Denial, repression, and how to keep from losing your mind

I’ve always had a fear of dementia. It started on a visit to my great grandfather in the nursing home and I heard him mistake his daughter (my grandmother) for someone named Betty.  Fifteen years later, the same thing started happening to my grandmother and I watched her un-become herself over a period of six or seven years. Forgetting to turn off the stove led to forgetting to go to the bathroom and then forgetting the face of her daughter.

Horrified, I wondered why my relatives “lost their minds.”  Was I destined to do the same?

Now, I have a theory.

Denial

Fast-forward to 2017, sometimes I deny what I’m seeing and feeling. I hear you doing it too.

I could be reading too much into this.

It’s probably just my imagination. I have a tendency to overreact.

He says _____, so I need to believe him.

We pretend things are fine when they’re not. Sometimes the truth of my own feelings frightens me more than the shared pretense that all is normal. I keep a straight face to avoid conflict. I may even hide exuberance.

But suppression is costly. Denying emotion compromises our cognitive ability. When we stifle our thoughts and feelings, our mental processes turn against us – like the auto-immune system in overdrive. Denied emotion distracts us and prevents clear observation. It gobbles up energy needed for mental and physical processing. More here on denied anger in particular.

If we make a lifelong habit of denying what we feel, we end up in old age staring at The Price is Right, locked in fragments of our past, unable to learn anything new. I can’t prove this, but a review of my deceased relatives (especially the Christian fundamentalist ones) shows a strong correlation.

If I want to stay as lucid as possible as I age, I’d better say stuff out loud, show it on my face, let the tears fall, admit I’m uncomfortable, walk away from stifling conversations. I better swing at a punching bag and yell obscenities. And I better sing and dance and flaunt my joy as well.

Contact me to learn how EMDR therapy promotes clearer thinking and access to our true emotion.

Contact Deborah

 

 

Transition and EMDR: No such thing as a wrong turn.

 

By Khunkay (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Spring brings rebirth and color and joy. It also brings pollen, tornadoes, and allergies. My life transitions like the seasons, and even though it scares the crap out of me, I know it’s a good thing.

Something gets stale, stuck, or sour and I know it’s time to think differently. I get an urge to do something – an urge I ignore at my own peril. If I ignore my urge, the message of my higher self, I tend to get sick or depressed. EMDR helps me clear the cognitive clutter and make a change.

Maybe I need to:

Cut my hair

Nurture a child (fur baby or human)

Say yes to a trip

Leave a job

Leave a relationship

Lose my religion

Seek the company of a certain friend

Start a new venture

Get rid of things I’m not using

Change my behavior in relation to someone

Change my behavior in relation to myself

Get into therapy

Complete something I’ve postponed

Abandon a task I thought was essential

Trade couches with someone

Grieve and let go of an old belief that blocks me from growing

There’s always a reason for the urge. It comes from a place I can trust.

Over the years, I’ve learned these transitions always pay off in joy and growth and prosperity, even when it feels like I’m being shoved through a revolving door and lose my shoe. In fact, even when others disapprove of my change, I grow and my life gets better. I have no regrets for any of the detours or U-turns or shocking, hair-spiking, neon-sign-wearing changes I’ve made. Through EMDR, I’ve learned to pay closer attention to how my higher self talks to me, how transition shows up, and how I can allow it.

There’s no mistake, only my path. I welcome the change.

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Calm Receptive Mode: Get calm and find the good stuff inside you.

Idea Garden II, Deborah Cox, Flowers Reborn

Your higher self knows how to calm you.

We all want to find calm receptive mode. But not everybody wants to get a massage (although we should – there are people who can make us feel safer and less awkward). Some of us need action. We need to be out in a kayak or running a trail. Some of us meditate and we know it works. We may need some yoga or tai chi. Some of us tap. Or we turn on some Fauré and close our eyes. And I know at least a couple of people who get barefoot and put their feet in the grass and feel the earth beneath them and take big breaths of outside air.

Maybe you’ve tried to get away or go out in nature or just sit still and you got scared. I’ve been there. You started to feel lonely and edgy, even though you knew you needed solitude and quiet.

What am I doing, anyway? Shouldn’t I be doing laundry? I’m wasting time. I can’t do this. I’m full of crap.

So you gave up, started cleaning, turned on the TV . . .

But your higher self knows what YOU need in order to get into Calm Receptive Mode . . . and it may be different from what your spouse or best friend needs.

Calm Receptive Mode = calming our minds enough to know what’s inside us, struggling to get out.

. . . The good stuff we’re waiting for. The part of us plugged in to divine energy understands us completely and wants us to get access to this good stuff: our creativity, our ideas, our epiphanies about how to live more joyously.

Try this tapping exercise:

  1. Tap the sides of your knees, lightly, left-right-left-right, etc., on the spots that feel most sensitive.
  2. Repeat these phrases:

It’s okay for me to be calm.

My higher self knows what I need to quiet my mind.

There is good inside me.

  1. Take some deep breaths. Repeat as often as you can tolerate it.

. . . Let me know how it goes for you.

Contact Deborah

 

 

EMDR, Worry, & Letting Go

Holding On & Letting Go

You know, that feeling where you remind yourself to worry? Lately, I catch myself holding certain issues with a death grip; things I can’t control.

  • My loved-one’s health habits.
  • The world’s poverty and greed.
  • Our mass addictions to technology.
  • Someone else’s parenting failures.
  • My child’s future direction.

I catch myself thinking about these things and literally not breathing.

  • What people think when I don’t call them right back or answer texts on Saturday.

Yet, I realize that clutching worries as if they were mine to command only keeps me cramped. The death grip is a self-punishing illusion. I can only take care of me.

  • What really happens to all those used plastic Keurig cups?

EMDR, Bilateral Stimulation, and Letting Go

By Olivier2000 at French Wikipedia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the olden days, therapists had to convince you it would save your life to relax. Now, with EMDR, your own nervous system pushes through all the information standing between you and peace. You get there . . . sometimes with lightning speed.

Even so, between EMDR sessions, I need tools. My higher self knows it’s okay to let go, get calm, and expect good things. These steps make that happen.

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Read about why this helps.
  2. Notice the beginning signs that these issues are floating away: a feeling of warmth, a slowing of my heart-rate, a change in my breathing.
  3. Repeat the phrase, “All is in divine order,” or “Everything is already okay.” (That second one comes from a principal of a Dallas high school where I worked in the 90s . . . he said it every morning over the PA system, followed with one minute of Mozart as students settled into first period classes.)
  4. Give myself some bilateral stimulation: Tap the sides of my knees or head (at the temples), alternately, while saying something like this:

“Even though I’m worried my anxiety is rubbing off on my child, I know I’m still a good person and I know we can deal with it.”

“Even though I feel uptight when I notice racism being stirred in our country – I know it’s okay for me to relax. I know that love prevails.”

  1. Focus on something beautiful for 30 seconds while tapping.

Everything really is already okay.

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Lessons in Relational Justice, II: Resistance = Love = Self-Respect = Vision

 resistance

Resistance is Being Fully Me Without Shame

Sitting in the parking lot at a local Christian college, I wait for my son to emerge from a music festival and I observe other people and their cars.

  • the young guy in his baseball cap, zooming behind me, not watching for children
  • the mom in the SUV who eyes me suspiciously from behind Kate Spade sunglasses
  • the guy with a confederate flag sticker on his truck, blocking me in place while he chats with someone through his driver’s side window, shrugging off relational civility with the endorsement of: (1) his friend who can see me, and (2) his president, (3) and maybe his parents too

My first impulse? Half-smile and act nonchalant. Behave as if I blend in with the culture around me and I notice nothing that makes me the least bit uncomfortable. I do these self-camouflaging behaviors when I feel fear and shame. (And I realize my feelings have something to do with my bias – but also something to do with real things happening in my world.)

I think they can sense my resistance under my clothes and skin. People tell me I do a bad job of hiding who I am or how I feel. I’m part of the resistance and have been for at least 50 years.

Resistance and Self-Respect

It goes back to when I was five or six and my father hit me. I resisted him. He still hurt me, but he never took away my spirit or my will to protect myself. I held onto those and looked him in the eye. Emotional resistance saved my life.

Because Resistance is a form of love, it requires me to look people in the eye and smile as someone who really sees them without apology or fear. I see you . . .

  • with all your fear and beauty
  • with all your numbness and potential
  • with all your vulnerability and humanness

Resistance says: I notice you with your bad behavior and I still care about you.

I tried to telegraph these messages to other children being abused in the grocery store. “Hold yourself apart. Remember who you are. Keep that resistant self in-tact even when you’re being hit or told you’re bad.”

The same holds true today. Because resistance is a kind of vision, I say to my friends, “Hold your democratic ideals – even if only in your thoughts . . . because thoughts are things. Hold your vision of the world as you’d love to see it: where everyone feels loved and safe; everyone has plenty; trees and animals thrive and our Mother Earth sings.”

See if you can hold this vision for 30 seconds.

Now, you’re part of the resistance too.

Read Wife Material

 

 

Lessons in Relational Justice, I

By Juozas Šalna from Vilnius, Lithuania (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What is Relational Justice?

I just watched Michael Moore’s (2016) film, Where to Invade Next. It’s all about Relational Justice. In the two-hour movie, Moore visits eight countries to steal good ideas and bring them back to the U.S. He also raises some questions that have been with me all day.

  • What caused our country to be so anxious?
  • And what effect does our country’s anxiety have on me personally?
  • How did we get to be a nation that denies each other basic humanity? Basic food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and education?
  • Why do we hide from our sins (e.g., slavery) and gloss over them in the teaching of history?
  • When I consider these questions about the nation to which I belong, what does it mean about me?

If you disagree with my beginning premises, that’s okay, just allow the mental exercise. I don’t have all the answers here, but I have guesses and I’d love your thoughts.

In the movie, Michael steals:

  • Healthcare for All!
  • Let Children be Children!
  • Stop Punishing (and Start Treating) Drug Abusers!
  • Paid Vacation for All!

 

By Jos Dielis (Évora Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Michael also steals this idea:

LOVE EACH OTHER.

How would our use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, prescription pain medications, heroin, and methamphetamine be different if we truly loved people? How would our relationship to government change if we believed in relational justice? What would our business practices be if we lifted people up? How much would we pay the minimum wage worker? What would our diets and school menus look like if we believed everyone deserves love, health, and happiness?

I believe this kind of love means Relational Justice, acts of kindness that communicate a high value on human (and potentially, all) life.

  • How would relational justice improve our parenting?
  • How could relational justice reduce our fears of aging?
  • What would happen if we took better care of each other?

 Relational Justice = Love

Social justice sounds lofty and unattainable, but it begins with Relational Justice. Relational Justice means loving our neighbor. The Golden Rule. Practicing Love. Giving. Promoting People’s Happiness. Relational Justice takes an attitude like Jesus, like Nelson Mandela, like Michael Moore. Relational Justice means you feel it personally when your neighbor has nowhere to sleep tonight. You (I) can’t sleep if they can’t eat. We feel it when they suffer. We want their happiness as much as we want our own.

PS: Love, happiness, and world peace are all topics for EMDR therapy.

Contact Deborah

Ready to Receive: A Valentine’s Mindset

I just learned something: getting more of what we want happens when we shift into the right mindset to receive . . . Receiving Mode. We want intimacy, creativity, close friendships, satisfying work, a healthy family . . . a healthy community, nation, and world. Receiving Mode allows us to draw the right people, situations, and energy to us, creating the opportunities and relationships that ring all our bells and generate happiness all around us. Life is chock full of miracles and love.

I sort of knew this part. But I forgot, in the heart-stomping of this historical moment.

Here’s what I just learned: we practice Receiving Mode by getting a scalp massage. When we spend time in Receiving Mode, doing easy, our feet in the grass – our faces to the sunshine, we get ready to receive. As we get ready, those happy outcomes, love, beauty, friends, and even money, flow naturally toward us.

So in honor of St. Valentine, patron saint of happy couples, I make a new kind of to-do list, to get us ready to receive love.

  1. Get a pedicure (doing this right now).
  2. Go outside and breathe.
  3. Meditate 10 minutes before bedtime.
  4. Walk for pleasure in a beautiful place.
  5. Sit with our furry friends.
  6. Get some EMDR therapy.
  7. Do nothing. Stretch. Do more of nothing.
  8. Stare at the moon and know it’s a personal gift.
  9. Do a little yoga.
  10. Get out the watercolors and mix a new shade.
  11. Close our eyes and listen to Mendelssohn.
  12. Make a list of our favorite people.

Get ready to receive your heart’s desire. Even if you can’t see it now. Get ready. It’s coming. You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Contact Deborah

Political Despair? Focus on the Journey.

lucabarberini.com

You’re safe. I’m writing to you: my Republican and Democrat and Independent friends . . . my companions on this journey. A series of conversations yesterday made me realize: We’re all stressed by the changes . . . yes, all of us.

If you lean to the right . . . you see masses protesting and feel disgust. Why do those people think they’re better than us?

If you lean to the left . . . you think, this cannot be! Does my voice matter? I need a martini. Let’s move to Banff.

You have trouble sleeping; your anger and hopelessness spike in public or when you watch the news. You watch your words. You have trouble tearing yourself away from social media. Waves of worry or despair get worse after dark. You lose friends.

If you have brown skin, it feels ten times worse. Your presence here is threatened (and threatening). You worry about being surveilled. You feel iolation and terror.

So, what I want to say is this: all the current events, all the devastation and disgust . . . none of it is real. Manipulation makes us fear each other. We’re not actually on different teams.

What IS real? The journey itself. The spiritual, relational space between us. How we treat each other. The rest is hologram, a stage set designed with challenges to grow us into maturity, if we stay awake to how we love.

A writer friend shared this poem with me today:

You have been telling the people,
That this is the eleventh hour.
Now, you must go and tell the people,
That THIS is the hour,
And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relationship?
Where is your water?
Know your garden …

It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community,
Be good to each other.
Do not look outside yourself for a leader.

There is a river flowing now very fast,
It is so great and swift.
That there are those who will be afraid,
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being pulled apart,
And will suffer greatly.

Understand that the river knows its destination,
The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river,
Keep our eyes open and our heads above water.

And I say; see who is in there with you,
Hold fast to them and celebrate!

At this time in history,
We are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves!
For the moment we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey comes to an end.
The time of the Lone Wolf is over!

Gather yourselves!
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done,
In a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are all about to go on a journey,
We are the ones we have been waiting for!

-Thomas Banyacya Sr. (1910-1999);
Speaker of the Wolf, Fox and Coyote Clan
Elder of the Hopi Nation

Contact me if you’re interested in a support group to deal with this leg of our journey.

Contact Deborah

How Lies Put Us Into Trance and How to Stay Awake

lies and trance

Adi Holzer [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Lies often come from authority-figures. When I was growing up, preachers told the story of Abraham and Isaac: the one about how Abraham takes his child to a mountaintop and prepares to stab him to death as a sacrifice to God (whose ego must have been puny).Every time the story was told, a part of me screamed, ludicrous!!!! Another part of me got drowsy and tried to forget this awful scene on a big rock and the boy who saw his dad raise a machete to plunge into his chest.

I no longer believe that Abraham, following divine orders, set out to do away with his only child, only to be stopped at the last nanosecond by the hand of the almighty. And even if it IS true, I refuse to take it as some exemplar of righteousness, as I was taught. I see it as a pretty horrifying cultural myth . . . or a kind of lie.

How Lies Work

A client of mine was told she was “disgustingly ugly” by an older boy, when she was twelve. This lie persists in her psyche, at age 45, even though she’s beautiful by all cultural standards.

Turns out, it hurts us to believe lies. Even a little exposure to falsehood causes us to spend mental energy processing a piece of information that never completely goes away, even if we’re shown that it’s completely false.

This happens to survivors of bullying and abuse, all the time:

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

You’re too sensitive.

She didn’t mean it.

Boys will be boys.

Every child gets spanked.

You weren’t abused.

You deserved it.

You’re making a big deal about nothing.

You know I love you.

Lies infiltrate our thought-systems, sneak their way past our defenses and better knowledge. Lies become partially accepted at an unconscious level. We start to believe things that have no basis in reality – or things that a bully or perpetrator wants us to think, instead of trusting our own perceptions and conscience.

This Is a TRANCE STATE.

When we ingest information that fails to match up with other things we hold true, our brains go limp, trying to deal with the discrepancy. Senses dampen; energy drains. The more often we hear untruth, the more we trance. The more we trance, the more vulnerable we are to accidents, assaults, or forgetfulness (e.g., leaving your wallet at the restaurant).

Please fight trance in yourself and others. Write something on paper every day. Listen to your thoughts. Say them aloud. Keep your eyes and ears open. Stay awake. Listen to each other.

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Voice Medicine: Connect & Create Change

Saturday was Voice Medicine for me. Not only did I march and yell, I connected with thousands (millions) of others and said, We All Belong Here. It countered the heavy weight of worry and dread I’d been feeling for the last two and a half months (maybe longer), made me feel lighter, less alone, more powerful, more able to speak.

Voice Medicine lets me know I’m not alone in noticing what is not normal.

  1. I breathe more deeply.
  2. I feel hope and humor again.
  3. I sleep better.
  4. I stop eating sweets.
  5. I get my voice back.

. . . which is why you need your tribe: people who get why you feel the way you do.

Build community and find your voice.

Nasty Women, Be The Change

Right now, more than ever, voice builds community.

All those years of sitting silently in my childhood church made me confused, isolated, and mute. But standing up with other women and men, BEING LOUD, lets me hear my actual thoughts and lets others know I’m there for them too.

Here are some steps toward Voice Medicine:

  1. Join (or start) a support group for survivors of abuse.
  2. Meet a new neighbor; find out what they have in common with you.
  3. Volunteer at your local domestic violence shelter.
  4. Seek out like-minded people online. Ask them to tell their stories.
  5. Take a group of friends to a senator’s office to voice your concerns. Tell them you’re paying attention to how vulnerable people are treated by our government.
  6. Make eye contact with people begging for help . Ask them what they need most.
  7. Start an action group to end workplace bullying.
  8. Reach out to someone being harassed or abused; reach across the color or gender divide.
  9. Form a walking group in your neighborhood.
  10. Tell your kids, connection matters; talk to their friends and their friends’ parents.

Tell anyone who will listen: voice changes things.

Please let me know if you are interested in becoming part of an ongoing Voice Medicine group. Be the change.

Contact Deborah