I recently announced that Stillpoint Counseling is expanding this July. This is exciting news! After just 1 year of going into private practice solo, I am humbled to say it was successful. It IS successful! Every day I wake up and think, “Is this really happening?!” It is in that moment I make the choice to walk humbly forward to the next task or the next decision for the business. I wrote a blog post last year about this time on the fear I had when starting the business. All those same thoughts hold true, but it is interesting to reflect on the differences in the process from last year to this year.
Last year that post was all about how our negative thoughts and self-doubt “weed” up our mind and can hold us back from growth. Check out the post here for the inspiration on the power of intention and finding the middle path between being fearful and being fearless. This year I have much the same feelings however it is much more of an embodied experience of walking the middle path. By embodied, I mean a tangible, real, and felt experience as opposed to a cognitive process.
To start my explanation, I want to discuss the popular psychological term - “imposter syndrome”. While not a clinical diagnosis, you hear many people talk about this phenomenon to describe the pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear being exposed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome holds us back when we become consumed by the thoughts of “you aren’t good enough”, “what if people find out you are scared”, or “you don’t have all the answers, you should just quit”. Those thoughts are the imposter or the self-critic telling you that it would be easier to quit because taking the risk would mean allowing others to see your truth. The imposter would tell you that the truth they would see is your faults and short comings. The real truth is that you risk people seeing your greatness and sometimes that is just as scary.
Marianne Williamson has said,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” (Read the rest of her poem here)
I think we fear our greatness because to truly be great we have to let go of the control a little bit. We have to be vulnerable. We have to expose our secret dreams and desires to the people and energies around us. The risk is the dream may get lost or we may get hurt in the process of putting it out into the world. BUT, the truth is that holding on to the dream doesn’t necessarily keep it safe. It just keeps the dream buried and will never manifest.
The answer to making great changes and reaching our goals is still in finding the middle path. This does start with challenging the negative thoughts and beliefs that hold us back. However, I feel this middle path in my body more these days. The word for the felt sense is “humble”. As I mentioned when I started this post: “I humbly walk forward to the next task”.
The definition of humble is “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.” This may sound self-deprecating, but I believe it is the ultimate sense of finding the middle path toward embracing our full potential. When we are humble, we acknowledge and embrace our own insignificance in a larger whole. We see our accomplishments not as a symbol of our own talents and skills, but as a reflection of our harmony with the world around us.
This business is my dream and it is wonderfully a blend of different parts of me; however, the growth of this business is due to the energy and consciousness of many people in our community. It is the colleagues that have said, “I want to be part of this”. It is the community members that have sent referrals saying, “I think this is what this family needs right now.” It is clients who show up consistently and say “I am worth this work and I am going to use it in my life and show others who I am”. It is mothers, fathers, children, foster parents, teachers, and so many more who are making choices to live holistically and to foster mindfulness in their daily lives. If it weren’t for all those people, I wouldn’t be able to live out my dream.
So, walking the middle path is felt for me in humbleness. When I feel fear, I step back to the middle path by remembering all those that are on this journey with me and who are doing far harder tasks than me day to day. In that moment, I am grateful for this opportunity. Grateful I get to shine, because so many others are lighting the path for me as they shine their greatness in this world.
I. Am. Humbled. I am lower in importance than this work - this important work of lifting our community out of chronic stress holistically, and the work that is driving the growth of this business. Gosh, even in writing these words and reading them on the computer screen, I am in awe and so grateful that this is manifesting now and that I am able to be part of it. When I stay grounded in that knowledge, the imposter is squashed. I know my truth is to serve in this way.
The pressure is on! T minus 3 days until Christmas. This holiday season I have been thinking a lot about healthy boundaries. As a therapist, I am often working with clients on recognizing unhealthy boundaries and learning the skills they need to effectively create boundaries that lead to healthy relationships and happy lives. Despite this cognitive awareness, I still find myself in unhealthy patterns and pulled easily into situations that do not serve my best interest. The holiday season can be especially triggering.
I recently read an article posted on social media that was describing the urge to “hibernate” in the winter. (Side note: I wish I could find the original post to credit, but it has been taken down.) I am not sure about you, but I find myself wanting to stay inside more, snuggle up with a blanket, and read a good book. Sounds like a plan, right?! The article pointed out that most other animals hibernate in the winter. If you think about our ancestors, they too “hunkered down for the winter”. They prepared most of the year by growing foods, canning fruits, preserving vegetables, and making a bounty of nourishment that could be enjoyed without leaving the safety of home. Life slowed down in the winter, because it was necessary for survival. Our bodies may still have that instinctual drive to hibernate and care for our basic needs.
This time of year, I find myself in constant opposition to rest and draw inward or to do “all the things”. There are parties with friends, holiday school performances, teacher’s gifts to buy, baking to do, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, cookie exchanges, family gatherings, and holiday festivities that we dare not miss. Or, could we?!
We could choose to not to do “all the things” and chose to put ourselves first. What makes this choice so hard? It could be fear of offending others. It could be fear of regret or missing out. It could be self-imposed expectations that we use to define ourselves. It could be feelings of unworthiness. It could be any number of falsehoods we tell ourselves that keep us away from the truth. And, the truth is we are all worthy of holding space for ourselves. We all have the right to be here with honest personal emotions and to act in a way that is loving and care-taking. The truth is that when we put the needs of others ahead of our own, we set up the unstable ground of resentment, anger, and disconnection. Setting boundaries may not be easy, but it is a step towards acknowledging you are worth more than “all the things”.
As you go into the holidays, ask yourself, “what brings me joy?” Evaluate the underlying reasons for the decisions you are making. Make choices that serve your personal well-being. Notice when you are attuning to the needs of others and make the active decision to tune into your own needs. Say “no” when the action is not aligned with your needs, so that you can fully say “yes” with your whole heart when the action is aligned. Healthy boundaries will bring you greater joy and strengthen the connection of your relationships.
Tools and Yogic Philosophy for Setting Healthy Boundaries:
We set healthy boundaries physically and emotionally. This may be physical space, including personal body space when talking to others or where you will stay over the holidays. This may also include nutritional and exercise needs, including being mindful of the types of food and drinks that make you feel healthy and activities that continue to give you energy. To set emotional boundaries, be mindful of the ways you take on family member’s emotions, get drawn into arguments, or pulled into the old family drama. Decide what boundaries serve your well-being, set them, and do the hard work of staying in your truth despite the reactions of others. The last step is truly let go and let others make the decision to respect your boundaries. We can not control others or make them attend to our wants and needs. Setting boundaries is an action of decisiveness, as well as surrender.
Setting healthy boundaries comes from a clear sense of self. This is a 3rd chakra characteristic. Manipura or the solar plexus is our 3rd chakra. The 3rd chakra is governed by the element of fire. When our 3rd chakra is in balance, we feel secure, we are confident, and have a clear sense of who we are and where we are going. The 3rd chakra right is “to act”. So, in balance we know what we want, and we feel empowered to make the decision. To balance Manipura chakra, try this simple pranayama with mantra.
Wilmington is on the road to recovery, but we certainly are not “back to normal”. Hurricane Florence made her way to Wilmington almost 4 weeks ago. Homes and businesses were flooded at the beaches. Inland homes were damaged by flying debris and massive hundred-year-old trees being uprooted onto rooftops. Flooding continued as waters surged and rivers flooded from torrential rains. Some people evacuated finding themselves worried about what was happening to their homes. Many could not return to their homes due to continued flooding, making them feel helpless. Other people stayed in Wilmington to weather the storm, losing power, running out of supplies, and feeling fearful as the threat of tornados and flood waters continued long after Florence had moved out of town. Some people have lost everything. Some people have lost little. Some people have not been able to return to work and wages have been lost. Others are working tirelessly to help repair the damage.
What does this all mean? It means things will not be “back to normal” again. Things will be okay, but they will not be the same. Life experiences change who we are. This experience has affected each person living in coastal NC, and it has affected our community as a whole. As we rebuild and start to repair life in Wilmington, it will be important to recognize what the immediate needs are and understand that will evolve over time. This goes for our children especially, as they may have less control of their experiences.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that basic needs (food, water, shelter, safety) need to be fulfilled first followed by psychological needs (relationships, self-esteem) before self-actualization (achieving one’s potential) can be accomplished.
So, how does this apply to real life now? For some the basic needs of food, water, and shelter returned after a couple weeks. For many in our larger community, they continue to deal with homelessness and meeting basic needs for survival. Connecting individuals to disaster relief, and volunteering with local organizations who are getting supplies to individuals in need are great ways to support building the physiological needs of our community as a whole. If you are a teacher or work with children, remember that school performance and behaviors may be effected by this experience.
The second level of our basic needs being met includes feelings of safety and security. When our safety is threatened, our bodies react. This is a stress response that is intended to help keep us safe. The “fight, flight or freeze” response is a larger conversation that I will save for a future blog post, but here is a link for more information about this response. This physiological response in our body is like a smoke alarm. Internally, our body is sending an alarm to say, “Things are not right. Stay alert. Be ready to run. Be ready to fight. Be ready to protect yourself and those you love.” This “alarm system” is an evolutionary advantage for humans and helps us survive. The interesting thing is that during times of extreme psychological stress or trauma that alarm system can malfunction. It is like the battery going dead in your smoke detector, and the high-pitched alarm sound keeps going off every so often even when there is no smoke or danger for fire. This may look or feel like being on edge for no reason at all, increased irritability, restlessness, poor concentration, feeling “jumpy”, “spacing out”, having nightmares or disrupted sleep, tension in the body, and/or not being able to relax. This response in our body means that even if we have a safe place to live and the threat of a natural disaster is not imminent, our body may still be signaling us to be on high alert.
So, what do we do with this information? We pay attention. We pay attention to ourselves and our own reactions. We pay attention to our children and their responses. We pay attention to our friends, family, and community, and then we respond with appropriate resources. We take care of ourselves and those around us with self-care, rest, proper nutrition, exercise, and breath work. We practice mindfulness and respond to others with kindness and compassion. We manage our own expectations as we enter this “new normal”. We talk to our kids. Ask about how they are feeling. Ask if they have questions about what is happening and the changes that are occurring. Validate their feelings. Support them in finding the resources they need to feel healthy in the mind and body.
As a community, we are recovering. We will be OKAY, but it is also OKAY to hold space for what has been lost and what may continue to change. In addition, understanding how this experience has impacted you and your children in important. Some will be resilient. Resilience is once again another huge topic that can be addressed in later blogs, but for some this experience will have little impact psychologically and physically. For others, this experience may lead to acute stress responses, more severe trauma responses congruent with PTSD, or adjustment problems after the event. Below are some ideas to help deal with general stress; however, if you notice ongoing problems please reach out to a mental health professional for support.
Ways to help your children deal with stress:
*Photo from Simply Psychology
The Therapist Blog
Musings from the other side of the couch