Thursday, November 28, 2013

Recommended Reading

I highly recommend a book, The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks.  It is a memoir written by a woman diagnosed with schizophrenia.  It follows her journey from high school to Vanderbilt University, Oxford, Yale Law School and USC.  It describes, from a deeply personal perspective, the mental health system in the US and England.  It taught me so much about the disorder, which has been invaluable to me as a mental health professional and family member.

I also highly recommend another memoir, Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight. It's written under the pen name of M.E. Thomas.  Sociopaths, narcissists and borderlines tend to target trusting, trustworthy, kind, helpful, and responsible people.  Becoming wiser, not cynical or jaded, may be helpful over the long haul in our profession where we may stumble upon these souls more often as a personal and professional hazard. We can't help being a target but we can choose not to be a victim.

I am grateful for stories that help us make sense of our sometimes complex lives and relationships.  I am grateful for the power of stories to inform, inspire and heal.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why Nice Guys/Girls Finish Last...

...because everybody has a dark side and integrating our dark side is sexy.

I'm assuming that when we say someone is "too nice" - we are talking about being a pushover. Nobody likes a pushover.  Respect is lost. 

Since we all have a dark side, when we act like a pushover - we are not being honest. We are not being real and others can't really know who we truly are.

Sooner or later the dark side will surface.  By the time this happens, it can be vicious and surprising.

In our interactions and relationships, our energies connect and balance each other out.  If I'm scared of my dark side and you are not - then I will be drawn to you to play it out for me.  I'll enjoy my dark side vicariously through you because the dark side can be a lot of juicy fun.  But like anything, too much of a juicy thing can be dangerous.

I want balance. I don't want to be cut off from my own dark side and I don't want to be mired in it either. 

When we are around people who are integrated, it is easier to accept all of our own thoughts and feelings - the light and shadow sides. It feels like we have a right to think and feel whatever we'd like - no judgments. There is acknowledgment and acceptance that we both have a dark side.

The opposite of being a pushover is standing up for ourselves and this is magnetic.  It lets others know who we truly are and that we know our value.  It sets the tone for others about respecting our worth and how to treat us.

We can stand up for ourselves and be tender too.  The antidote for being "too nice" is not being mean.
"I can take all the tenderness you got."
Esther Hoffman (played by Barbara Streisand) in A Star is Born (1976).  
Tenderness is also sexy - as long as it is real and yet, can't nobody be tender all the time. 

Think of it:  We all have a right to our thoughts and feelings. All of us.  We all have a dark side. All of us. Relishing in this right, balancing and feeling sexy ;)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Asking & Listening.

"...being exposed to suicide questions in the first survey did not exacerbate distress or suicidal ideation among depressed students.  On the contrary, the direction of the significant depression by randomization group interactions on the POMS-A2 indicated that among depressed youth, the experimental group had slightly lower distress scores than the control group."
Gould, M.S., Marrocco, F.A., Kleinman, M., Thomas, J.G., Mostkoff, K., Cote, J., & Davies, M. (2005).  Evaluating Iatrogenic Risk of Youth Suicide Screening Programs:  A Randomized Controlled Trial.  JAMA, 293(13), 1635-1643.

Over 2,000 New York high school students were screened for depression, substance use and suicidal thoughts.  Many fear that asking about suicidal thoughts may be harmful or distressing to youth.  In fact, it turned out that depressed students who were asked about suicidal thoughts were less distressed than depressed students who were not asked about it in the screening survey.

We are so afraid to ask and yet, the consequences of asking are not greater distress but more than likely relief that someone finally cared enough to ask.

Ask and Listen.

Limbo

I'm two chapters away from being done with my dissertation.

Pending approval (or denial) from a school district to obtain secondary data for my dissertation study.

Awaiting acceptance (or rejection) of my first (and sole-authored) peer-reviewed publication.

Drafting a second publication and identifying a suitable peer-reviewed journal.

Negotiating an end-of-probation raise at one of my part-time gigs.

Submitting applications for Assistant Professor and research positions.

Mindfully co-parenting a sensitive tween and trying to mindfully eat during the stress and storm of limbo.

Scheduling weekly reiki sessions, monthly spa massages, bi-monthly nutrition coaching, daily naps, meditation CDs at bedtime, writing and writing and writing, choosing what goes into my heart/mind/body/soul/spirit wisely, and limiting toxicity in all its shapes and forms.

I have faith, hope and optimism but there are just so many oranges flaming swords you can juggle while blindfolded about the future. 

I am feeling it.  BIG TIME.  I am grateful for my reiki session today.  It opened up my solar plexus and root chakras - they were closed :(

Risking it all now.  Cliff diving.  Scared and exhilarated.  Overwhelmed and at peace.  Pendulating. 

Thanking Yesus.  Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My Lazy Ego

The first time I heard the term, fragile male ego, was in a sociology course my freshman year. 

I'm not sure about the sociological origins or ramifications of my own ego but I think it's kinda lazy.

For example, when the inner critic whispers to me:  "That's sooo embarrassing or scary!  Don't do that!"  My ego sorta rolls it's eyes.

When there is peer pressure to buy ________ or wear ________, my ego chooses to take a nap.

When someone wants to compete for a symbolic trophy, I am happy to hand it over. If they want it so badly, then why stand in the way?

When insecure people or bullies try to cut or take down, even brazenly humiliate, I sigh and stand up for myself or others and leave it at that.  I mean, what can you do to the poor souls that they don't already do to themselves all the time? 

I wasn't swayed by the peer pressure of a cool image even as a dorky but happy pre-teen (I got the pictures to prove it). There's a delicious freedom in being less concerned with what others think and more tapped into our inner voice. The homeless will attest that one of the joys of living on the streets is the abdication of social conventions and the camaraderie of outsiders.

Some people presume that my journey to the PhD is a vanity project.  Hardly!  It kicks my a$$ on every level - humbles me to the core.  I'm doing it mostly out of obedience to a calling.  It is also exhilarating.  I risked everything and gained everything in return.  I found my purpose - what I came here to do - and saved my soul.  This is not hyperbole - it is the honest to goodness truth, la pura neta.  

I am grateful for my life of reading, thinking, writing, napping, learning, discovering, and imagining.

I'm not striving.  I've got nothing to prove.  I don't value status symbols.  I just want joy, peace and freedom - to use my voice and faculties in the service of something meaningful and to reach the end of my days with a smile on my face. 

:-)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Like Adam and Eve, the price they have paid for the love given them by their parents is unconditional obedience, blind faith, the voluntary renunciation of knowledge and personal convictions--in short, the abandonment of their own true selves."
"The consensus is that early emotions leave indelible traces in the body and are encoded as information that will have a serious impact on the way we feel and think as adults, although those effects normally remain beyond the reach of the conscious mind and logical thought."

--Alice Miller

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight."
Joseph Campbell

Changing Beliefs or Behaviors?

My assumption is that everything we do is an expression of our underlying beliefs.

(For example, when we put up with mean behavior from others, that is an indication of our belief that we are deserving of it.  When we stand up for ourselves, that is an indication that we believe that we deserve better treatment.  Both behaviors - putting up with or standing up for -  reflect our underlying belief about our self-worth - the mother-lode of all beliefs.)

Where do our beliefs about our own self-worth come from?  Our earliest experiences - before we even had language.  So these beliefs are stored as wordless memories - so we can't even challenge them.  We can't say the words out loud and hear how wrong they sound to us.

Some men say they respect a woman who respects herself.  So if he doesn't respect her then it is her fault.  This is pimp mentality conveniently co-opted by the selfish and irresponsible.  So women who were taught from their earliest experiences that they did not deserve to be respected - a tragic travesty - are now considered at fault when men treat them disrespectfully.  The victimized are at fault for the target on their back? And the target on their back makes them an easy and justified mark for thoughtless men. Can you believe this $hit?? Fuck that $hit.

The challenge is that our beliefs can be so underlying that we don't even know what they are!

Beliefs tend to sound something like this:

I am good enough or I am not good enough.
I matter or I don't matter.
I am loveable or I am not loveable.  
I am capable of getting things done and figuring shit out or not.
I have a right to get what I want or not.
There is plenty for me.

So if we are not aware of our underlying beliefs, then how on earth can we change them??

If beliefs influence our thoughts, feelings and behaviors...
And our thoughts/feelings/behaviors both influence and are influenced by our actions/feelings/behaviors...
Then if we change our thoughts/feelings/behaviors, would that change our beliefs??

That is, if we do something different (remember "opposite George" on Seinfeld?) over and over again, despite our underlying beliefs - fake it till you make it, so to speak - then will the results of our new and uncomfortable behaviors change our beliefs about ourselves?

If we keep taking risks at work, in relationships, etc. - even though we are feeling scared to death because we don't believe we are competent or loveable - and the risks pay off then we might start to believe something different about our competence or loveability.  Hmmm, are you down to experiment?



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chosen Habits

What behaviors do we repeat? 

I'm talking about...

...food:  What do we tend to eat?

...work:  What kind of pressure do we put on ourselves at work? What kind of work do we continue to do despite its stressful effects on our bodies, minds or spirits?

...friendships: What kind of people are we drawn to and how does this make us feel?

...conversations: What do we spend our time talking about? Complaints or compliments? The past, the present or the future? Being wronged or forgiveness?  Our strengths or our weaknesses?  Is there a balance?  Do we tend toward the negative and feel sad or worried a lot?  Do we focus on the positive and ignore the problems that need to be addressed?

What are the results of our patterns?

Are we satisfied with the results we are getting?

What experiences do we want to have?

What results do we want to see?

What would it take to have a different experience and result?

What would we be willing to do differently - even a little bit - just today - in order to baby step our way to a different storyline?