Monthly Archives: June 2014

Love & Anxiety #20: Gratitude for our humanness?

This week I have been reading an awesome book called “Leaving Church: A memoir of faith”, http://www.barbarabrowntaylor.com and I have so enjoyed her prose, which somehow manages to be soaring, AND yet full of  down to earth wisdom. And, what I have really resonated with is her affirming the goodness of being a human! That our humanness is not the cause of our problems, so much as refusing to acknowledge we are human. Since we are human, we are fallible, messy, confused, prone to errors and tempers, stress and struggle. While at the same time, we are beautiful, loving, capable of great generosity and deeds of kindness, and containing great reservoirs of wisdom. This is one of her many books and is a worthwhile read, even if you don’t come from a faith tradition.

But since this blog is about love & anxiety, what I want to share today is how practicing gratitude for our humanness is a massive anxiety buster! Whenever we are able to accept what actually is (reality), rather than trying to live out what we wish we were (denial and pretense), our stress levels decrease. We are human and when we allow ourselves to love our humanness, “all our curves and our edges and our perfect imperfections”, to quote John Legend, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg anxiety diminishes and in its place, we make room for pleasure, joy and peace again. 

Being human means we learn, change, and grow as the years go by. What good parent would be angry at a child who takes at least 2 or more years to gain urinary continence (a child who pees their pants, for those who like simple words)? None, because good parents understand developmental tasks, and that the growth and maturation process of a human child goes on for years and years and years! Those of you who have grown children still living with you, really know what I mean.  So, growing fully into our humanness and living well is also a developmental process. One, I will submit, we are engaged in for our entire lives. Maybe there are a few of you that are fully done and have no more growing to do, but I am speaking to the rest of us that are continuing to learn and grow daily.

If taking the risk of loving our humanness becomes a desire, and we are willing to do the hard work of changing the internal lenses through which we view ourselves and our expectations, we can learn to live in the deep gratitude that comes from loving that we are human beings. Dr. Taylor seems to have learned this lesson, and I know it is one I have been working on for quite some time. The other benefit of gratefully embracing our humanness, is that gratitude in general decreases anxiety. If you recall, some of the earlier blogs were about how the brain is biased toward negative information and how we need to take in the “good” in our life in order to overcome the negativity. Practicing gratitude for anything is a great way to take in the good and shift our brain out of the anxiety/danger mode, back into openness and relaxation. 

I encourage you to work on “loving all your curves and all your edges and all your perfect imperfections” this week. Practice gratitude for your life and your human body, even if you screw up, yell at your kids, or fail to yet again to attain your own (too high) expectations. Please let me know how it goes!

Image

     Cameron and his mom, embracing his humanness!

Going deeper:

1. What does this blog bring up for you? Resonance and relief, or resistance and resentment? Journal about your answer and see what comes up for you.

2. Where did you get your first messages about your humanness? Were they positive messages or negative ones?

3. If this practice seems too hard or even impossible, I invite you to pick just one aspect of your humanness and just try to feel gratitude for it. It is a powerful practice and you will be surprised at how easy it becomes when you make this a new habit.

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Blog 19: Rage, Art & Poetry

Today we will talk about Art, and specifically, poetry. Poetry is a powerful art medium that combines words, metaphors, and images in a manner that deeply touches the human soul. According to wikipeda.com “Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses.” Today we value conventional poetry less than our ancestors did, but our musicians and moviemakers are this generation’s poets. And I would suggest, that is one reason why we value them so deeply and sometimes “worship” some of our favorite bands and musicians.

But an additional benefit of poetry is the reason it is today’s focus. If you can recall the subjects from recent blog posts — emotion, sensation and emotional regulation— then you will see where I am going with this. Poetry is a wonderful means and medium to help us Experience and Express our big emotions. (Remember those 2 E’s that help us better handle our upsetting emotional storms?) By connecting to what we really “feel” inside, we can use the energy generated, and pour it into a poem. Sharing the raw pain/anger/confusion/joy or terror that we feel, allows other humans to realize they are not alone in these states. Poetry has an intimate connecting effect, it often prompts us to say, “Oh you feel that too! Wow, I thought I was alone in this.”  

As a therapist working with anxiety and trauma, I hear terrible stories from people of all ages. Some of these stories are harder to shake off than others and I feel the impact in my body. It is especially hard when working with children or teens. Some stories really trigger me because I have felt or experienced similar emotions, or even situations. In the past I got scared of being overwhelmed by all the pain that found its way into my office day after day. However, years ago, I found out with the help of a wise wizard woman, (you know who you are, and Yes, there are still those living on the planet) that poetry was a wonderful way to allow processing and releasing of these big somatic impacts. So I started writing poetry out of my own rage, confusion, and pain, and the vicarious pain of the courageous people I have the joy of journeying alongside of on this crazy path called life.

Since for many, anger is such a difficult emotion to healthily express, I will show how anger can be expressed in two poems I will use to end today’s blog. Poetry can allow a sense of playfulness, even when expressing rage. (Any poem about clients are a compilation of client stories in order to protect client confidentiality.)

Poem 1- Superhero        by Wanda Brothers

When I grow up, I wanna be

a super-hero, with big black boots

wielding a lengthy whip,

and a surplus of superpowers.

 

My job will be my joy

chasing villains, busting bad guys,

making a safer world for us all,

enacting the eventually promised justice,

that I lack the patience to wait for.

 

I will be respected and feared

and little old ladies will thank me,

and bake me casseroles

for saving their grandchildren

from the swine that pollute

our earth like raw sewage,

raiding and raping with impunity

until they run into me.

 

Then shaking with terror,

they will pee their pants

piteously pleading for the mercy

they denied many a victim.

With studied gravity, I will demur,

and with a pretense of regret, 

I will annihilate them, and then,

dance on their graves with glee.

Poem 2 – Helpless Rage for a Drowning Client   -By Wanda Brothers

My rage is hidden, shy, sly.

It rises and I turn to look

and it’s already gone

like the view in the rear view mirror.

 

The parents are killing her, I say.

and the Bureaucratic bunglers don’t stop them

everyone looks the other way

and she is drowning in front of my eyes.

I give her a breath of clean air

here and there, but stand aside,

as she thrashes, like a good citizen,

while they murder her by inches,

and hack her soul to bits.

 

I want to stab them, slash them

into ribbons, and feed her their flesh

but it will do no good,

nothing does, so I take up

again, my useless vigil

and give her another breath.

       Going Deeper:

  1. Do you enjoy poetry as an art form, if so, who is your favorite poet? If not, can you notice how the lyrics to some of your favorite songs find their way into your soul? 
  2. I encourage you to try writing a poem or a song about the next big emotional storm that you go through. Allow the emotions and sensations to generate words and images and see what happens internally after you get them down on paper or on your ipad/iphone/imac or PC. Then, as one more big step, I suggest you share it with the person closest to you. I think you will be thrilled at how they respond. 
  3. If you want to send me any of your poetry, feel free, I would love to read it. info@sdtraumatherapy.com