3 Skills to Prepare for Inner Healing

Learn three emotion stabilizing tools before going into any deeper inner healing work. This resource goes into detail on exactly how.

 Preparing to “go there.”

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Before going into any deep inner healing work, it is important to lay the groundwork. This consists of learning tools and connecting with inner resources that can help you shift your state more effectively, whenever you need.

This is an important skill to strengthen because, during the work ahead, you will purposely trigger upsetting feelings/mindsets that you learned earlier in life, during times of adversity. It is important for you to be able to shift out of them at will. So here goes.

1. Grounding. Grounding is a basic distraction technique that can help you quickly de-escalate your nervous system, replacing stress with calm. To do this, pick an object ahead of you that you can focus on for a few seconds. Just notice the object. Resist the mind’s tendency to make associations – like having the object remind you that you have to do something, or of that argument you had with your sister last year. Instead, just notice the outer features of the object, like its shape, size, color or shades of color, texture, etc. Notice any shadows or light reflecting off of the object.After about 4 or 5 seconds, move on to another object and do the same thing. Repeat the process for a few objects.

As you do this, let your breathing become more comfortable, and relax a bit. Allow yourself to become more focused on your surroundings, and more grounded in the present moment. Further let go of anything going on in the back of your mind. Let cares/worries fade for this time.

To deepen the experience, focus on other senses. Tune into any sounds you can hear now, sounds that are usually in the background. Just notice.

You can also shift to noticing physical sensations, like the feeling of your feet on the ground. Notice the way you are sitting, or breathing, or notice the sensations of fabric on your skin.

In my experience, grounding is easy to learn and easy to apply. Occasionally someone is resistant to grounding if they are afraid of calming down for some reason.

However, most of us are comfortable taking about 30 seconds to let go of whatever is getting us keyed up in the moment, and grounding is the easiest way to do this.  

2. Containment. Containment requires some self-awareness and creativity on your part. The gist of containment is to:  

           a. Acknowledge that a “part” of you (a mindset or familiar feeling) is triggered.

           b. Influence that “part” to go into a less active or dormant state.

A quick way to do this is to greet the mindset or feeling by name and to invite it to “step back” so that you can be present with your most mature adult self.

“Thank you, Mr. Skeptical, but I need you to step back so that I can enjoy listening to my wife’s very valid point of view right now.”

“Hello Rejected feeling, please take a break so that I can better accept my friend’s change of plans. Yes, this stinks, but I trust that my friend still loves me.”

A second, less personal way is to imagine taking the upset feeling, placing it in some sort of container like a box or safe, and then walking away from it to deal with later. Notice the relief you feel when you distance yourself from the upset. I’ve found this technique works well for those who carry a lot of concerns around at once. One can “clear space” in one’s mind by repeating this process until each concern has been identified, labeled, and contained – stored away until the right time to deal with the concern.

This can also work well with traumatic memories. You can imagine taking the fragments of images, sensations, and cognitions that are still unresolved, and putting them into a highly secure safe in the depths of your subconscious. The contents will be completely sealed off and dormant until you are able to come back to the material later to access it in a methodical, controlled manner.

Asking parts to “settle in” to a special safe place. For many people, upset parts were set up during childhood, and can almost have a mind of their own. So, telling the abandoned child part inside that she needs to go away can be re-traumatizing!

To solve this problem, you can develop a special safe place inside that is ideal for any upset parts to wait until you are ready to work with them. This safe place can be real or imagined, and can be as simple or elaborate as you would like. One client imagined a dorm-like setting with lots of beds where upset parts could “tuck-in” to rest, being supervised by kindly religious sisters and other caring adults from her life. Another client imagined a mountain resort setting with camping, horse-back riding, a movie theater, and swimming pool, where parts could recreate under supervision with lots of caring adult resources there to watch over them.

Whenever a part is triggered, you can contain the part by inviting it to “settle in” to the special safe place, until the perfect time comes for you to help the part get unstuck and healed. If necessary you can make a carbon copy of your caring adult side to stay with them until that time comes.

3. Imagery. Imagery is a way to shift into a positive mind-body state using something from your own subconscious memory system. Positive does not necessarily mean optimistic, as in the motto “BePositive” (which happens to be my blood type). Positive can mean feeling safe, calm, energized, peaceful, free, content, engaged, connected, etc.

Unlike in the grounding exercise, you want to encourage your mind to be creative and to make associations, all for the purpose of immersing yourself into an imaginative experience that will be positive and helpful.

To do this,

         a. Gather your focus and enter into the experience.

         b. Deepen the experience.

         c. Notice whatever is especially enjoyable or helpful.

         d. Re-alert and exit, taking with you whatever you“learned.”

Here are some tips for each step.

-       Gathering your focus – this can happen by staring at a spot on the wall until you are ready to close your eyes and go inward. Alternatively, you can focus on the sensations of breathing for a few breaths, then go inward to activate your imagination.It’s okay to keep your eyes open for this exercise, but most like to close their eyes so that they can see things more clearly.

-       Deepening – can happen by making the scene more vivid. Notice the details of all the things you would see. Hear the subtleties of the sounds you would hear. And take a moment to really feel the sensations and movement of the experience. Try to be in your body in first person perspective rather than watching yourself from outside or above. Notice any pleasant or light feelings settling into your body as you do this, and let them strengthen.

-       As you really get into the experience, notice that there is something you especially like or appreciate about the experience. Come up with a word or a phrase that captures this thing you especially like. Hold that word or phrase in mind while you continue with the imagery.

-       When you are ready, begin re-alerting to your surroundings and the present moment. Do this by imagining leaving the scene, slowly drifting back, taking with you any insights or positive feelings you would like to linger after the experience is over. Re-alert by tuning into the sounds of the room, opening your eyes, then wiggling around and stretching if needed.

Your very own Insight Anchor

Now for something mind-blowing. The imagery resource you just experienced very likely gave you a “solution” to the problem area you would like to work on in therapy. The word or phrase, combined with the imagery you just immersed yourself into, gives you a resource that provides the very thing that seems missing in another area of your life – safety, control, serenity, feeling carefree. Now that you have found this precious resource – practice with it daily to strengthen it.

Peace to you now and always – Marcel Lanahan, LMHC.

Image link to bio for Marcel Lanahan, LMHC

Dr. Marcel Lanahan

Founder, Lead Clinician

Marcel is a Catholic therapist, husband, and father of five. He is dedicated to supporting fellow Catholics with guidance on their healing journeys.

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