(This is a reprint from my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com)
Last Thursday evening, Dr. Susan Landes, Psy.D., MFT, spoke to therapists and counselors about the value of mindfulness for solving problems that inspire mental health issues, at a dinner hosted by Clare Brown, Community Liaison for Acadia Healthcare services, held at Seasons 52 restaurant in Sacramento.
Landes offers insights predicated upon her practice of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), with offices in Auburn and Davis. She helps individuals and families reduce maladaptive, mood-dependent behaviors and restore family bonds. Her insights can help parents coach teens to respond with greater confidence to the tumultuous, choppy cyber-powered waters of their on-line social lives.
According to Landes, mindfulness skills are learned best by demonstrating them in your own relating to individuals who are suffering from afflictions ranging from anxiety or a more serious mental health disorder, including bi-polar or personality disorders. “Mindfulness is the act of paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment,” Landes explains, “It is the deliberate effort to lengthen the time between the impulse to get rid of a painful feeling and the action.” Landes encourages folks to consider that without this “pause” feature in our reaction to what is happening, “the brain thinks is it is running the show” and the role of the mind is diminished.
This is a very important insight for cyber-powered life. For without this mindfulness skill, on-line experiences can lead to a hyper emotional chain reaction (think cyberbullying) that causes more suffering without giving yourself a chance to pause and think things through before responding. Landes offers the example of a teenager who upon seeing a group photo that does not include her in a Facebook “home feed” jumps to the conclusion that this is a signal that she is rejected. “It is important to give yourself an opportunity to question whether the emotions triggered by an incident are actually true,” Landes said. “And then you can think more clearly about problem solving once it has been determined there is a problem.”
In this way, it is important to consider how humans are capable of making their own “hell” on earth (i.e., feelings of isolation, powerlessness and worthlessness) by believing things that are not true, acting on them (thus disturbing the peace) and focusing on things that don’t really matter. This is the danger as the cyber realm becomes a single point of reference for life. Bullies, pedophiles and sex traffickers are counting on it.
Teaching the “mindfulness pause”: STOP Skill
Landes encourages folks to consider the STOP Skill, to learn how to extend the length of time from the impulse (a feeling of pain/discomfort or torment triggered by an image or a comment), and the action (your response) – so as to change your thinking to respond not as a victim, but as someone who will not be bullied by emotion. Below are the steps involved:
- Stop – Do not just react. Stop! Freeze! Do not move a muscle! Your emotions may try to make you act without thinking. Stay in control!
- Take a step back – Take a step back from the situation. Take a break. Let go. Take a deep breath. Do not let your feelings make you act impulsively.
- Observe – Notice what is going on inside and outside you. What is the situation? What are your thoughts and feelings? What are others saying or doing?
- Proceed mindfully – Act with awareness. In deciding what to do, consider your thoughts and feelings, the situation, and other people’s thoughts and feelings. Think about your goals. Ask Wise Mind: Which actions will make it better or worse?
To learn more about mindfulness skills for you and your family, go to: The Auburn-Davis Center for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. RSVP today to attend Dr. Landes’ open house in Auburn on Friday, April 1, 2016 5pm to 7pm – email your response firstname.lastname@example.org.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.