Saturday, March 11, 2017

Find Your Spot

Find your Spot

Last week I had a meltdown. It was 10 minutes before my husband arrived home from work so when he greeted me with his usual, “Hi, sweetie!” and I greeted him with, “We have to send this dog back. I can’t do this. We were stupid to think we could. I cannot do this,” he took me into his arms and let me cry into his shoulder.

I have had a dream for most of my life to have a German shepherd like my Uncle Mike had and I have been unwilling to give up on this. It wasn’t until Friday, when mid-meltdown, in front of my kitchen sink, watching the last of daylight drop beneath the pines behind my now-empty flower garden, that I began to weigh the cost.

I have been certain that if I just give a little more of my time, read enough dog books, spend more money and drop a few more blood-soaked Band-aids into my scented garbage bags that I hate, I will have my dream of the pet German shepherd that I viewed my uncle’s dog to be.

 I have been asking myself over the last few weeks whether I should give up on this dream or keep working- because I love training these dogs and loving these dogs and it gives me something to do and I can think of a dozen more reasons to keep moving or give up.

I have been battling a vicious cycle of getting angry and subsequently hating myself for my anger, which makes me angrier and around and around I go. Some people say that depression, my own included, is caused from anger turned inward. Of course, no disease is as simple as that, but I have wondered, over the last year or so, how much of my own anger at myself has caused an avalanche of hatred to bury me so deep that I cannot pick myself up and decide whether this is a ridiculous or real dream or whether to keep moving or give up.

A little over a year ago I began again the arduous, often-hated task of counseling in my seemingly never-ending journey to conquer, or at least deal better, with my chronic anger and depression.

I have gone through several counselors in over 30 years. I rake them over the coals, attempt stare-downs and dare them to help me as I carve notches above my closet door representing yet one more person who helped for a bit, said a smart thing or two, charged me money or not, and then I go back to my usual way of dealing with life.

Last February I was having coffee with a counselor from a local horse therapy center when she told me about Brainspotting.  My first thought is that this all sounds a little “woo-hooey.” She told me stories about people who have tried it and been helped. I stared a hole through the middle of her forehead and determined that this sounded like a dare. I slapped my hand down on the table, spilling my now cold chai tea, and said, “You’re on!”

Counselors who do Brainspotting, discovered by a man named David Grand in 2003, are licensed professional counselors,  trained by Grand. A lot of big words are used to describe this therapeutic tool, most of which are unimportant to us lay people. Basically, it can be summed up like this: “Where we look affects how we feel. When a Brainspot is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the source of the problem has been found.”

If you are under the impression, as I was, that this is the easy way out in terms of counseling choices, you are wrong. Sometimes I leave my appointments, slouch into the driver’s seat of my car, and let the agitation ooze out my ears.

The appointment starts with my counselor asking me to choose, with or without her help, an area I would like to work on. I usually choose anger, mostly because I can almost always think of a red-hot instance, from one appointment to the next, that caused me anger. It’s important that I can feel the emotion inside myself – my chest, my stomach, my head, etc. -  because my counselor will ask me to think of a time when I felt anger and where, in my body, I presently feel it. She then holds a pointer in front of me and moves it to the left and the right, and up and down, asking me, as she moves it slowly, when I notice my angry feelings the most. 

The first time we did this I agreed to play along, thinking, again, that it was all a bunch of hocus pocus. Only it’s not. Regardless of what I am working on, I can feel it more, or less, depending on where the pointer is. My counselor then holds the pointer, sort of like a famous conductress, only with fewer arm swinging movements, in this precise place, and I stare at it, and she stares at me, for most of our appointment. 

Having someone study my face, while I study the pointer in front of her, mostly feels really disturbing. My counselor studies me for more frequent blinking, brow furrowing, nose wiping, eye darting, tears…well, you get the picture. I dislike a lot of talking and re-focusing from my counselor and she honors that. If I decide I want more, she will give it; I am not hypnotized. I can talk whenever I want and ask for what I need in the moment.  We have worked this out over the months. 

I try to have one appointment a week. Aside from the discomfort of the Brainspotting itself, an hour a week is easy because I know that regardless of what happens between appointments, we will always have something to work on. There is a lot more to Brainspotting than this, but I usually lose people if I go into too much detail.

Typical “talk” therapy, to me, has always seemed dependent upon having something to talk about. I don’t need to keep re-hashing abuse stories or what happened when someone “wronged” me at the ages of 12, 16 and blah blah.  It’s not that I can’t talk about these things, and my counselor has needed to hear them so she understands where I am coming from, but I have found, over dozens of years of counseling and handfuls of counselors, that simply talking about what hurts has not, over time, brought about the changes I need to sustain healing and contentment. And sometimes it is just resignation that things will remain the same unless I work on changes myself and allow myself to be changed.

My counselor has said we will likely need to Brainspot the hell out of my anger and she is probably right. And rest assured I have more than just anger to Brainspot the hell out of.

Several months ago, when I confessed that I wanted to deal with a new, difficult issue in an old, unhealthy way, my counselor told me that I am not that person anymore and I don’t need to do things the way I used to. I can tell myself a new story and do things in the “new me” way.

We have often talked about the story that I am telling myself. The story I tell myself if I continue working on pursuing this dream of having a perfect German shepherd for a pet and companion is that I will lose the people in my life and be left with only my dog, in the woods, alone. But I guess that is my fear, which feeds into my anxiety, which is what we are working on next in finding that not-so-elusive Brainspot.

If, like me, you often tell yourself old stories that bring more pain, try something new…or keep working on something old that brings about new joy. That’s a dream to keep working towards.


  1. Thank you for your raw, honesty. It helps me understand so much, and I always learn something new from you - your strength is amazing! Just another reason why I love you!

    1. Thank you so much for your words, Debbie.

  2. I love you. Good loves you. You are not alone. I love everything you are. Your anger will never make me go away. Keep moving forward.

  3. I love you. Good loves you. You are not alone. I love everything you are. Your anger will never make me go away. Keep moving forward.

  4. Does it matter if I say I never really felt comfortable with Uncle Mike's German Shepherd, even when, and perhaps more so, when I lived with it?

    1. Yes - thank you - I never knew that.