Friday, November 8, 2013

On Caregiving ....

I had the privilege a few days ago of joining Elizabeth Stafjei on her CJAD Show Living Better (November 3rd). The topic was about the challenges of taking care of an elderly parent and all that that entails. Radio shows are a strange thing.... Time is super short, the question is as much a part of the conversation as anything, and the conversation itself comes in bites so its not always comprehensive or comprehendible...  Hence todays blog.

Elizabeth's first question was:
People are living longer and children are faced with confusing and complicated feelings and issues when caring for an elderly parent. How can one manage the intense emotions which can weigh heavily for some?

My very first comment on the show was that above all, this time in our lives requires a huge dose of compassion, both for ourselves and for our parents. From the elderly person's perspective, there is such a huge amount of loss going on: one's autonomy, a home, a degree of privacy, feelings of being able to handle life.

We the caregivers, the children, can find ourselves angry and upset because we don't want our parents to change. We want them to be the strong, supportive, care taking people they have always been. Its tough watching and accepting their decline. Its tough when the roles change. Its scary. None of us "enjoy" contemplating our parents mortality, let alone our own. If you can tune in to these natural feelings inside your self, and be compassionate and honest with yourself about how hard it can be, you will go a long way in easing the pain for both of you.   

We also sometimes see a tendency to get angry at the mounting incapacity of our elderly parents. If we reflect, its often a projection of how we would feel, now, if this were to be our own situation, or looking forward we are afraid of finding ourselves in the same position. If people were telling me I might need to give up my home, that I needed help living... Well I'd be plenty upset.  It behooves us to step back and understand where our feelings are coming from.

Some of us find ourselves upset because we have just (almost, sort of...) finished raising (and hopefully launching) our kids. Or our kids are back in our scope of care due to children of their own, our grandchildren. As you can see the landscape grows. We might find ourselves wondering "Where's the time for me?" And now we are noticing changes in our parents, they seem more forgetful, are having trouble keeping up with regular routines, regular chores, your alarm bells are ringing.... And we feel stretched, exhausted, and its easy to snap. 

I can not emphasize enough how important self care is at these times. If you are running on empty, get help. Call in local resources that will offer respite to you. Maybe its time to start having conversations about assisted living. If it is .. Go into these times knowing it will probably be challenging. People don't resist change to be obstinate, they tend to resist change because they are scared. 

For those of us with elderly that are being stubborn and frightened... Look around. Are they isolated? Are they getting social needs met? Are they capable at keeping up with medication, banking, cooking and eating? If any of these are a challenge, and you have stretched the limit of community resources, as well as your own, it may be time to talk about change.

On the show yesterday, Elizabeth talked about guilt... So what about guilt? If you are making decisions about your parents' care, and those decisions are made from a compassionate, realistic, benevolent place, there is no cause for guilt. Not doing anything because of guilt is wrong and dangerous. Not doing anything when something needs to be done, because we are anxious, or avoiding a conflict, is wrong.  It is at these difficult times that we have to put our feelings aside - the need to please, the fear of conflict, the guilt of care taking - and step up and do whats best for the person who can't any more. Its what makes us human.

Be kind and compassionate to your self.

I've realized that the topic is vast. I will be writing further on the subject. If you have questions or comments please feel free to write.

Peace to you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shame and Forgiveness .. a Lesson

I would like to share a personal bit of learning I have had.

I recently had the occasion to contemplate forgiveness. I bumped into the complexity of it while struggling with an old issue between my adult son and I. Curiously; at the same time a deep, old shame of my own kept floating to the surface. I found it odd that this 30-year-old memory would come to haunt me at this time in my life. In thinking on this, and wondering at the significance of that shame memory, it occurred to me; like all the highway lights blinking into view one at a time, the dots connected and there it was, my inability to forgive myself. If I cant forgive myself how can I extend that type of compassion to another?

If I were to create one of those surreal, William Burroughs/David Lynch kind of movies out of this struggle with my son; I would be stuck inside a bell jar... So close, so wanting to forgive, yet some invisible force (invisible to me, not the watcher of the surreal movie) preventing me from making that contact, heart to heart, that would let that forgiveness unfold. I guess the picture would then pan to me in the bell jar, and me outside of it too.

So I recognize fully now, the obstacle is my relationship with my self, with my past, with choices I made as a young and dysfunctional 20 year old and the shame I carry because of them. I can say for absolute sure that is no longer who I am. The adult in me says consider the context of whence you came, what happened then was almost predictable, you've learned, you've grown, you've made much better choices since... And yet the ability to apply compassion to my own story is somehow challenging for me. However, not doing so is no longer sustainable. I cannot abide this as an obstacle to having healthier relationships with my family. So I have a choice to make and frankly its an easy one: Forgive myself.

The challenge of forgiving oneself is most probably at the root of a lot of shame-based injuries, probably at the root of a lot of stuckness. In the end, what might lead me to forgive myself, is more my need to be able to forgive others, my son for example, and how sad is that? Yet had it not been for this catalyst, I might have opted to carry this stone of shame around inside forever.





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The click's the thing...

So often, couples report, when talking about how they met, that "we just clicked". Its worth taking a moment to understand that click.

What we call clicking with someone, is actually the experience of being seen and understood. If you come from a european background, chances are high that you will "click" with someone who also has a european background. You "get" each other, you "recognize" the shared cultural values, the language, the nuances of unwritten rules first generation kids had to learn, for example. 

If you click because you both come from solid family backgrounds, imbued with respect, an understanding of empathic attunement, whether you call it that or not .. You again will feel seen and understood and that is a powerful human force.

However if you come from an alcoholic family for example, chances are you will "click" with someone who also comes from such an environment. You will feel seen and understood, you will share a common emotional culture as well... Often times we do this without knowing what that emotional culture is all about. And if we don't recognize that, this is often the mechanism for repeating past dysfunction.  We need to be able to recognize shared hypervigelance, or rigidity in relating, reactivity, narcisstic tendencies or responses to them, this being but a brief list. 

So many come into therapy saying I keep falling into the same type of relationship over and over again. I really believe it has a lot to do with the power of the "click". Feeling seen, understood, known, familiar, on the one hand is powerful, comforting, almost safe. But if in fact what has been familiar to me in the past has been chaos, dysfunction, violence, abuse... What is it then that is familiar? The challenge of the click - is that in the face of that delicious comfort, to sit still and not run into it headlong; to maybe hold back and wonder at the "click" before you react. 

Conversely, how might we sit still and remain curious, rather than dismiss outright, when we meet someone who doesn't  "click"? How might we stay put and see what that can grow into? We need to understand that the brain is geared toward reinforcing what it knows. That being said, new and unfamiliar behavior will not have the same pull as a potentially unhealthy "click" but it may not have the same old results either.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Stories We Tell....

In this weeks yoga class, lovely Alanna had volunteered to offer a Sukha practice. She came in with a brilliant piece about how we can in fact choose, yes choose, what kind of story we tell ourselves, which then impacts whether we allow ourselves to fell happiness - Sukha - or suffering.

When things erupt with one of my kids, I have in the past allowed myself to get quite swallowed up in the story, in the drama of the moment. I feel guilty, because some how had I been a better parent I would not be experiencing this; I feel angry, because can't she see how much I do for her; I feel treated unfairly  because geez, I've really been there for you and this is all I get ..... And on and on.

I could change that story in a heartbeat couldn't I? I could say to myself, wow we have a really good relationship now. From time to time there is a bit of conflict but generally things have really blossomed for us. Given our tough family story that is indeed quite an accomplishment. I could feel proud and grateful. I can also feel very grateful that our relationship can tolerate that sort of tension from time to time and I don't have to live in fear of a cut off, because that wont ever happen between us again. 

If I thought all that rather than the previous bunch of stuff, well I would feel much better wouldn't I? I would see our relationship from a more global stance rather than a myopic one.

Alanna's great example was about letting a friend move in with her. Seems that relationship didn't work out and she was hurt and taken somewhat advantage of. Rather than sit with that story she changed it to "I extended a helping hand to someone who wasn't ready to accept it" and thus she empowered herself, inviting Sukha rather than suffering into her life. What a wise young woman that Alanna is. As a matter of fact there was somewhat of a collective "you go girl" from the class.

We all have the power to craft the stories in our head that are empowering, esteem building. Because truth be told, all the worrying we do really is just stories in our head. 

What kind of a story will you create for yourself today to invite some Sukha into your life? Which old story (we all have them!) will you opt to change today? 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Small Things....

I had an occasion to contemplate the great change that can come about through the smallest acts. This past weekend, I had my bike (Daisy!) refitted - a process I am beginning with this new wonderful bike of mine as we haven't worked out all the kinks yet for a pain free ride. So we moved the seat forward, maybe a centimetre and holy banana what a difference.

That got me thinking about a book by Nathaniel Brandon, the Six Pillars of Self Esteem which I often recommend. In it, Mr. Brandon has created exercises for the reader, which require one to write stem sentences. Many of them start with "If i were 5% more..." conscious, positive, aware, kind, patient, compassionate with myself, "I would ....".

Its an interesting exercise to contemplate what being 5% more of anything, or bringing 5% more of yourself to something, might accomplish. I also like the fact that really, 5% doesn't really seem like such a big deal no? Doesn't seem impossible, seems like something anyone could do. 

Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves when we seek to change. We want to revamp ourselves, our partners, our kids. We want to see great things, huge change. And we get disappointed because really, great, sweeping changes are hard to come by, in ourselves or in anyone else. But 5% .... I could endeavour to be 5% more patient, or 5% more compassionate, I could do that.  More interesting is the change that happens around you in response to that 5%.

What will your 5% be?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Darwinism, Sex and Midlife

Today's blog post is dedicated to the millions of people, who, through no fault of their own, suffer in silence about their changing, aging bodies and the role and place of sex in midlife and beyond. We all have questions we are afraid to ask about changes that are happening to our bodies that they don't talk about on tv, or any where else for that matter. 

So many couples present in couple therapy complaining of a low sex drive and/or unsatisfactory sex. Women come in saying they don't feel (sexually) like they used to, husbands complain that they don't perform like they once did. Couples feel alienated from each other, confused, and sometimes scared.

No one seems to be getting the information they need that explains the physical changes they are going through. So lets begin with the basics. 

As women enter the period of menopause things begin to shift physiologically. When menstruation stops, we are no longer ovulating because we no longer have any (ovum) eggs left. This brings about a cessation in the production of progesterone and a significant reduction in the amount of oestrogen we produce. Changes to the body due to this hormonal shift include but are not limited to hot flushes and night sweats; migraines; thinning of the vaginal walls; dryness in the vagina, bladder incontinence; lower libido (although its a bit of a chicken and egg story when considering the aforementioned changes); difficulty achieving orgasm; changes in how orgasms feel all together; insomnia and other sleep disturbance; body aches and joint stiffness .... And this is a short list.

Now there are any number of ways to deal with the above: certainly exercise and diet help a lot, as much as 40% of symptoms are helped by regular exercise and eating well. Some women can tolerate hormone replacement therapy, some women find other solutions. Some, decide not to treat this as an event in need of medical intervention. 

Its important to remember things are not the same for everyone and we need to respect those differences. That being said, within a given continuum, we all age and change accordingly as per our species.

As for men. Research shows that for most men, testosterone is no longer produced as it was, often declining to 50% of what it might have been in your 30's. Consequences of this lowered testosterone and aging can be seen in a lower libido, thinning hair, weight gain, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, quicker ejaculation. Now of great import .. Aging and lower testosterone MAY NOT BE THE ONLY CAUSE OF THESE SYMPTOMS SO PLEASE GET CHECKED BY A PHYSICIAN. For example, sometimes, difficulty getting and maintaining an erection is a sign of a more serious illness such as dangerously high cholesterol for example. 

What's it like to go through this stuff? How does it feel? Why is it so hard to talk about?
Here is a common enough scenario: 

A couple has been together for quite a number of years. In the past year their sex life has been dwindling. The husband is having difficulty "getting it up", and / or keeping it up. This leads to anxiety for him because he doesn't know - geez is it my prostate? What is "wrong" with me? Who the hell can he talk to? He makes an appointment with his GP, gets a physical (probably first time in a number of years), goes for a blood test, stress test... Everything checks out. He doesn't ask the doctor this time about his waning sex drive or difficulty with the erections, figured he'd wait to see if something came up in the physical. He goes back home with the same worry, same unknowing about what's happening. Months go by. The frustration in the couple is mounting because its not being talked about, partners are becoming further alienated. All this stress is just not very sexy! Finally the wife explodes and demands something be done. He goes back to GP and asks for a script. He comes home and puts it away. A few months pass and another blow up. In the meantime all these months upon months have been harming both parties. His anxiety building, her frustration mounting. Finally he tries the medication. It works. And months and sometimes years, of shame and worry and alienation and loneliness are all of a sudden easier to talk about. Sort of.

Another scenario:

As the kids have grown and there is less need of her, mom finally starts to feel a bone crushing fatigue setting in. As well, over that past year she's noticed her periods have been less and less regular. As a matter of fact if she thinks about it, she hasn't had one for at least four months. Husband has been pursuing her but she is just not in the mood. Besides, last time they did it, things were so dry down there is was painful. Ugh. Who needs it?? And yet ... She sees the images on tv, women her own age or older, and they appear to be sexual, sexy, womanly and energetic, why not me? Whats wrong with me? She worries about the changes happening to her body; her vagina seems so much drier, the walls seem thinner, these hot flashes are terrible, and I'm soooo tired, can't he see whats happening to me? And yet.... She misses being close, misses being held, sometimes misses having sex, misses how easy it used to be between them. She wonders if other couples go through this. She wonders if other women lose their sex drive to some degree, if other women feel their orgasms are not what they used to be, if other women take so much longer to get aroused. She doesn't know who to go to to talk about these issues. Would be nice if she could turn to her husband.... 

One of the conversations I see people having a hard time with is what is normal? I'd like to introduce a few Darwinian notions at this point. We are one of the few species that pursue sex for pleasure. Wiki will tell you some 150 species do, that pigs and dolphins do, but I doubt that those animals are as affected by the society they live in and the sexual scrutiny of that society. In our society and culture everyone has sex. All the time. Except the very old and the very young. If you're not in either of those two groups you're supposed to want to have sex - often. 

Yet if we were to think of ourselves biologically for a moment things might seem a wee bit more compassionate. Our changing appetites are linked to the end of our reproductive capacity. Its been known that during the perimenopausal period, some women go through moments of very intense arousal. We can understand this as the bodies last chance.. This might be your last egg so get at her! If we were animals in the jungle we would possibly be looking at doing what we could to get that egg fertilized, propagate the species. Biologically thats our (species) job. Once we run out of eggs .. Thats it. We are done. And if sex were only about propagation we would never have reason to do it again. 

Humans are a species that is wired to be in a bonded pair. Its good for the species to have similar requirements among the sexes. So if her drive slows down because there are no more eggs to fertilize, it would behoove the couple if his drive went down too.  He could go out and find a younger female, but that would require him to fight off younger and stronger males and not every male of the species is up to the task. So again, we see biologically, the wisdom of our bodies, slowing down to accommodate what is demanded of us.

Now lets move out of the cave and into the 21st century. Sex in the life of the couple is about so much more than procreation. Its about love, playfulness, contact and comfort, connection, lust, sometimes on the dark side about control and power. Its how we express our need to be close. Those who have grown up with challenges about articulating feelings sometimes use sex as the conduit to expression. 

Whats important to learn and understand is that sex changes. For all of us. Its not just happening to you, its happening to both of you. Things slow down, the rhythm changes, touch changes, shape changes, sensitivities change, tastes change.... If we can accept that.. We give ourselves the room and compassion to move into something new. With no shame. With no anxiety. With grace and love and together.

If you have any questions, a need for a referral, comments, or if you'd like to pass some info along -  please do so. We are all cope so much better when we remain connected. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Care ...

There is a whole population out there of parentified, uber-responsible, probably over-functioning people who have missed the boat on being taken care of. One of the hallmarks of this population is the absolute misery experienced when asking for help ....if they even permit themselves to do that. That's kind of a sin isn't it, this asking for help? It demonstrates some sort of flaw or weakness when we finally face the fact we can't do it alone. And it never ever occurs to us that we shouldn't face it alone! And if any one of our loved ones presented themselves to us the way we present ourselves to the world (stoic, self-contained, but suffering, miserable) we would tell them why aren't you asking for help.  There is sometimes a palpable sense of shame when asking for help, or letting the world know we are hurting. I should be able to deal with this, if I can't do this who will, I'm better than this, if I break down the world as I know it will end.  Don't kid yourself, there are times when every parentified kid has had thoughts like this.

As many of you know I have been taking yoga classes at Yoga on the Park. It is life changing. I've been struggling lately, my body not cooperating as I wish it would. My lesson in all this is to let go. I don't need to be so I intense. I can learn to relax into a pose. I can count on the pose rather than the pose count on me. That last line may sound crazy but I think I'm on to something.

It's amazing all the things a yoga practice can teach you, and all the places in your life you can apply that to. I've said more than once already that applying the principles of yogic posture - scooch  the tail, smiling collar bones, heart forward, relax the jaw, relax the eyes -  to bike riding has changed the experience dramatically.

Then there is the care. The care that lots of us parentified kids yearn for yet bristle against. Unless of course you are beginning to relax into that, to let go into the receiving of that care. No small feat I kid you not. Even more difficult, try receiving unsolicited care!

And yet, and yet .. Melting into the care offered by another, allowing yourself the softness required to receive. And it's the softness in your own heart, for your own self, gratitude for the care yes, but toward yourself for softening long enough to receive such a gift.

Can you imagine, that's available to all of us.

With a very full heart I bid you Namaste.

H

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Of gratitude and yoga

I love Thursday morning yoga class at Yoga on the Park. I like to arrive early because I catch Joanne G. doing her routine, warming up, stretching ... doing what a yogi does before teaching. She is lovely to watch, an inspiration. This morning I padded in quietly, tried to copy some of her moves (thats kind of a joke), stretched and had a wonderful class.

Today was special as only two of us were able to make it to class. While I'm not sure how Joanne felt about it my fellow yogi student and I were thrilled! All that attention just for us!

Joanne has such positive energy about her. I feel wonderfully taken care of by her in the yoga class as she adjusts my poses, keeps an eye if I'm over doing it, helps push me just a bit past my limit. At the end of class today as we entered the relaxation pose, she came by, and with a gentle and caring touch, straightened me out, told me to give myself over to the ground beneath me, and indeed I felt I was being held in the truest of senses.

Living in the moment allows you to make what ever you will out of that moment, so today I decided I was going to relish in the taking care I felt I was receiving. Just as Joanne was taking us through the final meditation, my hearing aid battery died, the result of which gave me the sense of being a child, a wee child, lying there content, contained ... And just like a baby I only understood every few words - oddly enough I kept hearing "safely", "comfort" ... And while I couldn't make out the words, the tone was loving, soothing, comforting.

I left today's class with such a sense of peace. Walking through the park I felt immensely grateful for my life, the glorious spring day, the lushness of the trees, my home, my yoga practice. I had, I have! a deep sense of appreciation for the stillness of mind the practice brought me today. It goes hand in hand with the practice of gratitude.

Thank you teacher (s).

Namaste to you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Oms the Thing

I had a great yoga class today at Yoga on the Park. Joanne Gormley really worked us. At the end of it I felt literally happy, smiley, relaxed. Exhausted - but lots of Sukah!

Over the last few weeks I have been contemplating the Om (pronounced Aum). Om is the universal sound. In some religions or cultures, it signifies the beginning and ending of a prayer or prayer ritual.

I have had a strange experience with Om. When in the Tuesday class - which is really full (up to and maybe over 20 people) ... the Oms are robust and full. The unity of our voices pulls a bigger Om out of all of us, well, out of me. No one hesitates too much. Sometimes we cycle through a number of Om's and that is also beautiful.

Thursdays class by contrast is much smaller. We are not even ten most the time. At the beginning my Oms were definitely hesitant, quieter, shorter, my "mmm" shaking and timid.  I wondered over this last while whether we (I!!) hide behind other's Oms sometimes. We wait for the teacher to begin the round of three Oms. I don't necessarily own my Om.

Today wasn't like that though. Today I created the space I needed to put my voice out there. Joanne G taught last week that the Om resonates within us, releases chemicals (neurotransmitters I imagine) in the brain that are good for us, massages the sinuses and the brain. Spiritually I think that Om probably does some of that to our souls, to our psyche.

Its a lot of work letting go of the ego, the self conscious part of ourselves that judges ... that judges whether an Om is too loud, too long, just right, blah blah blah... Its more work to hang on to that.

So here is to my Om...

Namaste to you.

And thank you Joannes.

For those of you struggling with anxiety, depression, looking for focus, I can promise you that if you commit to a practice of yoga - its life changing. Much like the practice of gratitude. Put this in your took kit of self care.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gratitude....

I am having a moment I need to share.

I feel so fortunate to do the work I do. My clients take such courageous steps in their lives, sometimes face such huge challenges with grace and beauty and they come into my office and share that with me. I feel so humbled, I feel very proud and so blessed to be let in. You don't always get to hear about how a therapist gets affected but let me tell you they do, I do. How could I not?

I can say I'm proud of the work I do and I really am - but Lordy you all really touch my heart and I just want to let you know how grateful I am for that.

With a very full heart I thank you.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Things We Believe...


I am not sure where I read it but I learned a while ago – that we all behave in ways and make choices that reinforce unconscious beliefs we have about ourselves. We need to think about the ramifications of that. 

Oprah Winfrey grew up believing in her child’s magical thinking mind – that God, yes the God, the big guy, was her father. If you grow up thinking that God is your father, and that He has your back, and the He is benevolent and good and loving – then you must grow up thinking you can handle pretty much anything. You must grow up thinking that you don’t really need to be afraid of too much. Now I’m sure that Oprah has her hang-ups just like the rest of us do, but I am also sure she has more than her share of resilience, and trust in her self to be able to cope with the world.

In terms of her behaving in unconscious ways that reinforce beliefs – Oprah has climbed the ladder of success by, among other things, following her intuition, I think she believes pretty deeply – and I have heard her say as much – that she experiences her intuition as “God talking to” her. That is some powerful reinforcement!

On the flip side – many of us behave in ways that reinforce negative beliefs about ourselves. I’d like to share an example from my personal experience. My hope is, in doing your own work, that you can transpose this learning and that it helps uncover negative beliefs you might have that are hindering rather than helping your growth.

One of the areas in my life that I struggled with for a long time was money. My relationship to money was fraught with a lot of self-doubt and anxiety. There is an excellent book by father and son team Klontz and Klontz called Mind Over Money. I heartily encourage anyone and everyone to give it a read because it’s brilliant and helps you explore your emotional relationship to money.

An exercise meant to help one understand where our ideas about money come from resulted in my uncovering a memory. My father, who was self-employed, would come home with a huge wad of bills and count his money in front of me at the end of the day. Often he would stop and say “There’s nothing for Heidi”. There is nothing for Heidi. He also spent a lot of time telling me I wasn’t smart – so I am pretty sure I coupled the two together and crystallized that into a belief about my incompetence around money.

The next step was examining how I made choices around money. I wrote down and looked at everything I and my husband owned and owed. It came as a huge shock when on paper it looked like Heidi = 0 and husband = everything else. It struck me then that I had been making choices that reinforced the old belief of there being “nothing” for Heidi, and of Heidi not being smart enough to manage money. I made choices to use my money for groceries, vacations, clothes, expenses for kids … all very important, very meaningful, but not all together tangible, certainly not balanced, not like a bank account or an RRSP. What's also interesting is how I reinforced the belief around my incompetence with money - I had nothing that needed "managing", so no mistakes for me! That choice also deprived me of the opportunity to learn about money, the managing of it, and to break the negative belief I had.

How did I change this? I became aware – the exercise of putting everything down on paper was hugely life changing. I did not want to accept that belief about myself any longer. I needed also to change the behavior that reinforced it. I had to challenge the anxiety that came up when I initiated a change around what I did with my money. I had to challenge the anxiety that comes up when one challenges a long held belief period. Taking responsibility for my financial self was like stepping out into the world anew.  Scary! And yet… I’m so grateful for that learning.

Sometimes our unconscious beliefs remain that way, unconscious. Its hard work to look at the things that might be holding us back, and harder still to change them. A huge dose of self-compassion is required. With that compassion we can endeavor to change, we can endeavor to live in a way that pushes us outward, toward growth, toward balance, toward strength.








Friday, March 8, 2013

Self-acceptance ... Let's do the work...

Hi there. I am passing on something a number of people have sent my way....

The Self-Acceptance Project

Would love to hear how this goes for any of you!

Also, here is a link to the Meditation Challenge... join me!!

Oprah and Deepak Meditation Challenge.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Credit where credit is due....

This is a follow up to the Boundaries blog I posted two days ago. I would like to take this moment to acknowledge where the teaching came from. In 1993 I was a student at Concordia University. One of my first classes was in the Applied Human Sciences Department. I took a class called Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Communications yhat would forever change my life.  Best thing that ever happened to me. It was taught by Mia Lobel. She is the one who needs to be credited with the Boundary Exercise. While it has morphed and changed and grown from the time I learned it from her as a student, the original idea came from her.

A big thank you, Teacher.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Boundaries....


One of the things I do when working with a client is an interpretive exercise about boundaries. Clients are given a roll of masking tape, my chair is moved out of the way to give them as wide a berth as possible, and they are asked to “give us a visual representation of your psychological/emotional boundaries”. I almost always get a “what?” kind of look, confusion, worry about “getting it right”, and lots of questions. I leave the instructions as vague as possible so as not to influence what might come about. I usually offer:  “there is no wrong or right, no good or bad, this is about where you end and the rest of the world begins”…. And off they go. I have done this exercise with almost every client over the last 15 years and have witnessed something different every single time. That’s kind of why I love doing it. It’s fascinating! 

Some examples: taking the tape and taping the entire office, leaving me to stand outside in order to continue with the exercise (because I will NEVER stand inside your boundary!); staying sitting in the seat and taping just the peripheral around the self; putting the tape around one’s waist, chest, finger, ankles; making boxes so tiny one needs to stand on their tip-toes; making the box so small one’s arms can’t move; taping around one’s neck or one’s head; putting the tape across one’s mouth, making a shape that includes a back door, a front door …. Some people have handed the roll of tape back saying they have no boundaries.

Boundaries are what protect us from other people’s stuff. If I have no boundaries, and you are anxious, I will be anxious. If I have no boundaries, and your are sad, I will be sad.  If I have no boundaries and you have a need, my need will be secondary, or gone altogether. Boundaries are what give us the strength and ability to say no, to say I matter, what I need is important, I have needs, I count, this is me, I am capable.

For the longest time in doing this exercise, I understood it as the “other” coming into my space, transgressing my boundary … but the other day I had a bit of an epiphany … sometimes we bring the essence of the “other” (mother, father, lover, husband, kid, friend….) into our space without them even being conscious of it. It’s as if their spirit inhabits us (this is just an analogy) – so that within our boundary there are now two. In doing so, I allow this “spirit of the other” to subsume me, to render me less important, in the end to render me powerless – I render myself powerless. We become angry because “if they cared” they wouldn’t expect this of me … but they aren’t conscious of what I am doing – there’s the catch.  I come home from a hard day, feel it would be great for me to go to my yoga class, step in the house and feel that would not be ok with you, I would be dismissing your need for my company, my care of you… and I drown out my own need without even noticing .. except for the part about getting angry… angry that your needs come first, that mine get dismissed ….  And I haven’t even said hello.

That’s a very different stance than being overwhelmed with the “other’s” emotions, or being made responsible for them.  It’s a different stance than having to suffer the emotional contagion from another – that emotional energy that you get affected by.

So how to shift, how to begin healing a compromised sense of self?  The hardest thing you will ever have to do is believe that you are worth it. If you begin to cultivate that belief then you will have to begin saying no; you will have to start recognizing when some feelings are yours and some don’t belong to you; you will have to tolerate someone else’s sadness, anger, loneliness and not take responsibility for it. No small feat! You will have to speak up to make your own needs known. You will have to do the work of getting to know yourself to know what those needs in fact are – because you have been putting them aside and dismissing them for so long that you are somewhat out of touch with them.

Take heart though, the work is worth it. Inside that boundary that would go around your own physical being is something spectacular … you! Someone who is curious, lovable, deserving of respect, unique, worthy, beautiful …. No I’m not making this up. All that you are, all that amazingness, all that potential, all that worthiness, lives inside your boundary and very much deserves your attention. We are all so very worth it.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The age of Narcissus is upon us... when the parents anxiety outweighs the "children's" needs....

This is an example of being raised in a "narcissistic system" - where the need to address parental anxiety out weighs the need for the child to learn autonomy and independence.

Your comments please....


‘Planet Mom and Dad’: Helicopter parents infiltrate college, the workplace and beyond