Myra Bridgforth, Counselor

Get Unstuck and Find a New Way
October 6th, 2014 in Uncategorized


How to Get Unstuck #3

Do a 90 in 90.

My workout bag lives in the backseat of my car.
It holds my workout shoes, clothes, and the lock for a locker.
You get the picture.
Reading this, you could make the logical assumption that I work out.
A lot.
That I’m in great shape.
Perhaps you think – she’s probably a gym addict.
Alas, oh no.

I am not good at working out and I am not naturally disciplined.  In fact, sadly — I don’t think I will even truly like it. But about a year ago, I tried doing a 90 in 90 — and I learned some useful tips.

Walk with me.

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90 in 90 comes from the recovery community. Early in the recovery process, folks who are in treatment to get sober are often directed by their treatment program (think Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.) to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. In my practice, when I suggest this to clients, I explain the truth behind this theory: It is hard to get to a meeting every day for three months. It’s a pain in the neck. It messes up the rhythm of your whole life. And that is entirely the point.

Getting to a meeting at 6:00 in the morning so that you can get to work, or at 12:00 noon because it’s your lunch break, or after work at 7:00 at night, means that all of your regular habits are messed up. Getting yourself to a meeting becomes the most important event in your day. It’s the event around which everything else that demands your attention must circle. Doing a 90 in 90 resets your priorities. Getting sober and staying sober starts to feel like the most vital part of life.

If you want to change something in your life — certainly if you want to get unstuck from an addiction — give the 90 in 90 theory a try. Even if the thing that has you stuck is not addiction, doing something every day for 90 days in a row will begin to get you unstuck.

On the day that I decided to give it a try, I wrote in my journal:

I am dissatisfied, disappointed, embarrassed, ashamed, generally dejected about being overweight, not working out, pants too tight. I say over and over that I am going to change this pattern. I certainly know how to do it, have a gym membership I pay $50 for, have the time in my workday to do it and I keep not doing it.

Then I asked myself what would I ask any of clients in psychotherapy, “What keeps getting in the way?” I certainly believe that I deserve to take care of myself, don’t want to have to buy all new clothes in a bigger size.  I am active creatively, active socially, active in my work, but physically — a sitter. A movie watcher, a painter, a writer. I can change this, something radical like 90 meetings in 90 days. Could I work out for an hour for 90 days?

Thus I began.

I kept track of my workouts every day. Either I went to the gym and did something for an hour, or I met up with one of several friends and walked for an hour. I never fell in love the workout — the shower at the end was still the prize — but I liked how strong I felt and the satisfaction from sticking to my plan. Closing in on 50 days, however, I came down with a nasty viral infection and had to miss days and then yes, I confess: I stopped.

Looking back at this now, I know that I could have chosen to get back on the wagon of being active. A friend of mine pointed out to me that being the self-described “unathletic child” in a family of athletes had always made me feel badly about being a “sitter”. Almost shameful. In the middle of doing 90 in 90, I was fighting that shame and moving through it.

My workout bag is still kept in my car. I am much more aware now of how I choose to spend my free time. I’m not going to the gym every day, but I get there regularly. It helps me to schedule a gym visit with a friend to make it an even bigger commitment. My resistance to doing something I don’t want to do is still just as strong. But I recite the Benedictine Order’s wonderful saying: Always We Begin Again”.  Getting unstuck requires that you do something, even if you try a 90 in 90 and you don’t make it all the way through, as I did not, it will help your brain take a big step in a better direction. Always we begin again.

Give the 90 in 90 a try.
See what you notice and check back in for Step Four.

October 1st, 2014 in Uncategorized

How to Get Unstuck #2

Do a 180.

Last week I had to admit defeat.
My email service kept messing up — going off and on for months.
I was done.

It was time to switch to another server that would also match up better with all my devices: computer, tablet, phone. The stumbling block that I had been avoiding was that I had to send an individual message to everyone on my email list asking them to change their records.

Let me explain one of my weaknesses. I am not a process person. It’s more embarrassing than that — I don’t really think I should have to do boring, repetitive tasks. My magical thinking goes something like: Someone else should do this for me. I don’t have time, the world is not right because there is not a simple way to accomplish this switch. I had to just buck up and do it.

So I started on the “A’s” in my list. Drafted the first email, kept at it, eventually switching the email content to at least say hello to these folks before telling them the email address change. And as I worked through those early letters in the alphabet, I kept thinking: This is boring, I can’t stand it, I should not have to do this, there has to be a more efficient way. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

And then it occurred to me. The “Do a 180” action itself does not solve anything. Quit running into the wall and hitting your forehead, backing up, and running into the wall again. The egg-sized knot on your forehead is big and purple enough. Stop it already, turn around and do the opposite. Doing a 180 is turning around and going in the opposite direction to see what happens. You are eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream every night and you think this might not be a good idea so you switch to eating a bowl of broccoli every night.

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Notice how in this picture, adding the blue and black pointer shape didn’t really fix the image, but it got me moving in another direction.

The collage needs many more layers, colors, visual pieces to make it interesting. It has a long way to go. And the opposite choice of arrow over circle was helpful in getting me going.

Another example: Maybe you are fighting with your 13 year old teenager every day after school, disagreeing about doing her homework or chores (fill in the blank) when she gets home from school. You do a 180 and invite her to go with you to get a cup of tea at your local cool coffee shop. You tell her about your day and describe what was frustrating for you. You don’t ask her any questions and you just see what happens.

You cannot change a person. You can activate your curiosity in trying some new thing. It helps you quit being so predictable, which impacts the other person in the equation to not act so predictably.

Do a 180 — it’s a great unsticker.

See what you notice and check back in for Step Three.

September 15th, 2014 in Uncategorized

How to Get Unstuck #1

What is stuck?

Not knowing what to do.
Can’t go forward, can’t go back.
Backed into a corner.
Not enough energy to make a move in any direction.
Frustrated that your normal problem-solving brain is not coming up with a solution.

Stuck can manifest itself as a symptom of what you have done to manage the stuck. You are drinking alcohol too much, taking drugs (prescribed or illegal), eating too much or too little. Your behavior is masking the bad feeling of being stuck and you are getting further stuck because now you have to consider how to stop.

The process of moving from stuck to unstuck starts when you begin to notice what you are doing and thinking. Questioning yourself is a great step forward because then you are not so convinced that what you are doing is the only thing you can do. Curiosity can lead to a series of experiments to see what will make a difference; what could make a difference.

Step One is Breathe Deeply.

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Sit down.

Spine straight, deep breath.

As you exhale, count to yourself, “20”.

Breathe again, exhale, and count to yourself, “19”.

Keep counting until you get to zero.

As you pay attention to your breathing, you will get distracted over and over. This is not a sign that you are doing it wrong or that you cannot focus your attention. The point of practicing breathing is to notice these distractions and to just return to the breath over and over again.

This is a very simple way to meditate.

It’s like doing stomach crunches — it’s exercising the brain in a new way.
Have you already decided that this dumb and you don’t have time for it?
This is (fill in the blank) psychobabble?

Well, that’s how you stay stuck.

Why not just try?
See what you notice and check back in for Step Two.