The Invisible Bridge

Ryan Casto, LPCC

Director, Program Services, New Creation Counseling Center

24 January 2017

 

 

It is normal to think one way and feel another.  It’s a sign that you are on the road to

healing, because it shows that you are challenging your old ways of thinking.

 

 

Pretend, if you will, that there is an invisible bridge connecting two tall buildings.  Pretend that I take you to the top of one of those buildings and prove to you that there is an invisible bridge by running back and forth across that bridge.  I could do it all day long and show you beyond a doubt that, even though you can’t see it, I’m running on something and I’m not falling to my bloody death. 

Now…if I ask you to walk across that bridge, you should have no problem.  After all, you just watched me do it all day long.  You shouldn’t have any fear about crossing that bridge.  Easy, right?

 

 

 

 

As you stand at the edge of the bridge, trying to take that first step, you will probably be scared to death.  Why?  Because you are afraid you will fall to your bloody death.  After all, for 20, 30, 40 years, you have been believing in GRAVITY!  You have lived your whole life with the understanding that there is no such thing as an invisible bridge.  And it is natural to feel scared when you are convinced that you are going to fall.

 

So after you watch me run back and forth across the invisible bridge, you start to realize in your head that “well, I guess there must be an invisible bridge”.  You can logically admit that it is true.  But try to take that first step and you may very well still be frozen with fear.  Your body will scream at you “NOOOO!!!!  Are you stupid?  You’re gonna fall to your bloody death!”  

 

 

The invisible bridge can shed light on our emotional experiences.  

 

 

We have spent a lot of time believing things.  Believing them deep in our heart.  Believing things like “my feelings are stupid”, “people will reject me if they get to know me”, “I can’t accomplish things”, or “going to Kroger is scary”.  Believing them for as long as we can remember.  Because of this, when we try to believe something different, something more positive, our feelings will not want to go along for the ride.  They will want to continue feeling the way they have always felt.  After all that believing, your feelings are now trained to feel the way they feel.  Your body has become convinced of those things that you have believed for so long.

 

Say that you want to believe that people will accept you for who you are.  Say that you have learned this in therapy and, logically at least, you can understand how it could be true, and you want to interact with people accordingly.  The first time you go to open up or share with someone, it is normal to still feel like you are doing something wrong.  It is normal to continue feeling rejected.  Just like it would be normal to feel scared to step out on that invisible bridge, even though logically you know the bridge is there. 

 

People tend to beat themselves up when they detect this dissonance, this clash between what they know in their head and what they feel in their body.  But this dissonance is NORMAL.  You WILL feel scared or ashamed to share who you are with someone else, UNTIL you open up and share with people again and again and again and again and again.  It will take time for your body to feel okay about it.  It will take time to FEEL accepted.  As you continue to practice sharing with people you will see that your feelings will start to change, and you will FEEL better about sharing.  

 

 

The invisible bridge principle applies to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.  

 

 

Depression trains your body to not feel enjoyment.  In therapy, when you first start doing things that are supposed to be fun, they may not FEEL fun until you do them again and again.  Just as your body has been trained to not feel enjoyment, it can be trained to feel that enjoyment again. 

 

With anxiety, you may have been trained to feel scared about certain things: going out in public; being around people; not washing your hands; or not going to the Emergency Room when you have a panic attack.  Your body in effect believes that “going to Kroger is dangerous” or “I could have a heart attack when I get anxious”.  So then going to Kroger will feel scary.  Not calling 911 when you get anxious feels dangerous.  Even though your head knows that Kroger is not dangerous, your body will still be scared…UNTIL you start going to Kroger AGAIN AND AGAIN.  Then your body will get re-trained to feel calm at Kroger. 

 

YOU HAVE TO CONVINCE YOUR BODY TO FEEL DIFFERENTLY.  That is the key.  That is why, even though you may “know better”, you have to “act better” repeatedly, and you have to do it while you feel the exact opposite of how you want to feel.  This takes time.  And until your body is convinced it is normal to think one way and feel another.  You are normal if this is where you are at.  Thinking one way and feeling another is a sign that you are on the road to healing, because it shows that you are challenging your old ways of thinking. 

 

YOU.  ARE.  NORMAL.

 

 

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