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When "Feeling Your Feelings" is a Terrible Idea

A Young Peaceful Prophet(Originally published on MindBodyGreen 5/21/14.) In the healing world there seems to be a general consensus that feelings are meant to be embraced, fully entered and wholly felt. “The only way out is through,” as it were.

For the most part, I agree. As a body-centered psychotherapist, I often talk with my clients about how the human organism works, and how feelings are designed to come up and out (while helping my clients become aware of where and how they interrupt these biological processes, and thus their contact with life).

I do believe that leaving feelings stuck, frozen and unfelt can diminish and contort how we experience ourselves in the present, causing us emotional suffering and even physical illness.

But not all feelings are meant to be felt. Any negative, self-hating thoughts or feelings are NOT meant to be indulged.

If you feel disgusting because you ate a doughnut this morning, you don’t want to steep yourself in that experience. If you feel a nagging sense of worthlessness inside of yourself, you need to run interference with that when it comes up.

The feelings of self-hatred may feel full-bodied and undeniable. That doesn’t mean that you go down that road. Your job in that moment is to put down the thread and walk away. Your job is to INSIST on treating yourself with kindness and respect.

This matters because if you are on the path to your higher Self, to greater awareness and self-knowing, indulging your self-deprecating feelings will stunt your growth. They are road blocks, contractions, snarls on the path. To indulge them drains your power. You are so much brighter and bigger than that voice will give you credit for.

Here’s what you can do:

1. The first step is to notice.

Try to breathe a sliver of space in between the shitty thoughts you are thinking about yourself and your experience of them. Try to gently catch yourself. You might observe, “Wow, I’ve been telling myself I’m stupid for what I said to my boss for last two hours. OK.” The more you can engage the neutral observer in yourself, the easier it will be to notice the thoughts and stop them.

2. Stop the thoughts!

It may sound silly, but try to imagine a stop sign when you see your mind heading for the rabbit hole of self-hatred. Imagine you have an invisible bubble around you that doesn’t let toxic energy or thoughts in. Hear the mocking words you are saying to yourself, and imagine they are sliding off that bubble, unable to penetrate and reach you. Find an image that works for you.

3. Breathe.

When you're coming down hard on yourself, a great way to save yourself from this torture is to stop what you are doing and breathe. One to three deep breaths will connect you to your body and help it relax.

4. Use a mantra.

While you're breathing, repeat the words, “I am valuable, lovable and whole. Even though I'm not perfect, I love and accept myself.”

When it comes to feeling your feelings, discernment is key. There is an art to navigating and utilizing emotions, thoughts and feelings.

Discomfort is often a powerful source of information for what needs to change in your life. But some discomfort is overt or subtle self-flagellation.

Try incorporating one of these steps and see what happens. Be extra gentle with yourself. You are valuable, divine, worthy and whole. Treat yourself accordingly.

Photo credit:  Krynowek Eine via Compfight

8 Tips to Get the Most Out of Therapy

  IMG_9713If you are struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions, don't quit! Maybe what you are working on right now is not a one-person job.

Investing in yourself by starting therapy can be a great way to support your intentions for this upcoming year and beyond.

If you have never been to therapy it can be hard to know what to expect. I want to give you an inside scoop and share my thoughts on how to set yourself up for maximum growth and change.

  1. Be gentle. Yup, it's rule #1. The majority of the work I do with my clients is helping them become gentle with themselves; to get curious about their inner world and the way they are organized. You can't bully yourself into becoming Whole. You need to love yourself Whole. There is no way around this one.
  2. Transition. When we are working with material that is not yet conscious, it requires a certain mindful positioning. When you arrive to your session, find your feet on the floor, your pelvis in your seat, elongate your spine and find your breath. We are going inside to wander into non-ordinary places. This kind of work is greatly supported by transitioning out of the busy work day and becoming present so we can hear the whisperings of the soul.
  3. Challenge yourself. Take risks. Stretch for the uncomfortable material. Admit the inadmissible, speak the unspeakable. What you put in is what you will get out.
  4. Challenge your therapist. I love when my clients challenge me. My clients come to work on something, but they also come to teach me something about myself. Say the thing you are afraid to say. Ask questions you think you're not allowed to ask.
  5. Make a commitment. The therapeutic relationship is the foundation of therapy. It supports all of the work that we do together. By using our relationship as a guide, we come to more deeply understand the other important relationships in your life. The better I understand you and the safer you feel with me, the more deeply and effectively we can work together. Like any valuable relationship, it takes time and commitment to develop.
  6. Be consistent. Therapy is not like a doctor's visit where you only show up when you're not feeling well. Think of it like the gym: You don't build a muscle by picking up a set of weights once in a while. Consistency is the best way to get the most out of your time and money. All you have to do is show up.
  7. Keep a therapy journal. Journaling creates continuity between sessions. It is a way to keep the material alive. Write down thoughts, questions, themes, feelings, or something you want to meditate on over the course of the week.
  8. Stop thinking you're crazy. I hear some clients initially half-joke that they must be "crazy" to be in therapy. You are not crazy, ok? Therapy is hygienic. Inner exploration is an adventure and one that requires pretty important and mature faculties. Personal evolution and movement toward growth is sexy. Let's face it, the world needs more people who are willing to do the hard work of looking closely at themselves. This isn't a selfish or narcissistic endeavor. Healing, loving and accepting yourself is a gift you give to yourself and to the world around you.

If you are in therapy now, you can accelerate the change process by incorporating even one of these ideas. If things are getting stale with your therapist, shake things up and see what happens.

If you're not in therapy, maybe this is the year to finally get cracking on the work you have been meaning to do on yourself for ages but have put off. The work is waiting for you. It's not a matter of getting around it. You can choose whether to do the work now or later in life, but you might as well do it now.

I think you are so very worth it.

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I hope this feels helpful. I would love to hear from you- What is something that helped you deepen the work you were doing in therapy?

Holiday Survival Guide

08-08-10 All The Beauty That's Inside

 

 

Happy holidays! Are you groaning? If you are feeling anxious about reconnecting with the fam this week- hang tight. I’m going to share some simple and effective ways of not just "getting through," but actually enjoying time spent with the special people in your life.

As you probably already know, holidays can be intense. Going home is basically asking the universe to give you “stimulating” material to work with.

If you walk through your parent’s front door tentatively, hoping and praying that this year everyone finally gets along, you might be setting yourself up for disaster. Or at least some frustration and disappointment.

What’s tricky about family time is that two parallel realities are happening: your adult brain thinks things are cool because you *know* (cognitively) that you are an adult who has choices. However, the younger, wounded part of you; the part of you that is still yearning for something she never got or is sitting with unprocessed trauma or resentment, is vulnerable to being activated....which means all kinds of sticky feelings can get drudged up, usually without much awareness.

This year, infuse some space and consciousness into time spent with your family. We want to work the psychic muscle that holds your needs in consideration while moving through the activities, demands and interactions of the week.

A little preparation can go a long way. Here are 5 tips to minimize toxicity and give you the best shot at having meaningful, contactful time with your loved ones.

1. Take your pulse. Keep a gentle, mindful eye on what is happening for you internally. Notice how you feel before a conversation starts. Then check back in 5 minutes later. Are you breathing? Are you anxious? Are you angry? Did you just eat 5 cookies? Keeping a finger on the pulse of your experience will give you the greatest leverage for taking care of yourself in the moment.

2. Make Boundaries. A healthy boundary means being willing to adjust to take care of your needs-- not your brother’s or mom’s-- first. It means leaving 2 days earlier than planned if the environment becomes toxic. Instead of letting your mom get away with making remarks about your appearance that drive you nuts, say “Mom, I know you care about me AND I really don’t like it when you comment on how I look. It makes me uncomfortable. Would you mind keeping those thoughts to yourself?” Say it with love and compassion. Say it with an authentic smile, because you love this woman. She makes you crazy, but you can help her make you less crazy.

3. Visualize. If you know you will be seeing a ‘certain someone’ that pushes all of your buttons, anticipate a challenging moment that might occur and visualize yourself handling it in a way where you remain in integrity while being kind and loving with the other person. This will calm your central nervous system and help you move more gracefully into said person’s vicinity.

4. Remember that you are an adult. You are a bona-fide adult! How quickly we can forget when around family. You are not small, victimized and left with no choices or power. You are 100% in control, which means you can engage in or stop any conversation you choose. You decide how people speak to you. Steer your interactions from this seat of adult consciousness.

5. Take care of your child. Your inner-child that is. Your hurt inner child has the potential to become triggered. Before you start your travels, think about her and see how old she looks. Tell her that you will be taking care of her throughout the week and that she is safe with you. Keep her in your consciousness. If you find yourself being triggered, you can go to a private room and connect with and soothe her. For example, you can hold a pillow and rock it as though it was the smaller part of you that is hurt. If you feel too activated/upset, find a private space to be held and nurtured: wrap yourself in a warm blanket and imagine being cradled. Take a warm bath. Enlist support. Ask your partner for a hug. Call a friend.

Anticipation and mindfulness are the name of the game.  These tips are subtle yet quite effective at shaking you out of the habitual role you play in your family. Keep in mind that your loved ones may become annoyed, upset, angry. This is alright. One of my favorite mantras right now is "I'm ok, even if you're not ok." Put that one in your pocket. This is not easy work but it's how we wrestle ourselves free from childhood and really, fully, step into our adult lives.

I think it's important to note that you are not doing this inner work to become the Family Douchebag. A lot of what is suggested here may mistakenly come across as selfish, but when you move from your heart,  you are working on behalf of yourself and your family. Two days of authentic contact spent with your family is better for everyone than 5 days where you are crawling out of your skin.

Honor yourself.

Honor your family.

Move from your heart.

Wishing you courage, joy & fierceness this holiday season!

______________________

I would love to hear from you! What helps you tolerate or enjoy the holidays? Is there anything you did to rock the boat that ended up bringing your family closer together? 

Thanks for reading and sharing.

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