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

In Lack of Control & The Miracles that Followed

One primary persona of mine is to walk with confidence and appear to be “calm and under control;” the emotions pour out later. In this “mode,” I can hear my father’s mantra to be “calm, cool and collected” reverberating in my cranium. Recently, that persona broke wide the eff open for me. While it’s been an ongoing process of chipping away at this persona, on this particular day I had a very significant breakthrough.

My son was having an escalating series of temper tantrums. My attempt to control the situation and de-escalate it was only causing further … escalation. Based on a recent read of the book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers, by Debbie Ford, I saw where my need to seem in control was a direct result of my feeling that I lacked control. Literally, a light went off in one of the deepest (and darkest?) recesses of my mind. Once I affirmed that I was, indeed, not in control, I surrendered to my higher power and asked for guidance. I spoke to this event in the post Learning to be Secure.

The M.O. from the Past

In trying to prove to myself and to the world that Tiffany had it under control, I hid where I was not under control. Or tried to. I have had an emotional eating addiction for … probably my whole life. This is one of the ways that I both punish myself for my feelings (eating ’til it hurts) and then hide my feelings by stuffing my emotions down, down, down…

In trying to prove to the world that I had it under control, I learned to smile and put on a good game face; well kinda. One practitioner poignantly described me as being “zippered up.” Yet the muscles of my body reveal my guarded and “under control” tendency. Even with regular massages, I have held onto a great deal of tension; more than most.

In trying to prove to the world that I had it under control, I would attempt to control myself, my environment and … even those in it. Wow! That last one is a challenge to admit. Yet, as a physical therapist I develop (and control) treatment plans everyday. What a great profession to be in for someone who secretly wants to control everything and everyone… understand, I believed it was an act of self-preservation, not mind-control.

Where & why the control most likely started

This control is not so much about power for the sake of power, it’s more about my feeling safe. As a child, I was in situations where I was abused by “trusting” adults who manipulated and controlled me. From this, I believed that my body was not safe, that I had to control others – and myself – to be safe. From this abuse, I also didn’t believe I could trust people; especially those who were meant to protect me. Further more, I felt effing powerless, and hence the cycle starts over, feeding into itself. So for me, being in control has meant that it was harder for someone else to harm me.

Back to the Breakthrough

Yet on this fateful day, I chose differently. In recognizing my lack of control and giving up control to my higher power, I received greater clarity in everyday things. This has helped me to make wiser choices. The irony! Instead of being ruled by my fear of loss of control, I’m seeing that I have little control outside of my own choices, and now my choices are more clear, thus giving me …. more control! Yet in a different way, in that the control factor is no longer based in fear.

It is my hope that in sharing, you will find a greater understanding about yourself or perhaps a “control freak” that is in your life. The more we can understand and have compassion, the less turbulence we each create in our world.

May we each find a greater sense of peace in better understanding ourselves and others. 

Namaste

The Fear of Being Loved

For as long as I can remember, I have sought for love. Perhaps it is the hopeful and “hopeless romantic” within (see Enneagram 4). There has always been this underlying feeling of being incomplete; an irredeemable deficiency as described by Ian Morgan Cron, a fellow “4”.

In diving into this incessant need to be loved and even validated through relationship, I found that underneath the push, that I have deeply fear being loved. Initially, this was quite a shock for me to see. Yet, in looking back, I see this has been clearly reflected to me, repeatedly ad nauseam, in the men I have been in relationships with. Heck, I can even see it play out in my friendships.

Every man I’ve dated and many of my friends have been in some way unavailable, most in multiple ways: emotionally unavailable, lacking time, have lived far away, had too many other commitments, or were still stuck on their exes (the latter is in regards to dating, obv). These are not pock shots at anyone, I share this as it is a direct reflection of where I was unavailable; even if my being unavailable showed up differently….

I seem to be like a moth with the flame. While I want to be in close friendships and even in a lovingly relationship, I am now acutely aware of where I have not wanted to get too close. I push forward, then I pull away. This is indicative of having a fearful attachment; where I both seek love and yet when I find it that very love is also scary AF.

Taking things a step further, I see where it also plays out with my children. While I have improved some, there are times when I feel there is something “I must do right now” on my phone or a chore in the home, when in reality, the majority of the time it really could wait until later; meanwhile my kids wait for me to finish my task. I put them/love on hold instead of putting the task on hold…

This had been unintentional/unconscious on my part. Now, I see where the push and pull has negatively affected me and my ability to relate with others. With this new awareness in mind, I have been doing body scans, observing the places where I feel contracted. It seems to be helping, because I’m noticing I’ve becoming less afraid to live unfiltered; more authentically.

May we each see and acknowledge our fears, to release ourselves from their grip. May we each recognize and accept the places in our lives where we have blocked out love; allowing us to love more freely. 

Namaste

A very helpful meditation to help with sitting with anger

 

Faith in Receiving

It is very easy for me to give, ’tis much harder to receive. I give of my time, patience, efforts and knowledge to others everyday. Sometimes I get paid for it and sometimes I don’t.

Religious dogma and society support giving more than receiving. “It’s better to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35 (KJV). Welfare recipients are shamed for being “needy.” Yet I wonder if there are deeper reasons…

Receptivity means having faith and surrendering. It also means being vulnerable and “accepting” what we receive. Receiving is also being, which is actively “doing nothing.” (that was triggering to state). Receiving is very much a divine feminine trait; where being feminine is often associated with being weak. Again, where religious dogma and society can play a role in how we perceive things. 

In sitting with my discomfort today around being receptive, I saw several “forces” at play. Being receptive means “getting what I deserve.” There is still part of me that wrestles with that aspect of my personality where I believe there is “an irredeemable deficiency” about myself. With that in mind, to get what I deserve could mean more discomfort for me. This belief also discounts Agape or unconditional love. 

Being receptive also means being vulnerable and feeling unprotected. In service to others, I have repeatedly “put myself out there” and have often felt used, abused, taken for granted and unappreciated. I see where I have done this to myself, to make up for my “irredeemable deficiency” where I feel I must “go above and beyond” to prove my worth… I call this trait “super size me,” where I must “give more,” to make up for my deficiencies. Which again, discounts Agape. 

Yet staying in this place of “keeping a lid” on who I am here to be, I feel as if I’m wearing a shirt several sizes too small. It restricts my movements, my breathing and keeps me from being the person I am here to be. There is great sadness in feeling my own suppression. So I’ve resolved to reach up to the stars and have faith in receiving the greatness that supports who I am here to be; this is vulnerability. 

May we each find new freedom and faith in receiving and in being vulnerable; it takes more strength to be vulnerable than it does to power through everything. May we find peace in our own vulnerability, receptivity and femininity. (sounds much like sea anemone, and with that in mind, may we also laugh at ourselves more!) 

Namaste

Seizing the Moment

How often do we miss fully immersing ourselves in the beauty of the present moment because our minds or our bodies are elsewhere?

Today, I am literally composing this post while my toes are dipping into the calm waters near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, my mind is dwelling on the past or looking to the future. While I am more present now in my mind and body than I have ever been, I see where I’m holding tension in areas such as my neck and solar plexus.

Allowing this tension the space to breathe, I see where I fear being fully present. Somewhere I’ve told myself that being alive and being right here, right now, is unsafe. I block my gut with my muscles as if to armor up against the “other shoe dropping.” I concern myself with silly things such as trying to be sure I have the right saying.

This awareness brings a new softening. As it is in allowing the fears to have light shed upon them that they begin to abate. Once we see that what we’ve been thinking subconsciously is not the truth then we set ourselves free. We are free to enjoy life the way it is meant to be: more and more fully.

So I’ll sit here for a few moments more as the waves lick at my feet, taking away what is no longer meant to be…and bringing to me exactly what I need in this moment: a new sense of peace.

May we each find more of the gifts meant for us by being more fully present. May we shed the old beliefs which no longer serve us so that we may more fully receive exactly what we’re meant to receive: joy, peace and abundance beyond our wildest dreams.

Namaste

The Heart’s Desire for Connection

We run away from it. We chase it. We deny it. We make fun of it and we deny or destroy it. Yet underneath all of the layers, what we really long for is connection with ourselves, with others, and with Our Higher Power.

Connection scares us. It leaves us vulnerable to our basic fears: abandonment, rejection, being misunderstood and on and on.

Yet we are social beings. Spiritually, we are connected to everyone and everything; whether we want to admit it or not.

It is in facing each of our fears, head on, that we are able to see these are just beliefs formed when we were young and that we’ve carried forward; beliefs that cannot hold weight when the light of our awareness shines down upon them.

Despite our fears, the longing to connect, to share, to be part of something greater than ourselves persists. To reconnect to your truth, give to your fear what it really seeks: comforting, acknowledgment, gratitude, love, acceptance, or whatever else comes up. It is in allowing the fear, seeing what it needs and giving it just that, allows us to see it was just a blip on our radar – and not the truth of who we are.

May we each give ourselves what we need, so that we can build stronger connections with others, allowing our hearts to be free. For with each disconnection we reconnect, we all become brighter and better for it.

Namaste

It’s Okay to be Okay

This lesson may be just as, if not more, difficult to understand than “being okay with not being okay.” When things are going well for me, I find that I look for the “bad things” on the horizon. Why can I not be okay with what’s happening?

When life is going well, it’s as if I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I find that my eyes are on the horizon, searching for any potential storms, pirates, tsunamis or other “dangers” that could threaten my happiness. What?! How does this even make sense? Instead of being grateful for where I am and enjoying what I do have, my eyes focus on the potential negatives.

We get what we look for. I’m searching for issues so guess what? Then I’m going to get more issues. Those potential issues then become my focus instead of enjoying the calm waters and sunny skies that surround me now.

So here today, I choose to redirect the focus to where I am now, and away from seeking threats that are outside of my safe harbor; that are also outside of my control. Putting down the binoculars, I can now focus on the present. Even if the present is impermanent.

I extend this wish out to each of you: May we each find the peace and comfort in where we are, even if it’s rough sometimes, even when it’s easy sometimes. Knowing that it is all transient: it will change, so let’s be okay with where we are today.

Note: This is different from complacency, this is about acceptance of what is. Only then can we choose to change course. ❤️

Namaste

The Rise After The Fall: Having Fun While Overcoming Fears Part II

Last weekend, I went “surfing” again. This time I took along a friend who was inspired by my surfing story because she, too, had had a fear of “deep water.” She said that she would try surfing if she had a friend to go with her. So we gave it a go!

While the waves were somewhat small, we were having to fight rather hard to get past the “white water” to the surf line. There was a storm off the coast and the waves were fair to choppy and the sets were close together to where we were hit by another wave just after recovering from the wave before – it was as if we were treading water on surfboards!

The storm system was also creating “rogue” waves from time to time that would break much earlier than the others. Well, one grabbed hold of me and took me straight to the sandbar. Once I hit the bottom, the wave tumbled me much like a pebble.

What was amazing for me? Instead of feeling any sense of danger or fear for my life, I felt a sense of peace that everything was going to be alright. This is really, really huge for me. I feel I need to restate it: this is really, really huge for me. I had an inner knowing of peace, calm and that all would be okay. It was. When the Atlantic Ocean released her grip, I was literally on my feet without any real effort to get there.

The fighting to get past the whitewater had worn me out, especially since I was still recovering from feeling quiet worn out from my workweek. So I did not feel like fighting the waves anymore. Instead, I retrieved my board (via the leash) and caught a wave that safely took me all the way to the shoreline.

This surfing adventure was a new level to my understanding of Spirituality. Sometimes life takes us down to the bottom, yet by surrendering and being in trust, we can quickly rise back up. When we stop fighting the forces, we can easily get back to our peace. 

This analogy also works emotionally and physically. It was in fighting that I wore myself out. It was in allowing that I was set free of my fears. It was in faith that I knew all would be okay, and I’ve used that analogy of being the pebble when a “life wave” takes me under and threatens to overwhelm me. Then it is in allowing that I was given rest, reprieve and the greatest leap forward.

Namaste

Emotional Freedom Begins With You

Emotional freedom comes from repeatedly choosing to observe our emotions and thoughts objectively; as a witness would. Otherwise, our thoughts and emotions rule us or we attempt to rule and suppress them (and then they eventually pop up again, either in obvious or secretive ways).

The phrase ‘repeatedly choosing’ is also important here. Just as we require routine activities to keep our homes and bodies in order, our emotional landscape requires continual upkeep. Also, it is our will to do the work or to ignore it and allow the emotional or thought “weeds” to grow; hence our need to choose.

It is when we decide that the pain of holding on is greater than the fear of letting go that we can grow; when we can allow life and healing to truly unfold. It is our will that keeps us from letting go. When we hold onto what has past, we cannot open our hands to allow the present to fully unfold. 

In these ways, emotional freedom is ours to choose. Witness what you think, what you feel, as if you were watching a movie. You will find that the more you practice this, the easier it becomes to detach and move forward into acceptance, into allowing and recognizing the impermanence of what we think, feel and even do. These are the keys to emotional freedom.

Namaste

PS Fear not! You will still have emotions! They just will cease to consume, overwhelm and “control” you.

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