Feeding our soul

Here are some inspiring thoughts from an amazing blogger I just started reading. ūüôā

Snoopy’s got the right idea. ¬†Don’t let a Lucy put a damper on the simple things that brighten your day.

Emerging From The Dark Night

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A question for you.  What did you do today to feed your soul?

When we are down and hurting and when we are concentrating on the pain we have gone through sometimes we forget that there is something we could do to help our soul’s feel comforted in that moment when things are hard.  We could do something to love, care for and nurture ourselves.

Today prompted by reading a lovely meditation my favourite book  Tian Dayton’s One Foot in Front of the Other I thought of the things I did today to feed my soul and I thought of a gratitude practice of listing these things that would mean that the benefit of these lovely experiences could grow within my soul :

Waking I felt the sun streaming through the window, so grateful for its warmth and comfort.

I took a long, slow shower and lingered as long as I could under the comforting…

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Painting therapy.

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I¬†had a dream that I painted¬†my walls, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. ¬†I think it will be therapeutic because it will help me stay mindful and in the present. ¬† ¬†I think the dingy, stained beige has been depressing me, so I’m going to paint them bright white! ¬†ūüôā

I feel the earth move under my feet.

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These aren’t my feet.¬†

Carole King had it right.   Sometimes feeling different textures under your feet can not only feel great, but also is spiritually grounding.

If you’re prone to dissociation and anxiety, like I am (I’m a “Freeze” 4F C-PTSD type–which means my primary defensive reaction is dissociation (the “freeze” subtype) and that keeps me alone and isolated from others (dissociative types tend to be shy hermits). ¬† ¬†When dissociated, ¬†sometimes we feel disconnected from our bodies, our emotions, from other people, from the whole world. ¬†¬†Dissociation in its various forms (derealization and depersonalization) can feel so weird, disorienting and surreal (like a bad drug high) that it can throw me into a panic attack if¬†there’s nothing around to ground me or bring me “back to earth.” ¬† The intense anxiety these episodes cause only seems to make the dissociation even worse, which leads to more panic and anxiety. It’s a positive feedback loop, but it’s anything but positive!

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to mowing the grass today, but it was a beautiful day and the grass needed a haircut. ¬† My usual impulse would be to procrastinate–another way I avoid having to make decisions or do something I don’t want.

So I got out there and cranked up the old mower, and soon I was falling into the rhythm and exertion of this necessary task. ¬† After a while, as usually begins to happen, my thoughts slowed and sped up at the same time. ¬† That just means when I get into this state, my mind begins to think quickly and creatively. ¬†These are the times when I usually get an inspiration for a new blog post, the kind I just itch to write. ¬†These have been some of my best posts. ¬† At the same time, the pace of my thoughts is slowed down. ¬†Random snippets of thoughts aren’t racing all over the place, smashing into and bouncing off of each other and causing my head to hurt and my heart to race. ¬†Instead, ¬†I’ll mosy down a creative or philosophical tangent and then think deeply about it, looking at all its facets and hidden crevices. ¬† Then I can draw¬†all kinds of inferences and hidden meanings–both insane and profound–that wouldn’t have been there when I was in my normal hypervigilant, anxious, scattered state, when I can barely think at all.

This slowed down but more profound way of thinking has an awesome grounding effect, but it’s also at these times I become hyper-aware of my body (a type of mindfulness) — what it’s doing and any sensations it’s taking in from the world around it. When mowing, the repetition and exertion of it combine with the sharp, sweet smell of fresh-cut grass, and this stewpot of sensations combine¬†to send me into a Zen-like state.

After mowing, I like to kick off my Crocs (I hate Crocs but they make good mowing and gardening shoes), stretch my feet and toes out ¬†as far as they will go, and wiggle them. ¬† My feet have always been one of the most sensitive parts of my body (This is not an invitation to any foot fetishists lurking around!). ¬†This is good because my feet are what grounds me to the earth and staying grounded has always been one of my biggest problems. ¬†It’s why my most basic “survival skills” are so poor (I live inside my head most of the time). ¬†Focusing on my feet on the ground and the feelings of the different textures under them have a way of kicking dissociation’s butt like a kung fu master.

The freshly cut grass still had its spring softness, but it is dry like alfalfa, which makes it soft and scratchy at the same, and it felt unbelievably good!  Then I stepped onto the front porch and walked around on the smooth, worn cement and felt its coolness and smoothness under my feet, a wonderful contrast to the soft but dry grass.    Then I walked on the grass again. Then on the cement again, which was warmer this time from the sun.      A sense of well being and groundedness came over me, and the residual anxiety I had been feeling before mowing the grass was gone.

Going a step further, you can step on pinecones. ¬†No, I’m not joking.

 

 

Thought for today.

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Why DBT and mindfulness is helping me get more out of therapy.

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For anyone suffering from BPD who wants to undergo psychodynamic or trauma therapy, I definitely recommend taking some DBT (or CBT) classes first. This also applies to people with complex PTSD, as the symptoms of C-PTSD and BPD can be almost the same (and for Borderlines, usually co-exist together).

I’ve been in therapy many times throughout my life, but I never stuck with it before. I usually would quit, because I either gave up in frustration or things got too intense. My first instinct whenever things in life would get too uncomfortable was to run. I had zero insight into myself or why I reacted (or overreacted) to things the way I did. I always thought everything was someone else’s fault. Yet I was constantly apologizing for things that weren’t my fault. I know that’s confusing, but I was confused. I was ignorant about boundaries and then wondered why others got offended when I unwittingly invaded theirs. Either that or I put up too many boundaries, not letting anyone in or rejecting people who tried to get too close. ¬†I had a martyr complex, always felt picked on and ganged up on, was constantly paranoid and hypervigilant, always feeling like everyone hated me and was out to get me. I was ready to go off on someone or act out at the slightest provocation, believing I was being attacked unfairly. I was much more likely to attack things than people (I was constantly breaking things; self harm was never really my thing) but my violence toward objects and verbal tirades still upset those around me and upset me too after the fact. People always told me I overreacted to everything, but I always felt like it was somehow justified. I couldn’t see the part I might have been playing in all that.

To be fair, I was horrifically abused both as a child and as an adult, so my paranoia and distrust of others wasn’t completely unfounded. I was trained to be a victim and tended to act in ways that ensured I would remain a victim, without knowing I was doing so. I still struggle with this. I still tend toward codependency. ¬†I still find it hard to connect with people in any meaningful way. ¬† I’m a long way from being the person I want to be or that I could have become, and I may never get there completely. But there’s a big difference between the way I am now and the way I used to be. Mindfulness.

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What is mindfulness? It’s the ability to think before you act, be aware of your own actions and reactions, and have insight into your own motives and why you do the things you do. It’s staying in the present, instead of fretting about the past or worrying about the future. It’s being able to step back mentally and see yourself the way others see you. Being mindful keeps you from acting out in ways you might regret later on. You’re not constantly apologizing because you acted out without knowing, because you can stop yourself before you do. Being mindful is like receiving a pair of magic glasses that allows you a view of yourself you never had before. You might think that having this “inner critic” would make you self-conscious, fearful and awkward, but ironically, it does the opposite. Because you have the ability to know how to act before you act, you have more control over yourself, and therefore more control over how others react to you. Slowly, you begin to find that people are reacting more positively to you, and you have fewer reasons to lash out at others or overreact to things. You begin to trust others more, because you trust yourself more.

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool in therapy, and is helping me get so much more out of it than I ever did before. I took DBT classes in 1996, when I was first diagnosed with BPD, and at the time I sort of blew them off. Because I was still in my abusive marriage, I was still very sick and not really ready to do the work. As long as I stayed with my narcissist, I was not going to get any better, but I didn’t know that. My ex had me convinced that I was the problem, not him. Because of his triangulation and gaslighting, he had everyone else convinced I was the crazy one too and he was just the put-upon victim. He’d systematically goad me into a BPD rage, knowing he could, and then with a smirk of satisfaction, tell everyone how insane I was. His personality and manner came off as more cool and collected than mine did, so I probably really did look crazier and more out of control than he did. But he was pulling all the strings.

Anyway, back to mindfulness. It wasn’t until early in 2014, when I finally went VLC (very low contact) with him (and kicked him out of the house), that I started to change. First I started to write and that’s why I started this blog. Writing every day helped me gain insight into myself and my narcissists. After a few more months, I began to realize I needed to make a few changes to myself. I pulled out my DBT workbook (Marsha Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder) and began to do some of the exercises. I had already been doing a few of the things, but this time I took it more seriously and tried some of the things I hadn’t before. One of those things was paying attention to my internal, bodily state whenever I felt an unpleasant emotion. By doing this, I was able to begin to name what I was feeling. Emotions are very physical things. By naming an emotion, you can allow yourself to feel it, realize it’s just an emotion and not “you,” and learn to have more control over it.

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In therapy, I find I’m constantly focusing in on my bodily state, whether there’s any tightness, pain or strange sensations. There always seems to be pressure or tightness in my stomach, chest and throat that goes away when I can name the feeling and begin to express it. Being mindful this way of my internal state and naming my feelings, I’m much less likely to act out against other people or break things. I’m working now on breaking down the protective emotional wall I’ve developed that overlies softer feelings of sadness, grief, empathy, and connection with others. For many years it seemed the only emotions I ever could access were fear (sometimes straight up terror), shame, guilt, anger, and rage–and mind-numbing, zombielike depressions where all I wanted to do was sleep.

There are many ways to be mindful. Some of them are very simple, like counting to ten before acting. Others require more concentration. We need to learn how to self-soothe, something we never learned how to do as babies or young children. Being mindful allows you room to learn self soothing techniques. The insight you gain into yourself by being mindful also allows you the ability and courage to dig deep when you decide to undergo psychodynamic therapy. You’re going to experience powerful emotions when you’re searching for the root causes of your illness, and being mindful allows you to experience them without overreacting, acting out…or quitting therapy.

Therapy in Color

I have always believed in the power of art and creativity. Engaging in painting, drawing, poetry-writing, singing, sculpture, cartooning, creative writing, music-making, arts and crafts, and even cooking, scrapbooking, and home decor relax the mind, feed the soul, and bring us closer to our Creator. Each one of us has been blessed with some kind of creative gift and it’s our job to find out what it is we love to do best, and use it to connect more deeply with the world, not just escape from it. ¬†Making art in any form also fosters mindfulness.

Even something as seemingly childish as coloring books can help us connect with our creative muse. This article explains why.
After all, it’s the child in us that gets activated when we create, and there’s no one more creative than a young child.

Catharine Toso

An increasing number of adults are handling stress by engaging with art. Specifically, art in the form of coloring books. But while some may consider this to be a temporary fad, the psychology behind it is much deeper. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis explains the appeal of coloring books to adults, and why they work, in a piece for New York Magazine’s The Science of Us blog.

Creative engagement is a major stress-reliever for many people. If you are artistically inclined, whether it be in the visual arts, music, or literature, you already know this. However, just because one lacks artistic training doesn’t mean that this great feeling can’t be experienced. So many adults are spending time with an open coloring books because it allows us to exercise our creative muscle, as long as we can hold a coloring pencil. Lewis cites psychologist Barry Kaufman, who says that the…

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Staying grounded.

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Photo Credit: No I’m Not OK

Sometimes I feel ungrounded, dissociated. Sometimes I feel like a gust of wind could blow me into nonexistence. I was raised in a harsh, chaotic, abusive environment and was blown from there into a harsh, chaotic, abusive marriage. As a result, I never was able to form strong roots. But to be grounded in life, to be able to bend and not break, adapt but not lose yourself, remain strong even when the cold winter winds blow, you need those roots.

Strong roots may not be with your family of origin, who should have nurtured you so you’d grow them. That may not be possible. But it doesn’t mean you can’t develop them.

I read a post today that inspired me because of the incredible photographs of an old Ficus Macrophylla tree, a beautiful and majestic tree with roots that could probably withstand an earthquake. I mean, just look at those roots! It’s incredible the way nature can adapt to almost any condition. There are trees that live on the cliffs of coastal California that grow vertically because of the strong winds that constantly buffet them. The trees have grown to adapt to their harsh conditions. They have grown stronger because of them.

We can also grow stronger because, not in spite of, the harsh conditions we might have been raised in. We can take inspiration from the trees by grounding ourselves and knowing how strong we really are, and that will prepare us for almost anything life can throw at us.

Take a walk. Look at some trees. Become conscious of your feet on the ground, your connection with the earth. Meditate on these things and try to stay in the present. Don’t worry about the future or the past. Turn off all the noise in your head, even for only a few minutes a day, and just be, like the tree.

Spirituality and therapy don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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More often lately, I’m feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit while at church. What this feels like is an opening of my heart and a warm surge of emotion. Sometimes I even get a little misty-eyed during the proceedings, especially after taking communion. It’s hard to put the emotion into words, but it’s a sort of reverent feeling and I always come away feeling energized and ready to confront the week ahead, knowing I’m not alone and God walks beside me every step of the way, no matter how tough things might get (and my life is far from easy!)

I’ve been getting similar feelings during my therapy sessions, and I know some of this is due to repressed emotions coming to conscious awareness. A lot of the emotion, though, I have to admit, has to do with transference–which are the strong feelings some clients develop toward their therapists that can easily be mistaken for limerence or romantic attraction (but in my case lacks a sexual aspect, which is good). In actuality, you don’t know your therapist at all (or at least you shouldn’t, beyond his or her qualifications and competence). The idealization many of us experience toward our therapists are our own projections and indicate primitive attachment has been achieved, and this can become a basis of healing as you learn to work through those feelings to connect with your own emotions and eventually develop healthier relationships with other people.

So what does any of this have to do with the Holy Spirit? Why am I talking about therapy and God in the same article? Well, because the emotions I feel in therapy are often similar to the emotions I have in church. The transference I’m currently experiencing is strong, very strong. When I was 22 I developed a strong transference toward a therapist I’d been seeing for about 2 years and I couldn’t handle it; I lacked the maturity to be able to work through the almost overpowering emotions that came up and they became too painful and I eventually left. That’s okay though; I wasn’t ready.

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I couldn’t resist.

I’m a lot older and more mature now, and have learned how to be mindful and not allow my emotions to overwhelm me to the point of doing stupid things or making bad choices. In fact, I’ve almost become too controlled, since my primary goal in therapy right now is to connect more with my emotions, which due to complex PTSD, BPD and avoidant PD, have become almost inaccessible to me most of the time. Church and therapy are the two places where I feel safe actually allowing them to bubble to the surface a little bit.

But I’m still only human, and if I’m not careful, my transference toward my therapist could become inappropriate and while not likely to hurt him, could be damaging to me. Maintaining healthy boundaries and remaining mindful, while still welcoming and allowing myself to experience transference feelings toward my therapist can be a bit of a challenge.

So I had a sort of epiphany while praying this morning in church. Why not invite the Holy Spirit in during my sessions? Why not say a prayer just before each session, asking God to help me get the most out of therapy and thanking him for what I’ve already accomplished? Why not ask God to help me stay mindful but still able to experience the wonderful kaleidoscope of emotion that lies under all the fear and defenses I’ve built after years of abuse? God brought this particular therapist and I together for a reason. But he’s just a human being and imperfect like everyone else. I know this on a cognitive level, if not an emotional one. If he seems “ideal” it’s only God working through him; and it’s only me projecting my need for a perfect caregiver, a surrogate parent, onto him.

I also think that asking the Holy Spirit in during my sessions will actually enhance my ability to access buried emotions, and that’s my primary goal at the moment. I think that if I do this, I can get even more out of therapy than I have been getting, and will progress at a faster rate. so I’m going to try doing this this week and see what happens.
God and therapy don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It isn’t all about me.

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What I’m learning is that everything isn’t always about me.

I used to always assume people were obsessing in a negative way about me and would interpret, say, a neutral expression or a lukewarm greeting as “that person must be upset with me/hate me/is mad at me/disapproves of me” etc. Sometimes I have to make a conscious effort not to let my mind go in this direction if someone acts in a way other than thrilled to see me. Sometimes they’re just having a bad day, are angry at someone else, or angry in general, or are generally just an asshole to everyone. Sometimes it’s nothing at all other than my choosing to perceive a neutral expression or body language as something negative. It takes a lot of practice to get out of that habit of paranoia and hypervigilance and I always have to remind myself to stop taking every little thing personally and think outside myself instead. I think this is a prerequisite to being able to empathize–being mindful that someone else might have a problem that has nothing to do with me.

“Beating C-PTSD in the face with a big Zen stick”

A new video about mindfulness by Spartanlifecoach (Richard Grannon) and how becoming “pH neutral” can help people with complex PTSD and related disorders.