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

When Feeling Stuck…

The past few months life has moved forward much like someone learning to drive a stick shift with a mixture of smooth sailing, lurching forward, stalling, bucking, and screeching halts. Work demands increased, and home life demands seemed to, as well. While I kept up fairly well with much of my self-care, more so than ever during a time of stress, I still felt like I was treading water or drowning more than not. Simply put, I felt stuck in this perpetual liminal or in-between space.

From this extended purgatory of sorts, I’ve learned some new perspectives that can help make the road less bumpy for you.

  • Self-care during this time is crucial. At times, I was resistant about some items yet open and consistent about others. I say, do what you can here. Choose your battles wisely; know who you’re fighting, too… and know that when life “hits the fan,” self-care is needed even more. (I like to use the NASCAR analogy here, that racing around means those cars get more care in 1 race than most of our cars receive in a year or more… maybe I could look up some stats about that one day.)
  • Embrace the slowdown. These transitory rest breaks allow us to rebuild our energy after the ending of one chapter. These spaces also make life seem less clear, and driving faster because we can’t see clearly doesn’t generally work out well for many, for long. I also believe that this slowdown is to allow for taking life differently.
  • Create or find a supportive mantra and use it. Simple ones like, “this too shall pass,” or “this is the breakdown before the breakthrough,” or “I’ve survived this, and more, before. I’ve got this!,” or “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger/wiser, etc.” Find or create a supportive mantra that meets your needs.
  • Journal. Writing can be very helpful during this time to help gain perspective. Personally, I write some dark poetry during this time. It’s therapeutic to “poop” out the thoughts that are no longer needed.
  • Find a new perspective or analogy.
    • It is in this void, this space, where we also get to choose to live life differently.
    • This time is for clearing the path for the next adventure. I recently began to imagine my guides laying down new stepping stones… 

IT’S SO AMAZING when we choose to look at this “mysterious” (and scary) time less as an “undoing” and more as a “remodeling.” If we’re tired of our kitchen, we can choose to keep it just as it is. OR, we can choose to remodel it which involves breaking down the old. There will be some dust and mess, this is part of the process.

Remodeling also takes time. Yet it is in our desire for change that we accept that this is part of the process. We sure as hell don’t stop during this in-between kitchens phase. We know it will not do us ANY good. And we also know that something better is on it’s way so we “suck it up” and go about our day. Of course “we can’t wait” (but we also want it to be right, so we do).

SO! When we find that our path is suddenly not-so-clear, when we feel we are stuck and things seem completely confusing… IF we can begin to see this as part of the remodeling process, we learn to accept it for the “breakdown” that it is. You know, the one that precedes the breakthrough!

May we move with ever increasing grace through those confusing liminal spaces, knowing that while it all seems chaotic now, that a new path is being laid out for us to take. It’s our choice in how we take it: with grace or kicking and screaming all along the way. Mine is often with a mixture of both!

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

Celebrating a New Path

This was originally scheduled to post yesterday on 6/1. However, in light of the events in Virginia Beach the day before I felt it was not the time to celebrate. Overnight, I had some breakthroughs and recognized it’s even more important to celebrate life at this time. We must each choose to be the light and celebrate life while we honor the tragic deaths of others, this is what leads to healing. #VirginiaBeachStrong

Have you ever looked back on your life and seen how one new opportunities arose based on prior choices; ones previously unseen or unimaginable? Perhaps the first one was a choice you were afraid to take… yet you took it anyway… then more and more pathways opened up.

Well, in looking back over the last five years, I can see where new opportunities and choices that arose after a seemingly simple career path change. However, little did I know at the time how that one change would lead to a cascade of changes; literally, so much of my life today is very different than it was on 6/1/2014.

The first step was when I moved out of the field and back into the clinic. In doing so, I freed up more time and energy for life, living and seeing… Almost immediately, I changed my diet (at the time to Vegan) which lead to my spurt with running.

Since 2014, I’ve removed over 60 pounds from my frame. Yes! I said 60 (and no, removed does not mean surgery!). Though this has taken me most of the 5 years to accomplish, the final 10 or so has been through intermittent fasting; not running nor being Vegan, although I’ve given both a go now, twice each…

Within a few months of my job change, the shifts also lead me to see that my nearly 15-year-old marriage was failing; miserably. Had I stayed in “the field” of home health, I would not have had the energy nor emotional capacity to go through such an upheaval as the divorce required. The running I mentioned earlier lead me to meet many friends who were supportive during this time of separation & divorce, as many had endured or were enduring the same! It’s still amazing to look back and to see all of the support I had all along; though I often felt lonely…

The separation and subsequent divorce lead me to start blogging (just passed the 4 year blogiversary in April). Blogging has pushed me to explore greater depths of understanding and it has introduced me to new concepts through being able to see life through the eyes of others, too. I’ve also made some interesting and supportive connections over the years.

Five years later and  my work has expanded to include 2 clinics, mentoring of 4 other therapists, numerous public health and physician education events and acquiring my certification as a pelvic rehab specialist. When I started, I worked part-time in pelvic health and part-time in general orthopedics. Now, my caseload is nearly 100% pelvic health. It’s an amazing journey to summarize in one quick paragraph.

During this time, I’ve also moved twice and changed cars twice. Before this, I had never lived “alone” meaning without another adult in the house, much less purchased nor leased a car on my own. Needless to say, these years have taught me a great deal about myself and much of this learning has been chronicled in the 688 blog posts to date. So today I celebrate the many changes. And wonder what the next 5 years will hold. Even as I have set some personal goals, I’m confident surprises are in store.

5 years from now, I’d like to look back and see where I have:

  • Published a book or two giving guidance to others on their journey.
  • Given TED Talks (or similar) on navigating through change.
  • Reduced my hours in health care to 20/week or less.
  • Paid off consumer debt.
  • Maintained my weight loss, my meditation practice and increased my consistency with working out.
  • Continued to actively expand how I support my children in their growth and development.
  • Improved my relationship with my parents.
  • Settled into a deeper relationship with myself.
  • Invited a compatible partner along for the journey.

So stay tuned! Who really knows what tomorrow will bring?!

May we each follow our natural curiosities, discovering new opportunities as we travel through life. May we each give ourselves the freedom to choose change, even when at the time it may seem tough or a mistake, knowing more chances await …

Namaste

Balancing Affirmations for Unlocking Authenticity

For over 5 years I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with positive affirmations. The challenge I run into every time is that I feel immediate resistance to the new affirmation. The parts of me that reject the affirmation quickly rise up. Then within a day or so, all of the areas in my life that don’t meet that affirmation all bubble up (like poop in water) to the top. It can be a very unpleasant experience, that feels much like a very restrictive diet; making it very difficult to stick to for very long (if at all). Well, now I have learned a few more balanced approaches to affirmations that I’d like to share with you.

Over a year ago, my trusted life coach, Sam Allen of Peacock Poetry told me about a book whose title caused an immediate wave of resistance to rise up within me (you may be noticing a theme of resistance here). While I immediately put this book in the “to buy later” cart, I ignored it for at least a year until my curiosity got the best of me. Now half-way through the book, I’m recognizing why those “old ways” of positive affirmations didn’t work and it has been life changing. The book? The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.

Debbie speaks to reclaiming our authenticity by seeing and accepting the parts of us which we have rejected or repressed. You may be surprised to see that these parts are not just our “bad” or negative parts, either. For instance, I fear being too happy or too joyful for very long!!! The affirmations help in embracing the parts of us that we repress, deny, reject, suppress, avoid, and so on (use whatever other words to describe what keeps us from being our authentic selves). These affirmations help to embrace those rejected pieces within.

Being authentic means embracing and accepting that ALL of our varied parts DO have a purpose: not just the light, shiny, happy, rainbow and unicorn-magical parts either. Each is us has had thoughts or behaviors we have deemed forbidden. Anger, for instance, consistently gets a bad rap. However, when used properly, anger is a fantastic tool for change and protection. Without anger, it would take a lot more effort to fuel things like a social change. Anger also helps us to defend ourselves when it is necessary (and when it is suppressed, we can become either passive-aggressive or explosive when we do express our need for self-protection).

What Debbie teaches is that each part of us has a purpose and when we accept that part of us is indeed purposeful and part of us, then we can use it as a tool as opposed to it ruling us behind-the-scenes!

Debbie also speaks to how we can uncover these hidden gems. It is quite simple to find, yet may be more challenging to redeem… We see these hidden gems in others, yes, we do. However, usually when we see these gems we generally either praise the person (because we don’t believe we have that trait) or we judge them (because we don’t want to believe we have that trait). After seeing the trait it is then up to us to work to embrace the trait. Yet, so many of us have learned to envy and/or hate others for expressing what we cannot or for showing us the parts of ourselves we do not wish to see.

So it is in seeing ourselves in others, in ourselves, and embracing those “undesired” or “desired” and repressed aspects that we begin to heal ourselves. Then we no longer need to “prove” ourselves differently than we are. We can then recognize that those “undesired” aspects can serve us in some way that then gives us control again, as opposed to spending all of our energy proving or repressing ourselves.

Here is an example. When I do not believe myself worthy, then I am continually chasing ahead to prove myself worthy. It’s a continual process of spinning in a hamster wheel. I may prove myself worthy today, but then I’ve got to prove it again tomorrow and so on. When I embrace that part of myself who feels unworthy, then I no longer carry that burden of being unworthy. Capiche?

Another example would be where I, just today, really wanted to write about this experience and yet found myself doing everything but writing. There was part of me that was highly resistant to writing. So I did a balancing affirmation where I allowed myself a mental temper tantrum of “I do not want to write.” Within minutes of affirming that I did not want to write, and allowing myself to not want to write, I was 200 words into this post with minimal effort.

Yet another example is where I recently found myself envious of another writer. I did not feel I could accomplish what she has accomplished. This envy is a sign that I was repressing an aspect of myself that is indeed there…

In the last two examples, I’ve shown how my dualistic mind that is holding me back. I’ve started to see this pattern both in myself and in others; this “push-pull.” So now when I start a new affirmation, I have also begun to immediately affirm the converse. For instance, “I want to write. I do not want to write.” This allows me to recognize and even affirm the divisiveness that I feel within. If things are going well internally and externally then there’s no reason to write an affirmation.

I hope you find this post supportive in your efforts to bring forth more of your authentic self. It’s amazingly freeing to see where we can affirm ourselves; supporting both the “dark” and the “light” aspects. After all, unconditional love moves beyond the duality of right and wrong, and sees the unity of ALL (unconditional means this includes the “dark stuff,” too).

May we each find greater peace, moving beyond duality, so that we can find the ultimate freedom and unity within: Agape. 

Namaste

PS I spent more time resisting this piece than I spent editing and writing it… the “I don’t want to write” affirmation/acknowledgement freed me almost immediately after DAYS, almost weeks, of resistance.

The Pain of Judgement

Judgement. We all hate receiving it, yet when we scratch the surface, many of us are living our lives judging ourselves and others. In observing my own thoughts and behaviors, I see where I judge nearly constantly, both myself and others. In hearing others talk, and in attempting to separate myself from the habit of gossip (even when I have someone’s “interest” in mind), I see how easy it is to engage in the judgement more than not. But is it right?

While I do believe that on some levels judgement is required, when judgment is overactive, we can find ourselves more and more miserable and separated from others more than united. Discernment allows us to make choices that benefit us and others. Without discernment, we would be frozen in the water.

When we feel that judgment no longer serves us, we must see what we want to change first so that we can make it happen. The next step is to replace one habit with another. To this, I’ve decided to give more spoken complements than silent judgements. This helps change the tide while also recognizing that, on some level, judgment and discernment is necessary.

May we each see the habits which no longer serve us, so that we may move forward, individually and collectively. May we learn to judge ourselves and others less and less, allowing greater compassion for ourselves and others. 

Namaste

Image courtesy of Pexels

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

Healing the Sense of Brokenness

When we feel broken or incomplete, we seek external fixes from which to feel whole. Maybe we seek this “fix” from others, through our behaviors (shopping, chemical dependencies and even positive things such as working out) or we may even just outright deny there is even a problem. Maybe we lash out and and get short with the bank teller, our loved ones or another motorist; thus creating more trauma. Until we go within, these external “fixes” are merely band-aids.

When we feel broken, we rarely take the time to look at the beliefs that lead to this feeling, this perception. To heal this feeling is to give the hurt what it needs. Often it is love, sometimes it is recognition, or it may be attention or something even as simple as breathing into it. Each of these is a form of surrender.

It is in seeing our pain for what it needs and giving it just that thing which allows us to heal. Sometimes we may need to reach out and ask for help and support from our Higher Power, or from friends and family. For it is in asking for support that we also surrender. In asking for support we also allow the vulnerability of connection, helping others to identify their own needs and meet them…thus perpetuating the healing.

May we each see our wounds for what they need and then meet those needs, with or without the help others. With each wound that is freed from bondage we, as a collective, are also set free.

Namaste

Too Busy Mopping Up the Floor to Turn Off the Faucet!

How often in life do we focus on treating the symptoms instead of getting to the root problem? Please take a moment here to pause and reflect. We all do it, we’ve done it and many of us are living it; daily.

It seems that each year that passes the expectations increase: work, life, home, social media. I find myself, especially at work, multi-tasking “to the max” (showin’ my age here) and then wondering why I’m tired and then later having difficulty sleeping.

Yet, in my work I help clients find a balance between self-care and care of everyone else. Some are more receptive than others. Some resist even the most basic of changes to help themselves live better.

It took me decades to figure out how important a daily routine of quality self-care for myself was, a routine I’m still tweaking. I cannot imagine where I’d be without it.

Today, where can we begin to take the time to turn off the faucet, so that we’re not just continuously mopping the floor? Where can we create space in our over-scheduled lives to care for our own physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs? “Waiting” until the next break, vacation, holiday, day off, etc just kicks the can down the street. Be joy now. Bring it! 

Love anyone or everyone by taking care of your basic needs! The world will thank you!

Namaste

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