Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays from The Awakening Center

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Making the Most of the Holidays

This is a time of year when shorter days and cooler weather encourages us to hibernate and rest. The holiday season can be a time for reflection, connection and gratitude. However, for many of us a “holiday break" seems to have become a misnomer; rarely do we remember to really take down-time. Instead we bustle around checking things off our lists…people to visit, presents to purchase, planes to catch, parties to attend and meals to plan. Our productivity ramps up, rest is set aside, and we often end the season exhausted and depleted. If you are struggling with an eating disorder this focus on “over-doing” can really disrupt your recovery process.

     Here are Five ways to stay centered during the holiday season.

Connect To Values: What is really important to you? Everyone’s values are different. Take time to connect with what you truly value. Know that if you make choices that align with what is really important, you are more likely to feel fulfilled and at peace.

Slow down: Evaluate your pace and plan breaks for rest, even if you don’t think you will need them. In the business of the season, it is helpful to have some moments of quiet and solitude to recharge your battery. Be mindful about over scheduling yourself.

Take time to breathe, mediate, walk the dog, practice yoga or watch snow fall. Relaxation is a powerful tool to help manage stress and create emotional balance. Even when traveling, you can take a few moments to focus on relaxing your body and mind.

Nourish Yourself: Feed your body valuable nutrients, engage in mindful movement, and pamper yourself a bit.  This is a season of giving; don’t forget to care for yourself. Nourish your spirit with activities that feel refreshing…read, draw, craft, knit. Connect with others in a way that feels meaningful and supportive.

Beware of Perfectionism: You can’t do it all. You don’t need to, and trying won’t actually bring fulfillment. Step back from unrealistic expectations of yourself, and give yourself permission to engage in what feels most meaningful. Focus on being your authentic, imperfect, human self.

If you find that you need support during the Holiday Season, we are here to help.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Awesomeness Fest: Making Space to Receive

Today's post from The Awakening Center (TAC) will be adopted from a published article by Erin Diedling, MA, LCPC.

Awesomeness Fest: Making Space to Receive

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Surviving the Holidays: Part 2

Surviving the Holidays: Part 2

Refocus the Celebration

Food is cornerstone of many—but not all--holiday activities. Be present for the events where food is not playing the lead role. In these moments, we can focus on what the holidays may mean for us and feel more connected with those around us. Try starting a new tradition that focuses on something you and others may find fun. And it may help to remember that many in your own circle of friends and family, as well as many across the world, are struggling with pressures related to eating and the holiday season too. More people in your life may be open to a new, nonfood related tradition than you think!

Get Creative

Explore your creative side with an art activity.

·      Come up with a list of realistic ways to find peace or joy. This can be as simple as sitting quietly somewhere, looking at favorite art work, doing a crossword puzzle, going to a museum, or unplugging your phone for an hour. Whatever you choose, remember the purpose is to provide an opportunity to check in with your thoughts and needs and to replenish yourself.
·      Gather some postcards and put one idea on each using symbols, pictures, words, colors—whatever you can think of. Go all out AS IF it is a gift you are giving someone else. We frequently put more effort into other people than we do to ourselves. This card is a gift-note to yourself to remind you to take some self-care time.
·      Address the cards to yourself and then give them to someone you trust, asking him or her to mail one card each week during the holiday season.

Give the Gift of Time

Reaching out and helping others can provide deeper meaning for you this holiday season. There are many ways to help others at various levels that will be welcomed by many in need. Participating in the office giving tree, volunteering at a soup kitchen, making holiday cards for a nursing home, or simply adding an extra dollar donation onto a purchase at a retail stores can connect you to the season of giving in a more fulfilling way.

Value Your Whole Self

For many of us, we see our family and friends infrequently and the holidays can be particularly stressful if we're struggling with body image issues. We may worry that changes in our bodies will be noticed or judged. We might feel self-conscious and filled with self-doubt. Remember, you are more than a number on a scale. Your contribution to family and friend gatherings goes way beyond your physical appearance. Make a list of the positive qualities that you bring to people in your life. If you start to feel anxious about your body or if someone (heaven forbid) makes an insensitive comment, look at your list to remind yourself that you are a whole universe unto yourself. 

Let There Be Peace
With some self-care, support, planning, and mindfulness you don’t have to settle for surviving the holidays.  You can thrive and find the peace and good will that you deserve!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Surviving the Holidays: Part 1

Surviving the Holidays: Part 1

Every holiday season has its ups and downs. However, sometimes we find ourselves wondering how we ever got through this year's season? The Awakening Center has some tips to help you survive the holidays.

Reclaiming the Holidays

The falling temperatures, crowded malls, long to-do lists mean only one thing—the holiday season is upon us.  Some cannot wait for this time of year, and they relish each and every tradition.  Others see the holidays as a time of stress, pressure, or loneliness and grit their teeth until January arrives.  Most of us end up somewhere in the middle.  Wherever you fall on this continuum, having your toolbox filled with holiday self-care resources is essential. 

Remember, your holiday survival toolbox will be most effective if it is customized to your particular needs.  You might need to carve out alone time to regroup and re-energize; or, you might need to connect with trusted friends or support people.  Be compassionate about what you need—‘tis the season for acceptance not judgment.

Just as you need to be mindful of which tools you need during the holidays, pay attention to your triggers as well.  Being clear and nonjudgmental about our challenges helps keep us in recovery.  

There is no one-size-fits-all way to enjoy the season.  Just because some love the hustle and bustle of the department store does not mean that your preference for quiet contemplation makes you a Grinch.  And if you feel energized and connected by shopping with friends or going to holiday parties, don’t let anyone tell you you’re forgetting the “reason for the season.”
Ask for Help

If you’re unsure what your toolbox needs, sit with a friend, partner, family member, therapist, or anyone you trust and brainstorm 10 self-care activities.  Think of what will help you stay mindful and connected to your inner self. Some ideas include:

--Taking a leisurely walk
--Reaching out to someone on the phone or in person

Plan Ahead

Having a plan when heading into holiday events can be your best resource. Many families and friends have traditions we can anticipate each year. With this in mind, we can schedule alone time amid all the activities. Or, we can choose to take care of ourselves by sitting out anything that we know will trigger us. For some, this may be honoring that we don't like a particular dish our aunt serves or spending more time with a friend or family member we are more comfortable with. Remember, you are the expert of you. When we listen to what our body wants and needs with a calm, compassionate mind we have the ability to make the decisions that are right for us.

Pace Yourself

It may be helpful to set alerts on your phone to remind you to slow down and check in with yourself. Do you need to take a moment away from all the hubbub?  Are you hungry? Are you full? How are you feeling in this moment? This season can be hectic for all of us, but many times we can hit pause and enter a place of clarity. This can be helpful during times of scrambling to finish last minute shopping or during a party. Set a reminder to check in with how you're feeling during this rush, and have a few close places in mind that can provide an enjoyable break. It may be a small boutique with fun gadgets, a park down the street from the mall, or simply taking a moment to enjoy the holiday decorations.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Taming "The Bully"

…..If we get rid of the Bully, we would also get rid of the Mentor.  Often when the Bully is dominant loud and nasty, you may not be aware of the Mentor.  In her positive role, the Mentor manages, organizes and plans our day-to-day life.  Think about all the different tasks that the Mentor does: paying bills, organizing schedules, planning social events, managing multiple project deadlines, figuring out finances, and juggling the upkeep of our cars, houses, possessions and our bodies.  The list goes on.  When something goes wrong, the Mentors tap into their creative thinking skills and take on the role of problem solver, in a non-judgmental non-critical way.  In addition, the Mentors want to motivate us; they push us to learn, grow and to move forward in our lives. The Mentor helps us to live our lives with integrity and values.  Their goal is for us to be the best we can be.  In the long run, the Mentors want us to find fulfillment and meaning in our life. 

Sometimes, when picturing the Mentor, a client will take the “non-judgmental non-critical” aspects to extreme as well.  Imagine an ideal “Fairy Godmother” who would always let you off the hook, no matter what, without any responsibility or remorse, “That’s OK.  You couldn’t help it.  Don’t worry about it.  You poor thing.”  In comparison to the Bully, our first reaction again might be one of relief.  But if we never took responsibility for anything, what would go awry?  We’d never change, forever doomed to repeating our mistakes over and over.  That is not the Mentor. 

If you have ever had an actual Mentor in your life, a good Mentor will not make excuses for you.  She would not overly coddle you.  The Mentor challenges us to be the best we can be, while still allowing us to be imperfect and human.  She encourages you to learn from your mistakes and figure out how not to repeat the mistake in the future.  She might get firm with you, but in a respectful and caring way….

Here’s an example to illustrate the relationship you would have with your Mentor.  Let’s say that you forget to set your alarm clock and you miss an important meeting at work.  Your boss is angry and sends you a heated voicemail.  How would your Mentor deal with this?  In a serious tone she would say something like, “So, you overslept.  This is not OK.  We need to find a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  If we put the alarm clock on our pillow in the morning, we will have to set it before we go to sleep.  We had better call our boss and apologize right away.  Let’s also talk with Pat to get the notes from the meeting.”  Notice that the Mentor often uses the pronoun “we”; this implies that you and she are working together cooperatively.  She does not attack you or your personality.  Mistakes are viewed as
, well, mistakes – a temporary unfortunately event, not as a permanent character flaw. 

The Mentor speaks in a respectful tone.  You can easily find what I call “the nugget of truth” in what she wants to tell you.  In this case the nugget of truth is “Acting in this way goes against our basic values of respect for others and living with integrity.  We need to act in a professional way and take responsibility for our mistake.”  The Mentor, when necessary, slips into problem solving mode and helps you to see the steps to learn from and correct the mistake.  You walk away from this encounter feeling like you are still a worthwhile human. 

As the Part moves towards the middle of the continuum, let’s call her The Critic.  The Critic has difficulty seeing events objectively, and her behavior, thoughts and attitudes are less balanced.  The Critic may be still able to see that mistakes happen but she probably would speak to you roughly, “That was a dumb thing to do!  You’d better shape up or all your coworkers will think you’re stupid!  You’re lucky that your boss doesn’t fire you.”    The Critic uses colorful dramatic language and talks about “you”.  Notice in the example above, she uses all-or-nothing thinking, lumping all your coworkers together as a mass entity with only one mind.  She immediately runs to the worst-case scenario but does not offer an actual solution other than to vaguely demand, “Shape up”.   The same nugget of truth is hidden, but with a bit of sifting we can find it. 

If the Part does not get what she needs to stay in balance, she will become more and more extreme in her thinking, acting and attitudes. In this extreme state I call her The Bully. “Oh My God!  What the #$%&* is wrong with you!  You are completely hopeless!  You don’t even deserve this job!  I don’t know why your boss puts up with you.  If they knew the real you, none of your coworkers would ever talk to you again.  If you weren’t so fat, this would never have happened.  You can’t eat today…”  I’m sure you can fill in the rest.   The Bully is abusive, punitive and shaming; she uses humiliation and name-calling as punishments.  She will use swearing and profanity even if you normally don’t.  The nugget of truth is buried deep beneath layers of shame and judgment.  It takes a lot of digging to find it.

The Bully is locked into very distorted perfectionistic black-and-white thinking: If you’re not perfect, you are a Failure!  If you made a mistake, you are complete Loser!  If one person doesn’t like you, then everybody HATES you!  If you are not faultless, then you are Worthless!  Through her eyes you don’t make mistakes, you ARE a mistake.  You didn’t fail at something, you ARE a failure.   She also goes off on a tangent blaming your mistake on your eating or weight – even if there is no logical tie.  The punishment does not fit the crime!

Because the Bully talks to you this way over and over, day after day, your younger parts, the Kids, believe her down deep inside, feeling more hopeless, anxious and worthless after each encounter.  Each time the Bully criticizes, a core of shame is reawakened.  Not to be left out, the Rebels, Distracters, Numb-ers get involved….  Do-si-do, around we go, in this never-ending cycle.  The Bully never looks at her role in this cycle, she projects all the blame outward: she is not the problem! You are.  She is not responsible!  You are.  She has to talk to you this way, because you are hopeless!  As the Kids feel more hopeless, the Bully yells louder, the Rebels act out, the Bully yells louder… 

You would think that after a while the Parts would see that this cycle doesn’t work.  But no, in their extreme state they are unable to do this.  They are locked into this cycle and cannot get out of it.  Since they are unable to do anything else, and are afraid of what would happen if they did nothing, they continue to repeat this cycle forever. 
So how do we stop this cycle?  How do we get the Bully to stay as the Mentor?  Your first reaction is to shut her up, push her away, get rid of her, to hate her.  This actually makes the cycle worse.  All of the Parts need the same things:  They need to know that you won’t try to get rid of them.  They want you to listen to what they have to say; they need to feel heard.  They want you to appreciate what they are trying to do for you.  Lastly, they want you to take care of their needs.  Sounds simple?  No, this is a slow and difficult process – but I will walk you through it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Recovering The Sense of Self

Recovering The Sense of Self
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

Editor's Note: Amy is in the process of writing a book about recovering from eating disorders. Occasionally we have printed excerpts from it. This is the beginning of a chapter about finding the sense of Self. You may want to read some previous excerpts on our website.

"Over the weekend, I went to an office party with my new boyfriend. It was the first time that he was introducing me to his friends and boss. He seemed really nervous and kept going into other rooms, just leaving me sitting there all alone. The critic in my head kept screaming at me, 'You're so fat that he can't stand to be seen with you! You are such a loser that he's embarrassed to be with you.' I could hear it but something different happened this time. Deep inside I felt something, not a voice but just a sense of knowing that the critic was wrong. I felt OK. I knew that he was just nervous and it wasn't because of me."Ann

Describing the Self is like trying to describe a beautiful color. It is difficult to put into words. But like recognizing the beautiful color once you've seen it, when you recover your sense of Self, it will feel familiar. Amanda described it well, "It's like trying to remember a song you've heard only once. But if you hear it again you remember it. And if you hear it again and again, over time you can sing it to yourself whenever you want."

The familiarity is because you were born with a sense of Self, and you were very expressive of your Self from age two or three on. Now, your Self is there hidden away below the surface; it may be covered in layers of defenses and "old trash", but it's there. Remember the analogy from chapter 2 about the President of the US being hidden away if the country were in attack? For whatever reason, in your personal history, it was not safe for you to be in your Self and your Self was hidden away for safekeeping. For some of you it was a constant gradual daily wearing away of your Self. For others it may have felt more like an explosion! 

Some of you remember feeling good about yourself until puberty, and others say they felt bad before they even entered preschool. It doesn't really matter how or when it happened, the effect was the same.

Speaking of puberty, there have been a number of studies and books written about the dramatic change and loss of self-esteem when girls reach early adolescence. As Mary Pipher writes in her book, Reviving Ophelia: "Just as planes and ships disappear mysteriously into the Bermuda Triangle, so do the selves of girls go down in droves. The crash and burn in a social and developmental Bermuda Triangle." Many of my clients have talked about Junior High School as being the most painful time of their life, like Rachel,"In third or fourth grade, I felt really confident, I liked myself a lot. I was comfortable in my body. I remember having eating contests. Who could eat the most? And standing up on the table and winning the eating contest. And it wasn't a binge! Oh no! I would eat and just forgot about it. I lost her in Junior High School. I wonder where is that person? Where did she go?"

I know what you are thinking, "Yeah, right. Everyone else who reads this book has a Self hidden away, but not me. I'm defective, I'm hopeless." That is just a Bully talking. As you will learn in the next chapter, the Bully is just trying to protect you from being disappointed. For years the parts have organized around a system based on the lack of Self and they are suspicious of any change to this system. They will try to protect the system because they don't trust that the Self will really stay and be there for them. Like the members of an orchestra whose conductor has been absent for a long time, it would take time for them to be assured that she will not leave again. Some of the parts may actually feel relieved that the Self is coming back, but other parts may feel threatened. They may actively try to sabotage this work we are trying to accomplish. (This is another reason to be working with a therapist.)

One of the problems that people encounter when trying to find their sense of Self is that the Self is physically subtle and verbally very quiet - and the parts are physically intense and verbally LOUD! The Self is easily out-shouted by the chattering and clamoring of the parts. As we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease - we give our attention to the parts who are the loudest. Often times also, because one or more of the parts are LOUD and very outspoken, they are the ones who you may identify with as being your "self". Because this false-self does not have the qualities of the Self, the mistaken thought of allowing this part to take over and be in charge, may be horrifying.

Sometimes people confuse what I mean by the sense of Self. They think of it as being "in control" or an optimistic cheerleader quality of confidence. While feeling in control and being confident are qualities of your Self, the Self is deeper than that. It is a deep-seated feeling of inner strength and wisdom within. When you are in your Self, you know that no matter what happens you can handle it, you have all the resources you need within you. And from this strength and knowledge, you calmly feel in control and confident.

Almost without exception, when someone doesn't have a sense of Self, they describe an inner emptiness that is very frightening. There is a deep profound sense that something is missing! The emptiness is where your Self is supposed to be. For example if I want to plant a rose bush I have to dig a hole. The hole is where the rose bush will be, the potential for the rose bush. But until the rose bush is planted, it's just a hole. The hole, the emptiness inside us, is the potential where you will experience the Self again. It was there, but now it's concealed and we're going to bring it out of hiding and put it back. One of the best side effects of recovering your sense of Self, is that the inner emptiness disappears! It gets filled, just as the hole disappeared as soon as you put the rose bush into it.

Our goal is to live our life in a state that Dr. Schwartz calls Self Leadership. It would be almost impossible to live our life in our Self perfectly all of the time. When life throws us a zinger, and it will, not because we are weak or defective - but because we are humans living in a human world - a part may react and need help. The Self will compassionately notice, and take the time to attend to her needs. This may mean pulling resources from other parts or from other people who can be trusted. The parts and Self can then return to its healthy new system.

Once you know what it feels like to be in your Self, you will be able to consciously "breathe into" that feeling again and again. It will not come naturally at first. Like learning a new language, at first it will feel foreign, but the more you use it the more comfortable and familiar it will feel. With practice you can become completely fluent. I encourage my clients to practice every day, perhaps starting with a morning ritual that includes intentionally getting in touch with their sense of Self.