5 Relationship Insights to Inspire You to Add This Resource To Your Library – Stat!

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, Potentia’s featured book this month is all about relationships: You Are The One You Have Been Waiting For: Bringing Courageous Love to Intimate Relationships by Richard Schwartz 

While this book is geared towards married couples, this lens can be beneficial for all relationships. Truly. As a child of divorce, what makes relationships work and not work has fascinated me and terrified me all at the same time.

And if I have learned anything in my years as a therapist is that there is not just one way to heal. If there was, we would all be doing it. At Potentia, some of our our main lenses on healing and change involve EMDR Therapy, systemic approaches such a Bowen and Structural Family Systems Theories in additional to, Shame Resilience Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and various action methods like Psychodrama.

Over the last year, we began really digging into an evidenced-based therapeutic approach which has been around for over 30 years called Internal Family Systems.

This approach is non-pathologizing, client-led and effective. The language and lens of IFS moves us away from a place of blame, shame and overwhelm to integration and clarity in our actions.

I have seen Richard Schwartz speak at conferences over the years which always led to fruitful insights on how I approached my clients struggling with immense shame about their story and how their were managing their shame and pain.

Instead of trying to ‘get rid’ of the parts that were causing clients distress, I started to help clients get curious about these parts and see that they were there for a reason – to protect. Though the protection often led to hurting self and/or others at times.

This was pretty radical for clients because they had such deep loathing for parts of their stories and inner lives. By identifying this inner conflict with their various parts and developing compassion for them, the charge and reactivity around their choices decreased their internal spinning so there was space for other ways of responding to self and others.

Below is a description of the internal parts Richard Schwartz refers to in this approach from his website selfleadership.org:

“Most clients had parts that tried to keep them functional and safe. These parts tried to maintain control of their inner and outer environments by, for example, keeping them from getting too close or dependent on others, criticizing their appearance or performance to make them look or act better, and focusing on taking care of others’ rather than their own needs. These parts seemed to be in protective, managerial roles and therefore are called managers.

When a person has been hurt, humiliated, frightened, or shamed in the past, he or she will have parts that carry the emotions, memories, and sensations from those experiences. Managers often want to keep these feelings out of consciousness and, consequently, try to keep vulnerable, needy parts locked in inner closets. These incarcerated parts are known as exiles.

The third and final group of parts jumps into action whenever one of the exiles is upset to the point that it may flood the person with its extreme feelings or make the person vulnerable to being hurt again. When that is the case, this third group tries to douse the inner flames of feeling as quickly as possible, which earns them the name firefighters. They tend to be highly impulsive and strive to find stimulation that will override or dissociate from the exile’s feelings. Bingeing on drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or work are common firefighter activities. 

In You are the One You Have Been Waiting For, Richard Schwartz offers a provocative approach to our relationships.

The following are five nuggets that will hopefully encourage you to add this resource on relationships to your library:

1. “You will no longer expect your partner to make you feel complete, worthwhile, elated or safe  in other words, to be he primary caretaker of your parts. While your partner may elicit all of those feelings in you at different times, you know that you can help your parts feel that way, too, so their welfare does not depend on your them.” p. 209

IFS supports your agency in how to care for yourself and reduces feelings of helplessness when a partner cannot show up for you emotionally in ways you need.

2. “Attachment re-injuries are events in which you experience your partner as having betrayed, abandoned, or humiliated you, reaffirming the original message to your exiles that they are unloveable.” p. 85

IFS reframes those people who trigger our protective parts as ‘TOR-mentors’ – often beloved ones who help us learn and grow.

3. “Our culture, and many of the relationship experts in it, have issued us faulty maps and improper tools. We’ve been told that the love we need is a buried treasure hidden in the heart of a special intimate partner. Once we find that partner, the love we crave should flow elixer-like, filling our empty spaces and healing our pain. When that love stops flowing, even momentarily, we get scared…” p.6

Learning to respect your story and be responsible for healing the pain in it – instead of putting someone else on point for that role – is a powerful and challenging mindset switch to move from getting relief only from others and instead learn how to stay calm and connected when confronted with triggers.

4. “When each partner has courageous love for the other, many of the chronic struggles most couples face melt away because each partner is released from being primarily responsible for making the other feel good.” p. 4

This lens decreases feelings of helplessness because we cannot change anyone but ourselves. IFS helps gives couples a framework to feel relief and empowerment without relying only on the other person to make them feel better.

5. “Everyone is born with vulnerable parts. Most of us, however, learn early, – through interactions with caretakers of through traumatic experiences – that being vulnerable is not safe. As a consequence, we lock those childlike parts away inside and make them the inner exiles of our personalities.” p. 55

IFS integrates trauma and attachment theories in a way that offers sustained healing for both the individuals and the couple. It is nuanced and complex but well worth the journey.

Make sure to check out the questions at the end of each chapter. These questions will inspire powerful reflections for both the individual and the couple.

With love and gratitude –

Rebecca

NOTE: When a relationship is violent and uses physical, sexual, emotional, or spiritual means to manipulate and coerce, safety is the number one concern. The cycle of violence in intimate relationships does not always involve bruises and it can be extremely confusing.  Help is available and you are not alone. 

 

 

(re) Define Failure: Reckon, Rumble, Rise, Repeat

(re) Define Failure

Four years ago this week, I attended a conference where Brené Brown was speaking on a panel. When we met afterwards, I told her I listened to her first book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will Others Think’ to ‘I Am Enough’ while I ran my first half marathon. She knee slapped and about fell down laughing.

brene brown first mtg 2011
All smiles and a bit blurry…

I was so grateful to share space with a woman who cares passionately about family, faith, and making an impact on this planet through meaningful work in areas that I also care deeply about.

My respect for her research grew and a year later I would attend my first training in her work in San Antonio, TX. And four years after that first meeting, I found myself in Texas last week, yet again, sitting with my fellow The Daring Way™ Case Consultants getting trained in her latest research featured in her new book: Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (This book is coming out August 25th – pre-order here so you can have it in your mailbox as soon as it releases! )

Rising Strong Training
Yes, I travel with sharpies!

Brené’s research calls you to do more than recite definitions and, what has become to some, trendy lingo. It inspires action… and sometimes some regret because there is no turning back from the learning process this work fosters.

Her integrity along with her talents as a communicator and leader have changed the international conversation on shame, authenticity and courage. Brené is so gifted in making complex concepts easy to understand.

But do not be fooled. Taking the insights from her research and putting them into action is nuanced, hard work and not comfortable. Not. At. All.

It takes time and effort. Addressing traumas, grief and loss are inevitable if you start the journey of developing a shame resilience practice. Facing failure, frustration and doubt is also inevitable in this work, too. Which is why the Rising Strong process so important.

I appreciate Brené clarifying in Rising Strong that her work is not a quick fix to healing but a guide to a life-long practice involving struggle, failure, fear and shame resilience – all based on the results of her research.

No matter what your brain is drawn too, there is no such thing as a quick fix to heal from pain, traumatic or distressing experiences, loss, transition, mood issues, eating disorders, and more. It just takes a life time commitment to curiosity, compassion and doing the work.

Workshops, therapy, books, programs can all be wonderful tools on the journey, but be wise as to who you invite to support you on your path. As I wrote in my last post on struggle, good marketing is just that, good marketing. Be an informed consumer of media, services and products.

Rising Strong will feel like a letter of encouragement to many of you who show up day in and day out – reckoning and rumbling with the stories you tell yourselves which are filled with inaccurate data –  validating your struggle and persistence to find a better way to engage in your life.

This work is subversive, gritty and painful at times as the message to (re) define failure pushes new edges. The rush of “Me, too!” is often followed by “What now?”. Which is why Rising Strong in such an important read.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets from Rising Strong and my training last week that are provocative conversation starters in your circles of influence:

  •  “The physics of vulnerability = If you are brave enough you will fall. Daring is saying, “I know I will eventually fail and I am all in.” p.5  If you dare to show up and be seen you will fall and fail. It is not an if, it is a when. Taking this posture challenges the stories you tell yourself about failing and instead normalizes failure as a part our. It also teases out very quickly where you have externalized your worth and value.
  • “Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, This is part of the process. Stay the course.  p. 27/28 Grace, the undeserved gift from God flows deep with this work. Expertise is not the the savior in this journey, only God’s grace is what heals and offers oxygen when you feel like you are suffocating from your pain.
  • “Falling in the arena in the service of being brave is where our courage is forged.” You do not develop courage by studying it. You develop it by show up, falling and rising again. The struggle is hard as you fight to stop living from stories that are keeping you stuck.
  • “You cannot do anything brave or courageous without getting attacked. The alternative to avoiding the attack is silence – then you are complicit with the problem.” This is scary. But we are living in a time where we need less fear-based silence, less screaming, less critics and more respect+courage as we challenge harmful narratives that are taking lives and crushing souls.
  • When we go into struggle, our brain’s job is to make up a story about what is happening. The brain does not take into account the need for vulnerability and still classifies vulnerability as danger.” Building up the bandwidth to tolerate vulnerability – risk, uncertainty, emotional exposure – is a non-negotiable on the path to love and belonging (not fitting in where you are show up in life how you think others want you to be verses who you uniquely are.). That is why developing a shame resilience practice is crucial in this work.
  • “We get a dopamine rush when we find patterns that can fill in the beginning, middle and end of story” Even if the story is inaccurate, your brain wants to find a conclusion. So much so that you get a bit of a chemical boost when your brain writes an ending to a story. There is power in the stories we tell ourselves. Get curious about the stories you are telling yourself. Make sure these stories fuel bravery and courage instead of fear, shame and blame.
  • “Men and women who rise strong challenge conspiracies and confabulations (my new favorite word!) in the stories they are telling themselves.” A confabulation is when you tell a story you believe is true but it is not true. Conspiracies are based on some fact and also inaccurate data and assumptions.
  • “Sometimes we get so busy self-protecting we do not get curious… and then we protect at the expense of the other person.” Relationships are hard, messy and challenging. When you protect yourself in ways that are not reflective of your core values, through shame, silence, blame  – you often may end up hurting both yourself and someone you care about.
  • Our healing can never be dependent on our access to other people or the feedback from other people.” It is often helpful to engage with those who have hurt us in healing process but may not be possible or appropriate.
  • “Shaming someone else diminishes my humanity.” Shame is never a necessary ingredient in the healing process, though it often shows up. How we respond to shame when it surfaces can impact the trajectory of your healing process.
  • “When we allow ourselves to be defined by what everyone else thinks, we lose our capacity for courage. When we do not care what anyone thinks, we lose our capacity for connection.” These reminders are so powerful. And so you will find yourself in the grey zone of vulnerability as you turn away from the exhaustion of numbing out from caring what other people think or people pleasing and worrying what everyone else thinks.
  • “He or she who is the most willing to be uncool will gain the most from this work.” Being uncool is not about attention-seeking behavior. It is about tolerating the vulnerability of being seen and potentially misunderstood. Cool is overrated and sometimes exhausting. Laughter, song and dance fuel the freedom to (re) define cool.
  • “We tolerate physical discomfort but not emotional discomfort.” I am amazed at how so many people devalue emotional pain and see it as less-valid than physical pain. Your emotional pain deserves respect, care an attention – or it will start to run your life.
  • “Speak truth even when your voice shakes.” Speak up and inspire. Your voice is needed.
  • Trust, love, joy, creativity, innovation are all inaccessible without vulnerability. This leads to darkness.” When shame and perfection are the responses to feelings of risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure – tolerating vulnerability seems impossible and courage feels far away.

There is no room for perfection when we choose courage and normalize failure as part of the human experience. Mindy Kaling recently wrote an article in Glamour about confidence where she articulated the paradox of failure  ie: I feel better when you are failing and horrible when I am failing:

‘People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them… But when you’re winning, it makes them feel like they’re losing or, worse yet, that maybe they should’ve tried to do something too, but now it’s too late. And since they didn’t, they want to stop you. You can’t let them.”

When you are constantly thinking about what others will think if you fail – or succeed – than you are letting shame and fear drive your life while squelching your precious and unique story from being told and lived.

Yes, we are the brave and the brokenhearted. It is time to (re) Define Failure: Reckon. Rumble. Rise. Repeat.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

15 Reasons to (re) Define Hope and Despair

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Hope and Despair

hope verb \ˈhōp\:

to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.

There is no room for cynicism where there is hope. Hope is a brave stance that requires faith in the unseen.

At Potentia, I witness this kind of hope in action daily. I see people discover their agency to heal their relationship with God, their story, their body, their relationships with others.

I see despair, struggle, defeat and deep disappointment, too. In these times, hope is subversive and supports resilience to life’s pain.

My understanding of the relationship between hope and despair shifted after a workshop Potentia hosted last summer for all of the Southern California members of The Daring Way.

Robert Hilliker, LCSW, LCDC, CDWF-C led a rich presentation and discussion loaded with powerful insights on hope and despair.

Inspired by this week’s advent focus on hope along with Robert’s workshop, the following are 15 reasons to (re) define how you think about hope and despair:

1. Get clear on these hope myths:
  • Hope cannot exist with despair. (See #11)
  • Hope is wishful thinking. (See #4)
  • Hope is just a cognitive construct. (See #5)
  • You can do hope alone. (See #10)
2. Hope is sharing our story with those who have earned the right to hear it. Hope empowers us to own all of our story and not just the parts we deem worthy.
3. Hope is a key element in creating change. Without hope, change is unlikely.
4. Hope is not the same as wishing, which is a fantasy and an ideal. Hope is dealing with the practical aspects of living.
5. Optimism is purely a cognitive construct. Hope is a cognitive construct and a relational function. Hope is a mind and heart approach.
6. Hope is active, not passive.
7. Robert challenged us to think about offering people we work with reasonable hope. He defined reasonable hope:
  • as relational
  • as a life-long practice
  • as a way to maintain the future is open, uncertain and can be influenced
  • as having the ability to accommodate doubt and despair
  • as a means to seek goals and pathways to those goals
Additional considerations for practicing reasonable hope: believe that making small advances in service of a greater goal are not trivial.
 8. Robert reminded us we need to be brokers of hope. We lend hope with the hope that our clients will eventually internalize it on their own. I think anyone on the fronts lines with someone struggling can be a broker of hope.
 When we dare to show up with anyone hurting, we do not just talk about hope but we do hope. Hope becomes a verb instead of a noun.
9. Robert challenged us to not miss the here and now when we are with people who are struggling. Sometimes in our attempts to “make sense” of a client’s story we miss the hope in the now.
Anxiety has a way of trumping our ability to stay present with those hurting in our presence. Often our blind spots from our own untreated wounds impact our ability to stay in the moment, too. The super power of hope can simply be sharing space with the hurt – in the moment.
10. I love this one: When you are with someone who says they have lost hope, ask them, “Where did hope go?” Often a powerful and meaningful story will unfold. When you share story, the loneliness of despair is transformed by the collective power of the fact that we are in this life together.
11. Hope and despair can share the same space. In fact, it is important to recognize the importance of and respect both. Often, we just want to focus only on the possibilities hope offers but we do a disservice to the story of struggle if we do not honor despair, too.
12. Challenge the flawed narrative that in order to do great things we have to be perfect. To quote Glennon Melton, life is brutifal (a fusion of brutal and beautiful). This is not about letting go of healthy striving but choosing flexibility instead of rigidity. Finding good enough is indeed great and realizing the ordinary is indeed extraordinary.
13. The opposite of scarcity is not abundance but enough. We live in a scarcity culture that challenges our worthiness and relentlessly fuels shame. Part of a sustained shame resilience practice also incorporates a hope practice.
14. In order to grasp the concept of hope we have to trust that pain and despair hold the key to growth. Resilience is not about never feeling the pain of despair but responding in ways that do not harm self or others we do experience struggle. All stories have themes of resilience and hope. Sometimes, you may need some help cleaning the lens on your life to see this perspective.
15. Never underestimate the power of agape love – soul connection – and respecting your profoundly human story. Deep-soul work that addresses the distressing life events knocks down the barriers to leaning into agape love.

Along with the Potentia team, I am honored to be a broker of hope when life is brutifal.

I am curious how you desire to be a broker of hope this Christmas season?

What do you think about pain and despair being the key to growth?

Cheering you on –

Rebecca