July Soul Report: The Future is Here~ Slow Down & Surrender

My first and foremost curiosity is: How are all of you doing?

This afternoon, my daughter said she felt off. Tired. Unmotivated. Had no inspiration. Didn’t even want to put on makeup— had tried several looks that weren’t working. The makeup part is unusual for her. She is an esthetician and a talented makeup artist. 

She asked me if I was feeling off. I told her no. I went on, “You might think mom is being woo-woo, but a veil has been lifted for many of us right now. This veil protected us from certain realities and allowed us to live in illusion.” 

I went on, “For some this is an incredibly difficult time. For others it is a time of celebration. I am celebrating. And, it makes sense that you are feeling off— you’ve gone through some big changes.”

Weep, and then smile.

Do not pretend to know something

you have not experienced. 

There is a necessary dying…

Very little grows on jagged rock. 

Be ground. Be crumbled,

so wildflowers will come up 

where you are. 

You have been stony for far too many years. 

Try something different. Surrender. 

~Rumi, A Year with Rumi, Coleman Barks 

Btw: Rumi is a fucking gem! If you’ve not read his poetry, find some. If you have, find it again!

Currently, I am not engaged with a large circle of people, but from my small circle, I can tell you EVERY SINGLE PERSON I know has made seismic shifts in the last few weeks. I am also hearing from fellow therapists and social workers that clients are coming in with an unusual amount of challenges and traumas. 

Me

For myself, during this time, I’ve faced the deeper, if not the deepest, psychological wound within myself. It is a wound made from neglect. A wound that has caused incredible suffering, and has been passed down to my daughters, and was passed down to me. It is the generational trauma of neglect, which so many of us feel. Which so many of us endure. It is silent. It is insidious. It is ours. Many don’t know it is there. But now is the time to surrender to our childhood, generational and historical traumas. To bear witness to them. To feel the pain, fear, and sadness they hold. To understand them and their message. To release them and be transformed. These traumas need not stay in our minds, our bodies, our souls any longer.  

These traumas wreak havoc and prey upon EVERYTHING— from our relationships to the countries we live in. For example, President Trump has an entire closet (and then some) full of unprocessed trauma that is damaging the United States. But, in this post, I am not going to go into that. The focus for this post is to report that the FUTURE IS HERE. The new paradigm, the cosmic shift, the new reality— that some of us have been talking about for a while— happened. In a very real sense, we made it AND there’s more to come. 

For July’s Soul Report the message I am sharing to help assist us is: Slow Down & Surrender 

June’s Soul Report was also about slowing down, slowing down in order to sense the subtleties of energies, patterns and dynamics. This was to help us prepare for this big shift that has now occurred. 

July’s slowing down is about getting clear now that some internal debris has been lifted. It’s about commitment and being conscious participants in our ongoing personal growth and transformation. It is about creating our own Bodhi Tree (under which Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened) moments. These moments are glimpses of insight about who we are and who we are not. These moments build upon each other to become a lighted chain that leads us to greater awakenings of who we really are.  

The root of suffering is attachment.

~The Buddha

As I reflect upon my own journey thus far, it is indeed true that the root of suffering is attachment. How I experience attachment comes from a psychological perspective that has to do with attachment trauma. As infants and small children, if we did not securely attach to an adult, we have already made our first step into suffering. If a secure adult did not answer our cries for nourishment, protection and affection, we attach to this trauma. If a secure adult did not answer our questions about life or we were reprimanded when doing so, we attach to this trauma. If we were exposed to a caregiver who was addicted, we attach to this trauma. The list of traumas are many. 

As adults we now have attachment trauma. We feel neglected, abandoned and empty. We put out our feelers, literally our feelings of fear and insecurity, and find our fix- the thing to fulfill us. Mine was, and is, a 32-year codependent relationship. For others it can be anything: shopping, success, drugs, gambling……….and the list continues. The cycle also continues. And I, who have spent my entire life living and processing my attachment trauma, want to do whatever I can to help and assist others as many have done for me.  

And that my friends, was a tangent, but apparently a needed one. 

And brings me to what occurs as we process our traumas: space. Space in our minds. Space in our bodies. Space in our souls. This space allows for generosity for ourselves and every living thing. This space allows for greater efficiency so that when new traumas or challenges come, we can process them more quickly and easily. This space allows for our natural desires and tendencies to surface and create a more satisfying, deliberate and peaceful presence. This space allows us to see, perhaps for the first time, what our burning desire is— that blue flame inside us all that keeps us going and brings us everywhere. 

What once kept me going was the desire to fill my empty space. But this was only part of the journey and leads me to discover what actually is within that empty space. I am here now, and I celebrate and anticipate its unfolding. 

I am here to process and hold space with any of you moving through these shifts and changes. I am here to answer any questions you might have about this month’s Soul Report. 

Contact me here.

Thank you, and you’re all doing great work!

~The Soul Reporter

The Harsh Reality

My latest Mental Health article at The Volk magazine.

“It is in the homes and in childhood that the wreckage of human life begins.”

 ~Katherine Tingley

The above quote may seem harsh to some, and to others validating. For me, it is validating. At 15 years-old, I understood I had an issue with intimate relationships. I found out in my early twenties that issue had a name: codependency. I read a book called Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie. My copy of the book is full of fading purple highlights. Melody gave what I experienced a framework and language. Often codependency has its roots in the house of a child with at least one caregiver experiencing addiction. This was true for me. My mother had a drinking problem, later prescription drugs, and was in and out of treatment centers much of my childhood. My mother also has a mental illness which was not diagnosed until a couple of years ago. To put it simply, in my home life was unstable; the only predictability was the unpredictability and chaos that came from my mother. I spent three decades sorting most of this out.

Director: Michaela Rae // Camera: Ivy Christina Fashions: Meghanlee Phillips Hair: Kaisa Johnson // Makeup: Mikelle Brown //Model: Tyler Bakken
Director: Michaela Rae // Camera: Ivy Christina Fashions: Meghanlee Phillips Hair: Kaisa Johnson // Makeup: Mikelle Brown //Model: Tyler Bakken

Today the number of people experiencing mental health issues is staggering. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. For youth, ages 13-18, 1 in 5 will experience a “severe mental disorder at some point during their life.” Specifically I’d like to discuss two common diagnoses: PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Diagnostic criteria for PTSD are exposure to traumatic event(s), recurrent and distressing memories of the event(s), avoidance of stimuli associated with event(s), and various changes in mood and behavior, which can include hypervigilance, problems with concentration, and sometimes disassociation (DSM-5).

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) “Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” Approximately 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lives and 8% have PTSD (PTSD United).

ADHD is termed as a “heritable brain disorder,” where symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and can cause anxiety, boredom, and/or mood swings. One in nine U.S. (6.4 million) children is diagnosed with ADHD (Ruiz, R, 2014).

I focus on these two disorders due to emerging research which questions whether attention issues and the overall increase in ADHD diagnosis may be due to trauma. One of the reasons this matters is treatment. Seventy-seven percent of children diagnosed with ADHD receive treatment while thirty percent are treated with only medication (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). From what I understand, ADHD medication will not help a child who does not have ADHD: therefore, having an accurate understanding of a child and their history, particularly trauma history, is important. From this research, this need is becoming clear.

One study of particular importance was done by Dr. Nicole Brown at Duke University. During her residency she began to notice that many of her patients were being diagnosed with ADHD. These patients were living in low-income neighborhoods, often characterized by violence. She conducted a study of 65,000 children.  The parents of these children were questioned about the ADHD diagnoses along with any Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs. These experiences can include physical and emotional neglect and abuse, caregivers with mental illness and/or addiction, or who were incarcerated. She found that sixteen percent of children diagnosed with ADHD did have at least four ACEs. There were only six percent diagnosed who had no ACEs. The recommendation from this study, according to Dr. Brown, is “We need to think more carefully about screening for trauma and designing a more trauma-informed treatment plan.”

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who is a pioneer in the ACE’s study and was just named California’s first Surgeon General, is calling for developmental screenings of Adverse Childhood Experiences much like we do already for mental health when we visit our doctor. The ACE’s study showed that the more adverse childhood experiences we have, the more it impacts our overall mental and physical health well into adulthood. This brings me back to the quote I shared at the beginning of the article.  We are witnessing, and many of us are experiencing, the wreckage of human life.

To point to our childhood homes as the root of this wreckage, again, may seem harsh. I must also state that there are systematic inequalities that can induce and enhance this wreckage. The truth is many of us grew up or are growing up in harsh conditions. This harshness can create trauma, which impacts us in a variety of ways through behavior, mood, relationships, and our experiences. To recognize this isn’t to blame our caregivers. It is to understand ourselves and, essentially, humanity. Understanding leads to a greater capacity for healing, growth, and compassion for ourselves and others. It is important to remember that we are our best resource and often what troubles us has solutions within. For those of us who commit to this, understanding will create less harsh conditions in our homes for our children. Specific to a diagnosis of ADHD or PTSD, it is important to be professionally screened, recognizing that symptoms of inattention can also point to a trauma history. Below you will find a list of resources—websites and books— that further this discussion and offer education on trauma and ACEs, including a site where you can find out your own ACE score.

To find what your ACE score is, go here: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

Nadine Burke Harris on how childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime: https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime/discussion

The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. 

The Deepest Well, by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. 


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Nikki DiVirgilio is a Licensed Social Worker and writer. If you’d like to contact her with questions, comments and guidance in going deeper, email her at nikki@nikkidivirgilio.com. To read more from Nikki, visit her blog at www.nikkidivirgilio.com

This Week’s Self-Reflective Practice: Seeking Validation Part II

Validation: “recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile”

Two weeks ago I gave general and personal examples of validation seeking, and explored potential roots of this need for validation

This week I’d like to start by sharing a poem I wrote while in the midst of some buried trauma and pain around validation seeking.

Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

I wonder if this is how children feel…

Who is listening? And who is there to talk to? 

Who is there that isn’t too drunk? Too high? Too distracted? Too wounded? Too insane? Too selfish? 

This deprivation turns to desperation. And then to rage. 

Who is listening? Who is there to talk to? Who has space for me? 

We are all in the same boat. Violently rocking. Or barely hanging on. Or with a stiff drink in our own hand thinking: this is the life. 

But is it? 

Do I need you to see me to know I exist? To know my experience matters? Do I need you to hold my space?

Where am I in this? Can I do it without you? 

Is it too much to ask a wounded mother and father to do this? 

Is it appropriate for that same wounded mother or father to ask their child to do this?

Who is listening? Who is there to talk to? 

This poem could go further. I thought it might. But, turns out I had to live it through a little deeper in my own life in order to finish this piece on validation.

What I now understand is that poem is from the old story. Old does not make in now invalid. Instead this story is valuable, essential and leads me to where I am now where it is old enough to gain perspective and understanding in order to let it go and make room for a new story. 

I cannot proclaim to know all the pieces of the new story yet. The new story is unfolding. But here are some pieces that I have gathered so far….

Piece One, The Repair Journey: On my walk this afternoon, I listened to a Super Soul podcast of Elizabeth Lesser. She spoke about her book, Marrow: A Love Story and the work she and her sister did together to repair their relationship. She posed the question: Who do we need to clean up space with so we can truly connect? Who have we hurt? And, then ask and listen. 

We hurt people in many ways, often stemming from our wounds of neglect and trauma. One of the ways we hurt people is by expecting them to meet our needs and to validate us.

Piece Two, The Spirit & Soul Journey: Maya Angelou said, beware of the naked man who gives you his shirt. She also said she doesn’t trust anyone that says I love you when they don’t love themselves. I remember my mother telling me to look in the mirror and say: I love myself. And, my mother didn’t, and doesn’t love herself. It has been a strained relationship, but in many ways I took her words to heart. It framed a life, my life. I have been on the self-love journey this entire time. 

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Self-Reflective Action

To begin Repair: As we step into our reflective practice on seeking validation, let’s be curious about which relationships in our lives need some tidying up. Who can we do some repair work with? Who have we hurt, and then ask and listen, defenses down. Also, consider is this person safe, willing and ready to begin the process. There are some people who, at this time, are far too wounded and therefore will be too defensive to clear space with.

To begin the Conscious Spirit & Soul Journey: Consider that you are on a self-love journey, no matter how low or how badly you feel about yourself. Do you believe this to be true? Then, where do you think you are on this journey? Are you the kind of person who is naked, but giving your shirt away? Or do you have so many shirts and won’t consider sharing one? Either behavior shows there is an imbalance within the relationship with yourself. What if you looked in the mirror and said: I love myself? Notice what you feel. What you think. Do you believe it?

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

Which brings me to the next piece…..

The New Story

This weekend, while journaling, I understood that a new rhythm unfolds inside of me. The Voice Inside says to me gently: let it happen. No need to figure it out, alter it, halt it. Let it occur. 

This new rhythm is of my own making. I no longer beat to the drum of my old childhood wounds and buried trauma. There is a new sound coming forth. 

Here is the poem of this new sound: 

There is a new rhythm coming forth. 

It is of my own making. 

Why would I do anything to disrupt and disturb it. 

It is coming together to create a new dance in all of my relationships. In the relationship with myself.

It comes with a trust toward my eternal and steadfast vision of the person I want to be, the person I know I am. 

It is not a head path or the old wounded way.

It is a soul path, a heart path. 

And it is unfolding, and I am watching, noticing and gratefully looking forward to what is transpiring. 

In this new rhythm I begin to understand I am fully nourished by Spirit, by my Soul’s Journey. My my very own Self.

As always, I am here to help you investigate this topic because sometimes it’s a lot to do this on our own. If you have questions about this week’s practice or have insights to share, please contact me. For deeper, more concentrated work, I am available for tele-therapy.

To learn more about me and my services, click here. To reach me for questions or to share, click here or email me at thesoulreporter@gmail.com 

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Next week’s Self-Reflective Post will be about eating and noticing our thoughts around it. 

~The Soul Reporter