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).

Contact Deborah Read Wife Material

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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Loathing, Lust, & Longing: Why We Obsess so Much

My son amazes me. He has his obsessions, but they’re about his music, his philosophizing. He’s so different from the adolescent me of thirty-five years ago. He’s calmer and freer to learn. He’s funny, and takes creative risks with language. He accepts people with all their weirdness. At his age, I worried a lot. I fretted about my social life so much that I smothered my vocabulary, my empathy, and my sense of humor in the process.

My boy pays little attention to having the right shoes or the right jeans. I take care of his wardrobe before he asks (because at 15, I wished my mom would have done this). When he disses the shirts I bring home, I exchange them. He waves off shopping. He’s comfortable and un-perturbed about how he looks.

He knows . . . I’ve got his back.

And where I was boy-crazy and so afraid of being an ugly old maid, my young man seems comfortable to let it happen (or not), let others worry about romance, and just enjoy life where he is now. He likes it when girls pay attention to him, but he shrugs it off when they don’t. He laughs at his faux pas, his breakouts, his bouts of ennui. Ginormous difference. 

So, in my way, I craft a theory to explain it . . .

My son’s emotional needs are noticed, anticipated, and met (maybe to a fault) . . . especially the ones that I did not have met. Back in the 70s and 80s, my parents resented each other to the core. I felt their disconnection and anger every day and absorbed it into my own nervous system – as if I was in a lonely, rejecting marriage myself. I learned that true love was rare. But in 2016, my son’s parents love each other, imperfectly but deeply. We’re nice to each other. He can see, every day, there’s plenty of love in the world for everyone. No need to worry.

Think about the implications here. When we obsess over religion, rules, sex, drinking, eating, or being sinless, we NEED something that feels missing. Our addictions, our compulsions, our fears, our hates . . . tell us what we need.

Perhaps you need: Rest, Friendship, Sweetness, Comfort, Color, Protection, Change, Nurturing, Challenge, Order, Forgiveness . . .

image

When we obsess, hate, and fear, we show our gaping needs. . . which formed a long time ago.

For instance:

I must achieve more, or I’ll be a loser. = I have to make something of myself because my father did not.

I must find love or I will have failed. = I haven’t been loved enough (or my mother/father hasn’t been loved enough).

I need a better body – mine will never be good enough. = I have little worth beyond my body (or I watched my mother deal with being overweight).

I don’t have enough money – I can’t afford _____. = There’s not enough love (or food) to go around. So I could die or be cast out.

I must always be prepared for an attack. = Nobody has my back.

I must eradicate sin and evil. = I must keep proving my goodness, because I’m really so very bad.

If you see your obsession in here somewhere, trace its urgency back as far as it will go. Notice the fear there. When do you first remember having that fear?

Now, close your eyes and picture life without the obsession or the fear. How do you feel? Who can you love more easily?

Take three long, slow breaths and hold this idea: There’s enough for everyone, always.

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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 to Know when it’s Time to Say Goodbye

The necessary edges between things.

Every creation requires sacrifice.

I have trouble letting go. Mostly when it comes to saying goodbye to unbalanced relationships. You know, the kind where you feel you should be helpful but no amount of help seems to make a difference? So here are some thoughts about change and letting go of what no longer serves us.

Change is constant. We learn and gain insight – so we’re not the same people we were last year. We have more skill, experience, and sense of our true selves. We see our goals more clearly. We crave new experiences and the company of people who have knowledge we need. This is normal and good.

But: One, how do we know when it’s the right thing to push ahead and say goodbye? And: Two, what does it mean to walk away from people or institutions that no longer help us grow? First, here are some signs it’s time to go.

  1. You feel resentful. The colleague or partner you’ve been with is a decent enough person. But you no longer feel positive feelings about the collaboration or relationship. You feel exploited or dragged down by it.
  2. You dread contact. The group or institution that once fed your spirit now makes you want to stay away.
  3. You feel guilty, sad, stuck….and more resentful. There’s a sense of obligation you have toward your partner/friend. It’s like feeling sorry for someone but also tied to them like a conjoined twin you can’t shake off. When you think of stepping away, you see yourself as a terrible, selfish, mean-spirited person. This is the Pity/Anger Paradox.
  4. You feel drained. Thinking about the person or group distracts you from creative work – it drains your productivity and energy. You get sick more often than normal. You have trouble exercising. You want to crawl into bed and stay there for a week or two. Your projects languish….

If any of these is familiar, consider talking or writing about your situation. Get your worst fears onto the page or spoken aloud to a trusted confidante. EMDR therapy can also help us let go of tired, old requirements that no longer serve us.

Does this make us selfish? Good question. Maybe it does. But I’m learning that if I don’t behave somewhat selfishly at times, I drown in other people’s needs. Just like some organism dies every time I eat (and I’m a vegetarian!). To survive and breathe, I have to say:

NO, THANK YOU.

I AM UNAVAILABLE FOR THAT.

PLEASE GO NOW.

I NEED SPACE.

I WILL NO LONGER BE GIVING TIME TO THAT.

This kind of “selfish” work frees us to rest, create, and move forward with grace. I often use EMDR to help clients envision their true goals and desires, so they can achieve them. Sometimes this entails saying goodbye.

But Goodbye brings Hello. For all parties. Every time.

Contact me if you’d like to talk more about letting go of what you no longer need. The result will be good for everyone involved.

 

Hands are Not for Hitting: Let’s End Corporal Punishment

Hands Are Not for Hitting

A Tree of Healing Hands

Hands are Not for Hitting (and not for Shoving, Slapping, Swatting, Pinching, Jerking, or “Spanking”).

We read this book to my son when he was three. Hands help and love and wave goodbye. Hands paint and cook and communicate. But some adults still use their hands for corporal punishment of children. Maybe you know someone who still hits. Please share this post with them. Corporal punishment destroys natural impulses that are healthy and creative – it breaks relationship and leads to a host of emotional problems.

I work mostly with adults. At least 80 percent of my clients were hit as children by someone who was supposed to love them. Most do NOT want to talk about it. They come to me for other reasons, such as anxiety or difficulty concentrating. But their adult symptoms are usually related to their experience of physical punishment as children.

 

Being hit as a child is so horrifying, so degrading, so demoralizing, we resist even allowing ourselves to remember it happened……much less connect it to our current problems. So let’s analyze the practice a bit, so we can see how it affects us long-term.

Kids get hit for:

*going against their parents’ instructions

*forgetting to do something

*making too much noise

*making too much mess

*having open conflicts

*saying things that upset their parents

*adding stress to the parents’ experience (e.g., whining, complaining).

These infractions come mostly from impulse. And children are creatures of impulse. Kids need those impulses to learn and define themselves in the wide world. We rely on our parents to calmly teach us how to use our impulses in an organized, regulated way. But being hit teaches us something else:

                                                     ……….if we express ourselves honestly, if we have needs or desires, if we’re not always on the alert for our imperfections, we could get whacked.

Exercise: Make a list of offenses for which you were hit as a child. How has this list affected your adult life?

My list created an inner censor that stops me from speaking up when I should. It taught me: I’m not safe to speak or move or act. My novel, Wife Material, deals with religious abuse and child maltreatment and the repression of all sorts of natural impulses and voice……things that would be good to have…….natural elements destroyed by hitting.

I’m DONE being inhibited by my list of punishable offenses. I’m ready to bust out of that list. I’m ready to paint really outrageous things and write insurgent poetry and use words like bastard. I’m ready to go up to strangers in the mall and say, Please! Hands are not for hitting! You with me?

Please send this to everyone you know.

Contact me if you’d like to learn more about recovery from childhood trauma, including being hit – or if you’d like to make amends with your own child and start making better use of your hands.