Dating Exploration: First Date Suggestions

Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Dating Exploration: Create Your Ideals List

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Dear Soft Hearts,

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Dating Exploration: A Deeper Dive Into the Issues

Dear Soft Hearts,

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…

With kindness, oh and love,

Dr. Joharchi

There’s No Clitoris to Trauma Recovery

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Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Virus Boundaries with Friends

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Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Black History Isn’t a Footnote

Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

Thank you,

Dr. Joharchi

Are you Where you Wanted to be?

Dear Soft Hearts,

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!

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

How to Talk About Racism with White People

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Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

**Trigger warning.**

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.

Thank you,

Dr. Joharchi

How to Handle Criticism at Work

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Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

Release and Unlearn

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Dear Soft Hearts,

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.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

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