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Case Studies - Page 7

Her next focus was managing some of her anger toward Jim for working overtime on weekends without telling her in advance. They had huge, unproductive fights about this issue, and she felt continually devastated that he seemed to devalue their time together. I asked her to imagine the kind of time she'd most like to share with him on the weekends. "I have this picture of us on our back deck, drinking coffee and reading the paper; just relaxing and enjoying the garden we've worked so hard on," she said without hesitation. "Why not invite him to share your fantasy this weekend?" I suggested.

Amy later told me that my question had stayed with her for several days. Then she had the idea to create an invitation that she carefully inscribed, requesting that Jim join her for coffee in the garden at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. She enjoyed getting ready for this event, feeling like a little girl having a tea party. Jim appreciated the attention, and out of Amy's imagination grew a ritual they continued for subsequent weekends.

The fifth skill Amy mastered was mindfulness. The mindfulness practice that seemed to work best for her was one in which she named and accepted all the sensory experiences she became aware of during a 5- to 15-minute period. This practice helped improve her sleep, which had been disrupted during most of her chronic-pain cycle. To harness her body's energies (skill six), she used energy-meridian protocols, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a protocol for stimulating 11 specific points along various meridians, to manage sudden increases in her pain when she couldn't identify the trigger and to clear emotional distress related to family members. With practice, she developed enough confidence that during strained gatherings with her siblings or parents, she could withdraw for a few minutes, practice the techniques, and return to the group in a more centered state. She used EFT to help her gradually diminish her pain and sleep medications.

Amy also needed to develop skill seven: learning to make the right moves for her body. Like many pain patients, she struggled to resist the impulse to work out beyond her limits as she began to feel better physically and was more desperate to lose weight. She found that the structure of working with the Pete Egoscue physical therapy program, which emphasizes stretching and strengthening, as well as with a personal trainer, helped her pace herself more realistically.

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