Recently, while having a moment of anxiety, I discovered that I was doing a version of Morita therapy as a way of dealing with my symptoms. This type of therapy comes from Japanese psychology. Today, I am sharing with you what I am learning about it, and how it is helping me.
The idea behind Morita therapy is about accepting the present, your current state of mind (Wikipedia). It is also about shifting the focus of your feelings and redirect them into action towards your goals, by learning how to live with your symptoms and still accomplishing what matters (Todoinstitute.org). This approach, for me, is about acknowledging that symptoms will happen, but it does not mean that life has to stop because of them.
Acceptance of my symptoms and getting things done while having them, has brought me a new perspective of how much I can do. For instance, when I experienced anxiety at home, what I used to do was to isolate myself and let the feelings take over me until it passed away. It was incapacitating and not productive because I felt powerless and unmotivated.
To let my anxiety take command of how I felt and let it dictate my actions frustrated me. For several years, it made me feel as if that was the norm. If I had symptoms, the day was over, or it was going to be mentally draining at best. I was drowning in a sea of inaction and self loathing. I felt no control of myself once my symptoms started. To a degree, I was actually scared of having any symptoms because I knew that it would mean a day of inaction accompanied by guilt.
About a year ago, I started doing things differently. I decided to do a task, any task that could provide me with a benefit for myself, or my surroundings. I started organizing my room, while listening to a podcast (my favorite is The Art of Manliness). After a few minutes, I realized that I was no longer anxious and the myriad of thoughts had vanished. When I realized the latter, it felt as if I had an epiphany. Focusing on something else other than myself for a few minutes was empowering. Seeing how my room improved was a plus, too.
A few weeks ago, while doing tasks at home with symptoms, I came across to a podcast talking about Morita therapy (curiously enough, it was from the Art of Manliness). The podcast was perfect for the situation I was at the time. It was insightful and I learned that what I was doing was an interpretation of Morita therapy. After I finished the tasks for the day, I ended up with knowledge, satisfaction of completion, and with no symptoms of anxiety.
What I have been learning this far is that I do not have much control about what I feel, especially with anxiety. There are instances when I do not have a particular thought going on, but the symptoms are present nonetheless.
What I can do, however, is taking ownership of my attention. I can choose to do something that will make me feel that my symptoms do not control me. I can control what I do. It could be anything, something small like organizing my room, starting with easy tasks at first and moving to more complex ones. The intention here is to create improvement regardless of how I feel. In a way, it is to live in harmony with my chaos.
I understand that there are moments when the feelings are just too much to handle. Making the bed can be the victory of the day, and that is okay. That action itself shows that for a few moments, I chose to focus my attention on something else other than me. I feel at a different stage with my anxiety. I feel more control and I am getting used to living with it and doing something with it. In short, I have chosen to not let it stop me and to take action.
If you want to know more about Morita therapy, please listen to the podcast by The Art of Manliness. I believe it is a great start.