Me, The Saboteur

We all have a story. A place from which we arrived.

Within this frame, we can trace and seek understanding as to why our life script has played out the way it has. Yes, somewhere it all makes sense. No one is crazy to themselves. Within our individual context, there is meaning, albeit mostly unconscious. Our behaviors, choices, pathways and feelings did not develop in a vacuum.

What I love about this classical analytic frame is that it offers compassion. We do what we do for a reason. And often this reason is sheer survival. Without taking on a certain role, behavior, substance or choice, we just may not have made it. We had to adapt somehow, some way, as a coping skill through the daunting pain.

And thankfully, it worked. We did it. We fucking survived. A blow-out party is in order. Invite the masses. You are nothing but a super-star.

But once the dishes are put away, the cake eaten and the candles blown out, it is time to wish our once so helpful coping skills good riddens. They have served their much needed purpose and we do not need them anymore. In fact, they are in the way at this point. Holding me back. Limiting my progress toward the bigger and better me.

For, I am an adult now. Even an empowered one, if I choose. I can peel off my victim cape and seek different choices, behaviors and pathways that are healthier for the me who is now. I can do the things now that I could not do when I was young, dependent and innocent.

I know that this is not an easy liberation. Our younger self tremors with the same ole’ idea that my survival skills of yester year are still necessary. Like a newly freed prisoner, we just do not know the life we can have outside the walls that we not only know so well, but erected in good stead.

But trust me on this one. Your story does not have to be over via mindless repetition which is now just plain self-sabotage. There is more in you. A promised land for the taking. All yours. Waiting for you to discover.quotescover-JPG-53

More Than Speed

I’m sure there is historical documentation as to when efficiency became our societal’s value. More is better. Faster is king. Get more in. On the double. Pronto.

Perhaps, it is about money. The more I can produce in a shorter amount of time, the fatter my wallet. Why would this not be a good thing, a value to aspire to? It just might be … until it comes to intimacy. Slow is the pace of intimacy. The opposite of our current societal speed.

I always get excited when a patient says to me at the beginning of a session, “I don’t have anything on my mind today.” “Good!” I respond back. They look at me with puzzlement. I continue, “that means we get to wait. Wait for the unconscious to appear and show us her treasure.” And she almost always does. Why? Because we have created the space with intention to listen.

This scene is probably not too different from one between partners. We sit at dinner, whether at home or a fancy restaurant, and wonder what to talk about with this person across from me, the one with whom I have already covered all topics, the one with whom I have run out of things to say. But unlike the psychoanalytic scene described above, we do not wait. We do not honor the carved out space to see what goodies might emerge. No, we can’t or don’t tolerate the silence. We are too anxious. What might I say? What might he say? What if there really is nothing left between us? So, we rush to fill the now tense space. We turn on the TV or pick up of our phone, a convenient distraction which has become an extension of our arm. Another evening, another opportunity to get closer to my partner is lost.

Heart-breaking, really. That we have to fight for intimacy. That we have to push aside the competition of our daily busyness to allow connection to blossom. The unconscious is bitchy that way. She doesn’t like to show-up for the party, dressed in her finery, unless she is sure she is going to be attended to. But the good news is that she does arrive if we make room for her. Like the cafeteria trays from middle school, we make our way to the bottom of the stack by peeling off the trays one by one. By giving ourselves the time and the space to remove each layer as they appear next.

So, widen your margin. Stop racing around and thus squeezing out all opportunity for feelings, thoughts, fantasies and depth. Fast, is well, faster, but I guarantee, it won’t be as satisfying. Your unconscious wants to dance. She just has to be invited to the party.

cafeteria trays

Learning to Feel

When a couple first enters my office, they are usually bleeding badly. Like an emergency room doctor in a life or death situation. I must act fast. I move to triage the pain as to stop them from further hurting the relationship before someone has to call it dead. Sometimes, sadly, it is too late. There is no heartbeat. They should have sought help before going too far down the road of unrepair. So, I scramble, pulling out bandages, splints, pain management or whatever it takes to resuscitate any hope that we can stop the damage, begin the healing and find some remaining underlying connection.

Once we accomplish this first and necessary task of stabilization, we then can take a longer more in-depth look at how the injurious action originated and what can be done differently to be more accountable and relational.

And then, if the couple sticks around and are interested, we get to the fun part. Building long-term, more in-depth intimate connection. I am always amazed, even when by now when I shouldn’t be, at how few people speak fluently the language of emotional intimacy. This really should be a language class taught in grammar school alongside French and Spanish. For, without knowing how to speak emotional language, we are screwed. The words of feelings are the words of relationship, connection and life satisfaction.

Via micro-coaching, I often ask a patient if he or she even knows how to know what they are feeling in any given moment. Almost always, with a little understandable embarrassment at the elementary question, the honest answer is “no.” I tell them that they need to put a breath in their body, pause and do a scan between their neck and their abdomen. This bodily rectangle is where we hold feeling energy, not in our heads. I then tell them that they have seven choices – love, pain, fear, anger, joy, shame and guilt. Like learning the ABCs, if we can get these seven down, we are golden, for all the other multitude of feeling options are variants of one of these.

If he or she is a quick study, I then take it up a notch. I tell them that not only can you have more than one feeling at the same time, but you always have a “self” feeling and an “object” feeling. The “self” feeling is what I feel in me about me. The “object” feeling is what I feel in me towards you. And these feelings can not only differ but also contradict. For example, if you receive good news, news which I wish were mine, I can feel happy towards you and sad and jealous in me. Both feelings are authentic and can exist simultaneously.

What are you doing to increase your emotional literacy? Stop the waiting. Your emotional and relational health will profit.


Enjoying Life’s Plum

By most counts, I am still a young woman yet I can already tell you that I don’t like this aging thing. It sucks.

My energy is no longer limitless. I don’t recognize my body in the mirror. Every day, simple things, frequently vacate my mind. In-style fashion would make me look ridiculous, like some call girl want-to-be. The idea of an evening out sounds fabulous until it comes to actually doing it. I’d much rather enjoy a quiet night at home, in my loose-fitting clothes, with close company and a glass of wine.

What the hell happened? I guess it’s just nature. Time ticking. The calendar flipping. Life, being what its meant to be – marked and limited. I get my turn and then I have to move over. There are new ones coming down the pike and I have to get off the ride.

But I still think it sucks. Put me down for that. I refuse to like this limited quantity thing.

But my feelings aside, I guess there is little I can do to stop the earth’s rotation and my human body from aging as a result. I am just not that powerful.

But I have thought of a go-around. My latest strategy to cheating the system. Ready? Living in the now. Fully, unabatedly, intentionally and consciously. Because when I do that, time seems timeless. I am not looking at my watch, or my phone or my day planner. I am too busy engrossed in living, wrapped up in all its ripe juiciness. Whether it’s through hardy laughter, engaging my craft or connecting intimately, at that moment, time stops mattering.

So, screw you, time. Yes, I surrender. You will win the war. My body will age, I will die and my life’s work will come to an end. But until then, I’m gonna win a few momentary battles. With awareness and abandon, I will squeeze out a plum or two. In all its deliciousness, I will honor what I got and make the best of this one-way ticket I am fortunate to have.