A throw back

My husband just airdropped this to me. Turns out in 2012 I used to write posts like this, and share them to subscribers. The reminder makes me wonder why I don’t really write anymore and that makes me sad. So since I’ve no new material, here’s something old and still relevant.

Disintegrating Narratives & Global Change

Recently, I noticed I kept trying to figure myself out, figure out who I am, and I couldn’t. This frustrated me. I’ve spent decades figuring myself out, and the truth is all I’ve really figured out is who I am not. I call this work, The Great Untying.  It is inner work, deep self-reflective work that takes courage and conviction. In doing this work, we discover many false narratives about ourselves. In this process, I realize all of who I wasn’t was held together by false narratives AND all of who I am has been trapped within all of that. 

I’ve been corrupted with false narratives from my upbringing, the American culture, specifically being “Minnesota Nice,” and systems and structures created from the false dogma of white and male supremacy.

I’ve been so hard on myself too— saying, Nikki, get your shit together. Why is it taking you so long to find yourself, to know who you are— as if I am flawed, useless and hopeless. Now, I give credit to myself for getting as far as I have in my personal evolution in spite of all the bullshit to get through. 

The Great Untying (of these false narratives), for me, has taken 30+ years. Due to this work, I am in a new place now, but tried to use an old tool. I realize that the analytical tool of figuring myself out is not what this moment calls for. Although it is natural to wonder who I am now, without the false narratives, I understand I will not know who I am through contemplation. Instead, this moment calls for action, while also calling for allowing. I will begin to see my new self arise by doing and by being. I will experience my unfolding as I act and allow. 

This insight shows me how interconnected my personal evolutionary journey is with the global one. I wonder, does anyone else notice the parallels within their own life and that which is playing out globally, specifically in America? 

We are indeed in a global shift. The false narratives are being exposed. The truths are being revealed. The moment calls for new tools and a wider, deeper mindset. The call is for us take action toward truth and justice and to allow our higher, truer selves to emerge as we act and move forward, and upward.

March on. 

the changes that are occurring

Guest Post: the meaning of life

By Lou DiVirgilio

The idea that anyone could know, in a comprehensive manner, the meaning of life, seems to most people an absurd notion.  Life qua life, is such an enormous, interwoven, complicated idea that it appears to defy comprehension, and further there is a general feeling today among Western Culture that a person searching for life’s meaning is wasting scarce energy, scarce time, and being counter productive.  “Monty Python,” a group of English funny men, created a satirical spoof movie called, The Meaning of Life.  Of course their title was meant to be sarcastic and to taunt the viewer with the high concept of “the meaning of life,” then they immediately began to mock it in the most irreverent of ways.  After many comedic skits, that had little to do with the meaning of life, the movie ended with one of the Monty Python crew sitting in a chair saying , “Oh! You really expected to see evidence of the meaning of life?”  Then he reaches over to a small table standing next to him, picks up the book setting there entitle, “The Meaning Of Life,” opens it and begins to read in a flippant manner, “treat every one as you would like to be treated, turn the other cheek, love your neighbor as yourself, blah, blah, blah,” then throws the book to the side on the floor as the movie ends. 


Viktor E. Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist, wrote a book entitled, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  His presentation was taken seriously by millions of readers, owning to the facts that he was an immanent psychiatrist, and a survivor of Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau.  On page 154 of his book Frankl encapsulated his perception of the meaning of life, …”Man is not fully condition and determined, but rather determines himself whether he gives into conditions or stands up to them.  In other words, man is ultimately self-determined.  Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment”…  Thus the meaning of life for Frankl, expresses itself from man’s innate capacity for self-determination.  What is not made clear from Frankl’s above perception or perhaps it was implied, is where the capacity for self-determination originates?  The answer is, it originates from our self-awareness. 

Continue reading here.

We Know

We know ourselves. This has come to me recently in a conscious way.

We all know when something isn’t right within us and amongst us. What we do with this is where we need to place our attention. What do I mean by this? For many of us, when we know something isn’t right— what do we do about this? Do we try to understand what it is? Or do we push it away and put our energy to functioning as if all is well?

We also know when something is right with us. Most of us would like if others noticed this. Again, what we do with this is where we need to focus our attention.

Is it enough that we know this? Is it enough that we truly do know ourselves? Or do we believe we need the other? Do we not trust ourselves to know who we are?

If we did, imagine what that might mean?

Perhaps we do not know because from right out of the womb, even before, when our parents paint our rooms blue or pink, we are told who we are, what we will like. In school we are taught what “they” think we don’t know and need to know, and on and on it goes.

But we know. We know ourselves more than anyone else can know. And this is the key to our unfolding, our conscious knowing of who we truly are and also, who we are not.

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

Self-Reflective Practice: Recognizing Patterns of Self-Protection

Sometimes I’m amazed at new insights about myself, especially at my age.

One I just discovered was so deeply rooted, I thought it was just my personality.

This pattern’s motive is for one single use—the holy grail of psychological mechanisms: self-protection.

Here it is: if I am quiet and shut down around someone or in an environment—it is because for one reason or another- I do not feel safe.

I am not shut down and quiet because I am:

a) an introvert

b) weird

c) anti-social.

I am shut down and quiet because actually…….

I LOVE MYSELF. I CARE ABOUT MYSELF.

What I needed in order to see this pattern: to—finally—be with people who, and in environments that, create a sense of safety and worthiness.

When I was a little girl, I was just quiet. I kept to myself. The more quiet and to myself, the more isolated and therefore, weird I thought I was. But, recently when I noticed myself being shut down and quiet around certain people, I also noticed the story I was telling about myself: you’re weird and everyone thinks you’re weird. And then the berating: what is wrong with you? Why can’t you just talk to people? Do you think you are better than they are…? (Well, I mean yes, sometimes I do).

But— a stream of high-level consciousness broke through. I connected this adult moment in real time with my child self. I saw my child self do exactly what grown up self is doing and realized: I AM NOT WEIRD. I may not even be an introvert. My little kid self who shut down to stay safe did so because she loved her self.

A-fucking-ha!

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

Self-Reflective Practice

This week, and quite honestly from now on, consider your personality traits, that you think you are just stuck with or maybe even like, could be deeply ingrained self-protective mechanisms. For many of us, in our childhoods, conditions were harsh. These harsh conditions showed up in our childhood homes, in the schools we attended and in the world we lived in. Harsh doesn’t have to mean abuse. It can just mean unkind or not hospitable to the souls and spirits that we are.

To protect ourselves from harshness our wisdom created mechanisms to keep us safe and protected. Mine was to shut down. What was/is yours?

Once you discover it, pay attention to it. Where does it show up? Consider why. Do you have to hang on to it to keep you safe or can you start to let it go? Could it be that you are more than what you think your personality is? Now that you are a grown up, is it possible to be safe even when around unsafe people?

Finding our self-protective patterns can be a tedious task. And some are buried more deeply than others. I am 47, and just discovered my deeply ingrained pattern. But you know, now that I have, I feel lighter. I feel freer. I feel more myself. And, I know I have worked to build or perhaps, uncover, the foundation within myself— a foundation I stand safely on— even in the harshest conditions.

As usual, reach out if needed. I am here to hold space for your stories, your challenges, your process.

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 

Connect with me on Social Media: Facebook Twitter Instagram

~The Soul Reporter

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 

Connect with me on Social Media: Facebook Twitter Instagram

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

~The Soul Reporter

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

Does your therapist know who they are….?

For my graduate social work program I chose to do my research project on self-refelctive practice using myself as the both researcher and the one being researched. So far my work has been downloaded from universities and people all over the world.

When we look for a therapist, it is important that the therapist, know thyself.

I hope you’ll gain some knowledge from my work. To download click here: 

Abstract

Typically, in a social work graduate program, students are taught human behavioral theories, methods and interventions, ethical practices, policy and cultural competence among other areas. The primary tool used by social workers are themselves. Therefore, it is important the social worker is competent. The academic curriculum ensures that professionally, they are. However, how much does a social work graduate program ensure the social worker is competent personally? Theorists and current literature express the importance of a therapist possessing selfawareness— that essentially to know oneself is to know others. In this autoethnography, I aimed to enlighten the importance of self-awareness by participating in the self-reflective practices of clinical supervision and self-reflective journal writing during my graduate year as a social work intern and student. I took this data and interwove it with personal history and knowledge from social work literature and education. Through the process, I discovered the importance of the therapeutic relationship and its ability to provide relational repair, along with personal issues such as insecure attachment surfacing in order to be acknowledged and begin to be healed. Ultimately, I experienced the reason why self-reflective practice is essential in being a competent therapist. Self-reflective work brings self-awareness. Self-awareness brings self-knowledge. And, self-knowledge enhances the therapeutic relationship and increases a therapist’s overall competence and confidence.

To read the study click here. 

Trauma, Triggers and the Myth about Time*

Trigger warning: this article begins with an experience of a car accident.

On September 29, 2011, I was living in California with my family. My mom had just come in for a visit, and my daughters and I were taking her to Big Bear Lake to spend the day. The car was on cruise control at 60 mph and Enya gently played on the radio. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw two round headlights of a truck. I said to my daughter in the passenger seat, “What is this guy behind me…..?”

I never finished the sentence. The white Toyota Matrix hurled through the air doing somersaults. The front end hit the pavement. The backend hit the pavement. Three times this happened until it skidded on its side and stopped at a mound of ice plant on the side of the freeway. Through the cracked windshield I saw my 11-year-old daughter, propped up against that mound of ice plant, bruised, bloodied, shocked. Our lives were never the same.

Some people’s lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That’s what trauma does. It interrupts the plot….It just happens, and then life goes on. No one prepares you for it. ~Jessica Stern, Denial: A Memoir of Terror

We all survived the accident. Life went on. I resented that. I needed life to stop. It didn’t. It doesn’t. But trauma lives on in our bodies. In the book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, author Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. says, “After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their life.”

After a traumatic event, many of us move on. Life doesn’t stop, and the messages we hear from the culture around us is: move on. It’s over. You survived. Get over it. And, so we do. We stop talking about it. We stop thinking about it. We get back into our lives. But, really, we are just suppressing that “inner chaos” and in doing so our lives and our selves no longer feel the same. We may stop feeling safe or joyful or content. We may experience flashbacks, which disturb our day-to-day activities. We may have physical sensations that scare us. We may be jumpy and anxious. We also might start drinking more alcohol or taking pills that calm us down. All this can be happening without any conscious reckoning that our bodies are still processing the trauma we experienced.

After our accident, I had flashbacks. I felt my body in that car again. I saw my daughter over and over on the side of the road. I cried. And, sometimes I had this overwhelming urge to scream, but couldn’t. The scream and terror, trapped inside me. For a while, I thought I had Multiple Sclerosis. My hands and feet would go numb. I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night scared I was dying. What helped me is I had some awareness that was this was trauma processing itself through my body. I was also getting a therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which has shown to be effective in the treatment of trauma.

Recognizing trauma, and treating it is essential. So many of us have experienced trauma. Sometimes just turning on the news, especially lately, is traumatic. We see our fellow human beings suffering in the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, fires and mass shootings. Or we are those fellow human beings caught up in survival, with hardly enough time to consider our mental and emotional states. There are also groups of us suffering from historical trauma, which is experienced multi-generationally by a specific cultural group. Many of us were abused and neglected in childhood. And so many of us keep going through life as if time heals the wounds. Time heals nothing because as Van Der Kolk says, the body keeps the score. It remembers. It holds the trauma, and if not conscious of it, the trauma binds us.

In brain scans, during flashbacks, the right hemisphere of our brains is activated. This is our emotional, intuitive and visual side of the brain. What is also known, according to brain research, is that the thalamus, which Van Der Kolk describes as the “cook” within the brain because all of our sensations join together there, shuts down. This is why trauma is often remembered in snippets of sounds, images and physical sensations and not in a narrative format, with a beginning, middle and an end. Therefore, people experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may receive several of these snippets daily, or several times a day. If there is no conscious connection to the traumatic event, they may feel like they are going crazy. These experiences also make it challenging to focus, concentrate and have new learning experiences. Overtime, if not addressed, a person can begin to shut down, becoming numb and depressed.

Fortunately, there are several interventions, which can help with the symptoms of traumatic stress. According to Van Der Kolk, “The fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional brains, so that you can feel in charge of how you respond and how you conduct your life.” He goes on to say, that we are shoved outside of this proper balance when we are triggered and then, become “reactive and disorganized.” Therefore, we must become conscious of these triggers. For example, recently I was triggered when I saw a car accident on a television show. Immediately, my body felt anxious and I became distracted and could not focus. When I recognized the symptoms in my body, I connected the image of the car accident on television to my own real experience in the Toyota Matrix. Upon making this connection, my mind could orient itself back to the present moment. I took some deep breaths and my body began to calm down. This would be an example of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is simply a state of being aware. Self-awareness is the fundamental principle of recovering from trauma. We just begin to notice, notice what is happening in our bodies. Notice what we are feeling, especially when triggered by either an external or internal event. Developing a meditation practice can help facilitate mindfulness. Journal writing can increase self-awareness. There are also many therapies, as mentioned earlier. Some of them include: EMDR, art, music and dance therapy, Yoga, and Narrative Therapy.

The important realization in regard to traumatic stress, is we do not have to be bound by it. We can be free in our bodies, minds and emotions. We can feel alive again, and take in new experiences. It takes consciousness. It takes desire to understand. It takes support, and we can know the support is there.

*Originally published in The Volk, Winter 2017