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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Why do I want this? Skip resolutions and Go Deep instead.

My Bodysmith friends and I have been asking ourselves: Do we even want to make resolutions for 2017? Does it make sense to replay the same self-assignments, year after year? The question makes sense if you think about how New Year’s resolutions have evolved over time. From ancient Babylonia to our present civilization, people tend to declare something anew at the beginning of the year.

But that new something keeps morphing as our worldview shifts over time . . .

When resolutions began, thousands of years ago, we reminded ourselves to pay off debts and keep the gods happy. If the gods were happy, the world ran smoothly. As society became more military, we pledged allegiance to a king as we prepared for the next round of battles.

At some point in modern history, our focus shifted inward, to self-improvement. We set goals to make us more physically, spiritually, financially, or mentally fit: give up sugar, pay off credit cards, start a running program, go to bed earlier, stop smoking . . .

But just a relative few years into the new millennium, people trend toward making no resolution at all. Why is that?

Why we’ve stopped making resolutions.

Yes, we still care about being in shape, taking care of our bodymind, but we see more deeply into that goal set than we once did . . . or we want to. We know more about our brothers and sisters living in poverty at home and abroad. Our resolutions start to look shallow in relation to the refugee crisis or human traffiking.

the bigger picture of our new year's resolutions

from “Borders,” www.lucabarberini.com

A question emerges – and I hear this question between the lines of every therapy conversation. Why do I want that? Why do I want to make more money? What makes me want to be thinner, calmer, and stronger? What drives me to want better concentration? Why do I care to read more books? Watch less TV? Spend more time in quietude?

Does it even matter? We glimpse a bigger and more complicated picture than just our own personal fulfillment. We see how we are connected to every living creature. We sense a deeper spiritual meaning in our quest for a smaller waist and we want to understand why we put so much energy there. Who am I? What’s this part of me that needs to be more solvent, improve my marriage, and give more to charity? What’s this part of me that needs to fit into my skinny jeans?

To see if a new awareness could be happening to you, try this exercise.

  1. Get your notebook, a timer, and pen. Light a candle. Get some tea. Write this question: What do I want? Try not to judge your answers. Just write them down. Make a list.
  2. Take several deep breaths and then write this question: Why do I want that? Pick an item from #1.
  3. Set your timer for ten minutes. Answer the why question. Keep your pen moving on the page without stopping, for the entire ten minutes. Repeat for each item on your list, or if they fit together, write about them as a set.

Talk to someone about this exercise and what you learned. You may suddenly see more deeply into your motives and needs. This deeper vision of your why is a way more powerful motivator than a simple list of resolutions. Your why is what your higher self knows you need to help you continue growing, becoming a better person, becoming all you can be, all you were meant to be. Return to this page anytime you need to remind yourself why you do what you do and see if it helps you get motivated to action.

P.S. My resolution is this: Protect myself from things and people that drain off my creative energy (more on this later).

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“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.

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Abusive Religion or Political Party? Toxic Faith: Part II

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Toxic Faith & Political Abuse

Spiritual practice should calm and ground you – so you feel hopeful, refreshed, more generous, and more compassionate. Religion and philosophy should promote ever-increasing access to your wise mind or Higher Self. But some movements block connection with your inner wisdom by hammering a terrified, guilty, censoring, or rejecting message. This is spiritual abuse.

As I watched this year’s presidential conventions, I saw how toxic faith gets used by political groups. I realized that any movement, ideology, political campaign, or faith tradition that makes you afraid of the world, afraid of what lies ahead, afraid of change – of losing things as they are, is manipulating your good heart. This is political abuse.

Think about the ideas you’re being asked to support. Watch closely the interpersonal behavior of those at the helm. Allow yourself to notice: Who benefits most from this notion? If you were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as a child, you become more vulnerable to being lured into abusive political or religious doctrines as an adult.

Here’s another short list of signs you’re in an abusive church or religion or campaign.

  1. You (or someone else) are physically hurt or threatened by a person in a power position.
  2. You (or someone else) are sexually approached by a person in a power position.
  3. Your intimate relationships are not respected by those in authority.
  4. You’re encouraged to only socialize or converse with those whose beliefs are the same as the group.
  5. You’re discouraged from consulting other sources (e.g., news venues, literature, holy scriptures) not endorsed by the group.
  6. You feel you can’t trust your own reason to help you discern truth.
  7. You feel you can’t make art – or you’re discouraged from trying art forms (e.g., dance, writing, sculpture).
  8. Meditation is not encouraged. Neither is solitude or quiet reflection.
  9. Your inner exploration stays invisible or unheard.
  10. You notice in-groups and out-groups that are not discussed openly.
  11. You’re afraid of what the elders say about you (or would, if they really knew you).
  12. You feel alienated from your higher power.

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The main reason I wrote Wife Material was to resist the tyranny of a church that tried to lay claim to my mind. I wanted it back. I desperately needed to mute the dogma in my head, so I could listen to my higher self.

Exercise for Re-establishing Contact with your Higher Self

Get out your notebook and a pen. Get comfortable. Write for five minutes on the following.

What makes me slightly uncomfortable about my church (or faith group or political party) is . . .

Set down your journal and do something else for a while. Later today, tell someone else what you wrote – anyone who will listen and not shame you.

I believe you can trust your deepest inner wisdom to guide your thoughts and choices.

Read Wife Material Contact Deborah

What Does Freedom Look Like to You?

 

http://lucabarberini.com/en/works/view/56/revolution-16

Revolution 16, Luca Barberini, http://lucabarberini.com/en/works/view/56/revolution-16

We hear a lot about freedom from politicians and life coaches. But freedom seems a bit vapory to me. Freedom to, what, exactly? Last week, I started asking people, What does freedom look like to you?

Here are some of the answers people gave me.

  1. Having the ability and right to make decisions for myself.
  2. The ability to help myself and help others.
  3. Being without addictions.
  4. Being able to set boundaries with others.
  5. Listening to good music.
  6. Artistic expression.
  7. Being able to explore and change my views of the universe.

No one I asked mentioned weapons or money. They all described internal states and liberties. Freedom feels internal to me too. Truth. Beauty. Love. Things I have with me no matter where I am or who is in power. Things that cut across religious and cultural divides. I’m able to think fluidly, use my reason and intuition, my senses and hunches and emotions, to guide my behavior and beliefs. I can create loveliness with words or gum-wrappers. I can love others and feel their love coming back to me, even if we’re hundreds of miles apart. I have access to what’s inside. I’m not a slave to substances.

Writing to Get Freedom

For me, writing leads to freedom . . . especially writing about relationships, religious and spiritual oppression, bullying, domination, or abuse. As I dare to write my emotional truth, I explore the dark side of my human experience. I go through the slimy tunnel and out the other side. That’s where I find truth, beauty, and love as I experience them. One leads to the other. Writing the horror and the struggle clarifies the real questions to be answered, Who Am I? Why has this been my path? What have I learned from it? What’s my life’s curriculum?

Going through this process, I get more mentally free.

In the spirit of these questions, here’s an exercise. This might get you started on your own life-writing or social commentary. Get out your journal and pen and start writing. Give yourself five minutes on each question. Set a timer and be sure to stop when it dings.

  1. What do you absolutely have to have in your life, in order to be okay?
  2. Why do you think those are what’s necessary for you?
  3. What is your number one core belief about the universe?
  4. How did you develop that core belief?
  5. When do you feel most free?

Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

Contact Deborah Read Wife Material

 

 

I’m a Total Failure: Transform Multi-generational Guilt and Shame

Multigenerational Guilt and Shame

It’s My Fault.

I’m a Failure.

If I weren’t so lazy, I’d be more financially stable.

If I was a better daughter, my parents would still be together.

If I were thinner, my husband would have sex with me.

If I weren’t so angry, I’d have friends.

If I’d worked harder in my 20s, I’d have a great career now.

I should’ve listened to my parents.

I should’ve gone to graduate school.

I should’ve practiced more.

I shouldn’t have married her.

I should have taken better care of myself.

If I had been a better person, he would still be here.

If I was a better person, God would hear me.

If I weren’t so nervous, I’d be more fun.

If I were a better mom, my child would do better in school.

If I were a better dad, my daughter wouldn’t have a drug problem.

If I had asked more questions, been a better listener, said the right things, he would still be alive.

I attended an EMDR workshop by Laurell Parnell, who said, “children absorb their parents’ emotions and take them directly into the nervous system.” When she said this, I instantly knew it was true before reading any scientific proof. I knew countless depressed adults who blamed themselves for the aching misery experienced by their parents…..and I knew I had been one of them. This made me wonder how much guilt and shame belongs to us as individuals, and how much belongs to our parents.

Think about it. Here’s an exercise to help you explore the guilt you may have inherited from generations past……and what to do with the smelly old trunkfulls of disappointment.

  1. Make a list of your parents’ regrets: Unresolved conflict, Failed careers, Disappointing Love Relationships, Bad treatment of their children……Allow yourself to guess, speculate, fictionalize, even if you don’t know for sure.
  2. For each of your parents’ regrets, jot down the emotion you
  3. Now make a list of your own regrets. Again, think about your relationships, your parenting, your young adult adventures, your failures. Notice why these experiences seem so negative to you now.
  4. If each piece of shame on your list was a pebbly stepping stone toward greater maturity, notice how different the world would look.
  5. Imagine what your parents were trying to learn when they were most upset. Developing empathy? Learning to let go? Learning to adjust their efforts? Finding a connection with their higher power?…..
  6. Imagine yourself standing on the shoulders of your parents, seeing more of the world than they could see. Imagine past generations of your family underneath your parents, holding them up. Think of how important their failures have been to each successive generation, allowing children to grasp more things in the distance than their parents could perceive.
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We keep evolving.

I imagine…..if every sin, mis-step, failure, crazy relationship, breakup, drunken fit, or lapsed exercise regimen was part of your becoming the complex individual you are today…..

…..you could relax a little.

…..you could look at your list as a series of learning experiences.

…..you could see failure as a search for your true self.

…..you could trust yourself and your struggles a little more.

You already know I’m a proponent of misbehavior. Breaking the rules and failing helps us become who we truly are. So, It’s My Fault can become, I Learned From It. And, I Should Have Known Better can become, I Did The Best I Could….And Look Where I Am Now!

Contact me if you’d like to talk about your guilt list. I’d love to see you transform it into the rich, multi-generational life history it was meant to be.

Contact Deborah

Maturity and Leadership to Change the World

Maturity Changes the World

We Need Grownups to Help Change the World

Maturity = Self Awareness + Self Knowledge + the Courage to Engage.

Watching recent TV news of the presidential race, I started thinking about maturity and how desperately we need leaders (governors, teachers, therapists, ministers, parents) who help us evolve toward enlightenment and peace. The late Edwin Friedman wrote about mature leadership and how important it was for a leader to be differentiated, grounded, able to use both reason and emotion – and to separate them when necessary.

I have a couple of mentors, who embody this maturity. They know who they are (and who they’re not). They make me calmer and offer reasons to hope. They say, All is in Divine Order. When I concentrate on their character, here’s what I get.

  1. Behavioral Intelligence: They take responsibility for the impact of their behavior. Even if they meant no harm. Even if they have to make amends.
  2. Emotional Intelligence: They own and acknowledge their feelings. They perceive the feelings and motives of others. They identify it when they observe mean, divisive, or manipulative behavior – and they don’t tolerate being abused.
  3. Relational Value: They value connection over compliance. They treat children, animals, employees, and students (and others with less power) as if they are worthy of knowing.
  4. Integrated Thinking: They think in full spectrum color (more than black and white, good and bad, winner and loser, saved and damned). They embrace unexpectedness, ambiguity, and mystery. They listen to new information and blend it with their inner wisdom.
  5. Equanimity: They stay calm when others are freaking out. They know it’s going to be okay. They avoid rhetoric aimed to scare.

Self-awareness lets us perceive what we’re doing and how and why. Self-knowledge means learning from our experiences, becoming adept at navigating the human systems in which we live. And having the courage to engage means meeting people (and animals) at a point of honest connection, sharing power with them, noticing our ego in the mix.

So, what does maturity have to do with leadership?

These traits of maturity don’t necessarily come with age. Maturity belongs on a spectrum. We move along this spectrum in our own time. But once we become aware of the process, it seems to accelerate, because of our active, conscious participation. Our relationships deepen. We see a more complicated world and understand it in a new way, which means a better life for us and the people around us.

Mature leadership encourages, guides, and sets boundaries. Mature leadership states firm positions but respects the dignity of those who hold different ones. Mature leadership listens carefully, reflects, takes time to answer questions with genuine thought.

Mature leadership gets how complicated human systems are. A mature leader has the courage to be transparent and known in those systems. A mature leader sets a collaborative tone, yet clearly calls out bad behavior when a stand must be taken.

A mature leader promotes shared power and the common good, yet faces the likelihood that someone will always be displeased with the direction of the group. A mature leader holds firm to a direction when she/he believes it to be right.

Mature leadership discourages violence and even micro-aggression. It inspires us to use our imaginations and yet behave civilly toward each other.

In the presence of a mature leader, we become more grown up.

What’s Your Spiritual Story? (And why it matters to your life.)

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I purged my childhood belief system and started over. I ran to psychology. It explained everything, including all those simple minds who still drank the Kool-Aid. Continue reading

On Turning 50: What Matters Now?

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My husband keeps asking how I want to celebrate my dreaded 50th birthday. He means well. But nothing sounds quite right. Continue reading

Spiritual Development: The Church of Psychology (Sometimes) Fails Us

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I first noticed the failure of psychology as a young psychologist, fresh out of graduate school with my half-mortgage-sized student loan. But because of that loan and all the training it represented, I refused to say this out loud. I was a new convert, an evangelist, a believer. I had to defend the faith. Continue reading