Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’ve been feeling irritable and out of sorts lately and I don’t know why. I notice that I can’t relax or sit still. I keep myself busy until bedtime. I’ve taken to drinking a glass or two of wine every night, and still my sleep is restless. Even when I’m out with my friends, I don’t feel I’m myself. I have trouble letting go and enjoying their company. I’m not as sure of myself at work either. I’m very aware of all the annoying aspects of my life right now but I don’t know what to do to feel different. I have no idea what’s bothering me. How can I find out? Any suggestions?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Avoidance is a natural human response to anything that makes us uncomfortable or fearful. Staying active and distracted from whatever is bothering you serve as a means of turning a deaf ear on whatever it is that is begging for your attention. Being still and allowing time and space for your feelings to bubble up to conscious awareness is the direct route to a cure for your current state. Despite your fears, you will be able to handle whatever it is that you are desparately trying to remain unconscious of. Remind yourself that conscious awareness is empowering. It provides for greater freedom through consciously deciding how you want to respond to your new awareness.
Some find it helpful to use dreams as a means of communicating with a wiser, more conscious part of themselves. To do this, try giving yourself the suggestion before you fall asleep, that you would like to gain understanding through your dreams about what is bothering you and leaving you feeling out of sorts lately. Be sure to expect an answer. Keep paper and pen by the side or your bed to record dreams or insights you have upon awakening.
Another very helpful technique for accessing information is through listening to the wisdom of your body. “Focusing” is a technique developed by Eugene Gendlin (1981), a protégé of Carl Rogers, and more recently taught by Ann Weiser-Cornell (1996). Through focusing you can learn to use the ‘felt sense’ in your body as a vehicle for awareness. Focusing is a powerful change process that is all about inner listening and just being with what’s there. It is a process of listening to something inside you that wants to communicate with you. It is about being a good listener to your inner self, and as such, it may be the perfect technique for you for your current dilemma. I’d encourage you to take a look at Ann Weiser-Cornell’s The Focusing Guide Manual (1993), or The Power of Focusing (1996), or Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing (1981) for more information on how to try this technique for yourself!
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services