I’d like us to explore what kind of love you deeply desire from your inner wisdom or inner loving parent. I’d like you take a moment to close your eyes and envision how the parent within can show up for you. I’d like you to have this expansiveness in your body. You can relax the muscles in your forehead, jaw, and shoulders as you breath in deeply and slowly.
You may want to write down in a notebook or in your phone notes what you need from your inner loving parent. Do you need them to give you more breaks at work? Do you need more play? How do you imagine your inner loving parent would show up for you if you were sad or depleted? Please take a few moments to explore what you need from the calmest, quietest parts within.
You can always brainstorm how to give yourself what you need after this exercise. For example, if you need more breaks from work and more connection you might brainstorm this separately once you’ve spent a few minutes jotting this down. Your brainstorm for more breaks from work might look like setting an alarm on your phone to get up and move every hour, talking with co-workers to come up with new work break ideas, or giving yourself affirmations and praise throughout the day. Your brainstorm for connection might be that you text a few friends everyday for a week, set up a virtual friend date, spend mindful time with a pet, or ask for a no-technology hour with your partner. These are of course brainstorms and do not include what works for you.
I hope these are simply ideas to help cultivate the expansiveness and connectedness between you and your inner wisdom or inner loving parent. The cool part is that she’s always been there. You can also learn more about reparenting for free via my new course, Trauma Care: How to Reparent Your Intrusive Thoughts (use this coupon for free access LOVETOYOU). Until next time where we’ll learn more about loving you.
If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.
When we have thoughts that our body isn’t enough as it is or we hunt down reasons to feel separate us from a friend or partner these thoughts may be intrusive or unwanted. In my training I was taught that these sticky thoughts must be challenged, we must gain evidence against the thoughts, and then we are taught to change the thoughts. I was even trained to believe that this approach is supported by evidence to work. I later learned that the money poured into these therapies was allocated to therapies created by White males in the field. Therapies created by women and people of color that are equally or more helpful do not have the same money allocated to determine if they are supported by evidence. I also learned that the challenge and change one’s thoughts approach is helpful for some people, but not for many people who have experienced trauma. When I discovered this I felt shocked and disappointed given that most or all of my clients survived trauma/grief.
Then I began my journey learning ways to approach these sticky thoughts through the body, spirituality, and learning more about intrusive thoughts. Information about intrusive thoughts lets people know it’s not their fault. While an intrusive thought around our body image may help inform us realize we want a more active lifestyle, it may also ascribe to racist, old ideals of body perfection (please see Sabrina Strings book, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia). Or perhaps intrusive thoughts are hinting that we’re overextending ourselves. The busy thoughts could be intruding letting us know we need rest, water, food, connection, or other essentials. Sometimes the intrusive thoughts don’t have a meaning or hint.
In my journey to better understand these thoughts I learned and continue to learn that intrusive thoughts are simply okay as they are and we don’t have to make stories from them. If they happen to hint that we need some rest, then cool. If the intrusive thoughts are simply arising that’s okay too. One thing we may want to skip is challenging the intrusive thoughts because then we have different parts of us battling ourselves (for example then we enlist our inner defender to fight our inner critic). Challenging also brings us further from presence. I recommend tuning into the breath in the moment. People can do this by starting with a guided meditation rooted in breath work. Otherwise, there’s plenty of info on body connection for intrusive thoughts in my new course, Trauma Care: How to Reparent Your Intrusive Thoughts (use this coupon for free access!! LOVETOYOU).
Intrusive thoughts are okay as they are, just like we are okay just as we are. Please consider getting in touch with your body when the mind feels all intrusive and sticky. Whether that’s feeling your heart or taking a few slow breaths I am excited for us to get back to our bodies. Thanks for exploring a different approach to mental health care and we’ll be here next week for more.
If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.
As we welcome this new year and new moon with hopeful embrace we also ride the waxes and wanes of the world during these times. I wanted to take a different approach regarding the new year. Rather than talk about how much we want to change about ourselves I want us to remember we’ve got everything we need right here within. I think this is best exhibited through animals and nature. When I observe a horse, bird, or dog I witness them being them in the moment. They shake, run, play, rest and do whatever because they aren’t mired with human confines. Don Miguel Ruiz talks about how us humans are domesticated or trained by society to worry about this or that and animals just are who they are. Ekhart Tolle discusses how witnessing his cats simply be in the moment is the best zen lesson for him. In my recent course, Trauma Care: How to Reparent Your Intrusive Thoughts (you can use this coupon to access the course for free for the next couple of weeks: LOVETOYOU), I discuss the love of my dog.
I may come home spaced out or cranky or something. My doggy is there. The next moment when I’m attentive and attuned, my dog is still there. He shows up with complete presence and love no matter what. He’s not upset because I walked in without much presence or in a grumpy mood. He doesn’t hold a resentment in his tissues. He simply loves. He’s just so cool. I want everyone to experience the connection and presence of an animal. Even if we don’t believe in keeping an animal in our home we can witness the power of their presence on a quiet walk.
The power of animals, uninterrupted by society, is pretty breathtaking. I say this after years of being scared of animals. I am not sure if it’s from being bitten by a dog or if it was cultural for me. Either way, I now experience animals with expansive gratitude. I have such a great gratitude for animals that I began writing letters for people needing emotional support animals while I worked at a gender center. Not everyone has biological relatives to support them and I came to learn what a great and consistent support animals can be for some people recovering from trauma, anxiety and other human suffering.
Just for today I hope you’re able to experience the unconditional love from within. Look to your dog or perhaps an image of an animal in media or in nature if you need a little help with finding love within. Sending you kindness and gentleness for the new year and we’ll join again next week for more on loving you.
As things feel more tense for people these days I thought we’d discuss a few ways to address initial signs of stress. Don’t get me wrong. I think stress is great data. I believe when we feel distress it is parts of us giving us information. It is like parts of us kicking and screaming for attention or giving us little hints. Perhaps we are more irritable, tired, or thinking about an issue over and over. Perhaps that stress is giving us information that we need more rest, help, or to release our claws from an issue. This blog will give us a few tips on what to do with stress in the body while you explore whatever the stress is telling us.
I don’t like to battle with thoughts or feelings by asking them to leave or lessen. This has been the opposite of what I learned in my training. In my training I learned to challenge thoughts and distract from feelings. This Eurocentric approach to not thinking and feeling wasn’t helpful for my clients who went through traumatic experiences. To be honest, it wasn’t helpful to do to challenge thoughts and feelings for myself either. I work best when I can check in with what sensations are in my body and what feelings may be arising and where those feelings live in my body. I’d rather check in with the body and release tension. Upon further training after more than a decade in higher education I finally learned that the old school, Eurocentric, colonialized approaches to mental health are contraindicated for trauma. When it comes to trauma it is helpful to relieve these tensions through the body. Therefore, my stress tips will not be coming from a place of side stepping or escaping feelings. These tips are for the body and can help overall.
Breath deeply. You’ve heard this a bunch and in different ways. Deep, belly breaths remains my go to when it comes to stress, gratitude, and most other feelings. I’ve seen how helpful counting breaths help my mind and body. If you can take a breath from the deepest part of your tummy as it connects to the top of your pelvic floor. Hold if you can for a moment. Then release the breath slowly. I like to count in 1-2-3, hold 1-2, breath out 1-2-3-4. Some people do not have lung capacity for this so please breath in a way that fits for you.
Move around. This can mean putting a record on and dancing slowly to a song, tiding up your home mindfully, or taking a free online workout class. Movement is what you need it to be and it is important for stress and sustainability that we move in ways that work for us.
Place your hand on your heart. If this is not dysphoric for you, please place your hand on the skin over your heart. If you feel comfortable you can put skin to skin by allowing your hand to rest directly on the skin in your heart space.
The most important thing here is consistency. If you can commit to one of these strategies daily for a handful of seconds you may be able to access some parasympathetic healing. There are plenty of other stress strategies. I’d love to hear some of yours if you’d like to share. None of these are an easy fix. None of these stress strategies are to remove stress. These strategies are not to change or fix, but to allow. They allow for a bit of body connection so you can then get to know what’s up in your body and see if it is trying to give you some information. When we connect with our bodies we have the opportunity to see if we need rest, water, movement, sun, connection, or something else. Wishing you a moment of connection with your body today.
If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here. Another resource is to check out other psychologists and therapists on Inclusive Therapists or Zen Care.
I use to walk in the world wondering why the little things bothered me. I wondered why someone wishing me a happy holiday for a holiday I won’t be celebrating made me feel different or why a wondering eye hurt more than it hurt my friends. I wondered how I can be so sensitive. I now rock the term sensitive. My sensitivity allows me to be there and I mean really be there for those who are in my circle. My big sensitivity allows me to be attuned to and with my clients. I often get thanked for my ability to tune in and really care. So now when someone calls me sensitive I thank them because I know it’s showing up as presence for those I love and for myself. I’m now deeply grateful for being able to embrace my big feelings and sensitivity.
I think acceptance of sensitivity became easier when I was able to identify what different parts of me needed. This came about through the help of many people, groups and parts throughout my journey. For example, if I have five things I want to tell someone about how they’ve bothered me I pause. I’ve looked at how criticism has poisoned myself and others and I choose not to pass that poison on to the person I want to confront. I do this imperfectly, but to the best of my ability on a daily basis. I pause. I breath. If there is something I must say, I say it from a place of honesty and warmth and I thank them for listening. For example, I pause if I’m hurt by my boss not hearing my cry for more resources for clients until chaos strikes. I talk with my spiritual guidance. I listen. I breath. I decipher what part of me needs to be heard and I lead with loving reparenting. I tell the person how I feel. I let them be heard too. And then I don’t revisit the issue unless there’s some action items to address. Once this part of me is heard I no longer have to protect so tightly through distraction, obsession, and other modes of protection. Now this is after years of trying to figure out what was wrong with my reactivity, to be honest decades.
Nothing was “wrong.” I am simply a big feeler and needed to learn to pause and listen to the different parts of me. Maybe they previously came across as angry, jealous, or sad. All of those experiences are perfectly fine. However, if I am consumed by an emotion or protector part trying to get me away from the moment then I don’t actually get to the part of me that’s in there hoping to be heard. I don’t actually get to see how hurt I am that my boss didn’t hear me and now our clients are not getting what they need. I just get stuck in the superficial stories of why boss doesn’t care about me, why they think I’m not worthy, or how no one cares. It can get pretty rough when stories drive the bus. The stories are often ways to block and protect from the moment. Presence is accessible through pausing and checking in with the body. We can reduce reactivity as we check in and see what’s really up. It’s one of the most powerful tools I’ve ever accessed and I can’t wait to share it with my fellow “angry”, fellow “sensitive”, and fellow “moody” people. We can hone our reactivity like a beautiful superpower. It may still sting your heart, but it’s powerful information and a way to gain trust within. I want to listen to me like I feel no one can. I want to be that lover, best friend, parent to myself and may you be all that for you too. I want us to listen to those parts inside crying for us to listen. It is of course easier said than done, but I believe the body will keep hinting if we don’t listen.
So the next time someone says or does something or doesn’t say or do something and you’re left in your feelings, put your hand on your heart and check in. Give it a try. You can try right now without big feelings. If there are any parts of you needing to be heard I’m sending them love. May you be you. See you next week for more on caring for ourselves a little differently.
People often tell people they should go to therapy so that they can just talk with someone. They often argue that going to therapy is the same price as that massage or retail therapy they might pay for otherwise. Therapy is not a massage. Massage is healing too, but therapy is another somatic way to discharge old stories through our body, express ourselves, and heal. It’s not something we should do just to talk with someone. It’s a healing interaction that can change cycles of trauma.
I do wish that therapy was free to all clients. I dream that therapy was at least more accessible. I even built in free therapy slots for marginalized populations within Soft Heart Psychology. I aim to keep doing more for more accessible care. I wholeheartedly desire to be a part of this solution. For those who can pay for therapy, I really want to talk about why it should be at the top of the list and not put off any longer.
Do it for your attachment style. This is one of my favorite reasons! I’ve seen folks transform from an avoidant attachment style to a secure attachment style. There is something transformative about therapy where the rapport between client and their psychologist or therapist can allow for a healing and secure attachment style. They may report more confidence or a new, more gentle or accepting voice in their mind. They may relate to people differently and accept a different type of friendship or lover in their life. There are so many beautiful benefits and we know that the number one curative factor in therapy is the therapeutic alliance. It really can transform attachment styles. Perhaps one of my favorite ways to see this show up is for a new care giver. When someone seeks therapy and they want to have a child in their life or are a new parent it is exciting to know we can shift their attachment style in our work together. It is beautiful to know that their work in therapy can impact their caretaker relationship with their child whether adopted, biological, or otherwise.
Do it for your health. Esteemed Surgeon General of California, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, in The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, explains that trauma impacts our bodies and is correlated with health concerns such as COPD, heart disease, cancer, and so much more. If we leave this toxic stress unaddressed or keep doing things to numb and avoid the pain it can build up in the body and in our DNA. In addition to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ expertise, other trauma experts like Drs. van der Kolk and Brach acknowledge how bodies hold these traumas. People will come in with stuff their doctors don’t understand while these trauma experts have been explaining how trauma impacts our bodies for years now.
Therapy heals. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris also discussed how therapy can heal trauma. Dr. Burke Harris explains how a connected relationship with a trauma-informed therapist can help people recover from childhood adversity and toxic stress. Even if folks didn’t have childhood trauma, people can most likely relate to the toxic stress component where therapy can be essentially useful for healing.
Therapy can get you what you want in life. When you come to therapy you are sharing honestly. Your therapist can reflect what you’re saying while reflecting what you’re doing and see if they align for you. For example, if you say you want to be married and at the same time you’re dating someone who doesn’t want a committed relationship then your therapist could non-judgmentally reflect how your dreams and actions line up.
Do it for your money. I’ve had people come in and identify that what they are doing for a living wage doesn’t line up with what they want to do. Or I’ve had folks see more privileged people doing their same job, but for more money then they are earning. We reflect on this and then support them in asking for an equitable wage. If the sole reason someone comes to therapy is to become more assertive concerning their money, I still recommend therapy because there is a lot of equity that can happen, especially with those experiencing racism or other isms at work and in society.
Therapy is for you whether you’re considering adopting a child and you don’t want to pass down the trauma and attachment style you carry, you want to grieve a loss fully, or you desire to earn what the White men at your job earn. Therapy is for simply for you. As a clinical psychologist I believe in the power of a variety of healing relationships and believe healing comes through all sorts of interactions. There is however a special transformation that seems to come from the rapport with a trauma-informed psychologist or therapist.
This is our last part of this series. We talked about some of the bullying I experienced personally, racist related bullying, gender related bullying, bullying due to socioeconomic status, and now we’ll wrap up about making amends for the bullying we’ve done. While I mentioned I experienced years of confusing, hurtful bullying, I want to be transparent that I’ve also bullied people a few times.
It may hurt one’s heart to reflect on what they did to isolate or hurt another. However, I believe in order to improve and not pass down these bundles of hurt we must address where we’ve hurt others from our bullying too. We can look at what was passed to us and make amends by changing how we do things moving forward. Where we can apologize to the person if it does not burden them. We also don’t need to rub it in. For example, if we bullied a younger sibling for being short we don’t have to call them up making short slights and say how we’re sorry. We can reach out and ask if they have a time or way they may like to talk for a moment. For example, I recently received a kind email from someone in high school kindly apologizing for anything they did and wishing me well. It was heart warming, but they didn’t detail slights or injuries, they just displayed how they’ve changed.
We can also improve our behavior and be examples of the way we want to live moving forward. For me this means limiting gossip, sending light and prayers to people when I can, and trying to step up when I perceive abuses to be occurring currently. What does changed behavior look like for you? I believe this is the most juicy part of not passing down bullying. These traumas can stop by our self reflection and adjustments.
Did anyone watch the series, Maid, on Netflix? Did you see the part where the mom gets access to a preferred school for her daughter and then her daughter’s educator assumes the daughter wants icecream like all the other children? This assumption led the educator to ask mom for $6 for an icecream to compensate for the educator spending that money on the child’s icecream to so called be included with her peers. If you remember this scene or can understand the assumptions we make you’ll know what I’m talking about with the heart break of socioeconomic status related slights or bullying.
Do I think the educator in this film meant to marginalize this family? No. But I do believe those of us who earn a living wage so quickly forget or never learned that there are so many folx out there that are struggling financially. I’m not just talking about the first few images that come to mind when you think of financial insecurity (not enough food, being unhoused, or feeling cold on the street). A child may have enough for a pair of nice sneakers, but may not be able to participate in a school activity dependent on outside funds. Another child may be housed, but not have enough food. Another child may have hand me downs that their peers bully them about. There are many forms of bullying related to someone being from a different socioeconomic status. Children may endure verbal, physical, or emotional slights or isolation from peers due to perceived differences in financial resource.
These traumas can elicit long-lasting wounds. I believe that as adults, whether we have children in our close circle or not, we can evaluate our relationship with money. Are there ways we other due to financial differences? Do we wish to contribute to communities more? How much is consumerism a part of our life? Looking within can change our behaviors and how these trickle out into society and into the perceptions of children. No more othering due to differences in money background needs to happen for children. This can stop now if we start looking at our own stuff.
This week I’d like us to discuss bullying as it relates to gender related comments. Some people have been called names, ostracized, or isolated because they were perceived as different or not fitting a child’s conceptualization of a binary gender. Some people have been hurt or threatened because of how they are or how they expressed themselves. I’ve advocated for children being abused by their school system, isolated from bathrooms they needed, or hurt within their family system because of who they are.
Trauma from gender related bullying can impact so many areas as do all other areas of bullying. A doctor at my previous job with a gender health center shared a helpful poster with me once that brought tears to my eyes as it did to several patients who I later shared the poster with. The Family Acceptance Project shared educational posters indicated that when we welcome gender expansive children we reduce risk of suicide, substance abuse, and other concerning behaviors (the poster can be found at this link https://parity.nyc/fap-poster).
I’m not the first psychologist telling people bullying can kill. I’m not the first healer suggesting people do not bully and learning more because that can save children’s lives. I am a healer who wants you to know what power you have though. Gender related bullying and abuses, much like other abuses can injury one’s body, mind and spirit and have long-term consequences. We have the ability to learn more and do differently now.
Thanks for joining us for more on ways bullying occurs, what that means for people, and how we can improve moving forward. Another type of abuse is isolating or aggressing toward someone using racial messages or propaganda to hurt someone. We know that these types of aggressions range from pronouncing someone’s name differently than their name is pronounced to commenting on someone’s hair texture that may be different from yours, or range from commenting on someone’s abilities or performance to assuming someone’s feelings and a number of other very hurtful aggressions.
In the early 2000s Dr. Derald Wing Sue and his colleagues explained how racial microaggressions stab people of color with hurtful slights (Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, and Esquilin, 2007 can be located at https://www.cpedv.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/how_to_be_an_effective_ally-lessons_learned_microaggressions.pdf). They explained that “Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.” While all of this is so concerning, my main concern is what we are passing down to generations to come? If Sue and his colleagues said people microaggressing are “often unaware” then what about children who hear or witness racism and propaganda?
If us adults are unaware of the wounds we are inflicting then how are we spreading these microagressions to children? If a child grows up in this racist America or hears their caregivers stating racial microaggressions then it is not unlikely to think the child may bully their peers who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). One can do so much to address their unchecked racism such as self reflecting, learn more, or start with one of the bias or White fragility quizzes out there. I haven’t checked my biases on these quizzes for some time now and as a White presenting person I will reevaluate now. Let’s name our stuff and try to do better everyday so we don’t keep hurting people. If we care about reducing the impacts of bullying we can start with ourselves now.
Okay so this blog post could go anywhere this week. The complexities of bullying?! Where do we begin? There’s so much we could discuss concerning bullying. For this I’m talking about the slights that injured you and this could be picking on someone’s shoes, parent, size, etc. For today I’d like to focus on bullying based on perceptions of a child looking different due to another child’s racism or xenophobia.
When I was young I was bullied daily and I wasn’t sure if it was strictly because of my size or something else. Later I learned that children can say hurtful things because you have different foods than they do or have caregivers that look different. For example, I grew up in a very White supremacist area where skinheads reside and didn’t think I experienced any “othering” by my peers as a child because I thought I looked White. I’m mixed Iranian and White. My experience is nothing like the overt stabs of racist comments, isolation, and abuses that friends with darker skin tones than I experienced. I continue to acknowledge and address my White privilege. I’ve also seen neo Nazis accost my parent after soccer practice, police call my parent a terrorist when pulling him over, and more. After further reflection I started to realize the environment I grew up in may have impacted the way children saw me and they may not have known why they were treating me with such daily unkindness and this othering.
I’ll never know whether they treated me differently because of how they were raised and what that told them about the foods I brought to school or the people they saw around me. I just know that people continue to report that they were treated with inequity, hurtfulness, and harm by peers who perceived them to be different. This othering and bullying certainly continues. The racism that people grow up with can stick with children and can be traumatically hurtful. As a healing provider I see the damages for folx. Not only does research indicate that children know about ethnicity, but data also shows that children’s self esteem is impacted by discrimination (from a study conducted in 2011 by Dulin-Keita, Hannon, Fernandez, and Cockerham, which can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083924/).
I also get to witness life changing examples of parenting where children are exposed to a variety of people and views. I see how much they benefit from an open heart and broad exposure to various cultures, languages, skin tones, etc. Research even shows exposure to multiple ways of being in the world can help us be more creative (from a study conducted in 2019 by Tang, Wang, Guo, Zeng, Zhou, and Cao, which can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6499159/). There are so many ways that bullying and racism can injure, while we as the psychologists and healing providers know that the opposite (exposure to various backgrounds) is beneficial for everyone in several ways. That’s all for this week and I hope we can continue to discuss this important topic for weeks to come.
Everyone has some form of dissociation. People may range from zoning out or daydreaming to experiencing dissociative identity disorder. Folks may wonder why they’ve been feeling more absent minded or forgetful and it could be a number of reasons. I love to make sure their physical health is okay and before jumping to other stuff I like to check in with their stress and how this feels in their body and psyche. Here are some suggestions to address dissociation and they’re in no particular order.
Take the test. With every assessment there are issues. This is a great dissociation questionnaire; however, it doesn’t account for as much of the cognitive dissociation I’d prefer. For example, I serve folks recovering from obsessive and intrusive thoughts and this questionnaire doesn’t ask much about obsessive thoughts taking someone away from the present moment. Nonetheless, if you’ve been feeling out of it or not in the present as much as you’d like, you may benefit from taking this questionnaire to get an idea of your dissociation. http://traumadissociation.com/des Knowing more about what’s up can be so helpful.
Feel your body. Doing a daily body scan can also be so helpful. If people are not sure what emotions they feel or they’re not sure where these emotions come up in their bodies I like to direct them to a few key points. I direct the person to check in with their forehead, jaw, throat, shoulders, heart space, seat, and arms and legs. You can also do a more formal and thorough scan of the body to see if there’s tension, ease, heaviness, tightness, etc. If you experience some dysphoria as you check in with certain areas in your body maybe start with areas that are less charged. This is a practice of safety, not pushing oneself past a space that feels safe. For some, escaping the body served you very well at one point or another. If attuning with your body makes more sense for you now, it can be so skillful to do a couple of check ins with key areas in your body. I tend to check in with my forehead, jaw, shoulders, heart space, and low back. These are areas I’ve noticed carry more feelings than the rest of my body. Noting or observing feelings that are there is so helpful so they don’t go ignored or get stuffed down through the fast vibes of the day. You’re so worth it to be in your body now.
Ground. Another helpful way to approach these zoning out spells is to ground oneself. I like to keep it super simple with this one. When our minds or bodies or sweet little sympathetic nervous systems are feeling chaos or distraction we can tune in with the moment and ground ourselves in the here and now. One might state the ground they are on; for example, I’m often on Muwekma land. You can also try noting three things you see, three things you see, and three things you feel right here in this moment. If one of those senses are not accessible you can try grounding with another sense. You can tune into the sensory experience fully. For example, you can feel the softness, bumps, heaviness, and warmth of the material on your lap right here in this moment before moving onto a second thing you feel in this moment.
Explore where it comes from. I’d recommend talking with someone or joining a group where you can explore said dissociation if you feel safe exploring. Some reasons for dissociation may be because someone is feeling triggered from a childhood wound (such as abandonment), oppression (such as racist remarks), life stressors (such as a pandemic), etc. People may experience lapses of being present, feeling they aren’t really here or real, forgetting things, or are more distracted. With a gentle lens they can view what is going on for them. Perhaps a friend left them or their caregiver is sick. This could elicit grief and the person may not notice the grief so much but they may see that they are more absent minded, forgetful, or day dreaming more often. This is totally understandable. That is perfectly okay and we can go back to compassion for those parts of you that may have had to dissociate in order to protect themselves. Knowing that some of what’s going on is dissociation may help you get supported and share. Talking about it in a trusting environment can get you the connection you need during these times. You are so worthy and enough of getting support for any dissociation or other trauma and stressor symptoms you may be experiencing.
Thanks so much for learning a bit about what’s up with your zoning out moments and feel free to check in next week for more about loving you.
What’s your mood plan? What will you do to care for your mood today? Do you do so much for your mental health only to notice the change in seasons and increase in darkness impact your moods? Well you’re not alone. It’s more common than we’re aware of or talk about. For some, it’s a natural hibernation, for others it’s seasonal affective disorder. For folx who struggle with their moods, in addition to talking about this with your providers you can also develop a gentle, compassionate, and consistent mood plan.
Some things people incorporate into their mood plan are below and there’s so many more ideas too! People might:
-Get their labs checks to ensure their vitamin D, vitamin B, and iron are sufficient if they have access to healthcare.
-Spend time in light daily (either outdoors or supplemented with a light box if that’s financially feasible for them).
-Movement if that works for you.
-Breathing or breathwork if that’s available to you.
We could list a few other mood suggestions, but I want you to think of what’s accessible and helpful for you. Decolonializing mental health care to me means a lot of things, including turning to you to see what works for you rather than paternalistically repeating advice from Eurocentric psychological research.
We’d love to hear one of your favorite things for your mood plan. Feel free to add something you intend to incorporate into your mood plan without perfectionism. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next week with more about you and your healing.
Maybe you’ve been having some feelings. I want to say it’s okay if you have sadness in your heart, some uneasiness in your mind, or feelings of loneliness. It’s all okay no matter what. In fact noticing the feelings at all is change.
Let’s talk a little bit about feeling feelings in the body rather than trying to think them out in the mind or analyze the feelings. I’m not saying checking in with your body will reduce your pain or suffering. I’m simply saying we can feel the full extent of our feelings through the body. I recommend that we feel rather than bypass, soothe or cope. Don’t get me wrong, we all side step feelings sometimes and that may be what is needed to get through something.
It’s just that a temporary distraction may stuff down the feelings or put them somewhere else, but our bodies know what’s up. Our bodies are these really smart things that we demonize, abuse, and escape. I’ve done it too, I get it. It’s just that feeling feelings rather than analyzing thoughts or escaping has been more helpful clinically and personally.
Any body scan meditation can help or a quick face check where you see how the forehead, jaw, and shoulders feel can be helpful. I briefly notice tension in the forehead, clenching of the jaw, or high shoulders throughout the day. While this noticing does allow me to release these areas, it’s actually meant for nothing more than simply checking in with my body. Our bodies know what’s up even if we don’t. It’s okay to feel feelings. You can let us know what comes up as you give yourself and your inner parts space to feel feelings and sensations. Great job reparenting by letting yourself feel.
Sometimes we want to forgive or release someone or something for a wrongdoing or resentment we’re holding. Perhaps someone hurt you. Maybe a system or place or thing didn’t give you a chance. Perhaps intergenerational stuff has been passed down to you and you want to release from this stuff. Maybe what you hoped for did not happen.
Oftentimes forgiveness advice is focused on letting go of anger. This advice will be a little different. Today we’ll focus on self-forgiveness not on other people. Feel all the anger or other feelings you want to feel.
You may not blame yourself, but if there’s a chance you have some shame or hurt, self-forgiveness may be helpful.
We can make room for self-forgiveness by feeling any feelings you have to their full extent. This may mean sitting for a couple of minutes alone where you can feel your feels all the way. Maybe this means quiet time. Or maybe this means crying for a few minutes and letting the tears fall without beating yourself up. In fact, tears release toxins, so let those tears come. Let your chest feel tight, heavy, sad, whatever it feels. Let your tummy feel whatever it feels. Let your pelvis feel achy. Let your shoulders well up with tension. Let your forehead ache. Let it all be for a couple of minutes. It may be so scary to feel your feelings all the way. Perhaps nothing comes. That’s totally okay too. Feeling feelings doesn’t mean you’re doing something about them. There’s no need to worry that you’ll act out from a place of feeling triggered. You can simply try your best to feel without doing a thing.
Sometimes when our inner parts get a chance to be experienced in the body they aren’t in there kicking and screaming in the form of shame, inner criticism, or acting out. I’m really proud of you for even considering feeling your feelings. I think it’s really hard and really hard not to at the same time.
If after you’ve felt your feelings such as anger, grief, sadness, or disappointment you’d like to ground yourself you may find a sensual grounding strategy helpful like smelling citrus or touching something cool. Getting back into our bodies and into the moment can help us feel that annoyance, anger, or disappointment in ourselves for letting back in that hurtful dating prospect, expecting more from a family member, or hoping a system would change their ways. We can also have a deeper, more authentic compassion for those parts of ourselves that didn’t expect what was coming or expected it and tried anyway. Perhaps we can talk to ourselves a little like we’d talk to a friend or our inner child when they made a hard mistake or when they were hurt. Rather than shame them, let’s give them a huge hug of understanding with our words. If they want to explore how they can do differently next time that’s fine, especially once they’re in a better place, but for now let’s feel the feelings and talk compassionately to ourselves. It may be hard to find compassion for ourselves if our mistake is a repeated pattern. That’s understandable. Feeling the feels and exuding compassion will still be helpful before exploring how we can do differently next time. Someone with this type of pattern may even benefit from therapy or a healing space where they can explore where and why they keep doing xyz. Hands on my heart, I’m sending you lovingforgiveness for whatever self-forgiveness you may be working on.
Some folx ask about how to feel their feelings. I get it. It’s hard to feel feelings. I will say in my experience as a clinical psychologist I know you have everything you need right now to feel your feelings. There actually are no tools one needs, but because we are programmed to get away from the moment it can be very confusing and baffling to tap into one’s emotions or express emotions. Some people may struggle with feeling their feelings because there wasn’t room to express oneself in their home or within society or because they may not have had models to display emotional expression. For example, in Farsi people say “don’t cry” as a soothing statement, but now I find this confusing and contradictory as we now know that when we cry we actually release toxins. There’s so much messaging around suppressing one’s feelings. Sometimes the only emotion expressed in one’s household was anger. This can also be confusing when people feel sadness, disappointment, and an array of other emotions. I also believe we may not fully feel joy if we don’t allow for all our feelings to be felt, even less desirable feelings. You may explore where stuck grief, feelings of abandonment or loneliness, sadness, or other emotions can be hard for you with a healing provider, but for now here are some tools to help feel the feels. Also, if it’s too much for you, you can stop.
Writing it out: One way people can feel and release their feelings is somatically. This can be done through movement including talking, writing, dancing, etc. If you choose to write it out it may be helpful to focus your writing on identifying the part of you that is feeling this feeling and where it comes up in your body. For example perhaps it it is your inner critic part and comes up as low back aches and you turtle up.
Grounding: Additionally, folx can ground themselves in the moment through strategies that are calming for the senses (such as feeling the weight of a blanket on you or rocking from side to side or like you might in a rocking chair) or you may benefit from alerting sensory strategies (such as smelling something citrusy like an orange or eating something sour mindfully).
Breathing: A few sessions of breathing big, slow and long everyday can change the parasympathetic nervous system. When we do breathwork we can have access to healing and giving our nervous system a chance.
Note what arises: You can let feelings or thoughts arise without attaching stories to the feeling or deriving a conclusion from what arises. While your analytical mind may be helpful, it can be even more valuable to focus on the moment by grounding, breathing, and letting thoughts and feelings be without figuring stuff out. When observing or noting a thought or feeling we don’t engage in an inner dialogue between the inner critic and inner defender, which only takes us further from the moment.
I’m offering a few ways to feel one’s feelings as not everyone may be able to or have access to each of these approaches. It’s okay too if one of these tools does not fit. There is no goal you need to arrive at with feeling your feelings. You’re already doing a good job. You’re already enough as you are. I’m wishing you gentleness and self-compassion on your emotional expression journey.
How can we have gentleness with our body changes during this global pandemic? Some of us lost our muscles or gained more flesh. Some of us lost touch with movement that was empowering and felt good to our bodies while others gained a more mindful relationship with food and ditched the punishing ups and downs of diet culture. For some, not being able to get beauty services the way they once did may even trigger gender dysphoria. There’s so much compassion to be had with whatever happened to your body during this traumatic time.
I believe we can have great compassion for bodies as we are in fact facing trauma with this pandemic. The adverse childhood experiences survey (ACES) was first created by a doc who noticed his patients were gaining weight after a weight loss surgery and it was correlated with trauma. I believe our relationship to food is deeply attached to childhood. We go to a bottle of powdered milk or a breast or other source for milk for nourishment, comfort and attachment. I believe we go back to food over and over for nutrients and so much more. And that’s okay. But when a trauma like this pandemic happens, it’s perfectly understandable that people will feel their eating or bodies are not where they want. We can have great compassion for the baby within who needed and needs nourishment plus so much more during scary times.
Furthermore, not accepting the trauma that came up through body changes during the pandemic may leak over into shame or negative thoughts of self. Radical, deep acceptance will allow us to move and eat with attunement more than shame will. Shame may get us on a diet or to temporarily obsess and control, getting further and further from any actual sustainability and acceptance. Plus would we love a child only when they fit xyz body image or once they lose the weight they gained over the pandemic? What about your child within? Can we send some compassion and acceptance to her right now? I love your inner child no matter what. This stuff is hard, let’s keep helping each other be as compassionate and accepting with our bodies as possible.
I recently received a validating, compassionate email from a previous friend from a time in my life when things were difficult and I felt alone. It reminded me of the power of groups because at that time in my life I went to a group where I learned to release behaviors that no longer served me. Years later I ended up serving folx in similar situations and then became a clinical psychologist where I continue to work with people individually and in groups.
Group therapy and support groups provide a sweet opportunity to open up and connect. Connection is so precious these days in times of colonialism and the pandemic. Group therapy can be led by someone like a clinical psychologist who may be experienced with folx they serve, whereas a support group can be made up of members of the group with lived experience. For example, as a cisgender psychologist I can conduct group therapy with Transgender adolescents with my experience serving at gender clinics and having had the opportunity to serve many Trans and nonbinary people. However, I wouldn’t be in a support group with Trans adolescents because I’m not Trans nor an adolescent so I don’t have the lived experience to be in a support group with Transgender teens.
If you feel connecting through a group may serve you please consider a few components of groups that can make the experience what you need.
We want to consider access issues such as insurance coverage, transportation, and language differences. There’s also internet access and access to a private space if you share space and need an internet connection to join a group. Financial barriers may limit one to a group too. Unfortunately, there are so many barriers to accessing a group you may desire or need. If there’s a group secretary or therapist you may brainstorm ways to increase accessibility so you can be a part of the group.
We also want to consider the many levels of safety to consider. For example, does the group leader represent the members of the group or at least acknowledge their privilege? Are things kept confidential within the group? Are people gossiping in group? There’s a lot that can be done to increase the safety of a group so long as people have some intentionality and care around how people are treated in the group.
Opening up in ways that feel safe for you and are not too raw, too soon can be helpful. For example, some folx may want to share at a group level while others may benefit from sharing with a sponsor or therapist before sharing at group level. Additionally, openness may not have been praised in your family or society growing up. Praise any tiny ounce of openness you display. I’m so proud of you for trying out connection through a group.
Connection is a healing balm for humanity. Some of my deepest connections and repairing have come from group settings so I’m forever grateful for and in support of your healing in whatever ways that looks for you.
Soft Heart Psychology conducts therapy groups from time to time so please feel free to reach out and let us know if you need a particular group.
Human suffering is nothing new and 2020/2021 are no exception. I hope all supports are on deck to help people with traumas from this pandemic. One of the supportive things we can get on deck is our bodies and that includes things like incorporating the parasympathetic nervous system and hormones like serotonin. We’ve discussed the importance of the parasympathetic nervous system and what we can do for our nervous systems in previous articles. Now I’d like us to focus on serotonin because we know that serotonin can help with sadness and nervousness. The serotonin kit can’t replace therapy or medication, but below are a few suggestions on how to build a serotonin kit just for you! Take what you like from the kit and add or remove what you need. You can even share favorite ways you help yourself access more serotonin in the comment section below if you’d like.
People hear from doctors, famous psychologists, and people everywhere throughout time how important movement is for our body and spirit. While this is true, it is also important to move in alignment with what we need for that day. What are ways your body needs movement? Do your hips or calves need movement or perhaps your back or wrists? This is coming from someone who use to plow through half marathons despite the pain it caused. This is coming from someone who subscribed to diet mentality with abandonment of the body. I embrace new ways to move my body as someone who is releasing from image driven, colonialist ways of measuring worth through athletic performance and image. You can connect with movement in ways your body needs today. Perhaps it is a few minutes of dancing rather than training for a marathon. Or perhaps you want to feel the crunch of leaves on a walk outside. Maybe it is trying a physical activity you haven’t tried before or a long-lost activity that you crave. You can consult with your team (medical and or other healing professionals) about ways in which you can move safely. Maybe even consult with your inner loving team on what your inner world needs to express themselves and move today.
Have you ever felt a renewed sense of gratitude, grounding or joy when sitting in the sun? Serotonin may be boosted through more exposure to light via the sun or a therapeutic light such as happy lights. Sometimes sunlight or a happy light can feel activating so it is best not to engage before bedtime. I know you’ll know how to care for your skin to make sure the sun doesn’t hurt you, but other than sunscreen there’s not much to be said about this part of the serotonin kit. This is simply a reminder of what cultures all across the globe have known and practiced throughout time. The sun or a therapeutic light is healing and can help boost one’s serotonin.
Certain foods can also help us access more serotonin. Since I’m a Psychologist and not a Nutritionist or Coach I won’t delve into this suggestion much, but I will say you can ask one of the experts about how to boost serotonin in the gut.
Whatever you do, listening to and loving on you as you heal from the devastations of this pandemic is a win. I’m proud of you for trying to develop a kit just for you in whatever that looks like for you.
This tip is pretty simple, but it has been the most helpful suggestion for people I know. Learning as much as you can is helpful for OCD. It allows the noting thing we talked about in the beginning of this series to be that much easier. Learning more about OCD takes away some of the narrative that what the OCD tells us is true. We never want to invalidate feelings. However, there are some OCD narratives that can be scary and when we don’t know whether it is true or not it can feel scary plus confusing.
With OCD people have obsessions and compulsions, and sometimes both. They wax and wane throughout the month and over the years. Sometimes people will notice them go away or come back in another form. We’ve focused primarily on the obsessions in our four part series, but feel free to let me know if you want more articles on compulsions. There’s several types of OCD thoughts. We know they come up more when someone has too much caffeine and can sometimes be triggered by other substances. OCD is also triggered by less sleep, before someone menstruates, with change, and the media. There’s lots that can be done to lessen or even eliminate some of the triggers and nonetheless OCD can still arise. Education about what is OCD and that it is not your fault can transform life and your treatment approach. There is so much hope to be had with learning about OCD.
When you learn about the different types of OCD that may pick at your relationship, body, or character you can then note them as a thought, and not as truth. It gives us a little needed distance to say “hey, I think I learned about this type of OCD, maybe this is — type of OCD and not a sentence for who I am. Maybe I’m not horrible for thinking this intrusive thought if it’s simply a neurological firing.”
There’s some helpful and unhelpful information out there about OCD so please be mindful about what you take in rather than going down a rabbit hole about rabbit holes or ask your therapist to learn more about OCD. I find the video below to be helpful in addition to the workbook I’ve recommended (http://<p>https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343</p>). Lastly, I recommend folks use their highest coping such as deep belly breathing while delving into OCD info because sometimes people need breaks or to feel as calm as possible learning about OCD. Please be gentle on yourself and let me know if you’d like more on OCD such as family/community support or more on compulsions.
In our first part of the series on tips for folx with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) we talked about noting the obsession and using our parasympathetic nervous system to the fullest. We have this built in coping or survival strategy in our breathing and meditation that helps our parasympathetic nervous system bring us back from escalated, intrusive, and obsessive thoughts. In the second article of our series we discussed noting and not getting engaged with the back and forth between the inner critic and inner defender parts.
Now I’d like to discuss more noting. The more awareness folx who I serve with OCD get, the better they feel. This tip has to do with noting OCD corrections. When someone has an obsession or compulsion, much like a burp, they may try to hide it or have it come out in a quieter way. When someone attempts to do an OCD correction, their intrusive or obsessive thought may bounce out some other type of way or come out later. In fact, it may make the loop longer and more charged to try and regulate it. It can help to simply observe when the obsessions arises and note or observe when your attempt to change the obsession arises.
For example, someone may have an obsessive thought that they are going to harm a child or partner. In order to “correct” that thought one may attempt to mitigate through an OCD correction by thinking of kicking in the door. Folx without OCD may misunderstand this as aggression or anger, but this OCD correction may have served to mitigate the person’s fear around their first thought of harming their loved one. This comes from a place of thinking the thoughts are wrong and need to be corrected. You do not need to be corrected and you are innately good as you are. I get that there is no good and bad, but some of us who have felt shame for these intense thoughts need to hear we’re good or okay to heal. You are okay and correct as you are even with the most difficult, hurtful, or scary OCD thoughts. You are not your thoughts and cognitively we cannot control our first thought or our automatic thought.
So the next time a thought that is very bothersome arises and you notice yourself trying to mitigate it, I want you to praise yourself for this noticing. That means you are changing and shifting for more and more healing. Great job for noticing!
Next week we’ll discuss one more helpful tip on how to approach this tough OCD. We’ll focus on support/connection for more and more healing, acceptance, and feeling better overall.
This week we’ll discuss how to let that OCD thought or urge arise as the inner critic instead of resisting or battling it. The inner defender may tell the inner critic kind things, but the inner critic-inner defender battle will continue without the quiet, calm, centered part of ourselves. So much of Western, colonialized psychology tells us to challenge and invalidate ourselves. The inner defender may defend shouting things like “no, I’m not going cra$y, I’m going to therapy, talking more with friends about what’s up inside, and trying my best.” Essentially, the inner defender may reassure and defend with evidence, much like Western/colonialized psychology promotes. While this may serve some folx at certain times, the inner critic-inner defender battle is often only a temporary fix. What is more helpful is outlined below and summarized from my experience as a psychologist who serves several folx with OCD and also from the workbook recommended last week (can be purchased at this link: https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343).
Note it. Okay so this can be difficult when the OCD voice tells people what it says is reality. It can be difficult to note the intrusive thoughts, but when you start to work on noting or observing the thoughts without judgment of the content of the thoughts you are rewiring your neuropathways and letting the thoughts arise without giving them more momentum to keep looping. We like to say something like this to the thoughts that arise, “oh there’s the thoughts, I see you, okay.” It has the person not engaging in a back and forth with the inner critic and inner defender. I’d also check out meditations such as on Insight Timer for noting and observing thoughts.
Accept it. Listen, OCD thoughts can be so difficult. I don’t say this lightly. These thoughts can be so difficult folx may even think of hurting themselves to rid themselves of the painful OCD (if that’s the case for you, please reach out for safe help as soon as possible, because you are not alone). Internal family systems (IFS) says all parts are welcome and the workbook we’ve been talking about also states that acceptance that intrusive thoughts will arise from time to time. It’s not great or bad or okay, it just is. These thoughts will arise like hunger will arise. It is a simple fact. You may wonder, “how can Dr. Joharchi tell me to accept intrusive thoughts that tell me I’m evil or that I may hurt children or people I love,” or how can she tell me to accept thoughts that make me cry and feel like I’m spiraling?” You’re right, I don’t accept the content, nor do I believe it defines you. I simply accept that this is the way your brain is right now. I recommend you learn what you can about OCD to accept that these thoughts and urges will arise and that says nothing about who you are. We do not have to identify with the thoughts or wonder when they will go away. We can simply accept that the thoughts are here in this moment. That will help with reducing the internal resistance, which as we’ve discussed eventually makes it worse. One tip that helps with acceptance is fostering a deep feeling of self-compassion by talking to ourselves like we’d talk to a little one who has these thoughts or urges. We’d be kind, gentle and understanding.
I’m so proud of you for even reading these articles on OCD because that in itself can be triggering. Good job and we’ll see you for part three of this series soon!
In decolonializing care with the folx I serve and debunking a narrow-minded, Eurocentric field of psychology I’ve come to find trauma and grief show up in a number of different ways, including through obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is neurological and sometimes genetically linked. Sometimes it serves as a protection to keep someone from great grief or protects as control over one’s environment in some way. Whatever OCD is or wherever OCD comes from, folx who I serve who have OCD have experienced it on a heavier level lately and it is NOT THEIR FAULT. These thoughts can feel scary, dooming, and are often DEEPLY UNWANTED. I’m releasing a series of tips for adolescents and young adults regarding their OCD over the next few weeks.
OCD shows up in a number of different forms and can whack a mole into other forms from Relationship OCD (ROCD) to intrusive thoughts and magical thinking. OCD can also go hand in hand with things such as confessing or doing things to try and lessen the OCD. The more we learn it is neurological and ways to tend to it the more we can take away self-blame and a disappointing illusion of control. However, I will warn that sometimes simply reading about or watching information about OCD can be activating so please read this article with tenderness to any parts of you that may feel activated.
For the first OCD article in our series I’d like us to focus on the body. Sometimes uncertainty like the uncertainty we are experiencing in the world right now can be a trigger. Sometimes hormonal changes such as pre-menstrual cycle can trigger OCD quite a bit. Sometimes nothing in particular seems to trigger OCD. Some triggers for OCD can be addressed in the body. Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Seif and Winston discusses how caffeine, media, and other substances can worsen the racing, charged, looping thoughts.
You can note the charged thought or compulsion. You can observe and witness it without blaming yourself. We cannot cognitively control our first automatic thought. It is not your fault. Now that you’ve noted the thought or compulsion you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. In the blog from last week I briefly explain how this parachutes us down to a grounded, safe space. Rather than trying to figure out what’s up in our minds or why it is there or how to make it stop, focus on the bottom of your belly filling up with air by breathing in slowly through the nose, hold the breath at the top for an extra second, and slowly release the air like you’re blowing out birthday candles, emptying all the air from the bottom of your belly. Do this for a few minutes. Do this daily throughout the day. You can ask a parent or set up reminders. It’s crucial to practice belly breathing daily throughout the day to get the parasympathetic nervous system to a place where when there is a trigger then you can breath big and slowly. Focus on your breath. When you can’t that’s okay too because the body will parachute itself if you keep doing these slow breaths. There are also some great meditations on Insight Timer such as a meditation by Dr. LaTrice Dowtin titled “Allowing Distance From Thoughts”.
Our next article in this series will be on how to kindly quiet the inner critic versus the inner defender battle within. The inner defender may tell the inner critic kind, affirming things, but this battle will go on and on without some interruption from the quiet, calm, centered part of ourselves.
What do you do when your reaction feels huge in comparison to what just happened? It is totally understandable if your reaction to seeing, hearing, remembering, or smelling something feels like it doesn’t fit the situation. So many practices in psychology tell folks to think rationally, logically and actually invalidate themselves. This Eurocentric approach to feelings can be invalidating and in my experience as a psychologist it is better in most situations to validate and tune into the body. How does being triggered feel in your body?
Rather than argue with unwanted big feelings, what would it be like to simply note the big feeling and say “I see you” or simply observe the feeling. This can be done more so in the body than in the mind. Unfortunately in the mind affirmations that fight the experience or cognitive challenging can actually trigger more back and forth ping pong thinking. (Some affirmations can be great but they can’t used for challenging, such as “I am who I am” over “my body is perfect.”) For example, sometimes we’ll have our inner defender explain why we are okay to our inner critic. The inner defender may “win” for now, but the only true “win-win” resolution here is to ground ourselves in our bodies in the moment.
We can take note of the land we are on. Where are you right now? We can note what and where a feeling arises in our body. You may feel tightness in your chest, high and tense shoulders, or a twisty tummy. Breath into those areas. As scary and hard as it might be you can let yourself feel. Please follow your inner guidance. It’s actually best to practice this feeling your feelings in your body approach when things aren’t intense inside. It is also most helpful to practice it daily. When big feelings arise, your body will know what to do and the parasympathetic nervous system will parachute you down from being in fight, flight or freeze to being grounded in the now. Thank you land and universe for the privilege to breath in this moment. Please reach out to someone for therapy if you want help validating what comes up for you and addressing it in a different way moving forward.
I have the pleasure of serving so many wonderful people who have this kindness to them that can sometimes be a “blessing and a curse.” Sometimes folks will come to me because they are traumatized from work as a fellow healer, or because they overextend themselves with codependency or people pleasing, or perhaps because they lose themselves in giving to others. How can you be there for others and still for yourself? One prayer I adapted from a friend is to please help me be kind to all (all includes myself without being individualistic).
I don’t want to prescribe self-care where people abandon the people and communities they love. I don’t want to shatter parts of people that may have helped them survive. For example, if you grew up in a home where your siblings had special needs you may have had to people please and help a ton to get love and attention.
When people come to me with people pleasing or codependency I honor those parts for all they did to help themselves and others. We then acknowledge how it no longer serves them. Is listening to others making it hard to sleep? Do you feel sore in your heart space or tightness in your shoulders or forehead from carrying stress? Do you feel overly protective of someone in your gut? What and where does it impact you? Or perhaps it is more concrete and impacting your money or time.
Once we thank the behavior for what it did bring we can take note of what it doesn’t give now. Then we can work to add more of what the person truly needs in their life. Perhaps they desire to attend a dance class or walk through a nature spot alone. Maybe they want new shoes instead of buying everyone else new shoes. Or maybe the person desires to silence their phone automatically past 8 pm every night. Whatever the person needs to get back to their authentic self is okay. Our authentic selves don’t need things like self-harm behaviors so it is okay to explore what you authentically want without fear it’ll put you into debt or destroy your body or spirit. The quiet, calm authentic self is waiting for you, patiently.
Why do you have this people pleasing thing in the first place?
Give yourself what you need. Your oxygen for the community’s oxygen.
For all you reforming people pleasers, the cool thing is that when we get more back to ourselves we actually have more energies left for ourself and others! I know it’s cliche, but as a psychologist I find time and time again that our own oxygen mask must be on to help others get their oxygen too.
I’m leaving a clinic I love and goodbyes are hard. This one is especially hard because I love so many of the patients I serve and coworkers. I’ve created bonds and relationships with one of my dearest friends at the clinic and developed trusting, therapuetic alliances with those I serve. Leaving this job does not mean I’m leaving the patients, but rather transferring to something I can sustain as a highly sensitive healer.
I’ve consulted with trauma recovery experts and developed a plan to say goodbye over the course of three months. I began recording inner child healing meditations and upping my blog game to create a connection between them and myself even when we can no longer work together in treatment. I have worked tirelessly the last three months to let them know they are seen and that our thread of connection can continue within themselves if that’s what serves them. Still, goodbyes are hard. Sometimes goodbyes can bring up memories from losing a loved one or perhaps they bring up the abandonment of a friend leaving or choosing another friend. For some they can bring up a profound sense of aloneness. For some folx goodbyes can feel angry, irritable, or confusing. All feelings are welcome here.
Please send compassionate understanding and validation around feelings that arise. Whether you are saying goodbye to a chapter in your life, an old business, or a lover, please please please be gentle with yourself. Let’s send even more gentleness to these healing parts of you.
In this goodbye where I’m transitioning from a clinic to something else I am creating special transitional items to symbolize the goodbye with anyone who would like it. For some this can be a special journal and for others it can be a simple picture together. What has made a goodbye better for you?
We can also highlight the gratitudes from our time together. For example, there are people I have yet to meet in person but who did such transformative inner work in our time together. Wow! Can we just sit with that for a minute. We can acknowledge the feelings that arise with goodbyes, because they sure are hard, and we can invite thanks to whatever it did for us in that time together.
A friend and trauma recovery genius once told me that when someone comes to mind after a goodbye she likes to think they are thinking of her at that same very time. May you cross my mind and I cross yours.
Goodbye to those where our work has come to an end. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey and for being a part of mine.
How would you feed yourself if you fed yourself like you feed your lover? Where would you work if you paid yourself like you’d pay a friend? How would you talk to yourself if there was an infant within rather than the adult you?
You’ll notice several of our blogs are how to’s. Not this one! There is not much on how to love yourself since it’s already in there and we just have to get out of the way of blocking ourselves from our own innermost kindness. Easier said than done as these inner defenses (and sometimes even external defenses) have been with us for centuries and across cultures. You can access the inner love in this moment. The Power of Now discusses accessing the inner loving presence over and over (the book can be found here: https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781577314806).
If we talked to ourselves like we talk to a pet, baby, or close friend I think we’d be in a lot more of a cohesive, kind environment. There are several articles on how to love yourself. Whatever that looks like for you I’m grateful you’re taking a chance today to give another article a try.
You have what you need within. I’m not going to tell you to start therapy with me and then you’ll feel better or use this oil to love yourself more or do this worksheet to like yourself more. I’m not going to recommend walking or sun or antidepressants to love yourself more. I’m not going to suggest you do better and then you’ll be more worthy of loving yourself. All I’m going to say is that the love you want and need is already right in there. Maybe even put your hand on it. My love within feels like it is in my tummy and chest. We already have everything we need inside to love on ourselves more.
Some of us may have to work hard around those toxic thoughts or noting obsessions rather than arguing with the thoughts and having them loop back around. Some of us may even have to work hard to affirm or praise ourselves. Some may work to recover from the social traumas or other traumas. You may be thinking a valid thought, how can this “easy for this White lady to say all this.” That thought is perfectly valid. There are so many aspects to my privileges I must acknowledge.
If the old ways of dreaming no longer serve you then we can thank them. Old ways of workaholism and then life will be good or depression until we acquire that romantic relationship or attainment of quieter thoughts and then we’ll be happy are fantasies that may have helped us achieve and survive. I thank these hard work narratives so much. And we can now spot the joy and love that’s already there within. It’s best accessed with quiet. Sometimes it can be accessed by thanking the protective parts of you that worked so hard to survive traumas and imagine infant you. Sometimes our compassion and quiet is more easily accessed by loving on baby us or imagining how we’d talk to a lover. We can access the love and ease within. When we rewire our neuropathways for noting, affirming, and praising we are changing the intergenerational programming. This sort of reparenting can help us to access all the love within that’s been there all along.
There are so many articles out there on how we’ve got to disconnect from screens about a half an hour before bed to get good rest and I’ll be honest, I haven’t been doing this. This article is not to shame us into better sleep hygiene. We’ve got gazillions of helpful articles recommending a bed time routine and I practice and recommend this too. I get it, no lights, and do gentle reparenting before bed to help with sleep. But what happens when you’re tossing and turning? A majority of people in the U.S. experienced sleep issues during this pandemic and I wonder if it is related to trauma. As such I’d like to address sleep interruption with a gentle trauma-focused approach. Keep reading for a few recommendations on how to address the toss and the turn the next time you’re awake in the middle of the night.
Note/observe. Noting and observing have been one of the most helpful tools in my toolkit to not judging or criticizing thoughts as much. Noting what arises in thought or feeling can be helpful because it doesn’t say pick it up, analyze it, and see why you thought it in the first place. Noting what thoughts arise is like observing a child playing. We just note, “oh that child is skipping” or “she’s crying.” We don’t have to assign all sorts of meaning or judgment to what we observe. It is great to find out if a pattern of thoughts or feelings is leading us to or from something, but sometimes this can be difficult to discern when we can’t get back to sleep and often isn’t helpful at 2 am. Observing a thought without judgment or even observing the judgment of the initial thought can help us to note it and just watch it rather than get stuck in the intrusive thoughts loop with no exit in sight. Also, it is okay if it’s really, really hard to note too. We can even observe it’s difficult to detach and pause a thought loop. In fact, it may be very difficult to unhook from an intrusive thought loop late at night and that’s understandable, especially if our neural pathways have had years of practice at holding on tight to looping thoughts. Please reach out to me if you’d like to talk more about meditation practice to help with noting during any time, not just when it is hard to sleep. If you’d like an inner child sleep meditation let me know and I can post one on InsightTimer.
Promise to revisit tomorrow. You can promise your inner parts that you’ll revisit whatever is on your mind the next day. For example, if something said something that hurt and you didn’t realize it until 4 am you can process after you get some more sleep and awake to start the new day. You can set a gentle internal boundary. It doesn’t mean arguing with your inner critic or battling other parts of yourself. In fact, I’d recommend pouring on loads of validation. For example, “I see how painful these thoughts are for you right now and I promise we’ll look at it more or address it tomorrow at lunch break.” This is just one example of many of how to acknowledge while practicing some helpful reparenting of promising to revisit another time. Over time the inner parts often develop more trust that we’ll come back to hear them out rather than stuffing our feelings or experiences deep down.
Gentleness. Take it easy on yourself with whatever internal debates, pains, wounds or fatigues are taking from sleep. Take it easy on yourself no matter what. Easier said than done, but please practice your most compassionate voice here. You can even use a mindfulness self compassion exercise where you talk to yourself like you’d talk to your dear friend on your best day. You can even pet your own arm like you would your beloved pet. Hopefully you’d send someone suffering understanding and love without blame. Hopefully you’d send them gentleness no matter what. It’s easier said than done, but practicing this with yourself too is possible. It’s also helpful to take it easy on yourself the next day. Is there an appointment you can be flexible with, time for a walk in the sun, or can you do one less chore by any chance? Love on little you like you would if you had a child who struggled to sleep the night before.
Thank you for taking a moment to learn how we can note, commit to revisit, and be gentle with ourselves when we want to sleep and cannot. One last thought is that sometimes the day is so filled with doing what we do (such as nursing, therapizing, parenting, or something else) that we didn’t experience any play or relaxation. Sometimes our inner parts may be up and about because they are forcing their way out since we didn’t let them out to play while we were helping others or working very hard all day. If that’s the case, this awakening in the middle of the night thing can be addressed by some tender, loving reparenting throughout your day by sprinkling or squeezing in relaxation and play. This is also so much easier said than done. Is there something small you need in this moment that you can acknowledge?
This week we are back to treating burnout. However, this time let’s look at dismantling sexism and colonialism to prevent burnout from happening in the first place. Society unfortunately seems to expect people to do more than their supposed to do especially if they are perceived as or assigned as feminine or a woman or a person of color (POC). Colonialist principles expected POC to be enslaved and smiling about it. For example, when I moved to California I was saddened to see Mission San Jóse with paintings of First Nations Peoples or Indigenous People smiling while they did the colonialist’s work. Colonialists made slavery and colonialism look like a choice and like a job in these paintings. It is outrageous that these are pieces of “art” being displayed as late as 2018 in California. This devastating colonialism is part of our very recent roots in the United States. There are tremendous tree trunks, leaves, and fruit that have grown from these recent roots and society continues to expect feminine people and POC to do more for less.
People portraying enslavement and colonialism as a joyful job in a painting at Mission San Jóse is horrific and we know many other examples of how colonialism and sexism show up in the work place such as unequal pay. Of course womyn and POC may experience burnout with the weight of the country on their shoulders.
We can prevent some of this burnout by getting to those roots in every work meeting, every interaction, and every step of the way from home to work and back. We can prevent more burnout through dismantling colonialism and sexism in the workplace and home especially for White presenting folx like myself.
As a White presenting person I want to both acknowledge my privilege and dismantle racism and sexism, including at work. It can be everywhere from smaller actions to more large-scale actions. It can be as micro as looking at who you serve and how you welcome other women and POC into the field to as large scale as bringing systems issues to attention.
Micro ways of addressing colonialism and sexism at my jobs include and are not limited to leaving on time, taking breaks, referring patients with equity, and acknowledging my privilege in the therapy room. This ensures that I do not perpetuate the work harder for less money and commitment to equity.
Macro ways of dismantling colonialism and sexism in this context include changing systems to be more inclusive, “inviting in” by introducing yourself at meetings with pronouns and acknowledging other layers of privilege, and confronting internal and external isms at work daily. Ensuring we don’t wait for someone else to address these wounds means we could be preventing someone from feeling knocked down, burdened, exhausted and burned out by the colonialist, sexist systems.
Preventing burnout in the first place is somewhat less discussed than identifying a burnout recovery plan. As we return to some activities that may feel safe to return to and as we connect more in person folx report more and more burnout to me daily. We must look at what we can do now to treat those burns and also address the cause of much of our burnout. If people are treated with equity we have a chance at preventing burnout. Dismantling colonialism and sexism is the mental health remedy for burnout.
People have been talking about burning out quite a bit so I thought I’d blog about it. Burn out sometimes has Eurocentric solutions that aren’t accessible or don’t help everyone. This article will explain what burnout is and three ways to address it.
You don’t have to wait until you’ve snapped at a coworker, fell asleep at work, or made an unhelpful decision with a client to address your burnout. You may feel tired, irritable, and heavy in a way that really only revolves around your work or the duties involving your burnout (such as specifically related to work, caretaking, or parenting). It may be that when you stop working or doing this other activity you feel like yourself again. You may notice your energy return quickly not like with a more long-standing depressive episode. Burn out for me amazes me when I bounce back on the weekend and recover when I’m not working. It also felt difficult in the past when I dealt with burnout when people would talk a lot about vacations. I didn’t have time or money to dedicate to these vacations. I’d like to talk about other ideas we can consider as an immediate and long-term balm for those burned places in your psyche. Some of us are even the firefighters for other people’s psyche. We have some double, triple burn to tend to in these cases.
I believe that with accessing your recharge you may be able to recover from your burnout. With that being said, if you continue to suffer from burnout it may be helpful to access a healer who can truly help you out at this time such as a kind psychologist who can support you through depression.
We may look at how to prevent burnout, but then I think we need to get into a long and helpful discussion on sexism and colonialism. What I mean by that is that often times women, especially women of color are expected to do more for less. For example, for many years they have psychologists, especially women of color psychologists under earn in areas where burn out is most prevalent. We hear it modeled and perpetuated all of the time. So to prevent burnout, which I believe to be the more important topic, we will talk in another blog in the near future about how to dismantle sexism and colonialism in your work life, but for now let us broach the more superficial issue of how to recover from burnout now:
Intentionality-I’m almost certain that you’re already intentional out there in the world. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you live intentionally by trying to recover from your burnout. Every song, tv show, media, and friend conversation can be taxing on someone who is already burned out and it is difficult to spot. I’m not talking about doing laundry and getting groceries. I’m talking about the other things we do in our lives that feel less intentional. When we discern what brings us joy or gives us reprieve from the burned parts of our spirit then we can recover. It can be difficult not to bounce off the bowling bumpers given someone may feel so tired, but it may not serve us well to live unintentionally bouncing off the bumpers down the lane. We can live intentionally by reviewing our values, reallocating time, and practicing boundaries that are authentic to us. For example, if you love a friend, and also notice you feel drained and distracted when you talk with her lately you may check in with yourself. Would it be helpful to talk with her at a different time of the day? Less often? Or in person rather than on the phone? Another example is bouncing in between watching a TV show and checking emails from work. If you’re racking through work communications instead of enjoying a series or if you’re feeling too charged by the TV show and are reverting back to work to soothe you can pause here and see what works best for you. What is it that soothes you? What feeds your spirit? And how can you get more of that in your life with other constraints in your life? For example, do you listen to the radio on your headphones or speaker as you travel to work when it may make you feel better to have quiet time or listen to your favorite book? Or are you calling people back to go with the motions of life or is it serving the greatest good of all?
2. People-Speaking of people, who are those people who help recharge your energy? Even if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP) with loads of introverted tendencies, you are human and need people. There are a couple of people I feel deeply heard by and who I attempt to hear as well. These folx are in my heart. I can share or not share as much as I need to. These are people who do not judge me. They praise me when I didn’t know there was praise to find. We may talk about difficult cases. We may be playful. Whatever it is these friendships do NOT look like the TV show Friends with everyone looking alike and laughing over coffee every morning. Maybe you and your friends look like this, but that stumped me for some years. These heart connections can come from unexpected places. They are your family. I’d rather have one heart connection like this than 20 friends who I stay on the surface with, especially as an HSP. As we set boundaries around communications with people where we are not our authentic selves or feel drained around we can have more room the people we feel best around. I think of myself like a happy puppy. There’s certain pups who I can’t wait to smell and almost tackle with my love. When you’re burned out, save it for the pups that fill your heart.
3. Yourself-You can also spend some time as you’d like to. We don’t all have our own room or space so time to yourself may be internal or it may be outdoors. For example, if there’s a place you feel energized by can you spend a bit of time there to recharge? Or are you craving meditation time to internally take time for you? Time in the way you want it does not have to be the Eurocentric images I think of when I think of self-care and burnout. Make it whatever you need it to be.
I talk with so many people recovering from repressed and oppressed sexuality, especially regarding their own pleasure. Several people have been shamed not to touch themselves. Other groups of people have made children feel dirty or ashamed for safe and healthy masturbation. It is also perfectly okay for people not to have sexual interest too.
Sex releases helpful stuff like dopamine, oxytocin, and helps our immune systems. It is even said to light up the same parts of our brains as meditation. Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now even discussed sex to be a spiritual experience of connection (Here’s the book:https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781577314806). Why not rock all that we know about sexual pleasure and the benefits to our hormones and spirituality to help us become more comfortable with masturbation?! If you’d like to know more about how to please yourself with less shame and more satisfaction keep reading for these three tips.
Heal. Okay easier said than done. Healing old stories around religious or societal shame with sexual pleasure, especially sexual self-pleasure can be very helpful. You can also start to work healing where the psyche and physiological meet or the mind and body. You can uncover the oppressions of colorism, racism, and xenophobia. You can unpack trauma around your gender, body, or sexual traumas. You can give yourself pleasure in a safe setting and in the way that you want without having to tend to someone else’s needs and with less worry about how someone else perceives you or the sexual interaction. There’s so much layered into how we see our genitals, sexual needs, etc. If you can note what areas make you feel comfortable that can be a huge first step toward becoming more comfortable with self-pleasure. For example, if someone experienced religious oppression around sexuality, they can observe these thoughts come up for themselves, note these messages, and affirm or love on themselves. They can also work in therapy to address these wounds to gain more healing and feel touching themselves. Or perhaps their genitals do not align with their gender identity. They may explore what brings them pleasure and what are their boundaries, including what induces dysphoria for them. For some noting and observing the wounds around sexual pleasure can be helpful and for some this can uncover more work they want to do with a trusted psychologist. There are healing providers who can support your goals around feeling okay with who you are, including sexually.
2. Feel. Mindfulness can work wonders with pleasing yourself. If prayer and meditation are in your practice, you can use them now. You can meditate or set a quick intention right before you begin. You can use mindfulness to re-track your mind to the sensations in the moment. If you feel better with a clean, quiet space and can access that space, please do this for yourself. If you feel more relaxed with music or scents, go for it. If you prefer different temperatures you can run cold hands on your torso before you begin pleasuring yourself. If you prefer a slow start you may use your hands before using a toy. You can even explore new toys. Or you can explore nothing new and simply tap into the sensations by being present. Sometimes so much is going on in the world and our minds that we forget we can access a quieter more open part of ourselves internally. Another way to access that serenity within and consciousness is to relax part of the body. You may take a series of slow, long breaths and relax the abdomen or focus on imagining the tension in your pelvis melting into the bed/floor/wherever you are. Accessing physical release of tension can work wonders for the mind-body connection.
3. Deal. Make a no pressure deal with yourself. There are no constraints on whether you get aroused or not. Please let there be no pressure to orgasm. If we did that you may avoid seeking the pleasure you desire. Make a deal to yourself to be your own best lover by respecting your limits including your energy levels. For example, if your sex drive has decreased or you have a different sex drive level than a partner, let this be your time to have no pressure time with yourself. This can also be easier said than done.
I get it, and nonetheless connection to ourselves can help us improve this consciousness and get us some more of that oxytocin and dopamine. Reach out if you’d like to share how you intend to note and maybe even release an old story today. Sending you love this Friday and wishing you a moment of time in whatever way that looks for you.
Some folks have cycling of moods. Others cycle with the moon. Most of us have some natural cycling. This could be in the form of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a bipolar spectrum disorder*, or ups and downs with certain hormones or hormone replacements. For example, some folks who are on hormone replacement therapy can track their cycle and notice it align with a friend’s cycle. Cycling is so natural that many people even cycle with the moon.
Cycling has been depicted in literature for centuries. Having depressive or manic cycles is nothing new. I often wonder how much trauma is associated with cycling. For example, you may have noticed your premenstrual symptoms worsen around the beginning of the pandemic. What a traumatic time for some. In general, people may notice some highs and lows as they try new things at this point in the pandemic. For example, some people are noticing feeling more disconnected or new racing thoughts as they engage with people more in-person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m forever grateful for being able to be vaccinated and there are several of my family members in Iran who may not be able to get vaccines. I also notice folks struggling with their mental health. It parallels something like getting help after a war. Folks are crawling out of the corner that kept them alive these last several months. They may need even more tender care than when the virus was at it’s peak. If you notice yourself having some ups and downs we can take into context what is happening right now and extend heaps of compassion.
I like to extend compassion to these parts of us that are up and down by noting what arises and then getting in touch with what the part is trying to express. For example, is there a part of you that is exhausted? Does she need tender words of affirmation? Does she need to be heard? Some examples of when this part needs to be heard are when we feel tired and sassy or when we wish our emotions were more aligned with the thing that happened. When you feel yourself have big feelings rather than man-splain or invalidate yourself, note that part of you begging, maybe even screaming inside to be heard and scared that we are abandoning ourselves or that someone will leave or reject us.
You can utilize components of internal family systems (IFS) therapy to first calm your nervous system. I do this through touching my hand to the skin over my heart and really feeling the temperature and texture here while love shines from my hands to my heart. If you feel safe and relaxed you can ask to talk with this inner part for a few moments. You can envision this part of you sitting on the couch and handing them a warm cup of tea or hot coco. You can ask this part of you what’s going on. You can listen attentively, even if the reaction is huge. In fact, when the reaction is big we can give that part of ourselves even more tenderness. I offer those parts even more love. Note that part and then invite this tender part of you to share what is happening through imagery. This can help us have even greater compassion for those ups and downs. If you’d like help finding someone to walk you through these imagery exercises feel free to reach out to me.
*If you feel your bipolar disorder or other cycling is in need of assistance please do reach out and get the help you need.
I’ve been talking a lot with folks about how their family could’ve handled things more kindly when they found out their child was gay or trans (or sometimes we say LGBTQ standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer). I have the opportunity to serve folks healing from the wounds of society or someone emotionally, financially, or physically abandoning someone because they found out their child is LGBTQ. Some parents are doing a great job of navigating their grief, surprise, or adjusting to seeing their child differently. Some families are even reaching out and asking how they can be kind and helpful to their LGBTQ child. If you are reading this to help heal those old wounds for yourself or to help your teen, you’re doing a great job. I’m proud of you and I thank you. I’m hoping these direct affirmations can help caregivers to give that loving care to their child or adolescent. If you didn’t get these when you were younger I’m hoping we can have folks telling themselves these affirmations now.
It may go without saying, and I’ll still say it. It can be helpful to affirm your teen daily and without hurtful things to negate or confuse from the kind comments you said. For example, if I tell someone she can be herself and then I turn around and call her the “b” word these messages can get confused. Affirming daily can help your child build up a bank of affirmations perhaps strengthening the parent-child relationship and protecting them from traumas out there such as being misgendered. No being told you are whole in this moment as you are doesn’t stop the emotional bleeding of being misgendered, but it may help to know you have a nice parent to come home to. You can be the parent to your teen that you needed. Secret hint: You can be the inner loving parent to yourself now that you always needed. These affirmations are a great start to reparenting yourself and parenting your child.
The more authentically you, the better. Please use the following affirmations in your own words:
This is a hard time and in this moment you are safe.
All of you is welcome here.
I know you are trying.
I love you.
You are lovable.
You are everything I want you to be.
I see you.
I may not get it, and I’m here walking through this with you.
You are enough.
You are whole as you are.
Another way to affirm their being is to use a word they love. For example, I recently heard someone who identifies as a butch lesbian who said they love to be called “dude.” Someone else told me she loved to be called “honey.” Another person shared she wanted to be called “mija.” We can literally affirm one another’s presence with the use of a mindful, intentional word.
You can also validate your adolescent’s appearance by saying:
I notice you really enjoying the way your hair looks now.
I see you smile when you put cologne on rather than perfume.
I see you light up when I use they/them pronouns.
There are so many ways we can love on teens going through navigating their intersecting and developing identities. If you read this article you are already part of the solution and I appreciate anyone trying to help people feel more comfortable in this world. Let’s use a kind word with someone today.
Does perfectionism continue to block you from being you? Does perfectionism exhaust you? Or perhaps you feel you are so far from perfect that perfectionism can’t be an issue for you.
The inner critic who lives in perfectionism may attack your performance, work, eating, or other things you do or services you provide. Rigidly holding onto a high standard may even hold you back from being able to complete a project on time. For example, perhaps a person was only given attention when they cleaned perfectly or did assignments perfectly. If we grew up with a love deficit or attention limited household some of us may give up on trying to be perfect or try super super hard to get more love through being perfect. Therefore,I honor all parts of us who feel pulled to perfectionism. We can affirm, give ourselves a break, or highlight our contributions.
The perfectionist may have gotten us out of getting yelled at as a child or may have even served you in adulthood. For example, my perfectionistic inner critic helped me graduate graduate schools and go on to serve many patients. However, it no longer serves me well to believe the messages of this rigid little perfectionist within. In fact, the perfectionist could correlate with burn out or resentment. For example, someone may feel driven to accept all the clients their boss refers to them only to end up exhausted, with compassion fatigue, and annoyed with the boss and themselves for having accepted the clients.
In order to heal from perfectionism I’d want us to have discernment between what’s perfectionism and what’s reality. The chatter in our mind may sound like chatter, but through meditation or gently observing and witnessing our own thoughts we may notice a charge, heaviness, or racing feeling. We may notice thoughts pressuring us to be “just right,” that we aren’t doing or being enough, or that we are not performing perfectly. Said voice needs to be acknowledged from helping us get praise, helping us survive, and helping us get more love. We can go back to our inner child or utilize internal family systems to discover what this part of us did when we were younger.
When I drive home from work I give myself the praise I would’ve wanted. I briefly inventory my interactions in my mind. I praise myself for times I was supportive, compassionate, present, and did something helpful rather than harmful. This allows me to obtain the love I seek from within. May we acknowledge this arising, gain discernment to know the difference between our truth and perfectionism, and give ourselves what we need.
Do you remember when we learned about the seven different types of inner critics from expert, Maryam Fallahi? You can review the different types in Maryam Fallahi’s article seen here if you’d like: https://softheartpsychology.com/?p=161
I want to share about the phenomenon of the inner critics attacking our identities, specifically gender identity. Given that I’m a cisgender woman I cannot speak to Transgender and nonbinary folx experiences. And as the psychologist for a county’s gender clinic and as someone who cares about bringing this work into her private practice I want to discuss using components of internal family systems (IFS) with gender diverse people for psychologists.
Sometimes a part of people can come up and say they are not enough, especially as it pertains to gender. For example, a transwoman may have a part of her criticize that she is not woman enough or not Trans enough. This is different and sometimes intersecting with messages she may have heard growing up or from hateful, dangerous people in society. Sometimes another part can tell a person to fit a mold or that they aren’t being themselves in the “right” way. Essentially, I’ll hear clients in a beautiful path of transition have a hurtful part of themselves (like an inner bully, protector part, or inner critical parent) come up and say some of the meanest stuff. This part knows what buttons to push and which part of our identities to destroy. For example, as an Iranian American and White person, sometimes my inner critic comes up to tell me I’m not Iranian American enough and fit no where. There’s no use in battling back with this part of me. If you’ve ever tried to disprove or battle with these parts you may know that even if you “win” the battle this time, the inner parts will continue to be in tension and conflict, perhaps gaining even more momentum.
The most effective way to approach these inner conflicting parts has been to acknowledge where they come from and to observe them as the inner critic (or inner protector, wounded child, etc.). Understanding that a part of us is attacking our very identity can help this protective part of us be heard. Yes, I said protective. How can such hurtful attacks be protective? Well these parts of a person may arise to protect us from being rejected or abandoned. This may be especially true for folks who experienced emotional neglect, dysfunction in the family, abuse, and oppression. It is understandable that if I’m working with a trans client they may experience a part of them saying hurtful comments parallel to a change, fatigue, stress, oppression, hunger, or other shifts in their life such as right after hormone replacement therapy or before a family gathering. It can be difficult to note the inner critic is arising and may be trying to help the person mold to society. Or perhaps an inner part is trying to get the person to be so perfect that they won’t be abandoned or rejected. Once we acknowledge this is where that part of us is coming from sometimes the part can soften just knowing they’ve been heard.
Sometimes that part might need some soothing. I trust that the folks I serve have ways of soothing that serve them well and if they don’t we have so many cool options to explore such as taking a walk in the sun, cooking a favorite meal, listening to soothing music, compassionately putting their hands on their face, affirming they will not abandon themselves to the best of their ability, or simply hugging themselves.
I will also say it has been a bit triggering for some folks to imagine parts of their inner psyche because they may imagine their inner child in the gender they were born into and not their gender now or they may imagine an inner critic as a parent of a gender that brings them dysphoria. For example a woman imagining she is screaming at herself, but the image is her dad and this could ignite dysphoria. We can evoke any image we want or need. I can remember my inner child as the sweet girl who just wanted to play rather than the girl who was in trouble at school. We can work to reframe memories into the inner child that feels most aligned with a client’s current gender. This may change from session to session so we want to rely on the client’s words and names for themselves each time.
While I have no idea what it is like to be born into a body that doesn’t align with who I am, I want to say integrating internal family systems work into my gender affirming practice has changed my life and those I serve. We have an opportunity to support and heal through listening to the parts of us craving to be seen and heard. These parts have been stuffed, abandoned, and numbed for years and sometimes generations. If these parts have been oppressed or harmed by society I’m sending all these parts and all of you extra tenderness and love. We have the love within to access this healing.
Life can be so weird and hard sometimes that a moment of joy can be something we really want to revel in. I have two suggestions on how to let the joy sink in deeply. Practicing authentic gratitude and creating a reel of other’s appreciation can be just what we need.
It can be difficult to practice gratitude when we’re feeling down or grieving. Gratitude can come from an authentic place by reflecting on what you’re grateful for and why you’re grateful for this person, thing or experience. For example, rather than saying you’re grateful for a roof over your head you might say something more specific and include your why such as “I’m grateful to live in a sober home with locks because it makes me feel safe.” Or you might write, “I’m grateful for the feeling of the sun on my chest in this moment because it makes me know I’m okay and part of a bigger plan.” Again, there are things or people who you may be grateful for and it can expand the joy to share it with them too. So if you catch a couple of the gratitudes you wrote down being about someone you love or work with, consider letting them know. Imagine what it’d feel like to hear that someone wrote about your work, cooking, presence, listening, or something else. This allows you to feel your reality to it’s fullest extent with both validation for the moments of suffering and fully experiencing the moments of joy by sharing them with someone you trust.
You can also take a few minutes to reflect on what has felt affirming or praiseful in your life. Has someone recently expressed appreciation? Do you have a friend who tells you kind things about yourself? Do you have a client who really appreciates your work? Put together a few of these experiences in your mind. You can write/record them if that helps or you can create your own acronym to help you remember. Then come back to this on a regular basis so you can breath in the praise. This is a sweet gift we can give ourselves. Sometimes the inner critic comes in and while we don’t want to argue with her we do want to give ourselves a gentleness break with some praise and appreciation when we can. Practicing the praise reel often better assures that we can come back to it in a time of stress and need.
Feeling your feelings to the best of your ability can be hard for a variety of reasons. If we can better experience our joy moments to the fullest then we can welcome the full experience of life. Sometimes I have fear the joy will go away. That’s okay too. In fact it’s pretty common to worry that joy will escape us quickly when in reality all feelings will come and go like rain being soaked into the Earth and come back up again. Wishing you many sweet rainy, sunshiny days ahead.
I’m a reformed toxic positivity user or a transforming ex-Pollyanna. My dear friend once brought it to my attention that it was invalidating when I would highlight the positive when she was sharing what was going on for her. After years of trying to see the bright side I had to check what was coming up for me that I’d steer conversations from the present to highlighting the positive. This can be dangerously invalidating even when we have the best of intentions. This is not to say that I don’t still love practicing gratitude and affirmations. Toxic positivity is different and can be very hurtful.
I did not want my friend to police her sharing with me. I wanted my friend to share freely so I began my transformation from toxic positivity to more and more presence. I then learned that not only can it be invalidating but it can also burry and numb my true feelings and disconnect me from the present moment. Here are a few ways you can come more and more into the moment and move into connectedness if you’d like.
Observe obsessive thoughts, wanting to make it better, or wishing they’d do something differently when listening to someone share. You can witness your own thoughts like thoughts passing on a stream without judgment if they’re sharing something that hurts them or makes you sad. Wow this is so much easier said than done, but it’s been like a psychological muscle for me. The more we witness obsessive thoughts the less we try to transform these thoughts into something else or shame ourselves for these thoughts. Cognitively, it is impossible to control our first, automatic thought. Therefore, take note when your mind is going the person you are listening to. We do not want to control people or make them feel like they aren’t enough so simply listen and witness your passing thoughts unless they want something else from you.
If you notice a feeling of sadness or heaviness in your body you can give yourself compassion through touch or another soothing avenue for you. For me, I tend to put one or two hands on my heart or gentle rub just below my collar bone when listening deeply in the moment. If that’s too distracting you can put one hand gently on the other to soothe yourself as you listen.
If you’ve listened so deeply, witnessed protectively distracting thoughts, and soothed yourself into the moment please know it’s also okay to put a limit to it. It is actually more honest and authentic if we limit our listening instead of overextending ourselves. When we listen past our limit we may develop resentments, feel overwhelmed, push down a part of ourselves that has a need, or miss a spot for healing. For example, if I’m listening intently to a friend for an hour I may notice I am not able to keep this up authentically. I may ask to end the conversation for now and return tomorrow with rested and invigorated presence. True friends of mine understand this isn’t personal and it is simply about being awake to what I need and how I can be more of an available person to the world. Not everyone knows what they need and that’s okay. Actually, we are taught for the most part to suppress our needs. For example, in my father’s side of the family we are taught to bring tea to the men and older people after a meal when we may actually need rest in that moment or something else. I believe there’s a lot of intersecting complexity to this boundaries thing. Most of all caring for yourself will allow you to transform from throwing in positive reflections or trying to control someone’s perspective. Boundaries can help you be more and more present and available. When I feel badly about setting a boundary I acknowledge that and I also remind myself I’m not being honest and authentic when I push myself way past my limits.
Please comment on your journey toward presence and away from toxic positivity if you’re called to do so.
My dear sweet one, do you find yourself loving on others only to forget to validate yourself? Do you find yourself Pollyanna-ing and being super positive only to bypass your own feelings? Stuffing our feelings or engaging in toxic positivity may have once done the job. If these ways no longer serve you you’ll find three tips on how to validate your own experiences.
Write it out. Move it out. Whatever you do please just get it out no matter how embarrassing it is or how much you wish you didn’t feel that anger, jealousy, or resentment. If you’re not sure what “it” is that’s totally understandable too. Get it out one on one without giving it or dumping it on someone. Don Miguel Ruiz talks about how we can be sure to not spew our emotional poison on to others if we take a beat and check in with ourselves.
Talk to your inner child. Take a few deep breaths and ground yourself in your wisest, kindest place. If you feel safe and grounded you can go back to a time when you were younger and maybe went through something similar. For example, if you’re angry with a boss you may be able to trace this back to a moment of feeling fear of abandonment when you were younger. Go back to that memory and give little you what she needed back then (a shoulder to cry on, an affectionate hug, or just someone to listen, tell her she understands, and tell her she’s a good girl). Reach out to me for a deeper dive into this sort of work utilizing internal family systems (IFS).
Talk with a super trustworthy person about it. Tell your best friend, sister, or mentor. Tell someone who won’t shame you or elicit toxic positivity. Once you’ve acknowledged what you’re feeling and given yourself and your inner parts validation it can be helpful to share it with a trusted person. You can ask them for what you need too. For example if you want them to just listen or prefer they brainstorm solutions be sure to ask them for the type of listening you need.
I’m proud of you for exploring a new way of emotional expression. We don’t have to hold it in, let it boil within, or release emotional poison onto others. We also no longer have to stuff and numb ourselves. There’s another way to hear ourselves out that feels honoring and authentic.
Whether you’re a mother-son-grandchild trio, husband-husband romantic partnership, or any other type of relational dynamic the household duties are likely divided. If you’re feeling the weight of the household duties heavy on you keep reading because there is so much hope for this to change for you starting today. You’ll get a few tips from this blog on how to approach chores in your home.
What comes up for you?
If you’re feeling passive aggressive, resentful or angry it’s okay to gently, non-shamefully examine what’s coming up for you around the division of chores in the home. It can be helpful to create some internal boundaries around sticking to the topic of chores and not overgeneralizing to all things. I know; easier said than done right?!
You can assess where your reaction is coming from. Did you grow up in a home with complete disorder and you craved bumpers on the bowling lane? Did you grow in a rigid, perfectionistic home where you felt suffocated by all of the rules? Or perhaps the reaction is coming from a more recent situation in your life. Dynamics are ever changing within cultures, genders, and related to financial and home obligations. What does this look like for you today? Has anything changed in your home with chores since the virus?
When you assess where it comes from you can then give yourself tender reassurance, validation, and loving kindness. For some this might be a hug, a cry, or perhaps nondominant hand writing with your inner child reassuring her that no matter what happens you’re listening to her and not abandoning her. (Feel free to reach out and let me know if you want to know more about this inner child stuff my dear one).
What can you do about it now?
So often we don’t know what someone else in the household is doing. This means we do not know the full extent of their contribution to the home. This is not to dismiss your experience. I’m simply illuminating that most people believe they are doing more in the home than the other person in the home thinks they are doing. It can be difficult to come to the chores discussion without shame and blame so not only is it helpful to look at the data (meaning that they are likely contributing more than you see) it also helps to highlight what you do see them doing. We are also generally more receptive to feedback when our contributions are highlighted rather than simply being hit with criticism.
It can also be helpful to ask about a time to discuss the chore division. Sometimes we assume the other party is ready to discuss division of labor when we’re ready. Perhaps they too need reflection time or maybe today was a hard day for them and they can discuss tomorrow.
In the meantime do all the loving care you need to in order to care for that sweet inner child we mentioned earlier. The inner child is within and craving your attention whether or not the laundry is done. The more validation and love you give yourself the more likely you’ll be equipped to exude that same energy.
Yes, you’ve got that correct! Put your nicest “communication pants” on. I’m not going to say what that looks like for you because everyone is different. Your pants may have reflection pockets whereas someone else’s pants may have “I feel” statement pockets. Some people’s pants may have nonviolent communication fringe. Other folks may have affection while talking it out belt loops. Anyway, you get my point. Bring your kindest, most effective communication skills to the table. All this stuff is generally easier said than done. If you give it a try please know that it may take a few tries given we don’t always change the first time.
Maryam Fallahi is our international expert and life coach working on things such as life planning, behavior change, habit formation, self sabotaging behavior, etc. She’s back as a guest blogger with a very skillful article on our inner defender. She utilizes a lot of this Internal Family Systems (IFS) stuff you hear me talking about. Please reach out to her for coaching support on your inner defenders or post a comment if you’d like to express yourself here. You can email Maryam for a coaching session at: email@example.com
What’s the Inner Defender?
Hi. I am back! Today I want to introduce you to a new part of our psyche—the inner defender.
The inner defender gets activated in response to our inner critic. It’s job is to defend our dignity ; to preserve our integrity; and to keep our self-esteem intact. Where the inner critic attacks, criticizes, and compares, the inner defender fights back, it demands the critic to be quiet and stop its attacks. For instance, If the inner critic calls us lazy, it argues it that we are not lazy. It the inner critic thinks we are fat, it tells it to get lost. It tries to get rid of our inner critic or expel it from our psyche to no avail. Even though our inner defender is our sweet internal rescuer, it cannot save us because it too is a child part. Consider the following scenario where two fifth graders (Abdol and Joseph) are fighting on the playground:
Joseph- You are so stupid.
Abdol- I’m not stupid.
Joseph- Oh, you are!
Abdol – I will show you who is stupid (defends himself).
The problem is in arguing with the inner critic not only do we lose a tremendous amount of energy but also the fact that we are arguing with the inner critic dignifies whatever it is saying and shows the power it has over our psyche. The fifth grader fights his class mate because first of all he sees him as a threat and secondly he is convinced he can protect himself by getting Joseph to respect him. On the other hand, if the fifth grader knew that there was not a slightest chance he could win the fight he would have refrained from fighting and instead surrendered believing the bully—actually this is exactly what our criticized child does. So, where the criticized child is our injured child part, the inner defender is our strong child part. The problem is as strong as the attacked fifth grader sees himself, he cannot get his classmate to stop yelling this way.
In order to stop the fight we need some kind of an intervention from someone in a higher stage of development. Let’s say a compassionate teacher to talk with attacker, Joseph in this situation. The teacher would empathize and then investigate to see where the bully is coming from.
After assessing the situation, the teacher might explain to the child that the only person he has power over is himself. Maybe they could start by talking to Joseph first and trying to be compassionate. Maybe it is just to ignore him, shake his insults off and instead working on his own goals and strengths. On the other hand, the wise and protective teacher might talk to Joseph and try to get him to empathize with Abdol and understand him. It is important to note that this intervention will work if the teacher have been able to establish a secure and trusting relationship with the kids. And this is exactly what we need to do with our parts.
How can we help?
We have to intervene from a part of us—the self who is more mature, has advanced development compared to the inner defender and the inner critic, and who feels calm, safe and compassionate in their body. The self is kind , wise, trusting and curious. It really is interested in getting to know Joseph and Abdol ( our inner critic and inner defender). It cares about their well-being. It genuinely wants to hear their feelings, their needs, etc. For instance maybe then our inner critic part confides in us that it is attempting to dodge abandonment or rejection through these hurtful remarks. Maybe the inner defender tells us that he thinks the inner critic is so rude and threatens everybody. This is exactly the kind of conversation you would want to have with your inner parts as well. You need to talk to them from such a loving, mature and trusting place that they tell you everything about their inner state, their memories, their fears, their concerns, etc.
Only then you would be able to work with them to come up with a creative solution so everybody is happy and safe. For instance, you could tell the inner critic that it is hurting the criticized child and this is why the inner defender is concerned. You could also tell the inner defender that even though his intention is precious his efforts will only provoke the inner critic to fight back with more heat.
If you found your way to this article, then it is likely you are in search of a therapist for either you, your child, or your family. Finding a therapist can be challenging when you are not quite sure what to look for or what to expect from the interactions. Your search may be further complicated by the fact that you are unsure of what you can ask a potential therapist and what kind of answers you can expect. This post is designed to help make the process a little more streamlined and helpful for you as you navigate finding a therapist that is a good fit for you.
Most private practice therapists will offer an initial consultation where you get to meet or talk to the potential therapist of your choice. This session tends to be under 30 minutes, is free, and is scheduled at a time that works best for you and the therapist. The free consultation appointment serves two purposes: 1) the therapist wants to gage if they will be able to work with you, and 2) you need to determine if the therapist is someone with whom you connect. This second is the most important of the appointment. Think of this as a double-sided interview! You are interviewing your therapist.
What to Look for on the Therapist’s Profile or Website
Remember that you only have about 15 to 20 minutes to meet with each potential therapist. During that time, the mental health person will also have a few basic questions that they will want answered. That means you should come prepared. There are some general bits of information that all therapists will have on their websites. You should think of therapist websites as a way to get to know the therapist that you are looking to meet. Set aside time to click on as many of their tabs that it takes for you to decide whether you want to reach out to the person. Let this be the first wave of filtering through the sea of therapists in your area. This is a very important step because research shows that the relationship between you and your therapist is the critical piece that will help determine if therapy will be beneficial for you. So, here are some foundational things that you want to look for on a therapist website.
What are their fees? – This helps you figure out if you can afford them.
How long are sessions? – Typical sessions are between 45 and 60 minutes for individual sessions.
What are their hours and days of operation? – If you have scheduling needs, the therapist will not be able to change their operating hours to accommodate your schedule. Therefore, you would need to find someone who has hours that meet your needs.
What licenses do they hold? – Check to see if they are licensed for therapy or if they are a life coach. Counseling and coaching are different. Therapists can coach, but legally, coaches can’t counsel.
What types of clients do they see in their practice? – While some therapists see people with a wide variety of healing points, most therapists specialize in a couple areas. You’ll be looking to see if the therapist lists the areas that you most want to discuss.
What modality of therapy do they provide (e.g., in-person, teletherapy, phone sessions, or a combination of them)?
Do Therapist Identities Matter?
So far, we have discussed the basics, except not really. Something that is often missing from therapist profiles is how they identify. In my opinion, therapists tend to spend too much time telling visitors who they serve, and not enough about who they are. This is not our fault, most of us were trained from a colorblind approach, which is rooted in racism, and many of us were trained to work as experts, (yep, that’s paternalism). However, it is our responsibility to do the work to decolonize our learning and its effect on you. The truth is that yes, therapists are highly skilled and well-educated on topics of mental health. We know how to join journeys and work with people to help meet their emotional health healing needs. However, the notion of expertise sometimes takes away your autonomy and stifles your capacity for insight development. Equally powerful, therapists who have not yet started doing their own internal work to face their internalized harmful beliefs (e.g., racism, audism, gender bias, xenophobia, transphobia, etc.), may be providing you with approaches that were never designed for you. Therefore, when you are on a therapist website or profile, it may be a good idea for you to see how the therapist describes themself.
Do they identify their race?
Do they share any of their identities?
Can you tell where they stand on topics related to social justice?
Is there any mention of them doing ongoing work to decolonize their practice? – The keyword is “ongoing” and is important regardless of the therapist’s race and intersecting identities because this work is never ending.
If all of these questions are answered on the mental health therapist’s website and their responses are aligned with what is appropriate for you, then it’s time for you to prepare for your consultation. If some of these questions have been left unanswered, then you can decide if you want to ask them at your appointment or if you want to continue looking for someone else.
How Can I Ask Taboo Questions?
You may be wondering if there are questions that you can’t ask at the initial consultation session. Keep in mind that you can ask any questions that you want. At the same time, the therapist has the right to decide whether or how to answer the question. Some therapists welcome semi-personal questions while others do not. Therapists who want to remain private, may be engaging in the healthy practice of setting and maintaining boundaries. Therapy is very intimate, and sometimes when you know too much about a therapist, you may feel that they are your friend instead of a professional who is there to support you. Friendship is reciprocal in the emotional care labor, therapy is not. This means that with your friends, you are there for them on their emotional rollercoasters and they are there for you on yours. However, you should never be on your therapist’s emotional rollercoaster.
Anyway, when formulating questions to ask during the initial consultation, determine why you want to know a specific answer. The why, will help you rethink how to get the information. For example, if you are a parent, you may wonder if the therapist has children. Why do you want to know that? It is likely because you want to know that you will feel understood, but whether a therapist has children does not necessarily mean that they will understand your parenting needs. There is another way to ask that question and get a more in-depth view into how the therapist works. Below you will find a chart with a few examples, that are not exhaustive, to explain this concept a little more.
Instead of Asking This
Do you have children?
You really want to know whether your therapist will understand you.
How do I know you will be able to understand my parenting needs?
Are you into ethical non monogamy or polyamory?
You may be curious about being negatively judged.
Tell me how you approach working with people who are in poly relationships.
Are you married?
You are exploring the therapist relationship values according to religious or legal standards.
Marriage is ___ to me. What is your experience working with clients who share this belief?
Are you religious?
You may want to know if you will have to teach your therapist about your religion or you are trying to avoid having religion in the sessions.
What role does religion play in your therapeutic approach?
Have you ever been…
You might be trying to figure out if the therapist has a shared experience that is important to you.
I have felt invalidated or alone in some of my experiences, what might emotional validation look like in a session with you?
Ready to Start The Search
Let’s review the major takeaways for this article.
Carefully review therapist websites and profiles.
Be critical when reviewing websites to see if they are transparent about some of the basics.
Therapists identities matter.
The consultation is for you both of you to determine if you can work together.
Come prepared with 3 to 5 questions. You may only have time for a couple of them, but three is a good base number.
Think about the why when preparing to ask questions of the mental health professional.
I know that finding a therapist who meets your needs can be challenging. Once you know what you are looking for, it can be just a little bit easier. I hope that this article helps you find your next therapist to join you on your journey.
Remember to take a moment to play a little today. You deserve it.
I’d like to discuss the phenomenon when anxiously attached folks find that love and it feels like chilled water in the deepest, driest desert.
The book, Attached: The New Science and how it can Help you Find- and Keep- Love, discussed the literature on attachment styles and how there are more avoidant attachment style folks in the dating pool because things sometimes don’t work out with them as often. You may know avoidant attachment styles to be scared, emotionally unavailable (EU), fuck boys, or those hot and cold folks that feel confusing. They leave or are left more often than their non-avoidant attachment style counterparts and are therefore often who people date, including anxiously attached people. When an anxious attachment style person matches with someone who can meet their needs they may feel completely enthralled or fall for them quickly. This quick to fall for thing is part of folks who are anxiously, or at least partly anxiously attached (such as people who have anxious-avoidant attachment style).
If we go imagine a baby who is anxiously attached crying and paired with an EU care giver it is kind of sad. Now, if we imagine the sweet little baby getting their cries met with tender, gentle attentiveness then we can see how the anxiously attached adult is not that different. When the adult finally connects with that person who sees them and can express reassurance (with boundaries of course) it can feel like that delicious cup of water in the dry, hot desert. Ahhh, finally! It is truly amazing when we can be our own partners and give ourselves just what we need. It is also helpful to know how to weed out some of the people who may trigger our childhood wounds rather than support us on our healing paths.
When anxiously attached folks have this water in the desert experience it is not unexpected. Folks may feel they are on fire when they’re falling for someone. This is sometimes when I get the pleasure of working with someone in therapy around the wounds that feel ignited by being interested in someone. They may have a partner who is able to be attentive and still feel triggered. Or they may be leaving a relationship that did not provide them with what they needed. If we go back to the sweet little baby crying example we can have compassion for whatever comes up for the anxiously or anxiously-avoidant attached person is experiencing. It is all okay.
Attached: The New Science and how it can Help you Find- and Keep- Love discusses ways in which folks can spot an avoidant attachment style person and what to do if you are one or need help with that. I believe it is empowering to know that while we may not be able to pair up all the sweet little babies with their appropriately matched attachment style caregiver, we can help them side step repeating this pattern over and over in sex and romance. We can work internally to give ourselves what we need and learn to stop this pattern through trauma healing and discernment of attachment styles.
How can we accept an issue or suffering in our lives? Isn’t this just giving up?
Acceptance of an area of suffering can then empower us to not pass that wound down to future generations or our own internal families. If you’re like “what’s she talking about with this internal family stuff” please check out blogs below on internal family systems (IFS). IFS helps us access parts of us that critique ourselves to protect from others criticizing, rejecting, or leaving us, our sweet inner child, and other internal parts of ourselves. When we can acknowledge what parts of us need we access more presence, inner wisdom, and that quiet that is within us already.
It is understandable to find it difficult to accept the pains and strains we may experience. For example, if someone struggles with codependency and continues to over extend themselves it may be hard to look at that pattern. I can’t speak for IFS, but it’s my experience as a clinical psychologist and as a human that this codependency pattern didn’t start with you. We would want someone to take note of ways in which the pattern or suffering is impacting their internal or external life. For example, does the pattern or suffering drain your energy, spiritual life, money, or connectedness? Do you get quick spikes in energy from the behavior only to see you don’t have enough space later? Do you notice yourself lashing out, feeling depleted or resentful, or disconnected with others more than you’d like to? A gentle, and honest look at how something serves us can open the path to healing. And it’s not always easy because sometimes we needed a bout of codependency or workaholism to help us get through a hard time such as being a provider during the pandemic.
If we notice that the pattern is creating suffering we can then thank the parts of us that showed up in these ways to shield or connect us with people as best as we could at that time. Perhaps we felt we needed to have people need us in order to win attention. Or perhaps we needed to be super helpful so someone in the family could get more medical help, to avoid getting yelled at, or so we could escape seeing someone else hurt. Whatever the reason, there’s a purpose for the pattern and it may go back intergenerationally.
It can provide validation to your inner child to name it and to not perpetuate this cycle internally and with generations to come. It’s far more empowering to name the suffering than to pretend it’s still serving us well. It’s empowering to look at this stuff because then we can pick up this pattern and name it. Easier said than done. And the pattern may have grey area, especially over time.
Whether the pattern is unhelpful codependency, obsessive thoughts, perfectionism, or something else, when we spot it we have so much spaciousness from there. If codependency is the pattern causing suffering and we are able to validate our inner child and acknowledge this issue then we have tools to do differently moving forward. We can talk with a peer working on the same stuff, attend therapy tailored toward trauma healing, go to a 12 step program, write about it, sing about it, etc. We then have open space to heal these wounds. This is the beauty and gratitude of my work. I get to work with folks who say “this thing in my life no longer serves me” and we can honor that part of their story and work on loving themselves, boundaries, imagery, and healing to do differently for their internal family and future generations.
So wait, where does the full moon come into play here? There’s a full moon this weekend. If there’s a pattern you’d like to release, this is the time to do it. Acceptance and then setting intentionality around releasing an old pattern may help us do better next time, especially around the full moon. This is a time when some believe that old patterns can be released. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to share what you’re going to release this full moon or if you want support on this journey of uncovering and transforming: firstname.lastname@example.org