What do you feel when you’re connected? We know connection can be an antidote to several difficulties and suffering in society. We are hosting a support group for people throughout the US to join and can provide accommodations.
We just wanted to let folks know they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org within the next few days to be one of the few people to join a super small and safe group of folks for folks with different-abilities. At Soft Heart Psychology we wanted to invite a small and safe group of people in for a support group. Dr. Joharchi is able and White bodied and cisgender and will acknowledge this in her work with this support group. She will work to come from a place of cultural humility rather than a “cultural competence” approach.
People in the group are BIPOC and Queer/gender expansive and we hope you’ll join if you feel it may be supportive for you too! While folks have different physical abilities the topics in the group will be anything that feels safe and pertinent to the group each week. We plan to meet on Mondays from 4-5 pm Eastern Time (or 1-2 pm Pacific Time) and will be getting started soon.
Most of the activities we will engage in will be to create group connection, without isolating folks who are gender expansive like some work rooted in psychology can do such as asking folks to touch their heart when this may illicit dysphoria for some.
We wanted to create a space where people can come into the support group for a few weeks, gain a toolkit of strategies, and then process with one another.
Please let us know if you have questions and send us an email shortly to get a free consultation and see if you’d like to join shortly because we close the group by 5/25.
So we’re back and I need to discuss more things that injure, isolate, and disconnect transgender and gender expansive people from the connection needed to live. I believe the whole way we have things set up where we ask folks to meet with a long list of docs before getting their medical needs met is a huge injury. I’ve heard advisors tell me they meet with, question and quiz transgender folx in order to make sure their next steps in gender affirming care are the right ones. I’ve heard many sides argued here. I’ve become a Gender Therapist and learned the world path association for transgender health (WPATH, v. 7). I get it, I’m cisgender, but I don’t get how through WPATH, insurance, and medical systems of abuse we neglect people through this gate keeping process.
I believe that the opinion that transgender people should take some weird gender quizzes about what toys they played with is gate keeping and unhelpful. This opinion, not fact, is exactly what gives the field of psychology a bad name. If you come to me or anyone I recommend for a gender affirming surgery letter you will get more mindfulness around this gate keeping process. It’s not to say we’re not a part of it, but we do try our best to work through these oppressive systems and support the patients we serve to obtain the medically necessary care they need.
I’m also a believer in the letters being an open channel of support and communication if that’s what the patient wants. So long as we’re not further blocking people from the medically necessary care they need because we want to cover our butts or ask them about what toys they played with growing up I think we’re off to a better start.
There are so many ways we can come together and connect rather than isolate. Let me know if you’d like more on how we can work together with our gender expansive family.
I’m skipping the general hellos this time because I’m livid and concerned. As a psychologist, a healing provider. I’m so concerned with an email I just got from Florida. I’m recently licensed in Florida and they sent providers a bull $hit email about abusing transgender children. I’m not surprised, I’m just deeply disheartened and disappointed. The email said some b$ like there’s “low-quality evidence” for providing gender affirming care. So wait. So folks from the World Psychological Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and San Francisco State University who put out a bunch of information about how when we support young LGBTQ folks they live and they live safer lives is all lies?! How can that be?!
I’m so disappointed.
We are harming children and adolescents and transgender and gender expansive friends and loved ones. I get it, I’m cisgender and have loads of privilege that come with that. I get it that this isn’t about me. And I do wonder if my silence would be violence here (well and everywhere else). I wonder if I keep my mouth shut about this then I’m contributing to suicide and substance abuse of people born into an incongruent body. San Francisco State University came out with the Family Acceptance Projectexplaining that the chances of suicidality and substance abuse go down when we invite LGBTQ young people into their families, communities and society. Data indicate we have a chance to actually save lives with kindness.
Also, gender expansiveness far surpasses our time and space. Folks have been gender expansive long before colonialism. Throughout time and culture we have seen people not fit into a binary of “boy” and “girl” gender. I wonder if most folks would land somewhere outside of the binary if we all grew up in a less colonialist environment.
I posted about this on a social media and got a lot of negative comments from people without one bit of data or research to support their opinions. On the other hand I connected with other experts and am grateful to hear of so many folks doing good, supportive work out there. So for the people who want to hate on gender expansiveness, thanks for bringing us together.
Okay so what do we do if we’re interested in someone and we want to know if they’re going to meet us where we’re at? If you’ve done the healing work and want to dodge the “f$ck boy” and people who may be hot and cold out there then I think there’s some pre-work folks can do from the jump. I talk with patients interested in new partners about not interviewing, but also not painting yellow flags green. Some patients even write down the stuff that does not work for them. Having clarity on paper or on their device can help them when hormones like oxytocin tell us we’re in love. From the beginning we can remind ourselves of what doesn’t work for us and be clear to hear someone when they tell us who they are. If someone says they tend to lose interest quickly and my patient tends to be broken hearted by avoidantly attached folks I’m going to ask them about their perspective of a warning that this person loses interest quickly. I explore with them what comes up for them around holding onto this interest when they asserted they’ll be gone soon. If all they want is a quick interaction with the person then it matches up, but if they’re looking for more then I’m hearing them know what this person is and go against their goal to break the cycle and do something different.
I also explore with people about the messages they heard from society and family. I want them to have clarity and discernment. We especially want to give lots of room to folks from marginalized communities because we know they have less access to care, and for some people such as LGBTQ people they may not be able to go to their family of origin for relational support or models. Some people who may be able to look to partnerships in their communities and families may not want what they see as their models. Say for example someone is able to get support or advice from peers or family, but maybe they don’t want that because their models argue or withhold love or simply don’t connect in the ways they desire.
Lastly, there are a couple of concrete tools I direct folks to.
I suggest taking the quiz for attachment styles for yourself and your prospective partners (you can take it on a first date, without even telling them). These quizzes can be found in this amazing book called Attached.
I also want people to be expansive in what they do want. We talked about wounds and what you want to dodge this time, but I also encourage people to dream big and write it out. You can learn more about creating this list here.
Thanks folks and more next time for loving on ourselves by choosing differently and with more discernment this time.
Okay so a little more about dating stuff. I wanted to share a little more about writing your ideal qualities for a partner down on paper. Here are a few go-tos for those looking for love hopefuls:
Write or type out your favorite things. You can write out what you wished you had, but didn’t get from previous partners or even caregivers. For example, if you longed for hugs from a parent and still crave that touch you can put comforting, safe touch on your ideals list.
Think of what you want right now and later. For example, if you don’t want something casual you can write that down. You can write out the specifics of wanting someone to date monogamously or marry or be in a relationship with and have possibilities of consensual non-monogamy.
Resist the urge to think of what you can get or who is out there. Sometimes patients doing this exercise may feel an urge to think of who they’ve been with before and how they may not get more emotional availability this next time around. Rather than bring relational traumas into your list note and observe these trauma voices. You can soothe and tend to them, but they do not need to drive the bus of your decision making when it comes to the ideals you desire in your list.
Now share it with a trusted soul, preferably a therapist or other healing providers. Share it with someone who can allow you to be curious and explore deeper. For example, if someone says they want respect or fidelity or something I’ll ask someone to outline what respect or fidelity means to them. It helps them dive deeper and define exactly what they desire. I also encourage them to add things to their list that they didn’t mention but did refer to in a round about way without saying it. For example, someone may describe romance and I’ll ask them, “do you crave someone to be romantic with?” This may not be something they felt they could call in for themselves but with a therapist to reflect that desire they can reveal even more qualities that might be ideal to them.
Paint the picture you desire so intently and deeply not because it’s a magical list and will come true. This is an ideals list to help you get to know your own desires that much more. It may even be a mirror for who you are or who you’re becoming!
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When patients ask me about dating issues I go over the typical things impacting dating. We look at how much racism has impacted their dating options if they are a person of color. We process any red flags they are noticing in dating partners and make sure they aren’t forgetting or repeating patterns. We also dive more deeply into where this stuff came from. Is there relational trauma to tend to? Do you keep picking your dad? Has racism from daters limited your choices and if so are you feeling the weight of the impacts of that hurtful, detrimental racism? This article provides more validation into the ways racism shows up in dating.
Exploring what various traumas including racism, relational traumas, or other traumas have done to you and your love life can empower your dating decisions. What doesn’t help is to have a therapist who gas lights you or diminishes the above impacts. Gentle compassion is so important here. Someone who is culturally humble and can witness while you walk through these experiences can help you uncover and heal wounds that really had nothing to do with you, but rather a projection of their own stuff. It’s okay if it did actually have to do with you picking some of the same folks over and over again. That’s also from a place of trauma and can be treated with the same gentle compassion too.
When patients come to me about these dating issues we also discuss the book Attached: The New Science and how it can Help you Find- and Keep- Love. I highlight how this book explains that there are more avoidant attachment style folks in the dating pool. I want patients and everyone to know that there are more avoidantly attached folks out there. The guy you dumped because he wouldn’t call back or the woman who ghosted you, well they’re all in that avoidantly attached dating pool. The book explains that there are more avoidantly attached folks in the dating pool because they leave or are left more than folks with other attachment styles. To learn more about anxious attachment and avoidantly attached folks getting together click here.
I use the book Attached: The New Science and how it can Help you Find- and Keep- Love therapeutically to point out that there are ways to spot an avoidant attachment style person such as taking the quiz from the book (this can be done super early on while you’re talking to someone). Uncovering the traumas behind dating woes, doing that trauma healing, and picking with discernment when there’s an available option can help. It also just helps to feel heard by reading validating things that say “yeah racism really impacts dating” or “yeah the dating pool has a bunch of avoidantly attached people.” Sometimes that validation in and of itself can release the shame and let the love we have in our hearts pour into ourselves and these dating goals and dreams. I’m no dating/love expert yet, but stay tuned because this psychologist may be getting some more training soon…
Okay so there’s no clitoris to trauma recovery and healing. Yes that loss or struggle or pain very much did happen to you.There’s no special Influencer’s advice, or magical vagus nerve, or just this one movement or type of therapy to make it all go away. You were never broken to be fixed in the first place. Your wounds are acknowledged and can be healed, but you weren’t broken to need a quick fix either. The way we say this one deep breathing, pose, or video will fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place reminds me of two things.
A pill without change. If we provide a pill without any change there can still be some shifts, and sometimes not what we’d hope. For example, for someone suffering from schizophrenia people may ask them to take such and such meds without providing housing, safety, spiritual, and therapeutic supports. We might even hear said suffering spirit to be blamed for not wanting to take meds alone. A magic pill to “fix” something or someone that was never broken can be helpful to some in some situations and often times it is just a bandaid. Hey we all need a bandaid sometimes. I’m not over here walking around with my open, bloody blisters everywhere. They’re covered. But then I look at my shoes, where I walked, why I felt the need to walk that long, and if I was connected with my body in the moment. We look at the stuff around the stuff to see what’s up and how we can be most supportive. Plus just a bandaid may mean we need a million more bandaids without ever looking at our shoes.
American consumerism. We often market and sell this one type of therapy to repair your marriage or this one type of vitamin to fix your dysregulation. Sure do the therapy or vitamin or whatever, but one thing in of itself isn’t the Fairy God Parent. We’ve been marketed to for generations. We’ve been told and sold to that if we buy xyz we’ll feel better and be better. We have NOT been told to sit with distress. I myself am included. I too believed for most of my life that if and when I obtain xyz I’ll be happy. Consume consume consume was what I thought could fill the hole. Consuming an influencer’s product to feel better isn’t the most concerning aspect of this for me as a mental health provider. What’s concerning is when we don’t acknowledge trauma recovery. Trauma recovery is a thing and it’s a path and a flow. It’s a whole thing. It’s not one big breath or one supplement. We are SO WORTHY of sharing our stories, feeling our feelings, and doing what we need to do for our trauma recovery. We can take up space to have more than one trauma recovery aspect.
I’ve seen folks come in with complex, complicated, intergenerational trauma stories start with self hugs and deep breathing and end with being able to express their story to a trusted person, self soothe, feel their feelings, and heal those wounds. I know there’s no magic thing to heal the pain. If there was I would’ve tried it before becoming a healing provider. As a licensed psychologist I have to say I’m concerned we make people think they have to do or buy xyz to feel better. It’s okay to feel your feelings right now, sad or mad, and not lash out, not binge eat, not text that ex, but just to feel it for a few seconds before moving to self soothing. We can breath into the sadness or hurt or loss for a few seconds, and then do what we’d like to love on ourselves with gentle affirmations like “I’m enough” or “I’m worthy”, wrap our arms around ourselves, deep breath, or whatever.
Join us next week for a not clitoris magic pill surprise! Wishing you ease today.
This pandemic has killed some of our family members, taken our money, and made friends very ill. Wherever you stand with things, it probably has impacted you in some way. And if you’re like me you’ve had to have some awkward conversations over the past couple of years.
Things that we once did that were rude, can now be life saving. For example, if someone said they didn’t want to go out in public with you but one-on-one hang outs is cool before the pandemic you might feel they were trying to keep you secret. Now it could mean anything. Perhaps they simply don’t do public stuff right now.
I know a couple of people I love have experienced hurt feelings when the longed for companionship that didn’t feel safe to me yet. If you’re working on boundaries, it can be a whole other layer to add this in. I will say taking collective responsibility has been helpful rather than thinking it is just you or just them making the decision. So if someone wants to invite you to do something and they were just exposed, you may have reservations. If they happen to take it personally I recommend hearing them out. We can be love for one another without judging each other. This has often let my loved ones feel more willing to explore what it brought up for them. Did they feel abandoned or less worthy when I declined to go to their gathering? Persian New Year is coming up and we haven’t had a Persian New Year gathering for what will be three years now. No my family will not like my decline, but perhaps a nice dialogue can happen if we approach the conversation with curiosity and give people a little room to be them.
Additionally, I have a different view on vaccinations than one of my best friends. I recently had to tell her I wouldn’t be seeing her in person for a while. Rather than putting it on me or her, I acknowledged how much we miss each other and long for each other’s company, and I noted that neither of us are willing to change our approach with vaccinations. I also offered a virtual hang out and called her. I wonder if connecting right away shows I’m not punishing for our different beliefs. She actually respected that I knew what I wanted and asked more. She came with curiosity too! If she hadn’t have come with the same curiosity I came with I still wouldn’t have felt comfortable meeting in person right now, but her curious openness touched my heart and I couldn’t wait to share this with you all.
While we may have to navigate odd conversations with people, schedule, or reschedule things I think it’s so worth it. Connection is a power greater than all of us. I believe we can put in the effort to stay connected, even when it can feel tiring or hard. I haven’t done this perfectly. I just know we are all working on what this looks like for us. Thanks for joining and read more next week about growth and healing.
I want to note and celebrate Black History Month with full honoring and acknowledgment.
When I lived in Baltimore I learned so much. It made me wonder if we would be less racists if we all grew up in a place where we honored and knew Black history not as a footnote of our Columbus riddled textbooks in the US, but as integrated everyday. I remember being on the phone with a principal explaining the stats, “there’s more than 50% Black people in Baltimore and yet more than half the students suspended in your school are Black. What makes you think you can suspend or threaten police on this child?”
Often times this is where school officials’ White fragility and White supremacy would be mansplained. I’d get off the phone with them and then call our medical-legal partnership who could step up with the legal tools I didn’t know about. Why were the flavors of their racism such that it hurt children? I wanted to know more and learn more about the psychology behind these school officials “othering” perfect children. Not to say that adults are not perfectly human as they are, but I wanted to know how I could not raise little racists like these administrators suspending and threatening Black children.
I wanted to know what we can do to learn more about the beautiful contributions of Black people, legal involvement, and not continue institutional racism. There’s more and more I learn to this day.
While I honor this special month I also want to acknowledge it is not just one month, not simply a footnote to Columbus stealing land, but everyday of our history and current lives. This si not simply one month; it’s every moment, everyday for the rest of our lives.
Several people talk with me about not being where they wanted to be yet. I don’t want to invalidate that loss. Perhaps you wanted to parent a child by now. Perhaps you didn’t imagine the world’s climate as it is. Or maybe you figured you’d feel less weighed by trauma triggers after all this healing work. Whatever you wished that you don’t experience now, I’m sorry. I see your loss and I hear you.
If we were in therapy together I’d also ask you to explore where these dreams came from. Were they rooted in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sister Sister and Full House? Were your dreams from a grandparent who told you how to be? Were your dreams tied to what others were doing around you? Perhaps your goals for yourself were rooted in your most genuine self and a place of highest good for all. If your goals were to please, fit, or accommodate I want us to look at that.
If it feels right for you you can record where these dreams came from. You can record through signing, writing, speaking, or whatever works for you. You can take time here to explore where these motives came from without judgment. Curiously finding out what different parts of you wanted is a way to honor and validate the loss of not being where you wanted more fully. Now gently love on yourself. You can give yourself a soothing hug or a few slow belly breaths.
If there’s any part of you that dreamed of something because of someone else can we note and thank that part of you? Rather than shame oneself for an unmet dream, set in part by someone, I’d like to encourage us to thank that part of us. Thanking this part that hoped and strived to fit what someone else wanted means we aren’t crushing and shaming a part of ourselves. It might also take some of the charge away by letting this part of ourselves be seen. Even better, if you can take this to a trusted pet or friend then you might further take away some of the charge.
Basically in a summary we are seeing why we wanted this dream. If a part of us wanted the dream to fit grandma’s hope for us we see that, thank it, and disarm it a bit by sharing it with a friend. It doesn’t mean you may not still feel a loss for not being where you wanted to be by now. It just allows us to acknowledge the loss more fully and treat all parts of us and our motives with gentleness. Thanks for joining this week and we’ll spend time together next week for more growth and healing!
If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.
So just a reminder I’m Iranian American and White. I grew up in a very White neighborhood and skin heads, police, neighbors, etc. were damaging to my Iranian father. I had a different experience than my father and Brown and Black people I know, because I walked around in this world with White privilege. I never had skin heads try to beat me with a bat because of their perceptions of my skin tone. I never had people pull a gun on me on the side of the road because of their perceptions. I had a different experience than someone in a Brown or Black body. I just did. I attempt to unlearn what I saw when I was a child and teenager in the city I grew up in. I attempt to be culturally humble in my therapeutic practices where people come for healing from traumas, including racial trauma. I work actively to abandon my racism. I don’t need want to take this space to burden you with what I do so I’ll get to my point of talking about racism with White people.
I think because I’ve had a behind the scenes glimpse of what some White neighbors would say or White supervisors, I know they’ve said some scary things. For example, a supervisor joked about a bomb threat being from a SWANA terrorist (was known as Middle Easterners a few years ago, but this is a colonialized term so we use SWANA now). All I could mutter to my superior, holding my graduation in her very finger tips was a timid and direct, “not today, not today.” People think because I look White they can say the most racist stuff around me and get away with it.
That supervisor would also tell me a Black birthing parent was causing their child’s difficulties. So how do we say, “excuse me, White lady, that’s racist!” We say it. I mean you can omit the “White lady” part, but we do interrupt the weird and perhaps scary dialogue and call it what it is. At another training placement I found myself leaving shortly after a supervisor asked me if a Muslim patient was a terrorist. How the heck would I know if someone is a terrorist? Plus they weren’t. It made no sense. That’s also the problem. Racism really harms people’s care. We miss folks getting what they need in health/mental health care every day and it can cause medical and racial trauma and ruin or end lives. I can go into this more if anyone would like, but for now, back to how to confront the elephant in the room with White people, racism.
So I found myself acknowledging my privilege in the therapy room, working on my anti-racist path, and confronting the daily racist remarks with peer therapists and supervisors. We can also go to “higher ups” and try that way. Not only do we confront racism so our clients won’t have to be harmed by their provider’s racism, but we do it because we don’t want to contribute to the problem by sitting around and listening to the damaging aggression of this kind of talk. I guess I’d feel like I lied if I let a supervisor say that about a client we served together and then went into session with said client acting like I hadn’t just heard supervisor aggress against them. If you’re White or White presenting too and reading this I guess you know we have an opportunity to call it out when people try to slide their racism in there.
So I’ve spent a little time explaining why we do it, but not that much time discussing how to actually make these confrontations. I’m no expert here. Again, I’m the White girl in the room. I do go ahead and say, “that’s racist.” When they try to excuse, we can say, “I hear you, and what you’re saying/doing is still racist.” I can also share more with them. But that’s really where it starts. Calling it out. I think sometimes we dodge and skirt this, but we really need to say it directly. I believe that’s where the conversation can begin.
Thanks for joining in and there will be more growth and healing topics next week.
Some people say they love getting critiqued because they can improve once they hear this feedback. I analyze and process where I could’ve made mistakes and try to do differently so I haven’t found critiques in the workplace very helpful. In my training I would have sometimes two superiors in the room critiquing while I worked, people would critique videos of my therapy after sessions, or they would critique sessions from behind a two-way mirror (with client’s consent of course). This is said to have made us stronger psychologists. I didn’t find it to be helpful. What I did learn though was how to take criticism better and better.
When you already give yourself a heavy dose of criticism it can be hard to take more from someone, especially a boss. Here are a few tips on how to take criticism in the workplace.
Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. Using some mindfulness self compassion (MSC) tools we’d have you talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. In Dr. Kristen Neff’s first MSC exercise, she explains how we can talk to ourselves like we’d talk to a friend. On your best, most compassionate day, how would you gently validate and console a friend? You might hear them out, letting them know their feelings/reactions are understandable.
Tell a friend! Here’s where reaching out to someone who is kind will be helpful. Telling a friend what’s coming up for you will let you not sit alone with the pain/shame of being critiqued for a work thing. You don’t have to be alone with this pain. You can reach out to someone very understanding and tell them. You can even ask them to just listen if you don’t want their advice, but do want the space to be seen.
Explore how you might do differently (if at all) once you’ve come to a place of inner calm or inner quiet. Sometimes the work critique may simply be a projection of the critic’s inner dialogue. If the person is highly perfectionistic or critical, please take it as a projection and not personally. However, you can look at this more closely if you do feel like some of the critique fits. If you feel like what they said may be true you can write out a bit of what you feel you could do differently next time once you’re at a place of inner calm. Why wait? We don’t want the inner critic running the show or driving the bus. The inner critic is welcome to remain a part of you, but we want these parts of you to feel calm and cared for before you take stock of what you could do differently next time. For example, if you don’t reply to your boss’ emails in a timely manner you might take some deep breaths, do some MSC, call a friend, and then write out what blocks you from replying in a timely manner and how you can improve on this moving forward.
Above all, try and be easy on yourself. If you kept reading this article my guess is that you’re not the type to take criticism like it’s nothing or that you don’t simply get up and brush yourself off as easily as some. If you’re a sensitive soul and take these critiques to heart a bit please do be easy on yourself. I get it, easier said than done, but a little gentleness here can go a long way.
If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.
I wanted to touch base with everyone and see what folx are unlearning after the new year resolution hype. It’s great when we can show up and do things differently, sometimes life saving and life changing. However, sometimes new years resolutions leave us with a Hollywood, Eurocentric idea of what “happy” means. I want us to instead check in and see what we’d like to release or unlearn.
What would you like to let go of? What no longer needs to be in your practice? For example, a huge thing I released was how I purged calories through excessive exercise. Many joke that they’d love to become obsessive about exercise. It left me with a disconnect from my body’s wisdom and an obsession with Eurocentric ideals of BMIs, oversimplified look at health, and a reduced presence. Purging calories through exercise has been a huge unlearning and it is leaving me room to now learn and reintegrate healthy, intuitive movement. Releasing from this obsession also makes room for me to learn where we got these “ideals” from in the first place such as through the book Fearing the Black Body: Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings. So from releasing an old protection I now get more presence and more information!
That’s right-it was a protection! How can purging calories through so much exercise protect? Well it protects from feelings. This no longer served me and I desired more connection rather than dodging feelings. Not only does it leave me more room to learn, but it also allows room to connect with loved ones through healthy movement. I now get to move joyfully with a friend virtually every week and hike mindfully with loved ones in nature. What an unexpected gift of this unlearning process!
What we release or unlearn today can be thanked. We can thank that protective behavior for trying to protect and ask for it to be released. Easier said than done, I get it. I still get desires to workout to no abandon. In those times when this protective part arises it can be helpful to let that desire be or to look at what’s triggering it. Are you tired, overworked, or perhaps triggered by an external pressure? We can thank this protective mechanism, release it, and later see that this release has done amazing things beyond what we’d dreamt it could. For example, I never knew how much my release would allow me to connect with nature or have fun working out with a friend because I’m not worried about calories or performance. I’m connected with that friend or tree or stream because I’m not in a cycle of obsession over muscles, fat, calories, and blah blah blah.
I wonder how your release or unlearning today will shine for you in a year from now. Feel free to comment with your current unlearning. We’d love to hear what you release or have been unlearning that no longer serves you.
If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.
When did we turn healing and connection into a sales pitch? How did we turn our sacred field to the hands of corporations? I left a medical corporation that provided mental health care to their patients through an all-in-one health package. It’s the most prominent health care provider on the West Coast that I know of and serves many patients. You can come in, get your therapy, get your blood drawn, and grab your meds all before you leave the building. I thought I would be able to serve mainly BIPOC LGBTQIA young people and their families and that made my heart happy. I saw young folks dealing with some of the same wounds I walked through around that age and I felt so grateful to get them connected with their supports early on and not later.
At said corporation I also realized I was part of the “McDonald’s Mental Health” as a friend called it. I saw myself and other bilingual providers seeing 8-10 patients a day. We were drained and expected to do more for less. We were expected to look corporate while selling their brand of sanity. I am now deeply grateful for not being able to hold the load the corporation folks wanted from me. I am so grateful for leaving that health corporation before I broke too much to repair. Isn’t it funny how we can be grateful for something we didn’t get or something that didn’t work out?
I still see creams, oils, therapies and journeys being sold under this guise of providing happiness. “Buy this oil and you’ll be smiley like this smiley lady!” “Go on this retreat and you’ll get your happy back!” While I do provide my services for a fee, I try to assure people I’m simply a mirror for them to see that they have everything they need inside. My colleagues and friends who sell beautiful products are trying to earn a living wage attempting to share their healing for those who want to live authentically them and not incorporating something to “fix” symptoms. We believe in supporting people to seeing the resource they have right there without a thing. If they happen to benefit from reading this blog, buying that journal, or paying for that therapy then cool. But we know that each one of those products is a mirror of the person’s own resources with or without a blog, journal, or therapy.
I see folks as their four year old selves with all the forgiveness and gentleness we’d grant to a little one, but none of the shame and punishment. With that gentleness we hope they can see they’ve got what they need inside their heart and communities to be authentically them. Doing that doesn’t require burning out a therapist by asking her to see 10 patients a day in multiple languages, do case management, and all from in a Eurocentric, corporate guise of selling sanity. Being a healing provider is an honor for me and I’m so grateful I could leave the pressure of the sales pitch for health and return to a place of reminding folx they’ve already got what they need.
So I hope you have someone in your life seeing you as your most kind, innocent self. I hope you have someone reflecting that you’ve got everything you need right here.
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.
This week I want to share a tip that may be helpful if you don’t have many folks to go to in your community about your relationships. This approach may be helpful whether you’d like to show up differently with friends, partners, or family. I was posting about this suggestion as I find it to be super helpful and I want to share it outside of the therapeutic walls in case it’s helpful for you too!
So you know about the “pursuer dynamic” right? Basically one person is over there pursuing and another is not. Well in Getting the Love You Want authors and experts of Imago Therapy discuss how often times someone in a partnership may sort of get quiet or withdraw during tension while another may get big with their feelings. Hey, as someone with big feelings I want to know all the tips on how not to scare away friends or other loved ones when I want to connect. When someone needs that quiet time, Imago encourages us to honor that.
It sounds easier said than done. However, if we can say something like, “Take a beat, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” We aren’t abandoning or rejecting the one who sort of “turtles” under tension. We also aren’t overwhelming them or their nervous system while they do their thing. We also aren’t abandoning our own needs because we’re essentially there when they’re ready to return in like five or ten minutes. We are able to then get our needs met by talking it out in a way that feels less intense for all and no one is abandoned. Now if there’s lots of this or people don’t come back to talk you may benefit from getting another party involved through relationship therapy.
Unfortunately, Queer folks don’t always feel comfortable or safe going to family or their communities for support around this stuff. Hey, even amazing relationship therapies like Imago Therapy started with rejecting Lesbian and Gay people from their trainings and teachings! If even therapists and healers couldn’t initially access these supports then we know Queer folks have less easy access to relationship-ing in different and healthier ways than straight, cisgender folks who aren’t Queer, but want to approach their relationships differently.
I’m hoping that Queer folks out there can now access support in safe therapeutic relationships, friendships, and communities where they can show up as their best selves in relationship with themselves and others. Thanks folks and let me know if you want more out of me about this next week.
Welcome back for more on love and relating. I love this topic! I hope you’ve gotten something helpful from this series so far and if not keep reading because we have a couple more weeks of fun with dating and love.
One of my all time favorite routes of exploring and supporting relationships is through Imago Therapy. From my understanding Imago therapy was made by White people and held for straight couples. Yikes! Imago therapy, much like many other therapy approaches now includes a variety of people and relationship types and styles. I actually first learned more about heard about Imago Therapy from members in the LGBTQ and Black communities.
One of the strategies that I love about Imago Therapy that I’ll share with you here today much like I’d share with a client is called “Identifying Exits.” Oh this is a juicy one so get ready! “Identifying Exits” tells folks they can identify ways in which they check out of their relationships and repeat a childhood pattern. For example, someone may avoid their partners by checking work emails or cleaning inadvertently to get private time. Imago Therapy or the book, Getting the Love you Want, helps people explore where that need for private time came from. For example, if someone’s caregiver was overbearing with their emotions and checking in the now adult may desire this alone time in their current partnerships. There’s no need to transform exits, it is simple about noting and identifying the exits. Once we note the exits we then can work with patients to reflect on what this exit does to intimacy and presence in their relationships. If someone is in need of private time and constantly looking at their phone rather than asserting their need for private time their partner may experience a lack of presence or intimacy on the other end of this interaction.
It’s really possible to rewrite the script. I’ve seen folks who didn’t grow up with healthy models in relationships use these strategies to connect more deeply with their loved ones. I find it amazing that we can connect more deeply by noticing where we check out and where it came from. Anyway that we can show up more authentically in partnerships also helps us be more connected within too.