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:


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

Be More Self-Centered and Save the World

image copyright Moyan Brenn

What does it mean to be self centered?

Your Self is your wise spiritual center. But outside this center, we live under a weighted blanket of stress and uncertainty, threatened by darkness and greed from all angles. We feel disconnected from neighbors and afraid of people on the other side of the philosophical aisle. 18% of the population suffers from a full-blown anxiety disorder and depression continues its 80-year rise in the general population. Lots of us medicate this pain with alcohol and other drugs. We separate from self.

When I glimpse the big-ness of our broken world, I often think: DO SOMETHING!!!! Reach out to more people! Give more money to charities! Convince people to stop hitting children and get themselves into EMDR therapy!!!

. . . And then I remember My Self. My limits. My small-ness and human-ness: my need for sleep and meditation and stillness.

All I can do is heal My Self, become calm and conscious, untangle from ego. Which means understanding who I am. Some spiritual teachers recommend constantly holding onto the thought, Who am I? The question takes us deeper into our spiritual center. This is what it means to be self-centered.

Who Am I?

How to use this question? Start with these lists and see what you learn.

  1. Make a list of things you know, for sure, about yourself (e.g., I work hard; I want to make more money; I like being by the ocean; I get upset when people don’t do their jobs . . .). Concentrate on the list and ask yourself, What does this mean about me?
  2. Make a list of your accomplishments (e.g., I finished college; I became a teacher; I had a family; I organized a new community board . . .). Study this list and ask, What does this say about me?
  3. Make a list of your failures (e.g., I didn’t pursue acting; I dropped out of college; I left my one true love; I can’t get rid of my depression . . .). Then ask, What does all of this mean about me?

Self Center as the Path to Enlightenment and Calm

Now you have some reference points for the question, Who Am I? Choose a few new habits to help you continue getting to know your inner self. Take long walks and allow your mind to wander. Start a quiet yoga practice. Begin doing Morning Pages in a notebook. Add five minutes of quiet coffee time to your morning. Allow thoughts and feelings to emerge; notice as they pass.

Insights and preferences may show up as you find your spiritual center. I prefer not to marry this person. I can change my religious habits. Alcohol robs me of mindfulness. I need to make music. I can best love that friend from a distance . . .

When we center ourselves in this question, we become less fearful, less narcissistic. We start to learn our cosmic roles and see ourselves as connected to the whole universe.

What Do I Do with My Self?

The question, Who Am I? deepens us over time as we start to see our roles in universal learning. One of my cosmic roles: shining a flashlight on what bothers me: hypocrisy, disconnection, and domination. Writing autobiographical fiction lets me illuminate these – with the hope that someone in my audience will benefit. It also keeps that question front and center.

As you discover your cosmic roles, you get the desire to do something, even if just to breathe and notice. Trust this impulse. Keep asking, What does this mean about me? Where does this idea come from? You also grow calmer and realize how your life history makes sense. There are no mistakes. Everything happens to further our development as connected souls. It’s all good.

P.S. EMDR helps this process along.

Contact Deborah



Transform Holiday Stress into Mindful Rest & Giving


mindful holiday rest

Until recently, I resented the holidays. As in, Already???? We just did this, right? Except the years when my son believed in Santa and we put together tricycles and trains, after his bedtime, under the synthetic Douglas Fir, I got a sinking anxious dread just before Thanksgiving that let up after January first. Holiday stress separated me from myself, and everyone else.

I think it came from the following factors.

  1. Pressure, everywhere, to be gleeful: to clink champagne glasses, sing carols, bake things, throw parties, and wrap the house in colored lights.
  2. Reminders of loved ones from whom I’m disconnected, including my dad who got himself banished from family holidays for bad behavior.
  3. A sense that I should be experiencing something mystical and life-altering.
  4. Consumption and constant images of consumption that begin as soon as jack-o-lanterns are thrown away and continue until time for hearts and dark chocolate.
  5. The glaring contrast between the Lexus commercials and the young woman standing on a street corner begging for food money in 30-degree weather.

Last year, I decided to accept this about myself, rather than force a false cheer. I pared down. I hung one sparkly star on our front door, forgoing the wreaths and my ceramic tree collection. I said yes to only the most sacred holiday gatherings. I wrote about how weird and separate I felt. I also asked friends and family to donate to charitable organizations instead of our lavishing each other with things none of us needed.

And something unexpected happened . . .

In the midst of the gloom, which I allowed myself to feel without any self-judgment, little sparks of joy appeared. A simple candle and some homemade bread, cozy at home with family. With lowered expectations for gaiety, I felt satisfied, warm, and thankful for my inner circle. And with some of my attention turned outward, to the needs of the wider world, I felt more connected to the universe.

Turn dread into mindfulness.

If you’re someone who hates the holidays, try on this list of suggestions to see if your mood lifts and your perspective changes, just a bit.

  1. Look for ways to give that really count. Find charities that you can endorse and ask family members to give to them, in lieu of your new bathrobe. Here’s a collection to get you started.






  1. Write about your holiday distress. Putting emotion and story on paper will both help you clarify the roots of your blah mood and improve your immune functioning through the winter months.
  2. Do less. Only go to the events you find most satisfying. Spend more time resting. Limit your decorating, socializing, and gift-giving to a few simple things. Tell loved ones you’re putting bounds around your busyness and consumption.
  3. Spend time in quietude. Turn off the holiday music, the news, the movies, and listen to your own thoughts for a while. Just notice them and let them go. Pay attention to emotions and let them move through you.
  4. Consider EMDR therapy to target bad feelings associated with the season. If your childhood holidays meant disappointment, separation from a parent, or heightened family stress, you may need to reprocess those memories and reclaim some present-day joy.

If these suggestions don’t help you feel better, just be where you are. Feel what you feel. Observe yourself without judgment. You’re enough, just as you are.

Contact Deborah


The Air We Breathe: Panic, Mental Health, & Misogyny


Woman-Hate=Mostly Unconscious Fear of Women’s Empowerment.

One day, in 1992, I had a panic attack. It came out of nowhere. I got up early and dressed for work, made breakfast and started a load of laundry, turned on the morning news while I finished my hair and my (ex) partner snored peacefully. I stood in front of the TV as a string of commercials hypnotized me.

In one commercial, an attractive young woman mopped her kitchen floor, wearing an outfit cute enough for a dinner party or church. She looked so satisfied. Next thing, I was on the floor, my heart hammering. The apartment spun and the oxygen disappeared. I tried to yell for help, but nothing came out. I thought I would vomit or die and I grabbed desperately for cold table legs to stop the flames in my face and neck.

Ten minutes later, nothing. I got in my car and left for the day, wondering what the hell had just happened. Years later, I connected the dots.

A Woman’s Distress and The Fear of Women

Misogyny (woman-hate) comes from fear: fear of change, fear of disruption to the existing social order. Misogyny fills our cultural consciousness right now, because people fear the change that comes with women’s power.

How do I know?

Here’s how: These signs show up in my office and social life every day. A woman’s panic attacks, her sense of being flawed, her belief she is ugly . . . all point to a bigger problem. She is surrounded by other women just like her, with those same panic attacks, that same guilt.

Symptoms of Woman-Hate Culture

Misogyny is a mental health issue. Notice how many of these symptoms apply to you. Now, more than ever, I see the problem of gender inequality and panic in the presenting problems of my clients. Cultural woman-hate creates individual distress.

  1. Child sexual abuse in our family history.
  2. Hating our bodies.
  3. Not being perfect enough.
  4. “Family Values.”
  5. Depression that comes and goes throughout the lifespan.
  6. Post-partum depression.
  7. Guilt about not being nice enough.
  8. Fear of our sexual desire.
  9. Not having any sexual desire
  10. Resenting other women for looking better or accomplishing more.
  11. Panic attacks or anxiety that’s sort of always there.
  12. Fear of telling him how we really feel; fear he’ll leave if he knows how strong our feelings are.
  13. Being called crazy and believing it.
  14. Thinking we’re too sensitive, too easily triggered, too selfish.
  15. Focusing so much on fashion that we don’t have time to write.
  16. Taking care of everyone else, but not getting enough rest.
  17. Fear that we’ll be one of those bitter women.
  18. Fear of aging.
  19. Being bullied by other women. Not trusting them anymore.
  20. Thinking, “I expect too much.”
  21. Thinking anger makes me ugly.
  22. Believing a good leader acts like a man, looks like a man.
  23. Feeling that my very nature is broken, fallen, sinful, and unlovable.
  24. Forcing ourselves to wear clothes and shoes that feel bad, because to refuse them would mean we’re not feminine.
  25. Believing our gut feelings are silly, our emotional responses irrational, our intuition untrustworthy.

Evolution & Health

My list barely scrapes the surface. But you know what I’m getting at. Those perfect images make us feel sick, but pressured too. We panic because we breathe the fear and loathing of women in the air; not because we’re weak or paranoid or mistaken about the world. We didn’t make this up.

But. On the Upside. We Evolve. Whether we intend to change or not. A pendulum drags us through the whipping wind. We feel afraid. And we change. In spite of ourselves. This change is the heart of my novel, Wife Material: one girl’s evolution and empowerment.

Every empowered woman helps us all evolve. She makes the world a healthier place for all of us.


  How to Cope with Woman-Hate Right Now

  1. Know that change is happening for the better.
  2. Try to relax, breathe deeply from the belly.
  3. Look for good in the women you know. Even the ones you don’t trust.
  4. Repeat this mantra: I embody goodness and love.
  5. Make eye contact with as many people as you can, regardless of their gender. Send them love.
  6. Meditate on all the art and music being made in the world.
  7. Focus on something beautiful.
  8. Do physical anger work. Whack a punching bag and hurl obscenities. Let it out of your body.
  9. Get as much rest as possible.
  10. Know that it’s all going to be okay.


Contact Deborah


Read Wife Material


Affirmations for Healing Spiritual Abuse



Spiritual abuse includes any kind of religious teaching or practice that diminishes your human rights, isolates you from the wider world, or systematically places you in positions of low power. I modeled these affirmations for healing spiritual abuse on those found in Jessica and Nick Ortner’s The Tapping Solution courses. Say them aloud or read them silently as you tap your body, gently, in a left-right-left-right motion: on the outsides of your knees, the outer edge of your eyes, your temples, your collarbone, and under your arms. You can also watch a tapping demo here.

  • Even though I have hurt places inside; and even though this old hurt causes me pain today; I love and accept myself.
  • Even though I still carry old hurt from my childhood; and even though I still feel this old hurt in my anxiety, my depression, my shame, my difficulty with relationships; I love and accept myself.
  • Even though old teaching made me feel I wasn’t good enough, I see goodness in me and I know I am enough.
  • Even though that old teaching made me feel shameful and unlovable, I now know I am good and lovable.
  • Even though the old message taught me not to make myself a priority, I now realize I need to first be aware of my feelings and my needs – so that I can care for myself. I now realize I must care for myself first.
  • Even though the old message made me feel insignificant, I now see that I matter.
  • Even though the old message taught me that I wasn’t inherently lovable, I now know that I am lovable. I deserve to be loved and nurtured.
  • And even though I still sometimes feel ashamed of my needs, ashamed of my feelings; I know that my need for love, touch, validation, rest, emotional expression, and understanding are an essential part of being alive.
  • I don’t always know what to do about the part of me that still hurts; I worry I will always have this pain; I wish I could be the person I’ve always wanted to be, but the fear and anxiety keep me stuck in old ways of seeing myself, stuck in old ways of feeling and moving about in the world.
  • Maybe I can let go of the fear.
  • Maybe I can trust my inner wisdom.
  • Maybe I already have the solution to all that old pain inside me.
  • I now open my awareness to Divine wisdom and love.
  • I open my awareness to who I really am.
  • Even though I’ve been so busy trying to be someone else’s version of me; I start to recognize my true self now.
  • My true inner self loves unconditionally.
  • My true inner self knows everything about me, and still loves me.
  • My true inner self knows what I’ve been through and understands my pain.
  • My true inner self helps me grow.
  • My true inner self connects me with Divine love, wisdom, and creation.
  • I accept my true inner self and I allow it to become more and more familiar to me.
  • Even though I haven’t always been in touch with this part of me, my true inner self keeps me company and nudges me toward higher consciousness and calm.
  • My true inner self helps me move toward greater awareness and creativity.
  • My true inner self understands me completely and knows the wisdom of every part of my life and being.

My novel, Wife Material, tells the story of one girl who exits spiritual abuse and says yes to her true inner self . . . which changes everything.

Read Wife Material


“I’m not creative.” 17 Signs of Artistic Abuse

Artistic Abuse

What is artistic abuse? Creative expression heals. Everyone has an inner artist. When we nurture the inner artist, we heal. Artistic Abuse (or Neglect) is communication (direct or indirect) that discourages, shames, or minimizes a person’s creative self-expression. Artistic abuse affects us emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Art saves lives . . . or at least makes them worth living.

But lots of us say, “I’m not creative.” We don’t get our hands into the clay because we’ve never done that. We say, “I’m tone deaf,” so we never take piano lessons. We limit ourselves to activities that can be counted or checked. Why? A long time ago, someone mistreated our inner artist and we shut it down out of self-preservation.

We Need Art Like We Need Water

We so profoundly need art that shutting it down is like smoking or eating only hot dogs. When schools eliminate  or downplay art and music, they send a message to children like, You don’t really need this . . . You can survive on hot dogs.

Julia Cameron writes extensively about how to recover from artistic wounding – and her work inspires me to think: children need their parents and teachers to feed them art. Children need their parents and teachers to value the artistic and give it a place of reverence in their lives.

So, as a parent or an adult child, allow yourself to go through the following list with an open mind. My novel, Wife Material, is all about coming to terms with artistic abuse. Only by looking at our past honestly can we revive our shut-down, wounded, inner artist.

You’ve probably been artistically abused or neglected if:

  1. Someone said, “You can’t sing (or write, or draw),” or, “You’ll never be very good.”
  2. Someone laughed at your early story-telling (not in a good way).
  3. You fear anyone seeing your paintings, reading your writing, or hearing your music.
  4. You feel intense shame about any artistic “failures.”
  5. You were told that art/music wasn’t a “real career.”
  6. You learned to view artistic expression as sinful, dangerous, or even selfish.
  7. You got punished for a disappointing performance.
  8. You got forced into artistic activities you didn’t want to do (I’m not talking about high school art class here).
  9. You felt exploited for an artistic talent (e.g., coerced to perform when you felt unsafe; used as a “show pony” to make someone else look good).
  10. Your artwork was intentionally destroyed or invaded by someone who knew (or should have known) you wanted to keep it safe and/or private.
  11. Someone ridiculed you for being artistic and suggested it made you less masculine.
  12. You learned to overvalue your business skills and mathematical ability and undervalue your poetry.
  13. You stop yourself from playing the piano because it feels like “a waste of time.”
  14. No one supported your learning a musical instrument in childhood – or your musical training was encouraged for a short time and then allowed to drop away.
  15. You were not taken to concerts or art museums. No one pointed out beautiful architecture or sound or literature.
  16. You stop yourself from reading fiction because it feels like “a waste of time.”
  17. Someone in authority ridiculed others (e.g., siblings, people on TV) who made music or expressed themselves artistically.

I’ll be back soon with steps you can take to recover from artistic abuse. For now, take a few minutes to journal about this. Then contact me if you’d like to explore further. I’d love to help you get started on your first work of art. Or read Wife Material to see if it inspires your own creative rebellion.

Contact Deborah Read Wife Material




Leaving Home to Find My Higher (Grownup) Self

Growing Up Paisley from Flowers Reborn, Deborah Cox, 2016

Growing Up Paisley from Flowers Reborn, Deborah Cox, 2016

I Write to Grow Up

I struggle to differentiate, as we all do. Leaving home is a lifelong process, as described by Murray Bowen, the father of family systems theory. But writing my novel, Wife Material, about the process of leaving home, catapulted me forward. That’s why I so recommend life-writing as part of trauma recovery. If I can create story around the invisible problems of fundamentalist Christian culture, I understand myself better and pull myself further out of that mindset.

And it makes me wonder: why do fundamentalist Christians have such a hard time letting their children grow up and leave home? Take Christian home-schooling for example (I have numerous lovely friends who home-school their children, so please, if you’re one of them, I can imagine circumstances in which home-school makes sense). Take “Christian College” for example (and again, if your kid goes to Harding or Evangel or Liberty, read this with one eye closed). Some of this may be true of your family – but perhaps not. We are so complex.

But to me, home-schooling and Christian college really show the gravitational pull of the fundamentalist family . . . the frightened family. Well-intentioned parents in fundie traditions fear the process of leaving home. They dread letting their kids out into the world where differentiation happens. Because differentiation can be scary.

What if they encounter drugs? Sex? Bad attitudes?

        What if their faith gets diluted?

            What if they develop nasty habits or vulgar language?

What if they stop believing in God?

The Vital Mess of Growing Up and Leaving Home

Fear of differentiation creates the need for schools like Waltham Academy, where my protagonist, Elizabeth Campbell, grew up. At Christian schools, children are sheltered from outside influences, thus restricting their thoughts to a prescribed area that’s been deemed appropriate or familiar. Fear of differentiation creates the need for home-school. Fear of differentiation creates depression and anxiety.

Typically, when you go off to school for the first time, you step into a foreign environment. You make friends with different types of backgrounds, orientations, and lifestyles. You see contrasts with your own family values and you start to question the rules and rituals with which you’re being raised. This is normal, healthy. This is how we leave home. Birthing is painful . . . and so is launching: uncomfortable, necessary, bloody, messy, and real.

When I left Christian college for a liberal (and feminist) state university environment, I made friends with Muslims and atheists and Jews, gay men, lesbians, and transgendered individuals, and people from other spots on the globe. This triggered my realization that my parents did not know everything . . . (nor should they have) which liberated my mind and allowed me to keep growing up. Growing past them.

If I’d stayed loyal to the churched educational system in which I was raised, I’d be dead now (at least mentally). I’d have compressed myself into a small intellectual space and blocked my mind from reaching out for more new information. Root bound. Enclosed. Strangled.

Differentiation is Growing Up

Differentiation is Growing Up

Every parent is limited. I know this like never before, raising a 15-year-old whose vocabulary and imagination surge ahead of mine and leave me feeling like a dusty old relic with my relational theology. But limits are normal. We don’t know everything. Our kids will know more than us. They’re supposed to, at some point. We grow beyond our parents’ abilities to imagine . . . and that is the stuff of this beautiful world.

At its base, Wife Material describes getting free to grow up.

We all desperately need to pull and scrape and claw our way to freedom so that we can leave behind our parents’ ideologies and grow into our fullest, brightest, wisest selves.

Read Wife Material

Snap out of Trance and De-Zombie-fy (I & Thou, part 2)

De-Trance and De-Zombie-fy

De-Trance and De-Zombie-fy

I’ve been watching people turn into zombies all week in couples therapy. One woman said, I shut myself down so I won’t have to strangle him! Trance-induction is complicated. It robs us of moments, but it helps us avoid feelings we don’t want to have. And sometimes it keeps us from committing homicide.

Why do we turn into zombies?

I take the issue back to my favorite consultant, Dr. Joe Hulgus, for some help with the words.

Me: It’s the zombie apocalypse. And I’m starting to suspect that all the zombies I’ve seen lately feel confused by their partners. Like they feel themselves being turned from a person to an IT. So they become less human. Does that make sense? How can I explain this?

Joe: It’s an emotional shift. Maybe we start feeling like a child as our partner talks down to us. Maybe we feel like we’re just the housekeeper or the employee or the paycheck or the person who raises the kids. Maybe we feel like a pair of boobs or a walking erection – like we have no other value. It’s like someone building an imaginary wall between them and us and we can’t reach them anymore.

Me: Or if I say, It’s all in your imagination…I’m not upset…or You know I love you…

Joe: Yes, at that moment, we’re no longer relating as two equal people. You’re trying to hide yourself from me. You’re treating me like an It. Like I’m not capable of perceiving reality on my own.

Me: I may be treating myself like an It too. Like, I don’t feel anything, so you shouldn’t either.

Joe: And I stand there confused, lonely, and desperate. I get two messages that don’t match, like I love you but don’t touch me. It makes me feel crazy.

Me: And you go into trance.

Joe: Yes, I become dissociated, without realizing I’ve slipped away. All of this happens unconsciously for all concerned. It’s under the surface of things, which is why it’s so powerful.

Me: If we can call it out, we stop ourselves from zombification?

Joe: I think so. But imagine the energy it takes to see what’s happening in your close relationship and then having the courage to say, Wait! Something doesn’t make sense. Something doesn’t feel right.

Me: It takes anger.

Joe: Maybe.

Me: No, really. The deep, inner anger at being gas-lighted.

Joe: Our parents or partners probably had no idea they were gas-lighting us.

Me: I know! It doesn’t matter. The effects are still there and I have to go WTF!!! I don’t understand because you’re not letting me!

Joe: Okay. Can you do that without being angry?

Me: I can’t. Without access to my anger, I’m a zombie.

Joe: I will try to remember that.

De-Trance and De-Zombie-fy

I-It or the It-It relationships allow all kinds of bad things to happen. This is where abuse happens. This is where relationships fall apart. This is where we get depressed. This is where we get distracted and have accidents and crave ice cream and pie and get locked in self-destructive cycles and feel all alone in the world. This is where we take it out on someone innocent. This is where we lose our humanity.

This is where wars and genocides begin.


But we can do something different. Let’s just start here. The antidote to zombification = the identification of our feelings. Especially anger. Emotion is the music of our attachment to each other.

Try this exercise and let me know how it works for you.

  1. Get a pen and notebook.Write a short scene where you turn into an emotional zombie, zoned-out, tranced-out, numb. You can make this up or write something completely factual.
  2. Describe everything going on around you. What do you notice?
  3. Add cartoon thought-bubbles and insert words (e.g., Does she think I’m a complete idiot?).
  4. In the scene, who would you most like to strangle? Why?
  5. Add dialogue (e.g., I would like to strangle you right now because…).
Contact Deborah

Differentiate and Help your Parents Grow Up.

Differentiation is Growth.

Differentiation is Growth.

Depression and Stuckness

Lately, my fifteen-year-old tells me I am too rigid and he no longer believes in anything I believe in. It makes me a little weepy to hear this, but it challenges me to let go of my pre-planned images of how he would grow up. If I tried too hard to control his views, he’d just have to pull harder the other way. Differentiation is how we grow and stay engaged with life.

Depressed people tend to be bored people. Even if they are too busy with urgent responsibilities. I notice that depressed people quietly adhere to ideologies they’ve long since outgrown. They say, I could never… Yet, they show signs they desperately want to break free. Since they’re not at liberty to voice these longings, they do other things to rebel, like eat too much or lose important jobs.

Being stuck in our parents’ way of thinking restricts our growth…which is depressing.

Differentiation of Self

Each successive generation sees a bit further down the road than its parents. That makes us evolve as a society and as a global community. The fact that children become adolescents who say, Just let me be my own person! shows how forcefully the maturation process unfolds us and our children into the future and changes how we eat, drive, and talk. We live in constant change.

Change pulls us out of the funk and keeps life interesting.

Differentiation of Self happens normally as a child grows up, says No, becomes aware of her preferences, and bonds with an adult partner to form a new family. It keeps the species moving forward, which is healthy. The alternative is enmeshment, which feels like mental quicksand (think of people you’ve known who lived in their parents’ basements until they were thirty-five). Differentiation keeps us maturing into the people we were meant to be.

So if you struggle with breaking free of your family’s dysfunction, remember that your differentiation can help your parents grow up too. You, pulling in your own direction, forces your parents to mature – even if they don’t want to. Your misbehavior therapizes your family in an unexpected way, even if they go kicking and screaming into the more healthy future.

It’s all good.

I suggest these ideas for your emotional travel (growth) and for offering a hand to your folks who may see the ship disembarking and secretly wish to come along.

Misbehavior is Growth.

Misbehavior is Growth.

  1. Read banned books.
  2. Talk openly about your evolving spirituality (even if it’s no longer believing in anything).
  3. Disagree out loud.
  4. Make friends with people ethnically dissimilar, especially if they make you a little uncomfortable.
  5. Vote differently from your family. Tell them about it.
  6. Consider making your sex life different in some way (this, you can keep to yourself.).
  7. Go back to school. Study something opposite your current field.
  8. Read about philosophy.
  9. Take an art class.
  10. Give away stuff you don’t use.
  11. Take a trip and don’t tell your parents.
  12. Change something about your diet.
  13. Get a tattoo.
  14. Make a wardrobe change: experiment with clothes that feel more fun to wear.
  15. Learn to write naughty poems.
  16. Get some EMDR focused on staying true to yourself while in the presence of your family.

When the subject arises, embrace the chance to un-closet your changing self. (Do I always embrace the chance to un-closet? No, but I hold it as an intention.) If you block your misbehavior and maturity to keep your parents unruffled, you do so at the peril of your mental health. And you rob your parents of the chance to know who you really are. Your acting out might inspire them to do the same. (Picture your mother getting a tattoo or taking a lover.). Remember, one person’s evolution matures everybody around them a bit, even if it’s shocking and painful or fraught with disagreement.

Evolution lifts you out of depression by feeding your brain with new ideas. It propels you into things not yet imagined…the life you were meant to live.

Contact Deborah


Investment in Healing: Why Pay for Therapy?

Why it makes sense to pay for good therapy.

Invest in your emotional development: Become more of who you were meant to be.

Hello, I think I need some therapy…..

How much does it cost? When can I expect to feel better?…….

Will I need therapy for a year? Three years?…….

Why won’t you take my insurance?…………

Investment in my health????? 

We call in distress, needing help now. Yet, we worry about the time and expense of therapy and feel discouraged at the vision of being on the therapist’s couch for the rest of our natural lives.

I can’t afford this.

I’m tired of being lonely and depressed, but I can’t leave work for a therapy appointment.

My husband doesn’t want me to spend the money…………

Sometimes, the idea of shelling out over a hundred dollars to talk seems ridiculous. I know – I’ve been there too. Even if you feel worthless and alone in the world, it’s hard to imagine that investment in your emotional health could lead to a different way of life. But let’s look at that money in the context of going to see your family doctor, which you’d probably do if you had a headache that wouldn’t go away.

  1. A typical doctor’s office visit costs anywhere between forty and three-hundred dollars. For this money, you get perhaps 20 minutes of your physician’s time. You might get to ask your list of questions and you might get a diagnosis or prescription. But you will probably not get an hour of face-to-face exploration of who you are with a person who is trained to listen for clues to your emotional and relational life. (The exception to this might be my own doctor, who does listen and ask good questions for 30 to 45 minutes.)
  2. You take off work to go see your doctor. You probably leave the appointment with an answer (yes or no) to the question, Am I dying? But you will probably not begin to feel better just yet – nor will you have a deeper sense that you are SANE, WORTHY, and connected to the universe. Your behavior will most likely remain unchanged (except, perhaps, for taking your medicine).
  3. For an investment of $170, the average in that range, you can have a top of the line running shoe, which will last between six and ten months. That shoe will cost you more than most therapy sessions. And if you go ahead and buy a good EMDR therapy session, you will most likely net permanent change to your neural networks that promotes more effective thinking and a calmer body.
  4. With the investment of under $300, for a few good EMDR therapy sessions, you should have the following.
    • A working partnership with someone who’s focused on really getting you.
    • Some new resources for calming your nervous system and thinking with more clarity and less stress, less negative self-perception and noise.
    • And…..a beginning understanding of what’s been blocking your path to achievement or satisfying relationships.

I start almost every EMDR therapy relationship with resourcing – building new thoughts, feelings, and images that literally change your brain. I start this process in our very first meeting, so even if you only see me once, we begin tapping in those supports that bolster your forward movement.

EMDR therapy usually takes more than two sessions for the typical adult with anxiety or depression. I work with your schedule as much as possible. According to our local data, most people feel significantly better within six sessions. And no, I don’t take much insurance anymore. For about a dozen reasons. We make more progress when we pay for the service.

Check it out. Do some reading. And contact me if you’d like to learn more.

Contact Deborah