Each meditation session should be for twenty minutes. In the case of meditation, more is not necessarily better. Within the twenty minutes, accumulated stress and emotions are being released. It is better if this release is done slowly and gradually. If our meditation time is extended, it is possible that feelings such as grief, sadness or anger, of which we were unaware, may arise. As I said, it will sometimes ‘throw out a file’ for us to look at.
On rare occasions this may happen during the twenty-minute sessions. If it does and if we feel distressed, we can reduce the meditation time to ten minutes, gradually building back up to twenty minutes. It is better to cut down the length of meditation time than to stop meditating altogether.
The daily practice of meditation does require discipline, but we shouldn’t feel guilty if we miss a meditation session. Missing one or two sessions happens to everyone. Only after days or weeks without meditating should we seriously question our motivation—or lack of it.
The development of the disorders can destroy our lives. We can live with the power of the disorder for many years and no matter what we do, we feel completely powerless.
Recovery for many of us who have had panic disorder means we still can experience an occasional attack. The difference between panic disorder and recovery means we have taken the power back and are no longer afraid of the attack or anxiety. We have shifted the power balance. There are no more ‘what ifs’, but instead we have developed an attitude of ‘so what’, irrespective of how violent the occasional attack may feel. ‘So what’, means we have taken back the power.
In the early stages of the disorders many of us say, ‘This is not me, I am not like this’, and in doing so we negate and invalidate our own suffering and pain. Most of us cannot see, let alone acknowledge or appreciate our own strength and courage, which has bought us thus far. Taking back the power means learning to be compassionate toward ourselves. Only then can we begin to take back the power from the disorders.
Compassion for ourselves, combined with understanding is the first step. It is important we understand what is happening to us and why it is happening. When we understand and accept that understanding, we can begin to work towards recovery.
There is another control, which actually forms the basis of all the other controls we use. It can be so subtle that many of us may not be aware of it. It is the need to be in control, not only of ourselves but of our whole environment.
The need to be in control permeates every aspect of our life. We feel we need to be in control as we have already lost so much to the disorder. We are afraid of what might happen if we lose control.
The need to be in control is the main obstacle towards recovery. Recovery means the opposite. Recovery means we need to let go of the need to be in control. We don’t realise our overwhelming need to be in control perpetuates our disorder.
There are many various aspects to this particular control, which are discussed in detail later. To let go of this control is unimaginable, but letting go means recovery, and with recovery comes freedom.
Partners and family members are also considerably disadvantaged by the lack of understanding. Obviously, being able to understand the disorder and its implications is very important for everyone involved. It is difficult and frustrating because it seems that we won’t ‘pull ourselves together’. The disruption to the family because we can’t ‘pull ourselves together’ is an ongoing source of guilt and shame for many people.
It can help if our partner or family members can talk with other people who are in the same situation. This mutual support can be very beneficial. Self-help groups usually encourage partners and family members to attend programs or group meetings, which can alleviate some of the distress and helplessness many partners and family members feel.
Some partners or family members may want to become actively involved in our recovery. This can be extremely worthwhile. Being involved with a self-help group or a therapist, or both, can help partners or family members understand exactly what is involved. Being involved helps to balance the excessive pressure or over-protectiveness of some partners or family members.