Thursday, March 10, 2016

Positive Difference Making Fundamentals in Focus - Staying in the Now

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(1) I don't, by the way, expect most readers to follow the links to complex articles or research pieces. Many of my readers are of the academic bent and it is mostly for them that I often include links to outside sources. Which is not to say I am discouraging anyone from further study, but it is not necessary either.



  1. Brad, just wonderfully lucid treatment about staying in the now... and particularly relevant now for me at this moment. Our ability to process challenges forward is indeed not always and asset just as is being mired in the past. You've laid this out brilliantly in a way that I can grasp.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting, Mark.

  2. Brad, this is a great piece. I am inspired to renew my commitment to daily practice. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for reading, Richard and for taking the time to comment. I'm glad you found it inspiring. :)

  3. Brad, Thanks you for bringing this piece to my attention. It was exactly what I needed to hear (I know I read it, but I felt you were talking to me). I can not thank you enough for your gift of love to others who suffer from various mental problems, or have a loved one who does, or both. You are a hero without a cape. Thank you. Yes. Thank. You.

    1. Thank you, Laura. My goodness that means a lot to me.

  4. I'm not sure that not staying in the here and no creates the fear and anxiety that people want to control. Our past defines who we are and gives us our sense of place in society and value, in fact without our past we wouldn't have experience of a here and now. In a similar way thinking of the future is what gives us purpose, we have a vision of who and where we are aiming for. It allows us to prepare to meet problems and plan strategies.
    However at particular times in our lives our emotional experience, which largely controls how we think distorts our perceptions of both past and future typically to match and confirm our emotional state. I think techniques that suggest people put all their cognitive resources into their current awareness can reduce this effect, but I see it as a way to help people to endure their distress, rather than live a fully functioning life. Its true that emotionally charged material capture our limited cognitive resources and can leave us ruminating on past pain or predicting future failures leaving people with nothing to control their current lives.
    I'm never overly keen on biological explanations of experience but it seems reasonable that the neuroplasticity of learning may underpin how people get stuck in these thinking patterns, In fact the idea is consistent with a lot of the research on the cognitive model of depression which suggests that a persons thinking style is not a good explanation as a cause of depression, but is certainly involved in its maintenance.
    I think when linking these ideas to therapy, it makes sense if you are going to try and alter aspects of thinking you need to be aware of what these aspects are, mindfulness provides an opportunity to observe your own thinking, to notice what is significant and how you attribute meaning. This gets people used to monitoring their thinking and provides the basis for the best ways to alter thinking habits in a very personal way. It also helps people to see their feelings as objects of interest and study, it objectifies the feelings themselves, giving them less ability to control thinking.
    People can reduce the tendency for automatic responses and by examining them de-legitimise them, but they also need to re-establish ways of thinking that not only are more rational but are more rewarding. There is a major problem in that depression does reduce persistence and motivation and to be effective requires persistence and effort, in many ways this may be the main function of a therapist, I think its extremely difficult to do these things without support. I think for some people drugs can be very useful but a potential problem is the way they can interfere with new learning and people may attribute any success to the drugs rather than their own efforts.
    So I think that despite me not liking biological explanations, it makes it sound as if we should be calling in electricians, I think in this case the model fits well. I suspect that your writing about your personal experiences and the problems in implementation of the ideas will be particularly useful, therapists don't really understand the problems people face in applying their advice and in fact there is little written about it. The combination of a theoretical rational, how its applied and experience of specific techniques is unusual in an article which is a real shame, really its how they all should be written.