Every Therapist Needs a Tribe

Memorial Day Weekend, by Chris Roberts Antieu, http://www.antieaugallery.com/art-collections/americana-collection/

How do you do it? . . .

. . . People often say. How can a therapist sit with people who are in pain, hour after hour, day after day, and concentrate on how to help them feel better, while keeping themselves balanced?

I usually say, “Tons of self care.” And that’s true. To break it down a bit, I need good sleep and exercise, clean food and daily meditation time, creative outlets galore. But there’s another piece I haven’t written much about. My tribe.  Without a tribe of mutual support, all the green juice in the world won’t make me effective at helping people.

If you’re a helper, you need a tribe. Our close, inner circle keeps us balanced, supported, and in touch with reality. In fact, Relational-Cultural Theory posits that isolation is a major source of suffering on all levels: individually, culturally, and globally.  I think therapists are especially vulnerable to invisible forms of isolation . . . which is why we need our own support group.

My tribe has three parts.

  1. My Go-To People: I have a couple of seasoned clinical colleagues to whom I go on a regular basis to talk about stuck spots, mysteries, ethical dilemmas, and stressful conundrums in therapy. These people have heard and seen it all, so they’re unruffled by what I bring them. They have boundaries of steel, so they protect the sanctity of our mutual supervisory relationship.
  2. My Group: I also have a larger cocoon of safety in the therapists, artists, coaches, and teachers who work at my offices. We consult with each other – though we may not always discuss our work directly. We keep tabs on each other, we see each other between sessions, and we have a general knowing about the work we each do behind closed doors. We encourage each other to take time off.  We work on our shared space to create beauty. This contact gives us a common culture and companionship in a line of work that would otherwise be  isolating.
  3. My Spiritual Guides: These people do different kinds of work in the world – but we connect on a spiritual or energy level. My minister/shaman friends see things from a broader perspective. So when we talk about our lives, I naturally get something I can use to see my clients differently. We might sit out under the trees and talk about the meaning of existence, consciousness, and universal wisdom. I emerge from these visits with more clarity about why I do what I do. The older I get, the more I quote these spiritual mentors/friends in therapy. People in distress seek answers from a bigger picture perspective – not just instructions for how to prevent a panic attack.

Who’s In Your Tribe?

Who helps you get grounded when your world is wobbling? Who listens to your confusion when you don’t know how to be helpful? Which colleagues can you turn to when you’re burned out and overwhelmed? Let me know if I can help you create your tribe.

Contact Deborah

Relationship Disconnect: How it affects our health.

Relationship disconnection is trauma.

Relationship Disconnection is Trauma.

Everyone I love needs to read these four books.

  1. The Birth of Pleasure, Carol Gilligan
  2. The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
  3. Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander
  4. How Connections Heal, Maureen Walker & Wendy Rosen (Eds.)

These books have all changed my life. But today, I want to focus on #4. How Connections Heal is written for therapist-types, but it explains the basic nitty-gritty about relationships and should be required reading for every high school senior and should be in every hotel nightstand drawer and every dentist’s lobby. I think it’s that important.

It’s about Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT), which posits that when we have mutually-affirming connections, we feel understood and valued. We thrive and get more creative and do our best work. We feel energy and excitement. We take better care of ourselves.

But when our relationships (even just one of them, if it’s important) make us feel diminished or one-down, when we lack equal power and voice……we suffer. We become depleted, depressed. We feel lost, lonely, bloated, unattractive, unstable, dull, unwanted, and out-of-touch. We eat and drink too much, shop too much, stare into our devices and stop looking forward to things. We feel unliked and unlovable. We wear gray and withdraw from social life. We doubt our sanity.

Relationship Disconnection Is Trauma. Here’s a story of non-mutuality (disconnection) in a friendship.

Sabine and Rachel’s friendship changed suddenly, and Sabine was confused. Rachel seemed distant and stopped returning calls. Sabine felt her friend pull away, but when she asked about it, Rachel waved her off and said, “Nothing’s wrong. I’ve just been super busy.” Then the distance got even worse over the course of six months and Sabine found herself excluded from gatherings of Rachel and their other friends. She felt abandoned and ashamed with no idea how to address the obvious rift in their connection. She thought, it must be my fault. She wondered, how do I feel so hurt when Rachel obviously feels nothing? Sabine got sick. First, a bronchitis that hung on for two months. Then, shingles. When she came to see me, she was having panic attacks and thoughts of suicide.

condemned isolation

Condemned Isolation Is Trauma.

Disconnection and non-mutuality happen in marriages and work relationships and families. If I (like Sabine) consistently share more, express more vulnerability, reach out more, make myself more available, I will probably, at some point, feel bewildered and blame myself for being needy. If my feelings or perceptions are brushed off or laughed off, I will start to lose essential energy: an emotional hemorrhage that I can feel in my body. In RCT terms, this is Condemned Isolation and it causes us to doubt our essential worth in the world.

Condemned Isolation Is Trauma.

If this pattern sounds familiar, you may have traumatic disconnection in your relationships. Your body responds to condemned isolation like it responds to a physical assault. Contact me if you’d like to talk more about how to bring mutuality back into a relationship – or how to recover from this type of trauma and rebuild your confidence and zest for life.

No Judgment Here: 10 Things I Love about Group Fitness

 

No Judgment Here

No Judgment Here

No Judgment…but lots of Very Cool Surprises.

Group fitness bears a huge resemblance to group therapy. Who knew? I did not. But doing group fitness at The Bodysmith has changed my life and now I can’t stop talking about it. It helps me recover more quickly from setbacks. It places my fitness in a social context. It allows me to hear from lots of other people about their normal struggles – things we worry about in common and things we’re celebrating or learning to let go or accept: aging, illness, our kids…We come from different backgrounds and generations and occupations, but we share so much, including our desire to be fitter and more conscious human beings.

I LOVE…

  1. That everybody has a different shape.
  2. Burpees: Now I can do twelve of them without stopping.
  3. Mutual soreness.
  4. That I see how we all fluctuate through our lives: leaner, fatter, more and less swollen, depending upon how stressed we’ve been lately. No need to worry about it. I can allow myself to be human and inconsistent. In this way, I’m just like everybody else.
  5. Getting stronger and being able to lift things I couldn’t before.
  6. My friends holding me accountable to come to class.
  7. Learning not to judge myself or compare myself to others. Learning this doesn’t help or matter to the forward movement of my life.
  8. That everybody knows my name there (think neighborhood pub, only without the beer).
  9. That I feel connected to my community: I learn what’s going on around me from people who go to different concerts and read different books.
  10. I bounce back more easily from those weeks of bad food or bad self esteem. It’s never the end of the world.

I’m starting to think group fitness IS group therapy. I’m starting to think you might get more bang from your buck by joining a Pilates class than by doing a traditional talk-support group (not that those aren’t great). I’m starting to see there’s no real separation between body and mind. I’m starting to get that recovery from trauma has to be part muscle, part blood vessel, part neuron, part emotion, and part imagination.

Call me if you’re curious about how fitness and trauma recovery go hand-in-hand. Or talk to anyone at The Bodysmith to learn how you can start this part of your healing.

Contact Deborah

How Friendships Improve your Love Life

“I don’t really hang out with people anymore.”

Most people I meet who are in distressed relationships say they have few friends outside their marriage or partnership. Especially the men. Continue reading