“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
I had another session of dialectical behavior therapy with my nurse practitioner today. In it, we discussed the skill of participation, which essentially boils down to doing something with attention without constantly being aware of the fact that you’re doing it. This seems pretty contradictory to me, because how do you do something mindfully without constantly being aware of it?
In this repsect, this quote speaks to me. It describes mindfulness as a way of knowing what we’re doing and paying attention to it.
It also seems that this may be what Pete Walker means when he describes the flight-freeze continuum of healthy relating to self in his book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. He says that the healthy middle between freeze and flight is the middle between doing and being. Freeze then is the state of constantly dissociating, daydreaming away time, while flight is the state of constant doing stuff, working time away. I tend to fall closer to the freeze end, while other people might lean closer to the flight end. Whenever I’m upset, I retreat into my own world. Someone who is a flight type would more go and do stuff, such as housekeeping, work, etc.
Kabat-Zinn in his quote says that mindfulness means being awake and knowing what we’re doing. It means not mindlessly staying busy to avoid hard feelings (flight), nor means it being disconnected from one’s surroundings (and oneself) to avoid hard feelings (freeze).
Now I seem to understand where the flight-freeze continuum also comes in handy in my DBT skills training. Flight then describes rational mind, not feeling anything because we’re busy doing (work, housekeeping, etc.). Freeze describes emotional mind, being stuck in the inability to do something about our experience. The middle ground in DBT is called Wise Mind.