Tag Archives: body

BLOG 51- Love & Anxiety: Tips for tough situations!

Angry woman

Do you ever experience situations cropping up that you just don’t want to deal with? Situations that feel overwhelming and too much to handle? I would guess everyone knows what I mean because periodically having to deal with difficult situations is a part of being human. But that doesn’t mean we enjoy the process. Is there a better way of getting through these difficult situations? A way that feels positive, empowering, and life-giving, instead of impossible, awful and soul sucking? Yes there is, and it is possible to thrive in difficult situations, not just survive them.

The first step to thriving in challenging circumstances is to listen to the messages your body is telling you about this issue, to ask internally what your body expects, or fears, will occur. As stated in earlier blogs, human bodies use the language of sensations and emotions to communicate to the mind/brain, what is being experienced. So bring to mind that phone call, meeting, or that upcoming confrontation, and see what your body “says” about it. Ask the question about what your body fears with true, open curiosity. In response, you may (hear) feel sensations of heaviness and dread, or a shaky, quivery anxiety, or some confusion and collapse.

After asking your body what it expects, if the sensations are those of fear and dread, try identifying the location in your body where those sensations are the strongest. Discover the fear “zip code” if you will. Ask that place what it is specifically afraid will happen, or how you could be harmed? Sometimes you will hear a realistic fear, such as, “she will be mad at me”, or, “I will have to find another place to live”. But often, in current situations, our deep sensations of dread and fear are connected to earlier ages and experiences, times when we had less power and less ability to stand up for ourselves or to clearly state our needs. So if your body answers with a fear that sounds irrational, then you may be dealing with an earlier time and body state. In that case bringing in some form of support would be advised and helpful. Often we didn’t get enough support early in our lives, and adding it now makes a difference.

Sometimes, simply saying the irrational fear aloud helps us calm down because we can perceive that what we fear most likely will not occur. But if saying it aloud does not dispel the fear, try talking back to the fear gently and compassionately. Tell the fear what positive things you will do to make the situation better. Let your body know what it can realistically expect and how you will move forward even in the challenge. This may sound odd, but the body is a sentient being that does not feel or understand the same things that the mind does.

Just paying attention to the sensations that feel negative (they are not negative) allows most people to move through the feelings and to calm down. Paying attention with compassion will cause them to dissipate. When our Autonomic Nervous System ANS Video is in high Sympathetic charge mode, our bodies are full of fearful sensations and soaked in stress hormones. At that point our Neo-cortex can go off-line and we are left swimming in a sea of survival soup and have little rational ability left. Once the sensations related to fear, confusion, and disempowerment dissipate or are reduced and the Sympathetic charge lessens, your rational mind, the Neo-cortex, will come back on-line and help you to figure out the wisest course of action to take in this difficult circumstance.

Another aspect that makes a big difference in how we navigate challenging situations is our attitude toward the difficult circumstance. When we are full of fearful sensations and our ANS is full of Sympathetic arousal, our attitude is usually a negative one. We think things like, ‘its not fair, why is this happening to me, or everything is against me, I can’t catch a break’, etc.  But when we calm our body down and connect body, heart, and mind in unity to deal with the problem, we are able to perceive a more realistic  and more positive view of the situation. With a positive attitude we can think things like, ‘this will help me grow stronger, it can help me be more forgiving’, etc. We have known for years that hardship has great potential to help a person grow in maturity and wisdom. Although, It can also make people bitter. It depends on that person’s focus.

So the next time you face a difficult circumstance, try these tips. See how integrating your body, mind and heart makes for greater empowerment and a more resilient you in the midst of a difficult challenge.

Going Deeper:

1.) What is your Achilles heel? Are there certain situations that are just really hard for you to handle? What kind of support do you have, or bring in when things feel Sucky?

2.) Do you know your own body’s messages? Do you know what happens inside you when things feel safe? What sensations does your body produce when life gets challenging? If you usually only listen to your mind, trying adding hearing the body message, the more info you have the better you can navigate challenges.

Advertisements

#49: Happy New year, goals vs. intentions!

Hello readers, Happy 2017!  I am grateful for another year!  Like many people, I have spent some time this past week reflecting on 2016.

While reflecting, here are a few things I noticed that helped 2016 feel like a great year. I experienced lots of professional growth, including; stronger client skills, supporting the development of other therapists, more speaking engagements, and more teaching opportunities. I also experienced personal growth in openness, mindfulness and the ability to put my body and my own well-being first. (Remember this refrain from a past blog—Self-care is never Selfish!) 2016 also included more surfing and much more time spent having fun! Which is probably what I am the most pleased about. Sometimes we grown-ups can get so damned serious about life and accomplishing that we forget what all work and no play does to our bodies and souls.

While reviewing the list of intentions (not goals/resolutions) I made in January of 2016, I was gratified to see that many of my intentions were met this past year. And, even with the intentions not fully met, there was forward movement. I had heard so often that setting intentions is a powerful practice and opens up wonderful energy for moving us toward those things we intend.  The results of 2016 proved this to be so.

So my “intention” for writing this short blog today, as we end 2016, is to cheer you all on! Those who usually set a list of intentions for the New Year,  go for it!  Be bolder and more creative and courageous in your imagining and intending.  For those who don’t always set intentions, I encourage you to give it a try for 2017!  Think about what you would like more of in your life and move toward that. You will not regret it!

Perhaps it is helpful to end by clarifying my terminology. The reason why I encourage setting intentions rather than settling goals for 2017. While the term goal and intention can have similar meanings, they feel different and have a different energetic force. I have felt much better about the outcomes in the years I have set intentions, than years when I have set “goals”. That may be because goals tend to be tied to very specific outcomes, which can be disheartening or feel impossible to meet. So, I quit before I reach them. Here are a few popular New Year’s Goals/Resolutions; “I will lose 15 pounds, or, I will go the gym 4 times per week”. There is nothing wrong with these goals, and in fact, for some people this works great. They regularly set and meet specific goals. But many of us humans are not so lucky in this regard. And so, it is well known that many New Year’s resolutions/goals tend to bite the dust by mid-February.

On the other hand, an intention could be said to be less specific in it’s parameters, and thus paradoxically, more powerful overall. I.e.’ My intention for 2017 is to treat my body as a valued part of my being and care for it tenderly and lovingly’.  (Now meeting this intention could include going to the gym often and losing some weight, but it will also include giving my body plenty of food, rest, pleasure, etc). So the power of the intention for care and nurture has more compassionate-growth potential, or forward momentum/energy, than me telling my body it has to accomplish a certain outcome.ENERGY FLOWS WHERE INTENTION GOES!  (Which can tend to cause us to feel like our self-love and body love is conditional. Because let’s face it, most of us are not kind to ourselves if we do not attain a goal.)

So, thank you readers and fellow bloggers for journeying together in 2016. I am excited about 2017 and I encourage you to set your intentions for this New Year before it arrives. As always, I am eager to hear how it goes. I would love if readers would share with all of us some of your intentions for 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

img_2994
May your new year be full of flow and restful times!

GOING DEEPER

1.) I shared my connotations with the terms goals and intentions. What are yours?

2.) What intentions might you add to your list for 2017 that you may never have thought of or had the courage to say aloud before? What experience have you had with setting intentions in the past? What are some of the notable intentions you have set and met?

Blog 43: Love & Anxiety, why Pleasure and Enjoyment matter!

Image
Adventure – healthy Pleasure

I thought we would take a break from harder topics today and think about something we love, Pleasure and Enjoyment! These these 2 concepts, while related topics, they are not the same thing. Though many of us assume that Pleasure absolutely leads to Enjoyment, this is not always true. Today, we will talk about the difference between Pleasure and Enjoyment and what this difference means to our bodies and Nervous systems, and how this difference deeply impacts our ability to either rest in love, or to flail in the chaotic sea of anxiety.

Let’s start with Pleasure! As I have recounted in prior blogs, healthy Pleasure is the best antidote to chronic stress and high anxiety. I wish more of us lived and experienced healthy Pleasure on a regular basis, if we did, this country would be a very different place. However, my experience as a human/therapist is that most of us do not experience healthy pleasure on a regular basis. America is a country that craves Pleasure, our advertisements are full of promised Pleasures, but we seem to have a difficult relationship between our desire for pleasure and our experiencing of Pleasure. Most people I know are craving Pleasure but enjoying very little of it.
TV Advertising extolls the joys of being rich, driving great cars, eating tasty (often junk) food, drinking beer and other alcohol, and having tons of sex with hot men/women, etc. While these options may seem pleasurable, why do they often bring so little Pleasure? Why do so many people get addicted to alcohol, food, more money, and sex, just to name a few of our advertised Pleasures?  My hypothesis to these questions does not come from a place of judging Pleasure or thinking it is bad and dangerous. My Mennonite heritage used to cause me to fear Pleasure. But those days are over, I have not been a Mennonite for a very long time, and I have learned how critical it is that I have plenty of healthy Pleasure in my life. My hypothesis comes from living, experimenting, and my observations of humanity.

We experience so little Pleasure because many of the things advertised to bring us Pleasure are either not healthy in certain situations/amounts, or are not actually pleasure, but a gateway to addiction. We all know that alcoholism often begins with social drinking or partying in high school/ college. It seems fun and a harmless pastime, a Pleasure even. But anyone who has lived with a human struggling with the weight of alcoholism can tell you there is NO pleasure in any drink they take. An alcoholic now drinks because they have to and because they cannot quit. What began as a Pleasure has become their Master.

Pornography is another example. AAMFT’s website states that 12 million people struggle with sexual addiction, which usually includes the use of pornography and a majority are now addicted to the use of it. (If you think you are not addicted to it, try to stop viewing it for good and you will know the truth.) It is known that pornography has caused many problems in relationships and that it causes people to become sexually attracted too an unreal human body (airbrushed men and women). Pornography is an example of how a healthy Pleasure, sexuality and the beauty of a human body, can become tainted and unhealthy because it has become an addiction. Addictions are often healthy Pleasures miss used, or run amok. Humans can become addicted to booze, drugs, food, work, sex, exercise, etc. So my hypothesis is that healthy Pleasure is often different from TV advertised Pleasures, and a healthy Pleasure is usually not something we are addicted to.

I make this connections because a healthy Pleasure is something we are able to ENJOY! Craving Pleasure is very different from Enjoying Pleasure. Many humans are not even enjoying the Pleasure they do have, but they are craving more Pleasure, so they run from experience to experience, from sexual partner to sexual partner, from new car to another new car, from one type of pornography to another. Desperately craving Pleasure but finding little enjoyment therein.

I repeat, Pleasure is a wonderful gift, we need Pleasure as humans to balance out all the stress and work we experience in life and relationships. Since American’s over-work compared to many other developed countries, it is no wonder we are a Nation that struggles with many addictions. But the Pleasures we need are healthy Pleasures and those we can Enjoy!  Many of us are adding healthy pleasures to our lives but not enjoying them either. Pleasure and enjoyment are not the same thing!

I have learned this truism over the years. I have had lots of healthy (and some unhealthy) Pleasure in my life but I have spent years not enjoying much of it. This happened because I was not living in my body, or living in the present moment, actually experiencing that Pleasure.  Instead, I was living in my head and in my thoughts. I was adding to my to-do list, or planning for the future, or regretting the past, etc., instead of actually feeling the Pleasure I was experiencing in that moment. If you are not in the present moment and living in your body (aware of your body sensations) you will not experience much Pleasure. This is not a hypothesis but a fact borne out by the last 10 years of research and study of the human body.

In closing I have found that most people agree walking on a beach, vacations, a loving relationship, warm baths, being in nature, eating a lovely meal with friends, sharing a great bottle of wine, a good workout or adventure, sports, art, creating, writing, etc., are all healthy Pleasures.  I will not try to suggest I know what your healthy Pleasures are, but I would suggest you find out and make yourself a list.  If you are currently not allowing yourself to experience your Pleasures ask why not. People who have enough play, rest and healthy Pleasure tend to experience less stress, less struggle with addiction, and more enjoyment in life. And, finally, when indulging in your Pleasure try your best to ENJOY it. After all this is why we really crave Pleasure, we want to enjoy our lives!

To learn more about pleasure and health, click this link.  Steps to perfect health, practice pleasure.

Going deeper:

1: What were your formative messages around Pleasure in general? Was healthy Pleasure modeled for you by your parents/caregivers.

2: Do you Enjoy your Pleasure? Can you resonate with the concept of having Pleasure but not Enjoying it? What attitudes or actions can you take to slow down and become aware of your life and your body so that you can actually experience your Pleasures on a regular basis?

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BLOG 41: Anger & Anxiety:Part two- Poems about rage.

Let’s take a break today from all the Left brain activity consisting of helpful facts and materials about Anger and Anxiety. Let us slip over to our Right brains and connect to the subject in the intuitive, feeling, and creative realm.

I find writing poetry a wonderful outlet for creativity (by that way, expressing our creative energies decreases sensations of anxiety), as well as for off-loading excess emotional energy and anxious activation caused by big feeling states.

This first poem was written years ago as I finally became aware of the old Anger still living in my cells and belly, that had been lurking mostly under my conscious awareness. (I bet the people closest to me were aware of it but I was mostly clueless.) So, when the Anger got so big I could no longer smother and ignore it, I became aware of it but had no idea how to express or get rid of it. I felt terrified and constipated by this stuck angry place inside of my body. So I wrote this poem entitled, “Lucky Bastards”.

Lucky Bastards

Rage is cadged, locked tight

in the castle of my heart

the key lost, some years ago

by my careless hands,

more concerned with building

a stage, on which to play a life,

unable to retain, what’s actual, real.

 

Preferring to paint pretty pictures

others praise, to the middle tint

of authentic life, clouded by gray days

and bouts of rage, marring the pretense

of perfection and poise.

 

Princesses can sulk and pout

but rage is beneath them.

It’s the province of paupers and Princes.

I watch as they rant and rage,

perched decorously on my perfect stage

thinking, “those lucky bastards.”

The second poem was also written a long time ago. My early work as a new therapist trying to support abused clients, was one of the catalysts that brought the beginnings of awareness to my own anger. This Anger, left over, from my own early years of being mistreated; at home at times, school bullying, abusive Spiritual leadership, and maltreatment from tyrannical nasty bosses. Not only did I feel my body’s truth, somehow I was still pissed about it all. Now I was also becoming more aware of new Anger arising. Infuriated by hearing the horror stories coming out in my counseling sessions with teenage clients. Many, of whom, were being mistreated and/or not protected by their parents. This poem arose from my body, almost like vomit from the belly. A visceral response to the counseling work with these young women.

“Helpless Rage for a drowning client”

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.

But 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.

By Wanda Brothers

As you could probably tell from the poems, at that point in my life I had not learned yet to healthily experience and express my Anger. These skills did, and are continuing to, come, but it took professional support and years of work.

We will talk more about Anger and Anxiety in the next blog in this series, focusing on a few of the problematic outcomes from refusing to accept, acknowledge and deal with old or current hurt and pain. These outcomes, Anger’s cousins, are called Bitterness and Resentment and they not only make us, and our loved ones, miserable but they cause tremendous anxiety. And finally, we will focus on healthy Anger.

Please send comments that let the rest of us know about your own struggles with Anger and learning how to deal with it in a healthy manner. We can always learn from each other in every aspect of life. It’s one of the things that makes life worth living.

IMG_0531 In a great mother and daughter bond, anger is still allowed.

Going Deeper:

1.)  What is your visceral/body response to either or both of the poems? Now, what are your emotional and mental responses?  Can you relate to the struggle of buried anger?

2.) How do you deal with old hurts and wounds? Most buried Angry/Rage comes from being harmed or betrayed by our loved ones or other humans. Are you able to confront and move on or do you carry old somatic sensations of Anger and pain inside?

Blog 38: Love & Anxiety-Inner Restlessness

wnd_e35335b44c3bb5c11184fb6856524ab9

Do you ever have one of THOSE days? You know, the ones where you feel antsy and so restless? You feel like you are missing out on some goodness, like you should be somewhere else but you don’t know where. You just feel off and full of angst. I had one of those days this past month. I have noticed, these kind of days are more likely to follow a season of big events or experiences, such as after a successful Attachment training weekend, or an important presentation. Right after I have felt “up” and excited about life and my place in it, if a restless day is going to roll in like a storm front, it tends to follow on the backside of the wake caused by  big “high” feeling. And, just like the wake from a big speedboat, those days tend to throw me off balance.

This sensation of restlessness I am convinced is a part of being human, especially now, in our way too stimulating, technologically advanced culture. For me, the restlessness manifests as a gripping tension in my belly and that unsettled feeling that keeps me from resting and settling, even if I sit and try to meditate. The “message” this sensation gives my body is that I am running out of time and that life is passing me by, that others are experiencing the good I am missing. Getting on FaceBook does not help. Since people post experiences of joy and triumph and not losses or failures, it can seem that everyone else is having the time of their lives. Can anyone else relate to this restlessness?

I will out myself and share an example of how restless sensations can distort beauty and reality. I was cycling alone up the bike path on the Strand a few weeks ago. I had been feeling restless all morning but during the ride I settled and became more awake and aware. I began to really be present to the experience. Suddenly, I had such a strong sense that we are all connected, humans, nature, even the caterpillars crawling across the path I was carefully avoiding to so as not to run over them. The sensation was so sweet. I decided to stop, look at the bay, and be open to anymore insights or epiphanies. Less then two minutes later, another cyclist, stopped at the same place and came up behind me and began to engage me in conversation. Instead of connecting, my old nemesis, restlessness, kicked in and I lost presence. I quickly felt antsy and frustrated that this person was “ruining” my experience of sitting with the Oneness and the sense of Divinity in that wonderful sensation I had just lost. I felt like the interruption “cost” me the good of this experience. I know, it’s very funny if you pay attention to life’s invitations, but I was not!  I was paying attention to the restlessness and the sense that I was losing this great experience. I know, crazy town! Here I was presented with an opportunity to deepen the sense of oneness with an actual person, but I totally missed it because I was in my own little world in my head letting the restlessness dictate how I thought things should go. (In case you were wondering, it took about 10 minutes for me to wake back up and notice my ridiculousness.)

This experience highlights one reason I try to not live in the restlessness for a minute longer after I become aware of it. The “inner voice” of the restlessness is so narrowing and self-focused. It tells me I am missing out and that if things would just go differently I would feel better. This will cause me to miss the gift or joy available right in the present moment. Luckily, I have lived long enough to have lots of practice catching the sensation and I know that sometimes you just have to ride out uncomfortable feelings and false beliefs. Sometimes, you have to hold onto your true knowing and just sit until they pass, which they do. This can be especially difficult because restlessness almost always brings along its Significant Other, a big dose of Anxiety!

One of my “cures” for the restlessness is to drop into silence and Being. To slow everything down internally and ask myself some questions. “What is really going on? Is there really any tangible thing I am lacking in this moment”? Usually the answer is no. I realize that silence may be easier for us Introverts. Extraverts can find silence frightening or annoying. So if you are more extraverted maybe your silence is a concentrated short time where you focus on connecting with your own being and the goodness therein. The gift of riding out the restlessness by sitting until it leaves, is a deepening sense of peace and calmness.

Another “antidote” for restlessness is love & connection with my beloved friends. Those wonderful beings who see me clearly and adore me anyway! Thank you to all of you, you know who you are. When the restless sensation hits your body, you could use it as an impetus to reach out and connect personally with someone you love and that loves you. In-person, or at least voice-to-voice, is more physiologically helpful than an email or text. Although any kind of connection is helpful to our body and nervous systems. The process of reaching out and experiencing the synchrony between you and your beloved, opens the door internally for positivity resonance to permeate and “wash” out the unpleasantness of the restless, anxious sensations. Barbara Fredrickson in her stunning book, “Love 2.0” speaks of Love and its “positivity resonance” and how it improves our mood, outlook, physical health and our ANS/physiology.  She speaks of Love as not just what you experience with lovers, friends, and family members, but also as little tiny moments of connection and mirror neuron resonance that can occur all day long. We are not “screwed” in the love lottery if we live alone and have no family living nearby. According to her research, you can experience all the physiologically and health benefits of love all day long in your short encounters with other kind and helpful humans. This can include a stranger on the street, an uber driver, your local barista, etc. I encourage you to check out her book, it’s a revelation and based upon research and neuroscience.

So, please reply and let me know that I am not the only one who experiences restlessness. Please let me know how yours manifests and what you do about it. Have a great week.

GOING DEEPER:

1.) How many of you laughed at my ridiculousness on the bike path? But do you ever have the experience of totally missing what is in the moment in front of you? How do you come back from numbness or lack of presence, or living in dialogue with the to-do-list in you head?

2.) Do you ever experience these restless sensations? If so, how do they manifest in your body? What are the messages they whisper to your mind? How do you ride them out, or what tools do you use that help you recover your equilibrium?

Blog 32: Making New Associations: Moving from Pain to Pleasure.

Big fun for Junior, not so much for kitten junior
Big fun for Junior, not so much for kitten junior

Imagine with me a trip to the Middle East where we see a camel driver and her camel. If the human driver is aware of her camel’s limits and needs, they thrive as a team. But if the driver is only doing what works for her and not paying attention to how the camel is doing, she can damage or kill the camel by overworking it.

This visual analogy can be used to describe our mind’s relationship to the body. The mind drives the camel that is our body and often does not pay attention to how the heavy load we are carrying makes us beyond exhausted.  Instead the mind says, “sure we can take one more load” because the mind does not sense the visceral impact of our physical, social and emotional loads like the body does. Many humans drive their bodies past their limits on a regular basis.

Keeping this analogy in mind, we now move to the subject of this blog- moving from choosing painful things to choosing pleasant things. Of all the recent blog posts about moving from one association to another, this one is more complex than you might imagine. Previous blogs spoke about moving from Duty to Joy, from Scarcity to Plenty, from Craving Certainty to Wanting Wonder, and from Faking it to Living Honestly. Underneath all of these prior blog categories, are the foundational and more basic encompassing categories of Pleasure and Pain. All of the previous associations were in some form about moving toward more pleasure in life and getting away from things that feel unpleasant or even cause pain. (At times pain can be a wakeup call that helps us to grow or learn things, but today’s blog is not about that kind of pain, that is a subject for another blog.)

Scientists tell us that even the most basic bacterium are able to move toward what is pleasant and away from what is unpleasant. I am not sure what a bacteria uses as criteria for knowing pleasure, but we humans have several systems that determine pleasure and pain.

The healthy human body is the most accurate pleasure seeking system, constantly moving us from unpleasant sensations/pain to pleasure all the time. My belly is empty. I feel hunger pangs that are unpleasant, so I move toward the kitchen (Eclipse chocolate cafe if I am feeling frisky). I eat, and I now have pleasant feelings. I am tired, my cortisol levels drop. So I feel really sleepy and I go to bed and I wake up feeling rested and that is pleasant. I could go on, but you get the point. Our bodies are constantly trying to move us toward pleasure and pleasantness using our brains, ANS, and our instincts and drives. A healthy body usually has little problem with this natural process. Beloved children are great examples of trying to live in pleasantness 24/7. Partly because their brains are less developed and their minds are less complex than “grownups”, this is easier for them than for us.

In contrast to our bodies, our mind is a tricky beast. The body if healthy and not traumatized will generally move us toward choices that are more pleasant. However, the mind is not that simple and its motivations and desires can be clouded by many factors, such as projections, FOO messages (FOO stands for Family of Origin, not 1/2 the name of a band) cultural mores, others’ demands, mental illness and drugs, etc.
So, let’s talk about our Minds, the more complex system that humans use to determine pleasure or what is painful. The mind and the brain are not fully synonymous terms, even if they are possibly neighbors residing in a duplex condo in our heads. Neuroscientists will admit, no one knows for sure where the mind is located. We do know that much of our lower brain regions (Limbic and Brain Stem) produce subcortical responses, or in layman’s terms, knee jerk responses. The mind is believed to produce our thoughts. The ability to produce thought is connected with consciousness and our ability to be aware of our inner selves and our outer surroundings.

How do our minds sometimes hinder us from automatically choosing pleasure? Our minds can want two, or more, things all at the same time. We can desire to keep that massage appointment to provide our bodies with much needed self-care. AND, at the same time, we can want to say “yes” to the urgent call from PTA President Patty who needs help with the bake sale that is going on the exact same time as your massage appointment. While we may desire to say “yes” to both options, our motivations for the yes differ. The desire for self-care comes from our own body and ANS, which desire to move toward pleasure, while the need to comply with others, almost always comes from our mind’s desire to keep our social network happy, and to look good to our peers. Both are normal human desires, but the first can lead to a healthier life, while the second, eventually leads to burnout and resentment. (Generally woman struggle most with trying to keep their social circles happy. Our socialization and brain wiring are different from that of our male counterparts).

So, how does this connect with the new association of moving toward pleasure? We will move toward whichever motivation in that moment is given the highest priority by our mind, which usually determines what we desire and will go after. At least until we learn to reconnect with the wealth of intuitive, organic, deep wisdom that dwells in our body’s cells and systems. Our bodies know best when it comes to how much energy we have left to give, how much we should load on our proverbial plates, and how much we are living our lives based upon our truest selves and truest desires. Many of us are living out of false selves, behavioural masks we have been wearing because as children they seemed to bring up more acceptance. So now, we can’t imagine not striving for perfection, or not being the best at everything, or not staying in control 24/7. We often listen to our minds and our social programming and the things that pump up our egos. When we make decisions based solely upon these categories, we often miss the body’s messages. Messages such as “when do we get our needs met, we are so tired, we are lonely, we want to lean on someone, we want to be cherished and cared for, etc.”

My encouragement to you is to begin to listen more closely to the calls and desires of your bodies. And, to set your intentions to choose pleasant sensations over painful ones on a regular basis. The research shows repeatedly, the best antidote to stress/anxiety/trauma is healthy pleasure. Take that walk on the beach, or that hot bath, or get that massage, or acupuncture or cranial sacral appointment. Let your friends support you for once, and find the joy in each simple moment. Life is much more than getting our “to do lists” done and looking good to our bosses or neighbours. If you have not belly laughed or felt deep joy in a while, you probably need more self-care and to pay more attention to your body. Your long term health will thank you, and so will your family and friends. Many of us are stressed out, hot messes mostly because we have not been intentionally choosing pleasure, so pain is often our option by default. Practice paying attention to which system makes most of your choices this week, and choose pleasure as often as you can. Let me know how it goes!

Going deeper:

1.) What are your predominate messages about pleasure? What was your Family of Origin’s (FOO) attitude toward pleasure? What are your healthy pleasures? If you don’t know, you really need to find out for the sake of your body.

2.) What is your relationship to pain or painful events?  Are you able to listen to your pain and learn from it? Can you move away from painful sensations toward pleasant ones, or once pain hits are you stuck there for hours?

Blog 28: Love & Anxiety, New Associations. Part 1

This past week I got to experience a unique event, a “paddle out” for wonderful Lorton Mitchell. A man in his prime, taken from his family by cancer while he was still so young. For those trapped in the ocean-less midwest, a paddle out is a surfing tradition from Hawaii. When a surfer dies, the community gathers together, jumps on surfboards and paddles out to beyond the breaking waves. There a ceremony is held, one of remembrance and celebration. It’s a solemn ritual and yet some joy leaks in the cracks. Perhaps it’s the magic of ocean water, or the laughter of children, or the safety of being surrounded by loved ones and 100’s of members of the community.

The last blog was about the need to make new associations with old sensations. But making new associations can also occur in conjunction with old belief systems or world views. We can make a new association with the way that we live our lives. Lorton was larger-than-life figure, and the way he lived his life, full of vigor and joy provides an excellent example to emulate as the subject of today’s blog. I want to suggest that those of us who are stuck in busyness, or achievement pandering, or over-scheduled living, need to make a change. We who are stuck in a life dedicated to duty, can make a new choice, a new association. We can to deliberately shift our primary driving force in life from one of Duty to that of JOY.

Imagine with me two large doors in front of you. One is labeled Duty and one is labeled Joy. If I was to offer you a choice of which door’s attitude will most characterize daily life, most of you will pick the Joy door! But if we are really honest about how we live our lives, most of us are unconsciously choosing duty over joy most of the time. One reason why our culture is so full of heart disease, a flood of medications, addictions, obesity and the many other curses of our over-stressed, way too busy modern life.

Ask yourself this question, how much joy to do you experience on a daily basis? Would your family, children, lover, etc., list joyful as one of your predominate traits? Or, are you more focused on what must get done, on checking off lists, keeping ducks in a row, (why ducks, why not cats, they are even harder to control?)

As children, most of us did not struggle through the misery of puberty in order to grow up and turn into a distracted, busy adult who has little or no time for fun. We hoped to grow up and do whatever pleased us, to have fun and to enjoy life. But life’s responsibilities, pressure and stress conspire to turn us into the duty bound creatures that many of us have become. I am not suggesting that life is not challenging, nor that we should throw up our hands and toss responsibility to the wind. There are things that must get done, it is good to be a “high functioning, well-behaved member of society” sometimes, I think? But if our primary focus is on our duty and getting things done, we miss most of the joy that this busy, complicated life has to offer.

Joy is an all body sensation, a vitality affect, and one of the best antidotes to stress and trauma that can be found. If you recall a previous blog where I talked about the two sides of the coin in our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), this blog might make more sense. Joy is the other side of the coin! It is the opposite of stressed and busy, and anxious and traumatized. If you doubt the power and intensity of joy, watch some Youtube videos of babies laughing, or children and puppies (any baby animal really). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L49VXZwfup8 try this one for even just one minute and notice the shift your body experiences inside.Healthy pleasure is a great way to begin to experience more joy in your life. If you have not engaged in self-care or healthy pleasure on a regular basis, it will be hard to live in joy regularly.

While joy and laughter are not the same physiological event, they are related and very connected. The research demonstrates repeatedly that people who laugh often, are happier, and physically healthier and have a more positive outlook on life. Well-parented children laugh much more often than children with lower functioning parents.

This week try to notice your primary outlook on life in terms of duty vs. joy. Which attitude prevails most often in your life? If it is duty, try your best to begin to include choices and situations that bring joy to you. When you feel joy, really notice how it lightens and brightens and enervates your entire body. Let me know how it goes.

Joy, Uganda style.
Joy, Uganda style.

Going deeper:

1;) What is your association with joy? Is it a common experience for you or something you rarely encounter? Who do you know that is often really joyful? If possible, spend more time with them and see how it impacts you. We become most like those with whom we spend the most time.

2.) What is your attitude to duty? If you are one who feels stuck in this place, ask yourself where you learned this? What were your parents’ primary attitudes toward joy and healthy pleasure, another close relative of joy? Are your attitudes similar to your parents or different? Most importantly, are they what you would like them to be?

I invite you to join a 3 week Anxiety Reduction workshop. I provide them in my office as well as at your organization, school, or place of worship. Mention this blog for a 10% discount. Call 619-437-1465 for more information.

Blog 26- Part 2: Nike, the serenity prayer, and stress physiology!

Part 2 – The Serenity Prayer

Part 1 of this blog addressed Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It” (JDI), and how it beneficially impacts our physiology. Today’s blog will make more sense if you read part 1.

Now that we know the power of JDI, let’s talk about the Serenity Prayer. I will include the short version of this prayer below, just in case you have been living under a large rock for the past 30 years and have not heard it!

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference”.

The concepts contained in this prayer are perfect partners with JDI energy to help shift our Nervous Systems out of threat physiology. Knowing when and where to apply our efforts and energy, and where not to, is critical information when it comes to a threat or a perceived danger to our body. Because sometimes there is nothing we can do about certain aspects of a problematic situation. So even if your switch is ON, if it’s an impossible situation to change, you could just get frustrated. Trying to change something over and over without success, makes us feel helpless and impotent.

Knowing what can be changed in a dangerous or stressful situation, is almost as important as having your switch ON. With this knowledge, you will be able to target your JDI correctly and not waste energy or stress on things that are not changeable, such as other people’s choices, your body’s limits, or natural laws, etc. As I said in a previous blog, “sometimes it is less traumatizing to surrender to a situation than to fight it”. So knowing when to let go and when to do something, will determine how successfully you act in a difficult situation. Knowing where to direct your ON energy and JDI, are keys to thriving in life rather than simply surviving it.

Let’s use an example that all Californians can relate to. We have a drastic water shortage here in our lovely state. If each one of us tries to solve the situation all by ourselves, or spends inordinate amounts of time brooding on the problem, we will be stuck in stress physiology for sure. This could also flip our switch to OFF because we feel helpless. However, combining our JDI with the Serenity prayer might look like taking shorter showers, only washing full loads of clothes, watering our golf courses and lawns less often, talking to our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to join us in our efforts, etc. If every Californian made these changes, over time, it would make a big difference, in the problem and inside our bodies.

This week notice how the Serenity prayer beautifully compliments your JDI energy and try applying both concepts to any stressful situations that occur. In what instances does surrender ever feel like serenity to you? Perhaps refusing to get in the same old fight with a spouse or a child, or letting someone cut you off in traffic without losing your mind in rage, etc. Please feel free to share your successes (and attempts) in the comments section.

Fiona connecting with her inner tiger, serenely waiting for the next moment to happen!
Fiona connecting with her inner tiger, serenely waiting for the next moment to happen!

Going Deeper:

1.) Which of the 3 tenets of the Serenity Prayer do you find the most challenging? Do you notice any internal resistances when you read it aloud? Just be with those somatic imprints of resistance this week and see what comes from this practice.

2.) What situations do you find easiest to use your JDI energy, and which situation are easier to surrender to? How does letting go feel to your body and mind? Many of us find that the body handles surrender much differently than the mind does. What is your experience?

3.) Think about the past few weeks. Have you experienced stressful situations? If so, have you been able to JDI? What needs doing depends on the situation, but doing something is much better than collapsing in helplessness, do you agree?

Love & Anxiety-Blog 26: Nike, the Serenity Prayer, and Stress Physiology!

Part 1 – Nike

The focus of the past few blogs was on how to flip our bodies out of threat physiology back into an embodied sense of safety and joy. One of the benefits my clients receive after engaging in somatic therapy is the experience of returning to feeling fully Alive in body and soul; rather than just existing, feeling persistent anxiety and worry.

Today’s blog focuses on another way to shift out of stress or threat physiology, but it’s more of a way of living than a tool. So, what does Nike and the Serenity Prayer have to do with stress physiology? Quite a bit it turns out. Today let’s start with Nike, more specifically, their famous marketing slogan — “JUST DO IT,” (JDI moving forward). What a great concept! We admire and respect athletes. Those who get up off the couch and just run that race, or just swim that heat, etc. It is not a coincidence, people who exercise strenuously on a regular basis are healthier and have better mood stability, than those who do not. There are many reasons for this including, improved heart-rate variability, rushing endorphins, and limbic system resonance, just to name a few.

But today’s blog is about the main reason why JDI matters in relation to our physiology. When it comes to attempting to recover from a trauma(s), stressful situations, or persistent daily anxiety, most of us don’t JDI. In threat and overwhelm mode, we are usually doing nothing about the issues that scare us, or even life in general. Some of us may worry, but that does not help! From an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) perspective, just doing something can mean the difference between life or death, safety or danger. If a tiger is chasing you, JDI means, run like hell to save yourself because if you don’t JDI, you will be food for the tiger. While we don’t have literal tigers chasing us in North America, we fear plenty of “paper” tigers such as; illness, job loss, financial woes, divorce, relational betrayals, struggling children, etc.

JDI positively and directly impacts the ANS. Imagine with me a large invisible light switch planted right in the middle of your body. It is either ON or OFF, there is no other setting. This switch is a metaphor for action and self-efficacy. When it comes to stress, or life and death situations, in order to survive and thrive, we need that switch to stay in the ON position. ON in the ANS represents I CAN! I can run, I can fight, I can get away, I can JDI, in order to begin to resolve this situation.

Of course then, the OFF position epitomizes I CAN’T! I am helpless in the face of this situation and I don’t know what to do. People who live with their switch mostly in the OFF position tend to freeze and numb out when it comes to stress and problems, they are not living JDI. People who live mostly in ON position still experience anxiety, as well as stress and danger. However, they have an embodied knowledge of self empowerment, so they know that they will do what it takes to get back to safety. Therefore, they experience less trauma and anxiety. They know they can do whatever is needed to survive.

The good news is that JDI physiology, keeps that switch in the ON position. Doing something, rather than collapsing in fear and worry, allows your body to move toward the experience of empowerment and a sense of safety. This could include going for a walk, making that difficult phone call, asking for support, confronting someone, etc. If your switch is mostly OFF, start doing something, anything, on a regular basis and see how differently you feel. Self-efficacy has been shown in studies to be one the best antidotes to recovery from trauma, illness, anxiety, and consistent stressors. Self-efficacy is defined as the ability to effect whatever is your desired outcome. Another dictionary defined self-efficacy as potency and power! Other words for JDI!

In a few days, I will post part two, but meanwhile this week, check in with your body when in situations that are uncomfortable to you. Try to notice the position of your metaphorical switch. If it is OFF, practice trying self-efficacy instead of helpless, angry worry. I  will leave you with a statement I came up with years ago while doing my own somatic healing work for my body. “You are only helpless until you realize that you are NOT!”

JDI - African Style
JDI – African Style

Going Deeper:

1.) What is your reaction to this blog? Does it resonate or is there inner resistance? What is your reaction to JDI? Sometimes it is easier to stay in a stance of helplessness and blaming others for our misery. But what happens when you focus upon trying to find even the smallest step you could take moving forward?

2.) What is your internal response to my final statement! It sounds simple but it is a profound truth. I encourage you to meditate on this phrase this week and see what comes up for you, mentally and somatically.

I am still providing 3 week anxiety reduction workshops here in San Diego. If you are interested in 90 minutes of training, 3 weeks in a row, I am starting another round at the end of April. Life is too short to be afraid!

Love & Anxiety #23: The Felt Sense & Anxiety

Today I am introducing the concept of the felt sense and how it relates to our body anxiety, using a “prayer” written by a doctor of Chinese medicine. I can not give credit to him because it was written anonymously. The next blog will flesh out this concept in a more linear fashion, but I think this is a great introduction!

Felt Sense Prayer    

I am the pain in your head, the knot in your stomach, the unspoken grief in your smile.

I am your high blood sugar, your elevated blood pressure, your fear of challenge, your lack of trust.

I am your hot flashes, your cold hands and feet, your agitation and your fatigue.

I am your shortness of breath, your fragile low back, the cramp in your neck, the despair in your sigh.

I am the pressure on your heart, the pain down your arm, your bloated abdomen, your constant hunger.

I am where you hurt, the fear that persists, your sadness of dreams unfulfilled.

I am your symptoms, the causes of your concern, the signs of imbalance, your condition of dis-ease.

 

You tend to disown me, suppress me, ignore me, inflate me, coddle me, condemn me.

I am not coming forth for myself as I am not separate from all that is you.

I come to garner your attention, to enjoin your embrace so I can reveal my secrets.

I have only your best interests at heart as I seek health and wholeness by simply announcing myself.

 

You usually want me to go away immediately, to disappear, to slink back into obscurity.

You mostly are irritated or frightened and many times shocked by my arrival.

From this stance you medicate in order to eradicate me.

Ignoring me, not exploring me, is your preferred response.

More times than not I am only the most recent notes of a long symphony, the most evident branches of roots that have been challenged for seasons.

 

So I implore you, I am a messenger with good news, as disturbing as I can be at times.

I am wanting to guide you back to those tender places in yourself,

the place where you can hold yourself with compassion and honesty.

If you look beyond my appearance you may find that I am a voice from your soul.

Calling to you from places deep within that seek your conscious alignment.

 

I may ask you to alter your diet, get more sleep, exercise regularly, breathe more consciously.

I might encourage you to see a vaster reality and worry less about the day to day fluctuations of life.

I may ask you to explore the bonds and the wounds of your relationships.

I may remind you to be more generous and expansive or to attend to protecting your heart from insult.

I might have you laugh more, spend more time in nature, eat when you are hungry and less  when pained or bored, spend time every day, if only for  a few minutes, being still.

 

Wherever I lead you, my hope is that you will realize that success will not be measured by my eradication, but by the shift in the internal landscape from which I emerge.

 I am your friend, not your enemy.  I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life.

I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges.

I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self care.

My charge is to energize you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart

of a mother attending to her precious baby.

You are a being so vast, so complex, with amazing capacities for self-regulation and healing.

Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being

where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.  

Lucky from Uganda

Going Deeper:

  1. Can you relate to this prayer, does it resonate with your own body’s messages? If so, what changes might you make to better care for the amazing being that is your body?
  2. What messages does your body send you on a regular basis? Are they pleasant messages, ones of peace, relaxation and joy? Or, are they more often messages about exhaustion, pain, or anxiety?