More Growth, Less Gross

Revel in your imperfections. Be entertained by your problems. And know that once you looked ahead and wished you were where you are now. And once again you will look back and smile.

Negative practice is an evidence-based technique that I like to use in my speech therapy sessions. Once a client has mastered a new way of doing something then I will have them intentionally go back and forth between the old and the new way. By doing so they experience a clear contrast between the two. This in turn builds improved self-awareness as well as control over their own communication. It can be very empowering for the client.  Let me give you an example.

I recently completed therapy with an adult who came in with an /s/ sound distortion. (Use of the slash marks indicated a phoneme, or sound, as opposed to a letter.) After I had taught her the tongue position and airflow for her “new” /s/ and she had practiced it successfully in various word positions, I began to have her say the words the “old way.” She was amazed at how she could go back and forth between the new  /s/ and old /s/. She also began to report that the new way felt more natural while the old way felt odd and more forced. Here is a picture of her old tongue position (top) and her new tongue position (bottom) for /s/.

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I was recently using negative practice with a voice client and it struck me that negative practice helps us in life from time to time as well. Not that I recommend intentionally returning to bad habits. I wouldn’t tell a recovered smoker to pick up a cigarette just to remind himself of how good it feels to NOT smoke. But sometimes situations arise that offer us a glimpse of just how far we have come. A friend of mine might have had one of these moments recently. He posted this on Facebook:

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Sometimes the gross makes us appreciate the good that we have been taking for granted.

This also makes me think of the strange tradition we have of following Thanksgiving with Black Friday.

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I wonder what the shoppers’ spirits experience as they navigate between the sensations of gratitude and kinship versus the feeling of coveting and competition.  Or for some I’m sure it is the opposite. Perhaps Thanksgiving is a lonely time while being in the midst of others at the mall provides a sense of community.

Either way, perceiving that contrast is what opens a door for self-awarenss and understanding of what is a better way for the higher self. Just like my client became aware of her communication and identity as an actress and speaker.

As a last illustration… I heard a song on my iTunes recently that took me back. It was a song that I used to listen to during meloncholy times. I remember I would listen to it over and over because the sadness felt good. It wasn’t a great choice for me to indulge in a darkness like that–it certainly didn’t seem to help much–but it was a time in my life when I had very few other ideas of what to do with my sadness. When this song came on the other day I could feel that sweet sadness began to drip over me again and sure enough, a part of me wanted to melt into it and indulge in that melancholy. But you know what? There is a “new way” that I’ve become much more accustomed to. That I have practiced and trained for. That I have mastered to some extent. I know that telling myself that things WILL pass, making a call to a friend, meditating, lighting a candle, smiling, having a cup of tea, playing a favorite uplifting movie and painting while my cat sleeps next to me and while life goes on in the big city outside my balcony door…well, that all is part of my new way. And one thing that I know that I know that I know: that old way can’t hold a candle to my new way.

So, dear readers, try to notice your moments of negative practice that present themselves to you. When you are reminded of an old habit or pattern that isn’t beneficial to you, recognize how good it feels to NOT do that anymore. Commend yourself for having developed a new way. Give thanks for the chance to see the contrast. Ask for more and more growth and less and less gross.

Here’s to that. More growth and less gross for each of us.

~~~S Wave~~~

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IFS: YOU in the Pilot Seat

 For me as an individual to be free, I have to confront myself with questions about who I really am, and this is done in large part by examining the layers of false identity that I mistakenly call me.    -Deepak Chopra

On and off, over the past nine years, I have connected with a very special woman. Her name is Sherry and instead of a therapist, I like to think of her as a teacher. Yes, I began seeing her to get “therapy” for “depression” and “anxiety.” Or, that’s what I thought I needed. Sherry however doesn’t work like that. Sherry introduced me to a way of caring for myself that had nothing to do with meds, with diagnoses, or with criminalizing my own thoughts or feelings. The approach she used to get me to that level of self-care is called Internal Family Systems.

Internal Family Systems Therapy is based on an integrative model and believes that each sub-personality of the mind possesses its own characteristics and perceptions. This therapy technique sees each level of consciousness as having these sub-personalities, or “parts,” and each plays a distinct role in achieving self-preservation for the client as a whole. Every part within a person is responsible for warding off any behaviors, actions, or reactions that can result in dysfunction or disharmony within. In this type of treatment, each part is validated and recognized as significant because of its primary function. Parts can be identified as having either healthy, productive roles or extreme roles. The latter category is made up of parts that require transformation or alteration through the therapeutic process.  – Mona R. Barbera

In my own words IFS allows different sub-“parts” of a person to express themselves and receive the care and compassion that they need from the higher Self. These parts are like little personalities that we all have and ultimately they are all good. There is no “bad” part of you. Sometimes our parts just get a little extreme because they need some help.

There are three distinct types of parts in this model:

  • Managers: These parts are responsible for maintaining a functioning level of consciousness by warding off any unwanted or counterproductive interactions, emotions, or experiences resulting from external stimuli.
  • Exiles: These parts are most often in a state of pain or trauma, frequently resulting from childhood experiences. Managers and firefighters exile these parts and prevent them from reaching the conscious level so that preservation is preserved.
  • Firefighters: These parts serve as a distraction to the mind when exiles break free from their suppression. In order to protect the consciousness from feeling the pain of the exiles, firefighters prompt a person to act on impulse and to engage in behaviors that are indulgent, addictive, and often times abusive. In addition, firefighters redirect attention to other areas such as sex, work, or food.

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To understand “parts,” consider this hypothetical scenario. One day you wake up feeling so excited to do a particular thing but then you get a little nervous and don’t do it then you get mad at yourself for not doing it then you begin to fear that you’ll never be good at doing anything and you’ll always procrastinate then you start resenting someone else for how they used to procrastinate then you hate yourself for resenting them then you begin to listen to music that makes you feel more angry because in a weird way you kind of like it then you tell yourself to regroup and to stop beating yourself up and you make a list of reasons to not beat yourself up then you find yourself getting all excited about something again and on and on…..

Ugh! It’s like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” except the dark adult version where an ending of self-destruction instead of happily ever after is a very real possibility. But consider for a moment all the instances of the word “you” in that scenario. There are at least a dozen, right? Can all those “you”s really be YOU?  Could it be possible that there is another way of looking at it besides calling all of that “you?” Try to consider that you are perhaps a multiplicity of fears, needs, dreams and comping mechanisms. It would make sense then that these fears, needs, dreams and coping mechanisms might be in an ongoing struggle to be heard. Once we take out the word “you” and give these other parts some identity, then the scenario isn’t quite so muddled. For the fun of it, let’s do just that. In the scenario above, let’s exchange “you” with a cast of parts. Introducing,

Adventurer

Insecure Child

Fatalist

Judge

Bodyguard

Mechanic

Let’s say these are the inner parts of the person experiencing the scenario. Now, the story goes something like this:

Your Adventurer feels so excited to do a particular thing but then your Insecure Child gets a little nervous and refuses to do it then your Inner Judge  gets mad at your Insecure Child for not doing the first thing then your Fatalist begins to fear that she’ll never be good at doing anything and she’ll always procrastinate then your Bodyguard tries to protect Inner Child by resenting someone else for how they used to procrastinate then the Inner Judge hates yourself for resenting them then your Fatalist begins to listen to music that makes you feel more angry because it wants to keep being fatalistic then the Judge tells you to regroup and to stop beating yourself up and your Mechanic who wants to fix, fix,fix makes a list of reasons to not beat yourself up then your Adventurer gets all excited about something again and on and on…

Once you see that “you” isn’t specific enough and that what is really going on is a complex dance between competing fears, needs, and dreams, not to mention managers each trying to step in and choreograph the dance in their own style…well once you see that, the situation is easier to manage! Then the healing can really begin. How does that happen?

First, believe that you have a higher Self. Remember that YOU are not ANY of these parts. YOU are something higher and wiser. You have a Self with a capital S that can approach these parts with genuine calm and confidence. Your higher Self has the ability to lovingly and confidently take care of these parts like you might imagine a good parent extending unconditional love to their child, or god extending unconditional love to us if that comparison suits you.

Second, get as connected with and embodied in your higher Self as you can. If you’re not sure how to do that, maybe this will give you some ideas: 6 Soulful Steps to Get Reconnected With Your Higher Self. For me, I like to take steps like these:

1. Sit still on the floor.

2. Take a series of deep, slow breaths.

3. Imagine all my cares and worries on shelves behind me. I can get to them later. They’re not going anywhere.

4. Turn my attention to god without making it into a conversation. I just sit with god and recognize my connection to it/him/her.

5. Imagine that I feel completely at ease, completely strong, completely confident, and completely peaceful with myself and others. It doesn’t matter if you really feel that way. Remember, how you “feel” is a reflection of your parts. The NATURE of Self is to be at peace. So you ARE at peace.

Once you have found yourself resting in your higher Self that is the time for the next part of the process.

Third, turn your attention to your parts and have a conversation with them! One at a time, invite them to sit with you and tell you their needs and their motivations. Don’t judge them, don’t hurry them, and don’t put words in their mouths, just let them tell you about themselves. This is where you DO have a conversation. When I am doing this, I get an image in my mind of what this part looks like…maybe it’s a person (man, woman, child,) maybe it’s an animal (like my dove,) or sometimes it’s an object. Let it show you what it is. Don’t force it.

Fourth, if you feel like to have been able to hear and understand what a part of you needs, invite that part to trust you to love and protect it. Ultimately, the idea is that all the love that they need—or whatever it is they need, only they can tell you—will come from your higher Self where there is no shortage of love and compassion. Invite a part to rest. Promise it that you will listen to it with love from now on.

This is as good a place as any to emphasize that I am NOT a trained IFS therapist. Obviously there are theoretical depths behind IFS and steps in the therapeutic process with which I am not familiar. But, IFS is known as being a “user-friendly”approach so go for it and start exploring yourself! If you really wanted to go deeper with this kind of exploration you could start by reading Jay Earley’s book or by searching for an IFS therapist.

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As for me, little by little I  began to operate in life from my higher Self. Now, my parts are more at ease as they continue to trust that their needs will be met. I can quickly recognize when one of my parts is spiraling into an extreme again and I can help restore it back to harmony. There are no meds. There is no more weekly therapy (though I would happily go if I needed to!) There is no sense of being destined to be defective. No, it is not a perfect process every time, but it has become so much easier for Me to take care of the me’s. 🙂

So why did I write this very long post? Because I want all of us to be free! I want all of us to be happy. Together. And recently I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who can’t seem to untangle themselves from all the thoughts and feelings swirling around inside them in a battle for attention. Hell, I am that person too from time to time and I am so grateful for the person who comes around and reminds me of my true identity so I can sit myself down and let the inner work take place.

If you are at the whim of every thought and extreme action of your parts you are like a plane being flown by the passengers. They don’t know how to fly that plane! Where is the pilot for this thing?? Your Self is the pilot. YOU have a license to fly that plane and it was given to you from the day you arrived. Only YOU have the ability to help each part find its seat, sit back and enjoy the flight. YOU. I don’t know about you, but I want to take my plane to wonderful places. I want to love my passengers so much that they can’t even believe how lucky they were to get a ticket on MY flight. Maybe we can all caravan in the sky….you get your higher Self in the pilot’s seat and come join me. We’ll see where we can all go together.

Be well. Always, with great gratitude for each of you,

~~~S Wave~~~

Connectedness…on a dreary day

I’m not going to lie. I’m not always a happy person sitting around praying and contemplating love and life. A blog is where, for many of us, we want to just be ourselves. We want to be authentic to a circle of strangers who, through words and common ideas, have come to feel somehow like distant friends or respected colleagues. So although I’m tempted to strictly maintain an uplifting vibe on this site, even at the cost of authenticity, I also just want to be real. Some days are dreary! I’m not Amma or the Dalai Lama after all!

But thank goodness that it also takes some thought to put together a blogpost because trying to write about feeling down got me to thinking….maybe the darker days and the less hopeful moments are just as important as the positive days in respect to being interconnected. After all, isn’t the challenge to maintain some kind of elevated perspective even through those times? To believe in hope and a greater love when there seems to be no hope, especially in “love”?? (Sheesh, I’m sorry but doesn’t love just deserve sarcastic quotes sometimes??) To hold each other up when that is what’s needed and to be sensitive to the energy of others?

The other day I cried. Just a few years ago I used to cry A LOT. I used to be quite sad quite often. Not so much anymore, except that last Sunday there was a familiar dark cloud over me whose presence felt like an old frenemy. And since my grasp on hope and optimism was already slipping that day, I willingly (and I would say, weakly) invited that old friend to come on over and stay for a while. The familiarity of something destructive is sometimes more comforting than all the (mere) potential good that the unknown holds.

The downside to inviting gloom to hang out is that it isn’t a friend who knows when it has overstayed its welcome. Hence, here I am on Wednesday night still entertaining my guest. If I had to counter that with an upside, I guess it would be this: letting gloom settle in for a while is a great way to get a lot of tears out…which feels so good sometimes,  especially when it’s been a while.

So point is, on Sunday I was crying a lot. Not that anyone saw that. I was supposed to spend part of the day with my sister and 21 month-old niece, two of the most luminescent lights in my life. But I called to say that the day was rough and I needed to be alone.  I didn’t think being around my niece who is pure joy would be the best place for me to be…like I would “contaminate” her with my energy. So instead I went for a long hike (and cried), I went to a matinee (and cried), I gave extra attention to my two cats (and cried), I talked to a few close friends on the phone (and cried), I cleaned the house (and cried).

And then something amazing happened later in the day. My sister sent me a short video of my niece, who calls me Momo. She was just sending it to say hello, but my niece surprised us both. On the video, my sister asked my niece, “What’s Momo doing?” My niece didn’t give her typical response of “sleeping,” “playing,” or “home.” Instead, she paused, her face became worried and she said, “Cry.” When my sister, perplexed, asked, “She’s crying? Why is she crying?” my niece responded with, “Tears on it,” in the same worried tone.  Then, as my sister prompted her, my niece went on to tell me she loved me, missed me, and that I should feel better. At the end her two little hands flew into the air, her smile broke out and my sister exclaimed, “All better!”

In talking about the video later that day, my sister told me that she hadn’t said anything about crying to my niece. We have no way of explaining why she would say that. That has to be a living, breathing example of interconnectedness right there!  At least I’m going to believe it is. And believing in anything right now is not something for me to scoff at. My niece’s video has been more than enough to get me through these last few nights anyway…and I’m beginning to think that, in the end, that is part of the purpose of being connected at all.