Go Sober for October (and Emotional Styles)

Go Sober for October is an annual fundraising initiative that encourages participants to go sober for the entire month of October - and many a 'success story' have arisen over the years from courageous individuals who have previously used alcohol in an unhealthy way and stopped permanently following 'Go Sober for October'. 

Experiences of Alcohol

We each have our own experiences with alcohol - some do not drink alcohol at all as a conscious choice or due to a physical intolerance. Others drink alcohol only socially, whilst many regularly enjoy a glass of wine in the evening at home to wind down after a long day. A portion of us will recognise abstaining from drinking alcohol throughout the week and very much looking forward to it on a Friday or Saturday night. Many people also have an emotional and/or physical dependence on alcohol, or tend to 'overdrink' when they do consume it. 

Similarly, for those of us who do drink alcohol, there are a variety of intentions/reasons behind our consumption such as:

Go Sober for October can be a valuable opportunity to reflect on the reasons why we personally drink alcohol and this blog post focuses on alcohol in the context of our emotional styles.

Emotional Styles

The 6 emotional styles detailed below were developed by Alex Howard and Anna Duschinsky. We each may commonly use several of these emotional styles, and you may recognise one or two of them as being your main styles. 

  1. Avoidance and distraction - staying busy and distracted so that we do not feel or address our emotions
  2. State changing - use of food, drugs, alcohol, exercise etc to change how we feel
  3. Analysis - intellectually thinking about our emotions instead of feeling them
  4. Blaming others - feeling triggered by others' behaviour and focusing on their role in that, as opposed to how you feel.
  5. Empath - feeling others' feelings, reducing space for our own 
  6. Somatising - experiencing emotions as a physical symptoms such as headaches 

It is worth noting that almost all of us use these emotional styles, and it is not 'wrong' to use them - but it is useful to have a conscious awareness of them, understand how frequently we use them, and it what circumstances - and identify if there is any place that we feel we could address our emotions in order to move through them and grow. 

Avoidance, Distraction and State Changing

In the context of alcohol use, we can explore emotional styles 1 & 2 above (avoidance and distraction, and state changing). 

Perhaps you can think of a time where you have or do use alcohol as a form of avoidance or distraction, or as a method to change your state? 

Examples might include:

To understand more about the limitations and effects of avoidance, distraction and state changing, see my Clear Thoughts Blog post Endurance vs Acceptance.

To summarise, it is not inherently 'wrong' to drink alcohol and there are a wide range of experiences from person to person in terms of the use of alcohol and our intentions for its' use. We can take the opportunity to recognise when this is a healthy and balanced choice, and also where we can support ourselves by exploring our intentions and reasons behind our alcohol use.

Endurance vs Acceptance

"What can't be cured, must be endured" NO!

I decided to look for a therapist this week to support me in a new journey (yes therapists also see therapists from time to time!). I came across this school of thought that we cannot change how we feel or create our own circumstances, but that we can learn how to cope with them. 

Whilst coping is great, and really does have it's place, WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT! So instead of encouraging clients to 'endure', I encourage acceptance. Now you might be thinking "well Rebecca, I've had a really rough ride, I don't accept it and I'm not about to" - and that's completely understandable. 

HOWEVER, a wise man (Carl Jung) once said "What we resist will persist". What does this mean? Well if, for example, if we resist our feelings of anger, they'll hang around for longer, and more intensely than if we allow them to be. They'll spill out in areas that cause us (and potentially others) further harm and discomfort. 

And this concept is not limited to anger - the emotion could be guilt, fear, embarrassment, overwhelm, stress, resentment...the list goes on. 

Acceptance allows us to process and move through what we feel and come to a better, healthier place - meaning a better relationship with ourselves, a better relationship with others, and new choices and ways of seeing. 

How could things be different for you if you embraced 'acceptance' rather than 'endurance'?

For support with your Clear Journey, reach out here!

Aphantasia Network Article

A Psychology Practitioner begins to bridge the gap between practitioner and client in relation to aphantasia.

Rebecca McHale, Psychology Practitioner-Therapeutic Coach, has worked closely with the team at Aphantasia Network to publish an article that explores aphantasia in the context of neurodiversity and healing. Navigate the intricate landscape of aphantasia, highlighting the vast spectrum of mental imagery, from those who can't visualise at all to those who vividly experience all senses internally. Learn about the importance of understanding modalities in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and how they shape our perception of the world. Plus, explore the challenges faced by those with aphantasia in therapy and they key principles for effective healing.

A must read for anyone curious about the diverse way our minds work!

"I very much enjoyed working with the team at Aphantasia Network to publish this interesting piece!"

Find the article here: Aphantasia, Neurodiversity, And Healing

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If you have aphantasia, find out how you can get support with Aphantasia Coaching at Clear Journeys Therapies

What Is Aphantasia?

Since I can remember, I’ve had no minds’ eye, minds’ ear, minds’ nose or minds’ touch – along with (a current estimation of) 3-5% of the population, I have Aphantasia. If you ask me to describe any memory, there will be no images, sounds, smells or tastes in my mind. The term ‘Aphantasia’ relates to mental imagery only, however those with Aphantasia commonly report a lack of other internal senses and internal dialogue. 

When I was 14 years old, deciding on which colour to redecorate my bedroom, my Mum said to me “I can see it in purple”. I contemplated purple paint and wandered off replaying her choice of words in my mind “I can see it in purple”. It suddenly dawned on me; what if my Dad really meant count sheep when I couldn’t sleep as a child, and what if I was really meant to be seeing that white light wash over me when I listened to a meditation? So, I set off to Ask Jeeves...and I found absolutely nothing. I was simply having a ‘wild imagination’ thinking that people could really see pictures in their heads, right? Wrong!

Years on, I met my partner who presented me with Hyperphantasia (hyper vivid mental imagery). One day in the car, I plucked up the courage to ask him “When you think of a beach...you’re not actually ‘seeing’ a beach are you?” To which he replied “Of course I am. Not only am I seeing a beach, but I am hearing the waves crash and feeling the fresh breeze.” 

For the following few months we endlessly questioned each others’ experiences. We’d be writing the shopping list and I’d ask him if he was seeing the food that we were talking about, and he’d jokingly ask me how I can even write a shopping list with all that nothing in my head! He saw the food in the isle as if he were standing in our local store. 

In 2015, Neurologist Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter published a study coining the term ‘Aphantasia’ within his findings. In 2003, a man had reported to Zeman that his minds’ eye had gone blind following a heart procedure. After Zemans’ study of this patient was reported in Discover magazine in 2010, people began reporting that they had in fact never had the ability to create mental imagery. Zeman and his team had respondents complete questionnaires, following which he published his findings first using the term ‘Aphantasia’. 

Despite the fact that psychologists have reported a lack of mental imagery since 1880, it was surprising throughout my psychology education and training to discover the true lack of research and understanding around Aphantasia and the array of experiences that we can have as individuals using our internal modalities. During my studies, my director was supportive and understanding towards my lack of visualisation, with internal experience being in such focus, yet there was very little that she could do but encourage my exploration and reassure me that it’s not impossible to find my own ‘map’ – which it turned out was exactly what I had needed. I joined Aphantasia support groups to learn about others’ experiences in life and in therapy. I discovered thousands of people who couldn’t seem to find support to heal their traumas or calm their anxiety because they felt so misunderstood by their therapists and frustrated with the inability to visualise or the expectation to do so. They had given up all hope. Having engaged in my own therapy over several years, I also began sessions with others including a clinical hypnotherapist, so that I could experience the difficulties for myself. There were plenty – and I felt extremely fortunate to have the knowledge to translate what we were working on in sessions to fit with my Aphantasia. I went on to navigate other students with Aphantasia throughout my studies and training. 

Having a much deeper understanding about Aphantasia, I mapped out every way in which I could apply therapeutic techniques and psychological theory that I’d covered to those like myself, without the need for visualisation and without the blocks of understanding between myself and my therapist. This map provided the most transformative changes beyond the sum of my progress in several years of therapy previously. Not only did I heal traumas, change unwanted behaviours, and improve my relationships, but I was hypnotized over and over without visualisation for cravings, regression therapy and even anaesthesia! I didn’t need to visualise, and not only that, I actually had strengths and advantages that only come with Aphantasia. From this point on, I was intent on creating a form of therapy specifically for those with Aphantasia.