I was just reading a blog post by Mervyn D’Souza, who is a mindfulness coach and practices ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) like I do. I liked this blog post called Treating Thoughts and Feelings Like Weather Patterns. In this article, he talks about another type of therapy called Morita Therapy, and how Morita therapists, like ACT therapists, are taught to “treat their feelings and thoughts like inner weather patterns.” He says, “Instead of constantly trying to control the internal weather, students are encouraged to just notice mindfully the different patterns of thoughts and feelings arising and falling.”
I think this is a great strategy for people dealing with cancer. I know what it’s like…when you’re going through treatment, your mood tends to shift a lot. If we spend a lot of time trying to make sadness, anger, or fear go away, we could end up spending all of our time trying to fight off these feelings. However, we can treat feelings like weather patterns just coming and going, and spend less time “fighting.” Being sad, angry or scared is not fun…I get that. But if we become willing to have these feelings temporarily and not fight them off (which tends to not work at all or at least not very well), they tend to stick around for less time.
When I was going through treatment, I had some bouts of depression. I spent a lot of time trying to fight off the depression and make it go away. My counselor helped me to change my relationship to it. When I became depressed, I would stop trying to fight it off, which didn’t work anyway, and just became willing to have it (EVEN THOUGH I really didn’t like it). I would notice it, like an internal weather pattern (“Sure is cloudy today.”) and try to take care of myself as best I could in that moment. What tended to happen is that my mood would lift, in my estimation, much sooner than it would if I wasn’t willing to make room for it. The other benefit was that I felt less like I was fighting all the time. There was a certain kind of release, a relaxation of sorts. Not a giving up, but more a giving in to what needed to happen in the moment. I needed to lean into the pain, turn inward, lie on the couch for a while, and wait out the storm.
I know this is not a very popular idea…to be willing to have difficult feelings. We all want to feel better, now. But the research is showing that strategies such as the ones taught by ACT and Morita therapy are very effective in many ways, for many problems. I know for me it changed how I related to difficult feelings, including depression.
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Photo Credit: Chris Breeze via flickr