This is my #1 book recommendation of, well... ever!
I picked up Hilary Jacobs Hendel's book, It's Not Always Depression, when traveling through Vietnam. I was in Danang, getting used to the hot sun after a cold and rainy motorbike tour through the Ha Giang Province, in Northern Vietnam.
Little did I know, but this book was going to help me big time!
Like you, or perhaps someone that you know, I also get FOMO (fear of missing out). I had just spent my first month away from family, friends and clients. I was feeling a tad homesick. Friends back in Vancouver were having a grand old time skiing and snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb. It's not that I didn't enjoy traveling - I did and still do very much; it's just that seeing them enjoy themselves so much without me, well, made me sad. At the time, I didn't realize that my constant social media use was one way that I was trying to cope with my sadness. All I knew was that I had an urge to scroll through pictures and watch all their stories.
So how does this magical book fit in?
As it turns out, Hendel's book actually helped me to identify and give space to the sadness that I felt. In doing so, I was able to move through my sadness, shift my outlook and energy, and be able to remain present in the rest of my travels.
Hendel wrote the powerful book: It's Not Always Depression: Working the Change Triangle to Listen to the Body, Discover Core Emotions and Connect to Your Authentic Self. As with all great reads, there are too many take aways to write about in one blog. I've therefore decided to share with you my favourite one, and probably most influential and impactful therapy tool: The Change Triangle.
But before diving into this tool and what it does, I thought it necessary to first tell you about where it comes from.
The essence of the Change Triangle comes from the psychotherapy model AEDP.
AEDP stands for Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, which was developed by Diana Fosha, PhD. Since falling in love with this psychotherapy model from both a client and clinician perspective, I've tried to learn all that I could about it.
Briefly, AEDP is "about experientially making the most of crisis and suffering for both healing and transformation. A key therapeutic action is the undoing of aloneness. It works with emotional experience, working experientially toward healing trauma and suffering, and toward expanding emergent positive transformational experiences."³
Hendel's Change Triangle makes the application of this psychotherapy model doable and powerful!
What is The Change Triangle?
In short, it's a map.
A map that can help anyone get unstuck from yucky, sticky, unhelpful feelings and sensations, and into the authentic self, where core emotions are identified and validated. "It's a step-by-step process for simply feeling better. It works by getting you reacquainted with core emotions like joy, anger, sadness, fear, and excitement."²
The best part, anyone can use The Change Triangle!
How can I use The Change Triangle?
As Hendel explains: "when an event or situation causes you distress, first determine where you are on The Change Triangle (defense, inhibitory or core emotion?), then determine where you want to go".² For maximum benefits, go clockwise around The Change Triangle through core emotions, which ends in the authentic self.
So once you've determined where you are situated on The Change Triangle, start noticing your physical experience. Breathe. Mentally scan your entire body to notice the physical sensations. What do you start tuning in to? What body parts are taking up your attention?
For instance, notice your brow, your chest, your shoulders.
Place your hand between your brows to help smooth out your frown.
Place your hands on your chest to physically acknowledge the tightness.
Place your hands on your shoulders to help move them away from your ears.
Then literally ask that physical sensation: What are you? Which core emotion is this?
Is it fear? Sadness? Anger or disgust? Is it joy? Excitement or sexual excitement?
When the question is answered you will notice a zing, a zap, an "ah ha” moment. This is the recognition of the core emotion(s). Then ask: What is it that I am [afraid, sad, excited] of?
Pause. Listen for the answer once more. Breathe.
Now that you’ve identified the physical sensation as a core emotion, you become more clear about it. You now understand what your anger, sadness or fear was about. What was once unknown, becomes known. This information clarifies your experience, and you feel calmer, more settled. At this point you have a choice to make: do you want to act on your core emotion and stay in it longer? Or do your want to tolerate your emotion(s), with courage, and attend to something else?
By using The Change Triangle in Vietnam, I was able to move out of my defense (social media use) and inhibitory emotion (guilt), and give space (with courage!) for my core emotion (sadness) to exist. After being with my sadness (through tears and heaviness), I chose to turn back my focus on my travels. From that point on, whenever I noticed some distress I used The Change Triangle to get through core emotion(s) and into my authentic self, and it was liberating! And I hope you can do that same!!