The Habitual Mind

The Habitual Mind - How we got here and methods to change what is no longer working

Waking up and feeling excited and enthusiastic about the new day is what many of us desire yet few of us experience. Because of present and past life circumstances, we sometimes find ourselves feeling out of balance... unable to pull it together...overwhelmed...stuck…repeating old patterns...devoid of skills...depleted of resources… experiencing unsatisfying relationships. Stress or life transitions can create struggles, challenges and confusion. Feeling insecure, anxious, frustrated, angry, hopeless, embittered, discouraged may also be experienced.  You may even feel spiritually adrift. What a miserable way to live! Did you know you could change that and do it differently? With guidance, support and coaching, it is possible to become the best version of yourself.

The famous ancient philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe that all life is worthwhile, but the unintended life is a problem. I am committed to the task of helping people understand that living well, powerfully and effectively with an abundance of happiness and success is within every person’s grasp.  Once you become aware of how to direct your own life with purpose and competence, responsibility and intentions, feeling hopeful and powerful, only then are you truly in control of your destiny.

There are so many reasons why people continue using their tried and true useless yet familiar methods to survive each day. They don’t know what else to do. Consider the challenge of getting through a day where you are experiencing physical and/or emotional pain. Most of us will do almost anything to make it stop. Whether it’s using a prescription medication or an illicit substance, taking something that stopped the pain in the past is generally viewed as necessary for relief. That was my experience. For seven years I suffered and struggled to maintain a “normal” life after both of my knees became so painful I could barely walk. Looking at today’s headlines, the opioid epidemic is ever-present, and I vowed to avoid the potential for a dependence upon analgesic medication which would leave me nearly nonfunctional and disconnected. I embarked on learning how to manage my own pain without medication. My trainings included methods to eliminate pain through hypnosis, whether through self-hypnosis or using a therapeutic guide and reframing the painful sensations into just a neutral experience. Recognizing that my brain had untapped resources to assist my healing became my focus. And what a blessing it was! I managed the pain, although I did eventually require surgery. I had two knee replacements within four months and was able to recover and reclaim my life without taking pain medication. I’m appreciating life again completely pain-free.  If you were struggling with any sort of pain, whether physical or depression and anxiety, wouldn’t you want this for yourself?  The mind and the body are closely connected. When physical pain is felt, it impacts our emotions. Conversely, when we are experiencing emotional discomfort, our physical pain is intensified.

Could it be that a traumatic experience from the past is keeping you from enjoying your life to the fullest? Trauma is so common that to focus on it seems comparable to focusing on air; it’s all around us, all the time, even though we may be consciously unaware of its presence. The truth is trauma affects every one of us, but the degree to which it influences our lives differs dramatically from person to person. It is important to remember that to heal trauma, it is NOT necessary to dredge up and relive memories. In fact, severe emotional pain can be re-traumatizing.

We always experience trauma as a physiological, or a body response. We will activate our survival response and feel our muscles tighten, our heart race, palms sweat; all the sensations you would associate with preparing to fight, run or faint. Once we realize that we have survived the threat, we’ll appear ''calm'' on the outside, but the internal physiology tells a very different story. The heart is still racing, blood pressure remains high, biological stress chemicals are still saturating the brain; in essence your nervous system is stuck on overdrive. This ''frozen'' state, while appearing calm, is still internally prepared to initiate the flight or fight procedures that we never had a chance to use. Because we were unable to complete these innate ''action plans,'' our body hangs on to the memory of needing to protect ourselves from a threat and the vast amount of energy produced becomes stuck inside us. When this occurs, we retain undischarged residual energy in our bodies and minds, which ultimately reveals itself as physical or emotional problems. Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing us in a state of hyperarousal and fear.

The important point to understand about this function is that it is involuntary. This simply means that the physiological mechanism governing this response resides in the primitive, instinctual parts of our brains and nervous systems (the Limbic System), and is NOT under our conscious control. Successful trauma treatment must address this imbalance and reestablish our physical sense of safety. Therefore, the key to healing traumatic symptoms is in our physiology. What we need to do to be freed from our symptoms and fears is to arouse our deep physiological resources and consciously utilize them.  In many people suffering from anxiety reactions and so-called ''psychosomatic'' conditions like migraines, muscular syndromes (e.g., fibromyalgia, back and neck pain), gastrointestinal disorders, severe PMS, asthma and even some epileptic seizures, these symptoms are likely the nervous system's attempt to contain the intense survival energies that remain in the body/mind as the result of unresolved trauma. When these energies can be gradually discharged, physiologically, the symptoms can often be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.  Sometimes all that's needed is for you to shake or tremble while noticing your symptoms, because this helps the body discharge stored energy from the trauma. This gentle shaking while focusing on your symptoms gives your unconscious mind the message that it's OK to let go now.

Because we are human animals, trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. With guidance and support, we are capable of learning to shake and tremble our way back to health. In being able to harness these primal and instinctual energies we can move through trauma and transform it. Trauma is about broken connections. Connection is broken with the body/self, family, friends, community, nature, and spirit, perpetuating the downward spiral of traumatic disturbance. Healing trauma is about restoring these connections. And that is my purpose; to help you heal.

Journeys Counseling Center, Inc. has been serving Teller County in Woodland Park and Cripple Creek since 1982. We offer professional, confidential, compassionate counseling and life-coaching for people in need of assistance in managing life issues and in finding the needed motivation and skills for lasting growth and change. We believe that seeing a therapist does not mean there is something wrong with you or that you are a “bad” person. Everyone begins therapy with a problem or a sense that something is amiss in their lives. Each of us would like to find a way to live a more accepting, fulfilling, and inspired life. We help you transition from where you are to where you want to be so you can become the best version of yourself. In our work together, I will show you how to develop empathy and compassion for what in you feels stuck or painful.  I will guide, support, and teach you tools, skills and resources to live your best life and to become the most authentic version of yourself as possible.  The areas that I am focusing on are: Freeing yourself from old, dysfunctional patterns/habits; Adjusting past faulty perceptions and beliefs, hence living a more conscious and deliberate life; Becoming more comfortable with yourself; Finding your voice so you’re able to speak up, speaking truthfully and communicating effectively; Learning to trust yourself. I provide a supportive yet objective sounding board or a witness to your life.

Bio: Barbara Pickholz-Weiner, RN, BSN, CACIII, MAC, EMDR II, began her college career as an art major at Kent State University. A radical shift in her world view led her to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In addition to Masters in Addiction Counseling, Barbara has certifications in Neurolinguistic Programming, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Pain Management, Hypnosis and Regression Therapy, and is a Brain Injury Specialist. Barbara is the Program Director of Journeys Counseling Center, Inc. and has provided healing opportunities for people since 1982. Barbara and her husband peacefully cohabitate in a beautiful “Earthship” overlooking the north face of Pikes Peak.


Article published July 2017 in Ute Country News