Integrating body, mind, emotions, and consciousness
Our bodies, emotions, thoughts, and consciousness are four systems integrated into a single whole:
body – the ground of all psychological experience
emotions – we feel emotions as sensations inside the body
mind/thoughts – thoughts arise from emotional states
consciousness – makes larger meaning from what we think and feel
Humans have an amazing power to use consciousness to follow thoughts down into an emotional core felt inside the body to understand its meaning and make adjustments. It is a feedback loop continuously operating throughout the day.
An integrative approach to counseling works to reconnect these systems in order to have a more thoughtful, directed, authentic, and conscious approach to life.
Instead of distancing ourselves from negative feelings, such as anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, and shame … this approach to counseling uses these experiences to enhance self-empowerment, growth, peace, aceeptance, and wisdom.
Basic Strategies for Daily Psychological Health
Body … regular exercise, proper diet, moderation in alcohol, caffeine, other substances, proper sleep
Emotions … calming techniques such as breathing, meditation, journaling, listening to music, being close to nature, art, and beauty, setting time to intentionally relax, spending quality time with loved ones and friends
Thoughts … meditation, journaling, self-examination, connecting ‘thought patterns’ with emotional states, cultivating ‘positive’ outlooks
Consciousness … bringing oneself ‘online’, noncrtical observation, cultivating higher values, self-love, clarifying self-identity, expansion of world-view and perspective
The combination and interaction between these four levels creates endless variety as we move through the outer world of situations and relationships.
How does integrative therapy help with relationships?
If our bodies are finely tuned instruments, then emotions and feelings are the primary way we pick up on what is happening in our relational environments. Because we depend on our network of relationships for both survival and well-being, we have evolved to be very attentive to reading and evaluating emotional connections,
We are deeply effected by imbalances within relationships because they indicate potential danger or other problems. Since we are able to conceal our emotions and inner worlds, and because emotions and thoughts change from one mood to the next, we are left wondering … is it me? or is it the other person?
This level of confusion and uncertainty gives rise to unpleasant feelings, thoughts, and emotional reactions, which often make underlying problems worse. All of this happens within the backdrop of committments, responsibilities, social expectations, and financial concerns.
Integrative therapy empowers by giving you the tools to remain calm during stressful situations, prevent blindly reacting to emotions, and find the inner space to choose more constructive and purposeful responses.
What is dialectic therapy? … How does it help?
Dialectics is just a term for very specific ways of talking. Talking to a therapist is very different than talking to family, friends, or intimate partners. In therapy, the focus is on you … we are not trying to find out ‘what is wrong with you’, but instead listen carefully to your perspective to find patterns and themes you cannot see because you are too close to your situation. Just like we need mirrors to see our reflections, we need objective, trained listerns to reflect back to you what is on the inside, and then have a dialectic to see what it means.
Therapy is a safe place to talk, a refuge from relationships, responsibilities, and other peoples’ expectations. Therapy is a partnership. You are free to express your thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism. Talking openly and sincerely allows you to see yourself and your life more clearly.
How does mindfulness calm my emotions? …
Mindfulness techniques, such as breathing and meditation, are designed to slow your thoughts down so you can consciously explore your emotions. Somatic techniques direct attention to areas of your body where you feel emotional stress. In therapy, we talk about these emotions, where they come from, how they get started, how strong they are, how long it takes to settle, and what they mean in your life. We will get to know your emotional patterns as much as possible.
The more you come to know about your emotional life, the more open and accepting you will become about how you feel. You will then be able to communicate your feelings more effectively without being defensive or ashamed. Mindfulness techniques will slow down your body’s reactions to unpleasant feelings and give you more space to choose constructive responses.
Do dreams mean anything? …
Scientific evidence suggests that dreams process memories and experiences from the previous day. It is as if there is a ‘dream person’ who reviews our life for us in a ‘dream language’. The dream person creates fantastic scenes outside of space and time and fills it with emotionally toned images loosely strung together to make strange narratives. Our egos are only a smaller part in a larger drama. Dreams are an open window into our inner world and reflect back to us our deepest truths, longings, and aspirations.
Dream therapy is another kind of dialectic, another kind of talking … we assume the dreams have something to say about your interior, emotional life. In therapy we talk about how the dream images correspond with your life situation, and they create a solid framework for making meaning.