs it with your PC and phone so you can see your progress.   It would be really neat to start tracking those things as soon as you get started and then watch the numbers change as you go.

This blog is still really new and there’s not a lot of traffic to it yet, so I’m not sure how long it will take to get the training group formed.  Please check with me via email to see where we’re at.  We might have gotten several groups formed or we might have different times and days for the training groups.  We’ll see.

 

Here’s the outline as promised above:

 

Price:   For one person, $530 a month.  For two people, $600 a month ($300 a piece).

Training schedule:   Monday, Wednesday, Friday.   6:30am – 7.30am.

What you get:

– Formal, linear-progression strength-training.

– The beginning portions of Ashtanga Yoga (active yoga).

– Yin Yoga (passive yoga).

– Two Gestalt Consultations per month.

– Optional: Other Variable Tracking (Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep, etc.)

– To the first person who begins the program: a free Withings Scale to keep ($149 Value)

Timeline:  The first month and a half will feel pointlessly easy.  The next month and a half will feel pointlessly hard.  After 3 or 4 months, you should be noticing some serious differences as your system adapts.  After 8 or 9 months, you should be ready to take over on your own and not need me anymore.  The timeline will vary slightly for everyone, depending on what your status is when you start, but it’ll be very close to those markers.

How to get started:  Email me ( kip@gestaltdevelopmentcenter.com ) to see if those times/prices are still available.