Unf#ck Your Brain, The Book

Unf#ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD practically screamed my name when looking for something different to read while vacationing. Maybe it was the bright yellow cover or maybe it was just the title. Either way, I’m grateful as f#ck because this has turned out to be yet another one of those life-changing books.

Harper is a licensed professional counselor who uses a holistic approach to help readers and her clients understand the physical factors behind their brain-induced woes. She also understands and relates how unresolved trauma can set us each up for difficulties in our every day. Her analogies of how trauma affects the physiological functioning of the brain help readers to understand why we can perseverate and even feel like we’re losing our shit; and how to change it. Traumatic events can include witnessing an event where we feel helpless, it doesn’t only include trauma that we experience directly.

I also happen to love that she cusses, a lot, especially in the beginning. It actually helped me to more fully appreciate some of the humor behind how our brain processes trauma, especially compared to more scientific (and stuffy) descriptions of the same processes. While Harper doesn’t make light of trauma, her well-placed curse words and labels help call out the process in a way that helped me to lighten up. Such as when she calls the amygdala an asshole…. So if you don’t enjoy foul (or colorful) language, I’d say this book may not be for you.

In my new understanding of the neurology behind trauma, I also have more compassion for myself. For me, this always translates into more compassion for others.

She also offers many tools on how to overcome trauma, some of which I was familiar and have even mentioned in this blog. However, one tool alone was worth the price of admission for me. This was writing from the stories I have told myself instead of from the details and feelings evoked from the situations.

One example is how I have told myself that I am to blame for when others treat me poorly. While I have seen this pattern pan out in multiple areas in my life, writing this story out gave me a new perspective of it. Also, tying it directly back to the early sexual abuse helped me to uproot it.

Harper also shares her broad research and clinical experiences in this book. She shares that trauma-conscious therapy often helps to unravel the sources of depression, anxiety and even mental health disorders that most believe are medically-based.

So if you feel like your brain is f#cking you up or hijacking your life, I strongly recommend this book. If you read it and practice it, I can guarantee that you’ll see some positive shifts, and far more quickly and painlessly than traditional talk therapy. And if you don’t see shifts and you’ve done the work she outlines, then she shares that sometimes we need some outside help: from friends, from family or even from a trained professional.

I love that Harper shares tips on how to find the right professional, and what to do if you’re not seeing changes. She adds what pits to avoid, including feeling obligated to remain with someone who isn’t helping you.

As someone who has sought various mental health and counseling services over the decades, I wish I had had this trail-guide sooner. This is about therapy and getting better, not just regurgitating and reliving the hurt. Nor is it about staying with someone who isn’t helping us to move forward. I feel that bears repeating: this is about getting better, not just talking and reliving the fucking past.

May we each find and use the tools we need to shift our perspective of our wounded and hurt places. May we each rediscover the wholeness within, taking back our power and thus showing others the path to wholeness.

Namaste

Learning to be Secure

My son was having a difficult time with self-control this evening. Even with knowing the consequences of his behavior, he choose to act out; losing his coveted tablet time for the rest of the day. So there I was, having my feathers ruffled by a 7-year-old throwing a 7-year-old temper tantrum, because I did not feel heard.

Earlier in the day I had done a guided meditation which asked me what my most burning desire. My answer “to fully express myself;” as in a no-holds-barred, completely authentic way. This has been something I have never felt safe doing. In feeling insecure in honoring my own voice, I had not been able to honor my son’s voice, either. Hours later, there we were, pitted against one another; neither of us feeling heard nor respected.

Silently, I said a prayer, asking for guidance as I was myself beginning to feel ready to verbally explode. Insights then began to flood in as I sat and watched my son’s behavior. Miraculously, my mind calmed down and, from my heart, I began to tell my son what I was seeing; a boy who was angry and who needed love. Perhaps I could have also said confused (that’s my judgmental voice right there!). I then heard my wise inner voice tell me that my son needed to know that above all that he was safe.

Yet, my calm disturbed him further. He upped his efforts to upset me, kicking a ball at me. I calmly told him he needed to go up to his room and I walked upstairs with him on my way to my own room. At the top of the stairs he shared that he didn’t want to go alone into his room, so I changed tack and, still calm, I sat down with him.

The inner wisdom kicked in again, showing me that he needed me to be connected and open (vulnerable) with him. So I sat with him and held the space while he calmed himself down. I also felt further soothed. What do any of us really want when we are upset and hurt? Someone who loves us who can be there with us in “our ugly,” judgment-free. Or maybe it’s just me?

Later, in looking back, I also saw how he was seeking connection with me even within his inner chaos. He was looking to me to be the adult, to remain calm and connected while he sorted through his feelings. Instead of closing my heart and feeding his and my own anger, I chose to stay open and calm. At first, this was a break from my norm after such an escalated point; this made him feel uneasy and he chose further destructive behaviors. Then, after he saw I was choosing to remain calm, he felt able to tell me he didn’t want to be alone. After sitting with him through his storm, we both felt more at peace. Later, he was even able to joke about his tantrums during a game of Uno.

It is my hope that next time I’ll be able to be as, or more, calm and open-hearted as I was tonight when he has one of his fits. While I am sure there will still be times when my anger gets the best of me, I will do my best to remember how much better things felt with opening and connecting instead of closing down.

Later, I also saw a new solution to an old problem.  He has a tendency to procrastinate on his nightly homework. Then, suddenly it’s bedtime and I’ve had little time with my daughter. While she is older and more independent, she still needs time with her mother. So I discussed with them both what would change this week with the evening routine and why.

This miracle allowed me to be able to see life from a bigger picture, to see solutions in-the-moment and to connect calmly with my son through his storm. It helped foster a stronger connection and  strengthened my compassion for him and for myself. In surrendering my knee-jerk reactions, I was able to chose differently and more wisely.

May we each be more present and calm during the seeming chaos of life and parenting; as we relate to others, our children as well as to the child within each of us. 

Namaste

The Right to Exist

Do you feel the need to prove yourself (worthy)? Do you go out of your way to make things easier for others, while making things harder for yourself? Do you frequently apologize to others, even when something is not your fault or something is beyond your control (as if apologizing for breathing)? Do you feel bad for meeting your needs? OR do you feel bad when someone gives you something, expecting nothing in return (and it’s not your birthday)? Do you feel bad for having a full grocery cart and the person behind you in line has just a few items? Does it bother you when you do not feel you are helping others in some way? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are that you struggle with the right to exist.

Personally, the right to exist has been an ongoing issue with which I struggle. When things are going well and I’m contributing to a situation, then I feel comfortable being where I am. If, however, I feel that I’m only taking and not giving, I can struggle with my right to be here on earth. Recently, I have begun to see this pattern in others in my daily life where for so long I thought I had been alone in this.

This “right to exist” issue came to the forefront for me this past week when I felt the need to justify my right to park my car in a public parking lot!!! Another driver had an issue with traffic being stopped while I backed into a spot. Had her daughter not have been with her, she probably would have come at me with fists instead of angry and insulting words. I spent less time parking that she spent cussing at me (while she herself was blocking traffic) when I stood up to her to tell her I had the right to park (and exist). While I felt the right to (temporarily) take up space, later I saw where this incident still triggered my issues with my basic right to exist.

May we each see that we are on this earth for a reason, that we each have the right to exist and take up space. May we each be at peace with being. 

Namaste

Coming Soon: The Right to Receive

Harnessing Our Anger

Anger is an emotion. Emotions are energy designed to move us, to help us to move forward or to teach us something.

Many of us were taught or learned that anger is dangerous, scary and should be avoided at all costs. Anger is like fire… and yes, we do want to avoid being burned, yet think about what would happen if all fire ceased to exist: how would we warm our homes, cook our food or drive our cars? My point here is that not all fire is bad and the same goes for anger.

Anger feels like fire, and it is part of the matrix of passion. Just as fire burns and transforms fuel into movement, we can use our anger as an internal fire to propel us forward; to change.

When we suppress our anger, our internal fire, we suppress our passion. We prevent ourselves from changing, and we stagnate or stay stuck.

Tapping Out on Emotional Overload offers a helpful strategy to help manage anger, or other emotions, that feel excessive or unhelpful.

Again, not all anger is bad. It is our judgment about the feeling and suppressing it or not channeling it into something creative that can be the danger. What we do with our passion, with our anger, and this with our energy is up to us. We can use it, just like fire, to cook food or to burn things down.

For reflection:

  • What are you using your passion for today? Or are you keeping it locked up?!
  • Or just allowing it to unleash without any creative direction?
  • How can you see your emotions differently, allowing them to lead you to your greatness?

Namaste

Tapping Out on Emotional Overload

Last week a good friend reminded me about the benefits of EFT or “tapping” to help with difficult emotions. Her reminder was perfect timing for me as I was in the throes of coping with a mother load of anger. While I meditate multiple times a times and have other stress-reducing self-care routines, the erupting volcano required more than my “usual” self-care and meditation to manage.

I’ve had used EFT in the past and each time I’ve found it to be incredibly transformative. It is my hope that you will find some use to this technique, as it really helps to gain freedom from overwhelming emotions. EFT can also be used to support both the development and reinforcement of positive thoughts and habits, too.

Please see the YouTube video below, which has both the following written description as well as a walk-through of the EFT technique.

Before beginning, identify and then rate the intensity level of the emotion you are wanting to change on a scale of 0-10. Then think of how you want to phrase what you are feeling. In the video, my feelings were on anxiety and nervousness.

Here is the initial phrase you use while rubbing your chest:

Even though I feel this _________________, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.

Repeat this 3 times before the next step.

Then repeat “this __________” on each area while tapping with your index and middle fingers about 7 times each on the:

crown of your head (1 hand)

Inside eyebrow

Outside eyebrow

Under your eyes

Under your nose

On your chin

Under your collarbones

On the bottom of your ribcage

(Personally, I run through the tapping part 3 -4 times before I reassess.)

Now, assess the emotional level and determine if you need to repeat the tapping sequence from the top.

Feel free to experiment and see what unwanted feelings you can tap away. Sometimes being more specific can help clear more thoroughly.

May this technique help you to find a greater sense of peace within.

Namaste & Happy Tapping

(I’m still working on the thumbnail frames. Mobile app isn’t as friendly lol)

Anger’s Lessons

The shifts from this week have lead to me to the awareness of a significant amount of suppressed anger and sadness. While the events that lead to this awareness were seemingly innocuous, they did their job in uncovering the hidden well of emotions. It was in giving myself permission to feel my emotions that the well was tapped.

Sorting through the initial upwelling, I saw patterns emerge. Boundary violations, perceived indiscretions and abandonment were common threads. Digging deeper I found that the Golden thread in each of these scenarios was myself. As I felt this, I literally hit my bed. I gave myself permission to have a good ol’ fashioned temper tantrum.

In round two of my delving, I found that pure emotion rose up. There were not as many memories or images or impressions to go along with the anger, sadness and grief that I felt. It was just plain raw, yet needed to be allowed and felt.

Walking through as much as I could, I was breathing easier once again. And after releasing the feelings to my Higher Power, I slept somewhat restlessly.

The next morning I felt off center and while the horizons within were expanded, the edges still felt serrated. Sitting in meditation helped, where I also prayed and turned things over again. EFT was a tremendous blessing. If you struggle with difficult emotions or health issues I highly recommend learning about tapping!

Lessons learned about anger:

  • My anger is my responsibility. The stories I tell myself about why I’m angry only keep me stuck in it.
  • Judgment about anger can be more damaging than the emotion itself. By judging we often try to suppress what we’re feeling.
  • Suppressing anger is like compressing a spring. It may make the anger seem smaller, and this is only temporary. Eventually it’s going to spring back up.
  • Foods I like to eat when I’m angry are chewy or gummy, like gum or gummy bears. When I’m frustrated I like crunchy, like chips. These are warning signs that I’m suppressing, as is forceful sighing. Oh, and impatience at the littlest things…
  • Anger is the fuel for change. It can transform us into vehicles for positive changes as anger is part of the spark behind our passions. If we were happy about everything we wouldn’t want to change it nor would we be motivated to do so.
  • Anger can show us where a boundary has been violated.
  • The one person for whom I hold the most anger and unforgiveness is myself.
  • Giving ourselves permission to feel angry and being willing to forgive ourselves and any other trespassers will help get us unstuck.
  • Being angry and acting on that anger are two separate things, if we allow it to be.
  • Letting go and letting our Higher Power step in can be a tremendous relief. Asking for the situation or our perspective to change gives our Higher Power permission to act.
  • Holding onto anger only truly hurts the one holding it (meaning it only hurts me when I am holding onto or suppressing it).
  • Suppressed anger can separate and prevent feeling love or compassion for oneself or even another; this keeps us further separated.
  • Forgiveness and gratitude also help to unlock the gripping effects of suppressed anger. They open our hearts and shine light on the situation.

For me, anger was something I saw as scary, overwhelming and dangerous growing up. It was easier to suppress it than to feel or show it. I also believe that I was socialized to believe that anger wasn’t an acceptable emotion. Now I see how much it hurts me to hold it in, and how it keeps me stuck.

By allowing my anger, without judging or suppressing it, I give myself permission to change my perspectives, my life circumstances and to follow the path of my life purpose; my passion.

A good friend shared a fantastic paradigm shift with me today. To see myself as a superhuman who is able to act (and feel) in no set particular way. It’s okay to make mistakes! That’s how we learn…and teach.

May you begin to find some peace today in allowing your anger. Emotions are energy, they are here to help us to move and be moved. When we judge and suppress them, we set ourselves up for dis-ease. Let’s change that, shall we?!

Namaste

Please seek professional help if your inclination is to harm yourself or others.

Is anger easier to feel than love?

As I drove to work this morning, I noticed my thoughts were honed in on the areas in which I have felt wronged. In fact, looking back further, I see this has been the primary pattern I have held this past week – and beyond. My fist and jaw muscles were clenched while I seemed to hover slightly out of my body. The still, quiet voice within softly whispered, “focus on your heart.” Immediately, I let out a slow, long breath that, before that very moment, I didn’t realize I had been holding onto. I felt the back of my body again, no longer hovering. My muscles softened, appropriately (afterall, I was still driving). In the same moment, I felt the healing glow of my heart light open and warm the restrictions in my throat and stomach.

Within seconds, I saw where I felt so much better just by changing my focus from my grievances to my heart. One of my next thoughts was, “why didn’t I just do this sooner?” I did see where, overnight, I would turn the focus onto myself to see where I was contributing to the problem, AND by doing this, I was still focusing on the problem. Now, my focus was fully on my heart and I felt complete and whole again, where once I had felt completely broken.

After recognizing the internal battle that ensued overnight, I began to ask myself: “is it easier to be angry than it is to love?” Immediately, I began to see where, indeed, our anger helps us to feel justified, gives us the feeling of power and protection. We feel armored, and it also separates and disconnects us from others. In other words, anger keeps us stuck in our own thoughts, actions and habits.

On the other hand, literally, the open hand of love versus the closed fist of anger makes us feel incredibly vulnerable. Love means we are open, to some degree, to whatever is to come.

Anger disconnects and love connects. To feel love and compassion is to see life from someone else’s perspective. Love is scary because it means we need to change how we view the world, ourselves and how we relate to others. Now love doesn’t seem so great now, does it? (just kidding).

Here are some heart meditations that I have practiced this week while working through the muck that a few times threatened to keep me forever stuck. Trust me when I say that pushing away the anger and frustration is like building a bulkhead along the ocean, the waves dig out the sand in front of it and the waves just return bigger and angrier. Here are some strategies to side-step the building up of anger, by opening up the heart light.

Gratitude

Gratitude is such a powerful tool for opening the heart and seeing life from a different perspective. Sometimes the greatest challenge is just beginning. It may be best to start with the basics. The other day I began my list with being grateful for being warm (I don’t like being cold), for my cozy bed (that I was still in at the time), then my home, running water, water heater, my kids, my Jeep, my Job….

Write the list if this helps to solidify things for you. When we focus on the things that ARE going well, it helps us to gain perspective a higher perspective and rise above the things that close our hearts. Gratitude is infectious, be careful! (wink)

Heart Meditations

Imagine the parts of yourself that are hurting, for whatever reason, in bubbles in front of your heart. Remember a time when you felt love, or ask Your Higher Power to give love to these parts of you (in the bubbles). See the bubbles filling with love and see the various part of yourself, within their individual bubbles, transformed. When ready, allow these bubbles to rise up to the heavens, or see them reintegrate with you. Or follow what your heart tells you to do.

This same technique can be used to help someone else who is suffering in some way.

Digging Deeper

What are some ways in which you can each open your heart to a greater depth of love?

How can you tell when you are being closed to others? I personally find that my muscles go into hyperdrive

Where has your focus been this week or what thoughts are you running away from?

The Freedom in Breaking Down

Kneeling on the hard concrete patio, there was a chill to the air as dusk began to fall and I quickly scribbled my feelings on dishes using permanent markers. With safety glasses in place, I placed a plate gently inside a small banker’s box. My adrenalin rushed as I tightly gripped the hammer and brought it down, angrily and repeatedly on the fragile dish ware. At first my hits were staccato-like, trying to pulverize the plate into oblivion.

As I moved through the scribbled set of spare plates, at times large chunks of ceramic shrapnel would land on the patio. One large piece jumped up and scraped along my right middle finger where dark red blood soon followed. This did not stop me; using alternate grips with the hammer to avoid more scrapes, as I was beyond the point of stopping to find gloves.

The power I felt was AMAZING. I then began to revel in the amount of destruction I could do with one smooth hit. Soon the weight that I had been carrying around my chest was lifted, the weight on my shoulders soon followed. My prevailing emotions moved from anger and sadness to empowerment.

Originally, I had planned to throw the plates into a dumpster. Yet I wanted to feel the action of the breaking at my own hands. I now see the benefit of really feeling it. Maybe next time I’ll wear gloves… maybe.

There was such a sense of peace after everything was adequately broken. In fact, I was proud of my destruction. There was also beauty in the melodious way the broken pieces chimed as they collided with one another while I cleaned up.

Looking back, I see how I was able to break some of the habits of my thinking patterns just by breaking plates. That night, I broke up with some of my anger. Afterwards, I felt enlivened and relieved of many blockages. Over a week later, I still do. Since then, I’ve learned a few things, too.

Several people have shared with me the Greek tradition of breaking plates as a form of celebration. One Greek friend even gave me pointers on buying the plates from the Dollar Store instead of the thrift store for ease of breakability. She also spoke to the exhilaration felt with breaking plates while shouting “Opa!”

I have also read of how some Buddhist monks break green glass in pillowcases to help relieve the feelings of anger. What’s interesting about this is that my next calling is to nicely decorate a plate before I smash it, which seems akin to the sand mandalas created and then destroyed by Tibetan Monks.

Since following my calling to break stuff, I now realize how ceremonial and freeing this very act can be. If you plan to follow, please do so safely.

Namaste

This Life is About You

It is so easy to focus on the actions of others. “So-and-so did this or that,” I say to myself, my journal or to my friends. This is often where I find myself focusing my attention: on what someone did or did not do and how that affected me. It’s an exhausting way to live with such an outward, “I can’t control what’s happening in my life” kind of focus.

The reality is that each of our lives is truly about ourselves. Yet we are taught at a young age to focus on others, because to look at ourselves is considered self-centered. Yet the truth is that the only person in this world that we can control is the one we see in the mirror.

Sadly, by focusing on what every other soul in our lives is doing, we fail to miss the power that we hold in our very hands: our power to control ourselves. When we focus outwardly, we give up our own power to do what we can do. I’m swallowing this sideways pill as I type. My power is within, yet I repeatedly give my power away when I focus on how someone else treats me. “How am I treating myself?,” is the true question. 

This life is up to each of us to live. This life is up to each of us to own, for ourselves. It is up to each of us to STOP giving our power away to everyone else, because we give our power to the things we focus on and few of us focus on the things that are within ourselves.

Starting in a new way today, I’ll be eating many a servings of humble pie.

Namaste.

 

 

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