Getting Present and Staying That Way

[Janet’s “Five-point Program”]

Note: When this article was published around 1997, I was one of a few people who had tried this way of getting present and staying that way; but at this point many (hundreds) of people have tried it, and many have used it a lot and found it useful for getting into present time.

Here’s what I do to get present and stay that way:

1) I have several Co-Counseling sessions a week, plus “minis.” It’s “mental health” oppression that makes us believe that more than one a week means there’s “something wrong” with us for needing so much help.  By setting up a large support network of Co-Counselors, friends we are teaching to Co-Counsel, and friends, period, there will be plenty of people we can call when we feel “down.” Often, just the act of calling someone, even if not home, can pull one’s attention out. So can making friends and teaching others how to pay attention to us. So can doing fun activities with our friends.

2) I take some time in my sessions to make the commitment to focus attention off distress and on to the benign reality. My version: “I don’t have time to focus my attention on distress. There are so many things I would rather be doing, like: (I name some). So I decide to focus my attention off my distress and on to pleasant and rewarding things. And that means….”  Usually the next thought will be exactly what I need to do to refocus onto reality.  I do this in session enough times that I remember outside of session that I can always decide to focus on reality and so I am able to do so most or all of the time.  I often say the commitment outside of session, especially while on long car trips, in the morning, and so on. I now stay focused on reality most of the time, as compared to hardly ever, when I first started doing this.

3) I use at least some of my sessions to think about my life and what I need to do to make it just the way I want it.  We can have our lives and environment be so exciting and fulfilling that our attention is pulled out daily by the way our lives are. Don’t spend this time thinking about your patterns and how to step out of them, as you will then still be focused on distress. Instead, go for your biggest dreams and how you really want your life to be. Then make the changes you’ve thought of, even if they take several years and lots of upheavals.

4) As client, we can Co-Counsel with our attention focused on reality, rather than diving into the distress head-first. For example, instead of telling about a past incident by describing all the horrifying details and getting sunk in the process, you can say, “I’m alive! I made it out!!” in a joyous tone of voice. You can discharge the same material while focused on reality.

However, we need to keep thinking about the difference between the distress recording and reality—don’t try to make this process be like a cookbook.  Sometimes, for example, in order to focus off a distress recording of “Don’t tell” or “Hold in everything,” someone needs to tell the gory details.

5) I do lots of things that I enjoy every day. I’ve gotten more fun things into my life. I strategize ways to do this even if it seems I “don’t have time.” I’ve found I can figure out how to bring fun things into a situation that feels hard.  I like to make a list of favorite things to do, and when I start feeling bad, I decide to do one or more things in my list, even if I “don’t feel like it.” In the longer run, we need to get ourselves out of boring, unchallenging, bad situations (see Number 3 above) so that we always have fun.

6) As counselor for someone else, I try to assist the person to do all the above. It has helped to apply these steps in my own Co-Counseling first. We can be confident that the person is fine, is going to “make it,” and can convey that attitude consistently. His terror doesn’t need to scare or worry you; you don’t have to worry whether she’s “going off the deep end.” Keep in mind that there is no such thing as “going crazy.”

I’d love to hear what others have used and/or if they find these steps useful.

Janet Foner
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA
Reprinted from Recovery and Re-emergence No. 5, 1997, p. 36 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00