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. 


Screenshot_7.jpg

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

Be Too Much

Hello. How is June unfolding for you?

Earlier in the month, I wrote about the energies of this month. It was about paying attention to subtlety as a way to be a conscious participant in the changes around us and within us.

Personally, I feel I like I can tune in even more. I can do this by slowing everything down and being present. When I do this, I instantly receive information that tells me what changes are occurring within me.

One of the changes occurring was triggered when my daughter, who is an esthetician, asked to do eye make up on me. I told her to do something bold and bright— something I’d never do on myself. Here is the result:

At first, when I looked in the mirror, I had a two second identity crisis: who the hell am I? When I woke up the next morning, having removed the make up, I felt like it was the first day of the rest of my life. I realized there is big, full life out there for me to experience. Creating a new look on my face helped me to see how much I play myself down in order to not be seen. And this made me feel it is time to grieve the way I’ve been playing and let it go.

Sometimes what we think is our personality— the who we think we are— is actually a product of deep insecurities and fears. Once faced, processed and understood, we begin to see that beneath this—who we thought we were— is not really who we are.

What I am coming to understand is the person I thought I was expressed from an old tape of fear and neglect. Who I really am expresses from a divine intensity inside of me. She is a whole other person who lives, laughs and loves with that intensity— and maybe even wears bright make up.

To end, click on my video I posted today. I came out with no make up giving shout outs to those of us working real hard expanding our consciousness and self-awareness and finding the hope in that. Click here to listen.

I’d love to hear your comments and questions. Leave below or contact me here.

~The Soul Reporter

Living Deeper

Below is my mental health article published in The Volk, Spring 2019

Mental Health: Living Deeper

By Nikki DiVirgillo, MSW, LGSW

When I was young, I looked through a telescope and viewed the stars in the sky. The expansive night sky with its twinkling lights told me I was special: connected to a great force and intelligence.  In my early twenties I lived my life from this acknowledgment and my desires manifested effortlessly. Then, one night as I wrote in my journal, I made a profound connection. It brought a vital link from childhood experiences to what I was beginning to experience internally, which was anxiety. This discovery led to the opening of my Pandora’s Box where I made one childhood connection after another, throwing me in to what some have called a dark night of the soul. The details of this long, dark, night are irrelevant in light of the lessons I learned and the growth that followed.

Photography by: Will Miles
Photography by: Will Miles

The main lesson, from which all the other lessons fall under, is that if we want to become more of who we really are, if we want to “live our best life,” and experience calm within ourselves, then we must live deeper, and then once we do, live deeper still. Many of us work at the surface of life; we are conditioned this way. We begin in a family, however that looks, with adults who are often existing at the surface of life. Then we fit our tiny bodies into a school desk with bodies taller than us telling us what they think we need to know to live a successful, fulfilling life. We move on to a job to pay for the lifestyle we think we should have. Through all of these stages who asks what we want? What we think? What we feel? At what point do we wonder, where are we? Who are we? And, is this all there is? If we don’t, at any point, stop and ask ourselves these questions or listen to those who might be asking us, we will continue to work at the surface level until our bodies and minds break down. Sure, some will earn what we see as success working at the surface, but will they be fulfilled? Will they be living an authentic life?

What we know is there is a mental health issue (more likely a crisis) in our country. According to the NAMI website (National Alliance on Mental Illness) “1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” What is also clear is that mental illness is on the rise for our younger population as well. There is no truer sign of a culture’s overall well-being than how its children are doing. According to the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report from the Child Mind Institute, anxiety disorders have increased 17% in the past ten years. From my professional perspective, I have also seen an increase of students in school diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Something is not right.

My personal theory of what’s not right is that we’ve lost touch with who we really are because we primarily work and function at the surface of life and the surface of ourselves. When I looked up at that star-filled, night sky I was tapping into expansiveness, into space, into mystery, truth, and cosmic order. When I wrote in my journal and made childhood connections, I was digging in beyond the surface to a deeper part of myself, an unconscious part, just as vast and mysterious as the night sky. This space was filled with beliefs, memories, trauma, and emotions stemming from my upbringing. This “stuff” has to be processed, and often our first que that we are ready for this inner work is the experience of anxiety and/or depression.

To listen to our emotions, seeing them as a signal to slow down and check in with our selves, is not something that comes naturally to many of us. We weren’t taught this. Further, to listen and be curious enough about what’s happening inside of us, will open us to change. And, change is frightening, especially at first, because we have only known the surface of ourselves. The surface can lure us with its comfort and safety, but the real value is going beneath our surface. We are more than what we experienced as children, and more than what the culture tells us now. Therefore, when something prompts us to live deeper, like the stars in the night sky, there are points of light within ourselves that we must, and can follow to help us along this journey.

Here are my points of light for you- if you are going through a dark night, if you are experiencing anxiety, if you are feeling an urge to step into something more:

Photography by: Will Miles
Photography by: Will Miles

                 Find Space: this can be anything from looking up into the night sky, taking notice of the stars and the moon, and during the day, the clouds or shades of blue to clearing out a cluttered corner, closet or drawer. Space bring perspective and perspective helps us start to see possibilities and pathways that can bring depth and more internal satisfaction. Meditation is another way to find space.

                 Be curious: Once you’ve created space, it’s time to get curious- curious about you. This is time to self-reflect, be mindful and ask questions. Beginning this deeper work requires resources to support us. This is important because we may be processing traumas and feeling feelings we haven’t consciously connected with. Consider a journal and seeing a therapist as useful resources as you explore yourself and books!

                 Seek connection: What I have come to trust and understand is all of us, every single one of us, is looking for connection. We long for deeper connections with ourselves, with our experiences and within our relationships. One of the most important lessons I learned has to do with attachment theory. This theory states the importance of having a secure physical and emotional attachment to a primary caregiver. These attachment needs are present as soon as we are born and continue as we develop and grow. However, it is in our earliest stages that attachment matters most as this will shape our future relationships. If our physical and emotional needs are not met consistently, we will develop insecure attachment. Being insecurely attached will cause anxiety and create difficulties in relationships, along with a disconnection with ourselves. I recommend exploring attachment theory through books or the internet. You will find the four types of attachment and perhaps understand which one best describes yours.  Through the process of understanding ourselves, and evolving from greater understanding we will find our relationships change too. Deeper connections with ourselves and others is possible!

These points of light begin the process of deeper work, the work that will eventually guide us to more clarity, wisdom, connection and peace.

This Week’s Self-Reflective Practice: Notice Projection

Projection: “Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.” (Everyday Health, https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/psychological-projection-dealing-with-undesirable-emotions/, 11/15/17)

Are you aware of projection? Do you know what it feels like when it happens to you? Do you know when you are doing it to someone else? 

It is important to understand what projection is, what it feels like when it happens to us, and when we are doing it to someone else. It is also important to note that we project, not only our emotions, but also our thoughts, beliefs and expectations. 

Photo by Gavin Allanwood on Unsplash

This is important because projection is painful. It hurts others. It stagnates our personal growth. It destabilizes relationships. The image above—a blank billboard—is a metaphor for projection. Any and everything can be projected onto it. And, whatever is projected belongs to the one projecting, not the billboard.

What if we could see all the projections on that billboard that have been thrown onto us? What would we see? What would we see on that billboard from our own projections onto others? What words, images, beliefs, thoughts and feelings might be covering that highway sign?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

This morning, in a heated discussion with a family member, big emotions, along with thoughts and beliefs were projected at me. This is unfortunately a common occurrence. When it was over, as I processed the experience while making my bed, I felt sadness, and thought: projections are traumatic occurrences. They come at us, perhaps constantly, in subtle and not so subtle ways, both consciously and unconsciously. It made me wonder: how do all of these projections impact our overall wellbeing……?

Self-Reflective Practice

This week, I’d like to propose a self-reflective practice for us. This practice seems timely, as I notice the current events, political and as the many shifts occurring on our planet and within our selves. 

The practice is to notice projections. Notice if you see it happening from people in the news, celebrities and politicians. Notice if you see it happening by friends and family. Notice if it is happening to you. What do you notice in your body when it happens? What thoughts do you notice? What do you notice about the person doing the projecting? And finally, notice if you are projecting onto others. What is covering the billboard?

This week is only about noticing. That’s it. Next week, we can go deeper. I’d love to hear what you notice this week. Share with me in comments.  

~The Soul Reporter

Gaining and Keeping Perspective

At middle-age, which is where I am, I have been at the edge of the unknown a few times. I have taken myself there deliberately, and I have been mysteriously taken there without warning. I am at the edge of the unknown again. I am going through the shift of no longer being a woman who can conceive. I am going through the shift of no longer being a mother whose duties are nearly every minute of my existence. I am going through the shift of who I am as a wife, and realizing I want to be a partner, not a role. I am going through the shift of being full-time mom, to full-time student, to do-I-want-to-be-a-full-time-employee when really all I want to do is go-deeper-into-my-authentic-nature-and-immerse-in-whatever-is-my-soul’s-intent.

The possibilities of this time of life seem endless. The freedom of this new space sometimes takes my breath away. It’s a time of great unknown and seemingly instability where I don’t know how or where my next steps will unfold.  It is also a time I know and trust myself more than ever before— and that is proving to be everything.

To continue reading, visit The Volk online.

The Beauty Way

My latest article as the Mental Health writer with The Volk Magazine (3 min read):

IMG_5015

“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. ”

— A YEAR WITH RUMI, HARPER COLLINS (2006)

In the current state of affairs, it is all too easy to wake up empty and frightened. To wake up this way is often also an experience of people experiencing mental illness. The past four years I have lived and breathed social work, learning in school about mental health and social justice. The learnings have made me even more aware of the issues facing humanity, while creating a certain kind of rigid mind set needed to manage the academic work in order to attain a degree. I’ve also stayed up nights and woke up mornings reading one troubling news story after another. This combination has caused anxiety, and at time bouts of depression, making it difficult to, as Rumi says, take down a musical instrument. Taking down a musical instrument is a metaphor, which invites us to seek the beauty, even in the struggle. Continuing this article, I will share two experiences where I lived Rumi’s words. The article will conclude with suggestions of how you, the reader, can find your beauty in the struggle. So come along toward the Beauty Way.. Click here to continue. 

Exploring Self-Care

What do you think and feel when you hear the word self-care?

It may appear self-care is a recent trend that only younger generations take part in. According to the Pew Research Center this is true. The research showed in 2015 that Millennials spend more money and time on self-care than any generation before them. However, according to an NPR article, The Millennial Obsession with Self-Care, self-care is hardly new. Ancient Greeks partook in self-care to make them better citizens. It seems Millennials understand what the Ancient Greeks understood. But what about older generations— the Baby Boomers or Gen X? What are their thoughts and feelings about self-care?

During discussions I’ve had about self-care, I have heard people (mostly middle-aged women) ask, “What is self-care?” and “How do I do it?” I have heard them say, “I am not good at self-care” or “It’s not realistic to take care of myself. I am a mother. I work full-time…” For some, self-care is just one more thing to do and if it’s not done, it’s one more area in their lives to feel badly about. For others, it seems too self-indulgent.

If we want self-care to be a ritual we all partake in to become better citizens, I think it’s important to explore these concerns and answer these questions.  The last thing we need to do is taint self-care with shame and fill it with unrealistic expectations. So, let’s explore self-care a little more deeply. My guess is self-care is already a part of many of our lives. To continue reading go to The Volk magazine. 

Exploring Unprocessed Hurt*

In Rising Strong, Social Scientist, Brené Brown says, “Depression and anxiety are two of the body’s first reactions to stockpiles of old hurt.” Further, according to Brown, depression and anxiety, although have “organic and biochemical reasons…unrecognized pain and unprocessed hurt can also lead there.”

There was a time, many years ago, where I began experiencing intense anxiety. Eventually I was having daily panic attacks, sometimes several a day. This was making life difficult to enjoy. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me, which only made the anxiety worse. In a way, the anxiety was fuel for me to figure out what was wrong. This led to years of inner work where I experienced sadness and pain and discovered patterns that were connected to my childhood. There, is where I dug deeper into my unprocessed hurt. The more I dug, the more I understood the unrecognized pain and released the unprocessed hurt, which eventually led to less anxiety.

So, what is unprocessed hurt and further, if it has anything to do with our childhoods, why would anyone want to go back there? Who has time, right? I think this might be a tough sell, but I am going to try anyway: go back there. And, here’s why: many of us are there anyway, especially emotionally. Let me give an example. We are at work, or in my case, a classroom. There is a large group discussion. We raise our hand or attempt to speak up, but our instructor or boss doesn’t listen or respond to us. We quickly put down our hand or shut our mouth and look down awkwardly. How are we feeling— rejected? Embarrassed? What are we thinking— no one cares what we have to say? My ideas aren’t valuable?

Now, it could be that the instructor or our boss just didn’t hear our voice or see our hand. Yet, we have a story that says we’ve been rejected. This story gives us certain thoughts and feelings, and very often, anxiety, which moves us away from the present moment where we might see that we just weren’t heard or seen because of a simple mistake by the person leading the discussion. It wasn’t personal. If this is relatable, maybe we can think of similar experiences as an adult where we felt rejected or ignored. Maybe we notice a pattern. What if we went deeper? Are there any childhood experiences where we felt this way? At school? At the family dinner table? Maybe we notice a connection to experiences now and experiences then. Maybe this connection makes us feel sad for the child that felt this way. What if we felt that?

This is inner work. And yes, it takes time. But more so, it takes a curious mind and the courage and willingness to go a little deeper beyond our stories, in this example, a story of rejection. When we begin to move our attention beyond our stories, the story of rejection being a common one, we find patterns and make connections and begin to recognize our unprocessed pain, and we begin to feel the unprocessed hurt. The more we do this, we might notice our anxiety dissipate. When anxiety dissipates we are more present. When we are present, we see more clearly and breathe more freely.

Now, this is just a theory of mine. It comes from years of inner work, along with years of learning and reading about self-help, psychology and social work. This theory does not discount the organic and biochemical reasons for anxiety, some of which are often treated with medications. It also doesn’t dismiss the varying environmental and social issues that can cause anxiety. It only serves to offer another perspective, one similar to the psychoanalytic framework, which considers unconscious forces that affect our behavior and emotions.  In this way, connecting current emotional and mental patterns to childhood experiences and other unconscious pain, gives another potential cause of anxiety and how it might be relieved.

To engage in more inner work, I suggest beginning to notice your thoughts and feelings in your day-to-day life. I would also suggest using a journal to record experiences in your day that brought up noticeable thoughts and feelings. After a while, see if you notice patterns or triggers, which prompt noticeable thoughts and feelings. Be present with your self-inquiry and see where it takes you. There is a passage from the poem, The Sunrise Ruby by the Sufi poet Rumi that can be used for inspiration on the path of self-inquiry and discovery:

Work. Keep digging your well.

Don’t think about getting off from work.

Water is there somewhere.

 Submit to daily practice.

Your loyalty to that

is a ring on the door.

 Keep knocking, and the joy inside

will eventually open a window

and look out to see who’s there.

~Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi, p. 101

*Article originally published: The Volk, Fall 2017

Trigger warning: are you doing it?

PLEASE READ THIS BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT AND I WANT TO BE HEARD, NOT FOR MY STORY, BUT FOR PEOPLE WHO DEAL WITH THIS SHIT EVERY DAY (and stay with me, at the end I have a point that I believe needs to be understood):

I’ve had several conversations and confrontations with family (and others) about race. That is bound to happen when me, a white woman, has sex with a black man and gets pregnant at 19. When I was young and met a new boy, my dad would always ask, “Is he black?” This question always left me with a pit in my stomach. “Yes dad, he’s black.” When I met my now husband at 15 I told my dad about him. My dad asked his usual question and I answered in the usual way, but I followed up with, “But he reads and he’s in a bowling league.”

Just the other day in an environment surrounded by people who serve the oppressed and mentally ill, when it came up my husband was black, the next question was, “Ohhh….(awkward pause)…..what work does he do?” I got that same pit in my stomach. I told her what he did, and felt the urge to follow up with, “And he’s a supervisor,” but I stopped myself. Let me say this loud and fucking clear: I DO NOT NEED TO MAKE MY HUSBAND ANYTHING FOR YOU WHITE PEOPLE. He is the man I chose and choose and our love brought two amazing human beings in the world who have brown skin, and since their early years have been treated differently because of it. I learned early on that I can never ever know or fully understand their experience as biracial girls/women living in this world. This is a hard pill to swallow when as a mother you want to go through everything with them. In this instance, I cannot.

When I get into the conversations and confrontations about race and/or politics for that matter, they don’t go well. I get unfriended, unfollowed and was even told by one family member to go fuck myself and another, “no one likes you.” In none of these instances did a family member even consider what I am standing for- my family of color and not just my family- all families and people of color. To me, this makes no goddam sense. But, whatever. I have had enough confrontations to know that I no longer want to use my energy to argue with the ignorant who are steeped in their biases and prejudices.

But here is what I do want to confront and this is the actual point of this post: I am going to school to be a social worker. I’ve had many years of therapy, on and off, and especially lately there is a buzz word we mental health professionals use a lot and the word is TRIGGER. It’s an important concept and it is one I want people to me more thoughtful of.

When people are traumaitized, whether it is war, hurricanes, robbery, sexual assault, accidents or being of brown skin in this country and living with what is called historical trauma these traumatized people get triggered and it can be by anything, but especially anything that brings up the trauma. After my accident, loud sounds made me jump. I had flashbacks of being in the car. People can develop PTSD if these symptoms persist. Anyway, right now specifically, people of color are being triggered constantly and this is what is so bothersome to me right now.

When people post memes and messages that fits their narrative, that they think is funny but has an underlying message of racism, they are triggering people who don’t find it funny, that are living with historical trauma, and probably on top of very recent trauma. When our stupid president talks shit about NFL players taking a knee- that’s a trigger. When someone likes an ignorant post about players taking a knee that isn’t supportive of their cause, that is a trigger.

The insensitivity I have witnessed and witness at present is startling and heart wrenching. Many people do not seem to be sensitive or thoughtful enough to choose their words and messages and behaviors and even non-verbals with the idea in mind of others- how others feel- how others might experience the world. And, I can already here the grumbling. Sensitivity gets a bad wrap. Who has time, and these libtards and bleeding hearts should just get over it and stop taking everything so seriously. Well, just know that if you’re one of these people that thinks this way, in my opinion you fit in one of two places: you are either in so much pain due to your own trauma that you don’t think it’s safe to be sensitive or you’re just really comfortable and stay comfortable within the world you’ve created with people who look and think like you. Or maybe it’s a combo of both.

Whatever it is I am asking everyone, even those who are already super sensitive and thoughtful and I know who a lot of you are, to be even more thoughtful and sensitive. I am not suggesting we do the emotional work for others and became caretakers. But I am suggesting we really open ourselves beyond our narratives and comforts and biases and even what we find as funny and appropriate and consider our words, actions and behaviors first. We have become such a reactive and impulsive group of people and having a so called leader in the oval who is the most impulsive human I have ever witnessed doesn’t help to make us better. Unless of course we use this very disturbing moment we have with this man to become even more of a bleeding heart- to care even more about people, all people, to commit to never bully another human being or to say ignorant, divisive things. To never ask their child who dates a person of color, “Is he black?” This shit hurts and it’s time we all do our best to NOT CAUSE ANY MORE HARM.

The Soul Reporter via Facebook.