By Dr. Phan Thieu Xuan Giang – Psychiatrist – CMI – Ho Chi Minh City
Meditation has been well-known as a very effective way to treat many mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. People usually think that meditation is just a way that helps them to relax or reduce stress. However, many advantages are behind these effects such as enhancing people’s awareness, improving their attention abilities, changing their thinking ways and finally, it brings people to a new life, a meaningful life with peace, joy, and happiness.
We often think that we could change our world or our lives by desires. It could be true when we are healthy and when we do not have problems. If we are anxious or angry, we try to overcome anxiety or anger by putting pressure on ourselves to do things, we are acting as a motor vehicle without a driver, the engine is powerful, but it could not run well and follow correct direction. Consequently, it would hit anything on its way. Similarly, if we use a lot of power from our desires without awareness, thinking, planning, we would get struggles because we do not have direction.
Scientifically, when we are angry, depressed or anxious, our brain function but the blood is trapped in the limbic system; this area is responsible for our negative emotion such as anger, sadness, and fear. If the limbic system is activated too much, it will take over the control of our thoughts and actions, and other brain areas such as frontal lobe will not work efficiently. This region is responsible for our executive functions such as thinking, planning, sequencing, appropriate responses. If our brain follows this mode, it is similar to a natural phenomenon such as a dark cloud covering the sky before the rains… When the cloud disappears, then we can see the sky clearly.
If negative emotions are abolished, then we can be, again, clear in mind and we can think, plan and act properly, appropriately. How to manage negative emotion and thoughts for getting a better life? And do we need to fight with ourselves to find a way to get out of our problems?
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and metaphor-based cognitive therapy which are combination modes between Western psychology and Eastern traditional insights and methods could be effective ways to help you to overcome your difficulties and avoid relapse. Mindfulness is a way to help people to regulate themselves to be balanced and peaceful. People can practice this by learning to be aware of their breathing, focusing on their being here and now, relaxing to let their body and mind work naturally. Practicing mindfulness helps to accept the difficulties easily rather than fighting these to create inner conflict and tension. That could help people to resolve their problems at the root level.
Cognitive behavior therapy is a Western psychotherapy; it contributes to recognize the relationships among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which tend to occur in certain situations. The ways of thinking could generate the ways of feeling; the feelings are the engine of actions. If people are aware of their thought patterns and know that thoughts lead to feelings and behaviors, they could find balanced thoughts to change their feelings and actions with the help of the therapist.
Metaphor-based cognitive therapy is a way of cognitive therapy that uses metaphor stories or natural phenomena to facilitate understanding and changing process. For example, the dark cloud in the sky could be similar to strong emotion like intense anger or sadness. When the dark cloud comes, people cannot see anything in the sky. Similarly, when you have strong feelings, you cannot think properly, appropriately: “Too much anger make wisdom lost.” The second example: people tend to be worried automatically about their concerns. When they are restless and tense, they worry not to be well, and they start to have health problems, which make them worry more. It is a vicious circle. Similarly, when you have a lesion caused by the first arrow, if the second arrow targets the first one, the lesion would not be healed.
Dr. Phan Thieu Xuan Giang has been trained in Vietnam and overseas countries. He is specializes in the treatment of panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, depressive disorder, and psychosomatic or somatoform disorders. He treats both Vietnamese and English-speaking patients. If needed you can contact him for therapy at the CMI Ho Chi – Minh City.