On the last track we discussed the part of grief regarding success
being intangible. Aspects of this concept that described
include the three myths of success, new sets of values, and true
On this track we will discuss Investing in Solitude as part
of the grief process. I will describe two techniques
for investing in solitude. I will also discuss the panic
of being alone, and the three ways in which clients
may try to avoid self-awareness.
I have found that clients who can spend time alone reflecting inwardly
sometimes have the greatest success in dealing with grief because they are
in touch with their feelings. However, many of my clients have a fear
of being alone that results in hesitancy to risk an investment in solitude.
The Panic of Being Alone
Anne experienced the panic of being alone after her husband,
David, had died. Anne, age 46, had lived with David for 25 years before
his death. Their children were a large part of Anne’s life until
their youngest child moved away about three years before David’s death. Alone
after years of companionship, Anne stated, "Since I lost my husband,
I have been so lonely. I get phone calls from the kids
a couple times each week, but that’s about it. I can’t stand
to be alone. I got a day job, so that eats up some of my
time. In the evenings, sometimes I go shopping just so I don’t
have to be alone."
Do you agree that, for Anne, the panic
of being alone may have been inevitable? I have found that clients,
like Anne, who experience sudden periods of aloneness after a significant loss
may actually fear solitude. Because she had rarely spent
time alone prior to David’s death, Anne experienced panic at
being alone. Think of your Anne. Does she or he fear solitude?
Technique: Eight Ways to Cultivate
an Appreciation of Nature
To help Anne feel more comfortable with spending time alone, I decided to
try the Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature technique. Evaluate
if this may be beneficial for your client who fears solitude. This technique
allowed Anne to spend time alone and reflect inwardly while feeling as though
she was actively engaged in something productive. Clearly, if your client
is more disposed to art or another medium which requires quiet thought, use
whatever works best.
Eight Ways to Cultivate an
Appreciation of Nature
1. Walk, rather than drive, whenever possible. When Anne walked, she
noticed more of nature.
2. Stay alert to the changing panorama of the trees. Anne began to notice
which trees budded first in the spring.
3. Learn to recognize shrubs and flowers. Anne stated, "I found
a free course at the community college on how to recognize shrubs and flowers."
4. Invest in a bird feeder and a bird book. Anne began a diary of birds
which visited her feeder.
5. Keep a pair of binoculars near a window.
6. Make watching nature a part of your daily routine. For example, each
morning Anne would watch her bird feeder.
7. Take vacations away form the city.
8. Share nature with others.
Not only do the Eight Ways to Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature give
clients like Anne the opportunity to become self-aware, but grieving clients
can find other rewards, as well. Anne stated, "I’ve found
that I’m a richer person when I take the time to accept nature’s
gifts." Could your Anne benefit from the Eight Ways to
Cultivate an Appreciation of Nature technique?
3 Way to Avoid Self-Awareness
I have found that some grieving clients avoid self-awareness so
they don’t have to face their grief.
In my experience grieving clients may try to avoid self-awareness in
one of three ways. These three ways are busyness,
killing time, and noise.
a. The first way clients may try to avoid
self-awareness is through busyness. Have you
treated a client who effectively blocks any opportunity for inner dialogue
by staying perpetually busy? In my experience, clients may feel proud
of their own busy schedule. Gerald, 46, grieved the loss of his brother. When
I asked Gerald how he felt, he stated, "I really can’t say. I
mean I’m sad, but I haven’t really thought about it. I’m
so busy all the time, I don’t really have a free moment
to think. I’m an important guy, you know." Are you treating
a client like Gerald who believes that self worth is linked to busyness?
Technique: Six Ways to Cultivate
To help Gerald to find time to be alone,
I shared with him Six Ways he might consider to Cultivate
Solitude. As I list the Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude, analyze
the value of this technique and decide if it is applicable to a grieving client
you may be treating.
Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude
1. Avoid television.
2. Drive with the radio off in your car.
3. Un-clutter your calendar.
4. Plan time to be alone.
5. Go places and do things alone.
6. End the day in a relaxed atmosphere.
As you likely know, periodically cultivating solitude can help grieving clients
like Gerald get in touch with their feelings through inner dialogue. The
Six Ways to Cultivate Solitude technique was helpful to Gerald regarding
his avoidance of self-awarenes.
b. The second way clients may try to avoid
self-awareness is by killing time. Clients
who may be avoiding self-awareness through killing time
are usually killing more than just time. I have found that, since each
person’s life consists of a limited amount of time, clients don’t
kill time, they kill life.
c. The third way clients may try to avoid
self-awareness is through noise. Common methods
for clients who avoid self-awareness through noise include
televisions, radios, and, sometimes, video games. To find out if Gerald
was using noise to avoid self-awareness, I used the noise
level survey. Gerald rated himself for each of the following
statements using a 3,2, or 1, with 3 being often and 1 being rarely.
Ten statements in the noise level survey:
1. I turn on the car radio as soon as I start the engine.
2. I turn on the TV or radio as soon as I get home from work.
3. I watch TV while eating my evening meal.
4. I wear headphones while exercising.
5. I take a portable TV with me when picnicking or camping.
6. I feel uncomfortable when the house is silent.
7. I’d rather watch TV than sit in silence and sew, read,
paint, write or work a crossword puzzle.
8. While preparing meals I listen to the radio or TV.
9. I dislike vacationing with no access to TV or radio.
10. I feel guilty if I spend an hour quietly sitting or thinking.
If the client’s score is over 15, he or she may need to lower the noise
level in his or her life. Are you treating a client who is using one
of the three ways of avoiding self-awareness? If
so, could your client benefit from listening to this track during your next
On this track we discussed Investing in Solitude. We
described two techniques for investing in solitude, as well
as the panic of being alone, and the three ways
in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness. The three ways
in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness are busyness,
killing time, and noise.
On the next track we will discuss The Web Construct. I
will describe how The Web Construct works and three
goals of the Web Construct. The three goals
are to emphasize individuality, to reestablish equilibrium,
and to help reconstruct client’s lives.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Elmer, T., Geschwind, N., Peeters, F., Wichers, M., & Bringmann, L. (2020). Getting stuck in social isolation: Solitude inertia and depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication.
Elsass, P. (2008). Spiritual attachment: Examples of the healing potential of solitude. Nordic Psychology, 60(1), 72–84.
Kramer, U., Pascual-Leone, A., Despland, J.-N., & de Roten, Y. (2015). One minute of grief: Emotional processing in short-term dynamic psychotherapy for adjustment disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(1), 187–198.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What are three ways in which clients may try to avoid
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