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.