Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Change Process

What is this mysterious change process I talk so much about?

As I work with people and they start making connections many clients say, “This is great, now what do I do to change it?”  The answer is always the same; small risks in the present.   We can’t change our pasts, but we can heal from them “ Like what?” they ask.  Anything that is big enough to make you nervous, but not so big as to be catastrophic if you fail. 
For EXAMPLE, Sometimes it is as simple as saying “No” to a request.  The key is how it feels.

The first feeling is some kind of implosion (hurt), which is the opposite of explosion. That means you come down very hard on yourself, beating yourself up for being stupid or something.  Many of my clients are very good at that.  I bet you are too.  I have been.

The second is a very strong sense that something is wrong, or that you have done something wrong (guilt).  When I’m in this stage I keep looking at my appointment book because the sense is so strong, like I’ve missed an important appointment.  Just, something is wrong.

The third feeling is a very strong sense of impending doom;(fear) you just know something awful is about to happen.  This is the hardest one to manage because it is full of fear.  I remember being relieved when something went wrong, just to feel relief from that terror.

What these feelings are related to is the expectation of consequences.  If you could put a child’s words to a narrative it would be along the lines of, “Oops. Uhoh, and now I’m really gonna get it.” As an adult the expected consequences don’t happen anymore, then the feelings will gradually dissipate, but not before those three feelings of hurt, guilt and fear are felt through.

It really was that serious for you as a youngster, which brings me to why that is true.  Why do some things we try to change come with ease and others are so difficult.  Like the same battles we have had for ten years with our spouse, or how difficult it is to kick any addiction.  The sticking points are about decisions we made as young children to survive in the family we were born into.

Stay tuned for the next post about how those old decisions continue to rule our lives

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Safe Place To Grieve

Why has a safe place to grieve has become my mission over time?  In retrospect, looking back over the last 35+ years since my daughter’s death, I have been asked and wondered myself, what made healing possible?  How have I been able to live a rich, satisfying life in the face of such wrenching pain and loss?   In the late ‘70s and forward, there wasn’t much available for any kind of grief, especially in small towns.  

The messages and pressure to “get over it”, “time to move on”, “you’re a downer to be around”, was intense and pervasive.  All the messages about, “she’s in a better place, or your lucky to have other children, while well intended were most unhelpful.  The truth is that for the first year at least, nothing helped.  The pain was so intense, all consuming and inescapable that there simply was little relief.  Except the grieving, if I were able to ride the waves of grief, there was temporary relief until the next wave. 

Every bereaved person has to find their own path and does that in their own way and their own time.  There have been many people, books, music and support that made life possible for me but as a bereaved parent and therapist what has been consistent over time as a client and practitioner is the ability and availability of a place to keen and wail.  Most of us have to do that in the night or when no one else is around.  This leaves out the factor of comfort.

Grief is brutal and life changing.  The chasm between the safe place and grief seems to be unbreachable.  I think that that gulf is because of the secrecy surrounding grief, all the injunctions to Man-up, suck it up or a thousand other dismissals and discounts of the seriousness of catastrophic loss.  But the real reason is that if we allow people to have their grief it forces us to change with them, or lose the relationship.  This is a painful choice that is hard to understand.  I heard many remarks along the way that I was not the same as I used to be, or I’m not as nice.  I think that is true because I no longer have any patience for all the PC attitudes and certainly not for BS.

What do I mean by a safe place to grieve?   Basically a room or space that is set aside for the specific purpose of allowing people to do the keening and wailing that is ultimately so healing.  If ou know of such a place, please share so we can all benefit.