STLL: More Detailed How-To

1)   Don’t think too much.

  • The point here is to get your brain out of the way and let your cells communicate.
  • DO NOT at any point: dwell, engage, ponder, mull, analyze, machinate, evaluate, deliberate, cerebrate, excogitate, obsess, torment or fantasize.
  • If you just can’t help your brain from distracting you, here are some suggestions:
    • Take a few deep breaths.
    • Did you sense your eyebrows bunching, shoulders tightening or neck straining? If so, relax those parts and try again.
    • Concentrate instead on acceptance.
      • Ask yourself, “Can I resist this less?” and then answer/feel, “Yes!”
      • Then, as yourself, “Can I accept this more?” and then answer/feel, “Yes!”
    • Decide this STLL thing is silly and definitely won’t work, but that you’re going try it anyway real quick, just to say you did. Therefore, there’s no need to take it too seriously or let yourself get stirred up. Right? It’s just an experiment.
    • Exercise your feeling muscles by feeling apology, gratitude and love. See #3, below, for help.
    • Enlist the help of a calming, supportive and non-judgemental presence, like a friend, mental health professional or your dog/cat/bird.
    • Drop it and try again later.


2)  Identify the target.

  • What does “target” mean? Here are some examples:
    • While you were driving to work, someone cut you off and it pissed you off. A good target in this case would be the feeling of anger– red face, fast heart beat, squinting eyes…
    • You made a dumb comment at the water cooler and people laughed politely but you know you sounded lame. A good target in this case would be that feeling of your stomach falling, or the urge to groan when you think about it or the voice in your head that tells you you’re so stupid.
    • While on a date, you made fun of the name Bertha… and then found out it is your date’s mom’s name. Your date doesn’t take it personally– they’re actually really cool! But you can’t shake that embarrassment and can’t act normal again. I bet you can guess the target!
    • You’ve always had sciatica pain and it flares when you’re overly stressed. You could target the pain, letting your entire body feel it completely.
    • Once, when you lost your temper and yelled at your child when they were playing happily, they dropped their head and cried. You felt like such an asshole, right? There are three possible targets here: the guilt at making your child think s/he did something wrong, the feeling of being overly stressed and the real reason you were stressed (it wasn’t about your kid).
    • Every time you cut vegetables or lean into the mirror to pluck an eyebrow or grey hair, a specific memory pops into your head. Maybe you visualize that time you were with your ex in that place where the waves were crashing and it smelled like asphalt. It’s a random flashback, right? Maybe it’s not random but you don’t have to understand why. Grab a scene from this flashback, hold it in your mind like a photograph and STLL it!
  • If the target’s a painful physical sensation, just pay attention to the edge of it. (Obviously, STLL is not appropriate for serious injuries… if you’re bleeding, call 911!)
  • If the target’s an emotion, try to locate it in your body (tight throat? throbbing chest? twisted stomach?)
  • If the target’s a memory, generate a freeze-frame– don’t watch it like a movie. Choose one still image. If this is difficult, visualize the movie in your head going in slow motion until it stops, then tilt the rectangular image as if it’s in a scrap book… you can even make it black & white and put a frame around it.
  • Once you have your target, be aware of what you’re dealing with, but don’t psychoanalyze or re-live it.
    • It’s not necessarily bad or wrong to hash things out, but that’s not the purpose of STLL. STLL helps you brush the crumbs off the table so you can see the thread count of the tablecloth.
  • Don’t be surprised if another target pops up in the middle of a STLL. This could happen at any point in the process both because your emotional terrain contains layers and because your brain might be a little threatened by what you’re doing and resist by distracting you. (Read more about your well-intentioned brain here.)
    • What to do? Two choices: Nothing (that target will pop up again later or else it was interwoven with whatever you were working on and is flying around like dust at a construction site); or stop, write it down to use as a future target and then start over with the original target.


3)   While keeping the target in mind, feel each of the following at it:

  • “I’m sorry.”
  • Thank you.”
  • “I love you.”
  • “I give you permission to leave.”
  • What does “feel at it” mean?
    • Maybe you imagine you’re flooding the target with a spotlight, but the light is the feeling of sorry/thank/love or leave… or maybe you’re a device that the medics in Star Trek use (the hand-held thing that emits a gentle blue laser).
    • Above all, it’s best to stay neutral. Don’t intend too hard (or at all) and don’t will the target to leave. It’s not a dog that needs taming or an intruder that means you harm. It’s best to try to do an impression of a hollow reed… instead of pushing away or taking a stand, just stop holding on.
  • Other things to keep in mind
    • How long to feel at it? Minimum a few seconds each, but really, as long as you feel like it. It might just occur to you to move on.
    • **It’s not the words that matter… it’s the resonant frequency of the feelings that’s doing all the behind-the-scenes work.


4)   Continue to hold the target without any kind of forcing or willing or intending. Just watch what happens. If nothing happens, it’s okay. Just do it again, either right away or some other time.

  • What do you do if nothing happens?
    • Definitely don’t think you did something wrong or that you are “bad” at feeling feelings. Something definitely happened, but it’s gonna take more.
    • Try a few more times. Some targets are pretty stubborn (complex and/or deeply ingrained). One round of STLL might take a tiny edge off, but you might need to keep at it.
    • Try STLL on a different target.
    • Decide STLL is not for you today, but maybe it will be tomorrow… or never.
  • As you practice STLL, you’ll notice that new targets will pop into your mind during the day (like when you’re brushing your teeth, showering or driving). It’s as if they’ve seen what you did with those other targets and they want their turn. They’re eager to leave!
    • Unless you’re driving or operating heavy machinery, take a moment to do a quick STLL. Then, if it occurs to you, you can try another more focused round later on.

Want less detail? Click here! 

***Please take heed: If you have a serious mental or emotional condition, do not attempt this technique without the advice or assistant of your doctor, therapist or counselor. While it seems simple enough, STLL could stir stuff up. While things need to be stirred up sometimes, a dust storm is very comfortable and makes it hard to see. And, it’s important to have help as it settles back down. Please, err on the side of caution.*** 
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