Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Trailer

http://www.julieharrison.ca/family/personal-style-sacrificed-at-the-altar-of-family/http://www.julieharrison.ca/family/personal-style-sacrificed-at-the-altar-of-family/

Once again, my sister Vicki and I found ourselves without food in the house. The difference this time was that we knew where there was food. My parents owned a tent-trailer. The shell of the trailer was made up of metal. When open, the top of the shell became the roof. It was held up by four folding poles that could be locked into a vertical position. When the roof was up, the width of the tent trailer could be expanded by opening two tent pieces that housed a bed on either side of the body of the tent trailer.

My parents would take us camping at a beautiful campsite, across the river, in the US. Originally we had a large tent and later we got this new tent trailer that seemed so much more modern and convenient. Once my parents had set up camp, my sister and I would be left at the site while our parents travelled back and forth across the international bridge to work and whatever else they felt like doing. I have very little memory of them being at these campsites because they would often leave and not come back until the evening.

At the beginning of each camping trip, we would drive to a grocery store near the campsite and buy all of the food that we needed. I remember Mogen David wine, frozen hash browns, eggs, milk, bacon and little individual servings of cereal housed in their own boxes. These boxes could be opened at the top along perforations and be used as bowls, but I digress.

We would buy so much food that it would overwhelm the small fridge in the trailer, but there would be good eating for a few days. Now we were home and there was no food in the house.

I know my mother was out drinking because I managed to get her on the phone. She explained that she was not coming home soon. Vicki and I both knew that there was food still left in the refrigerator of the tent trailer, but it was now closed and in the yard. We had witnessed the mechanics of how the lid of the trailer was raised and thought that it was worthwhile to try to open it ourselves.

The problem was that we were simply not strong enough to lift the top of the shell by ourselves. Driven by determination and hunger, we both did our best to push the top up. We discussed the fact that it did not have to go all of the way up for us to get into the fridge and get some food out. So we both used all of our strength to lift the lid.

Problem was, we got it up enough to unfold the poles and then our strength ran out. The lid came down and Vicki’s hand was caught in the fold of the poles. She screamed and I was worried that the weight would sever her fingers from her hand. I panicked and used all of my strength to re-lift the top. Vicki removed her hand and we both fell to the ground crying. It wasn’t worth risking another try.

I don’t remember how severely my sister’s hand was hurt. I know that she did not lose any fingers for sure. The trouble was, even though her hand was going to heal eventually, we still had been unable to get to the food and there was no telling when a parent would be home.

The Narcissist Survival Guide now available

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Drive

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Fax

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Interview

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Call

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Cavity

Narcissism–Scenes From the Front Line — The Funeral

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Pants

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — Biking

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — The Doctor

Narcissism-Scenes From the Front Line — New Job

Are you Avoiding your Feelings?

IMG_0007Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions.

Emotions can be uncomfortable things. Most people enjoy the good feelings of love, happiness and enjoyment–but not all. The emotions that most often cause us to reach for the icecream or the credit card are usually the negative ones like anger, fear and hate. These are uncomfortable feelings. When we are young, emotions can be overwhelming and painful and we all learn ways to avoid feeling them. As adults, these patterns can take on a life of their own and can result in behaviours that are bad for us.

Unfortunately, emotions do not go away until they are experienced. When we routinely push emotions down, two things can happen. They can build up and then erupt, when they get the opportunity, or they can result in physical discomfort or illness.

If you find that you start crying for little or no reason, you erupt in anger at the slightest provocation, you become frightened or burst out laughing for no apparent reason, you may just be experiencing suppressed emotions that are bubbling up to the surface.

Depression; lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy; feeling like you are just going through the motions–can all be symptoms of repressed feelings. If we close the door on one emotion, it is very difficult to let other emotions in.

Denollet (2009) showed that unexpressed anger increased the risk of heart attack. Miyamoto (2011) demonstrated that the Japanese freedom to express negative emotions is better for your overall health than the North American societal pressure to only express positive emotions. In general, it has been demonstrated that expressing emotions, instead of repressing them, is better for your overall well being (Barber, 2011). There is no question that the happier you are the healthier you are.

Those of us that avoid rather than feel our emotions may be so programmed to reach for a drink or some other diversion that we no longer recognize that we are running away from a feeling. If you have a habit that you often turn to, especially one that you feel is excessive or not good for your overall well being, you need to become aware of it. When the urge strikes, stop for a moment.

Before you indulge in your diversion, be still. Take a moment to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Take note of where there is sensation in your body. Describe the sensation. Try to picture it. Start at your toes and pay attention to each part of your body up to your head. Is there any vibration, heat, tension, pain, discomfort, numbness or any other sensation? Can you feel your entire body or are there parts that you can no longer feel? Sit with this for a while and pay attention.

This exercise gets you out of your mind and the thoughts that you may try to tell yourself about why you should just go shopping. It does not focus on trying to identify the emotion that you are feeling, just the way that you experience the emotion as a physical sensation in your body.

The next step is to think backward from the moment that you went to your favourite vice until you become aware of what happened that caused you to reach for your diversion. The habit of not feeling emotions right away can become so refined that it may have even been something that happened a day or two ago, or longer. Continue to retrace your memory until you start to recognize the physical sensation in your body again. When remembering “feels” the same way you felt when you started the exercise you have identified the cause of the feeling.

Remember the event. Think about what you thought at the time and try to get in touch with what you were feeling. Do not censor yourself. Some emotions are considered unacceptable in our society and you might be a master of telling yourself what you should be feeling and how you should be responding. Denial of your own emotions is not good for you. You can feel anger without acting on it. You can feel hate, pain and fear without having it change how you behave. Forcing yourself not to feel these emotions causes them to be stored.

By recognizing what you were feeling at the time and allowing yourself to feel it, you can let the emotions move through you. Once an emotion is expressed, it is released from the body. The discomfort that you feel trying to avoid an emotion can last much much longer than the emotion itself if you allow yourself to just feel it directly.

At this point you may find that you choose to indulge in your habit anyhow. The advantage of this exercise is that you become more and more aware of why you are distracting yourself. Also, if you allow yourself to feel your emotions, you may find that your need to avoid them decreases over time.

The Bacon Conundrum

http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/15/scientists-in-oregon-discover-bacon-flavored-seawe/
http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/15/scientists-in-oregon-discover-bacon-flavored-seawe/

Are we the first generation to actually think we will beat death? Do we believe that if we do everything possible to keep ourselves alive as long as we can we’ll be around when the cure for death is discovered and live forever?

This smacks into reality when we consider whether or not we would want to be doing, what we are doing now, for eternity. If this day-to-day existence is the only one we will ever be able to experience, is it worth prolonging? Q examines this question on Star Trek repeatedly. What is there to do once you’ve done everything? In one episode, a Q choses to die just to end the boredom of living forever and being omniscient.

But I digress, regulations with the sole function of increasing your life span are very much in our awareness at the moment, because of the bacon conundrum. It was one thing when it was just smoking. All of the ex-smokers hated anyone smoking and all of the helicopter parents felt the risk of a whiff of smoke, when entering a building, could doom their babies to poor health and artificial voice boxes. But now, we are talking about ham at Sunday dinner, pepperoni pizza and bacon and eggs. All but the strictest vegetarians among us partake.

However, if regulations are justified to limit the habits of smokers, to keep them from harm, similar laws will need to be applied to smoked meat products. Age limits on purchases and warnings with graphic photographs, for instance. Possibly restaurants that serve these implicated foods will require identification before entrance, if public consumption is allowed at all.

Will you have to show ID to purchase a pepperoni pizza? Does this mean that we’ll now be seeing colonoscopy photos of cancers on packages? Perhaps post surgery depictions of abdomens when the guts needed to be removed. Same level of risk, same requirement for equal legislation.

Or could we possibly, look at the absurdity of the above and recognize that both bacon and smoking have no redeeming qualities other than enjoyment? And before someone jumps up and says, “second hand smoke”, second hand smoke is NOT as dangerous as bacon so the rules can apply to bacon without suggesting that second hand smoke needs to be treated the same way. In other words, the “risk” presented from second hand smoke is less than the risk from the consumption of cured meat products.

Could we all come to grips with the fact that we are all going to die? Yes, even you. There is more to life than avoiding death. Enjoyment of bacon, for example. Living causes death. Regardless of what you do, you are going to die. Get over it.

For all of the “harm” smoking was doing, it gave people a break in their days. People congregated for a drink and that often included a smoke as well. People went outside purposefully to smoke creating an opportunity to get up and go out. It was a very social activity. Now, you can’t even smoke alone in parks. But you can eat bacon.

No one has ever bothered to explain why, despite the fact that they smoke and eat processed meats, both Spain and France have longer life expectancies than we do. True story. So what’s up with that? Could it be that consuming these products is not the defining issue about how long we live?

If regulations are there to enhance our health, shouldn’t enjoyment of life and being social factor into the equation? Being social has been shown to enhance your life expectancy beyond any other single factor. Smoking was one of the things that people did when they were together. Now, the bingo halls, legions and bowling alleys are almost all gone. Did we enhance the life expectancy of this group of smokers by socially isolating them?

It could be argued that bacon has less value in that it is not generally done in groups. It is less familiar to hear someone say, “lets go out and eat bacon together. ” or ” meet me for some smoked pork belly” but I digress. There is no question that it is delicious. But leniency on the rules cannot be argued because it brings people together. Smoking did.

Not surprisingly, our casinos have never been big hits. If you are going to fly to a city to go to a casino, you are not going to fly here. Many other casinos allow you to smoke and drink. There is a recognition that not everything has to be about prolonging life. Many cultures actually relax and enjoy themselves without obsessing about all of the ‘evil’ out to kill us.

But, health considerations, specifically what you consume, (not how you live) have trumped all others. Lung cancer victims, especially those that have never smoked, are treated as pariahs. Everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer so if you have it you are guilty of indulging in a socially unacceptable activity no one shows you mercy. Truth is, many of them have never smoked. Turns out smoking is not the ONLY cause of lung cancer. Go figure!

Increasingly, in light of our war on smokers, we will have to face the reality that many of our friends and relatives, who have never smoked, will die anyway, often of what used to be referred to as natural causes. Treating all death as a pathology that could have been prevented allows us to believe that we are the generation that will beat this and live forever, if we just make enough laws about how people can behave. Perhaps we should be rethinking all of this.

Inventing Mother

IMG_0164I have done a little reading about how to mend a broken heart; when it was broken by the absence of parents, and there does not seem to be much available. One book gave strict guidelines that you were not supposed to make your other relationships fill this hole in your heart. You have to accept that you did not get the love and are not entitled to get it now.

But there has been little comfort and support. Now, I understand that I may not have the correct search terms. You can tell by the way many people write about their relationships that they didn’t know that their problem was with a narcissist at all. So, it would’ve been hard for them to find ways to read about that particular problem before they knew the search term. But I find myself without any fruitful results from my own searches, so I’ve started to explore my own possibilities.

Not knowing the search term has been a problem for me in the past. I was searching for a company that would install an automated sprinkling system in my yard. I searched: sprinklers, lawn, watering, landscaping, gardening, grass and got no results, bar one.

The company I found was out of town and he serviced my area, but it was a drive for him. After he installed the system, he mentioned that I should find a local company to deal with the winter maintenance. I did not know how to find one. I called a guy in a related industry and he said, I don’t do that work, but there are a lot of guys that do. Check irrigation in the phone book. Irrigation Every person that worked in that industry had made the same assumption. They thought people looking for their services would use that word and that word only. It’s only common sense…

Once it’s occurred to you.

Not being able to find what I need on-line, I’ve decided to try inserting a mother into my bad memories. Let me explain this double speak. I know that I did not have a mother caring for me. When I remember a bad childhood experience, I am going to insert another mother into the void. So, even though I did not have a mother there, I’m going to add a woman into all of the memories. I will change the outcome in each memory and see how I feel.

I have already pictured this woman. She is large, fat and has dark brown, almost black hair that she wears short and smoothed from curls. So, for instance, I have a rather intense memory of watching television, knowing that I was not allowed to wake my mother. I was hungry so I stole some butterscotch chocolate chips and ate them (they were disgusting) until my stomach hurt.

Now, instead, I am watching television, knowing that I am not allowed to wake my mother and this fat brunette walks in from the front hall. She bends down and picks me up into her arms and walks me into the kitchen. After setting me down on a kitchen chair, she asks what she can prepare for me.

IMG_0377I am super hungry, so I ask for the big breakfast with bacon and eggs and buttered toast with jam. We spend an eternity sitting together in the kitchen while she makes me breakfast and while I eat and she is talking to me the entire time.

How’s that? I’m thinking that the worst this type of pretending could do is make me delusional. I have this imaginary friend as a child, who I didn’t make up until I was an adult.

As I wrote that last piece, a calm warmth spread over me. Instead of reliving the pain of loneliness and the discomfort of an upset stomach, I had breakfast with a woman that loved me. I will always know the truth, but I prefer to remember it my way.

Let’s try another. For a very, very, long time I was plagued with pinworms. Those crawly centimetre long pests that come out at night to lay their eggs. My mother told me a story, when I complained about the discomfort.  She said that she had heard of a man whose worms crawled out through his skin. Nice.

Add in some fiberglass curtains that were washed with the underwear and you live through a day of hell. I was disgusted by the thought of worms coming out through my skin and the fiberglass from the curtains was keeping my skin prickly and itchy all day. Every time that I comforted myself that there were not worms trying to pierce my skin from the inside, the fiberglass would get too itchy to ignore.

Now, instead, when I complained about the discomfort, the big fat brunette helps me dress. We make an emergency trip to the drug store where she lets me pick out a magazine and some gum. We go home together. She is not stupid enough to wash fiberglass curtains with clothing, so that whole day is removed. I see a visual of her pulling me away from looking at that memory. “I won’t let you feel that way again”, she comforts.

So, my plan is to insert a new and improved version of each bad memory as it surfaces and to choose to remember it that way instead.

Read the entire book, now available
Writing this book helped me make sense of what had happened to me as a child and the choices I made as an adult.

Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.

What Happened to Socializing?

For the most part, the Camino passes through small rural towns. There are some major cities on the way, but they are the exception, not the rule. 

One of the benefits of this is that pilgrims get to see how life is lived in Spain. Not just how the world sees Spain through its major centres.
A vast majority of the towns have common green spaces, sidewalk restaurants and walkable streets. Few cars are seen and most of the vehicles are for deliveries. Fruit, fish and bread are delivered to the streets and the locals walk out to buy what they need for the day, or a couple of days. 

The most striking distinction, other than the dearth of cars, is the fact that the locals are often out in the street. Dog walking, spontaneous conversations, walking to buy groceries and attending fluid meetings at the bars where people come and meet and stay for various times. 

This is in stark contrast to the North American way of planning a meal at a specific restaurant for a specific time and wrapping it all up in an hour, maybe two, if it is a very slow meal. The Spanish are out to socialize and the ebb and flow of friends and family appears to continue for hours.

While sitting in many of these bars it is clear who the Europeans are and who the North Americans are. The conversations of the locals appear to be enjoyable. There is laughter and animated discussions. The North Americans appear more serious about it all. 

With full recognition of the fact that I cannot understand the conversation in the other languages, I can observe the people drinking, smoking and eating. The English conversations, on the other hand, seem to be more about what not to do. 

I have heard these statements: “I don’t eat bread.”; “I have cut out carbs so that I don’t have to worry about having a drink.” “I’m a vegetarian.” “I have a gluten allergy.” “Why does everyone smoke, it is so bad for you?” “If I maintain this pace, I will lose enough weight to make the trip worthwhile.” “I’m watching how much I eat, why do all of this exercise otherwise?” “Can I borrow sunscreen? I have runout.” “Try these stretches.”

I don’t think this is what the locals are obsessing about as they smoke and drink and catch up with friends, laughing and joking. They greet with the double kiss and a quick hug and repeat this before they leave. A single individual joining a table can take ten minutes to greet everyone. 

 Is it possible that we are too focused on what we consume instead of how we live? Remember all of the warnings about red meat, butter, eggs and salt that have all been detracted now?

We managed to ban smoking essentially everywhere resulting in the closure of almost all of the bingo halls, bowling alleys and Legions. Where do these people go now? Do they get out? Isn’t being social more important to health than any other single factor we’ve been able to measure so far?

At the end of the day the facts speak for themselves. According to the World Bank the life expectancy in Canada is 81.24 years and it is 82.38 years in Spain despite the fact that they eat gluten and smoke cigarettes. So despite our preoccupation with ‘health’ we are missing some key information. Since the Spaniards are clearly not following the same rules, we have been told are good for us, and they are outliving us, maybe we should relax and enjoy ourselves more. 

The part of smoking cessation that no one is talking about is that the majority that quit go on antidepressants. We are not simply eliminating the harmful effects of smoking, we are substituting one more socially acceptable medication for another. We are in essence in a long term trial to see if the pharmaceutical industry can improve our longevity by replacing nicotine directly or substituting another drug. 

I certainly don’t have any answers here, simply questions. Red meat didn’t kill us. Perhaps the social aspects of smoking have been underestimated. At the very least we should reexamine policies that isolate us from one another. 

Related Ted Talk, “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”

Stress Eating?

IMG_0057You are on your way to check out the new fish that are arriving today at the pet store and a car rear ends you at a stop sign. Then, you get there to find out that they haven’t arrived yet and you see your lover petting kittens with someone that you don’t know. You rush out of the store and run into an old nemesis and exchange comments and then you rush home and dive into the refrigerator and eat until you enter a coma. Stress eating? Maybe…..

Stress eating is often confused with other types of over eating because the situations that bring on these bouts of uncontrolled eating are often very similar. The actual underlying cause may not be.

Stress eating can be defined, in broad terms, as any time that you eat when you really don’t need to eat. The eating is in response to stress and usually involves eating way past the point of being full and may include favourite, high calorie foods.

Let me back up a little. Our society is focused on a few very superficial things. These include symbols of wealth that are expressed as possessions, youth and beauty. Beauty is fairly narrowly defined and always includes being underweight. I purposefully do not use the word thin here, because the models that we see on runways, the way that women are airbrushed in magazines and the “beauty” image is one of being underweight.

The average model is 5’8″ tall and weighs 110 pounds. This gives a whopping BMI (body mass index) of 16.7. If your BMI is less than 18.5 you are considered underweight. So our standard of beauty, for a woman at least, is a body type that is underweight.

For the purposes of this explanation, lets divide ourselves into two parts. There is the biological part, your body, that focuses on keeping us alive, meeting our needs and finding things to take pleasure in. The other part is our brain. It too will find things to take pleasure in but it is also the “trainable” part that learns all of the rules. The brain is worried about what other people think and has learned the proper way to behave. The biological part cares less about that and just wants to protect and enjoy itself.

If you are feeling a lot of pressure to approach the weight of a supermodel, your brain will tell you how to do this. There is no shortage of information about diets, pills, surgeries, elastic bands, exercise clubs and juice fasts to help you lose weight. We have been convinced that if we just follow an eating plan and make a few life style adjustments, we too can look like a cover girl.

The problem arises when the biological part becomes fearful for its life. In any situation where the body is in fear of dying, it will do everything that it can to stay alive. If you doubt this, try to hold your breath for three minutes. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

How did that work out for you? Were you able to hold your breath that long or did your body just decide that it was going to breath anyway? The same thing happens when we try to reduce our body weight below what our bodies are comfortable with. Our biological part is not comfortable with the weight of the supermodels, remember they are actually underweight.

We go on a diet, or a “lifestyle” change or a “cleanse”–the meanings are the same the names have just been changed–and our brains are firmly in control. Then we find out that we can’t buy any new fish for our aquarium and that our lover may not be faithful to us and our brains lose control for just a moment. Our brains become preoccupied with the drama that is going on in our lives and WHAM, our bodies take over and try to replace all of that essential body weight that we have been trying to remove. This is not emotional eating, even though it has the same triggers.

Emotional eating occurs when you are feeding yourself properly and the above happens and you are in so much pain that you don’t know how to make the pain go away. You have learned that eating can take your mind off of it and so you start to eat so that you can focus on the food instead of feeling the emotions.

So, if you think that you may be an emotional eater, first ask yourself if you feed yourself properly most of the time. If you are constantly trying to lose weight, you may not be an emotional eater at all; it is just the body taking over to avoid starvation. Can you blame it for trying to keep itself alive?

 

Step away from dieting and try something new. Develop a new relationship with yourself. Here are some resources.

 

Right Brain/Left Brain — Chapter 7

http://pixgood.com/left-and-right-brain-art.html
http://pixgood.com/left-and-right-brain-art.html

I am in my office again. I just finished a pretty easy week at work. I was only covering my own desk, which meant that I had a reasonable amount to do. There are definitely ebbs and flows of work and this was a particularly light flow.

It is 6:00 p.m. EDT and it is pitch black outside. I wish that they would recognize that there has not been justification for Daylight savings time for over a hundred years and remove it. It is such a great example of how we deny the fact that we are animals in praise of our “greater knowledge,” from our logical brains. Daylight savings time throws entire populations into jet lag without even a change in sun patterns to help them adjust.

I first experienced an understanding of this disconnect in grade four when I had a crush on my classmate. It was during this time that I decided that my brain would be in charge instead of my natural inclinations. I had to take control of how I was acting. By nine years of age I had already learned that what my logical brain wanted should take precedence. Now I am spending more time trying to reconnect with what I actually want, not what I “should” want. I find this interesting.

It has long been known that the brain has two hemispheres. These look almost identical and it can appear as though they would do the same thing but they do not. There is a great video by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor during which she explains her experience after having a stroke that knocked her left-brain “off-line” so to speak. She explained that her right brain is connected to a greater knowing, a connection to the energy that is all around us.

At the risk of over simplifying this, the left-brain is the logical, thought producing hemisphere. It spends its entire day generating words that form thoughts. These repeating messages occur over and over again until we believe them. This is the part of the brain that says things like, “You shouldn’t do that”. The right side is more of the artistic side, but I like to call it the animal side. It is the part of the brain that knows how to survive and what it enjoys.

So we get ourselves into situations where the two sides of our brains are arguing. I was already having this argument at nine years of age. It occurred again when I was trying to decide whether or not to resume my marriage. Funny thing. The right side always won. This is true in other aspects of my life. The vision disturbances and the crying were both my body, or my animal side telling me that I was not OK despite the fact that my logical brain could come up with all kinds of quantifiable arguments about the logistics of leaving.

Stop for a moment and consider the fact that you are reading this sentence. To most people, this is experienced as “hearing the words” in your mind. As you read this, you hear the words, “As you read this” in your mind. Is this true for you? Is this how you experience reading to yourself? If it is, I have a question. Who is listening? Let me propose a possibility. It is not our bodies, our animal side or our right brain that is in control. It is also not our thoughts, the words that we tell ourselves or our left-brain that is in control, it is you, the one listening to your brain read the words.

One of the ways that this conflict plays out in our society is through all of the rules that are shared about how we should live that if followed, take us further away from the knowledge that we instinctively have about how to take care of ourselves. The media goes crazy condemning foods and then exonerating them. Telling us how much sleep, exercise, food and television we should indulge in. It does not take a genius to see that this is not working. It might be time to get back into our bodies and begin to listen to what they are saying.

Our bodies need to be cared for, not tortured. The food restriction, the belief in things like, “no pain, no gain” and our crazy schedules do not respect the fact that our bodies are where we live. We need to learn to listen to the messages that they are sending us about play and rest; enjoyment and focus; hunger and movement. Reconnecting is the key, not learning the newest fad.

All bodies will want to move. It may not be “exercise” but they are designed to be doing things. Our bodies know what they want to eat and when they are full. Also, we know how much sleep we need. In our overbooked lives, it is easy to let our left brains convince us that what we need to do is more important than taking care of ourselves. These brain over body arguments all need to be reexamined.

Recognize that the part of you that is listening to this as you read it to yourself, can see both sides. You can hear the left brain spewing rules about how you should behave and the right brain desiring more freedom. You know what you actually want and taking time to be quiet in wordlessness will help you connect to this knowing more and more.

This is an excerpt from my book, “I Woke Up In Paradise”.

Read the entire book.
Read the entire book.

Releasing Emotions

http://www.exposix.com/answers/Chihuahua-Pictures.html
http://www.exposix.com/answers/Chihuahua-Pictures.html

My dog, Bug, was still alive, but she was not responsive. I had just found her on the floor of my mother’s car, a big black ford with bench seats. I ran to get my mother who was up at the club house watching the horse races with some of the trainers that she knew. She had decided to bring the dogs with her because she wasn’t sure if she would be returning home that night. The dogs would’ve been better off left on their own at our house.

We rushed Bug into a veterinary clinic. I watched the doctor expertly draw off some medication into a syringe. He proceeded to inject her with it and there was no discernable reaction from my dog. In hindsight, I’m sure he injected her with saline, realizing that she could not be helped but respecting our need to see the doctor take some kind of action.

I knew she was about to die and I was helpless to do anything about it. The pain of seeing her dying and the loss of having her leave, were too much for me to process at the time. This was compounded by the fact that it was ridiculous that my mother would leave two dogs in a black car in a large un-shaded parking lot on such a hot day, even if they had water and the window was open a bit. It was all pouring over me right now. I let it rip threw me and I started to sob. The pain in my body was intense, but there was relief from feeling the pain.

I was able to let it happen this time, instead of when Bug died, which would’ve been the best time to have cried over her death, because this time I was a doing an exercise aimed at releasing pent up strong emotions.

You see, strong emotions, once created, either need to be expressed through feeling them at the time, or the energy from the emotion just gets stored in your body. Since you have already decided that it would be too unpleasant to feel the emotion, each time you remember it, it tries to get out and a considerable amount of thought and effort must go into blocking the memory and the associated emotional response to it.

This effort to block the emotions can be expressed in multiple ways. It may take the form of an addiction to any type of medication, food, shopping, gossiping or simply being angry a lot of the time. You may be avoiding as much contact with other people as you can or working obsessively. Another unfortunate consequence of blocking emotions is that you will find that you do not feel any emotions. It is not possible to block only the unpleasant ones and you may simply find that you do not feel anything at all, good or bad.

If this blocking system fails you, say when you are tired, stressed or dealing with other issues, you will get an inappropriate emotional response when it is least expected. This will happen randomly, like snipping at a sales clerk, crying for no reason or getting angry with a co-worker. In order to release these feelings you need to create a safe time and place to just sit and allow yourself to feel.

This time and place can be deliberately created. The reason that you might like to do this is to let go of past trauma. Set aside some time when you have some privacy and actively allow yourself to conjure up old memories or just raw emotions. It might be helpful if you listened to music, read poetry or watched a particularly appropriate movie to help move the emotions along.

It is beneficial if you feel completely uninhibited. Loud sobbing or yelling may occur if you allow yourself to experience deep pain, hurt or anger. Also, it can be helpful to try doing this exercise in the shower or with a comforting blanket or quilt wrapped around you. Consider the fact that you want to maximize both your privacy and your comfort and try to find a suitable time and place to express the emotions you have been storing.

Be careful to keep your focus on the bodily sensations and your emotional response. It will not serve you if you focus on what happened, why it happened or why it should not have happened. These explanations detract from the experience of the emotion. What you want to do is feel the emotions, not try to justify them, explain them or even understand them. Focus on what you feel not how you would tell someone about it.

While doing this exercise, it was shocking to me to have the memory of Bug’s death surface. It had happened over thirty years ago and I had no idea that I had never processed the pain and anger. I guess it is understandable, given the fact that I deeply loved this dog. She travelled with me everywhere and I made a purse that was just the right size for her to fit into. She could tell me within seconds which friends were keepers and which should not be trusted. Despite the fact that she had a nasty habit of leaving my underwear at the front door, I adored this dog. Her death was not easy for me to handle. It took over thirty years to feel the pain.

After finally grieving this event, I can now recall her death. I still feel loss and sadness, but the deep pain and anger are gone. This is how you know that you have released the emotion. It is simply not still painful to remember anymore.

Inventing Mother

IMG_0164I have done a little reading about how to mend a broken heart; when it was broken by the absence of parents, and there does not seem to be much available. One book gave strict guidelines that you were not supposed to make your other relationships fill this hole in your heart. You have to accept that you did not get the love and are not entitled to get it now.

But there has been little comfort and support. Now, I understand that I may not have the correct search terms. You can tell by the way many people write about their relationships that they didn’t know that their problem was with a narcissist at all. So, it would’ve been hard for them to find ways to read about that particular problem before they knew the search term. But I find myself without any fruitful results from my own searches, so I’ve started to explore my own possibilities.

Not knowing the search term has been a problem for me in the past. I was searching for a company that would install an automated sprinkling system in my yard. I searched: sprinklers, lawn, watering, landscaping, gardening, grass and got no results, bar one.

The company I found was out of town and he serviced my area, but it was a drive for him. After he installed the system, he mentioned that I should find a local company to deal with the winter maintenance. I did not know how to find one. I called a guy in a related industry and he said, I don’t do that work, but there are a lot of guys that do. Check irrigation in the phone book. Irrigation Every person that worked in that industry had made the same assumption. They thought people looking for their services would use that word and that word only. It’s only common sense…

Once it’s occurred to you.

So, I’ve decided to try inserting a mother into my bad memories. Let me explain this double speak. I know that I did not have a mother caring for me. When I remember a bad childhood experience, I am going to insert another mother into the void. So, even though I did not have a mother there, I’m going to add a woman into all of the memories. I will change the outcome in each memory and see how I feel.

I have already pictured this woman. She is large, fat and has dark brown, almost black hair that she wears short and smoothed from curls. So, for instance, I have a rather intense memory of watching television, knowing that I was not allowed to wake my mother. I was hungry so I stole some butterscotch chocolate chips and ate them (they were disgusting) until my stomach hurt.

Now, instead, I am watching television, knowing that I am not allowed to wake my mother and this fat brunette walks in from the front hall. She bends down and picks me up into her arms and walks me into the kitchen. After setting me down on a kitchen chair, she asks what she can prepare for me.

IMG_0377I am super hungry, so I ask for the big breakfast with bacon and eggs and buttered toast with jam. We spend an eternity sitting together in the kitchen while she makes me breakfast and while I eat and she is talking to me the entire time.

How’s that? I’m thinking that the worst this type of pretending could do is make me delusional. I have this imaginary friend as a child, who I didn’t make up until I was an adult.

As I wrote that last piece, a calm warmth spread over me. Instead of reliving the pain of loneliness and the discomfort of an upset stomach, I had breakfast with a woman that loved me. I will always know the truth, but I prefer to remember it my way.

Let’s try another. For a very, very, long time I was plagued with pinworms. Those crawly centimetre long pests that come out at night to lay their eggs. My mother told me a story, when I complained about the discomfort.  She said that she had heard of a man whose worms crawled out through his skin. Nice.

Add in some fiberglass curtains that were washed with the underwear and you live through a day of hell. I was disgusted by the thought of worms coming out through my skin and the fiberglass from the curtains was keeping my skin prickly and itchy all day. Every time that I comforted myself that there were not worms trying to pierce my skin from the inside, the fiberglass would get too itchy to ignore.

Now, instead, when I complained about the discomfort, the big fat brunette helps me dress. We make an emergency trip to the drug store where she lets me pick out a magazine and some gum. We go home together. She is not stupid enough to wash fiberglass curtains with clothing, so that whole day is removed. I see a visual of her pulling me away from looking at that memory. “I won’t let you feel that way again”, she comforts.

So, my plan is to insert a new and improved version of each bad memory as it surfaces and to choose to remember it that way instead.

Read the entire book, now available
Writing this book helped me make sense of what had happened to me as a child and the choices I made as an adult.