Last week I worked with about a dozen people to help them build the stress relieving resource I like to call the ‘happy place,’ and yes, even when I say it, I am reminded of movies that make fun of psychotherapy. But the proof is in the pudding – it really can work. I love hearing about the happy places that others build and I often incorporate them into my own stockpile of happy images, along with their face looking more peaceful and happy, just thinking about it. Practice is critical though. You need to build the resource within your mind. Think – neurons that fire together, wire together. You need to simply think of the image and the sensations for a number of times a day for a couple weeks and you have built a strong resource that no one can ever take from you. I sometimes think of being imprisoned behind a strong door with no windows and I would need to search my own brain for movie memories and it would be then that I would pull up the images I have helped others build, as well as my own. The time I spend helping others, even if only for a minute seems to link it to my former happy place. If I was imprisoned or even being tortured, I could use the resources to escape. To test myself, I have had minor dental work done without anesthesia or numbing and instead, taken a vacation in my mind.
Another technique recommended before EMDR therapy is building a container in our own minds. I guide the person in imagining a strong container if they do no already have a way of compartmentalizing those disturbing thoughts, memories of trauma, worries and negative images. I ask them to search around and put everything disturbing and distressing into the container, imagine walking around it, checking it and then securing it while leaving a magic slot for retrieving one thing at a time and for inputting bad stuff. Some of the people I have worked with have found the idea of containment and the building of that resource as the most helpful way for them to get through their days with better function.
This week from Danny Wold
Reading Danny’s email this week inspired me to write about the happy place and container and as I often do – I will pass along his advice. Danny is the drummer in our band that plays for fun and also does a conference keynote or corporate presentation to help people learn about managing their stress. We combine music with stress reducing tips. Here is what he had to say this week:
Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are – James Allen
Visualizing our “Happy Place” can be very helpful in immediately relieving stress, and it costs nothing but 20-30 seconds of our time. I close my eyes and bring up an image of Klickitat Meadows, below Mt. Adams, where I played when younger, take a couple deep, complete breaths and consciously relax all my muscles. Boom! Ready to go!
A psychologist friend tells me that most of her patients don’t have a “Happy Place.” How sad is that? Maybe it is telling us something, too…
Images that evoke sensory memories can also quickly reduce stress. The visual memory of a loved one’s smile will have the same calming or energizing effects as seeing the smile. The memory of the sounds and feel of standing in a cool mountain stream will have the same effects on stress as being there.
To bring peace into your life, imagine that it is already there – Richard Bach