I’m reposting this as we’re heading into TRANSITIONS. Transitions are a time that require support. Here are some thoughts that may be helpful…
It’s the start of the school year! End of summer vacations, unstructured time, sleeping in (if you’re lucky enough to be one of the few who has a child that does this)! Many parents breathe a sigh of relief (Hooray: No more trying to create a daily structure!) along with a feeling of dread (Oh Dear! Coordinating and calendaring school schedules for the next nine months!) Here are some thoughts about how to potentially ease the transition:
1. Set up and script the environment
Give yourself and your family transition time by starting the new school schedule a few days or a week ahead. For example, start bedtime earlier. (I know, most of us have missed the boat on this by this time. That’s ok don’t stop reading!) Talk about what will be coming up: “This is what we’ll be doing when you go to school: We’ll get dressed do you want to wear your red pants or your gray ones? Then we’ll have breakfast sooooo early! And then we’ll get in the car and drive to the building with red paint and a mural. Do you remember what is painted on the side of your school building?”
2. Make it fun
Take a fun trip to the store to get new pencils, markers, or a lunch box. Have them put their favorite stickers on their lunch box or back pack. Talk about the people and fun things your child may be doing at school. “You can play in the castle and the construction vehicles in the sand! They may have paint at the art table. Remember that swing that when you swing on it you almost touch the tree?”
3. Help facilitate bonding with the teacher.
Meet the teacher and introduce your child. Let the teacher know any unique aspects to your child that help them transition or make them feel safe: “He may need his lovey, He really likes construction vehicles, She likes to dress up like Elsa’s sister,” Or “If you ask him a question, it will often take 10 seconds for him to reply, but he will if you wait.” Put a picture of the teacher on your fridge and talk to him/her “Hi Miss Kathy. I know you are going to help Aiden learn and grow this year! I’m excited to get to see you soon.”
4. Provide a Transitional Object
At my child’s school, they invite the parents to make a photo book of all the people, places and things that their child likes. Then, if the child feels sad or lonely, they can look through the book with their teacher and tell them about how they like to dig in the sand with Papa, read this book with Nana, get pedicures with Mama, etc
5. Read stories and playact separating and re-connecting
Separation is one of if not THE most terrifying fears for children. When separating from your child, always focus on the re-connection. “When I come to get you, I get to hear about your day! And we can go to get ice-cream with your sister! I can’t wait to snuggle you tonight before bed!” Have you ever noticed how the central drama of almost every child movie is some kind of separation (or threat of) separation and then reconnection?
An awesome book for young children that gives story and image to transition objects, separating, and re-connecting is The Kissing Hand.* The Kissing Hand tells the story of Chester the raccoon who “doesn’t want to go to school.” His Mom helps him by providing a kissing hand that “whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think ‘Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you.'”
If your child is really struggling with separating, have a stuffed animal of theirs play feeling sad/mad/afraid and have the child play the Mom/Dad/Caregiver reassuring and returning. This helps them develop the inner resources and awareness of connection.
6. Allow all feelings and get support
Your child is likely to have feelings during this transition especially if it is their first time in preschool or starting kindergarten or new school/teacher. Give them special time. Special time is dedicated time each day when they get to choose what to play with you for 10-30 minutes and you stay completely present- no phones, no coffee, no multitasking. Expect more “broken cookies.” Broken cookies are when your child has a meltdown over what seems to be disproportionate to the situation because they are having big feelings that need release. You can tell it’s a broken cookie if no matter what you do (try to fix the cookie, offer another cookie, say they can have another cookie tomorrow) they still cry or escalate crying. Just let them get it out and be there for them. That will let them know they still have a safe harbor in you and the world will be ok even if big changes are difficult and feelings seem overwhelming.
7. And finally, last but not least: You!
The thing that no-one tells you as a parent, though, is that YOU might have big feelings about your little one’s transitions as well! You may experience “re-stimulation” around re-experiencing your childhood transitions. If you had a hard time with separation when you first went to school, took a long time to make a friend, were a biter or a hitter, or were bullied, all of these experiences come flooding back to you as an adult who now has a child because time does not exist in the emotional world. You may also feel sad, relieved, happy, mad around the way your child transitions. If they cling to you, you may feel anxious, angry, sad, or guilty. If they run off and don’t even say goodbye, you may feel sad. This is where “Listening partners” are so helpful. A listening partner is a friend, often a fellow parent, that can just listen to your experience as a parent. they don’t try to fix you or offer advice. They listen to your experience and travel with you along the path of parenthood.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrations by Ruth E Harper and Nancy M Leak, Terre Haute, IN: Tanglewood Publishing, 2006.
I am NOT Going to School Today by Robie H. Harris illustrated by Jan Ormerod, New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003.
All Kinds of Friends by Norma Simon illustrated by CherieZamazing, Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013.
Hand in Hand Parenting (handinhandparenting.org)
Special time, stay listening, and listening partners are all tools from hand in hand parenting. Hand in hand parenting is an organization of resources to support parents and provide them with the insights and skills they need to listen to and connect with their children in a way that allows each child to thrive. They work with parents and primary caregivers whose children are ages one month to six years, and their approach falls within the authoritative or democratic parenting category. They advocate for a combination of responsiveness and nurturing combined with high expectations for behavior, to form strong parent-child connections that last a lifetime.
Dr Laura Markham
Dr Laura is a Psychologist that has written several blogs and books on parenting with pragmatic tips on how to connect with your child and make the parenting journey more easeful and successful. Here is one helpful related blog: “Preparing your Child for the New School Year” http://www.ahaparenting.com
We all know how easy this was in our former lives. Just hop in! At any time! With no interruptions and for as long as you want! This is no longer the case. However, a shower can make a world of difference. It is actually one of the main action steps I encourage not only new moms, but also clients recovering from depression to take. Cleaning your body helps your mind. It has the capacity to wash away some of the sleep deprivation and frustration. And it has the added benefit of cleaning away stinky-ness having old milk, snot, and poo that your little one may have generously shared. For at least one moment, your body can be clean, and all your own.
Don’t stop reading yet! I know, if one more person tells you “sleep when the baby sleeps,” you are going to punch them. So I’m not going to tell you that. However, I want to encourage you to carve out in whatever way works for you and your family, a good chunk of sleep for yourself. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Sleep deprivation can cause difficulties in concentrating, irritability, problems with reading, speaking, and an increase in appetite. If the deprivation continues, disorientation, visual hallucinations, social withdrawal and/or challenges, memory lapses, and breaks in reality occur.[i] One of the main treatments for moms recovering from perinatal mood disorders (anxiety, depression, psychosis), along with therapy and medication, is sleep. And the sleep needs to be for prolonged period of uninterrupted time. (Disrupted sleep is as bad as no sleep – more on this
in upcoming sleep blog).
Here some ideas: hire a night doula, have your partner or grandma take over night feedings for one night, ask your partner to do the middle-of-the-night feeds, or do modified sleep training. Preserve and protect your sleep, however you can. Don’t succumb to the temptation for late night Facebook/Online shopping/Great-ideas-planning-your-new-business-vnture-as-a-mommypreneur. If these are still appealing when yo
u are rested, you will know they are coming from a true need. Otherwise, it’s adrenaline-fueled exhaustion that would be better fed with restoring your sleep.
Did you know that vitamin D is one of the best antidepressant vitamins? Low vitamin D has been linked not only with postpartum depression for the mother[ii] but also increased risk of eating disorders in female offspring.[iii] Getting out of the house can be one of the best ways to bring new perspective to what can feel like drudgery of new motherhood. So pack up all your new accoutrements – diaper bag, pacifiers, bottles, snacks, diapers, etc.- and get out into the sun. It may just be to walk around the block. It may be an adventure like getting to the playground or the coffee shop. You may even coordinate this adventure with another new mom, which leads to the next tip…
It is a recent cultural phenomenon that moms are trying to care for their babies alone, at home, by themselves without a “village” of support. This used to be the extended family, or way, way back in human experience, the tribe. Humans thrive on attachment. Without it, we wither. There is no wrong way to have support as a new mom, other than to not have support as a new mom. Your support could be a mom’s group. It could be your partner. It could be your therapist. It could be YOUR mom. It could be your non-mom friend. It could be your friend who is also a mom. It could be your doula, lactation consultant, or mother-in-law. It could be all of these or some combination of these. But having none of these is a recipe for trying to be Supermom (who doesn’t exist, and lives in the isolated perfectionist imaginations of moms who have no support), which can to Postpartum Depression. I love this quote from Dr. Sue Johnson, the founder of emotionally focused therapy:
“Being the “best you can be” is really only possible when you are deeply connected to another. Splendid isolation is for planets, not people.”
If you are providing attachment to your new little one, YOU need to be strongly attached. Trying to hold, provide food, and give emotional sustenance to your baby without support yourself is like being a tree without roots. You will fall over, you will wilt, you will not thrive. An then this will happen to your baby, too… It is not only okay, but also essential that you have support! Put on your oxygen masks first, Mama.
- Spiritual practice
Last but not least, having a mindfulness practice can be a helpful tool for tolerating the distress and practicing acceptance with all the learnings of new parenthood. This may be 5 minutes of meditation per day. Or it may be one bite of mindful eating during a lunch otherwise filled with Cheerios being thrown on the floor. It may be a yoga class or writing 1 page in your journal every day. You could practice deep breathing every time you hear your baby cry and your stomach tense up with anxiety or discomfort. For new moms, it is important to Keep It Simple. Remember: the Buddha was NOT a parent when he became enlightened. Unlike him, you don’t have seven days to sit under a tree uninterrupted. You may have seven minutes. Take it. A good practice is to breath in the suffering of all new moms all around the earth and breathe out loving-kindness to all the new moms all around the earth. I used this practice when I was a new mom. It made me feel so much less alone at 3am.
You are not alone, Mama. Keep going. Keep practicing any and all of these self-care practices as much as you can for as long as it takes. You are NOT allowed to use this blog to beat up on yourself for what you are not doing. If you are doing that, stop now. Thousands of other moms are struggling right along with you, trying to sleep, shower, get support, see the sunshine, and do spiritual practice! Try, to the best of your ability one moment at a time, to find the kind mother inside yourself for yourself. This kindness is where the real strength of motherhood is: it is this place that is rooted and flexible, fierce and tender. It is the one that defends her right to practice her own self-care as a way to then be able to care for others. It is the mother putting her own oxygen mask on first. In the words of Sue Monk Kidd:
“You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.”
You can do it mama. If you can’t find her, keep looking. You may need to grow your capacity to be a good mom to yourself along with learning to be a good one to your baby. That is okay. She is there, waiting for you to feed, nurture, forgive, and grow her. Oh, and shower her, too!
Linda Shanti McCabe is a Mom and Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Francisco.As always, this blog is written to provide experience, inspiration, and hope – not to provide psychological treatment. If you are struggling with a perinatal mood disorder, a good resource is Postpartum Support International.
All original art images copyright Linda Shanti McCabe
[i] Bulkeley, Kelly, “Why Sleep Deprivation is Torture” Psychology Today, December 15, 2014.
[ii] Robinson et al. Low maternal serum vitamin D during pregnancy and the risk for postpartum depression symptoms, Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 2014.
[iii] Allen KL, Byrne SM, Kusel MM, Hart PH, Whitehouse AJ. Maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy and offspring eating disorder risk in adolescence. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Jun 26, 2013.
Following the theme of trusting and listening to your intuition, I have a marvelous guest blog by a colleague of mine, Ondina Hatvany, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco. Please read on for her take on the Pleasure Principle and how listening to it can help improve your relationship to food and your body through the practice of intuitive eating.
The Pleasure Principle is simply this: Our bodies are wired to move towards pleasure and avoid pain. We naturally gravitate towards things that taste, smell and feel yummy and delicious. We naturally avoid the opposite. To try to fight the pleasure principle, as so many diets encourage us to do, is to fight one of our most basic instincts. Is it any wonder then that so many diets fail?
What if following and listening to our pleasure was really the secret to it all? What if by listening to our bodies instead of fighting them we started to come into a better balance around our weight and body image?
Impossible you say? Let me invite you to temporarily suspend your disbelief until you read the rest of this article…
Pleasure is the key to the practice of intuitive eating.
If you are practicing intuitive eating (which, in a nutshell, is to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied, and to eat what your body wants), then when you are hungry you ask yourself:“What is the most nutritious and delicious thing I can eat right now?” You need to have your pleasure muscle well toned and flexed in order to be able to answer this question. In fact the more tuned in you are to what will bring you pleasure, the better you will be able to intuit what your body wants and needs.
Left to their own devices, our bodies are naturally going to want to eat what will increase our chances of survival. Our default mode is for strength and health. Of course, if you have been dieting most of your life, some of these natural predispositions of the body might have become skewed, so it’s important to be patient with yourself.
So many of my clients who have spent a lifetime going from one diet to another are terrified at the thought of practicing intuitive eating. “I won’t be able to stop eating chocolate!” wailed one of my clients. Chocolate was her number one forbidden food, so of course once she considered legalizing it, that is where her mind went. There is nothing like scarcity to increase our desire for something.
Although this is a valid fear and one that might even get played out, in my experience, this phase of overdosing on forbidden foods is relatively short-lived. Once your body gets that it can eat what it wants, when it wants, and even as much as it wants, a forbidden food like chocolate starts to lose its grip on you. In their book When Women Stop Hating their Bodies Hirschmann and Munter tell us:
Always having large quantities of the food you love at hand is critical to the process of legalizing. As a rule, everyone starts this process by doing just that—stocking up. There is no question that the biggest surprise for people in the early stages of legalizing food is that, contrary to popular belief, the more food you have at hand, the less you eat. Scarcity produces anxiety; surplus makes people feel more secure.
Pleasure can also be used as a barometer for when we’re starting to feel satisfied and have had enough. When we first start to eat, we are truly hungry; the food tastes that much better because we have an appetite for it. However, once we start to fill up, our pleasure begins to diminish. This is our sign that we have probably had enough food. If we know that there will be more food and plenty of it when we are hungry again and can really enjoy it, it won’t be so hard for us to stop eating.
If you’ve been trying diets and they haven’t been working, try using the pleasure principle. Our bodies don’t do well with deprivation and punishment; they are so much more responsive to pleasure. Like it or not, our bodies are wired for pleasure. Try working with your body instead of against it for a change.
What I am writing about here is completely counter-cultural to what most women have been spoon-fed since birth (pun intended). It’s certainly not what the dieting industry wants us to believe. They have spent billions of dollars convincing us that our bodies are battlegrounds to be controlled and conquered. Has this approach been working for you?
If you are going to try some of the suggestions I have outlined here, please enlist some support, whether it is individual or group therapy or both, because it is hard to change these deeply encoded messages on our own. The more support you can get, especially in the beginning, the better your chance of success.
Here’s to your pleasure!
assists traditional, alternative and queer couples and partners with an approach that combines the latest discoveries in neuroscience with powerful and effective developments in couples research. She uses an approach called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to help her couples get past blame and shame to a place of more understanding, trust and intimacy.
As former Director of the Eating Disorders program at the Community Institute of Psychotherapy Ondina advocates a Health at Every Size (HAES) approach that empowers women to befriend their bodies.
This month’s theme is Honoring Sensitivity, and I’m going to jump right in with what I hear on a weekly basis in my therapy practice working with recovering women:
- “You’re too sensitive.”
My adult clients often say, when entering eating disorder recovery, “I’m too sensitive,” as if it were a curse, or something that needs to be gotten rid of in the recovery process. Often they received this “too sensitive” message as children. Maybe when they
cried, felt things deeply, were highly intuitive, or were sensitive to stimuli such as noise, textures, or smells,
they were told: “Get over it,” Don’t be a crybaby,” “If you feel scared or ashamed don’t show it” or (covertly)”Don’t talk about feelings. They are weak and we don’t have room for them here.” Your Eating Disorder (ED voice) is the one that judges (and then tries to hide, numb or cut off from) your sensitivities because they were not embraced and/or too painful to experience as a child.
I tell these adults that, even though it may be the opposite to what they want to hear,
Recovery is an invitation to embrace what wisdom your sensitivity has to offer.
Being sensitive means that your are strongly in touch with the part of you that knows, intuitively, what is right for you and what isn’t. It is the part of you that gets, on a gut level and often immediately, (even if it’s not what you want to know) whether someone is a good or bad fit for you in dating. It is the part of you that feels a palpable rise in anxiety before you engage in disordered eating behaviors, because it knows that you are about to act violently toward your sensitivity, trying to numb it rather than listen to it. It is the part of you that senses when a friend is feeling sad or mad, even when they try to mask it. It is the part of you that easily connects with nature or animals or young children being themselves. It is the part of you that knows when someone needs help or is not being treated fairly and feels a protective and empathic response toward them. People who struggle with disordered eating often are highly attuned to other’s feelings. However, they can be insensitive toward their own feelings, judging them as “bad” or “wrong.”
2. If I’m having a feeling, it is bad and I should make it go away.
Closely related to being sensitive is having feelings. The voice of the Eating Disorder (ED) does not like to have feelings. It really doesn’t matter which feeling – sadness, anger, shame, joy, happiness ED doesn’t like it. However, as Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, states:
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
We have to go toward the feelings we’ve left behind in childhood in order to reclaim those parts of ourselves nd become full human beings again. We have to go toward, not away, from the feelings that scare us. I often give clients a feeling wheel to look at and identify which areas they are comfortable and which areas they are not. Some people like to hang out in “purple,” some in “red,” some in “yellow.” You may be very comfortable with sadness, but terrified of anger – or vice versa. Instead of judging this, recovery involves getting curious about it and learning to inhabit all the different colors. Because if you don’t feel, you can’t heal.
3. Needs are bad/weak/not okay unless you are taking care of someone else’s.
It’s so interesting how sensitive people can be fabulous caretakers but – how shall I say this – absolutely and completely suck at identifying, asking for support, and receiving care for their own needs. It’s called codependency in recovery lingo. The underlying unconscious assumption is: If I take care of you, you won’t be uncomfortable. And then I’ll be okay, because I’ll just match all of my needs to yours! But people have different needs.
And people who develop eating disorders usually haven’t been allowed to identify their own needs separate from others. There are many good reasons for this, often stemming from family of origin dynamics. Being a chameleon pretending you don’t have any of your own needs certainly has some benefits: you can blend in to many environments and “fit in,” You are not going to be singled out as “the scapegoat,” you can get along with many different kinds of people and work environments without being offensive.
However, at some point, a person recovering from an eating disorder will need to start risking the vulnerability of identifying their own needs. And this can be uncomfortable because, as a wise friend of mine says, “When you stop people pleasing, people aren’t pleased.” However, you WILL most likely, as you identify and start risking having some of your needs seen and met, feel less anxious, more at peace, and less concerned with the necessity of pleasing others.
4. If I just get the RIGHT food plan then I won’t have these uncomfortable feelings or needs anymore.
This ED belief can actually hang on for a long time. Because, even in recovery, it morphs and becomes clever, saying things like “I’m just trying to help you be healthy. You felt so much better when you were eating (fill in your own ED’s version of no sugar/whole grain/not wholegrain/gluten/fat-free/high-or-low protein obsession here).”
You are most likely to need a food plan in the beginning of your recovery. That is appropriate. If you have been skipping breakfast and lunch and bingeing on ice-cream for dinner, you are going to need to add the first two meals back into your day as well as get some vegetables, protein and carbs in there. If you have been avoiding “fear foods” such as cookies, bread, or salad dressing with fat, then you will need to practice having salad dressing (on the salad not the side), dessert, or scary snacks, in order to know you can tolerate the anxiety and be okay. Your food plan may be more structured or less structured during different parts of your recovery. It will change, just as you will. But finding the exact “right” food plan in order to not have uncomfortable feelings is a lie. Your food plan should support you having feelings rather than restricting or numbing them.
If you are sensitive, you are going to feel. Therefore you are going to feel the food you eat. If you have an allergy, are celiac, or have another medically related issue regarding food choices, then you need to tend to this. Otherwise, we need to look at the feelings not the foods. Because the feelings are what your ED is trying to avoid by obsessing on whatever food plan you are convinced will make you “right” or “better.”
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Cheri Huber, a zen writer and teacher:
“There is nothing wrong with you.”
Really. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing to fix around you being you. Be YOU and consider there is nothing wrong with that. That is the work of a lifetime and not fixed with any food plan.
5. And the number one lie I hear from ED in my office every week is: Once I’m recovered, I will be “thin” (which means…)
And then we work on filling in the dots for the associations with what “thin” symbolizes. Some of them include:
- I will feel confidant/comfortable in my skin.
- I can dance, wear a bathing suit, do the-thing-I-won’t-let-myself-do-at-this-size.
- I will be worthy of a romantic relationship.
- I will be worthy.
- I can go back to work (postpartum) or
- I can get or go after the job that I really want.
- People will love me.
- People I love won’t leave.
- People I love won’t die.
- I won’t have to feel grief, sadness, anger or shame.
- I won’t be sensitive anymore.
The list can go on, but the important piece here is calling ED out on the lie: if you are human, you are not always going to feel confidant, you are going to be imperfect, regardless of the size of your body. You are going to experience loss. You are going to die. What are you going to do before that? Because that is what ED is doing its darndest to prevent you from experiencing and engaging in: your LIFE.
Stop believing the lies and keep taking tiny (or huge, this can change day-to-day, moment to moment) steps toward fear: your recovery is there, as is your life. Because FEAR can mean many things:
F*ck Everything And Run (in the land of ED);
Face Everything And Recover; or
False Evidence Appearing Real.
I hope you choose to walk right into and through that false evidence that appears real according to ED. It is worth it. Love is on the other side of this false evidence. You are worth it. You always were.
Guest blogging today is Dr. Marilyn Steele, A Jungian psychologist, dream consultant, author and artist. Marilyn is a dear friend and colleague with whom I have consulted on my own dreams, in mining for wisdom. I am so excited to share some of her medicine with you!
The Doctor Within and Wild Medicine
A few weeks ago I dreamed I was in labor but my OB-GYN, Susan Griffin, was out-of-town on vacation. After an initial moment of panic, I remembered that I had already birthed three children naturally. I know how to do this.
Although now I am laboring to birth a book The Way of the Wild Feminine rather than a baby, the dream includes three themes of my own awakening to feminine power: Dreams. The creative process. And motherhood. I had not actually planned on growing up to be a woman, since it seemed they had very small, boring domestic lives without much power or freedom in the world. But in birthing my first baby forty years ago, I felt in every cell of my body a deep love for the lineage of birthing mothers, and the shocking revelation that we were magnificently powerful. Amazed and angry, I was determined to tell a new, truer story of the self in psychology from a woman’s point of view. Along my weaving life path have been brilliant thinkers like my dream doctor –visionary, feminist author of Woman and Nature (1979). Making art and writing began to root me in my own inner authority, and helped to open a channel to Spirit. My strongest medicine came from dreams. And so became my reclamation of the wild woman.
“We begin our search for the wild, whether as girlchildren or as adult women, because in the midst of some wildish endeavor we felt that a wild and supportive presence was near…We sensed the sound of a familiar breath from afar, we felt tremors in the ground, and we knew that something powerful, someone important, some wild freedom within us was on the move.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Because the Feminine has been in exile for so long, we must go down to the roots, to the realm of the imaginal, mythic and archetypal unconscious to retrieve her stories, her values, her visions. Dreams are a direct pathway to this realm.
There is intelligence in the Universe- call it the Great Mystery, Spirit, Higher Power, Goddess, the holy – that wants the best for us and calls us to healing, to wholeness, to holiness. To wake up, we dream. Dreams help us grow soul, strengthen body and mind to house the bigger Self, so that we may bring a new story to ourselves and the world.
We can learn to trust, too, that the symptom or illness, the uncontrollable or irritating or even dangerous behavior has some gift to bestow. Soul speaks through the body. These are signs of a future pulling us in the direction of our divine destiny.
One of the great cosmic jokes Spirit has made through me is developing me into a feminist, an artist who loves science when I had never planned on becoming a woman, certainly not a “feminine” one, and had nearly flunked out of UC Berkeley due to the science requirement. I have learned to trust my dreams, to strengthen the dialogue between ego and Self, and to continue to find and empty those stubborn pockets of perfectionism which squelch the joy from my life.
Some gifts you can find in your dreams:
- A truthful self-portrait of your psyche
- Meaningful dialogue between Ego and Self
- Creative renewal
- Animal allies and spirit guides
- The secret wishes of your soul
- Initiation to your vocation and calling
- The playful and loving presence of the Great Mystery
The archetypes of the collective unconscious function like strange attractors in a quantum field. Our brains are like tuning systems, tuned in to our collective memory and our collective becoming. We are not our past. We are not our present. We are always in the process of becoming and we carry this process into being. We wild women carry the emerging possible.
The journey to a wild Feminine wisdom is a weaving way, a sometimes harrowing path, until we can become self-earthed, rooted in our natural feminine sourceground. We are the weavers and Wayfinders for a different kind of world, one in which it will be easier to love.
Here are some practices to reclaim your own wild feminine power and wisdom:
Welcome your dreams. Take action on them.
Walk in Nature.
Do yoga, dance, swim.
Begin each day by writing three pages.
Read inspiring spiritual prose or poetry.
Be quiet for a half hour every day to listen for the still, small voice within.
Create something, often. A poem, a song, a dance, a collage, a drawing.
Be alert to the synchronicities around you.
The more you practice the more you can begin to trust and be peaceful, rooted in the faith Spirit will let you know what needs your attention, what is flourishing as well as offering creative possibilities for your future.
About the Author
A Jungian psychologist, dream consultant, author and artist for over thirty years, Dr. Steele has taught extensively in the Bay Area and abroad on women’s psychology, the wisdom of dreams and the essential role of the wild and sacred Feminine archetype in the evolution of consciousness. Her office is in Lafayette, and she consults via telephone and Skype.
She has published creative nonfiction and spiritual memoir in numerous journals and anthologies such as Psychological Perspectives: A Jungian Journal, SageWoman, Zone 3, and Left Curve.
In 2012 she published a deck of Wild Cards, poetry to empower and awaken women. A memoir, The Wild Feminine: Stories to Inspire and Embolden, was released in May 2013 and recently chosen as one of The Spirited Woman Foundation’s Top Book Picks. A second book, The Way of the Wild Feminine:Tell a New Story, Draw a New Map for the World, is forthcoming in 2016.
For further information, go to theWildFeminine
I’m so happy to have Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, guest blogging on Yoga and Recovery! Read on to discover how yoga can be a different kind (it has kindness) of mirror than the judge-ing one of the Eating Disorder:
The yoga mat is commonly described as a mirror that reflects our reactions, habits, strengths, and weaknesses. As the metaphor goes, what shows up in our lives plays out on our yoga mats.
For a long time I resisted this metaphor. After all, mirrors could never ever offer the safety, solace, and freedom that my yoga mat provides. My mat is home base, a playground for creative and physical expression. When I am on my yoga mat, I tend to forget I have an eating disorder. On my mat, I am me, just me. That other part, the illness and tireless efforts of recovery, is quiet. My mind and body are at peace.
Mirrors, in comparison, have been a source of angst and duplicity. More times than not I stared back at a self filled with doubt, unease, and disgust. Amid all the panicked body checking and countless wardrobe changes the mirror could never provide comfort. It only fed my irrational need to scrutinize my body nearly to death.
Years of yoga and recovery have both fostered in me a steadfast practice of svadhyaya, the Sanskrit term for self-study, which means turning inward and observing your actions, reactions, emotions, and habits. From the awareness born out of self-study we can tap into insights about our relationships with ourselves and others. In this sense, the self-study we do on our yoga mats is deep, true reflection, making our mats figurative mirrors. The body scrutiny we do in front of the mirror, however, is not reflection; it’s compulsion and self-mutiny.
In my experience, self-study can help us redefine our relationship with the mirror–yes, that very same mirror that has appeared to be the enemy all this time. As we stand in front of the mirror we have a ripe opportunity for self-study instead of body-scrutiny. Our habit is to despise, disdain, and be cruel to ourselves, but if we can catch ourselves body checking or spiraling into self loathing, we can than begin to study those responses. In other words, we can literally push pause on these highly charged habits (or rituals) and reflect on what beliefs are driving those behaviors.
Some questions to jumpstart your self-study might be
- Why am I obsessing about my body right now?
- What is this body checking really about?
- Why do I feel “X” right now?
- What does berating myself in front of the mirror get me?
- How can I be more kind to myself?
Once we pull back from the reflection in the mirror and turn inward, we neutralize the mirror and it’s power over us. We literally turn away from that version of our reflection. We shift away from body-scrutiny and practice self-study, and we re plenty strong to handle what we learn about ourselves.
Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, the founder of Chime, is a yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders. Her program Resilience Yoga for Eating Disorders™ aims to help individuals
with navigate the daily challenges of recovery with yoga. Jennifer is also a yoga therapist at Monte Nido Philadelphia, a treatment center for eating disorders. Her ultimate goals in life are to be a positive role model for her daughters and to teach them that anything is possible when we ring true (Chime) with who we are at our core and live with strong intention.
In introducing this month’s Butterfy Effect theme of CONNECTING, I am honored to share an interview by the founder of Recovery Warriors, Jessica Raymond, MS. Recovery Warriors is a multimedia resource hub for hope and healing from an eating disorder. Here is a link to the podcast: RecoverywarriorsPodcast
The desire to become a mom can be a motivating factor in eating disorder recovery. However,the challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period mirror the early stages of recovery. Both pregnant and new mothers and women recovering from eating disorders experience anxiety, body image distress, difficulty sleeping, hormonal changes, appetite changes, and ambivalence/excitement/distress around cultivating a new identity. In this episode of The Recovery Warrior Show, expert Dr. Linda Shanti shares personal and professional stories of recovering from an eating disorder and entering into motherhood. Listen in regardless of where you are at in the biological cycle because there is much to learn.
What You’ll Learn
- Why people don’t talk about miscarriages
- How pregnancy is similar to early stages of recovery
- Why you need to be proactive in seeking professional help before having a baby?
- Why how a mother eats affects her child
- Is there a right time to have a kid
The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Advice to Former Self
You’ll get through this honey, you will. It’s going to change you and it is changing you and that’s ok; that’s the way it’s supposed to be. There’s no parallel life that you’re supposed to be leading; this is it, this is not a detour. Just because you’re suffering doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path; you’re absolutely on the right path. Keep going.
Definition of Recovery
Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Not engaging in behaviors that hurt me. Moving toward growth edges. Accepting my body as it is. Allowing and inviting all feelings. Lowering the bar on perfectionism. Thinking in the rainbow between black and white. Listening to my heart and connecting with a larger purpose.
As I’m wrapping up this month’s theme of CREATIVITY, I’m reflecting on some of the fabulous resources I found for recovering women, moms, people who think-they-are-not-creative, and mommy-preneurs (which I’ll share at the end of this blog).
One of those resources was The Right Brained Business Plan by Jennifer Lee (Novato: New World Library, 2011). In it, she offers all kinds of creative tools for entrepreneurs, mommy-preneurs, and people recovering from vagueness in their finances and their visions (which is a lot of recovering people!).
One exercise looks at the values you want to embody, and that you want your business to stand for. As I started to collage this, I realized the best way to image it was to use the thank you notes I have accumulated from clients over the years. These expressions of gratitude most clearly vision WHY I do this work and feed the values I believe in, and want to continue to cultivate in being a therapist:
Listening to your Heart, Trusting your Body, and Finding your Recovery Voice
Mostly I want my clients to know: YOU CAN DO THIS. I believe in you. It is possible to recover. I am so grateful to have been given the gift to be of service to help women on this journey. As they say in recovery, You can’t give it away unless you have it, and you cant keep it unless you give it away.
Stay tuned for lots of fabulous GUEST BLOGGERS as this month’s theme is CONNECTING.
In the meantime, here are a few fabulous creativity resources for recovering women, moms, and mommy-preneurs. (This is by no means an exhaustive list):
- The Artists Way or The Artists’ way for Parents By Julia Cameron
- The Creative Journal (or anything else by) Lucia Cappicione
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions, or Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne LaMott
- Soulcollage Evolving by Seena Frost, MFT
- How to Make MeCards: Creative Expression for Children and the Grownups in their Lives by Nancy Weiss, Jane Raphael
- The Right Brained Business Plan by Jennifer Lee
- Momosas: Fun Alcohol-Free Drinks for Expecting Moms (and those that are sober) By Paul Knorr
- Color with Me, Mom! Color, Create, and Connect with your Child by Jasmine Narayan and Hannah Davies
- Between Mom and me: Mother Son Journal by Kayie Clemons
I recently gave a talk for parents on Eating Disorders and what parents wanted to know most was: How do I prevent my child from developing an eating disorder?
Here are five things you can do (and some you can be conscious of NOT doing) to assist with preventing your child from developing an eating disorder:
- 1. DON’T Diet.
Diets don’t work. This has been proven again and again. Here are a few scary statistics:
*95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, Levine, Spencer, Colditz, & Stampfer, 1996; Neumark-Sztainer, Haines, Wall, & Eisenberg, 2007).
*80% of 10-year-old girls in America have dieted to lose weight. (Bates, 2016)
Women who were put on diets as young girls are more likely to struggle with obesity, alcohol abuse and disordered eating as adults. (Keel, 2014).
*35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995).
- 2. DO eat intuitively.
Intuitive eating can be summarized by: relying on internal cues for hunger and satiety, eating for physiological rather than emotional reasons, having no dietary restrictions/unconditional permission to eat, and body size acceptance (Tribole, and Resche, Intuitive Eating A Revolutionary program that Works, 1995, 2012). Listen to your own hunger and don’t restrict. Give yourself permission to enjoy eating!
- 3. Take care of your own body image.
Be mindful that you are your child’s mirror. You may be tempted, as I saw in a humourous newspaper wear a “Mom’s Bathing Suit as One Giant, Body-Ecclipsing Ruffle.” You many gaze disgustedly in the mirror at your postpartum muffin top. Postpartum body image and ageing can be brutal. However, don’t allow yourself to buy into the culture’s message around self-worth being tied to “getting your postbaby body back in shape.”
A) Your postpartum body will never be the same shape. You grew a baby in there.
B) Your worth is bigger now. You have been changed by life. Try and embrace and radically accept that. Be proud of your tummy like your child is proud of theirs. You are beautiful because of the life you have lived and your body reflects that: all the scars, stretches, and wrinkles. A wizened tree does not Botox itself to look like a skinny leaf-sprout. Be the tree that you are proudly (or, on a bad day, good-enough).
- 4. Follow the “Division of Responsibility” when feeding your child.
Briefly, the division of responsibility is: The parent is responsible for What, When, and Where you eat. The child is responsible for How much and Whether they eat. This is based on Ellen Sattyr’s work. To see a handout on this, click here
I know it can be hard to trust that your child WILL choose to eat vegetables. But it CAN and DOES happen. See this amazing transformation in my own little one, who used to only eat anything soft and white. Notice how one carrot and two bits of pepper have grown into a plate almost entirely filled with vegetables!
(By the way, DO respect sensory sensitivities. If your child prefers soft texture, make soft texture food and gradually without a fight and making it fun introduce other textures.) And, remember: there are no bad foods. Kids need carbs and fat, and so do you. They help you have enough energy, they feed your brain.
- 5. Allow all feelings in your family (especially uncomfortable ones like anger, fear, and shame).
Low tolerance for negative affect has been shown to be one of the factors contributing to eating disorders. What does this mean? It means, in order to create an environment where your child will not feel they have to hide or stuff parts of themselves in order to be loved, you have to allow discomfort. Anger is a tough one. Most people error in one direction (rage at others) or the other (blame self and stuff into depression). Work on expressing anger at the level of irritation before it gets too overwhelmingly big. Have weekly family meetings. If you get in a fight with your partner, make up and show your child you have made up so they can see people re-unite after being mad at each other. When your child is mad, don’t withdraw your affection. Notice: “I see you are mad. I’m going to help you. I love you even when you are mad. You can hit the pillow, but not me. I’m going to stay with you until we work this out.” Allow fear. Allow insecurity, embrace imperfection. When someone makes a mistake in our house, we say “Yay! I made a mistake!” This is not my natural inclination. The natural inclination with shame is to hide it. Sweep it under the rug quickly! Pretend-like-you-know-what-you-are-doing-before-you-get-in-trouble-or-someone-sees-that-you-are-a-fraud! Don’t do this. Turn toward your own and your child’s imperfections and growth edges. Growing requires failing, and failing, and failing before succeeding. Support your child in practicing new skills. When your little one is learning to walk and falls down, you say “Hooray! Try again!” Continue to do this with yourself and your little one. Again and again.
It is possible to prevent eating disorders. And it is also possible to build a strong protective factors so that if your child develops one, they can recover with more ease. Do what you can. Eating Disorders are complex and develop from a unique and individual interplay of many factors. Eating disorders are no-one’s fault, but everyone’s responsibility. Prevention and recovery are possible.
I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love author)’s new book Big Magic. It is a fabulous journey exploring the relationship between fear, creativity, inspiration, and life. Here is an excerpt of a letter she wrote to fear.
“Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously…But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way…You’re allowed to have a seat, you’re allowed to have a voice, but you’re not allowed to have a vote…above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
It can be hard to talk back to fear, to allow it, without letting it run the show. Fear likes to be dictatorial. It lives in the land of cognitive distortions, so it is full of globalizing, catastrophizing, shaming, and emotional reasoning. “This will never work,” “If you do this, you will never have enough money to live on,” “Who do you think you are?!” “You are a fraud, and they are going to find out eventually, so why even pretend you’re not?” “This is the way things have always been, so this is the way they should be.”
In my own recovery I had to learn to identify the voice of fear, like a subtle click of the clock, tick tick tick, always whispering in the background of my mind. I had to notice this was part but not all of me. In my work with clients, I help facilitate separating out the voices of fear and also of the eating disorder (sometimes shortened to “Ed”). They are often quite similar in tone. This is an important aspect of recovery, and of cultivating the courage to be your full self, because it allows you access to the other pats of you. Fear and Ed do not like you to be aware that you have other parts to yourself. They speak loudly, and try to run your life. OK, sometimes they speak quietly. Actually, they’re quite sneaky that way: they morph. Sometimes they are so quiet that you can’t even hear them talking to you, because it is more of a niggling, silent belief that colors your whole world view. For example, it might not say this, but rather imply strongly as a silently pervasive belief, don’t even try because you are going to fail. Before you act on this belief, it is important to take opposite action. Jenni Schaeffer, in her book Life without ED, writes about the importance of learning to Disagree and Disobey the Ed voice:
When you are trying to begin your separation from Ed, it is important that you first recognize Ed’s rules in your life. You must be able to distinguish between standards that Ed holds for you and healthy boundaries that you set for yourself. You must realize that Ed’s rules do not make sense. For instance, many of Ed’s rules contradict each other. On one day, Ed tells you not to touch that ice cream or dare drink that soda. Then, the very next day, Ed says, “Eat that entire gallon of ice cream, and drink three cans of soda. Eat as much as you can until you feel sick.” Ed’s rules are designed to harm us.
After you are able to recognize Ed’s rules in your life, you must try to disagree with and disobey them. Even if it seems impossible for you to actually disagree with one of Ed’s rules, you must still try to disobey him. If you are able to break his rules no matter what, you are taking a huge step toward separating from Ed. Disobeying Ed means you are moving in the right direction. Don’t expect it to be easy.
In the beginning of my recovery twenty years ago, I would say this to my ED voice every week when getting ready to attend my recovery support group:
You can come if you want. You are welcome to ride the bus with me to get there, you are welcome to attend the meeting. You don’t get to decide if I go. We are going. I show up, now, regardless.
And then I would go to my support group. Every week. For the record, Ed kept trying to convince me otherwise:
“You haven’t had any eating disorder behaviors in a week (a month, 6 months,…), you don’t need to go!”
“You just had a hard day at work. You already did your job today. You need to rest. Just skip it this one time.”
“You’re fat.” (Ed’s answer to every question and reason for not participating in any and all aspects of life.)
My Ed voice doesn’t do this anymore because it knows it has been banished. It’s not driving the bus, car, or whatever vehicle you want to use as a metaphor for the-part-of-the-Self-that-is-driving-decision-making. However, fear is still here. Fear says
“You don’t need to do your spiritual practice today – just sleep in.”
“You don’t need to write. It is too tedious, it doesn’t pay, your favorite publisher is closing down, no-one reads anymore, anyway… “
But the thing is, writing makes me happy. Not euphoric-happy; but content-happy. Clear-happy. Free of resentments and the cumulative-gunk-of-living-cleared-out happy. My first year of recovery I worked in a recovery book store. Sometimes, when I had to open the store early, I would not have time to write before coming in. The owner of the store (who was also my friend and inspiration for getting into recovery) would know the days I had written and the days I hadn’t. He would say “STEER CLEAR OF HER” and bring me coffee on the days I hadn’t.🙂
Writing is like recovery, meditation, or any creative practice that you show up for on a regular and consistent basis. It gradually, subtly, integrates the shit (compost, anger, resentments, fears) into new sprouts. And these sprouts grow into plants (or not – some of them die and that is appropriate). And the plant that survives becomes the tree of who you are and who you are becoming. It brings the gift of hard-won persistent and regular work. It makes you more authentically you in a subtle but essential way. It wears down your anxieties, softens your fear. It uses your sadness and grief as a way into the interior of your (and other’s) Hearts. When you show up to the page, day after day, month after month, year after year, you become real. Velveteen Rabbit real. And by the time you become Real, you don’t care anymore what the Ed-voice or the fear-voice have to say. They can’t stop you any more. You have found the Real-ness. That is the Big Magic.That is recovery.
I’m so excited to have a guest blog today by By Andrea Wachter, LMFT, co-author of The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook and the new children’s book Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell. I have followed her work for years (since I got into recovery nineteen years ago!) and am honored to share her words of wisdom.
Breaking the Bad Body Image Legacy
I was raised by a mom who was extremely dissatisfied with her body. Sadly, and statistically, there is a good chance that you were too. It’s nobody’s fault. Most of our mothers were handed the same bad body image baton that we were, leaving far too many of us competing in the never ending race of trying to eat a certain way, exercise a certain way and look a certain way in order to feel attractive and loveable.
Fortunately, there is a movement toward health and healing. My hope is that someday, a woman who dislikes or despises her body will be as rare as one who thinks that washing her child’s mouth out with soap is a wise parenting tool. As a culture, we need a massive update on our body image programming and if you are reading this blog, there is a good chance that you are up for the task.
Whether someone inherits a bad body image from their family, or learned it from our crazy culture, it is possible to heal. In my therapy practice, I have worked with women of all ages and from all walks of life and I have found that if there is desire and willingness, there is hope to break the legacy of bad body image.
My earliest memory of body image awareness was when I was about eight years old. I innocently walked into the bathroom and saw my mom soaking in the tub. While I don’t remember her exact words, I do recall her saying something negative and unkind about her body. I silently wondered why she didn’t like her body. And the programming went on from there: negative comments she made about feeling or being fat; certain foods being deemed “good” or “bad;” needing to diet or exercise to make up for what she ate.
Then came the painfully memorable shift when the focus turned to my body: Being told I was “getting a little chubby;” getting served the tasteless diet foods that were kept in a special freezer in the garage, while my dad and brother ate the regular foods from the kitchen; my dad telling me I have “such a pretty face,” if only I would “lose a few pounds;” paying my sister and me to lose weight.
I harbor not an ounce of blame or resentment toward these precious people. They received the same mixed-up messages we all have: If you lose weight, you will be more attractive and loveable. If you exercise, eat lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, you will be “good.” If you eat what have been deemed “bad” foods, you will be out of control and lose the praise and love you so hunger for.
Being a sensitive child who was desperately eager to please, I took my parents’ early teachings to heart. My dieting turned to sneak eating which led to periods of serious restricting which led to major binges which eventually morphed into a hard core case of bulimia. I added massive amounts of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes into the mix and spent decades completely lost in food, weight and body obsession. My self-worth, my social life, my love life, my health and my schooling were all greatly and negatively impacted by my painful and insidious relationship with food and my constant attempts to lose weight. And even when I did manage (countless times) to lose weight, it never once brought the peace of mind and happiness that I was told it would. Instead, my weight losses came with terror of weight gain and the animal-like hunger that accompanies and follows starvation.
I once asked my mom how she became so obsessed with dieting and so unhappy with her body. She told me that her mom and grandmother were both heavy but really didn’t seem to give it a second thought. It was only when she moved out of her poor Brooklyn neighborhood and into a “nice neighborhood filled with thin women” that she began to diet. She said, “I think I learned it from friends and it probably came from watching TV. Plus, your father was always so obsessed with my being thin.”
I then asked my dad how he came to be so obsessed with thinness. His answer was honest and it actually made sense to me. My dad ran a ladies clothing company in Manhattan. He worked tirelessly in the factory and he explained, “I guess I saw that the sewers in the factory were all fat and poor and seemed pretty unhappy. They had hard lives. The models who worked for us in the showroom were all thin, rich and glamourous and they seemed to be so happy.” Seemed being the operative word here. My precious papa took a small segment of the population, made some big assumptions, and based on his profound love for me, led me down a road he thought would bring me goodness. As did my mom. We were all given the same faulty programs.
The great news is that I eventually found my way out. And even better news is that I made a career out of it. My life’s work is now about helping others overcome their battles with food, weight and body issues as well as doing early prevention for kids who are showing signs of body dissatisfaction. Much like drugs, the earlier you intervene, the less entrenched the patterns are and all the more hope there is to change.
I was not a light weight dieter, binger and body hater. (Pardon the pun!) I went hard core. Fortunately, I dove hard core into healing too. It takes hard core dedication to break the legacy that so many of us have been handed: to eat exactly what we want in moderate amounts; to say “no” to food, even when others are pushing us to eat; to say “yes” to moving our bodies in ways we love; to say “yes” to rest when we are tired; to say “yes” to tears and compassion when we are sad, mad or scared; to speak our truth rather than stuff it with excess food; to say “no” to unachievable perfection; to accept and appreciate the size and shape of the bodies we were given, the age we are, the aging process.
Healing from food and body issues is not for the faint of heart, but then neither is starving ourselves, overeating, bingeing, body hatred or constant comparing. Both paths are challenging but thankfully one road leads to freedom and peace. I wish this for you.
Click here to check out Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell by Andrea Wachter and Marsea Marcus.
Andrea Wachter is a psychotherapist and co-author of Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell as well as The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook. She is also au
thor of the upcoming book, Getting Over Overeating for Teens. Andrea is an inspirational counselor,
author and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others. For more information on her books, blogs and other services, please visit innersolutions