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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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

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

 

Leadership Monologues: Take Back the L Word

Take Back Leadership

By presta from Tufts University’s Cohen Auditorium. (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Leadership (said with a sneer)

I hate the word, “Leader.” It’s lost every shred of meaning it once held for me. Leadership once meant authority and concern for the welfare of everyone in its reach. Now it sounds like a fake word with fake facts to support its nothingness. A poser, posing as a real idea. Maybe I’ve seen one too many bad leaders come into power and spoil the essence of what it means to guide a group of people toward a shared goal.

When Leader falls into the realm of fakeness, every part of society suffers in ways that are hard to identify. People go hungry for what’s real and they get depressed and panicky and eat too much sugar. Then we get fat and we judge ourselves for losing control. Emotional health epidemics have everything to do with dysfunctional leadership, or A Failure of Nerve.

So, I want to take back the word. Remember the Vagina Monologues? Remember how those actors reclaimed the various words used to insult women’s genitals? Like, C – U – N – T. They spoke it and saturated it with specific, positive meaning. I need to do something similar here, for my self, my family, and my clients, with the word, “Leader.”

Because I have to be one. And so do you.

Because, if you parent, teach, counsel, advise, or instruct, you lead. And thank God you do. We starve for your good leadership. Everybody needs a healthy leader (even if they don’t know it and try to sabotage it).

But look for one and you realize how few good leaders there seem to be in the world. The good ones don’t grab the microphone and make themselves obvious. They live in libraries and work in battered women’s shelters. They labor behind the scenes.

We confuse and conflate leadership with a bunch of other things.

To target this confusion, I give you a short list. I hope that by separating Leader from these other things, we can see more clearly what Leader is and cultivate Leader in our selves.

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

Leadership. Does. Not. Equal:

  1.  making money or fiscal policy. But healthy leadership fosters creative growth, which, in time, helps more people generate income. Healthy leaders are patient for this.
  2. politics. Enough said.
  3. a quick fix. Leadership takes a long view of progress (see #1).
  4. controversy. Yet . . . good leaders take unpopular stands when necessary for the good of the whole body. These unpopular stands tend to bring out all our better natures by modeling wisdom in action.
  5. scaring the wits out of – or using people. It isn’t a tirade. Healthy leaders help us calm down and think rationally. Picture good parents here. A wise elder puts things into perspective so we can breathe more easily. “It’s going to be okay.”
  6. focusing on issues. It’s not driven by the anxiety or the problems in the group. Healthy leaders take care of themselves and keep the bigger picture in mind. They listen calmly to the issues of their people, but keep pointing to the transcendent goals of the community . . . what really matters in the long run (e.g., how we treat each other).
  7. neutrality. A healthy leader sees how the system works and calls out any dishonesty or bullying. Real leaders see and address dysfunctional behavior in a responsible way. They prohibit intentional and/or unnecessary violence.
  8. divisiveness. True leaders foster unity, because at some level, we are all one. They help us appreciate each other.
  9. self-aggrandizement. Healthy leaders exude humility in confidence. Yes, that’s a real thing. It says: I don’t know everything, but I can listen and learn.

In conclusion, we need to know the difference between: (A) health-promoting leadership and (B) health-compromising leadership. We need to distinguish between Leadership and the grab for power. We can learn this and do this. Like choosing broccoli over Cheetos. Like telling your kids, friends are more important than money. Like talking to your mate instead of shopping to fill the void. We can exercise our leadership muscles and take back the L-word.

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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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Victim Mentality & My Grandfather’s Privates

weener2

“Don’t sound like such a victim,” said somebody on Facebook yesterday.

I talk with so many of you in shock and grief about our presidential election. You feel assaulted. You fear saying how raw and threatening it feels, how sick you are.

My throat started burning Tuesday night as I watched the returns, even though I was surrounded by a community of love and support. By midnight, I ran a fever, my head clogged. One friend had a migraine. Another friend’s pregnancy was threatened. The mother of a close friend died suddenly last night. Our bodies took the impact of this unfolding news story as if we were literally being assaulted with fists and clubs.

. . . Just before voting, my mind distracted with worry about a predator poised to take over the White House,  I fell down the stairs and banged up both legs so they swelled up like giant sausages . . . An unappetizing segue to what I want to say today.

It’s okay to talk about being victimized, to cry about being devastated, to write about your fear and anger. It’s important to talk about being victimized.

“I hate the victim mentality.”

“I don’t want to play the victim.”

Where did we get this?

When I was 11, my paternal grandfather flashed his big, red penis at me.

He stepped in front of the TV as I was watching The Price is Right, and he unzipped his polyester jumpsuit and yanked it out. He laughed. I bolted, ran with bare feet through my grandparents’ house, out the back door, over the rocks in the yard to my grandmother. I cried and spluttered and she interpreted me, exactly. She knew, before I could even get the words out.

We called my dad, who thankfully drove three hours in a flash to be with me. He said, ‘Don’t tell your mother. She could lose the baby.’ I didn’t tell her. In fact, I told no one for several years, until I learned that others in my family had experienced harassment and abuse by this patriarch. Somehow my cousins and I came clean with each other. We needed to validate the disgust and shame and fear we felt.

But I thought, “I’m not really a victim. I’m fine. Other people have worse experiences. I don’t need to tell my mother.”

I cringed, silently, at sausages and hot dogs until sometime in college.

I was a victim.

The Sanctity of Victimhood

If you get flashed by your grandfather . . .

If someone tells you not to be upset, not to think about it, not to notice the impact of this election on your body . . .

If you get grabbed in the crotch by an acquaintance . . .

If your nationality or racial identity gets demeaned . . .

If you get told you need bigger breasts . . .

YOU ARE A VICTIM.

You’ve been victimized and are, thus, a victim. Even if it was your husband who told you to get breast augmentation. Where did we ever get the idea that being angry, grieving out loud, voicing our shock and dismay means we’re playing a role? How did the notion that a victim should act like a non-victim get started in the first place?

The concept of Victim Mentality originated with people afraid of emotions, afraid of taking responsibility, afraid of hearing your pain. Victim Mentality” came along to silence you. It came from patriarchy . . . a social system that rewards unfeeling, cold, ruthless policies that steamroller those with less power: women, children, people of color, people with disabilities, Jews, other non-Christians, and people with any sort of status that makes them “other.” “Don’t be a victim,” came from people who believe in false memory syndrome, people who refuse to make amends, who blame you for getting hurt.

If you experience abuse, you are a victim. And if you cry and scream and write angry words, the world is better because you share your truth. If you feel victimized by this election, you’re in good company.

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

,woman-with-mouth-covered

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

 

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Uber Calm in a Narcissistic World

image

Several years ago, I did a talk for a local GLBT advocacy group. I stood at the front of a large meeting room and talked about discrimination and ignorance, the need for education. A topic I lectured on every week in my classes. But in the middle of my presentation, not one, but two bullies, from two different parts of my life, strode in together and stood at the back of the audience – both of them tall with chins held high, both having exploited my trust, attacked my reputation, and interfered in my relationships.

I choked.

My throat like sandpaper, my oxygen disappeared. My speech evaporated into meaningless dry word-strings. I cut it short because I couldn’t inhale and I slumped into a chair on the front row. Later, a student of mine came over to (I suppose) be friendly and said, “Not a public speaker, are you? Me either.” I wanted to slap him. I wanted to explain how Broca’s area shuts down in the presence of danger . . . but that part of my brain was still frozen in (irrational) fear.

From that moment forward, I used the words Bully and Narcissist interchangeably, because they’re almost synonymous.

A world full of narcissists?

It seems like it these days. And the more grandiose the bully, the more apparently successful in this world. If she lacks conscience, she can bend the truth to create alternate planes of reality that favor her. Lacking empathy, he can use people, make them feel inferior and in need of him. Our narcissism epidemic springs from widespread attachment trauma, early childhood neglect, and the indulgent, self-absorbed elements of our capitalist culture.

We all deal with narcissism, ours or someone else’s. Some looks obvious: inflated ego, meanness if you stand up to them, destruction toward other people’s work and relationships. But a lot of narcissism happens covertly as emotional sabotage.

I grew up around lots of unwitting bullies. In my family’s fundamentalist religious group, boys had too much power over girls. They learned, from their fathers, to dominate. Families passed down traumatic attachments through the generations. And the combination of sexist dogma with early emotional deprivation made these men very afraid of sharing power with women. They abused, gaslighted, and made women feel ashamed of their bodies and sexuality.

I grew up primed to be bullied by a narcissist. Now, with distance from the fundamentalism and the bullying, I see narcissistic patterns in every part of our society.

More than ever, we need to notice bullies for what they do to us. We need awareness of how we’re being manipulated to feel fear and shame.

Who’s Your Narcissist?

Who makes you nervous? Who do you dread? Who triggers all your feelings of inadequacy, unattractiveness, and insignificance? Who do you over-admire? Who seems so cool and smart you could never be good enough for them? Maybe a leader. Maybe someone who’s made your work miserable. Maybe someone close who drains you, leaves you lonely and confused with each contact. Maybe someone you love.

Narcissistic people try to silence us. They overpower with bluster, triangle themselves in our friendships, and invalidate our thoughts. Narcissistic people don’t always look like criminals. Sometimes they look like our parents or neighbors.

You need a way to differentiate from the narcissist, become more you (less apologetic, less nervous, less someone else). With narcissistic people, you need a way to stay grounded and know who you are.

Consider a radical act: Get calm in the presence of your narcissist.

The disobedience of calming helps you become more you, not so compliant or ashamed, not so easily manipulated.

You already do yoga. You meditate. You tap. You have a mental calming place . . . a mountain cabin, a treehouse, a hammock. You take deep breaths and exhale slowly. You think of your most trusted friend.

Calm at the Center

Calm at the Center

 

Try this . . .

  1. Think of your calm place now. Breathe.
  2. Notice what happens in your body when you think of your favorite chair, your yoga mat, your run.
  3. Notice the center point of stillness as your body-mind slows down.
  4. Now, imagine having this calming process while in the presence of your narcissist. Allow that person to do whatever they do, to be agitated or aggressive (they are always more anxious than you), while you stay still at the center.
  5. Just notice everything. Watch with curiosity. Come back to your breath.
  6. Affirm yourself: I can leave if I want to; I have my own thoughts and feelings; I can keep myself safe.
  7. If you notice guilt, pressure, or anxiety, just acknowledge it and let it slide away from you.

Now write for 10 minutes about this exercise. What do you notice about yourself? What is it like to get still and focused on your inner calm while the narcissistic person is there, doing whatever they do?

This exercise will not solve the entire problem of being bullied or dominated, but it will help you start seeing differently. It may even help you regain something you lost (like, um, your voice).

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Notice Body-Mind Connections and Heal from Trauma

Bone Flowers Deck, Luca Barberini, 2010, http://lucabarberini.com/en/home

Bone Flowers Deck, Luca Barberini, 2010, http://lucabarberini.com/en/home

I used to fall a lot. On the sidewalk. In my yard. Up a flight of marble stairs. About seven years ago, after a string of bizarre falls where I ended up with scars on my shins and a pulled muscle in my back, I followed the trail of breadcrumbs and made a body-mind connection. It went like this.

  1. I have contact with a mean or narcissistic person.
  2. I feel “off balance.”
  3. I trip on my own feet or a tree root or a rock in the driveway and land on my hip or my hands.
  4. I hurt myself and also feel humiliated.
  5. I immediately recall the bullying individual from #1.

At first, when I told my doctor about this, I felt sheepish. I didn’t want to blame my clumsiness on someone else (and I didn’t want her to think I’d had a stroke). But as I told my story, I caught sight of my patient me, as if through my doctor’s eyes, apologizing for the link I’d made between mean people and my having accidents. I thought of other patients in her office, recalling what they’d eaten or where they’d been just before a medical event, and I started to feel some compassion for myself. She’s not a shrink, but my doctor understands how our emotional and medical lives intertwine. I am a shrink, and I’ll tell you, they are one and the same.

Luca Barberini, 2015

Portrait from Photo, Luca Barberini, 2015

 

Maybe it’s okay to notice the weird connections between things. Not just the physical things, but the emotional things too.

“But I don’t want to be unfair.”

I get it. But there’s a difference between blame and etiology. Just because you track the origins of your anxiety or your over-drinking doesn’t mean you need restitution from the person(s) involved.

Or maybe you do. But that’s another conversation…

Maybe you’re afraid to see how your panic attacks started in a relationship. But it’s just human and normal and natural to want to UNDERSTAND. How did I get here? What is my body telling me?

As distinguished traumatologist, Bessel van der Kolk, writes in his book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” trauma disrupts our ability to notice what we feel in our bodies – yet this interoceptive awareness is the first step in becoming more able to stay safe and meet our physical and emotional needs.

So I want to remind you  . . . it’s okay to notice meanness or boneheadedness or emotional invasion. It’s okay to notice how hearing a particular teacher or minister or political figure gives you a nauseated chill. It doesn’t make you petty or shallow to see how contact with your mother leads to a migraine or makes you sluggish or gives you erectile dysfunction. It doesn’t make you a whiner to notice you feel lonely and you crave sugar after a conversation with a certain friend. Noticing means you’re awake. It means you can detect traces of a trauma (past or present). Not-noticing means you’re in some way asleep to your experience.

So as long as you’re awake . . . I invite you to notice. Take inventory of your strange symptoms. Notice any pain or discomfort or numbness in your body. See if you can trace it back in time. Notice the picture in your mind. Write about it. Then, read about how EMDR can help you clarify the connections between things, and get resolution on bad experiences you’ve had.

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