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Recovery and Rehabilitation

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4 weeks of practicing self-directed attention

I've been practicing self-directed attention for about 4 weeks now (10 minutes every morning of counting my breaths, as well as trying as much as I can for the rest of the day to be aware of what I'm attending to and not attend to thoughts I recognize as harmful). The results so far are really remarkable. Parts of my longstanding emotional baggage that I had been unable to resolve despite going through several therapists and support groups now feel mostly like no big deal, like things that are over and done with and no longer relevant. Before I started practicing self-directed attention, I was convinced that I was defective in some way and doomed to be depressed for the rest of my life. That feeling is much less overpowering now; it does still come up, but I tend to find it unconvincing when it does, and it goes away much more quickly than it used to.

I think the recommendation to practice self-directed attention is such an important development in John's message about looking at yourself. I know for sure that I looked at myself years ago, and for all I know my mind may have been healing itself all this time, but I honestly never actually felt like I was making any progress until I started practicing self-directed attention. When I did start doing this, I felt a difference pretty much immediately. In the 4 weeks that I've been practicing, there was one week when I was really busy and skipped a few days, and I definitely noticed an increase in neurotic/hostile-toward-life thinking. When I started practicing regularly again, I noticed a clear improvement. I've dabbled with meditation and psychotherapy methods that aim to cultivate saner, more skillful ways of thinking, and nothing has resulted in anything that feels as stable and reliable as what I'm gaining through self-directed attention. This is the real deal.

For years, I have experienced some pretty bad physical symptoms and moodiness when I go through my premenstrual phase (which I am going through now). Yesterday, I woke up feeling a very strong sensation of what I would have previously labeled as "depression" and then gone off on some angsty mental dramas about how it means I'm fundamentally defective and will never be a functional adult and I have to find a way to fix this etc. Yesterday I noticed that what I was feeling was mostly physical, like sinus pressure in my head and heaviness in my throat and chest, and a simultaneous tendency to react more strongly to anything emotional (like a sad song). Unlike what used to happen, yesterday there was minimal mental drama; instead I just experienced the physical sensations and heightened emotional reactions for what they were. When thoughts like "Oh my god there I go again, I'll never stop being an emotional wreck" did come up, I recognized them as being unhelpful and mentally moved on to something else. As a result, I ended up having a good day that struck a balance between productivity and rest. In the past, I'm certain that I would have moped and procrastinated most of the day, and spent the rest of the day beating myself up for moping and procrastinating. It may not sound like much, but for me this is a huge step forward. I have much mental unhealthiness still left to lose, but for the first time I feel confident that things are going to be ok.

Sounds great Teacup! I experience more space in my thinking when I practice directed attention. My mind feels spacious. More flexibility to cognitively move away or move closer to thoughts and feelings. I think this is what you're saying as well. I practice a couple of times a day and this seems to multiply the effect.

Hi Jackx! I really relate to what you're talking about; I think I'm experiencing the same thing but had a hard time putting it as concisely as you did. I practice 10 minutes in the morning, and as often as I can throughout the day in a less way (just trying to be as aware as possible of what I'm attending to, and moving my attention away if it's on something unhelpful). When I can, I try to practice for another 10 minutes in the evening. Thanks for your feedback; I've been reading some of the older posts in the forum since it's been a very long time since I was active here, and I really enjoy your posts. It's been really neat to see how your recovery has developed and very helpful to see that I can relate to a lot of what you've said during that process. It gives me more confidence in the feeling that I'm on the right track.


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