I want Meditation

I “Want” Meditation

By Julia Madden Bozarth, MS, MA, LCPC
Photograph by  Ji-Elle (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, my daughter went to Korea for 15 months. It was a real test of my belief that she could be anyone she wanted to be. I was both proud and terrified. As parents, we all try to provide a safe environment for our children. We urge them to be themselves. We try to raise them to be self-reliant and get an education. She did all this.

But, the reality is … I didn’t want her to be an English teacher in Korea. She was given a salary and an apartment. She intended to save the salary for graduate school. It was the experience of a lifetime. So, the problem. SHE LIVED IN SOUTH KOREA! Yes, email and Skype are great. But, to say that I missed my daughter is an understatement. And, missing her was only half of it. I was worried sick. So many “what ifs.” So,

  1. I had to pull myself together.
  2. I had to think about was best for my daughter… not, me.
  3. I had to practice what I preach. I found my self-talk to be:
    • “What if she gets sick?”
    • “What if she is injured?”
    • “What if there is a disaster?”
    • “What if she gets lost in the jungles hiking?” (Yes, I thought that!)
    • “What if she’s unhappy?”
    • “What if she is traumatized?”

The list went on and on. So, I thought long and hard on what I wanted for my daughter. I started to visualize wonderful things. I started to say to myself:

  • “I want my daughter to be happy.”
  • “I want my daughter to be safe.”
  • “I want my daughter to have an amazing experience.”
  • “I want my daughter to be surrounded by trustworthy people.”

I continued to think these things. And, when I was particularly lonely for her I would focus on wanting her to know that she is loved. I said these things aloud on several occasions. As I did, I felt my breathing slow. I felt my heart-rate slow. I felt my blood pressure go down. I felt the knot in my stomach loosen. And, the I WANT MEDITATION was born.

I use this technique with anyone struggling with anxious, stressful, and even angry thoughts. I ask the client to tell me what they want. Sometimes, it is difficult for a client to understand that they are focusing on what they don’t want . Anxiety feeds anxiety. Stress feeds stress. Anger feeds anger. Depression feeds depression. I am not recommending false-positive self-talk. This is not about “thinking positively” it’s about focusing on what you want instead of what you don’t want.

Eventually, we can train ourselves to think:

  • “I want to be calm.”
  • “I want my heart rate slow down.”
  • “I want to be a good parent.”
  • “I want to be loved.”
  • “I want to be trustworthy.”
  • “I want to spend time with trustworthy people.”
  • “I want to recover.”

The I WANT MEDITATION can be a powerful tool. As we become more aware of our thinking, as we become more mindful of our desires, we can address our concerns productively.

So, my daughter returned to the states. She was healthy. She was safe. A new technique was developed to assist in anxious thoughts and ruminations. And, I have spent almost a decade teaching countless clients this practice. My daughter? She went to graduate school in Europe for 2 years. I only cried in the airport.

You May Already Know a Cutter

You May Already Know a Cutter

By Julia Madden Bozarth, MA, MS, LCPC

As OPTIONS (our adolescent and family counseling program) continues to evolve, our counselors see an increasing number of teens who self-harm. Self-Harm Syndromes include cutting, scarring, slashing, and burning. The degree of severity is closely related to the client’s perception of emotional pain. These behaviors provide relief from psychological pain.

Our most common example is the teenager who scratches, picks or rubs erasers – to the point of small burn spots – on arms, legs, and stomach. Some of these teens burn and cut themselves in non-lethal ways. This behavior may protect the client from a sense of abandonment, loneliness and isolation.

It is not usually recommended that these particular clients be hospitalized. The hospital may provide the social group and support the client is looking for, thereby increasing the potential for more self-harming behaviors. These behaviors usually dissipate with age. Our office provides an emotionally validating environment in which to express pain and explore healthy ways of coping with social and emotional pressures.

More extreme forms of self-harm may include extensive use of razors, glass, or lighters for control of negative emotions. These clients risk addiction to the particular method of self-harm. They often find it impossible to self-soothe and see coping skills as outside of themselves (externalized). In many of these cases, clients have experienced trauma in childhood that they were unable to understand and formed maladaptive behaviors as a way of managing their rage. This client requires consistency and often responds well to Dialectical Behavior Therapy combined with Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Often, medications are part of the ongoing treatment for clients experiencing this level of self-harm.

All of these self-harm behaviors may increase if the client experiences an increase in anxiety or depressive symptoms. Because of the potential for addiction, medications prescribed by physicians or psychiatrists are usually in the form of SSRIs (antidepressants) such as wellbutrin or lexapro. Generally, tranquilizers and anti-anxiety agents are not recommended. The goal of therapy is to provide coping and self-soothing techniques that work with anti-depressants for the management of symptoms.

Our goal – our technique – is to “go to the pain.” The behavior serves a purpose. Please note: serving a purpose does not mean that the client does it ‘on purpose.’ The validating environment in our office provides the atmosphere for the client to explore alternatives and painful triggers.

Finally, in some rare cases, the situation can be life threatening. In cases of psychosis, the client may “hear voices.” These voices may be what are called command persecutory delusions. Command persecutory delusions (voices) may tell the client to walk into traffic or cause serious permanent damage to their bodies. In these cases, hospitalization and medical stabilization is mandatory.

For more information or questions about someone you may suspect of self-harming behaviors, contact CSI.