This is the first of The Weekly Process newsletters, and, as our memory is very good at remembering the first and last items of any ‘chunk’ of information, I feel a pressure to write the right thing here! “Welcome to my first post!” seems a bit of a waste of words really though, so I will go off on a different tangent.
If you are interested in memory, do have a look at this book by Alan Baddeley, who was my go-to memory researcher on my undergraduate psychology degree. I accessed the book via Perlego but the link above is an Amazon affiliate one in case you cannot access Perlego. But you can also find the book at many other booksellers.
Baddeley wrote about how we tend to recall the first and the last piece of information better. Here’s a quote about what he calls the primacy and recency effect:
The most marked feature…is the tendency for excellent recall on the last few items, the so-called recency effect. There is also a tendency for the first few items to be relatively well recalled, the primacy effect, although this is usually much less pronounced than recency,Baddeley, A., Eysenck, M. and Anderson, M. (2020)
So according to the recency effect, perhaps you won’t remember my first post at all! The pressure is off. Where did that even come from anyway? Possibly new starts and feeling uncomfortable with being a beginner and wanting to get things right from the off. I’d love to say more about beginners mind, but I need to get to the point here so perhaps that will have to be for a later post.
Okay, back to the purpose of this post, to let you know why I am here and what The Weekly Process is about.
The aim of The Weekly Process is to offer a weekly newsletter and a live event that is centred around the concept of processing the week that has just gone, and planning for the week ahead. I will be writing about topics related to the offloading and processing of feelings and anything that helps with that, plus the tricky things about that as well. For example, how to offload and process our feelings, how to identify what we feel, how to know which parts of the week to offload and process, what methods are good for offloading, and how do we actually ‘process’ an event.
I have been practising and researching this area for many years. I am an accredited therapist and my skills cross several areas (CBT, EMDR, Journal therapy and also Songwriting). In my day job I work with clients to help them with a range of mental health and wellbeing difficulties, for example anxiety, adjusting to life events and trauma. I’ve navigated my own traumas and struggles too, and I know I am not unique in that. I wonder if any of us really get through this life journey without being hurt in some way by something.
I have to pause here and reflect at how it feels like it is fine to have just written those previous three sentences. There was a time when it was not okay for a therapist to have said that. There were times in my training when there was a clear divide between the ‘health professionals’ and the ‘patients’, with strong views from many in authority about how you had to be one or the other but could not speak of being both. Thankfully things have changed and are still changing. It is okay now to start to be honest about our struggles, all of us. We all have feelings, we all have thoughts and we all have our habits and areas that are tricky to navigate, and some have more to bear than others.
This is where compassion comes in. To aim to pause before judging ourselves and others, if we can. But like mindfulness, it takes effort to bring on the compassionate part of us. The brain rushes to predict (Van de Pol & Van Swinderen, 2021), which means it rushes to judgement, based on past learning. In CBT we try to pause and ask ourselves what assumptions our brains might be making and whether these are helpful/accurate. The assumptions we make trigger our feelings and vice versa and this process often happens so quick that we may not notice it. But some events and instances of this can become sensitive spots for us.
Emotions and suppression
Through my years in practice there have been two aspects of emotions that I have been curious about. The first is the instinct to stop ourselves from crying, and sometimes say “sorry” when the tears come. The second is that as the events of a week unfold, we can race through it without stopping to notice how certain things might really make us feel. We have a natural ability to put our feelings to one side, to suppress deeper processing whilst we deal with the everyday. Firefighting is one analogy I use for it sometimes. Like we have the hose in our hands and are pointing it at whichever fire pops up next. Always dealing with what’s occurring right now, rather than what happened before. If you are in a meeting at work for example, and something triggers a feeling of upset, you may find that you can easily put a pause on that feeling, push it down, distract yourself with something else, until it passes. (This can begin to get harder to do the more you have pushed down and not processed).
But when do we actively stop to mindfully offload and process all of those things? We tend not to and there are good survival reasons for that. The brain is a predicting machine and it is devoted to always wanting to know what comes next. This is one reason why it takes effort to engage in mindfulness. Our brains are actively trying to predict what might be happening in our environment.
Therapy is one place to do this. Talking to friends can sometimes be an option, letting out the emotions through active sports can work. But the point is that sometimes there can be a lot to offload and process and our buckets can be full. Then we start the next week carrying the full bucket from previous weeks.
This is how it can feel for me, and this is what I have seen in my practice too. It is normal to let things build up until we get so full that there is that one thing that makes us snap and we feel moved to take action. But going to therapy can be hard, as if there is a part of us that just cannot face getting upset on top of how upset we already are. At that point it can feel like a mess that is hard to untangle and can feel overwhelming. But it can untangle, bit by bit, it can untangle. We need patience, and the curiosity to allow ourselves to let this upset come up, without fighting it, without suppressing it anymore. Like a tangled ball of wool, there is an end to it. Be patient.
If you have found a way of regularly doing this offloading and processing then that is fantastic. If you would like to share your methods with others on here that would also be fantastic.
My aim on here is to offer space to pause, offload and process the week that has just gone. To clear our minds and prepare for the week ahead.
But this is NOT going to be a distraction exercise. I am not going to tell you to think positively or tell you to stop thinking about your worries. I will not say “Don’t get upset”, or ‘Don’t cry”.
One method that I will be using a lot in my posts and in my weekly processing sessions is expressive writing. I have been using this method myself since 2003 when I first came across Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way’. The morning pages are the format that I use for most of my process writing, but there are various ways of using expressive writing to offload and process.
I will be combining various methods, for example expressive writing with CBT methods of unpacking how situations make us feel, and showing how you can use these methods to offload and process the week that has just gone, and prepare for the week ahead. There are other strategies that I will be bringing in as well such as worry work, and the use of sound therapies and music for wellbeing. As well as being a therapist I am also a musician and am nearing the completion of a Masters in Music & Sound and I am also interested in using sound and music in my offloading and processing sessions.
So, if you are interested in how to offload and process the week that has just gone, and gain clarity for the week to come, join me in the The Weekly Process. Subscribe to the newsletter here, and to my YouTube channel here to get updates about the weekly LIVE offloading and processing sessions where we can offload and process the week together.
If you would like to know more about getting started with expressive writing, I have written a short getting started guide which you can download for free below.