Sunday, July 24, 2011

Risking Vulnerability

In July, The Resiliency Center hosted the second half of the EMDR Basic Training with trainer Barb Maiberger (from Boulder, Colorado) and twelve dedicated and caring clinicians. As a Certified EMDR therapist, I was honored to participate in the training as a consultant and to offer support and guidance to the therapists learning this new modality.  Over these three days, I felt inspired by the courage I witnessed in our practitioner community. A large part of the EMDR training is experiential, as therapists authentically engage from the roles of both counselor and client. Bearing witness to the risks taken by the community of clinicians in the EMDR training was deeply gratifying, as I saw tremendous openness, compassion, and health among this amazing group of practitioners.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is rarely easy. While we may know intellectually that all people have old hurts and unprocessed “stuff,” we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that, as practitioners, we should somehow be immune from the effects of our past experiences or have already worked through all of them. In reality, personal and professional growth is a lifelong endeavor, and our old wounds may surface time and again for deeper healing. Prioritizing time to do our own work is a key component of what keeps us well and thriving in our work – and in our lives. I know that my ability to be fully attuned and skillful as a counselor and consultant depends upon my own active process of healing and growth. I love engaging in this process. I love experiential trainings as well as acupuncture, massage, laughter yoga, journal writing, meditating, painting, and participating in a women’s group. I also love dialoguing with other professionals about their wellness practices. If you haven’t already responded to any of the posts on this blog, please do. I’d love to hear from each of you about how you keep yourself healthy. In what ways do you insure that you are keeping your instrument tuned?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Super Powers - Republished from Social Work PRN

Sponge ManSuperman had lots of powers, but he was most often referred to as “The man of steel.” Other superheroes have their own power – usually one unique power that sets them apart from other superheroes. It’s what defines them and gives them control over their environment. Must be nice eh?
The fact is human beings have a super power. It’s the same super power – the power of choice, but it’s incredibly empowering once you learn how to use it. The thing is, very few of us use our power and even more of us complain that we have no power at all.
All seven of the reasons I gave earlier this month about why so many of us fail at self-care (self included), revolve around our one failure to exercise the power of choice, or our failure to focus on the things we can control, not the things we can’t.
We all have the power to choose to stay, or go, or do, or not do something. We say, “I hate my job but I have to work.” No, you don’t have to work. You choose to work because you don’t like the consequences of not working. It’s still a choice.  When you invest your power of choice in the areas, relationships and decisions where you have control (your choices), you tap into your superpower.
“I can’t afford to go back to school, buy a new car, or move into another apartment or house.”  If you believe this, talk to Dave Ramsey. Ramsey has thousands upon thousands of examples of people who believed the same thing, and then turned around and paid off thousands of dollars in debt and then went back to school, bought new cars and paid off mortgages.
Social workers and those in various healing professions make the mistake of trying to change the things they cannot control – such as another person’s decisions, lifestyle or behavior. When they do that they give their power away, or negate it. If you remember your superhero lore Superman was susceptible to only one thing – Kryptonite. Kryptonite not only robbed Superman of his superhuman powers – it gave them to humans around him! Attempting to change the things you cannot change is Kryptonite to our power of choice. Not only does it rob us of our power, it hands that power over to the very people we’re trying to control!


The only power you have is choice in areas of your life that you control – namely anything to do with you. Choices have consequences. When you make a choice you choose the consequences that accompany that choice.
You don’t have to work at a job you hate. You are free to quit. The consequences of quitting may mean less money or no money, or a choice about pursuing a different job or career, but it’s still YOUR choice. It’s not that you “can’t choose to quit your job.” You’re choosing to stay in a job you hate and that makes you miserable rather than to quit and have no income or security. It’s still a choice. When you start seeing choices as a conscious decision among consequences your life will change dramatically. You will be empowered.
You can choose what to think about, what to read, what to think, what to focus on. You can choose in any arena in which you have control – namely, you only control yourself, not anyone or anything else. You can vote and choose whom to vote for, but you can’t control who wins the election.
You can choose to stop eating or buying or cooking unhealthy food, but you can’t control what other adults choose to do with their choice of food any more than you’d want them choosing what to do with yours.
You can choose to set and enforce boundaries related to your job, your family, your work and your relationships and clients. You can choose how to think, and thus how to feel, about a situation or relationship in your life.
Choice is scary. There’s no doubt about it. Too many of us prefer to live in a world where we believe decisions and choices are forced upon us. We find it easier or even comforting to believe that it’s better for others to make those decisions for us. You can do that. It’s your choice. So look at the consequences of it.
Choosing to abdicate your ability to choose means deciding to live a life of learned helplessness and lack of control over the things you can control if they are contrary to the boss, spouse or person you’ve handed your control to. Do you really trust other people so much that you know they’ll make the right choice for you?
Choosing not to abdicate your ability to choose means living a life where you make all the decisions about the things you can control. You choose between or among alternatives based on what you need, want, like or dislike. You’re free to include or not include the opinions and suggestions of others. After all – it’s totally your choice.

Which will it be? Isn’t it about time you owned your superpower?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Committing to Self-Care by Becky Blanton (Social Work PRN reposting)

Committing to Self Care

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” – Anne Morriss
Get lots of sleep. Eat healthy. Go to the gym. Treat yourself to a night out. Keep up with a regular support group. Do you know what all these things have in common? They’re impossible to do if you don’t make YOU a priority. And if you can’t set boundaries, say “No,” to people, including your family, friends and boss, then chances are you aren’t going to be able to do any of these things regularly enough to make a difference.
You’re a candle flaming out on both ends and an inferno waiting to catch fire and burn the house (or your life) down.
If you’re serious about self-care the first thing you’ll evaluate is your ability to make you the number one priority in your life. Unless you’re committed to yourself, no one else will be. Why should they be? If you aren’t important enough to you to take care of you, why should anyone else care?
Back in college I had a friend who was a runner. Every morning, or every day, rain, shine, freezing sleet, hail or snow she ran five to ten miles. It didn’t matter if a group of us went on vacation, or she was in some strange city for a job interview, she ran.  When she partied until 3 a.m. and came home drunk, she still got up at noon and ran, whether she had a hangover or not. We all tried to everything we could to dissuade her from her routine and couldn’t. In the 20 years I’ve known her the only thing that kept her from the treadmill or the road was a physically disabling injury that prevented her from walking or running. And then she swam.
That’s dedication. She wasn’t an Olympic athlete. She didn’t compete outside of the occasional local road race. She was just devoted to her running. I never understood that until this week. I was expecting friends from out-of-town. They were having car problems and weren’t sure when they’d be in. I gave them the address of the gym and told them if I wasn’t home they could find me there – that I didn’t take my cell phone to the gym. I not only didn’t change or rearrange my schedule to be there for them, I never even considered not going to the gym – even if it inconvenienced them. That’s a huge step for me – queen of the co-dependents – to take.
Oddly enough, the decision to commit to my own health came in one fell swoop, with an off-the cuff remark from my trainer. I came in to a session one morning talking about all the objections I had to overcome every morning in order to show up to work out. She listened patiently then shrugged.
“You just haven’t made yourself a priority yet,” was all she said. She didn’t need or want excuses. They were just flags that kept me from facing the reality of what was going on. I hadn’t made myself or the gym, a priority. After thinking about it over the weekend however I decided that no matter what, come hell or high water, I would be at the gym every day at 6 a.m. I committed to making myself, my health and well-being, a priority.
I quit focusing on the reasons I didn’t want to go (tired, sleepy, sore, too much work) and focused on one thing – that I had committed to be there no matter what. Then I went. If I was tired, behind schedule, on deadline, sick, sore, distracted – I went. Once I was there the thing I thought might keep me from being there disappeared. In about six weeks I discovered a really strange change. I couldn’t NOT go to the gym. Now when something appears to try and dissuade me from my workouts I get antsy, anxious, irritable, even angry. Maybe it’s the endorphin addiction. Or maybe I’ve just discovered how good it feels to take care of me and I don’t want to lose that.  But I believe it’s just a demonstration of the power of commitment.
Three months ago I committed to never going to bed without my kitchen sink being empty, clean and all the dishes put away. Now it’s a habit. I committed to eating breakfast (I’ve NEVER been a breakfast eater), and now I never miss a morning. The secret is not so much in finding reasons to do it as much as it is in simply deciding to do it. A reason is nice, but it can make it easier for your rationale mind to talk you out of your decision.
Things to AVOID when committing to self-care
  • Avoid hedging your bets. As Yoda, the Jedi Master in Star Wars says, “Do or not do. There is no try.” Hedging your bets is not committing. You can’t be “a little bit pregnant.” Think of breakfast – the chicken (eggs) is hedging their bets; the pig (bacon) is committed.
  • Avoid saying, “I’ll try it.” That’s a different version of hedging your bets. If you want to limit your commitment, then set a date. “I’ll commit to one week of walking 20 minutes a day. I’ll commit to six months. I’ll commit to 12 sessions.” Just commit and stick with it. Remind yourself you only committed to it for set amount of time. Alcoholics say, “One day at a time.” If that’s all you can commit to, then commit to one day, one hour or one minute at a time.
  • Avoid considering other options. Don’t say, “Well, I’ll take this job, but I’m going to keep looking.” Commit to the one job for a period of time and say, “I’ll commit to this job for six months, or a year and if it doesn’t work out after I put everything into it, I’ll start looking for another job.” Then commit to a date that you’ll find another job or quit by. I guarantee it will definitely drive your hunting if you commit to quitting by a certain date, job or not.
  • Avoid committing to self-care simply because your boss or spouse wants you to do it, or because it’s important to them. If your spouse wants you to commit to exercising and you really don’t want to do that, then commit to your spouse. That may mean you both walk or exercise. If you love your spouse and want to commit to spending more time with them more than you want to commit to going to the gym, chances are you’ll find the energy and drive to stick with the exercise. If you don’t have a spouse, then find something you can commit to, such as “I’m committed to keeping my job and that involves self-care such as eating healthy and exercising.”
  • Avoid committing to anything that violates your personal ethics, boundaries or beliefs. The guilt you’ll feel over the duration will erode or corrupt any gains you may receive from the commitment.
Things to DO when committing to your self-care
  • Have a plan and write it down. Read it every morning. It might be something as simple as, “I’m going to get up an hour earlier every morning and work out, or write my book, or meditate, or eat breakfast,” but have a plan and review it every day until you know it in your sleep.
  • Set a time frame and commit to the duration of it. E.g., “I’m going to walk for 30 minutes every morning until I lose 25 pounds.”  It doesn’t matter if it’s one day, one week, one month or one year. Pick a time frame and finish out the time.
  • Take your head out of the game. Stop rationalizing; stop looking for or considering excuses, quit coming up with reasons to change your mind or your plan. Just commit and go. As Nike says, “Just Do It.”
  • Commit to something you want to do, never commit to something someone else wants you to do. If you want to be successful commitment has to come from your desire to do whatever it is for you and your best interests.
  • Commit only to things you believe in and that are in keeping with your faith, ethics and boundaries. When things get difficult or challenging our rational mind will find any excuse to quit and quitting over shame, guilt or non-compatible beliefs about the project is one of the first things we consider when deciding whether to quit.
Examine all your options, ethics, consequences and potential conflicts BEFORE you commit. Once you come up to the edge of the cliff you can’t change your mind once you’re in mid-air. Have the same mind-set when committing to take care of yourself and you’ll soon realize that what looked like a leap off the edge of a cliff was really a leap into the updraft that will help you learn to fly.