Sunday, May 24, 2009

Walking Your Blues Away

Could it really be this simple? Yes! This easiest of self-help techniques has gained widespread recognition: you really can solve problems, heal trauma and transform stress by walking.

Here are five steps to correctly performing a Walking Your Blues Away session. They are:

1. Define the issue

Before going for your walk, consider the issues that are still hanging around in your life that you feel are unresolved. This could range from past traumas, hurts, angers, or embarrassments to relationship issues with people you no longer have access to (including people who have died).

There is no specific right or wrong issue to work with. If you can think of it, visualize it, and get a feeling from it, then you can walk and work with it.

2. Bring up the story

Story in this context refers to such thought patterns as “She was cruel towards me” and “He had no right to hurt me like that” and “Why did she have to die?” There is always an internal story, with you and the object of the story at the center, and it’s important to pull that story out so you can say and hear it explicitly. How would you describe the story to yourself, in your most private and safe space, if you had to boil it down to a few words or a sentence or two? Notice the strength of the emotional charge associated with this event. Using a scale of 0 (truly don’t care) to 100 (the most intense you have ever felt), come up with a number to rank the emotional charge connected with this event.

3. Walk with the issue

Pick a route that is at least a mile long, and ideally two miles. The key is not to find a distraction-free walking area–that’s pretty much impossible. Rather, the key is to continue to remind yourself to hold your picture and/or feeling in front of you while walking. When you find your attention wandering, just bring it back to the issue.

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Relax into it. To motivate yourself, think of the positive resolution that you’re trying to achieve. There is no failure. There is only feedback. Learn from the feedback and continue on.

4. Notice how the issue changes

As the emotional value or the emotion attached to a picture/memory changes, the submodalities will change. When people walk with an unpleasant memory, it’s not uncommon for them to say they see it beginning to disintegrate or get dimmer or lose its color or move farther away or even behind them.

Once the change has happened, people notice that the emotion they feel about the picture is now different. It’s still possible to remember the event, but the feeling about the event has changed. Often the story of “I was hurt and it still hurts,” for example, changes to something like “I learned a good lesson from that, even if it was unpleasant.” Present-tense pain becomes past-tense experience.

Let the process proceed until you notice a perceptible shift in feeling. Then ask yourself, “What’s my story about this memory now?” If the process is complete, you’ll discover that the story you’re telling yourself will be considerably healthier, more resilient, and more useful than the previous story.

5. Anchor the memory

When the picture is well formed and you notice that your self-told story about the event has changed, anchor this new reality by reviewing it carefully–observe the way the picture has changed, listen to yourself repeat the new internal story, and notice the feelings associated with the new state. Notice all the ways it’s changed. Think of other ways it may now be useful to you, even helpful. As you’re walking back to your starting point, think about how you’d describe it if you were to choose to tell somebody else about it.

When you get home, consider writing something about your new experience, your new vision, your new story. If you don’t want to write it down, just sit in a quiet and safe place and speak it out loud in private to yourself. These steps help anchor the new state, fixing it in its new place in your mind and heart, so it will be available to you as a resource–rather than a problem–in the future.

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