Posts tagged ‘vulnerability’

March 26, 2019

Never Surrender!

Never surrender your best self!!! You may have noticed that in the Preparation for Healing series of posts I have not mentioned the need to surrender, be present in the moment, be vulnerable or forgive.

Many years ago when I began to focus on finding a path to heal, I kept reading that surrender was critical to the process. I simply couldn’t absorb that concept. For me, surrender meant giving up. I had been fighting all of my life to keep the soft, compassionate, loving parts of me from being obliterated by my family environment. To surrender in those surroundings would have cost me myself.
sign
Surrender, being present and vulnerable, and forgiving sound like things an evolved being should embrace. They probably are. They are oft written about and touted by experts. If they don’t sound positive to you, don’t worry. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. In fact, it could make perfect sense.

If you live in a family that punishes you for being your best self and you surrender to them, you need assistance with your judgement. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable with anyone and everyone because you crave connections you missed out on, you do yourself a disservice. To strive for forgiveness without first healing is like pouring salt into an open wound. If you have lived for any period of time in a situation that felt dangerous, cruel, or neglectful, the idea that staying present in the moment is positive may, in fact, sound laughable, uninformed, or stupid.

The wounds of previous trauma can make your present feel the same to you as the traumatic times. For those of us who have had such experiences, this is normal. We hold the emotional memories and psychic wounds in our bodies. Our past is never in our past. It is ever present.

This is not our fault. It does not define us. We are not damaged. We are not mentally ill. We have a wound that was inflicted by someone else. If they had broken our leg instead of our spirit, doctors would put a cast on the leg to support it while it heals and law enforcement would charge the person who injured us with assault.

If medical, mental health, and law enforcement entities viewed traumatic wounds in the manner in which they view a broken leg, they would not treat us as disturbed, weak minded, emotionally deficient, or ill. Instead, they would support the parts of us weakened by our wounds until they have healed and hold our attackers accountable. The lack of this type of support is a reflection of a deficiency (blind spot) in our culture, not in us.

Being present, surrender and forgiveness may not be possible at the beginning of the healing process. Until I have learned to release the muscles in my upper back that stay braced for attack, I cannot be fully present in the moment. Until I let go of the anger that covers my constant fear and find friends who treat me with love and kindness, surrender will only harm me. As long as I feel constantly vulnerable, I cannot determine who or how to ask for help, know whose compliments to absorb, or have any idea how to accept love. Constant vulnerability numbs judgement. All of these things are a barrier to forgiveness.

None of us begin in the same place. Some of us are surrounded by those who mean us harm, do not value us, or are oblivious to our pain. These may include our parents, siblings, teachers, physicians, counselors, and ministers. We often create beautiful, intricate, situationally perfect structures to protect ourselves. It is only when we are free from danger that we can learn to see that those beautiful solutions can also hold us back.

If you can’t surrender yet, don’t worry. You may need to grieve that you have not felt safe enough with anyone to do so. If you cannot stay present in the moment, that’s okay. Try a mindful practice like yoga that encourages breathing in sync with movement. If you feel constantly vulnerable, building better boundaries may help. You can eventually work your way toward forgiveness.

The most brilliant definition of forgiveness I’ve ever heard was uttered by a TV character:
“People generally think of forgiveness as the flip side of contrition, the obligatory response to an apology. It is not. To forgive is to answer the call of our better angels and bear our wounds as the cost of doing business. It is that rarest of things, simple and pure…transcendent… without strings.”
— Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack), In Plain Sight, Season 1: Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Maybe someday I’ll get there.

In the meantime, I keep following the sensations in my body with curiosity. I allow my feelings to bubble up even when they don’t make sense. I let go of my defenses layer by layer. I carefully choose who gets the honor of experiencing my vulnerability. I relish my ability to stay in the moment more often without an emotional flashback. I surrender to the process over and over again, but I never surrender my best self to anyone who does not have my best interest at heart.

https://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Plain_Sight

May 24, 2016

Is It Me or Is It Kanye? Practice. Practice. Practice.

I’ve been wondering if Kanye West is mostly delusional or just sometimes oddly effective. Of course, I’m knitting while I ponder this question which makes me further wonder – is it me or is it Kanye or is it everyone for that matter? Are we all a bit unhinged?

The words in the previous paragraph sound as loosely related as a Kanye West rant. See why I’m concerned? Here’s the deal…

I HAVE been knitting. It’s something I haven’t done in 25 years and really only did once before last week. I made a decently well-constructed pair of wool socks in 1980. Now socks may not be the easiest knitting project for a beginner, but at the time I was determined and willing to put in the concentration to keep uniform tension on the yarn and count rows when required. The ribbing at the ankles turned out perfectly.
sock
Through sheer force of will, I completed the socks, gave them as a gift, and vowed never to knit again. I understood that I had no real talent for it and not near enough patience. I was clear that my greatest contribution to the world would not come from a pair of knitting needles. Yet here I am 30 years later amusing my sister by adding rows to the one my mom had cast on a needle and trying to remember what it means to purl.

I can see what a terrible job I’m doing. The weave is too loose. There are dropped stitches here and there and I have no idea what I’m making. But will I stop, rip out the flawed rows, and start over? Oh hell no! I just keep going as though this is something I feel compelled to do – as if it’s a creation that will somehow add required beauty to the world.
knitting
This is where I begin to see a resemblance to Kanye. Why do I keep putting effort and time into something I know isn’t for me? Why not invest that time in an artistic pursuit at which I know I excel? Am I being effective? Does Kanye make an effective argument when he rants that he wants to make the world better and stop bullying by producing clothes? Maybe he’s already made the world a better place through his music.

So, here’s what I’m really wondering: Why do we sometimes promote our own outdated, unrealistic, or Ill-suited goals to the detriment of real, positive contributions we can make to our families, communities and the world? If this were a rarity it wouldn’t be worth noting. In my realm of personal contact, it is not rare. It is rampant. Of course this may indicate I need a new social circle, but I don’t think my experience is aberrational.

I don’t really plan to answer this question. I don’t have the answer. I believe the answer is rooted in our relationship to ourselves, our truth, and our perception of our place in the world. I think it has something to do with our relationship to shame and vulnerability. I think it has a lot to do with our relationship to fear. And I believe these are the same relationships that left neglected, disrupted, or dysfunctional leave us vulnerable to over indulgence in numbing behaviors – over-drinking, over-eating, over-working, over-scheduling, over-spending, binge watching, and drug dependence.

The question is complex, the answers myriad. But maybe the solution is simple! Practice. Practice. Practice.

Practice stillness. See what comes up.
Practice gratitude. It’s the quickest path to seeing a silver lining.
Practice self-compassion. This is where all real compassion begins.
Practice fearlessness. Sit with your fear as long as you can. Leave it. Come back to it. Eventually, that particular fear will be gone.
Practice truth telling. Allow yourself to see what is. Not what you want it to be.
Practice joy. Experience what makes you feel full, free, warm, and content. Choose those experiences.
Practice problem prevention. Make deliberate choices. Own the choices you make and the reasons you made them.
Practice forgiveness. Forgive yourself for your flaws, poor choices, harmful behaviors.
Practice health. Feed your body nutrients. Move, move, move. Lift. Breathe.
Practice curiosity. This is the path to unlimited possibility.
Practice healing. Learn to release yourself from your emotional habits.

Now, back to my knitting. It’s a great opportunity to practice truth telling, self-compassion, and problem prevention. The truth is, my knitting quality is poor. I don’t need to push myself to do a better job at it or try to convince anyone it’s going to turn out better than they think. I can prevent myself from feeling inadequate by giving up this activity that I recognize is not my forte – an act which is itself a practice in healing because feeling like a disappointment is one of my emotional habits.

Wow, now I feel grateful for this knitting experience! Look what a great opportunity for reflection it provided. And that, Kanye, is how you make peace with what is. You’re welcome.

April 18, 2016

Strategic Patience

formulaThis morning I ran across the term strategic patience. It wasn’t used in the context of foreign policy with Russia. This strategic patience was used to describe a technique employed by teachers in which students are asked to remove themselves from electronics and quietly observe a math formula, graph, or painting. Sometimes the duration of the assignment was only 1.5 minutes, but that time had a positive learning result.

Quiet observation, stillness, contemplation, and mindfulness are words I hear fairly often. I know a few people who practice yoga and many who claim to pray, but most everyone I know is also running as fast as they can most of the time. It is rare that anyone sits still or savors a moment alone.

I know that’s probably true of the people around you as well. In fact, University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson and his colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard found in a series of 11 studies that participants generally did not enjoy even six to 15 minutes alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder, or daydream.

We become so accustomed to filling every moment, we schedule more and more and more and then start to rush to get it all done. And we convince ourselves that everything we’re doing is important whether or not we appreciate the value it adds to our lives. We have an idea that through this overabundance we are living more fully,varms but are we, or would strategic patience serve us better?

That’s a big question to answer in a blog post. It’s the kind of big question people write whole books about. I’m in too much of a hurry to write a book. I just need to get this post finished so I can move on to the rest of my over-scheduled day. As a result, I’ll limit the rest of this space to sharing what I’ve learned the past few years…by being still.

Being still matters. It’s important. No, it’s CRITICAL.

I don’t know why exactly except that without stillness there is no motion. Contrasts in life are the way we make sense of things. We can’t know sweet unless we know sour. We can’t know fast unless we know slow. We can’t know happiness unless we know sadness. We can’t know success unless we know failure.

Until we are able to sit still with ourselves, we cannot know ourselves fully and not knowing ourselves frightens us. It leaves us susceptible to criticism because we’re not really sure if the criticism is deserved. It leaves us unable to apologize sincerely because we’re not really sure how we feel. It causes us to bristle quickly because each time someone doesn’t follow their prescribed role in our necessarily narrow script, we feel threatened. It causes us to posture rather than stand confidently tall. It keeps us divorced from our vulnerability without which we cannot receive love. And we all want to be loved.

Now, how does any of this relate to cooking? It doesn’t, but strategic patience is ingredient number one for thriving.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/to-get-students-to-focus-some-professors-are-asking-them-to-close-their-eyes/2016/04/06/b2b019e8-e6ef-11e5-bc08-3e03a5b41910_story.html

https://news.virginia.edu/content/doing-something-better-doing-nothing-most-people-study-shows

November 28, 2014

I’m Going to let Thanksgiving be the Kickoff for a New Year Filled With Gratitude!

I’m going to let Thanksgiving be the kickoff for a new year filled with gratitude! I can’t imagine a better way to prepare for a new year than looking forward with gratitude. I suppose it’s more common to look back in nostalgia, but that only leaves me longing for something that is no longer. Somehow that seems like a waste of emotional energy that can better be used to recognize, feel, and express thankfulness for what’s happening all around me.

Approaching each moment with a posture of gratitude keeps me focussed on the amazing strength and courage the universe provides to meet each challenge. That recognition then becomes a spiral of feeling more confident, powerful, calm, peaceful, and humble which in turn provides me with more joy and, of course, gratitude. If that spiraled out of control, would it be such a bad thing? I think not.

Science is even getting behind this idea. Studies by psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons of the University of California, Davis, Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, and Dr. Martin E. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania have shown that the positive effects of practicing gratitude include: Feeling more optimistic and better about life, exercising more, and making fewer doctor visits.

Taking a quick look at daily news stories, online rants, and statistics on child abuse and domestic violence, it is easy to see that we are in need of healing in our family units. The pain we suffer at home often spills over into our workplace. Before we realize it, our entire worldview can quickly become jaded, pessimistic, and dismal.

Even the healing process requires that we walk back through sadness, grief, loss, and rage in order to let it go. How can we possibly feel grateful in the midst of open wounds?
Gratitude Journals

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to feel grateful to start the process. You just have to PRACTICE gratitude. I’m not saying this because I read it somewhere. I’m saying this because I’ve felt the power of this practice by filling journal after journal with lists that I struggled to generate while caught in a cycle of grief.

I started with the intention of writing 5 things I was grateful for every day. Some days I could only come up with 3. Often, 3 of those things were the same as the day before. I know this because I recently reviewed a series of these journals before throwing them away. I felt both sad at how I had felt and joyous about how I feel now.

What I learned in the process is that even the tiniest amount of gratitude changed my focus in a positive way. The other thing I learned was that when I could find a way to be thankful for something really painful, I had found an emotional place from which to begin to heal that pain.

Healing requires having the courage and fortitude to sit and fully embrace the fear, anger, sadness, loss and other difficult emotions that hold us hostage until they dissipate for good. Coming to these moments with gratitude helps makes this process more tolerable.

For instance, I am grateful that I believe I am competent to achieve a goal even when I must push past feeling unprepared, afraid, or inadequate. This belief for which I’m grateful comes from the years of events like: Having to hang onto the saddle when my parents sent me galloping down the road on a full-size horse by myself. I was 18 months old. Being sent to round up the cows when I was 5 and hardly bigger than the dog I took with me. The cows acted as if I wasn’t even there, but I knew if I didn’t get them started toward the barn, the danger of the punishment I would receive was greater than any danger those cows represented. Being the delegated baker of cakes for my family to give away when I had just entered elementary school. By then, I knew how to use a mixer and the oven so I was in the kitchen alone. This was not all bad. I enjoyed baking. Getting up every night to take care of my crying baby sister because the adults in the house didn’t seem to hear her. At least by then I was 13.

While I am grateful for the skills and feeling of competence, I have had to grieve the lack of a childhood and wonder what it would feel like to ever feel carefree. (I also have a lingering sense of danger because typing this would be considered talking out of school and the consequence of such a breach still feels frightening.)

Because I began sharing this with a statement of gratitude, the feeling of loss and danger quickly dissipate and I’m left with a feeling of accomplishment and joy that I left high school after 3 years to begin college, raised two amazing sons, was able to pay for their college education, started two businesses, successfully operated one of them for 24 years while building the other one, earned a pilot’s license, built and maintained computer networks, and am slowly finding the courage to reveal where I began.

Whew! I’m also grateful to Brené Brown whose work reminds me that gratitude will help me get past my current feeling of vulnerability. To that end, I am grateful this post is done and for the chance to begin a new year with gratitude as its focus.

If you feel you can’t possibly begin to practice gratitude, let me leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”




Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”