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Quietly Present

One of the hardest things to do with a client is to sit still and just be quietly present. Most therapists want to solve problems, apply some new coping skill, or give recommendations for change, but in some situations, there are no solutions, no new skills are applicable, and you can't change the situation at hand. A grieving parent who has lost a child, a client who was just diagnosed with a terminal disease, or an elderly person who is entering into dementia and knows they are slowly losing their mind comes to therapy to cry, to share their sadness, and have someone listen to their pain. Too often we hear the therapist is the only person who will listen to their complaints of discomfort, their regrets, their frustrations, and their anger that this is "not fair." Often, their complaints are about how others are uncaring, insensitive, and say they are "annoying."

Sometimes I wonder when the fine art of compassion disappeared as a norm. Technology has stolen away our ability to sit quietly and be present with someone. We have to constantly be doing something, playing a game, moving in dance, listening to music, or flipping through our phones. Don't believe me? Take away your children's phones for 24 hours and see what happens. They will quickly begin to show withdrawal symptoms of anger, frustration, and become erratic in their behavior. Try to set your own phone aside and pay attention to those around you. Within moments an alert on your phone will strike you mind like the crying of a baby to be picked up. That phone will continue to call your attention repeatedly until you respond by picking it up, look at and respond to the text, email, or post. Remember when girls and boys were to take care of a baby-doll for a month as a way of learning to care for a newborn? Well, you have a newborn, and her name is Apple, and she is very needy and demanding.

Take time every day to sit quietly. Leave your phone in your purse or in the drawer of your desk. Step outside and breath in the fresh air. Walk around the building, down the street, or around the block. The exercise will do you good. No music, no texts, no alerts. At first it will feel incredibly uncomfortable as you begin to retrain you mind to being present with yourself. With no distractions, you mind will begin to wonder aimlessly looking for the stimulation it is so used to. Your hands may shake, your palms sweat, or your heartbeat may increase. These are all physical reactions that are not normal and need to be quieted. How? By being quietly present with yourself. When you see these signs in others, quiet presence is what they need as well. If you practice this every day for longer periods of time, soon you'll realize your symptoms of anxiety have diminished. You may even come to realize you don't need your phone or the distractions it provides as you begin to look forward to those moments of being quietly present.

“Be still, and know that I am God."

Psalm 46:10


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