Thoughtful Thursday: Is Mindfulness Really That Important?

From time to time it is important for you to know why I use the strategies I use while supporting you on your healing journey at www.2btru2you.com. Today I would like to give you the back story as it relates to my work here and why I consider mindfulness a key to self-healing.

At the age of 23, I married a man who terrified me. Up until that point in my life, I had always said I wanted to serve a mission for my church when I turned 21. Since I was a young child, I had talked about and looked forward to that mission. It was to be a 18-month journey to an unknown part of the world where I would teach the brand of the gospel espoused by the Mormon Church.

Sitting alone in my bedroom around the time I was 20, I realized that the reason I wanted to go on a mission was that I was fearful of men. To my logic, I had decided that I could avoid getting married by choosing a mission instead. The thought that I could just – do neither one – didn’t even occur to me. (This thinking was a product of being raised in a religious culture where marrying young and having children is the preferred path for women. The second acceptable alternative was going on a mission.)

My young marriage was absent a mindfulness practice

I married young without being mindful of what I was doing

If I was going on a mission simply because I was afraid of men, did it make sense for me to continue with the plan for the mission? As a Mormon young adult, my logic said no. Looking back, I shake my head at my black-and-white thinking, though because the next “logical” conclusion I drew was: “If I am afraid of men, I had better confront that fear by getting married instead of going on a mission.”

The time that passed between the day I made the decision to get married until the day I married the man who terrified me, was almost exactly two years. During that time, I remained oblivious to the point behind my friends’ jabs at my drive to get married for the sake of getting married. I remained unconscious of the depth of my fears and I remained disconnected from myself. I remained fully absorbed in the impersonal edicts imposed by my church without reference to the potential negative impact that my actions would have on my well being or on my future.

Over the next two decades, I slowly woke up. That waking up process could not have happened without developing a mindful practice. My decision to practice mindfulness which, ultimately led to my deepest healing, began one morning when I was home alone after I had been married a year or two.

I noticed something about my behavior that really bothered me. I observed that I could not tolerate silence. Each time I found myself alone I would turn on the television or the radio. We had two televisions in our home and I was so driven by an unconscious desire to avoid my inner noise that I had to keep both televisions on. All. The. Time. That way, whether I was upstairs or downstairs, I could avoid silence wherever I was in the house. Getting ready for my day was always prolonged by the need to hear what was coming “next” after commercial breaks. It was “junk” T.V., but I paid attention to it like my life depended on it! I even arrived late at work because I couldn’t silence the television. In my car, I used the radio. I listened to talk radio and things that didn’t really interest me, just to keep the noise on the outside of me louder than the noise within me.

As soon as I noticed this pattern, my behavior troubled me. I was also curious. Why did I need the television and radio noise to be okay?

So, I turned them off.

Thus began my healing journey using mindfulness as my primary tool. No one had taught me about mindfulness. I just wanted to understand myself and my behaviors. So I started watching . . . .

What I noticed was that I had a tremendous amount of pain. My thoughts were negative. I was constantly fearful. New situations felt so much like painful past situations that I was flooded with a constant barrage of discomfort from inside my body.

As I continued to watch what was going on inside of me, I started paying attention to what bothered me in my marriage and in my relationships outside of my marriage. I started paying attention to how I behaved toward myself. I watched myself with compassion and curiosity, as much as I knew how. I understood that if I wanted to do better, I had to understand my own inner world.

Yes, it was scary. But the alternative was scarier. I was in an unhappy marriage that I regretted as soon as I came home from the honeymoon. I was making myself bleed on a regular basis. I was overeating. I battled anxiety and depression.

I did not understand how much my life would change when I started the journey by turning the television off, but I did know that I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be happy.

Self-healing requires mindfulness

Self-healing requires mindfulness

And so the work of reclaiming my life and healing myself began. Bit by bit, I observed my inner workings. I developed self-healing solutions that seemed to help with the problems I uncovered. I started to inspect the connections between my current behaviors and hurts from my past. I started to ask myself about the logic of those behaviors in real time. I started shifting my attention toward what I believed was an organic potential for healing.

I continued this way until I got stuck. My marriage was emotionally abusive and my process of self-healing could only go so far within that relationship. After about 11 years of doing my work by myself, I finally sought out a therapist. My complaint: “I hate the way I treat myself.” I could not seem to get under my baseline terrible self-esteem. The real work of extracting myself from my marriage and from ideas and philosophies imposed on me by others began but didn’t end in that therapist’s office. This therapist helped me unlock ideas that I didn’t even know were troublesome. It was if I was fighting inside a paper bag without realizing that I needed to punch my way out of it!

I worked with that therapist for about a year. At the end of my work, I felt better. I had left my abusive marriage. I was ready for the next steps. I never got stuck with not knowing how to proceed in my growth again. My growth process continued.

I continued the practice of noticing when I felt unhappy or when my life wasn’t moving in the right direction. I continued to mindfully watch what was happening inside of me. I continued to listen to the answers that came from inside. I continued to trust my body’s natural ability to heal my mind based on my process of focusing and taking nurturing steps.

I used that process to continue until I accomplished these things:

  • Yes, I married again – and the marriage was abusive – spiritually, mentally and physically. But my process helped me end that marriage within 6 years instead of taking 14 years (like my first marriage). The ending of that marriage also led to my awareness that I needed to take the next step and
  • I left the Mormon church – which had been the cause of so many self-limiting beliefs for me.
  • I replaced self-harm with self-nurturing behaviors.
  • I have learned to replace caustic internal noise with healing, self-soothing, self-empowering internal dialogue.
  • I reduced my weight by about 50 pounds and have disconnected myself from emotional eating patterns.
  • I married a man who is safe and nurturing. I participate in a relationship where interdependence replaces coercion, control and self-denial. I maintain my independence within the boundaries of this healthy relationship. We support each others’ dreams and personal growth. We provide each other freedom and connection.
  • I have moved to a new community, developed new friends and surrounded myself with people who support positive living.
  • I have advanced in my (day job) career into a management position beyond what I would have believed I could have. I support my staff with compassion and kindness. They are thriving and doing amazing work.
  • I have worked through self-limiting beliefs that would stop me from living up to my full potential.

All of this began with the decision to turn off the television and be mindful in my focus on my internal world. This is a process that has taken me almost 3 decades for me to master. During the last 2 decades, my personal growth process has been enhanced by my training and experience as a mental health therapist. It has taken me a lot of time to develop and perfect the strategies I teach.

I share the process with you because I know it works and I want to save you time. 🙂 Begin with mindful practices I share with you on this blog. Take in the information I give you. Trust your body to help you heal your mind and soul. You got this!

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit www.2btru2you.com. Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

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