Sunday, March 29, 2015

Building A New Dream: Healing from Trauma

Life after trauma calls us to build a new dream on the foundations of the old, which have crumbled around us. This is where the going gets tough. The first steps are the hardest and require our willingness to put ourselves first; but new growth will sprout from the devastation and calm will follow the storm if we stay focused on our work. It takes ample encouragement to help in this rebuilding and it's encouragement I hope to offer. 

The following list is not exhaustive, nor do I claim that these ideas are new, scientifically validated, or right for everyone. Rather, these insights have been gleaned from my own and others' personal and professional healing work. Decide what you're willing to try. Reject the rest. Only you will know what's right for you.

Know that setbacks are to be expected. Be patient and find support for yourself when this happens. I enjoy offering my clients faith in their progress when they can't see it and together we take stock of how far they've come and assess the work left to be done. In time, you will be able to do this on your own. New dreams aren't built over night. 

Tools for Building a New Dream 

Share yourself with only people you can depend upon to help build you up. 

Know that loving yourself can be learned but takes time.

Understand that healing is a journey and not a destination. 

Have compassion and understanding for yourself.

Accept that lasting balance is never achieved but revisited.

Trust that you deserve the best, right now.

Let yourself off the hook for pleasing others.

Know in your heart that guilt serves no good purpose.

Believe that it's never too late to try new things.

Have faith that your body and mind know what to do.

Welcome every part of you, as it's here for a reason.

Begin to look for your heaven here on earth.

Find a creative outlet that speaks to you.

Heed your call to activism.

Listen to your needs (no more neglect).

Know that your healing is part of all of our collective healing.

Understand that changing your norm doesn't happen overnight.

Do what affirms and validates you.

Find and make your own family.

Learn to love the people you don't like and let go of their expectations.

Take it one situation at a time.

Your healing work may well be the hardest and most rewarding work of your life. Let your legacy be one you will look back on and smile. You may be standing on shambles, now, but your story is not over. Perhaps it's just beginning. All blessings to you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coping with Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse, also called verbal or psychological abuse, is when a person uses a specific set of tactics- words and/or behaviors- to provoke fear and sadness in someone else in order to gain power and control over them. Experiencing this type of behavior can be just as overwhelming as physical abuse and cause lasting damage to your wellbeing. These mental and emotional scars include chronic anxiety, depression, and post traumatic conditions.

Is it emotional abuse? Have you been close with someone who has...
  • Called you names or put you down?
  • Denied your perspective, truth, or reality?
  • Kept changing up the script/story, keeping you guessing?
  • Behaved nicely with you in public but became someone else in private?
  • Conversely, was intentionally humiliating towards you in front of others?
  • Demanded you beg, plead, or otherwise ask for forgiveness- or else?
  • Given you the silent treatment, refusing to resolve an issue?
  • Refused to apologize, insisted they're always right?
  • Resented/refused to acknowledge/meet your needs (as a child)?
  • Projected their fears/insecurities onto you?
  • Didn't give you a chance to succeed, sabotaged your efforts?
  • Disrespected your requests for space or time from them?
  • Played the victim, attributing negative motives to your actions?
Emotional abuse stays with us longer than physical abuse because it gets in our head, affecting our view of ourselves. It can cause us to feel as if we somehow deserve it (it's not your fault!). Sometimes we have to interact with someone who is emotionally abusive, whether they are a colleague, boss, parent, or other family member. In these situations, the goal is protect your wellbeing by staying in control of how much you choose to share. There will be another chance to say what you're really thinking and feeling with someone who is able and willing to communicate openly and nonviolently.

The next time you recognize that you are on the receiving end of emotional abuse, try these effective strategies to stay in control by detaching, deflecting, de-escalating, and leaving the situation with your wellbeing intact...
  1. Detach. This is the hardest but most important part, do not engage. Do whatever you need to do to avoid stooping to their level. It may seem like the perfect time to give this person a piece of your mind- and you would be justified in doing so! But, the person who is emotionally abusive and out to manipulate your feelings will simply feed off of an emotional reaction.
  2. De-flect. Change the subject. If someone is telling you something that you can't agree with or abide, deflect by doing a little script switching of your own. Nothing puts a fire out like refusing to add fuel to it! Throw on a bucket of water on it by changing the subject. Anything will do. For example, "Hey, have you noticed... (insert random rid bit here), lately?"
  3. De-escalate. Keep it neutral- or even compassionate (if you feel so inspired). The idea here is to be short and simple. Neutral in tone. "Yes," "no," "I understand" (even if you don't), and "okay" are all great responses that keep your involvement/encouragement of the conversation to a minimum. If you feel up to it, you can even offer an apology or well wishes, such as "I'm sorry it's been difficult" or "I hope that you feel better." 
  4. Leave. Set limits on the interaction. It takes energy to respond skillfully to emotional abuse. If you can't keep your cool, get out of the situation. Meeting heightened emotion with heightened emotion just doesn't work. Don't worry about what they'll think (talk about an exercise in futility!). Just make up an excuse to walk away with your sanity in tact.
You might be thinking, but they're the one with the problem! Why is it up to me to keep my shit together? In truth, you can react however you want. But, with someone who is emotionally abusive, getting into a battle of wills gives them what they want (attention). Why not rise above it and find people you can be open with to give the gift of your authentic presence instead? You deserve it!

People can change if they want to- but it's not up to you to change them, especially if you're being victimized! When a personality disorder or other behavioral health condition is at play, it is unlikely that a person will be able to change. So, many people have found it helpful not to be open with someone who has shown themselves to be emotionally abusive over time. This begs the question, do you want to be in a relationship with someone who you can't be yourself around? 

Check back for a full blog post on how to heal from emotional abuse, soon. Stay safe, happy, and healthy out there until then! Wishing you only good things! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

May We Be Adventurous

Empowermake (someone) stronger and more confident

How to raise an empowering daughter?  Six months pregnant with my first child- a girl- this matter has been on my mind a lot, lately. I opened the question up to my Facebook friends and they offered their insights. Trust her. Allow her to struggle. Teach her how to own her feelings, make requests, set boundaries, and ask questions. Start by trusting and empowering yourself...

Trusting and empowering ourselves is a tall order but one that invites us to grow in wellbeing, satisfaction, and contentment in the process! It goes hand-in-hand with letting go of external expectations. Worrying less about pleasing others and more about what it means to truly care for ourselves.

It's funny how the news of a daughter on the way awakens the inner feminist. One Huffpost headline caught my attention, "The Secret to Raising a Kind Daughter." Certainly, we all want our children to be kind but I'm more concerned with raising an adventurous daughter. Challenging the status quo is a key ingredient to a healthy life. So, I have to be an adventurous parent. 

Adventurous- willing to take risks or to try out new methods, ideas, or experiences

How can I step into my new role of being an adventurous and empowering mom? It seems that first and foremost I'll have to get more comfortable with not having it all together all of the time. We all know that no one ever really achieves super woman status in real life. But, still. It sure has been addicting to try! But, seriously. Let's talk specifics...

  • Take risks.
  • Try new things.
  • Demonstrate that it's okay to make mistakes.
  • Share healthy ways to self-sooth in times of stress.
  • Embody the importance of taking good care of ourselves.
  • Expose her to difference. Show that it's not to be feared.
  • Ask questions to draw out her inner knowledge.
  • Let her be her own person- whoever that is.
  • Remember she is the expert of her own life.
  • Challenge oppressive language, policies, and actions.
  • Above all, have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously.

What would you add to the list? How have you found that doing your own thing has increased your quality of life? What has offered inspiration along the way? When do you feel most authentic? How do you find this impacts your experience with others? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Turning Toward a Happier Life

Am I approaching, attacking, or avoiding? Am I uniting or untying things, right now? Use these questions to help you turn a difficult moment into an opportunity to create a happier life. Whereas fighting against things tends to only make them worse, skillfully turning toward an uncomfortable emotion, interaction, or sensation not only helps dissipate the uneasiness but brings us closer to ourselves and others, as well. This might sound counterintuitive but watch how it works!

Think of a time you felt frustrated with someone else. Did you approach the person with curiosity, compassion, and openness toward their experience- an honest desire to understand them Or, did you go on the defensive, turning a cold shoulder (avoiding) or offering only criticism in return (attacking)- ether way, shutting down? The type of self-defense illustrated in the latter examples is understandable yet how often does it really result in getting what we truly want from each other? 

Getting clear on what you really need and want the outcome to be and what the other person needs, as well, by turning towards them in your words and actions is much more likely to get your needs met.

Say, I've upset you by asking you to do something that you don't want to do. In response, you do what a lot of us do and go along with the request despite resenting it (and me) or protest by avoiding it or going on the defensive. Neither option feels great in the long run. I may keep asking you to do thing you don't want to do. We may keep quarreling about it. But, what if you got curious with me, asking more about my desire for you to do this thing and sharing more of how you really feel about it? Then, we might get to the heart of the matter and grow closer as a result.

We all want to be really heard and seen. We all want our needs met. We're all only human. It can be scary for all of us to do this- to let down our guard a little more- but how else can we expect others to know who we really are? 

We can start by taking accountability for ourselves. What am I feeling? What do I need, right now? Maybe I'm feeling unappreciated and need some acknowledgement. Maybe you're feeling overworked and need a break. We'll never know until we get curious about it. If I can tell where you're coming from, I'm more able to respond compassionately. If you show understanding, it tends to de-escalte a tense situation. You're the best possible person to attend to yourself.

When you're hurting, feeling angry, or uncomfortable, it's a great time to get curious. This is when you really need your wise mind. Stop. Turn toward your experience. Open to what's happening within you in this moment. What do you notice in your body and mind? Perhaps, tension or self-doubt? Observe how the intensity of whatever uneasiness you were feeling fades when you turn towards it in this way. And, notice your ability to create a happier life each time you give yourself your own wonderfully accepting, curious, and compassionate attention... 

This is how we truly get to know each other. Below the avoidance, attacking, and other reactions, we're all only human- as eager to be understood as anybody else.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” ~Author Unknown~