Too Much On Your To-Do List?

You work your tail off to get things done.  You find ways to do things efficiently (you have actually gotten really good at this) and you still have to put the sweat, blood, tears and hours in, and often it takes longer than you planned.  You end up feeling lousy because it “takes you so long to do things,” thinking that your aunt or your sister-in-law could have done it in half the time – right?  If you’re not criticizing yourself for not doing enough, then you disparage yourself for taking on too much – though you can’t imagine what you could possibly leave undone.  Especially during certain times of the year, or even certain years, or in certain phases there is just so much to do it can feel truly overwhelming.  Holiday time and extra travel can certainly leave me feeling this way.  Here is a secret trick I have learned that ALWAYS helps:

  1. Remind yourself that this phase is temporary.  Though it’s hard to see the end of it, there are certain things you can do that will help in the short run.
  2. Make a list of AAAAALLLLLL the things that have to be done right now.
  3. Re-write the list so that it is actually 2 lists:

A.  The things I can and will do today (or tomorrow)

B.  The rest

  1. Ask your spiritual helpers, your higher self and the Universe to help you with everything on the B list while you are working as hard as you can on the A list (some call this God).  They can, will, and are already, but you have to take these items off the A list and ask your helpers for this to work really well.
  2. Focus your attention on what you have decided that you can do today.
  3. Each day, appreciate yourself for the items that you were able to get off the A list, reassess what you will commit to completing during the next day or two (or hour or two), and in the process notice how some of the things on the B list are taking care of themselves or progressing in some way that you did not have to be involved in.
  4. Thank yourself for remembering that getting things done is actually of secondary importance.  Being a decent person and staying connected to yourself and your loved ones is of primary importance – always.
  5. Notice and appreciate the help you are receiving from the Universe and from others and marvel at the magic you can do when you let go and focus only on what you can control.
  6. Go easy on yourself. It never helps to chastise yourself for not having the help you need.
  7. There are things on that list that only you can and should do. There are other things on the list that will take care of themselves on their own.  Over time you may see things that you’d love to ask others to help you with. But when you solicit the help of others remember that they may also be feeling the stress of their own responsibilities, regardless of how it appears.
  8. Ask your helpers to send you someone who would benefit from helping you (truly helping, truly capable, bringing positivity into your life).
  9. Putting items in your B list is trusting that you can be truly and abundantly supported, and letting go of rigid ideas about how things will turn out. If you can loosen your grip on them, you may be surprised at how they turn out even better than you expected!

10 Pointers for Dealing With Emotions

Finding yourself easily irritated with people you care about?  Noticing that your emotions are much closer to the surface of your awareness than they usually are?  You’re not alone.

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Regardless of how it feels, understand that your emotions are your friends.
  3. Breathe through the emotion (don’t act on it) and make a pledge to yourself that you will take some time to explore this emotion very soon.
  4. Keep your pledge. Make it a priority.  It is.
  5. When it’s possible, sit down in a quiet place with a journal and write it out. Chances are, the up-welling of emotion is telling you about an unmet need or a wound from the past.  Either way, naming your emotion, identifying what it’s telling you about your needs and/or making connections between the present and some past hurt or shock will go a long way in helping you to hold up your end in important relationships, and stay in integrity with yourself.
  6. After you have taken this time with yourself you will be more clear on what you need, what you are and aren’t willing to tolerate or settle for, and you may now be in a position to share what you have learned with the person you were interacting with when the emotion surfaced.
  7. Keep your eye on the prize. In your heart of hearts, what do you really want here?
  8. Remember that the other person is not responsible for the emotion. They may or may not need to know about the effect they had on you.  What you share is entirely up to you.
  9. If you want or need something that another person may be able to give you, ask them, remembering that a true request may be answered with a yes or a no. Be prepared for either.  Your desire or need is still valid whether that person can help you or not.  You may need to ask more than one person to help you meet important needs.  The process of asking helps you get clearer about what it is you are actually wanting and needing.  There is no shame in asking or receiving a no or a lukewarm yes.
  10. Often what you need is completely available to you without anyone else’s help. Take these steps for yourself and it may just be the first time in your memory that anyone has demonstrated to you that you are important and interesting enough for their time and attention.  Bringing curiosity and calm to the situation increases the odds that you will successfully find words to describe your experience in a kind and non-judgmental way, which is generally all that is needed to process an intense emotion.  Each time you do it your ability to use your emotions to inform and guide you will strengthen.

Giving & Receiving – Pop-Up Clinic Style

Thanks go to our lovely hosts, Gretchen & Emmet at Laughing Frog Gardens, and all the healers, therapists and care seekers who came out.  In all, we had a circle of 13, not including the other sentient beings of the gardens and the homestead.  Formal offerings included:

  • Shamanic Astrology
  • CranioSacral Therapy
  • Reiki
  • Sentient Movement
  • Chair Massage
  • Active Dream Sessions
  • Safe Attunement & Connection
  • Techniques to calm the Central Nervous System

We have more events coming up:

Marshall MO on October 21, 2017

North Village on November 11, 2017

Questions?  Call me at (573) 999-6011 or send me an e-mail at [email protected]

What If The Body Came With A User’s Manual?

What I’ve been noticing lately is a shift in what I feel and think about consuming sweet things (and other “yummy” things) and maybe about rules and rigidity in general.  The word restriction has been popping up for me.  Re STRICT ion, and also the association between eating disorders and “rules” about food.

We want to avoid being overly strict or rigid in our lives.  So it’s good to be on the lookout for arbitrary restrictions that we place on ourselves, and then get curious about them.  I mean, yeah, if I had concerns (evidence) that I might be growing a tumor, I would maybe want to cut out sugar for a while.  I might want to go on a sugar fast or something.  But the sugars actually do have a place on the pyramid.  The refined ones are up there on the very top, but fresh fruits and root vegetables are a source of important nutrients – at least for me….today.  Grains seem to be less important, but not something I need to cut out completely.  Highly processed foods are at the little bitty point up there on the top of the triangle, where the space they take up is very, very small in comparison to the balance of what I eat.

I know, there are so many rules out there about food and what is actually good for us, but what’s important is for us to take personal responsibility and adopt some kind of structure to help us respond to our unique and changing nutritional needs.  Guidelines help us navigate our lives and make choices from the myriad options we face every day.  But just make sure you don’t let your guidelines become too strict or rigid.

One of the guidelines I’ve been using lately (and not strictly) is based on the pH of the body.  Some foods, when we consume them, make our bodies more acidic, others more alkaline.  Remembering that if I eat four times as many alkaline foods as acidic foods – an excess of acidic foods creates acidity in the body which supports the proliferation of parasites and yeast which I understand to be precursors of many chronic illnesses – my body will function better.  If I fill my diet with mostly acidic foods, my body is going to get out of balance.  So while I don’t need to be constantly measuring or restricting myself, I can keep that idea in the back of my mind, and if I notice that my health is slipping, or my energy levels aren’t what I’d like them to be, or I’m feeling that something is off, I can make some adjustments in the types of foods I’m eating.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that starting a couple weeks ago I was having really strong cravings for something.  It wasn’t sugar, though I did veer toward fried things.  But when I sat with it, and asked my body what it really wanted, it seemed more like it was asking for more high quality proteins.  Also entering my awareness from various articles and conversations I was having was the idea that I was needing to increase my consumption of high quality proteins and fats.  So that is the direction I moved in.

In this phase of temporarily self-imposed monkhood, I realized I had begun to associate high-quality proteins and fats with unwanted expense.  So I picked up a small container of cheap, highly processed peanut butter, and quickly concluded that this wasn’t what my body was asking for.  It just didn’t taste like food.  A couple cans of tuna, some cashews and some queso fresco later, the cravings went away.  I will need to make a trip to the gringo getting-place and pick up some tahini and almond butter, which will set me back some $15 or so.  Not a whole lot in the scheme of things.  I’m on it.

Note to Self: If I notice myself skimping, I may need to re-assess whether I’m associating not having what I need with my worthiness or ability to have what I need.  If I can put some attention there, I can see pretty easily that I am worthy of adequate nutrition (what my body needs to stay healthy).  For me, it is sensible and correct to include healthy proteins and fats along with the wide variety of fresh produce that I can get for next to nothing here in Mexico.  I can also assess whether I have adequate margin in my budget to cover nuts, nut butters, avocados, high quality oils, and high quality meats, and usually I do.  I don’t need to go overboard, but I do have enough.  (These things are up there in the top of the pyramid, just under treats and sweets.)  And yes, they cost a bit, but they are also my medicine, one of my best ways of building and maintaining health.

There is no doubt about it, sweetness is something we all need, and if for some reason you have been prohibiting or limiting sweetness in your life, that’s something I recommend you pay some compassionate attention to.

In summary,
  • There are different kinds of edible sweets available to us in markets and selling establishments everywhere. And there is also sweetness available to us from every direction in the form of connections with nature and other beings.
  • If I build sweetness into my lifestyle, I won’t feel like I need to “steal” it (impulse purchases at the check-out lane, etc.).  Sweetness then becomes a normal, built-in feature of my life.  If I include having a cup of tea with a cookie, or even a few little cookies, every day, I have chosen to make sweetness a regular part of my life.  (I tried this and I noticed that I didn’t put any sugar in my tea in order to make it feel like a special treat.  This way, my treat is one that I’m allowed – whole-heartedly – not one I’m “getting away with,” or sneaking off to consume, hoping nobody notices.)
  • Craving sugars, in the past, has pointed to a lack of the sweetness that I can only get through warm and authentic human connections and communion with nature. Now that I have lots of interesting and satisfying interpersonal connections in my life, I don’t notice as many cravings for sweets anymore.  This shift has required me to really pay attention and make adjustments as I go, based on what tastes good to me, and what feels good in my body after I eat it.  It’s an ongoing process, but a super-important one.
  • We are being bombarded by campaigns crafted by the processed food industry to increase our consumption of their “yummy” products (laden with high quantities of salt, sugar and fat), and what seems “normal” can get skewed pretty quickly if we’re not aware and purposeful about what we purchase and consume.

Add to Body-Owner’s Manual:

Having Cravings?
  • Check to see if you’ve been skimping on the relatively expensive high-quality foods that make you feel grounded and well-cared-for and probably build health and a strong immune system. If you are getting enough of those kinds of food, you’ll be less likely to crave those “kiddy” foods – the foods that the immature self wants – which help us know that at some level we are crying out in response to feeling unmet or unseen or uncared for.
  • Make sure to reach out to others and invest time in mutually nurturing friendships.
  • Connect with nature in some way that feels satisfying or nurturing to you.
Noticing Strictness or Rigidity?
  • Being strict is no substitute for staying as attuned and available as possible to the feedback that your body provides. There are a lot of guidelines out there, and if you find one that resonates for you, great!  Experiment with it and notice how your body reacts.  Notice cravings, energy levels, mood and immune system functioning.
  • Realize that your needs change over time, and the guidelines you use will need to be used with flexibility and openness to adjustment as your needs change.

For more on becoming an ally with your body, check out Toni’s Mid-MO Tour, happening in October 2017.

 

Toni Rahman Embodied – Mid-MO Tour 2017

After being south of the border for 4 years, Toni will be coming to Mid-MO in October to share two things:

1) Being In My Body: What You Might Not Have Known About Trauma, Dissociation & The Brain

  • Coffee & Conversation at Heart Body & Soul, followed by Book Signing on October 7, 10:30 am
  • Daniel Boone Regional Library – Local Author Fair on October 28, 10:00 am-2:00 pm

2) Pop-Up Clinics – a new way of networking and connecting with yourself and the abundance around you.  Read an article about Pop-Up Clinics in Ajijic Mexico here.

You can hear an interview with Toni on the Trauma Therapist Podcast here.

Timing Is Everything – A Book Review

Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg is one of those books you see on the shelves of people who are serious about effective communication.  Everywhere.  I kept seeing it.  But when I picked it up it didn’t speak to me.  Now I know why.  What broke the ice, I think, was reading the NVC Workbook, by Lucy Leu, which was incomplete by itself but was enough to motivate me to try Marshall’s book again.

I was already mid-epiphany in my personal life – regarding noticing that when I got analytical, critical, judgmental or when I started comparing myself to others I was actually feeling vulnerable underneath – when I came across this passage:

“Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others are needing and not getting.  Thus if my partner wants more affection than I’m giving her, she is ‘needy and dependent.’  But if I want more affection than she is giving me, then she is ‘aloof and insensitive.’  If my colleague is more concerned about details than I am, he is ‘picky and compulsive.’  On the other hand, if I am more concerned about details than he is, he is ‘sloppy and disorganized.’”

That helped me solidify my epiphany and make it a regular part of my mental health maintenance.  Now, when I notice myself judging, comparing, criticizing, or analyzing, I can stop and gently ask myself: What might I be feeling vulnerable about?  Underneath all this chatter, might there be a story that wants to be told?  What, from my past, is this reminding me of?

Marshall Rosenberg is quite a revolutionary, and as it turns out, he’s an excellent writer too.  His book explains how people can communicate with one another more effectively by using a lens of compassion – turning feelings into desires and needs.  Looking back, the reason I could not access his message from the very first time I picked up the book was that I was still very confused about what my needs actually were, I was not clear enough on who I was to be in touch with what I desired, and I was completely cut off from my vulnerable emotions – that is until they built up so much that they overwhelmed me, and I lost control.

When you are at the right developmental stage, this book is a virtual jewel.  I’ve been digesting it since I finished it in March, when I was on the beach with my daughter in Cuba.  Here is another snippet:

“It is my belief that all such analyses of other human beings are tragic expressions of our own values and needs.  They are tragic because, when we express our values and needs in this form, we increase defensiveness and resistance to them among the very people whose behaviors are of concern to us.  Or, if they do agree to act in harmony with our values because they concur with our analysis of their wrongness, they will likely do so out of fear, guilt, or shame.”

When we are alienated from our needs, like many who experienced early relational trauma, we were not encouraged to have a strong sense of self, or we were shamed when we overtly expressed our desires or unpleasant feelings.  What’s tragic about this is that when we are alienated from our needs, we are deprived of what we most need to grow socially and emotionally: sustained human connection.  As Rosenberg points out, “…the more we are able to connect our feelings to our own needs, the easier it is for others to respond compassionately.”

In modern, Western society, women are particularly vulnerable to being socialized to put others first.  As Rosenberg says, “Because women are socialized to view the caretaking of others as their highest duty, they have often learned to ignore their own needs.”

Safe human relationships have been shown to be the most powerful tool for helping people overcome early relational trauma.  These relationships can be built in a therapy setting, but are just as powerful between people who have an adequate level of recovery, adequate attunement with their own feelings and needs, and the language to talk about it.

I’d like to create contexts where people can practice with others this skill of connecting feelings with needs, and communicating in ways that others are likely to have compassion for them, instead of feeling assaulted by their neediness or negativity.  This often happens to people who have unresolved early relational trauma, and when others respond to their judging, complaining, or neediness by defending, retaliating or distancing.  This sadly validates their early programming that people cannot accept them with their vulnerable emotions and backlog of unmet needs.  Validation might feel good, but as they say in Al-Anon, “Would you rather be right or happy?” Nonviolent Communication is a book that offers a framework for blasting through the early programming, and forging authentic connections between people, organizations, and nations.

“All criticism, attack, insults and judgments vanish when we focus attention on hearing the feelings and needs behind a message….behind all those messages we’ve allowed ourselves to be intimidated by are just individuals with unmet needs appealing to us to contribute to their well-being.”  Rosenberg believes this applies to everyone.  And his ideas are now being taught in mediation trainings all over the world.

(Former United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold) “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is happening outside.”  Rosenberg says that “If we become skilled in giving ourselves empathy, we often experience in just a few seconds a natural release of energy which then enables us to be present with the other person.”

Rosenberg’s Four Steps to Expressing Anger

  1. Stop and do nothing except breathe.
  2. Identify the thoughts that are making us angry.
  3. Connect to the needs behind those thoughts.
  4. Express our feelings and unmet needs.

I highly recommend this book.

 

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD  Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion. Encinitas: Puddledancer Press, 2000.

Abundance Affirmations – Take Two

RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING
(Making adjustments based on what I desire moving forward)

I choose to address my compulsions directly, and I open to guidance about how this is gracefully done.
It is safe to have plenty of time. I can have plenty of time and not get derailed in anything even close to The Devil’s Workshop. (Unless, of course, the devil is a fine playmate.)
True abundance does not always mean a full calendar, or having several things lined up to do.
My compulsions have served to keep me disconnected from my feelings. I now choose to shift my relationship with my feelings so that my natural tendency is to notice and feel them directly.
I have plenty of money and plenty of time simultaneously.
I do not have to have access to endless abundance to have simplicity and peace, though it sure seems like it could help, sometimes.
I am well supported in managing abundance so that it does not detract from the quality of my life.
I can be trusted with free, unstructured time. I am allowed to play and relax. Playing and relaxing help me reach my goals, effortlessly.
I step up and do what is needed to make wise decisions that help me feel better about my future. I own my power. I am in charge of my life.
My values and integrity stay intact as I become a conduit of great financial flow.
I release any connection between busy-ness and righteousness. That is utter nonsense.
As a fully resourced person I make a bigger impact in the world.

I welcome the abundance that is already mine, and I am so grateful!
Thank you! And so it is!

Photo borrowed from Laughing Frog Gardens.  Check it out here.

Self-Imposed Monkhood

I have in the past year been thinking about money – fiscal flow.  It was last year about this time that the dust was beginning to settle, and I realized that the time had come to shift from spending more money than I was bringing in.  Thousands of dollars of credit card debt loomed – the hard-earned badge of taking chances, and the ball and chain that symbolized my vulnerability for stepping up and helping when I am not grounded myself (No regrets.  Just noticing).

My relationship with credit is one of gratitude and respect, having been the recipient of student loans and commercial credit that allowed me to get an education and the credentials needed to support myself in an honorable and dignified way, but my latest plunge into debt is the shadow side of a larger transition, and it brings into stark relief many of my previously unconscious beliefs and attitudes about abundance and money, no doubt passed down to me from my ancestors, and maybe the reverberating echoes of our shocked and traumatized poor and middle class brothers and sisters who move through life more like the living dead than their great, empowered selves.

Since I made that recent, important shift, I have been thinking about how what I’m going through might be similar to the withdrawal symptoms of a heroin addict, or an alcoholic.  But I try not to get too carried away.  What I have realized is that for me, pulling out of our revered middle-class rituals that have served as the “guarantor” of safety and stability, I have stepped into the unknown.  The result has been a self-imposed experience of low financial flow.  AND having a temporary period of self-imposed “monkhood” has helped me get more up close and personal with some of the baggage I have carried with me about money, wealth and abundance.  I’ll share with you here what I’m taking away as I move forward.  This is going to be an excellent year!

Self-imposed monkhood has served me in managing my compulsions:

  • To buying food in excess of what I need.
  • To buying to distract myself from feeling.
  • To buying things for others to get approval/acceptance.
  • To supporting the illusion that I’m responsible or invulnerable.
  • To keeping me rigidly stuck in my old roles of appearing “more capable.”
  • To taking care of the needs of others to my own detriment.

Not having money has forced me to slow down.  It has served me in helping to keep my life a bit simpler.

  • Fewer distractions.
  • More time with myself, my emotional life and my creative process.

Not having money has “served” me in helping me to feel more righteous.

RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING…RECALIBRATING

(Making adjustments based on what I desire moving forward)

I choose to address my compulsions directly, and I open to guidance about how this is gracefully done.
It is safe to have plenty of money.  I can have plenty of money and stay connected to my needs, my personal limits, my essence, my values and my purpose.
I am learning that true abundance does not always mean lots of food in the refrigerator, or cooking in advance so I have plenty of leftovers.
My compulsions have served to keep me disconnected from my feelings.  I now choose to shift my relationship with my feelings and feel my emotions directly.
I can have simplicity in my life and abundant resources and income all at the same time.
I do not have to sacrifice financial abundance to have access to simplicity and peace.
I am well supported in managing abundance so that it does not detract from the quality of my life.
I can be trusted with material and financial abundance.
I will step up and do what is needed to make wise decisions that help me feel better about my financial future.
My values and integrity will stay intact as I become a conduit of great financial flow.
I release any connection between poverty and righteousness.  That is utter nonsense.
As a fully resourced person I can and will make a bigger impact in the world.
I welcome the abundance that is already mine, and I am so grateful!

Thank you!  And so it is!

Self Abuse and the Inner Drama Triangle: Learning to Parent Yourself Well

What is the Drama Triangle, and how does it tie in with early relational trauma and embodiment?

When children witness the Drama Triangle being played by their family members in childhood, and it becomes their model for relating, they miss out on opportunities to develop healthy relational skills, and real problem solving skills and this chaotic dynamic becomes the Inner Blueprint for dealing with stress.  The Weinholds say that the Drama Triangle is the primary cause of childhood trauma, and I’m with them.  “For children who experience or watch this dynamic, their brains file situation-specific pictures, words, thoughts and feelings related to Drama Triangle experiences.  This is the core definition of Trauma.”  Plenty of research is also showing that early childhood stress and unmet relational needs are the foundation for trauma in general, but I’ll talk more about that in a later post.

When an individual of any age lives in an environment that the Drama Triangle creates, the nervous system responds by flooding the system with stress hormones which effectively put the body on the ready for fight or flight.  Disconnecting from one’s feelings is commonly a part of this response. And since there is no “end to the crisis” in sight (in the absence of the skills needed to exit the Drama Triangle) the body does not return to its relaxed, post-crisis state, and natural resolution to the crisis does not occur.

It takes willingness, awareness, and commitment to acquire the skills necessary to help the body return to its natural state of equilibrium. And removing the violence and chaos that the Drama Triangle creates are the important first steps.

I am so pleased to announce:

 

This Online Course is based on the Drama Triangle and how it can play out inside us (with the different parts of the triangle represented by different parts of us in our minds: The Victim, The Rescuer & The Persecutor).  This 6-week course will break the Drama Triangle down into simple terms so that it can be more easily understood.  The skills you take away are designed to help stop inner abuse and self sabotage in its tracks.

During the course, participants will learn how to replace the Drama Triangle with its magical counterpart, the Empowerment Dynamic, to help overcome early relational trauma.  They will also gain a framework for better knowing when and how to trust themselves, which naturally impacts knowing when and how to safely trust other people.

Depending on your level of enrollment, you can take the course alone, receive two one-hour Skype sessions to support your work, or purchase the Deluxe Bundle which includes two one-hour personal coaching sessions and e-mail support between sessions.

The class includes a series of lessons, visual diagrams, quizzes, assignments, a sharing forum, and other materials to supplement learning, facilitate growth, heal early relational trauma and remove barriers to the forging of safe and lasting connections.

Now available!

Fill out this brief survey if you’d like to know more.

 

Becoming Attached – Book Review

Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love, by Robert Karen, PhD.  Oxford University Press, 1998

Robert Karen’s book, Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love, took a while to read, but what a treasure!  It gives an overview and history of attachment theory.  Explains in depth the destructive practices that had been adopted early in the industrial revolution, as parents increasingly were called to work outside the home and nuclear families became the norm.  It connects the dots between early attachment wounds and unmet needs and patterns of relating in adulthood.  Robert Karen locates himself in the material, describing himself this way: “I believe I had an anxious attachment to my mother, which was perhaps mainly ambivalent but had certain avoidant features and looked more and more avoidant as I got older.”

After having read this book, I can better understand some of my odd behaviors as a child and young adult, and my patterns with adult partners and potential partners.  Why did I bite that girl in the bathroom in 4th grade?  I remember chomping down hard, and I felt I could have taken it off.  It wasn’t her I was mad at; I don’t even remember what she had done.  But that was a terrifying, out-of-control rage I couldn’t put into words.  Even as an adult, why did I suddenly feel so infuriated with my sister, Tracy, when I was dependent on her to step in and help; when she was all-out engaged in fixing the situation when my children were being abducted and I was so terrified I’d never see them again? What could explain my identification as “utterly uninterested in affection” and at the same time internally so utterly starved of physical and emotional connection and touch?  Why was my response to my mother “I know,” since at least age 10, and why the unmistakable force behind it?

I can better understand how I had lived so long without a secure base, and how I learned to find comfort most reliably in being alone, since being with loved ones cost me so dearly in terms of emotional and energetic expenditure.  Why I have undermined being given to “in a truly loving way… at every turn; indeed (being given to in this way) feels perversely unacceptable.”

I can better understand my disconnectedness from feelings of loss and vulnerability when it came to “close” others.  Why I have never been able to use a coherent narrative to talk about what my childhood was like, what my day was like, or even about an idea I’d like to share.  How I jump around without finishing my sentences, and am difficult to follow.  How I have difficulty recalling much of my past.  As a person recovering from intimacy disorder, I can look back over my life and notice a suspicious lack of benefitting from the highly-touted idea of companionship and comfort others seemed to be benefitting from around me; the wild vacillating between feelings of superiority to others and feeling too weak, too desperate, and too ashamed to approach anyone for love and support.

I can better understand “what went wrong.”  The origins of unhealthy narcissism, and the thread it weaves into our family and others.  In short, I can better understand to what I might attribute my intimacy problems, when my parents so clearly loved me and provided me with so much.  And among these pages, too, I have access to the scientific data that attempt to identify what children actually need to form secure attachment with their parents, and what that even looks like.

How strange, when I read the words “the usefulness of their anger.” But, as I’ve intellectually known all along, anger has a healthy interpersonal function.  Reading these words help me integrate and process so much.  Included in this book are also how addiction and enmeshment fit into the attachment puzzle, and how we can approach resolution and repair.  For me, there is clearly much to learn and internalize, but this book provides a grounded and comprehensive discussion of the attachment literature.

Below I include some of my very favorite quotes:

“There is another implication here, too, perhaps especially for the ambivalent child, whose hurt and rage and hatred are so volatile and so quickly unmanageable: He never develops the sense that mom is there to contain his overwhelming emotions; that he can have a tantrum; that he can hate her and feel as if he and mom are through, but that she will be soothing and convey the sense that the tantrum will soon pass without causing permanent damage and that even his wish to annihilate her will not have devastating consequences.  In other words, even if his extreme negative feelings are too much for him, they are not too much for her; she can (in Winnicott’s words) “hold” them, and through his relationship with her he will learn to manage them one day himself.” (Pg 222)

And this: “He doesn’t feel he can be openly angry with her, despite the fact that anger, according to Bowlby, is the natural response when a child’s attachment needs are thwarted.  Experience has taught him that his anger will only cause her to become more rejecting.  And so he has learned to turn himself off.  At the slightest hint of pain or disappointment, he shuts down his attachment system and experiences himself as having no need for love.  Unlike the ambivalent child, whose attachment antennae are always up and receiving and who seems to have no defenses to ward off painful emotions, the avoidant child, Main believes, has made himself deaf to attachment related signals, whether they are coming from within himself or from someone else.  He avoids any situation and perhaps any topic that has the potential for activating his attachment needs.”

Even later on, as a child who seems to have accepted life on the edge of human connectedness, who seems to many observers to prefer detachment, the prospect of further rejection is too terrible to risk.  The predominantly avoidant child cannot be warmly affectionate with his mother or go to her when in need. But by keeping his attachment system dampened, he is at least able to stay near her without risking more pain or ruining the connection with his disappointment and anger.  Thus, despite appearances, the strategy of the avoidant child still seems to serve the purpose of preserving proximity.  Psychologically, he is firmly in his mother’s orbit, his thought, feeling, and behavior shaped by the claims of that relationship, but, like Jupiter or Uranus, he abides at a distance that affords him little warmth (Pg 224).

Karen touches on how in our society secure attachment is more the exception than the rule, and how motherhood, as we think of it, is not the best explanation, but rather modern Western society’s growing individualism and the pressures of achievement at the expense of connection.

And as I suspected, he says that there is hope; successfully parenting one’s children, being in partnership with an emotionally healthy adult and effective therapy can all repair anxious attachment and heal attachment wounds.  Read more gleanings from this great book here, or get a copy for yourself at Amazon.com.