Thursday, April 23, 2015

The 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing

The 10 Steps of Emotion Processing is a mindfulness-based combination of Alfred Korsybski's General Semantics with S. N. Goenka's Vipassana insight meditation and the bilateral / trans-hemispheric principles of Eugene Gendlin's Focusing and Francine Shapiro's EMDRIn Bill Wilson's 12-Step rubric, the 10 StEPs is a method, means or way of doing Step 11.

The 10 StEPs are phenomenologically grounded, precisely as Gershen Kaufman described on page 26 of the second edition of his book, The Psychology of Shame: "...we must return to accurate observation of inner experience... The language we create to describe the self must be specific in its referents, precise in its definitions, clear about its limits, and simple in its description. We must construct an accurate language of the self and a precise language for [process] that are not imposed upon inner experience, but rather illuminate it." (Non-italics mine.)  

The Feeling is Always Temporary, but almost all of us have been conditioned, in-doctrine-ated, in-struct-ed, socialized, habituated and normalized to think otherwise. And so we remain stuck in it when we do not have to. One can observe to notice what is observed, to recognize what is noticed, to acknowledge what is recognized, to accept as "what is" what is acknowledged, to own what is (be that emotions and/or thoughts and/or behaviors), to appreciate what has been owned, to understand what has been appreciated, to interocept what is seen-heard-felt-sensed, to digest (and discharge) the experience.  

1) Observe: Look at, watch, listen to; staying with it.

2) Notice: See, hear and sense; perceive. 

3) Recognize ... discern what it is in a known (previously identified) pattern.

4) Acknowledge: Be with its "is-ness," "actual-ness," "there-ness," exist-ence; synonyms: concede, grant, admit, confess.

5) Accept ... that it is and align with it... noticing and rejecting any judgment or evaluation according to conscious or unconscious beliefs, ideals, rules, requirements, etc.  

6) Own ... what is happening in you; take responsibility for.

7) Appreciate: Be fully conscious of, aware of, detect; synonyms: esteem, prize, value; exercise wise judgment, delicate perception, keen insight. 

8) Understand: Perceive the meaning of, grasp the idea of, comprehend; grasp the significance, implications, importance of, regard as firmly communicated.

9) Interocept: Feel the sensations in the body. 

10) DigestProcess, metabolize, break down and discharge. 

The 10 StEPs in More Detail

Before digging in here, please read the brief article entitled "Interoception vs. Instrospection" so that you have a bit more sense of what "sense" is... and isn't.

1) Observe: Look to see, listen to hear and feel to sense. Let go of thinking about, analyzing, assessing, critiquing, evaluating, interpreting, judging and attributing meaning to sensory experience, and just experience. 

Brain operations begin in the right hemisphere but inform the left. One who has become so conditioned, socialized, habituated, accustomed and normalized to thinking about --rather than simply looking to see, listening to hear and feeling to sense -- may, of course, need to be taught how to Observe. If one does not readily Notice her emotions, and cannot (as a result) Recognize or Identify them as emotions, training along the lines of activities developed from Eastern meditation practice in the "mindfulness" school of cognitive-behavioral therapy may be required. The mindfulness meditations are the action of Observing -- of just "looking at" -- to produce Noticing and Perception. 

(One can look into authors like Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, Arthur Deikman, Anthony De Mello, S. N. Goenka, Daniel Goleman, George Gurdjieff, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Stephen Levine, P. D. Ouspensky, Daniel Seigel, Charles Tart, Chogyam Trungpa, Alan Watts and many, many others for detailed explanation of how to Observe and Notice the input of the senses. For those who are new to insight meditation, however, I recommend Tart's Mind Science, Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness Meditation, Hart's (Goenka's) The Art of Living, and/or Seigel's The Mindfulness Solution to the exclusion of the other more "advanced" or "post-graduate" approaches, many of which are described and/or discussed in the quotations in the article, On Meditation.) 

2) Notice / Perceive: Be open to what is seen, heard and felt. Allow what is there to be there. And be with what is. 

Brain operations in "noticing" occur largely in the right hemisphere. One can start the 10StEPs at either Notice or Observe, and it will become evident which one is in play at the outset over repeated use. Noticing and perceiving are willful actions if one reverses the order with Observation below; otherwise Noticing is an automatic result of Observation. "I notice that I feel this way (e.g.: anxious, worried, regretful, shameful, guilty; even if one has not yet Recognized / Identified these affective states)." Mindfulness has to begin somewhere; Noticing may be it... or... one may use a process of Observing (or conscious monitoring) to Notice what is occurring with respect to his emotions in the context of what is occurring around him or is his thoughts. Noticing and Observing are nothing more than the attentive use of the senses (e.g.: sight, hearing, touch) to perceive what one is thinking and/or feeling in the present moment. Noticing may more usefully be called "seeing, hearing and feeling." 

3) Recognize / Identify: what is being seen, heard and/or felt without "explanation" beyond simple description or labeling (e.g.: This is a duck. This is a sound. This is an emotion.) 

Largely left hemispheric. It is here that the principally right-hemispheric actions of Observation and Noticing / Perception cross into the left hemisphere for linkage to the verbal-symbolic processing centers where simple, memory-enabled "sense" is made of what has been Observed and Noticed. So-called "dis-cover-y" or "un-cover-ing" begins at Recognition, but such discovery is still implicit and not yet "conscious" or "explicit." So long as relatively accurate verbal and/or other symbolic Recognitions and Identifications are made possible by a healthy brain, the following StEPs are possible.

4) Acknowledge: Note that what is seen, heard and/or felt is (or was) there. 

Begins in the left hemisphere and moves to the right. Acknowledgement is a higher -- or more mindful, conscious, aware -- order of Recognition in which the left and right hemispheres very quickly compare notes from each of their perspectives to take the first step toward mindful, more-than-merely-recognizant awareness of what is occurring in the present moment. "Sense" is being made. A higher order of consciousness / awareness / mindfulness can see that, "This is happening now, and I am aware of it." What has been recognized by memories of previous experience is connected to explanatory words made verbal. What was Recognized and implicit becomes Acknowledged -- or Recognized by knowledge -- and explicit. 

5) Accept / allow... that whatever is (or was) sensed exists (or did exist). 

More right than left hemispheric. A further StEP beyond mere Recognition and Identification is the mindfully aware decision to Accept what has been Acknowledged as what is and to refuse to deny that what is happening (or has happened) is happening (or has happened). This occurs with setting aside (rather than including or rejecting) moral or cultural judgment: All belief-, idea-, ideal-, assumption-, presumption-, prejudice-, principle-, code-, rule-, authoritarian diktat- and/or dogma-driven appraisal, assessment, interpretation, evaluation, analysis, judgment and/or attribution of meaning are Observed, Noticed, Recognized and Acknowledged as thoughts, and set aside. The situation either is or isn't. There are no further questions as to the situation's actuality. Owing to the prevailing winds of cultural conditioning, logical fallacies and "uncritical thinking" (a.k.a.: "cognitive distortions") will come into play and disrupt or contaminate and corrupt further 10StEP processing. The rules and regulations of the left hemisphere can hijack the perceptive input from the right to suit the unconscious requirements of the cultural breezes. One who cannot Accept "what is" -- be it the circumstances or their emotional reactions thereto -- is almost invariably fused to logical fallacies (sometimes resulting in cognitive dissonance or "verbal conflict") that will themselves have to be Noticed, Observed, Recognized / Identified, Acknowledged, Accepted and otherwise subjected to the 10StEP process. All one has to do is recycle the Observed fallacies through the first four StEPs. The word "allow" (as "into consciousness") sometimes fits better here. 

6) Own ... that which is happening in you. 

Right to left hemispheric. Owning is a matter of conscious, mindful election -- or "will" -- in the manner described by Frederich Perls as "taking responsibility" in the 1950s what became popular in the human potential movement of the 1960s and '70s. It is a deeper, more personally identified "grip" upon what has been Acknowledged and Accepted. "Oh. I see that my mind has slipped back into a logical fallacy here. I can Observe, Notice, Recognize, Acknowledge, Accept and Own that. Even though I don't care for the feelings associated with being wrong (for the moment)." Owing is further edified by understanding that one is not be responsible for buying into his or her "fantasy," but will have to take responsibility for his or her later Appreciation, Understanding and Reframing of it. Ownership is where "learned helplessness" begins to subside, ego actualization and empirical-reality-grounded, ego empowerment begins. In Wilson's 12 Step structure, Ownership begins at Step One, is practiced in the Step Four "inventory," and is made use of in Steps Eight and Nine when "making amends." At Ownership, one moves from unconsciously being blown about like a leaf in the wind to full Recognition and conscious awareness of having unconsciously believed oneself to have been a leaf. Such Recognition and awareness allows one to experience how his or her mind has been operating outside his or her awareness. 

7) Appreciate ... the significance of the thing seen, heard and or felt (it's "whyness").

Right to left to right to left to right, hemispherically integrated feedback looping. Appreciation is a higher-order version of Recognition / Identification made possible by Acceptance and Ownership. Observation-driven, hemispheric feedback looping is a level of brain function that does not appear to occur in the vast majority of humans, most of have been so influenced by family of origin, schooling, dysfunctional religion, popular media and other factors that they remain belief-bound leaves in the wind. Appreciation may involve brief consideration of how one became attached to one's fantasies, false beliefs and logical fallacies by living in a "windy city," which --when connected to Acceptance -- allows both Ownership and letting go of what has been Observed. Appreciation is an Observation-, Acceptance and Ownership-edified Recognition that makes Understanding, further Processing and cognitive Reframing possible. Appreciation appears to be the point at which the reason -- or "why" -- one feels as they about something becomes evident, helping those who use the 10 StEPs to detach from the secondary emotions of shame, guilt, regret and remorse, as well as their cognitively distorted, morbid rumination and counterproductive worry. The "financial" use of the word is relevant here, as well: Think of how interest appreciates. Regular practice of the 10 StEPs tends to make Appreciation the automatic result of having Observed to Notice to Recognize to Acknowledge to Accept to Own whatever is actually so and has been Recognized, Acknowledged, Accepted and Owned as being what is so. 

8) Understand ... what has been seen, heard and/or felt in relation to urges to think, feel or do anything about the experience.

Fully integrated right and left hemispheric interaction. While Appreciation is both an "arrival" and an "action," Understanding is purely a matter of "arrival." The "what is" is now seen, felt and experienced as "what is," with no if's, and's or but's. The reality is apprehended and comprehended. The denial or distortion that was still possible even at Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Ownership is highly unlikely, even impossible, once the right-left-right hemispheric "shipping and re-shipping" is underway. Understanding occurs in the present moment about the present moment; it cannot be "carried over" or retained without increasing risk of contamination and corruption by Understandings (as well as beliefs, ideas, rules and regulations) from the past. Pure Understanding will be acted upon in that moment, but should be subjected to the first seven of the 10 StEPs if it is to be recalled and acted upon in the future... because it may no longer be accurate given the changes in circumstances to be Observed and Noticed in the future. Understanding is useful only if it does not become belief, idea, rule and regulation. Like Appreciation, Understanding tends to be the automatic result of working through the previous seven StEPs. 

9) Interocept to focus attention on the affects or sensory experience in the body to allow the previous eight StEPs to work in the brain and autonomic ("fight or flight") nervous system without effort, desire or stipulated expactation. 

Mostly right hemispheric. The arrival at Understanding makes it possible to undertake the actions required to Interocept to Process / Digest / Discharge / Defuse / Detach. These actions are a more edified return to Observation, Noticing, Recognition, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Ownership at a more informed, more processed level built on further right-left-right hemispheric processing. Heretofore "intolerable" emotions are neurochemically metabolized by the behavioral means of simply looking right at them and experiencing them as nothing more than affective sensations vs. the "windy, fire-breathing monsters" they had previously been believed to be. 

10) Digest, which is the automatic -- and autonomic -- result of "interoception" in Sensorimotor Processing for Trauma. The energy of the felt experience or "affects" dissipates over time as digestion activates the autonomic nervous system's para-sympathetic branch so that the neurochemically-induced urges to fight, flee, freeze, freak or fry in the autonomic nervous system's sympathetic branch are shut down by opposing neurochemical action. This is called "self-soothing" in Dialectical Behavior Therapy

- - - 

Someone wrote me asking a couple of questions about the use of the 10 StEPs as exposure therapy. Because I think they will further clarify the what & why of the 10 StEPs, my answers follow:

1) I got way down into Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mind-Body Bridging Therapy (MBBT), and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), as well as appropriately utilized Transcendental Meditation (TM) and other forms of somatic experiencing meditations and how they can be used to
. . . a) turn down the wick on the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system,
. . . b) trigger parasympathetic branch function, and
. . . c) re-achieve sufficient homeostasis to make further use of somatic therapies as ET mechanisms.
This does not come from "traditional" behaviorism, though Bandura began to brush up against it about a decade ago. Porges, McEwen, Lupien, Levine, Sapolsky, Kabat-Zinn, Linehan and Ogden (see the CPTSD Library began to make noises about vipassana meditation producing far more than "soothing" of the ANS in the late '90s and early '00s. (So I got Hart's book on Goenka's method, and started using it.)
Since then, it has become evident that Old Man Gautama had either figured out way back in about 450 BC that people could use somatic experiencing meditations (vipassana is one) to reliably "end suffering," or picked it up from the Yogic traditions of Hinduism (see Batchelor, Fronsdal, Kabat-Zinn and Kelly). All we're doing now is reinventing a wheel that's been around for about 2,500 years. And that wheel is this: Focused, mindful, conscious awareness of somatic sensations is all it takes to reduce the neural energy that fuels them. I've been doing it now since about '10, and it works like a charm... even for someone with CPTSD severe enough to get sent me to the psych lock-up 11 times from '94 to '03, twice via ICUs after OD attempts.
2) It's coming into MS/CCP coursework and textbooks now. One can use various standard measures of incipient anxiety like the SUDS system developed for exposure therapy years ago. But many of us simply rely on what we're hearing from and seeing in the patient's behavior. BTW, I do NOT use compulsory exposure via guided imagery or any other method in session, because inducing symptoms is unethical in my book. I teach people how to use the 10 StEPs of Emotion Processing to observe for, notice, recognize, and acknowledge triggers when they experience them in everyday life, then to accept what they are experience as "there," own any part they have in it, appreciate why the sensations have returned, understand them experientially (as per Jiddu Krishnamurti, which they get from reading his books or portions thereof), and interocept the sensations (as per Gendlin's Focusing Technique, Levine's SEPt or Ogden's SP4T), so they can be "digested" to whatever extent they are at that time, and discharged.


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1 comment:

  1. This was incredibly enlightening and very reassuring to read. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight.