By Adam Zwig, PhD
Here’s an exercise you can use for almost any problem - a bad state of mind, a relationship conflict, or even figuring out what to do with your life. It’s a way to hack into your process and begin to transform what’s happening.
Set aside ten to fifteen minutes, and find a quiet space free of distractions. Have something to write or type on. Go through each step slowly, patiently, and carefully. Don’t rush.
Sit up straight or stand, and take several slow, deep breaths. Take a minute and come into the present moment with your awareness.
Identify the problem you want to work on. Write it down.
Put the problem aside and focus on the following: Remember a moment in your life when you felt totally incredible - happy, ecstatic, free, powerful, alive, fulfilled, and whatever else is most meaningful to you. Some other feelings you might identify are: passionate, relieved, fun, spiritual, centered, healthy, content, at peace, victorious, beautiful, sexy, orgasmic, cool, brilliant, helpful, or in the flow. If you’re lucky enough to remember many such moments, pick one.
See yourself in that moment. Look at every detail. If there are sounds you remember listen to them closely. Go deeply into your visual and auditory memory.
Remember how you felt and feel into it with every cell in your body. Amplify the feeling by making it bigger and more intense. Inject the feeling into your brain too; fill your whole mind with it. Let the feeling take over your entire being.
Stand up and make physical movements that express the feeling. Put your whole body into it. Make your experience all-encompassing by seeing, hearing, feeling, and moving it. Relive it again in all its glory.
Stay in your special state of mind, body, and spirit and look back at the problem. How would you deal with it using this awesome energy and attitude? This high state of awareness is the solution to what was bothering you. Use its wisdom to direct your process. Advise the part of you that had the problem, and enjoy the new way of being.
Write down what you learned.
Advanced Questions and Follow-up
Can you identify what stops you from experiencing this liberated feeling more often? Is it an inner critic? A fear? An oppressive person in your life or in the world? A belief about life that suppresses the feeling?
A thirty-seven year old depressed client remembered an ecstatic experience of running across a park as a child and feeling the wind carrying her. When we reaccessed the experience she looked at her depressed self from this uplifted state of mind and realized that her idea of what it is to be a grown-up had made her despondent. It was the beginning to changing her whole attitude toward life by allowing the playful, child-like part of her to show her how to live.
A forty-two year old client complained of an inner critic that made him feel inferior - not successful enough, handsome enough, etc.. He remembered the feeling he had with his last girlfriend; her love made him feel special, like he was walking on air 24-7. When he reflected on his self-critical nature from the feeling of being loved he realized he was actually a great man and that all he needed to do was hone in on this sense of feeling special; it was already within him.
A twenty-one year old client had panic attacks that seemed to happen for no rhyme or reason. She remembered the forbidden but ecstatic feeling she had when she called her dad an “abusive asshole,” and ran away at age fourteen. She said it was the one moment in her life she felt powerful. Of course, she was caught and brought back home the same night, but the memory stayed with her. When we reaccessed the feeling of power and freedom she had experienced she realized her panic attacks were her unconscious fear of her father, and that now she has the inner strength to stand up for herself. It was the beginning of transforming her anxiety.
If you reflect on and reaccess the most high and special moments in your life, and identify what made them meaningful, you’ve discovered one of the keys to how you should be living. This spirit is always in you, waiting to be tapped into and expressed.
Stay in process!
Dr. Zwig - psychotherapist, singer-songwriter, and author - is an internationally renowned workshop leader and lecturer, has had 9 Top Ten hit singles on the U.S Adult Contemporary charts, and has over 70 million views on YouTube. He has been featured in Billboard, Huffington Post, CNBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Forbes, and Gibson. Dr Zwig has released 7 albums and his songs can regularly be heard on NBC, Fox, and Fuel TV. His forthcoming book, Music in the Mayhem: Tales of Total Transformation from a Rock n Roll Psychotherapist, arrives soon.