The other day I went with a friend to visit a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease in a welfare nursing home. She is in her 40s, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to move or speak. I had heard about her, but wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotions I felt upon seeing this once-beautiful woman parked in the lounge — bored, despairing, penniless, lonely, and scared — and surrounded by old people at the end of their days.
Afterwards as we walked to the car, I spontaneously began to sob uncontrollably, which I rarely do. My friend grabbed my arm and harshly told to me get control of myself. I was both amused and shocked that she did this; it threw me back to my childhood, when my mother would command me to stop crying — and I did, or else.
My feelings about this incident brought to mind the superb book I recently read by therapist Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, called Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life, which shows us why expressing and releasing our emotions physically is as natural and important for health as brushing our teeth. Routinely holding in and denying emotions, on the other hand, has negative consequences for our physical and mental health and relationships.
She reminds us that young children, before they are censured, shamed, and shut down by adults, are able to cry, scream, stomp their feet, and shake their fists when frustrated and angry, for example, and within moments are once again happily playing and completely recovered. Bijou says relearning this natural and transformative way of releasing emotions unlocks the door to adult happiness and emotional health. Besides, it’s fun and one feels really good after growling and hitting a pillow!
Bijou’s theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist. It’s a step-by-step way to physically express and release the core emotions of sadness, anger, and fear and quickly transform them into their counterpart emotions, joy, love, and peace.
She presents five tools we’re born with — emotions, thoughts, intuition, speech, and actions — and shows us how to apply these to all kinds of everyday situations, such as conquering addiction, overcoming low self-image, dealing with a workplace bully, meeting goals, or facing relationship troubles. Within each of the five tools, she includes highly original strategies that change our outlook and behavior. What I liked about Bijou’s method was its practicality — how to quickly progress from a feeling, to a decision, to a productive and positive action using all five tools.
Emotions, however, are at the heart of all decisions and behavioral change, and she has wonderful techniques for going into the emotion, rather than denying it, in order to gain instant relief, understanding, and forward movement.
In the second part of her book, she presents 33 common emotions, such as feeling unworthy, feeling defensive, or feeling overwhelmed, each followed by two pages of concrete strategies to quickly move from the destructive emotion to its more positive and constructive counterpart. Nifty resource!
This is not a fluffy how-to book. In these 300+ pages, it’s obvious that Bijou has poured her life’s work into developing a scientific system for making lasting behavioral change. Her unique methodology draws from and integrates her background in Eastern philosophy, Western psychology, and energy medicine.
Attitude Reconstruction is a worthy read for anyone looking for a fresh way to free themselves from unhelpful behavioral patterns and old ways of thinking that hold them back.