A Manifesto on Struggle and Respect + One Week Until Our Open House

 

At Potentia, we are dedicated to decreasing the stigma around mental health issues and those who ask for help when struggles arise. There are many mixed messages about daring to ask for help, especially from a therapist. We get it. Therapy has its own baggage as our field is often not portrayed in the best light in pop culture.

The therapists I work with – along with colleagues I know around the city and the globe – are doing their best to change the reputation of our field. By holding high professional standards and always learning, refining our professional skills and practicing personally what we encourage our clients – we strive to offer those we serve with the best clinical care.

There are so many ways to heal. EMDR Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Shame Resilience Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Bowen and Structural Systems Therapy are many of the approaches we view how people change and heal.

Those seeking relief from trauma, loss, life transitions, eating disorders, addictions+compulsions, relationship tensions, depression, anxiety and more are some of the bravest people we know. The courage it takes to ask for help and commit to healing, improving, and growing never ceases to be inspiring and humbling to witness.

As we prepare for our 4th annual I Choose Respect effort to be showcased on our Facebook and Instagram feeds during the month of February, here are some thoughts on how we view struggle in the first I Choose Respect Manifesto.

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Living and Loving in a Culture of Never Enough

 

Respondingtopain

 

Preparing for my talk at Flood Church this weekend on “Parenting in a Culture of Never Enough”, I wrote this slide inspired by a week that stretched me with my own children.

Whether you are parenting your children, caring for your pets, or anyone in your charge – it hurts when your loved ones hurt.

Becoming a parent was not a life-long dream for me. I was wary at best. Then I met my husband and I took the dive into this role knowing he was a voice of reason and strength at my side. Now I am all in with two little people who expanded my heart and continue to stretch me in ways I did not know I could be stretched.

My husband and I found new edges in our relationship when our first child was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. While the diagnosis gave us a framework to understand her brain and nervous system, she was her own unique person who did not fit into any mold.

There is a saying within the autism community: If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.

Parenting a child on the autism spectrum may not be very different than parenting any other kid  – there are good days, hard days and days you can barely breathe.

However we get there, I believe we all can relate to the roller coaster of emotions involved in being responsible for a loved one.

This week took me to the ‘barely breathe’ edge as my daughter’s nervous system made wearing clothes, smelling certain smells, seeing anything she deemed “gross”, hearing sounds at a certain volume unbearable.

Everything hurt. What feels like a tap to you and me felt like a punch on her skin. Noises we barely notice were causing her to cringe.

And when that kind of assault on a nervous system is going on, she responds like most of us – fight and flight, but mostly fight. My girl can scream and turn on herself in an instant. It can be dizzying.

And when her brain goes into limbic mode, she has her own shame spiral to reckon with as she hates feeling different and doing things that may not respect herself or others.

It takes a lot of energy to hold space in these moments.

When those I care about hurt, I hurt.

Their hurts + my hurts intersect and in a millisecond my brain decides whether to let the feelings wash over me or go into fight, flight, freeze or numb out.

I love my passionate, deep, brilliant, brave daughter.

My love does not waver but I sure want to shrink from it when others give witness to her pain, my pain.

There is nothing cool, smooth, elegant about a public meltdown.

In a culture that says you are not: enough, doing enough, strong enough, Christian enough, calm enough, professional enough, wealthy enough, cool enough, skinny or fit enough, have-it-all together enough – the pressure can feel like something fierce.

It hurts to see my daughter misunderstood. I know it hurts her, too.

And my own stories of feeling misunderstood, ashamed and alone get activated during these times too – whether I know it in the moment or not.

Both of our nervous systems were hot messes this week.

My colleague Bobbi Hannah, an occupational therapist here in San Diego, sent me this chart after we recently were geeking out talking about the nervous system. She shared how the impact of too many “dings” on our nervous system can lead to us feeling flooded, shut down or taking measures to defend ourselves from more triggers.  I gave her an ‘amen’ as I see this so much in my daughter, myself and many of my clients.

This metaphor also fits with all I have learning in my EMDR training and other trainings + readings from people like Bessel van der Kolk, Dan Siegel, Richard Schwartz and more.

Dings

When we get enough dings on our nervous system, our hearts, our souls – we start to engage in protective choices which may not be aligned with our core values. Shame creeps in and we may begin to believe the lies of scarcity mindset which is a cocktail of shame, comparison, competition, fear and loneliness.

In those moments of feeling exposed, confused and helpless – it is a nervous system overload.

The shoulds, the supposed to’s, the rules, the plans – they can get all jumbled up between your loved one’s pain and your pain.

The default is to stop the pain of your loved one so you stop hurting – and sometimes we attempt to shut down this pain in ways that lead to some serious empathic failure.

Making the choice to stay calm, respectful and patient happens. But not as often as I would like. Frustration, fatigue and vulnerability can get the best of me during these times.

I suspect you can relate.

We all mess it up and want do overs.

But that is the awesome thing about grace and failure – we get to teach how to fall and fail well – and rise again after those moments where all we know to be true and right goes out the window as we jump to shut down the pain in ways that make everyone feel crappy.

How we handle struggle – our struggles and the struggles of those we love –  can potentially be powerful medicine for our relationships and communities if we dare to be vulnerable.

The pressure to never fail, mess up and make a mistake can be immense. Perfection says if you are not perfect, you are letting your loved one down.

But one of the biggest gifts we can do is show how we recover when we mess up.

THIS is the space of courage, grace, learning, inspiration and connection.

Yes, falls and failures invite the naysayers, the shoulders and the I-told-you-so voices.

Digging in and dealing with past and present hurts is ground zero for responding differently when the hurts of our loved ones collide with our hurts.

All of us on the Potentia team are honored to support people who desire to respond to differently to discomfort, pain and shame so not hurt themselves or others. Sometimes this work is nuanced and takes time. And sometimes it just takes a period of getting outside your head and finding out you are not alone in your struggles.

It is brave work loving people and navigating the messiness of real, honest, meaningful relationships. And when the dings get too much, remember you are not meant to struggle alone.

Daring to reach out and ask for help is a powerful example to model to those you care about. Keep showing up. The dark emotions are part of being human. And never forget we are all on this deeply human journey together.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

Results May Vary…

Happy Friday!

I hope you have some fun plans this weekend along with some time for rest and play.

Tomorrow, I am driving to Julian, just outside of San Diego, to speak at a women’s retreat for graduating seniors from Point Loma Nazarene University.

The theme of the weekend  – which I love – is Results May Vary and the organizers of this retreat invited speakers from different seasons of life to share about their varied lives post college.

I am not sure how my 22 year-old self would appreciate a retreat like this. I was so focused on results, certainty, bottom line, goals and my career.

Perspective was not my strength at the time. It still can be a struggle when I get in the certainty zone.

And when my expected results varied during my twenties- personally and professionally – life felt like it was turned upside down. Learning about heartbreak, disappointment, patience, faith, friendship and the fragility of life went against “the plan”  – but uncertainty, love and adversity brought me out of my comfort zone and began to teach me what it meant to live a life of courage.

Because I was living a life of shoulds based on what it seemed everyone was supposed to do, it took some intense curve balls to wake me up to the beauty of uncertainty and the varied results of living a brave life less focused on the opinions others + external measures and more reflective on integrity, value and trust.

Telling someone, “Results may vary.” is not the best confidence-builder – but it is honest feedback and helps check expectations that may fuel worry, fear of missing out and rash decisions.

Our brains are hardwired for certainty and safety, so it makes sense there is a pull towards this homeostasis.

Even in my work as a psychotherapist, I get asked:

  • How long will I have to be in therapy?
  • Will I stop struggling with ____ after working with you?
  • How do I know this will work?
  • Will it be worth the investment of time and resources?
  • Why can’t I figure this out on my own?
  • Can talking with my friends be just as effective as therapy?
  • Why does therapy not seem to help some people?

Results. May. Vary.

Results vary because everyone has a different story, temperament, brain chemistry, family of origin – there is no one approach that fits all. If there was – we would all be doing it and there would not be such a demand for therapy, coaching, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, mentorship and more.

A positive relationship with your therapist, evidenced based approaches, a solid understanding of trauma and the brain, specialized training in areas of focus, a beautiful environment and good client care combined with a motivated client can make a dent in the presenting goals while increasing the odds there will be some sustained benefit.

Yes, results still may vary.

The unknown is scary. But often, so is status quo.

Daring to reach out, ask for help and show up to share your story of struggle is more than half the battle towards living a life which can better tolerate uncertainty.

Instead of asking for certainty in results as you seek out professional support, require: respect, high legal and ethical standards, safety and a space that will support you while doing the messy work of being human.

And since we are all human, never forget we are all on this journey together.

With gratitude  –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Founder + CEO of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

 

Weekend Wonderment 8.24.13

This was a week where the topic of loneliness went viral. Check out this incredible 3-D perspective on loneliness in our very “connected” world.

And here is a spot on article noting how loneliness is a bigger threat to our health than weight issues.  Truth.

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Raw, real and gloriously authentic, Dr. Brené Brown talks church.

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Interesting, informative insights on anxiety, eating disorders and schizophrenia.  Increased understanding about the spectrum of mental illness will ensure more people get the help they need.

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Swoon over this mash up of “Brave” by Sara Bareilles (a personal favorite) and Katy Perry’s new song, “Roar”.  Watch, be awed and left with a big smile on your face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-wa1_y6uZQ

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An apology letter from a former weight loss consultant stirred up a lot of chatter on the interweb. Provocative, sincere, honest, this letter offers a unique perspective from the heart of the diet industry.

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Back to school must haves: These adorable “gentle reminders” pencils would be a wonderful gift to a student you know heading back to school or for anyone needing some fun encouragement.  And I am loving this sweater that screams fall in my favorite color.  How cool that you can have it custom made to fit you.  I am in line to order mine this week.

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Busy is the new “fine” but we are living at a pace that is unsustainable.  It is time to (re) define success and make wellness a priority as we follow our dreams and passions.

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My husband and I have been having so. much. fun with this cookbook.  I love Deb Perelmen’s blog, too.  Her latest post is full of peaches, glorious peaches which is appropriate for National Peace Month. She always uses real food that never sacrifices flavor with simple techniques = pure palette joy.

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Just because.  🙂

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In awe and wonder –

Rebecca