Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Importance of Being Grounded

When an airplane gets “grounded” it usually means that something is mechanically wrong and it must stay on terra firma until the problem is fixed.  Then it can fly off again, take passengers, and perform as it was designed to.  “Grounded” when used in disciplining children, reflects a time period used by some parents to restrict their child’s movements until they can think about and consider an action they did that disobeyed rules that the family had set forth for the child to abide by.  When one thinks of being “grounded” as an adjective to describe someone, one thinks of someone who is balanced, together, able, and realistic.

One something or someone comes along and “kicks the ground out from under us”, leaving us ungrounded, we feel unattached, unfocused, and untethered to the people and things around us that keep us centered and on target with our lives.  It can be anything, from a death in our friends or family circle, to a move, change of job, feel as if we have had the air knocked out of us, unsure of where to focus next .

How do we get that center back?  Our body and body awareness can give us all the clues we need to get our focus back.  Listening to your body is hard to do with those with a Western orientation, in fact, we are often told not to trust our bodies.

One simple exercise that can be done is to lie flat, and simply watch your stomach rise and fall with each breath you take.  Sounds simple, right?  But you need to do it for a bit,  perhaps 5, 10 minutes or longer, not just for a minute or less.  The simple act of doing this slows down heart rate and will also change the way we look at our surroundings.

With clients using art I will sometimes have them do a technique called “contour drawing” where they will trace what surrounds them by looking at the object, and not focusing on the paper they are drawing on.  This keeps their mind focused on what they are depicting and not how it appears on the paper.  Of course, clients will often draw “off” the paper, or the object will most likely become unrecognizable, but that is not the point, the point is to demonstrate that one can only purely focus when one’s mind is on one thing (or object) at a time.  Clients are often surprised at the dichotomy of what appears on paper and what they thought they were looking at while drawing it.  This exercise, which I learned long ago as an art student, is a way to focus on the main elements of a structure or scene, and away from their own judgement of how they were depicting it.  It is an excellent way to open up one’s perception and allow a ‘loosening up” and away from the rigidity of judgement.

Why Imagery is Important

Imagery used in counseling/psychotherapy work at LifeBalance offers clients a chance to visualize goals, meanings, safe or calm places, ideals, and generally what is difficult to put into words for clients, some of whom have never experienced therapy before, and maybe intimidated by talking to a therapist.

Some examples include children and  adolescents who are resistant to coming to therapy, and for whom the idea of talking to some random adult about their issues “grosses them out”.  Taking the pressure off for these clients, yet allowing for the free exchange of ideas, communication, and utilizing their creative energy to express themselves with tools that may allow them to do so much better than with just words.

I also use imagery in preparation Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) with all ages.  This allows client to think of tools they can use while processing that can aid them tremendously as the process a trauma using EMDR.  Many will at first say they cannot think of what to depict, but will think about it over the period of a week or more and then be ready to depict their tools using various visual means at their disposal.

Many come in apologetic about their “lack” of art skills.  But in our work together it is not about being proficient in art making (although I can assist you in learning some art skills if you want to), but about expressing yourself in the fullest way possible.  Non verbal means of expression such as art therapy allow a client to express themselves fully, as well as regenerate creative juices that may have either been dormant or non-existent in their lives previously.