Attending CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has been challenging—which is a good thing. My therapist is really helping me face my anxieties—anxieties that I have dusted and kept under a rug for many, many years. I never tried to face them, because dealing with my present anxieties already overwhelm me. So far, my therapist has used the empty chair and sitting in silence exercises. And I found them both excruciating.
In the sitting in silence exercise, my therapist had me sit in silence for 3…whole…minutes. Not even 60 seconds. 3 minutes! Ugh! Like I’ve mentioned in a previous post about mindfulness, regardless of the type of mindfulness exercise the point is to get you to live in the moment. But I didn’t like this type of mindfulness activity. I prefer the one—the same post I mentioned here—where you’d stare at a subject and describe it. I don’t just want to do nothing! I’m use to always doing something or thinking of something, whether it’s organizing and/or shredding my papers or balancing my budget (which I hate doing) or studying or journaling. Here I was sitting with my therapist in the silent room, except for the muffled conversations behind the closed door and the loud blare of the train’s siren seeping through the wall. The worse part of it was hearing all the thoughts roaming in my head. All the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” thoughts. I try to keep those thoughts preoccupied by being busy. Well anyway, the 3 dreaded minutes were up and my therapist told me the exercise was to help my body relax and bring the chemicals that are responsible for elevating my anxiety, down. As much as I hated this exercise, it helped me relax… a little bit.
In the empty chair activity, you imagine your problem or your problem person on a chair and confront it or them. Now doing this may seem stupid or childish. You may have not talked to an imaginary friend since you were a child. Trust me, this is not that. Nor is it stupid. When I went through with it, I felt like I was putting my thoughts, fears and anxieties on the chair and confronting it. When I first did this exercise, I found really challenging for me. I found myself shaking—in my body, my hands, my feet—I was really scared of what I was confronting. However, the more I continued with the activity, I slowly stopped shaking in my hands and feet. I was only left shaking in my chest.
“What are you now?”
“A shaky 5.” I replied.
“Well that’s good,” he said. “Before you said you were a 7.”
I was surprised. How was a shaky 5 good? I always thought a 5 should be just a 5. You know a strong 5. Yet here I was shaky…a shaky 5.
“Wait,” I said astonished. “A shaky 5 is okay?”
“A shaky five, a strong five…a five is still a five.” He told me. “What this goes to show you is you have more control over your anxiety than you think.”
Hmm…maybe I do. Maybe I do.