The Weight of Hope

I’ve been struggling with hope recently. I have two sick loved ones, democracy in America is crumbling before our eyes, healthcare coverage is in a shambles, many of my clients have been in crisis. I have been feeling the weight of this. I’m not going to go into details because, as a wise colleague of mine advises: don’t disclose a story until you can be the messenger of hope. Then it is medicine. Before that, it is spewing more unhealed shit into the world. (For the record: it is wise and helpful to disclose the story that is still in-process in your therapy! That is the place to spew it so you can get to the medicine!) One place I find refuge when cynicism, grief, and despair are fighting to take down hope, is to go to those who are carrying the torch. For me, one of those people is Marianne Williamson. In a Beautiful Writers podcast interview, here is what she had to say about hope:

“Hope is born of participation in hopeful solutions. So when your hope is intimately connected to your own sense of responsibility to provide hope for others, then it’s something beyond optimism. It’s knowledge.

If I want something down on the ground and I let it fall from my hands, gravity will take it there. I don’t just hope that gravity will work; I know that gravity will work.

If you’re an airline pilot and you can’t see the horizon because there is a strong cloud cover, you still know the horizon is there, you just know that today you can’t see it. So the pilot doesn’t just hope that the horizon is there, s/he just knows that s/he can’t see it right now so in that moment, you fly on instruments.”

flight-mountains-sky-flying

What does it mean to fly on instruments in recovery?

It means acting as if the horizon is there. It means following your food plan. It means showing up for your support system: meetings or group, therapy, nutrition, doctor. If you are further along in recovery, it means providing service to the newcomer, your friends, or your clients. Tell them you’ve been there. Be a listening ear. Provide hope for them. Be the message that it is possible. Remind them of the horizon they can’t see.

And in Mommyhood?

Similarly, flying on instruments in motherhood means acting as if, even when you have lost sight of the horizon. Show up for the daily tasks: make breakfast for you and kid(s), pack the lunches, take a shower, get some sunshine and outdoors time, practice gratitude for what you can see in the present. Last night my little one expressed gratitude for the air.

“Thank you for the air, sunshine, mama and papa, and my hamster.”

It is good to be grateful for the air we breathe. It is god to listen to the little ones. They are the carriers of hope. It is good to practice gratitude for loved ones, air, sunshine. This is the fuel that will help us keep going when we can’t see the horizon.

Back to Marianne. She says:

“We are living in an extraordinary time…”

[I know – my pessimistic critic isn’t fully on board with this silver lining either, but let’s just act-as-if the horizon is there]

“…Blessed are those who have faith that cannot see. So hope in things unseen means knowledge of things unseen.”

May you find this knowledge in your daily actions today. May you breathe the air of hope, eat the food of hope, be the message of hope. Hope doesn’t mean pink icing on the garbage. Hope means traveling through the cloud cover, sure and steady, one tiny millimeter at a time.

PS As I was finishing this post, the American healthcare bill that would have taken coverage away from my sick loved one and many of my clients was  withdrawn due to lack of support.

Carry on flying, people. Carry on. Revolutions are built on Hope.

Feminism and Eating Disorders, Part 3: Not Just Straight, White Adolescent Women

Eating Disorders Do Not Discriminate. Neither Should Feminism. Or Recovery.

Despite the myth that eating disorders only affect straight, white, thin, adolescent girls, women and men of all sizes, skin colors, and sexual orientations develop eating disorders. I remember one African-American client (details changes for confidentiality) I saw who was struggling with an eating disorder. She was a bright young woman who struggled with severe bulimia that could not get her family to support her in her recovery because “that’s a white girl’s disease.”

Here are just a few statistics:

African-American girls aged 11-14 consistently scored higher than white girls of the same age on all Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) scales measuring features commonly associated with eating disorders except for body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness (Striegel-Moore et al, 2000).[i]

A study conducted by Robinson et al, found that among the leanest 25% of 6th and 7th grade girls, Hispanics and Asians reported significantly more body dissatisfaction than did white girls. [ii]

Chamorro & Flores-Ortiz (2000) found that second-generation Mexican-American women-those born in the US to foreign-born parents-were the most acculturated and had the highest disordered eating patterns.[iii]

            Acculturation can be defined as the shifting of values from host culture from culture of origin (Kemp & Thomas). This can be one of many intersecting factors in the development of an eating disorder. One woman I worked with in an eating disorfullsizerender-14der treatment center was a first generation bilingual immigrant. Because her mother didn’t speak English, she had to spend her therapy time translating for her mother. This repeated the dynamic of being “the hero” for the family, and kept the burden of parenting
her mother on her, not allowing her to get the care and attention she needed to heal from her eating disorder. Although the mental health team I worked with attempted to find a translator to lift this burden from the client, we were unsuccessful. Another “miss” in treatment and recovery for eating disorders is the shortage of bilingual therapists and therapists not trained in cultural competence.

Eating Disorders have complex etiology and don’t occur in a vacuum. There is a cultural context in which they occur. I often explore with clients what was going on in their own life, in their family, and in a larger cultural context during the time they developed an eating disorder. There is a reason that eating disorders DO affect many adolescent girls: this is the time during which they are developing into a woman! When we look at how the rite of passage of becoming a woman is held culturally (OR NOT), this make sense. Mary Pipher, PhD in her 2005 book Reviving Ophelia explores the phenomena of how girls entering womanhood begin to collapse inwardly against themselves in a culture that doesn’t support their rite of passage into womanhood:

Why had these lovely and promising human beings fallen prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and crushingly low self-esteem? Crashing and burning in a “developmental Bermuda Triangle,” they were coming of age in a media-saturated culture preoccupied with unrealistic ideals of beauty and images of dehumanized sex, a culture rife with addictions and sexually transmitted diseases. They were losing their resiliency and optimism in a “girl-poisoning” culture that propagated values at odds with those necessary to survive.

Similarly, when other rites of passage (pregnancy and postpartum, midlife, coming out as bisexual, lesbian or gay) are not welcomed, there is a cultural compost heap fertile for eating disorders to develop. Eating Disorders do NOT only affect straight women and the research is beginning to reflect that (All research stats from the National Eating Disorders Website, NEDA.org):

  • Beginning as early as 12, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers.
  • In one study, gay and bisexual boys reported being significantly more likely to have fasted, vomited or taken laxatives or diet pills to control their weight in the last 30 days. Gay males were 7 times more likely to report bingeing and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males.
  • Elevated rates of binge-eating and purging by vomiting or laxative abuse was found for both males and females who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or “mostly heterosexual” in comparison to their heterosexual peers.
  • Gay men are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among men who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.

At the intersections of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and classism are implications for where we can become curious and fierce about advocating for women – and men, and transgender people – in their recovery and their rights. Feminist theory has a history of, among other intersectional misses, not addressing the experience of women of color. Intersectionality addresses how, when more than one aspect of discrimination intersects, something else altogether emerges that is missed.

“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”[iv]

Many people, including myself, believe that this intersectionality is the next wave of feminism– and recovery.

 

 

 

 

NOTES

[i] National eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website

www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

[ii]Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] To Understand the Women’s March On Washington, you need to understand intersectional feminism: It’s much bigger than ‘check your privilege.’ by Jenée Desmond-Harris Jan 21, 2017, Vox.com

Feminism and Eating Disorders, Part Two: No Means No

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. And the theme this year is “Let’s talk about it.” Talking about eating disorders isn’t necessarily comfortable. Or pretty. Last week I wrote about women having all of their feelings, including anger, and having the right to assert their boundaries. This means a woman has the right to say no. She has a right to say no to unsolicited comments about her appearance and her body size.

When women aren’t allowed to directly express these boundaries or when there is trauma such as sexual assault, an eating disorder can become unconscious expression. For example,

  • Binge eating or starving can become I’m going to make my body sexually unattractive so I can be protected from ever having to go through the trauma of sexual abuse again.
  • Bulimia can become I’m going to take this food in, in a violent, self-harming way, and then I can get rid of it. I can get the trauma and the pain of the assault out of me.
  • Anorexia can become I’m going to show you that you CAN be too thin. I’m so thin that I’m smaller than the 12-year-old girls on model runways that your culture says are sexually attractive or coveted.

At the most basic level, women have the right to say no to abuse and feel safe from sexual and physical assault. But when a woman’s right to say no is laden with cultural ambivalence and minimizing, abuse and rape occur at an alarmingly high level. And rape culture thrives. 

No Means No.

Violence against women is still frighteningly common. Here are just a few scary statistics:

  • 22% of surveyed women reported they were physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or date in their lifetime. (National Violence Against Women Survey, November 2000).
  • Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. [i]
  • Of the American women surveyed who said they had been the victim of a completed or attempted rape at some time in their life, 21.6 percent were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4 percent were ages 12 to 17. [ii]

I see many of these women in my practice. (No, not all women recovering from eating disorders have a history of abuse. Eating disorders have a complex and multifaceted etiology.) Sexual assault among women is very common though more common than you may think. Among my colleagues, we talk about how the statistics are more likely to be one in three women.

One in Three

Due to survivors being reticent to report it, the statistics reported are often much lower than the actual numbers. The shame of the abuse is still often carried by the survivor. When assault perpetrated against a woman is blamed on the woman, or not believed, or minimized, there is little incentive to speak up. We need only look at the news of the past few weeks to find evidence for this. And when convictions for three sexual assault felonies, such as in the 2016 Stanford rape case, get reduced from 14 years in state prison to 6 months in county jail, there is little incentive for survivors to pursue legal action.[iii]

If one in three women has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, that means it is highly likely that you, your spouse, your sister, your mom, your child, your friend, or your colleague has been sexually assaulted. The experience of sexual assault is not limited to women of particular socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or religion. I am probably preaching to the converted here, but just to name a few basic educational points about sexual assault:

  • Sexual assault is an act of violence, not sex.
  • Sexual assault is not caused by what a woman wears, drinks, or doesn’t drink, or whether she is “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
  • Sexual assault is not consensual. If a woman is unable to consent, that is non-consent. If a woman says stop, then that is non-consent. If a woman has said yes in the past, but is saying no now, that is non-consent.
  • Sexual assault can leave long-lasting impact of the survivor, including but not limited to Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Flashbacks, Self-Harm, Suicidality, Eating Disorders, STD’s, and unwanted Pregnancy.[iv]

I could go on and on about the work to be done in healing “rape culture.” I am grateful for the education and advocacy work[v] being done currently. And I am grateful for the January 2017 Women’s March “Pink Pussy Hat” movement reclaiming women’s bodies and rights as their own. I am grateful for every survivor doing their healing work. I am grateful for every woman and man who says “No, this is not ok” to rape culture. And I am grateful for 19-year-old Nina Donovan writing her “I Am a Nasty Woman” poem and Ashley Judd reading this poem at the Washington DC Women’s March. In Donovan’s poem she writes:

“I am not as nasty as racism…homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance and white privilege.”[vi]

Feminism today is being called to become intersectional, addressing the places where misogyny, racism, and socioeconomic status intersect, and where they don’t. Stay tuned for the next post on how eating disorders do not just affect straight, white, adolescent women. And, in the meantime, what can you do? You can be an ally. You can talk about it. Talk about eating disorders and that recovery is possible. Talk about how rape culture is not okay. Be an ally: for yourself, for others. Healing is possible. You are not alone.

 

NOTES

[i] Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, November 2000 https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “Telling the Story of the Stanford Rape Case” by Marina Koren, The Atlantic, June 6, 2016

[iv] RAINN.org RAINN stands for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network and is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE

[v] Here is one organization working to end rape on college campuses http://endrapeoncampus.org

[vi] Ashley Judd reciting Nina Donovan’s “I Am A Nasty Woman” poem at the January 2017 Women’s March https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/ashley-judd-recites-i-am-a-nasty-woman-poem-at-march/2017/01/21/93205bc6-dffd-11e6-8902-610fe486791c_video.html

 

Feminism and Eating Disorders

Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood. –Gloria Steinem

goddess

In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I am writing a series on Eating Disorders and Feminism. The first is a guest blog, “Full Women Have Full Feelings,” published on Psyched in San Francisco magazine. 

Have you ever been afraid of being called “The B word” (something that rhymes with
witch)? I know I have. As someone who is attuned to relational dynamics, asserting my own voice, when…

To continue reading Full Women Have Full Feelings, click HERE

 

Part two continues the topic of sexual assault followed by an exploration of how eating disorders do not only affect straight, white adolescent women. Stay tuned!

 

What Anxiety Says… and a Compassionate Response

Anxiety comes up frequently for people in recovery and moms. When I imagine anxiety, it looks like this:

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It is rigid, red and rapidly moving.  Usually, we want anxiety to go away. We want to just get rid of it. But when we ask what anxiety has to say, and respond with curiosity or tenderness to the scared-self, a new relationship can emerge. Below are some examples of what the anxiety part of the self might say.

Here’s What Anxiety Says:

  • I’ve made a bullet-point list for you. You should do everything on the list and then I will go away.
  • (After list is complete): “OK, that was the first one. I now have several more.”
  • Other people have it all figured out, so you should pretend like you do. One way to do this is to look good. I will help you with that. Try to look perfect.
  • You are the only one that struggles with this anxiety. It makes you isolated, and you don’t belong because of it. Therefore, you should hide it.
  • Be very busy. If you’re not busy, doing things, I can help keep your mind be very busy. I can even make your thoughts race.
  • I will always be your friend, but especially from 1:00-4:00am. At that time, I will remind you of the ways you are incompetent, the world is falling apart, and you can’t do anything about it. If you go on social media during this time, I will find lots of evidence for you.
  • Other moms are doing it better. You are not qualified to be a good parent. You should read parenting books to illuminate all the ways you are f*cking up.
  • Your body is the wrong size/shape. You can (and should) fix that. If you do, I may go away (but I will probably stick around because you will need me to manage you, since you can’t be trusted).
  • Not eating, bingeing, purging, drinking, or smoking pot are good ways to get me to go away. (Oh, and you will need to maintain that. And you should hide that you do that, because it is shameful).
  • The world is not safe. I have found lots of evidence of this for you.

As you can see, it is not a kind voice, this anxiety. It is relentlessly hypervigilant to the ways that you are inadequate. Strangely enough, this part of the self is often trying to protect you: from vulnerability, from the unknown. In my training as an Imaginal Psychologist, one way we worked with different parts of the self – and integrating them back into wholeness – was to bring fiercely compassionately objective voice into the dialogue. Compassionate awareness can take several different forms: it can be humourous, fierce, gentle. It can be rational and empirical. In my experience, this compassionate part is much more flowing and less rigid than anxiety. It feels like a deep breath down into the cooling water under the anxiety. It might look like this:

compassionflow-13-copy-3

Here are some examples of what this voice of might say to anxiety. What the Voice of Compassionate Objectivity Might Say:

  • Isn’t it interesting to notice the associations between anxiety and accomplishing or not accomplishing things?  So interesting to notice…
  • I bet you could choose to do some, all, or none of the items on the list, and your value as a human would remain fully intact and whole. How about you try and I will be the witness observing?
  • Is “figured out” an equation? If “it” is figured out, does that mean fear or suffering disappears?
  • Who are those “perfect,” and “busy” people? If they exist, might they be struggling with the same fear of inadequacy you are?
  • If there are 7.5 billion people (roughly) on the planet, do you really think you are the only one who struggles with these thoughts and feelings? Might it not be the very thing that connects your heart, mind, and body with humanity?
  • I wonder what would happen to your thought-speed if I help you breathe. Does it change if you breathe all the way into your abdomen? It doesn’t need to change. But if you are in discomfort from the racing, bringing attention to your breath can help your body shift into parasympathetic (rest) mode. Would you like to try?
  • I will do everything I can to help you get a good night’s sleep, honey. I’m going to help you with loving limits: no social media at night. Not helpful.
  • We can take stock of your strengths and weaknesses during the day and/or with someone who can add compassion and objectivity to the assessment. When you’re feeling weak, that’s not the time to assess your weaknesses.
  • If you can’t sleep, I won’t abandon you. I’ll stay with you and the anxiety. I’ll be right there with you, surrounding you with care and tenderness.
  • Body size and shape have nothing to do with your worth, honey. I know you keep really wanting it to be about that. But I’m going to keep reminding you the answers you seek are not there.
  • Did you show up to the best of your ability as a Mom today?  Your best can be different on different days. That is ok. Mistakes are how we learn. Oh, and put the parenting books down.
  • You can tolerate anxiety. It won’t kill you. You can ride the wave of this fear without medicating it.

These are just some examples. The goal is not to get rid of anxiety. The goal is to develop a different relationship with it. Perhaps it might look like this?

fullsizerender-13-copy-3

 

Obviously, you will have to see what your own voice of Compassionate Objectivity has to say.

For now, I will leave you with a summary that I and some of the people I work with find helpful:

There is nothing wrong with you.

Nobody has it all figured out.

You are safe right now.

You are not alone.

In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr: Children’s Books for Social Justice and the Earth

“He said together when others said separate. He said peace when others said war. Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together.”

From: Martin’s Big Words The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Hyperion Books, 2001)

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr day and the upcoming inauguration, I have compiled a list of Children’s books for Diversity, Social Justice, and the Earth. This is by no means a
comprehensive list and feel free to add your own favorites.

fullsizerender-13

illustration by Bryan Collier


Black Lives Matter

  • Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside, by Kenneth Braswell
  • Martin’s Big Words The Life of Dr Martin Luther King Junior by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
  • I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley (Author) and B. Lewis (illustrator)

Diversity

  • The Colors of the Rainbow (Let’s Talk About It Books) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
  • Mexican American: In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza
  • Chinese American: Bringing In the New Year by Grace Lin (Author)
  • Muslim American: Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman (Author), Sue Williams (Illustrator)

Ecology/Global Warming

  • The Polar Bears’ Home: A Story About Global Warming (Little Green Books) by Lara Bergen (Author), Vincent Nguyen (Illustrator)
  • The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books) by Alison Inches (Author), Pete Whitehead (Illustrator)
  • Don’t Throw That Away! A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books) by Lara Bergen and Betsy Snyder
  • The Problem of the Hot World by Pam Bonsper (Author), Dick Rink (illustrator)

Feminism, Body Appreciation

  • Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body by Christiane Northrup (Author), Kristina Tracy (Author), Aurélie Blanz (Illustrator)
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins (author) and Nancy Zhang (illustrator)
  • Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges (author) and Sophie Blackall (illustrator)
  • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy (Author), Elizabeth Baddeley (illustrator)

GLBT

  • King and King by Linda de Haanand Stern Nijland
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell,
  • Heather Has Two Mommies Lesléa Newman

Vision Collages

Click here for article A Psychologist Shares Her Experience, Strength, and Hope

Many Blessings for 2017!

The Winter Solstice

img_1192I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure

the darkness for it shows me the stars.

-Og Mandino

We are in a dark time of the year. There is a reason why there has always been a light-in-the-darkness time, and not just for those needing light in recovering from depression. Historically, in an agricultural society, December was a time when the harvest was done and therefore it was a time to rest, turn inward and reflect. With the days being darker, and Winter Solstice being the shortest day of the year, bringing and celebrating light is a natural response to, well, not going mad in the darkness. We need light. Not only does the vitamin D literally stave off depression, but symbolically we need to know there is light in the dark.

One theory of the origins of December 25 as the date chosen for the birth of Jesus is that it was originally the pagan festival in Rome celebrating “the birth of the unconquered sun,” celebrating the sun-god and the solstice. Hanukkah is also known as “the Festival of Lights,” Kwanzaa ritual include lighting special candle holders called kinaras, and in the December Hindu festival Pancha Ganapati, a shrine with Ganesha (the Hindu elephant god who clears away obstacles) is lit. Shabe Yaldā or Shabe Chelle, held on the Winter solstice, isan Iranian festival celebrating the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil, and Chahar Shanbeh Sure, the Iranian “festival of Fire” celebrates light over darkness on the last Tuesday night of the year.

fullsizerender-7

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

-Elizabeth Kubler Ross

 

For recovering people, this can be particularly challenging to remember the light: the light of hope, the light of “this too, shall pass,” the light of love. It can be difficult to remember you have an inner light to which you can listen.

There is a lot to be concerned with in the world right now. So much suffering. Holding the light of hope can be hard. So many religions and cultures have this light in the darkness in their symbolism for this very reason. It is a human need; an archetypal commonality we share. Remember that you are only responsible for your light, your candle in the darkness. Light your candle. Revisit, hold onto, re-light this light. In the words of Anne Frank,

candle

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”


Light your candle. The world needs it. The world needs you.

5 More Ways to Take Care of Yourself Over the Holdays

Last week we looked at HALT (Don’t get too Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired),  Keeping Consistency, Taking a Social Media Break, Introversion Recovery Time, and Looking for Similarities. This week, here are 5 more ways to be mindful of your self-care over the holidays. Remember, the intent is to lean toward kindness to yourself. You are explicitly forbidden to use any of this to beat up on yourself for not doing or being enough.

(And, as I say to my new mom clients, the caveat/abbreviated version for Moms is: Take a Shower, Get Support.)

  1. Practice Loving Kindness  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovingkindness is both a Buddhist and Hebrew term that is associated with mercy, dignity, compassion, and benevolent affection. Practice this kindness and softening of judgment with yourself and others. I was recently at Mindful Self-Compassion training with Kristin Neff, PhD, author of Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself (HarperCollins, 2011). She led us through a meditation in which we imagined a person who we easily love such as a young child, a pet, or a spiritual teacher. We sat with sending them love for a moment. Then we took a posture in our body-imagination of sending and feeling love such as holding this person in a hug or putting your hands on your heart. Then we transitioned to sending that love to ourselves. Try this. Try sending the love you give freely to others to yourself. In the lovingkindness practice, there are also components of sending the wish to be happy and healthy, free from suffering to a person with whom you feel neutral and with whom you feel hostile. Feel free to try this as well. If you feel your heart closes at this prospect, stay with yourself. You yourself most need your own lovingkindness. If you feel resistance toward self-compassion, watch Dr. Neff’s TED talk: Overcoming Objections to Self Compassion.

 2. Practice Gratitude

I just finished reading the book The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan (Dutton, 2015). In it, she interviews Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, who states:

“Of all the positive strengths we’ve looked at, people who are highest in gratitude are also highest in well-being.”

It was also shared that if you don’t come by gratitude naturally, “gratitude interventions” can have a big effect. I love that. The founder of positive psychology has a brain that doesn’t naturally turn toward gratitude! Can you relate? It’s ok to have a mind that keeps going back to “bad alleyways.” The work is to train it differently, with compassion and perseverance, like you are training a puppy.

Gratitude interventions include: keeping a daily gratitude journal, writing a letter of gratitude to a friend or loved one and reading it to them, taking pictures of things you are grateful for throughout your day. I’m not talking being Pollyanna here. It has to be authentic or it has no effect or meaning. But it can be simple. Some of my recent examples include: being warm and dry out of the rain, making paper snowflakes with my little one (turn toward the fun and away from the scraps all over the floor), talking with a friend.

3. Be of Service

Being of service can be one of the most benevolent AND personally rewarding things you can do. If you can do something big, by all means DO IT NOW. But it doesn’t have to be big. Mother Teresa said:

“There are no great acts. There are small acts done with Great Love.”

Many, many, many people took very small steps (and many took very large ones as well) together to preserve Missouri river at Standing Rock recently. You may find that healing others with similar struggles helps heal your own. If you are a person recovering from an eating disorder or alcoholism, you have the unique gift of being able to understand someone else struggling with the early stages of healing in an empathic, helpful, and non-condescending way. (Keep in mind that you can’t keep it unless you give it away but you can’t give it away unless you have it. So if you are struggling with your own recovery, find another way to be of service right now and let others be of service to you for your recovery.) The feeling of doing something helpful for someone else has a way of providing meaning that no other gift can.

Here a few other examples:

  • Return a grocery cart or pay the bridge toll for someone in the car behind you.
  • Smile or make eye contact with someone you wouldn’t normally.
  • Let someone else get on the train/bus first.
  • Open the door for someone with a stroller.

4. Practice Radical Acceptance.

Carl Rogers said:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.”

This is a beautiful quote that sums up the environment within yourself that can help ease suffering and, if you want, create change. For the holidays, try practicing “It is what it is.” Look around you, notice and describe what you see, what you smell. Use your senses to bring yourself directly into the present moment. If you can be with that, you will most likely be okay. It is just this moment. Try practicing adding “right now” to aspects that you find difficult to accept and see if that helps soften the suffering of wanting it to be different. This is my body right now. This is my family right now. This is the cabinet of the President elect right now. You don’t have to like it. And accepting is not the same thing as agreeing with or condoning. It is acknowledging that this is what it is right now. The artist Richard Stine is attributed to saying:

“It’s simple. We are where we should be, doing what we should be doing. Otherwise we would be somewhere else, doing something else.”

There can be great relief, power, and spaciousness is the right now. You are right where you are supposed to be. Right Now.

5. Ask yourself what you need.

Only you know what you truly need. Ask the part-of-you-that-knows. Listen and respond.

What do I Need right now? (Only YOU know!)

Whatever it is, be kind with yourself. “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

Amen (and Women)!

5 Ways to Take Care of Your Self During the Holiday Season

The holidays can be hard. They can be especially difficult for people recovering from disordered eating, alcoholism, depression, or anxiety. The intention of this blog is to help you be a bit more fierce with your own self-care and a bit more compassionate with yourself and others. This is not a list to use to beat up on yourself for not doing enough or being imperfect! May it be helpful, useful, and ease some of your suffering during this time.

  1. HALT

Try not to let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Getting too tired, hungry/hypoglycemic, resentful, or isolating is a recipe for addictive behaviors and/or haltdepression. Imagine yourself to be a little one (this will not be hard for you parents to imagine) who needs regular meals and snacks, regular emotional understanding, and regular sleep. If little ones get too tired/hungry/emotionally not heard, there will be meltdowns. Be a kind parent to yourself. Pack a self-care bag with protein snacks, water, get to bed on time, make plans with friends and/or providers that “get” you so you can feel nourished and grounded. Practice what a friend of mine calls “aggressive self-care.”

2. Keep 1 Thing Constant

Choose one thing – morning meditation, weekly support group, your meal plan, sobriety, journaling, daily inspirational reading… To read more, go to EDBlogs

Just as a reminder, the intention here is to help you be a bit more fierce with your own self-care and a bit more compassionate with yourself and others… not to beat up on yourself for not doing enough or being imperfect.

Stay tuned for part two next week!

 

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