Permission for Transitions

We all know how we generally “are” in the world. There are some aspects of our personalities that we consider strengths, others as weaknesses. Sometimes we put effort into trying to grow. But what happens during transitions? Do we know how to adapt our expectations appropriately for these times?

Recently, I had a piece published on the Mindful Word. It’s called The Art of Compassionate Editing, and I’d love it if you wanted to check it out. It applies mindfulness to the act of editing, much like a previous blog post. Most of my writing on this blog has to do with applying mindfulness to daily things that we may not otherwise think about.

The reason I take this approach is because for years, I worked as a therapeutic counselor at a place called Windhorse in Northampton, Massachusetts. It was my favorite job because it involved being mindful, being with interesting people, and having authentic relationships as a way to be a part of their recovery process from extreme states of mind and addiction.

And now, I am part of a therapeutic team starting in Texas. It has only just begun, and the journey is going to be something that I can hardly even imagine at this time.

I am excited, joyful, and rising up from the inside. I am leaving my job as a basic content writer, putting some of the freelance writing on pause, and embarking on this journey with my whole heart and mind.

This is quite a transition, and I notice that my expectations of myself are no longer something that I can take for granted. How much time I spend a day reading, writing, meditating, cleaning, walking the dog, and cooking are all up in the air. Things are altering, changing, adapting. My routines aren’t going to hold, most of them are going to disappear all together and new ones and old ones are going to rush in to take their places.

It makes me realize how many people I know are in transition, or have been in the past. How often do we expect people to be the same as they were last week, or last year? How often do we expect this of ourselves? How often is unnecessary pain and suffering happening because of these expectations?

It’s just something to think about in terms of how we speak to and work with ourselves during transitions of all kinds. Going to and from work, moving physically, even taking a walk. The transitions are always happening and sometimes they are tiny, and yet we can still get in a pattern of harsh judgement. “Why am I not as attentive as I should be? Why am I not getting enough exercise? Why am I not as happy?” Sometimes, the state of being is temporary. It may only last a few minutes or days if we didn’t hold onto the expectations and judge ourselves or another when we noticed they weren’t being met.

But all too often, we do hold on. Tight. And then we judge. Harshly. Then the problems can turn into a nagging presence that gets us down instead of just passing through.

These are just a few things to think about, especially as this new job may lead to changes in my writing on this blog. I think that they will be for the best, and things will undoubtedly get interesting. The focus will be the same, but it may shift away from writing a little since I’ll be doing less of it, and go more towards how we relate with each other and ourselves in an authentic way.

I hope you all are well, and enjoying various experiences of your daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly transitions!

Please feel free to share your thoughts below about transitions and how you relate to them!

 

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The Process of Pathologizing Among New Healers: Let’s Get Clear.

Many of us are healers of various types. We want to heal with our words, our hands, our songs, our science. We want to heal and help, and this is so natural to us. Or so it seems.

Sometimes we are already wondering this..so when someone thinks they can tell us, we want to believe them.

Sometimes, we have a tendency to want to heal others because we ourselves have been wounded. If those wounds are still tender, then we may not be aware when something is triggering us to shut down, even as we try to help them.

Sometimes, I feel that someone can listen to me and pathologize my experience, especially those who are trying to help.

This is something that I must do as well, so I figured we could explore it here and perhaps find some tools for the future!

 

What Do You Mean, “Pathologize?”

Pathologizing according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is

To view or characterize as medically or psychologically abnormal.

 

If I say that I’m thinking about something a lot lately, and you ask me if I’m obsessed with it, that is sort of making me appear sick. It is taking something simple and giving it a loaded label.

The same is true if you tell me you are feeling down, and I ask you if you are depressed or worse yet, if I say something like “Wow it sounds like you’re depressed” or another statement that makes it implicitly easier for you to agree, consciously or unconsciously, than to argue with me. Really, there are better questions to ask than that and better ways of going about trying to help someone.

Why Is Pathologizing Dangerous?

Maybe it’s not dangerous. But I do think it gets in the way of a more pure and simple understanding that comes from compassion and empathy. It bypasses the process of curiosity and zips right into labels; and not just any labels. Charged labels, judgy labels, labels that you then have to talk yourself out of.
And the funny thing is, these labels can also make us feel like better healers. That’s right. If I decide that you’re depressed when you say you’re sad, and by the end of our conversation you sound happier, then I sort of cured your depression! in some messed up unconscious way. If I simply talked to you long enough for your natural mood to pass, then that’s less cool for me and my ego, but it might be the reality.

The Value of Curiosity

I realize that I am probably notorious for this process of pathologizing or else I wouldn’t notice it so sharply when other people do it. I must remember that having a curiosity for the reality of someone else is one of the best things that I can do. It teaches me to slow down and to have that same curiosity for myself, rather than to zip from “wow I’m sad in this moment” to “I must have a raging case of undiagnosed depression and I better make sure I don’t accidentally bring others down with me.”

The charged label is simply piling on layers that then become harder to get rid of, especially for those of us that are already hard on ourselves.

But Isn’t there More Anxiety And Depression?

Psychology Today has an interesting article on this topic. According to the article, depression and anxiety are becoming more commonplace because the normal human experience is being labeled as such more often, not because these states of mind are becoming more common. Furthermore, the author talks about how the labels are not meant to be taken as being solid things. They are meant to be used for the therapists to do their job more effectively, not to label people. The article is quite good, I recommend it!

With easy access to WebMd and other sources for self-diagnosis, it’s no wonder that more of us learn these terms and try to use them on ourselves, and on each other. It sounds better if we say “Sounds like you have an acute episode of a semi-psychosomatic illness brought on by environmental stressors” than if we say “I don’t know how to really relate with your experience at this moment, maybe you could call a therapist or just come over for some tea and we can hang out.” Or however it works with your relationship.

Is this from the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, who just love getting their chemicals on your neurotransmitters, or from people eating more additives in their food and having finicky immune systems? Who knows, but one thing remains clear:

We Can Stand Up For Ourselves

I know that personally, when someone gives me an insult, it can stick if it’s something that I already partially believe. For this reason, if someone labels me in a way that I’ve been labeled against my will in the past, then I may get a little triggered. I may feel the need to defend, or an impulse to believe them. Maybe I AM obsessed, maybe I AM in denial, or whatever.

I haven’t spoken to my therapist in years, and if I do, then I can hear whatever words of wisdom she has and take them in. She’s licensed, she knows me, and it’s her job. The people that may mean well but that throw out these loaded terms simply to try and understand something are most definitely not in the same position as she is to be, as they say, “going there.”

If you hear loaded terms from anyone who is trying to help you and is not a therapist, perhaps there is something that you can say back to them. Or someone you can talk to about the situation to see what they think, such as a real therapist. For now, I’m going to remind myself to use this question:

This is easy, simple, doable. Whatever someone says, whether they are my therapist or a stranger on the bus or a person I just met, I can ask them “Why use that word?” if they use a word that I find to be particularly charged.

I don’t know if that’s what you should do. I don’t want to pretend to have advice that I don’t have. I do know that if I get better at using some Nonviolent Communication, or NVC, then I might end up with more creative solutions to this issue.

I also know that trying to do this will help me at least to be aware of when the feeling of resistance or being triggered arises. If I can notice it, I can ask this question, and perhaps help the people I talk to become aware of when they are doing it, and help myself to do the same.

Do you have any experience with this, has someone ever used powerful words to describe your experience when you feel they are out of line?

Do you have friends that offer unsolicited therapy advice? Is it hard to turn it down or tell them to stop, or do you love when they do it?

Are you aware of the words that are most charged for you? (I’m not asking you to share them, though) Do you think that being aware of them can help you when people start using them unskillfully?

I hope you all have a great week!

 

Our Un-Psychic Audience: Reclaiming the Weight We Put On Magic’s Shoulders

So often we are saying this in different words.

Do you think about the way you communicate with the people that you expect to receive your art?

If we want to publicize ourselves, we need to think about what it is we are putting out there, especially if we want more attention than we are getting. We could also stand to have less of an expectation of psychic ability on the part of our audience. Let me explain.

There are times where we are expecting Magic to fill the gaps we leave. Once we see these places, we can start to fill them ourselves, leaving Magic to do bigger and better things. Maybe we can even admit that the less-than-desirable attention we are getting is actually related to the quality and energy of what we are offering.

Once we notice these things, we have more power to stop engaging in them unconsciously.

Indirect Communication & The Expectation of Magic

People can communicate indirectly. If you have been friends with or dated people who do it often, you know how frustrating it can be. “Don’t you hate when it’s chilly outside” can mean “Please turn the heat on, I’m cold.”  There are endless variations.

A friend who was studying linguistics told me that women are more likely to engage in indirect communication than men, and I don’t doubt it.

Within indirect communication, there is a kernel of an expectation of Magic. We expect that the proclamation of how we dislike cold is going to magically send our real meaning into the brain of the other person. It’s not always conscious, of course, but it is there. And it comes up in other ways.

Expectation of Magic With Writing

This pattern of expectation can affect our writing and other art.

With writing, if we assume that the background of a scene is laid out sufficiently when it is not, the reader can get confused. If we don’t think about a character’s underlying motives and personality, their drive is unclear and the story is not compelling.

This is why my first stories were crappy. I expected people to understand how interesting my ideas were because they appeared so in my head; like a child thinking you can’t see him because he is covering his own eyes.

Giving The Magic a Place to Stand: The Value of Effort

If you wanted to do NaNo, you could talk about it all you want from January to October. If November 1st rolls around and you still have to get yourself a computer, a desk, time off of work, typing lessons and a story idea, then you are not prepared.

If, on the other hand, you cleaned your desk, defragged your computer, stocked up on your favorite foods, had plenty of tea, took a few extra days off of work, saved money to cover that loss, and told your family and friends to expect less communication during the month of November, all by the middle of October, then your scene is set rather differently. You put in the work to give yourself the maximum amount of time to empathize with your characters and let the writing happen without extra hindrance.

I am willing to make an assumption that those who put in the effort before NaNo are more likely to write something that others would enjoy reading. And the same goes for other types of art and projects.

The Difference Between Frantic Advertising & Popularity

No matter how much we advertise ourselves to the world, we are not going to get real attention if our product sucks and if we aren’t really putting ourselves out there to the extent of our ability. That’s just how it goes, in my eyes.

Brene Brown‘s work on Vulnerability comes to mind. Despite the excited freshness with which she presents herself, she did many years of research before her famed TED talk. She was not just throwing some ideas together and hoping for the best like some people do with their blog posts (ahem). She did studies, she read books, she went to therapy; and only after building all of that solid ground did she share the results and touch an audience.

Music is similar. Someone who does a live guitar solo after years of practice is going to impress the crowd even if they make mistakes much more than the person who does a solo after playing for a month or two. The past effort shows, it informs the skill of the present, and it touches us when they can show us the extent of this skill in a vulnerable and fresh way. If the second person were to sing words that they’d been thinking about and reflecting on for years with a sensitive awareness, then that may be more touching than the guitar part; it all depends on what they share and when and to whom.

It basically seems like people recognize hard work and skill when they see it; not when they are told to.

How Do We Use This Information?

Maybe we can do a more honest acknowledgment of what we are putting out there, what we put into it, and how much that shows. Then we can reduce the tendency to think others psychically know that we deserve love and attention, and actually start showing them what we do and what we offer so that they can make their own choice.

Trust the things that you know, the things that you have been studying formally and informally. Trust them and share them, but perhaps be aware of where an assumption of a psychic audience  is creeping in. If people aren’t responding, figure out why it is the case. How would you see you if you were objective and had no idea of what was in your head? What is getting held back and does it add into the whole picture?  Maybe you will notice where you may not be reaching them with the greatness that you feel you have to share.

Aside from my closest friends and my mom, nobody would like the things I began writing at first.  I wasn’t deserving of praise and attention from an objective audience, and now it is obvious. But at the time, I was confused as to why my first blog posts weren’t catching on like wildfire. But now I get it, at least partially. I hardly knew what the hell I was doing, and still don’t, but I’m closer. Even if all of my friends share my posts, the people that come back and read them are those that are touched by what they see because they found it on their own; rarely if ever is it the people who I messaged and personally asked to come by. And I know that I have more sharing to do, more vulnerability to meet, and more techniques to employ in terms of applying the knowledge I’ve worked for many years to understand.

Maybe we need to understand our non-responsive audience more effectively. They aren’t psychic, we aren’t sharing something of value to them, and when we do, they will be touched and will come back for more. If we are sharing honestly and vulnerably and nobody cares, then perhaps we need to re-evaluate what we are doing if their attention is something that we require (such as anyone who wants to write or make art for a living).

This is a new way of thinking for me and I’m trying it on to see what new actions it may lead to. The last time I explored a mindset (paying more attention to vulnerability, from Brene Brown’s TED talk) I ended up cutting off five years’ worth of dreadlocks because I realized that the comfort I was gaining from them was not necessarily something I wanted to keep indulging in.

I  realize that my old writing was full of assumptions and expectations, laying a whole lot on the shoulders of Magic, and I’m only now starting to find my voice and hold that weight myself, letting Magic do what it wants and letting the psychic abilities of my readers be used for better things than figuring out what I’m trying to say. I’m supposed to be a writer, so it’s kind of my freaking job. I may as well step up to it.

What About You?

Do you think that you are getting the attention you think you deserve for your art, writing, or other type of work? If not, do you know what you want to do better? Do you want support in that regard?

Do you think that this is crazy and I’m totally off track, and that things can get organically famous and popular without the person having spent time on the skill or figuring out how to best share it with the world? Do those of us that are beginners have any hope of reaching people? Have you ever done something as a beginner and had it have a great impact on others?

Do you use indirect communication, or do you know someone who does? Is it less annoying to you than to me?

I always love your guys’ thoughts; they have helped me learn about my writing more than anything in the past.  Thank you so very much for sharing them, publicly and privately.

 

What if the Occupy Movement Works? Being Prepared for Huge Transitions, Naturally

The occupy movement is huge; and I cannot help but feel slightly torn between jumping in and bringing all my herbal medicines to the protestors and staying here, keeping my writing job and helping chop up the wood for winter during this critical time before the snow falls.

However, some thoughts have been arising on how to help people prepare for situations like this in which they are in need of things that may not be supplied to them. People want jobs, health care and financial help. People need things and sometimes, we cannot get them. A great thanks to the protestors who are out there every day for speaking these things out and making potential changes happen.

The truth is that we needed help before the movement, and if it works, we are certainly going to need help after it. But it is going to be up to us. So, what are you going to do?

For the last ten years, my mindset has basically been that at any point, everything could fall apart. The system is as strong as a psychotic delusion but as fragile as the person who is suffering with that delusion and still only  made of flesh and bone. It is bound to fall apart; reality is bound to take over. And in that chaos, that confusion, that transition; people are going to need help.

In my mind, I decided that having my own solution to any problem would be the best way to go. I felt that if I could help people using nothing but the world around me, that I would be far better off than if I expected to get the healthcare I need from Western doctors or if I expected to someday have the money to see these doctors on my own. No matter how much I learned, there was no way to learn it all. I could not become a master of herbal medicine and also a master of building shelter and also a master of being a midwife and also the master of natural pet care and also a master of treating water…you get the idea. We each have our passions.

So I learned that plants are awesome and making herbal medicine can help a lot of people. That Yarrow can stop excessive bleeding. That dandelion can hep out a sick liver. That Red Clover can help stop tumors. That Burdock can help with a variety of skin problems. That Jewelweed can stop poison ivy. That sciatica often originates in the Piriformis crushing the Sciatic Nerve, and that it can be stopped early if you release that muscle.

The trouble with a lot of the alternative treatments I have learned about is that they have to be applied early. They require the healer and the client to be in a somewhat close relationship from the get go. They require you to act early, so that change can happen smoothly. Most of all, they require that the client do things each day that can help them, rather than waiting for a magic cure or an intensive surgery. This has been a great knowledge that has helped me to help others before they need to go to the hospital. Before they need the antibiotics.

If you are like me, and you cannot afford to go out there and stay with the protestors and use your presence and body and mind to create the change you want to see because you have someone sick at home who needs attention, or a job that you cannot afford to lose because you are expendable and you know it, then one thing you CAN do is learn how to help people during and after this situation. Learn how to heal people, in whatever way you feel most drawn to.

If you can do this, then you are going to be one of the useful people when change does happen. You will be the person who can make a splint out of a tree and some strong grass, you will be the person who can give someone Osha tincture if they are going into anaphylactic shock. You will be the one who has knowledge that can be used in real life, on the spot, to help during transitional times when the system is not supporting the people in it.

Sadly, the system is already not supporting the people in it. If you can be prepared to help without reliance on sterilized hospitals and caring doctors, then you are useful not only in the event of a major transition, but right now. Right now, you probably have friends who are unemployed or struggling with meager pay. Right now, you probably know someone who needs medical care that they are not getting. Right now, you probably know someone with a budding health condition that could become serious if left alone. If you have a passion to help people, then find the way to do so with the materials that you can find around you.

Maybe you want to be the one who can start fires with sticks to cook on without matches or flame, maybe you want to know how to naturally treat water so that it can become drinkable, maybe you want to learn about edible plants in your area in case of emergency.Maybe you want to learn how to build shelter with nothing but things found in the woods. Whatever your passion is, if it can become useful in some way in the event that things are falling apart or going through major transition, then my belief is that you should go for it and indulge in the luxury of being able to look things up online and in libraries until you learn the skills that you need to help out in the event that these things are no longer at your disposal.