Being Present

Being Present

I was recently in a seminar on polyvagal theory (Being Polyvagal: The Polyvagal Theory Explained – Windhorse Integrative Mental Health – Windhorse Integrative Mental Health (windhorseimh.org) and trauma when I was struck by how much the science which informs our understanding of psychological disorders has changed over the years.

As I look back to when I first began training in 1978, it is obvious that recent advances in neuro-biology have been extraordinary. In short, we have gone from thinking of emotional problems as originating in the brain to understanding that, in most cases, environmental trauma is the culprit.  Indeed trauma damages the brain, specifically the vagal nervous system and hippocampus.

Nonetheless, scientific progress and innovative therapeutic techniques notwithstanding, the basic goal of psychotherapy has remained the same: To help people live more rationally in the present.  Becoming Reasonable: Updating our Notions of Mental Health and Counseling. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)

Today, while the expressions of ” being present “or “living in the  present” are widely used in the media and promoted by mental health professionals, How to Live in the Moment: 35+ Tools to Be More Present (positivepsychology.com) , what it actually means to live in the present is sometimes confusing.

Basically, being present means being able to be attentive to and to be aware of our own immediate experience. When our focus is on the present, we are then able to fully engage with others.  While it sounds simple, many people have a hard time being present.  With that in mind, there are two obstacles which prevent us from being emotionally  present.

Becoming Reasonable: Updating our Notions of Mental Health and Counseling.

Becoming Reasonable: Updating our Notions of Mental Health and Counseling.

Despite all of the progress psychology and medical science has made, there are many who still hold an outdated and misleading view of psychological disorders and their treatment. Common Misconceptions About Psychotherapy (verywellmind.com)   To be clear from the get go: 1) Most of the  people who have mental health issues are normal people.  Their problems  are generally caused by past trauma or by current stress or a combination of both. 2)  Most counseling is a process by which clients can expand their awareness of how their past experiences and present have combined to create perceptional distortions and irrational emotional and behavioral reactions . The impact of this expanded awareness enables individuals to perceive life more accurately and respond to it in a more congruent way. The lack of public understanding is problematic because it perpetuates stigma, confusion, unnecessary fears and avoidance of seeking help. Let me update and expand on two of the most common mental health myths.