Our Wild Storm: Seeking Balance is an Ongoing Project

Our Wild Storm: Seeking Balance is an Ongoing Project

I’m currently watching the docuseries “One Strange Rock,” narrated by Will Smith, on Netflix. Since I was young, I’ve been fascinated with the human project of space exploration. I even have memorabilia from several shuttle launches, which I was fortunate enough to watch in person. I was interested in both the science of space exploration as I was fascinated by the unknown and uncharted, and the kinds of hypotheses that could emerge from confronting the unknown. My creative spark often gets ignited when I’m faced with endless possibilities, like the expanse of space, the depths of the ocean, or the ever-shifting processes of the human psyche.

After all, as Carl Sagan has said, “We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

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The Language of "Good-Enough Therapy"

The Language of "Good-Enough Therapy"

I was talking with a therapist friend today about our personal relationships with authority. We were sharing that, as therapists, we have a particular authority that we as non-therapists might also rail against. As therapists, we have authority in the room. Whether we like it or not, there is often a power differential in the clinical hour. But that authority does not have to be a toxic one, and in fact, can become the very container in which to support profound transformation and growth. Here’s how I think that can happen.

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Conversations in Therapy about Body Terrorism, Rape Culture, and Sexism

Conversations in Therapy about Body Terrorism, Rape Culture, and Sexism

(CONTENT WARNING: RAPE CULTURE, EMOTIONAL/VERBAL ABUSE, SEXISM, BODY TERRORISM)

This week, video and audio footage was released from a hot mic recording of one of our US presidential candidates.
...
An abuser might say, "These things he says are just words. They aren't as bad as actions." That's simply not true when it comes to emotional abuse. Even "just words" that resemble old traumas can shut people's cognitive functions down, as though the old trauma were happening in the here-and-now. People go into a fight-flight-freeze-appease state. If you know someone with this kind of history, it is so incredibly important to choose your words carefully, kindly, and with compassion. This presidential candidate is not taking care of, or responsibility for, the impact of his own words.

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Work-Life Balance: What It Is (And How To Do It)

Work-Life Balance: What It Is (And How To Do It)

Do you believe your work takes priority over your self-care? Are you an activist bringing work home with you because of the imperative that "racism never sleeps" and "the system keeps working and so do you"? (Both true, except for that assumption at the end there.) Are you a tech professional who prefers to do the spreadsheets at home because you can concentrate better on the couch than you can at the office?

It makes me wonder if you might have been taught to value productivity over emotions. I also wonder, did you get the message that if you put your needs and your health first, you're selfish and weak? Were you told that the end result is more important than the path you take to get there? Complying with these messages might have served you in surviving your childhood, but they're probably also taking away from your enjoyment of adult life. If you're fixated and focused only on the deliverables, you will have a hard time letting play and relaxation into your life.

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Self-Care and... Social Media Boundaries

Self-Care and... Social Media Boundaries

Social media can be pretty overwhelming. You want to stay in touch with your friends and family (and super cute fuzzy creatures and squishy baby faces), but the incessant memes, the violent articles and videos, and the stunted conversations can feel triggering, impersonal, and traumatizing. In my latest article for Psyched in San Francisco, I share my perspective on how to cultivate your social media in a way that offers a replenishing space for self-care, rather than increasing burnout.

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Boundaries: Saying No in order to say Yes... to yourself!

Boundaries: Saying No in order to say Yes... to yourself!

You're exhausted and drained, trying to keep up with the demands (real or perceived) of friends, family, work, and your inner drive. You long for more freedom, more space to think and relax, but it feels like the world is an unrelenting cascade of needs from other people.

You need help in saying "No".

Seriously. You really don't have to say Yes to everything!

But maybe it feels that way. Maybe it really feels like if you say no to something, you'll be cutting off a relationship, or disappointing someone, or enacting an aggressive and resentful part of yourself that really... doesn't want to have to perform.

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On Healthy and Fulfilling Relationships

“Lovers embrace that which is between them, rather than each other.” – Kahlil Gibran

even just a small impromptu note from one friend to another can remind you why you are connected to each other.

even just a small impromptu note from one friend to another can remind you why you are connected to each other.

Being in relationship with another person is a complex and deeply personal experience. Sometimes you may feel completely in sync with them, while other times you might feel disconnected, out of touch, and even hurt. Relationships can be fraught and they can be smooth; since we don’t really have much (okay, ANY) control over other people, when we become willing to risk being hurt in order to get the benefits of being connected, a lot of unexpected emotional stuff can come up.

When it comes to relationships, there are layers about the other person(s), as well as things that exist between you, that can feel very difficult to untangle from your own relationship with yourself. We spend much of our childhood taking in the expectations of others around us. Often, we feel the power of others “naming” us, both literally (our parents usually give us our names) and figuratively (“You are so picky at dinner!”), which can seem like the truth when we’re so young. As we grow older, the people around us may change, but the messages from childhood remain, and influence how we relate to the world and the people we’re close to.

So let's try on the possibility that what can help us have more fulfilling relationships is to embrace that which is between us as well as each other and ourselves. The best way to start feeling fulfilled and healthy in your relationships is to learn what it's like to feel fulfilled and healthy with yourself. Learning how not to be afraid of yourself, how to listen to yourself, how not to hide things away from yourself-- all of this can help you feel connected to you, and this will radiate through into your relationships with others. If you’re critical or intolerant of yourself, you’ll probably be critical and intolerant of others. If you cut off or ignore parts of yourself, you’ll probably cut off or ignore parts of others. If you allow yourself enough grace, enough forgiveness, enough space to allow yourself to be fully who you are, you will be able to do the same for the people you love. You’ll become one of those people you love. And that’s the key to all of it.

Here are some questions that might help you think about how you respond to people you love in situations where you’re triggered. Since these questions might evoke somatic or unconscious responses, it might be easier to think about them as you walk, or talk them through out loud with your therapist or confidant. Journaling in a free-flowing and non-judgmental way can also help you sit with some of the more uncomfortable feelings that might come up. I also suggest you pay attention to your dreams in the next few days, noticing places where you have interactions with people, where you feel safe, and where you feel scared.

What happens to you when you’ve had a rough day? When you’re preoccupied with something, like the interaction you had with someone in the grocery checkout line or a pending situation at work that you feel unsettled about- how do those feelings leak through into your interactions with people close to you? How do you respond when your partner is irritable, shows their vulnerability, or closes off? These are all micro-interactions that occur constantly between people, and it’s really easy to get caught in the emotional web of our expectations, fears, wishes, needs, and triggers and forget how to think together, and share together with another person. Noting when these happen for you can help you create a little more room for yourself when you’re feeling caught up in these emotions.

And: Who are you connected to in your life? How do you feel when you’re with them? Do you sometimes wish you could be alone, and not need other people, because maybe it’s safer that way? How do you, or could you, balance alone time with connected time? How can you find ways to be yourself in all the relationships you consider meaningful? What relationships might need to change if you were to feel more comfortable in them, and how might they change? How might you need to change to be more flexible in your relationships- or more boundaried?