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,
- I had to pull myself together.
- I had to think about was best for my daughter… not, me.
- 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.