It’s popular these days for us to work on being in the moment, to slow down and witness what’s is going on around us, to be mindful. In our insanely fast - paced world where we act disconnected from others and ourselves, these recommendations are good ones. As a psychotherapist and yoga practitioner, I am sure I have used this phrase myself. However I think what’s more helpful is not to be in the moment but to focus on creating the moment. This offer was given to me by my therapist years ago and made a profound effect on me personally and in my work. I interpret this to mean that we are active participants of our lives, not passive recipients of life.
Create the Moment? Yes, with others, with what is directly with or in front of us. I teach couples to do this all the time by having them regularly ask: What are we doing together right now? Can we change up what we a doing right now and do something else?
Creating the moment is the most valuable way to help us slow down, connect with others and to be mindful. Dr. Fred Newman, who founded Social Therapy, the approach I practice to help people develop emotionally, was a trained philosopher. He was very good at asking big questions about every day taken-for-granted things. He offered that there is nothing outside of what we are creating together. Our descriptions, labels, objectifications of life (i.e. -there are Truths and Facts out there) are made up ways that we distort what life is. In other words, there is no moment already there, like a picture already taken for us to observe and try to be in. Life is an ongoing process of activity with one another.
What does this interesting yet perhaps confusing or perhaps offensive philosophical argument have to do with helping people?
We get trapped in our objectified descriptions and labels of our lives, and can't break out and grow. A client in one of my therapy groups is trapped painfully in his long-standing story of being a loser who will never find the love of his life. This is his mantra. He has tried everything and has been in every kind of therapy. Nothing works to fix him. Group members and I fall into the trap of trying to fix him as well. It’s understandable to do when someone is in so much pain. And after all, isn’t that what therapy is: fixing broken people?
Social therapy is actually not about fixing people, but creating something new together: new conversation, new ways of experiencing life and relationships. Fixing does not help because it means getting entangled in an already-made story (eg- I am a loser) which also keeps us distant from one another. In the group situation, the client could not participate fully and listen with open ears to the conversation being created in group. He was limited only with the ears of what is being said that might relate to him and get his problem fixed. The rest of group then starts to relate to the client with the label of The Loser in Pain.
We finally are trying something else, called don’t help, don’t fix, instead listen and respond. It’s been helpful as we are focusing on creating a conversation by fully listening to one another and responding to what’s going on without goals of fixing or getting somewhere. This is hard yet really rewarding, intimate and liberating. Now that is what I call creating the moment, and the moment after that, and so on.
Thanks, Joyce Datter, Thanks, Fred Newman. Thanks to all my clients who are creating moments with me.