Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How We Get Through The Day

“Don't spend time beating on a wall hoping to transform it to a door.”
-CoCo Channel

I was watching a television series which captivated me. It is called, “The Slap”, but it is so much more. It depicts a family story and then in separate episodes it focus’ on each major player in the family so that us, the audience, can see inside or on a deeper level what each person brings to their selves and to the world. It is a beautiful example of characterizations which imitate life. I think it succeeds in showing us as the flawed and yet potentially beautiful humans we are. It shows our flaws and shows our strengths. One of the characters, a young man, says at a poignant moment, “we are all trying to just get through the day”. Now, that might not sound like a romantic way to look at life and yet, isn’t that what we often do? We like to think we are better than that, and sometimes we truly are. But often, because of our blindness’s, we act in ways to make it through our day.

Again, as I am writing my blogs this year in memory of my father, this reminds me of my father in that as much work as he has done on himself, as much therapy he has experienced as well as he has given, he is in fact, just trying to get through the day. At the very same time, he is a charismatic, charming, intelligent, selectively loving, funny, insightful and creative man as well as a narcissistic, unhappy, bitter, and deceitful man. He wrote a book titled; Mr. Magoo is my Role Model. It is full of witty and touching stories and is about our blindness’s. As much as he wanted to see the truth and encouraged the truth, he ran from the truth. On these last days of his life, he told my sister that he has spent his life helping others to know who they are and he doesn’t know who he is. Isn’t that poignant? He now often sits by his window just looking out as if he is waiting for something to happen or for someone to appear.

We have such a finite time on this earth and we all spend some of it just waiting, unhappy, and blaming and judging ourselves, being the victim, harboring grudges and bitterness, etc. we are all flawed human beings. We have such capacity for feeling, for loving, for growing, for learning, and we also have large reservoirs in us that are unexplored. These unexplored places stay that way because it is ultimately hard for us to see the places in us we don’t want to see. In The Slap, a father and husband is holding hands with his children’s babysitter, a young child of 5 is being breastfed by his mother after she has had a few glasses of wine and is then brandishing a bat in a kids ball game without supervision by his parents and an adult comes over to take the bat and he kicks him in the shins and so this adult slaps him. The child’s mother gets angry and people take sides and blame each other. This is a microcosm of life as we live it. We are all capable of great things and also of being so influenced by our wounds that we are blind to our truths and to a greater perspective.

The fact is that we are not only influenced by our fate and also by the traumas and hurts and abuses we experience in life. It is easy to judge us and so to judge others. When we are concerned with how we look to others, what others think of us, and become hard on us when we make a mistake, we are being hard on us and judging us. What is the most important for all of us is to welcome these mistakes so that we can bring them closer to us so that we can learn and become more aware of what motivates our thoughts and actions and feelings on a deep level. As we do that, we see our foibles and we see others more clearly. In fact, we are truly doing our best to live as best we can. When we see others making mistakes and acting out of their weak places, can we also see in ourselves when we do the same?  Loving us in our deepest wounded places allows us to move forward in life and to get through our day.

Recommended Resources:

I don’t usually recommend television shows, but I sometimes find myself enjoying watching certain shows where I can get into the characters and watch to see what motivates them, why they are acting the way they are and what is underneath their actions. My husband often jokes with me that I often know what is going to happen before it is revealed in the show. I love understanding people and what makes us tick.

A great show to see the underbelly of us humans and our humanity and also our courage is the show, “The Slap”. I hope you like it too, and if you are so moved, I would love to hear your reactions.

Friday, September 25, 2015

How Our Parents Influence Us Part II

“Lost time is never found again.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Our parents have a great influence on us in negative and positive ways. Last week, I began talking about this and used an example of how parents can influence in a positive way. Negative influences give us an opportunity to grow and learn. Many times our best learning come through difficult experiences. Through challenging relationships, we can really stretch and grow and gain strengths we can use throughout our lives.

One of the exercises I do with my patients who are having a difficult time with their relationships is that I ask them to write out what they like about their parents individually, and what they don’t like. This exercise gives both them and me important information about them and how they experience life and what they bring to their relationships with others. Many times the very things we have the most trouble with in our parents are the things which we tend to continue. Another way of saying this is that the further we try to be from our parents, the more we tend to be like them, and mostly in the ways we are trying to avoid. Have you noticed that you say the same things to your children or to yourself that you heard from your mother and/or father and didn’t even like hearing them then? Do you find yourself struggling with an addiction that one of your parents had and remember that when you were young that you hated your parents drinking or overeating or drugging or yelling? The more we try to be different from them the more we tend to be like them. This is until we become conscious of what was going on with them and conscious of what we are doing and begin to see the same patterns repeating and make a decision to step out of denial and see the truth. It is true that even though we are greatly influenced by them, with an awareness of our part of what we are doing and the acceptance of our parents for who they are and were, we do have the ability to make a different decision; not out of trying to be different from but by seeing a truth and knowingly deciding that another way is better.

I have a patient who had a very difficult beginning in life. Her mother and father were teenagers when she was conceived. Her first month of life, she and her mother lived with her mother’s parents. Her dad was in the picture, but they were not living together. When she was only about 1-year-old, her mother moved them out to go to college, and they had their own place. Her father, also in school, lived with them for a time. Soon after, her parents broke up and dad moved out. Afterward there was a sequence of relationships between her mother and different men and homes. In addition, her mother’s relationships could be volatile. This young woman, then a child, witnessed many fights and break ups and moves. Her mother had more children and she felt responsible for them.

This young woman’s first experiences in life, in the womb and in the first years after her birth were chaotic, difficult and traumatic. This is a primary time when our right brain develops and our nervous system matures. She can be high-strung and volatile like her mother. In addition, she experiences body sensations very strongly and can easily become anxious enough for an anxiety attack when she doesn’t understand the sensations she is experiencing. These are all legacies of her early beginning in life.

Today she is struggling with a chronic illness in which she is beginning to see that she doesn’t need to be sick in order to bring her family together. And also that she is not responsible for bringing her family together. She is beginning to see that no matter what she does or if she is sick or well, her family will be as they are. She doesn’t have to rage or be in denial, but she decided she wants to be well and truly make different decisions in life than they were able to make for them and for their children.

She has been greatly influenced by her family in negative and positive ways. She is learning to keep the positive and let go of the negative. Through her experiences, she is realizing how strong she is as a person and how perceptive she can be about her and others. She is stretching and growing and realizing that she has strengths she couldn’t have had without her early wounds. As a young man said who was terribly abused by his mother, “he has learned to love his wounds. If he doesn’t love his wounds, how can he help others to love theirs?” We all have wounds in life and through our experiences and influences by our caretakers. Can we learn to love them so that we can live full, whole and vital lives for us and for others?

Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results:

An exercise that I like to do to help us to see what is unresolved within us, especially in keeping with today’s subject; our parents influence on us.

Take a piece of paper and a pen. Write out two columns: one column you title, what you like about your mother/and or father. You can even do this exercise the first time for your mother, and the second time for your father. In the second column, write what I don’t like about my mother. Then write out underneath the column heads 3 or 4 things you like about her, and then 3 or 4 things you don’t like. Do the same for your father.

Now, look at what you wrote. Did you find it hard to think of anything you like about them or was it easy? As you look at what you wrote and feel what you wrote in your belly’s, what still has a lot of energy in it or a lot of weight, or makes you feel angry or resentful or hurt as you feel them? Those things you don’t like that just feel like facts are probably for right now fairly resolved within you. Those things still with a lot of energy are where you can look within to help you to work on for yourself.

Next, pay attention to what you do like. How do they make you feel as you read them? And as you do, do memories pop up for you, good ones which remind you of why you wrote them down?

Read these over for the next few days and see if anything changes for you; you want to add more of either, or memories, or even awarenesses within you. And again, if you would like to share how this exercise is for you, I would love to hear from you.

Stories We Carry With Us

The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made.
It requires troubles one work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.”
                                                                                       -John Dewey

We all have stories we carry with us from our life experiences. These stories are based on events that happened in our lives from the time of our birth as well as stories that have been passed down over generations to us. These stories live within us. We are shaped by them. An interesting thing about these stories is that they may or may not be true to what actually happened. In addition, every story passed down is like the game of telephone we all played as children. As we pass them forward, they are slightly changed or altered by our perception of them and what is said to us. Another interesting thing is that we all view the same events that happened in which we were participants or observers differently. We all have a different perspective of the events, words, etc. And often we cling to our version of the stories which we use to defend who we are and sometimes to our detriment.

My father was a great storyteller. Some people are better than others and some people love telling stories and others don’t. My father loved telling them and was good at it. It doesn’t matter how true they were, they are good stories. With my father as with all of us, what actually happened is altered by his memory and perception of the events and the people involved. A story that sticks with me is a recent one that he told. There are so many it is hard to pick one. Dad loved the game of bridge. He experienced it as a game where by playing it, it helps to create a bridge to parts of the brain that otherwise are difficult to access. He played bridge as a young man with my mother, and then he played after mom passed away with a group in St. Louis, and then in Denver. As he told it, he was a wonderful bridge, player. He played with the most advanced group in St. Louis that has people in the club who play all over the world. When he first started playing with them, he was behind as he hadn’t played for over 30 years. He caught on and everyone wanted to play with him as their partner. Then, the people that ran the group used him to help to play with and teach others who were more beginners of the game. In his eyes, on one afternoon, he played his hand in such a unique way that he broke records of doubling the double, whatever that means. 

When it came time for him to move to Denver, we were able to get him involved in a group there in Denver which he enjoyed playing with. In order to find a good group for him, we called the bridge center in St. Louis and asked them what group and level would be best for him. They told us he would be best in a beginner’s group. Hearing that information stunned us; his children. We so wanted to believe him, and he could be so believable, that we truly thought he was a fantastic bridge, player. So we found a good beginners group for him to play with, and he did play there for a few months until he could no longer play this game he loved. He would get too angry and frustrated, so the group asked him to not play with them anymore. 

This story also reminds me of something that has been going around on the internet recently. There was a picture of a dress that some people saw as being the color of gold and white, and some people saw the dress as blue and black. There is such a difference in how we perceive things and people and words. Again, this is so shaped by how we think and how we are affected by our genetics as well as how perceive life. Are we black and white thinkers, or do we see things more globally in the relationship, which makes things many shades of gray? The stories we tell of us and our lives influences every choice we make and what we see. And, as we can change our story, we can change our lives for the better. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Interrupted Bonds Part II

“I would never die for my beliefs because they might be wrong.”
                                                                                        -Bertrand Russell

In last week’s blog, I spoke about interrupted bonds; what are they and how an interruption in the bond between parent and child affect us. This week I am writing about how this early break looks through the effects on a couple of patients. By helping them to see some of the dynamics in this breach of a bond, it can help them to begin the healing process. As they listen to their words and watch their movements and how the process of using footsteps in the use of the tool of Family Constellations looks and feels, light and awareness can be shed for them to understand what they are experiencing.

I am working with someone who has been having a difficult time for quite awhile, and is in the active process of consciously learning herself and desires a good and happy life in connection with her family and with her partner. Presently she is experiencing a rare type of cancer and is conscious of the fact that a part of her is welcoming this illness. When we used footsteps to get a glimpse of the work of her unconscious on her and her illness, we saw that her illness had a large job to do in service of her. This illness allowed her to have the strength to tell her mother to give her some space and to step away some so she can find her own way. The footsteps revealed what she feels; that she emotionally is in the place of her parents, especially her mother, and that she is too concerned with her mother’s feelings and, in fact, takes care of her feelings. Her mom was in front of her and partially on top of her own footsteps. As she was able to speak words to her mother telling her that she needs some space and also needs the help of her father, the footsteps that represented her illness were able to back off of her a little and also give her some space. These footsteps helped her to see how much she wants to be in the place to be taken care of, and that she needs to just be the child in her relationship with her mother.

How does this relate to an interrupted bond? When she was very little, mom and dad separated, mom went to school, she and mom moved to their own place away from dad and from grandparents they had been living with, and then mom had a series of relationships which took her emotionally away from her daughter many times before she was even 8 years old. So mom would be emotionally unavailable to her, and then available, and unavailable, and then available. This child then was without mom and then was made to do too much for mom and felt responsible for mom’s emotional health so she herself could be helped. In life now she alternates between anger and closeness, a legacy of the interrupted bond, in a repetition of what she experienced. Then she gets a chronic illness which allows her to have the strength and the care she needed from her mother when she was small.

Another example of how this exhibits in our lives is seen with a woman who is a therapist and caretaker of others. She has a patient who alternates between being furious with her and then wanting to get very close to her and to be her child. This patient’s mother wasn’t available to her. As the patient rages at her, this therapist becomes terrified and feels her own unresolved feelings towards her mom where she too rages at her mom and also yearns for her. When she was little, her mother had many close relatives die, including her mother and father, and didn’t feel able to adequately mother her child; the therapist. This therapist knew this intuitively, felt the distance from her mother and her mother’s feelings of inadequacies, now experiences the same feelings which are stirred up in her through her patient, and can’t break this cycle of being terrified, being pulled to her patient, and then feeling inadequate. Again, these feelings and patterns are all a legacy from the interrupted bond.

The movements to see this place inside of us after recognition of where this push and pull phenomenon comes from is to heal our relationship with our mom, or dad, or caretaker. This healing doesn’t mean suddenly having a wonderful relationship with them. They aren’t changing….we are. The biggest piece for our health is finding a way to accept them as they are; exactly as they are with their flaws, weaknesses, abuses sometimes, etc. When we can do that, we can see places inside of us that before we were defended against, and we can see parts of them, our parents, that we actually like. Maybe they are funny, or smart, or sensitive, or creative, or loyal, or successful in business, etc. 
When we can see them as separate beings from us and see their positive qualities, we can allow us to take in their positive qualities and allow us to be creative, smart, funny, etc., like them, and in our own unique way.

Recommended Resources:

A recommended resource is to check out Family Constellations on my website, In addition, there is a Body Presencing hologram on my site on the What’s New page, and also by clicking on Body Presencing, that takes you through a process with meditations and visualizations to help you along the way with an issue or troubling relationship or experience. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

An exercise you can do for yourself is to stand in the back of a room and imagine your mother or father in front of you. Feel out how far you need to be from them to feel good and safe in your body. Keep moving back, or have them move back until you reach a place where you can look at them and feel good and safe. When you find that place, just look at them in your mind’s eye, and breathe deeply. Imagine what you would like to say to them and feel the effect in your body. You don’t have to do anything else; just that. Find your distance where you can see them and have them somehow in your life where you feel safe.

Again, try it and see if it is helpful for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When Our Bonds Get Interrupted

“It is our own small voice within that is our oppressor; it says we are not worthy and not powerful enough. Our limited beliefs are the real foes we need to fight and conquer.”
                                                                                   -Yehuda Berg

I was reading something the other day which spoke to me about the way that darkness, our inner darkness, is necessary to be an active part in our growing our strength and our lightness of being. The concept here is that not only do we need to go into our own dark places; but that the dark places their selves have an active role in bringing them to the light to be seen. We see our dark places through our issues we carry, through our physical symptoms, through the words we use to describe us and our issues, through the movies we love, the books we love, etc. We even get a window through our illnesses, including something like a simple cold. One powerful way that we get wounded, thus creating a dark place inside of us, is through an interrupted bond with a primary caretaker in our lives. 

I have written before about how my father had an interrupted bond with both his father and his mother. My mother also had an interrupted bond with her mother. When we carry a wound such as that we often unconsciously replay it with our children. How does this happen? It can happen by one or both of our parents being physically gone as through an extended vacation or through being ill themselves, or through going to take care of a loved one; really anything which takes them away from the child for over a week before the child is 7 or 8 years of age. It can also occur when a caretaker is physically present but really unavailable. Maybe mom was depressed, or an important family member had just died creating a situational sadness or depression, or dad was never home and mom had many children to care for and was overwhelmed, and so on. In case of adoption, everyone adopted out has an interrupted bond with both parents. What happens to the child is that they miss their parent, then they get angry that they aren’t there, then they get very sad, and then something inside of them tunes the pain out which also includes developing a rift in their bond with their parent/caretaker. 

How does this look as we are older? It looks like someone who can’t be easily close or intimate with another. This can have many different hats. The important thing here is that this person, through the early wound that was never seen or even recognized and has a dark place inside of them. We all have many. This is one example of our unconscious dark places we develop. When the bond gets interrupted, there can easily develop feelings of not feeling good enough, feeling like we are not enough, feelings of sadness and even depression and not really knowing why, feeling afraid to get close to another, and so on. These feelings become active windows to get to understand this early place inside. With my father, even though he really loved my mother, he would easily get angry with her and he treated her in a verbally abusive way. He would tease her, but it wasn’t really funny. He would make fun of her, and this could even be in public. When she died, he felt such immense guilt about how he treated her and realized how much she meant to him and how much he really loved her. He expressed how he was afraid she didn’t know this. That was sad, and yet, he really couldn’t treat her differently because of his unhealed wounds he experienced in his early life with his parents. 

In fact, I would say that a huge percentage of patients I work with have interrupted bonds in their lives affecting their relationships, their professional lives, and even their health. What is important is to know that this interrupted bond can become more resolved or even healed. The first step is through recognizing the problem they are experiencing which could be seeing that they have a difficult relationship in which they can’t allow themselves to get really close to their partner, or through realizing that they choose people who aren’t available or are who are so different from them, or seeing their own depression or even their unconscious need to be cared for and so get sick so they have to be cared for. In other words, recognizing that there is something unconscious in them that is creating chaos in their lives. 

When we recognize there is a problem, we, often with help, go inside and invite the early wounds to speak to us. This can be through paying attention to what our bodies are saying and listening to them, or it could be through recognizing that our feelings of sadness or depression doesn’t have to be there and so invite those feelings to surface so we can understand them, or even through noticing our triggers and using what we get triggered or reactive by as a way to understand what is coming up for us. These dark places are then invited to come out and play with us and help us out so we can see them more clearly. This is hard work, but it can also be fun because we recognize that we are understanding us better and we start to feel better. This is a process and does involve taking small and even baby steps.  I will talk more about this and the process in my next blog. The important thing here is to begin to look inside and invite the memories and feelings to come out and to know that this too can heal. And as we heal, we can live more whole, healthy and vital lives.

Recommended Resources:

A resource that can be helpful to us in this process is working with Family Constellations as well as trying the integrative approach I coined, Body Presencing. Both of these processes and discussed in my website, Just go to my website and click on Family Constellations and also on Body Presencing to learn more and how this work can help you. If you feel like it, roam around a bit and there are some case studies and even some interviews that you might find interesting. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Parents Influence Us

“It is not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what events mean.”
                                                                                -Tony Robbins

Our parent’s influence on us is profound. Whether we want them to influence us, and no matter how close we are to them or how long we lived with then, their influence on us is profound.

There is the genetic aspect, there is a generational aspect, there is the power of their beliefs on us and our sense of belonging, the power of modeling behavior, and also the power of something that is intangible; hard to put words to. We are learning that our experience in the womb is more impactful on every aspect of us than we previously knew. 

Genetic material is developed and passed to us, unresolved traumas in our parent’s lives and their parents lives are passed to us, and we are completely connected to and with our mothers. Our mother’s feelings we feel. We are aware of every sound around us and of our mother’s connections to what is around us. If there is chaos, we feel it. If there is a lot of love, we feel it, and so on. The research that is going on about brain development teaches us that during the last trimester of our gestation and the first three years of life are the most important times to its growth and development. We develop the brain and neuronal patterns; we develop neuronal and synaptic patterns and connections to us and to our primary caretakers that can become hardwired during that time period. 

If one or more of our parents were available and loving, our brains develop in a certain way that doesn’t occur with events of abuse, trauma, unavailability, rage and anger. 

How they parent and how they react to stimuli become by default our reflexive patterns unless as we grow up we are able to open ourselves to look at us clearly, without defense and shame and blame, and make conscious choices in our own lives. Back in the 1970’s my father had finished his psychiatric and psychoanalytic training and had been in private practice for some time. At that time he began writing about and drawing about what occurs in us and our brains when we have healthy parenting and enough availability, and our experience in the womb was full of love and anticipation and calmness than anxiety, fear, and abuse. In other words, he wrote about and drew out in over five large posters, the brain development in health. Then, he drew out what happens to us and our brains when things go wrong; when there was chaos, anger, anxiety, etc. in the womb and when the first years of our lives had more difficulty. He drew approximately twenty posters showing the development of different mental illnesses when things go wrong. He always liked to say that the third trimester is so crucial to our lives and our development and he could always recognize when there was third trimester trauma through symptoms of anxiety, hyper-alertness, oversensitivity to stimuli, sadness or depression, autistic traits and such. He drew out what goes wrong in the brain with different phobias, with bi-polar difficulties, schizophrenia and more. He was way ahead of his time, and the posters are beautiful illustrations of how the connections with our parents are so vital to our well-being.

There is a woman I work with who lost her mother as a small child and then came over to America from Africa with older siblings as a young teen. Her family is very close, but the loss of their mother and then the tribal wars surrounding them forced them to split the family up. Some came to America and their father and brother stayed in Africa. Dad didn’t want to leave where his wife was and her memories, and also to lose his job and start over as an older man. He did want most of his children to live a safer life. This woman is a very sensitive, warm, intelligent woman who loves her family. She does well, even with her traumatic early life, and is now in school to become a teacher and is engaged to marry a man she loves. When you meet her, you can tell how her mother must have been; a loving, warm woman. She had a good beginning despite the tribal wars. Her parents influence is strong within her. Recently she was involved in a motor vehicle accident. Her reaction was very extreme. She was hit from behind, and it turns out there was not a lot of damage to her car. Yet, after she was rear ended, she couldn’t move as she was in so much pain. When she was driven to see me a week after her accident, she was in severe pain and could hardly move. I had never evaluated a person from a car accident with such a severe whiplash. The first two sessions, her fiancĂ© had to drive her as she couldn’t turn her head. When I examined her and worked with her, her body would physically jump with every touch and with any pressure other than light sensation. If a noise occurred she would jump. It took two weeks until I could gently massage the parts of her neck and back that were so traumatized. In the second week, through noticing how reactive she was, I began to realize that this trauma, being hit suddenly from behind and being taken by surprise, triggered her early traumas as a young child in Africa. I asked her then about her early life and what life was like for her in her village, or town. She began to tell me a little about her life and the wars. I then helped her to realize that her physical reaction to the motor vehicle accident was directly related to her early traumas. She didn’t know; she had put a lot of it behind her. We know that doesn’t work very well.

Even with a good beginning with her parents and family, those war torn chaotic years surrounded by surprising events and loud sounds affected her profoundly. She gets triggered by loud noises and by surprises. Her good parenting and their influence helps her to live as good a life as she does. And yet, those young early traumas impact her in a large way. Our parents influence in good, bad, shameful, ugly, and also wonderful ways. With their influence, it affects how we respond to life. That she does so well is a testament to the family love. But we can’t escape the effect of trauma on us and especially when we are so young and our brains and nervous system are still developing. Our path involves being open to learning and to seeing us clearly and the impact of our early caretakers on us. Next week I will talk some more about this and what happens when our early years with our caretakers are not so good. There is always the path to growth and to becoming who we truly are and to living our own healthy, vital and whole lives. 

Shift Your Story/Shift Your Life: Guided meditation or visualization

Sit down and get yourself comfortable. Make sure your feet are gently resting on the floor underneath you and settle into deep breaths. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply 2,3,4 times. Close your eyes and in your mind’s eye see your parents or caretaker. If one of them is more clearly in your mind, focus on that one. See him/her as clearly as possible. Breathe deeply. Ask her for help in understanding her. Ask her/him to show you an image of something that shaped and impacted their lives that affected their parenting you. You may or may not know the story yourself. Just let an image surface. Maybe you will just see their face differently, or maybe a story will surface in your mind. No matter how factual it is; it could very well just be a metaphor for their lives and yours, or an image that has meaning, or a look they give you, or even a color you see or a smell. Take it in and thank them. Now imagine what they want for you even if they couldn’t live it their selves, or give to you what you needed. What would they want for you in their heart of hearts? What would they have wanted for them? Now see yourself living as you want to live. Imagine any cord or chain or belief or influence that keeps you back from being and living as you want to disappear. That cord or belief is gone and see in your mind’s eye doing something you have always wanted to do or being with someone in a way you would like to be. Be with that for a few minutes and breathe it in. Take a picture of it so you can take it with you; feel it and remember the feeling. Now become aware of you on your chair and your feet on the floor beneath you. Breath in deeply 2,3, 4 times, and open your eyes.

If it helps you, write down in a few sentences, or a word what that experience was like for you. And as always, I would love to hear from you about your experience.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


“A wise man must remember that while he is a descendant of the past, he is a parent of the future.”
                                                                            -Herbert Spencer

There is no greater way I know of to know ourselves than through our relationships. We have relationships with ourselves, with our family members, our friends, our colleagues, and with significant others in our lives. Our future relationships are so influenced by our first ones; our parents and caretakers. What is unresolved in these first primary relationships gets played out within us, and all our other relationships. We may think we have worked everything out and have hashed out their early effects on us, and then something or someone comes along and we become triggered or reactive.

How do we know we are triggered or reactive? We know through a feeling. Suddenly we may feel angry, or we may feel defensive or we may have an uncomfortable or unsettling feeling in our bellies. The question here is that when we are reactive, do we take the time to really notice the feelings that are brought up in us or do we just react instinctively and unknowingly?

Most likely we do a little of both. When we take the time to listen to our inner reactions we then have an opportunity to learn. I was working with a woman a few weeks ago and I was the student. This was a workout class for me and I was describing how the previous week some muscles in my inner thigh reacted from something we had done. My trainer began to feel badly that inadvertently she had requested an exercise that had triggered a painful reaction in my body. As she began to talk about her feeling I realized inwardly and spoke outwardly about how this was a gift to me. I also noticed that she was in fact having her own internal reaction what I had said.  I asked her to please not feel badly as it is really a great opportunity for me to learn more about my body. My saying that did not stop her from feeling bad, but it did speak of a need of mine for her to not feel bad. It also could be an opportunity for her to look at what happened in her that made her feel bad.  I did, on the other hand, receive much-needed information regarding an old injury of mine and I did learn more about how to work with it. In addition, I saw how I was concerned about her feeling badly even though it is out of my control. This is an example of the reactive dynamic on a physical, body level, as well as on an emotional level. t is the same dynamic on every level.

In this example, it is regarded to my relationship with my body and with a teacher as well as my need to control how she is feeling and her distress at possibly contributing to my hurting. What happens when we learn how to work with our reactions with our partners or siblings or parents, etc.? It becomes about listening; truly listening to the other and to us. As we do, we have a door open inside of us to an earlier wound. When someone tells us something or says something that we feel a reaction to, let’s just listen first. What did they say? Can we even repeat it back to them? How do those words make us feel? Are we uncomfortable, angry, sad, happy, what? This becomes a doorway to learn about an inner connection to an earlier hurt that wasn’t resolved. Another way to say this is that we have an opportunity to bring something that was acting in an unconscious way inside of us to the surface where we have greater consciousness. We have a new and deeper awareness of us. As we see ourselves more clearly we can then see the other more clearly. 

As my father is no longer with us, I have some distance from him and my reactions to him and to my sibling’s reactions to him. With this distance, it is easier for me to see not only how things get brought up in me, but how they were brought up in my siblings in dealing with his decline and his passing. He had become a fall risk and in his own difficult way, he was resisting help; whether the help was in the form of a wheelchair or a sling for his injured elbow. Change was always difficult for him and also doing what others ask of him to do as he needed to do it his way all the time. Recently he took a fall and injured his elbow. My sister had to take him to the emergency room for x-rays to rule out a fracture. It turns out it was a dislocation and not a fracture, but required a sling to support his elbow. Most of my siblings were afraid he wouldn’t use the sling and also that he wouldn’t accept the help of a wheelchair. In fact my sister did have to push him into the wheelchair as he wouldn’t walk; he just stood in place. 

In this situation, I found it easier to keep my distance and to realize that his being obstinate in the face of change is his issue and problem. There are people in place at the facility where he lived to help to take care of him. My sister described how badly she felt as she had to push him into his wheelchair and leave him with his feelings. My brother also felt bad. Sometimes it is hard to see when we have such reactions in relationship to another, that we are in fact being triggered from an earlier time in our lives. Can we look into ourselves and see what an appropriate feeling for that situation is, and what might not be, but is instead a doorway to our inner world? That is the task for us all, to know what is an appropriate reaction to this time and place, and what a reaction to another time and place is. When we are reacting or triggered, what is in fact happening is that we are instantly transported to an earlier time and place where something occurred where we have unresolved feelings. Can we go back to that earlier place and shed light on us in that time? An important key to negotiating the terrain of our current relationships rests on us being able to do so. When we take the time to recognize our feelings that are brought out, and they are about us, we connect with us at a deeper level and instead of reacting, we engage with the other.

Recommended Resources: 

A wonderful book I wholeheartedly recommend is called: Getting the Love you Want, by Harville Hendricks.

It wonderfully goes over what we unconsciously being into our relationships as well as beautifully choreographed exercises, metaphorically, to follow to help us along our conscious pathway.