Thursday, October 28, 2010


I am preparing to leave to go visit my mother and my sister and her family. It is always a challenge to visit my Mom. Her Alzheimer's disease has progressed and I never know if she will know who I am. The last time I went to visit it took her a few hours and then she knew me. I know whatever happens will be sad and also sweet. I have a friend who has alzheimers who is conscious of his disease process. He will discuss what he is noticing and how he feels about it. It is such a relief to be able to be honest and offer support. My Mom never accepted what was happening to her. We couldn't talk about it because she would say it wasn't happening. I understand that it was too painful for her to accept. I want to accept her and use this visit to be with her whereever she is. I'm not saying I expect it to be easy or comfortable. My grieving process of letting go of my Mom continues. I wonder if by the time she dies that grieving will be easier because I have been letting go for so long?
Last night in my wings group we were reading about perfectionism. A child who isn't being loved and cared for by her parents or caregivers decides she is doing something wrong and she is bad and keeps trying harder to be good and perfect. It is her fantasy that if she only tries hard enough that her parents will give her the love she craves. Because that love isn't forthcoming the child works harder to be perfect. It is easier to accept blame than to accept that the love will never show up. That is too scary for a child. Then these behaviors are carried into adulthood. We think we can earn love and approval by what we do and how we do it. That approval, even if we get it isn't satisfying because of the unmet childhood needs behind it. Also if the acceptance and approval of others for our accomplishments was sufficient for us to feel lovable we would think our accomplishments do determin our worth. Instead it is important to be compassionate with ourselves for our driven perfectionism and to be kind and reassuring that it will never get us the love we craved. Instead we can work with the pain of not being loved for who we were and experience and release it. We can soothe the little child inside and tell her that she is lovable without even trying. A friend of mine today told me about the affirmation," I am good enough without even trying. " It is a powerful antidote for perfectionism to embrace the concept of good enough." It helps to heal the little child inside who feels like he is bad and undeserving of being loved for being who he is. Once I heard that the definition of a perfectionist is someone to whom nothing is ever perfect. What a relief to let ourselves know that good enough is good enough. Even though it is uncomfortable to release trying after we've done a reasonable job at something, it helps to heal the part of us that always has the bar a little higher than we can perform. In that way we never feel satisfied and content and peaceful. Feeling satisfied and content and peaceful gradually grows as we become aware of our unreasonable standards and soothe ourselves into giving ourselves more slack.
I know that no matter how hard I try I can never get my Mom to show up and love me the way I always wanted her to. In some ways her being incapacitated
makes it easier to let go. I know I have to do my healing work to accept who I am as good enough regardless of what I do. No amount of perfectionistic doing will get me there. In some ways that is a relief. Do you have perfectionistic tendencies? Would it be helpful to have a talk with the little child inside you about this? Could you reassure her that she is lovable just as she is and that you love her for being her?
This is good enough and now I am going to sleep. Thanks for reading my blog.

Friday, October 22, 2010

resting into my life

I am resting tonight. I was supposed to go to Boulder after I was done working. I finished at 6 and was really tired. It felt so difficult to pack up and go after a challenging week. I talked to Gary and told him I needed at least an hour before I could leave. He suggested I stay home tonight and rest. I was relieved and grateful. It would have been hard for me to suggest it myself. I have been getting better at knowing what I want and directly asking for it. Also it is easier to let go of the outcome than it used to be. In this case I wasn't sure what I wanted. I knew I craved time to rest and that I wanted to see Gary.We spend so little time together, considering that we see each other mostly on the weekends. When we are together we mostly spend all the time we have together. I am hoping that when we are able to spend more time together, we will achieve a better balance between alone time and together time. It would be nice to have the luxury of being able to be in the same house each doing our own thing. Gary said he was tired too becaue he woke up really early and moved furniture today. It would work for him to have time to rest too. He is busy preparing to move into our new house. We are buying a home together in the foothills of Boulder. If all goes as planned we will close on November 15th. The plan is for me to keep my house and come to Denver three days a week to work. I will also be able to see friends and teach yoga. I want to find a person to share my house with in Denver either to use as office space or to live here. It would be ideal if our schedules were opposite so we could share the house yet not live together.
I am afraid of all of the changes and I welcome them excitedly. I love our new house. It is beautiful and quiet and peaceful. I feel blessed that the fire was a cosmic two by four that allowed me to committ to Gary and to our relationship. I don't want to jinx myself and I haven't had doubts about our relationship to the degree where I believe them and I think I need to bolt for five weeks. It is a joy to move closer to unconditional acceptance of another human being. I think this is the first time I have truely experienced that. I had to let go of taking everything Gary did personally. If he is in a grumpy mood or impatient I don't have to make up a story that he doesn't love me or is terminally grumpy or impatient. This allows me to let his love in more easily. Giving him slack allows me to give myself slack. Accepting him more unconditionally allows me to accept myself more unconditionally. When he does something I don't like I can now more consistently interrupt my former litany that he isn't the kind of person I want to be with and he is a loser and I am a loser for being with him. That led to endless hours of obsessing about how and when to leave the relationship. Out of the whole experience of the fire I have developed a deep tenderness for Gary and can more easily see his insensitivity as his suffering. He is mostly a very sensitive man and repairs when he isn't. He is just moving faster these day rebuilding his life. His energy feels more masculine. He is moving out in the world getting things done. He is a master hunter gatherer as he collects new furniture and household goods for our new home. Our masculine/feminine polarity is expanding and I feel myself becoming more receptive and vulnerable.
I am blessed to be with a man who has both masculine and feminine qualities.
We are both more balanced than when we met. I tended to go one-up and think I was better than him. He would go one down and defend against my criticism and try harder. Now he feels stronger and more self-assured and I criticize less. I am learning that criticizing is not an effective way to get attention. Asking for attention directly is much more effective even though it's more vulnerable. Now I notice I criticize less and he defends less. I don't really know why all this is happening and I am less focused on what is wrong and happier and more satisfied. I know that both of us are more relaxed. I appreciate that
Gary hung in there with me through all my fears and doubts and blame and knew all along that he loved me and that I loved him. His faith in our relationsip allowed me the space to get to mine, eventually.

So tonight I am resting. I am resting into my life. That means allowing myself to enjoy what I have. What's one way you could rest into yours?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Earned secure attachment

I am relearning about adult attachment styles. The information has been very empowering and I am passing it along to you. In childhood, children develop secure attachment or insecure attachment. If a child is consistently cared for and her needs are responded to consistently lovingly and with clear limits she developes basic trust and a strong sense of self-esteem and self-love. This is called secure attachment. These people as adults have developed an internal locus of control so they know what feels right from the inside and are likely to act from that intuitive knowing in their daily lives. They tend to be confident yet not arrogant. What is there to be arrogant about when you have nothing to prove to anyone?
When it wasn't clear whether our caregivers would show up for us to meet our needs we learned to reject ourselves and mistrust others. Inconsistant showing up, parents who are at times loving and at times cold and withdrawn leads to insecure attachment in children which impacts our adult relationships. Parents who meet very basic survival needs but not the needs for physical affection and validation set the stage for insecure attachment in their children. Abusive or demeaning parents also create children who don't feel safe in the world. These children who are abused or demeaned in childhood often become adults with an avoidant or dismissive insecure attachment. These people often isolate themselves from others and tend to be walled off and emotionally distant. Trust in relationships is very difficult and they are often people who need to do everything for themselves and have difficulty asking for help.
Children who have their needs met inconsistently or only their basic needs met tend toward anxious insecure attachment. These people easily lose themselves in relationships and often develop an external locus of control. This means they have learned to look outside of themselves for answers. They tend to be anxious and have many fears and doubts and low self-esteem. The third style is fearful-avoidant insecure attachment. These children become adults who want intimacy and are very afraid and cautious about experiencing close relationships. They also tend toward low self-esteem and don't feel that they are worthy of love and attention.
I can see myself in all three styles. My first line of defense is to be walled off and avoidant. My strategy is to abandon the other person before they abandon me. Once I begin to feel somewhat safe that the other person is sticking around, I can be needy and expect my partner to meet my needs even without communicating them. It's easy for me to be stoically dependant on myself or to look to another for my answers rather than to rely on my intuition.
With the combination of a sometimes very loving and sometimes physically and emotionally abusive mother and a withdrawn and walled off father I developed a mixture of insecure attachment coping styles. Where do you see yourself? Securely or insecurely attached and what is your main insecure attachment style if that applies to you?
Here's the good news. Modern neurobiologists have created the concept of earned secure attachment. That means there is hope for those of us who have done and are doing a great deal of work on ourselves. Earned secure attachment means rerouting the neural pathways that lead us to abandon ourselves and creating basic trust in ourselves, others and the world. This is learned by soothing ourselves when we would normally react with fight flight or flee and creating the habit of engaging the higher thinking brain or neocortex. Breathing deeply is a good way to get there. Practicing pausing before reacting and giving ourselves opportunities to make healthier choices creates habitual healthy response patterns. Also there is a chance to create relationships as an adult with people who are trustworthy and willing to work on themselves with us. This contributes greatly to earned secure attachment. I love the concept of earned secure attachment. My parents did not have the resourses within themselves or in the world to earn secure attachment. My father died walled off with a body that deteriorated from being so shut down. My mother has alzheimer's disease and was in denial about it all along.
I feel grateful that I have had the opportunity to heal and grow beyond their legacy. When I think of earned secure attachment it feels heroic. I can become my own hero and have a healthy relationship with myself, others and the world.
When I think of earned secure attachment I can see my difficult childhood as a vehicle to learn my basic goodness. It feels good that I am in the process of reparenting myself in the way I deserved to be parented. I am blessed to have people in my life who are committed as I am to experiencing and releasing the obstacles in the way of being a fully expressed human being. When we are willing to open to whatever comes up and to experience and release our anger, fear and sadness more space is created for vibrancy and joy. Present moment awareness and self-acceptance are part of earned secure attachment. With mindfulness and compassion we move down the road toward being securely attached within ourslves to the sense of God within us. Thanks for reading this blog. I appreciate having a forum to teach and learn.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

fear is impending growth

Gary and I went up to our friends' beautiful mountain home for a sleepover. It was the first time we have been up in the mountains since the fire. I am grateful for the friendship of Eric and Linza. I think it is rare for four people to get along and to be able to be so real and relaxed with each other. The aspen trees on their land had dancing golden leaves and today was a beautiful day. Gary woke up and said, "Can I go home now?" My heart overflowed with tenderness for him. I wish I could bring his home back and yet at the same time I know he has grown into a more confident, wiser, less attached person out of his loss. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my home. I lost about four things in the fire and he lost thousands. He knows the fire has brought him the gift of relying on his inner strength more and being more willing to ask for and receive help. The fire has taught me to have a more compassionate relationship with my fears and doubts. Life seems so fragile and impermanent and I am less willing to spend it spinning obsessive stories about my inadequacies. It has been easier for me to recognize experience and release my fear. Combining mindfulness and compassion is much kinder and more effective than judge and flagellate. Judge and flagellate would be to notice my fear of being in a committed relationship with Gary, judge myself for having my fear and either beat myself up for being such a bad person or beat myself up for being with the wrong person. Mindfulness combined with compassion would be to notice I am afraid and go under the story and be with the sensation in my body. It would be to treat myself lovingly and with curiousity and to recognize that fear is a call for attention. It would be to say to myself, "I am here for you with your fear." I would also remember to be in my circle and to bring in my spiritual support, whatever form I experienced that as in the moment. Fear is impending growth.
Bringing my attention to the felt-sensation of my fear allows me to trust that I will show up for myself even when it is uncomfortable. The resolution of interpersonal conflict can deepen intimacy. The resolution of intra-personal conflict can also creater deeper intimacy. Each time I allow myself to experience and release a fear rather than judging and making up unkind stories, I strengthen the muscle of loving myself unconditionally. In this way I can shift the neural pathways of self-flagellation toward kindness. Self-acceptance means more and more of all of who I am is included in what I am able to allow myself to experience. Being with what is with kindness toward ourselves helps to integrate the pain of that lack of acceptance in childhood. Reparenting ourselves with acceptance integrates childhood wounds that come from abuse or neglect or inconsistency from our caregivers. By saying to ourselves, "I am here for you with whatever" and then breathing and showing up for ourselves, we can be the parent we deserved to have. We can be the parent our parents deserved to have.
We can stop the legacy of judge and flagellate and open to the experience of mindfulness and compassion. Noticing the pattern of judge and flagellate and bringing compassion to ourselves may be the first step. What are you judging yourself about in this moment? Could you see it as a call for your own attention?
Take a moment to slow down and breathe. You are so worth it!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Tonight I am feeling sad and tired. I don't want to write and writing is always so healing for me. I went to a workshop today by Peter Levine called An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Peter's new book shares the same title. Peter Levine is an icon in the field of psychotherapy. He is a pioneer in the field and is best known for his work in helping people release trauma from the body. In fact forty years ago when he started his work the idea that the mind and body were connected was quite new. He brought somatic psychology to mainstream psychology with his first book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.
He started the workshop by reading the introduction to his book in which he shares about being hit by a car as a pedestrian in 2005. He was visibly moved by reading his account of the horrific accident and said it was the first time he had read the story in public. Seeing him stand on the podium shaken and witnessing him ask for a minute to center himself was quite inspiring. I was awed by his courage and his willingness to be vulnerable. What a role model for expressing emotions. That story and his telling of it made me realize once again that real strength isn't about being stoic and not showing feelings, it is the willingness to be vulnerable. Peter's accident gave him the opportunity to experience the unlocking of trauma from his body first hand. He shared that a woman pediatrician came upon the scene and asked if she could help. He asked her to hold his hand so he could shake and cry and begin to release the trauma from his body. He said he could never have done it alone. Our connection with others helps us to have the strength to be vulnerable. It seems so important to me to get that the people who love me don't only love me when I am joyous and perky. Being emotionally real and asking for help shows great strength and courage. The people I feel closest to are the people who are willing to be themselves with me warts and all. It is sharing those warts, and being accepted for the things we find unacceptable, that creates safety and intimacy in relationships. When I am most in need of support is when I waqnt to reach out the least. I have been working with my long term pattern of isolating myself from my friends when I need help. It is OK to share resolved trauma but ongoing trauma has often felt way too vulnerable. This year I have pushed myself to share my childhood sexual abuse in this blog and with friends and family. Being in a group has really helped too.
Sharing about Gary's house burning down and asking for help has been a real stretch for me and further helped me to grow beyond my pattern. Gary has also allowed himself to receive physical and emotional support. He has always been a rugged individualist," I can do it myself" guy. This reaching out and being vulnerable has made him a stronger person.
This week we were gifted with a couple's therapy session. In the therapist's skillful hands we were able to be more openhearted with each other. I realized I needed to ask for reassurance from Gary that even in the midst of all of this he still loves me. I was thinking that because I wasn't the one who lost my house, it wasn't OK for me to have needs. I was trying to show up for him and set aside my insecurity. When I am not being direct about what I want or need I can get critical and judgemental. That was not at all helpful. When I was able to ask for what I wanted and get reassurance from him I experienced compassion for him flowing over me like warm water. I no longer felt excluded from all of the strong connections he is having with others who lost their homes. Gary realied that even though I can't really understand what he is going through because it didn't happen to me, I want to understand and support him the best I can. We walked out of the session feeling a deeper connection with each other and with more appreciation for our different gifts. I admire Gary's resilency in dealing with his loss and also that he is allowing himself to grieve. His willingness to let himself experience his grieving process seems very strong to me.
Peter Levine talked about learning to hold our own feelings and soothe ourselves with love. This allows trauma to release from our bodies and to experience greater aliveness.
His vision is that if children are held in love for all of what they are feeling and given clear limits, they will grow into adults who are better able to prosper and grow in the midst of whatever comes their way.
I am feeling sad tonight and I am going to go hold myself in my sadness. Is there something you are feeling that you'd like to offer to hold yourself in? Go ahead, it's a strong thing be emotionally vulnerable and to show up for yourself.