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

Personal + Professional Development Offerings this Spring at Potentia

Happy Spring!

As hard as it is to lose an hour of sleep, the longer days are very welcome.

Below are Potentia’s upcoming personal and professional development offerings to support you in all the roles you fill in your life:

  • (re) Define Courage: Dare to Show Up + Be Seen Weekly Intensives: Kick off your life long shame resilience practice in this workshop series based on Brené Brown’s research on shame, authenticity and vulnerability. With April and June offerings –  parents, educators, students, ministry and business leaders, wellness professionals and more can all benefit. For MFT students and interns, 18 group hours can go towards your BBS personal therapy requirement.

  • (re) Define Play: Connecting With Your Child: Whether you work with kids in your profession, are a student, parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle or just want to learn more about engaging with young children, this engaging workshop will help support a meaningful relationship with the little people in your life through the power of play.

In addition, I am offering individual and group consultations for those working towards their Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Certified EMDR Therapist credentials. Email me for more information.

The Potentia Team and I look forward to seeing you at one or more of our offerings in the weeks to come. In the meantime, make sure to get some sunshine on your face and enjoy this new season!

Cheering you on  –

Rebecca Bass-Ching,LMFT
Founder + Director

How a Kindergarten Teacher Builds Community

IMG_2025Every day before my daughter’s school starts, she has 15 minutes to run laps with all of her K-4 classmates.

The idea of moving to the track was very daunting for all of the kindergartners and their parents.

We started off at the Kindergarten-Only playground for the first couple months of school.

It was like a little bubble with our Kindergarten tribe of kids, parents and teachers.

It was contained and known.

And having a daughter on the Autism Spectrum in a general education classroom was daunting enough. The little playground area was an even playing field – no blind spots and lots of supervision.

Moving down to the track with the “older kids” has been a smooth transition – for the most part.

I discovered my daughter’s gift for running – when she is in the mood – and how running/walking before her day really calms down her nervous system.

I have also discovered the angels, the saints, the cheerleaders, the mean girls and the “jokesters”.

When I would see my daughter being treated poorly, I would use all of my tools plus the power of breath and prayer to connect with each child to understand his or her choice of behavior.

And when I shared these interactions with her teacher, I was told I needed to go find a teacher to address the issue instead of me “handling” it on my own.

I was told this would foster better community.

My rule-follower default was a bit fritzed by my momma-bear instincts. But I listened to Teacher and continued to breathe and pray.

In the weeks to follow, I saw how this new system was wise to follow.

When older kids showed signs of bullying and disrespect, she addressed them as people with dignity and with authority in conversation. I saw her build relationships, listen, set boundaries, cultivate courage and bravery.

No punitive principal meetings, threatening, shaming or making a joke and saying “kids will be kids”.

Recently, I observed two fourth graders joking about my daughter going back and fourth about which one was going to be her boyfriend.

“And so it begins” I said to my Mommy Friend and went to check in with my sweet girl as she trotted by on her morning laps.

She was laughing and seemed to be rolling with it. I also did not get my mamma radar triggered with these two spitfires, so I stepped off the track with a deep breathe and a prayer.

A few minutes later, Teacher came up to me and with one of the boys I had just witnessed interacting with my daughter.

A beautiful exchange ensued where this busted teaser saw my daughter not as an object but as someone with a mom, who was celebrating her birthday that day with friends and interests.

As Teacher sent the youngster back to finish his time on the track, she looked back at me and said, “And this is how we will create community. Where everyone understands we are all people with feelings, struggle, interests and a life. Thank you.”

It goes both ways, too. The young man is not an object of my rage, my pain, my fear, my hurt. Because I connected with him, I know he is like all of us stumbling, testing, scared, curious, desiring to belong and to be seen.

He is human.

Does it excuse bad choices? No.

But that is not the point.

When we step into the space of vulnerability, there are so many ways to respond.

The shift in perspective  – seeing how we are all in it together – helps us create community instead of an “us vs. them” culture.

It is a challenge to push back on fear, blame and shame.

And I do not know about you, but some days I am swimming in the deep end of disconnection and everyone is an “other”.

In that space blame, shame and fear have a party in my head making fertile ground for some not so pretty responses.

I do know my shame resilience practice has drastically reduced my reactivity when my tender spots are triggered.

Indeed, it is hard to be human. Desiring to be loved and understood can result in some serious hurt.

Yet, I still truly believe it is worth it to feel the tough stuff so I can feel also feel love, joy, peace – even if I am in a season when the good emotions are fleeting.

A few days later, I was back at my post on the sidelines of the track.

As he ran by, I waved at the young man who I had a chance to get to know the other day. In response, I received a half-cocked smile with a side glance and a casual wave back.

I called him by name and said good morning.

And the community building continues…

Cheering you on from the track field   –

Rebecca

PS – If you are ready to start your own life-long shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) define Courage workshops.

 

 

 

Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Photo on 10-25-13 at 9.35 AM

Note from Erin Curlett, Potentia’s Marketing Communications Manager: Our final interview this week is with Rebecca. I wanted get her thoughts on some of the questions we have been asking in honor of Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thanks for sharing some of your heart, Rebecca!

How do you define fat talk?

It often occurs when conversations foster bonding over critiquing their bodies or the bodies of others.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

Where do I NOT hear it? The gym, at the meal table, at church, at schools, at parent meetings, on TV… Holidays, weddings, reunions, parties in general, when the weather warms up and we approach bathing suit season (which is mostly year round here in San Diego).

How do you respond to fat talk?

Gosh, it depends on the day and the circumstances — sometimes I am full of grace and tact and other days I can trend on the blunt side. Most of my friends know exactly how I feel about fat talk so when they bring it up, they usually are trying to rile me up or tease me. But when it is with people I do not have a previous relationship with, I try my best to redirect the conversation or just not participate.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Shame, culture, anxiety, peer-groups, family of origin, temperament, unhealthy perfectionism, traumas/distressing life events

Where have you been surprised to encounter fat talk?

I think I have been the most bummed to hear it in faith communities that I run in. It really hurts my heart to hear people fat talk and mask it in the name of faith, holiness, or humility.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Oh my goodness, yes! When I was in high school and through my twenties was when it was the worst. My unhealthy drive for perfection really jammed up my ability to see my true worth and value for a while. But I am grateful for the gift of growing, healing, and falling in love with my amazing husband and two children which gave me a powerful perspective on what being enough really means.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

When I am feeling particularly uncomfortable in my skin, I pause, take a breath, and ask myself what is really going on around me that triggered these dark thoughts. I can usually credit them to one or more of the following:

1) not enough sleep;
2) feeling disconnected from my husband;
3) not moving my body regularly or feeding it well;
4) over booking my schedule;
5) not spending enough meaningful time with God.

Once I take an inventory of the above, I make sure I take time to meet my needs for mind, body, relations, and soul. And sometimes I just have to jolt my brain by talking out loud and telling the fat talk thoughts to go to permanent time out — which is a g-rated version. 🙂

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Fat talk fans the flame of dieting and disordered eating. Once we lose site of our true worth and value and start buying into the lies of shame, fear, and the fat-phobic culture, obsessions about our looks, how we feed and move our body can become all-consuming.

How has being a mother changed your view of fat talk, if at all?

I am 100% committed to trying my best to have my words and actions match up. (NOTE: TRY) I am very fierce about not allowing any negative or obsessive talk about food, our bodies, or the looks and bodies of others. We also steer clear of praise, especially about looks, and instead reflect back to our kids how proud they must feel, how capable they must feel, etc. I talk about beauty in terms of character in addition to what is pleasing to the eye. When my daughter shares with her brother or when when she extends grace, I note how her choices just made her heart even more beautiful.

We also avoid commercials (which is so tricky when my husband is watching a game) and most TV shows. They are going to be exposed to so much more in culture as they get older but I am committed to making our home a safe zone from the toxic aspects of culture.

What are your thoughts on the current trend of sharing “fitspiration” images? Do these encourage a healthy body image or foster more fat talk?

“Fitspiration” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and triggers fat talk big time. It can be like cocaine to the brain and can deplete your self-worth when you come down from the high. These images are most often photoshopped and they only fuel comparing, dissatisfaction, and feeling not enough. Yuck.

How do you help your clients combat fat talk?

I walk with them as they seek to heal their relationship with food, their body, and their story. I have found EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) to be so helpful when people are stuck with negative core beliefs, ie: I am broken, I am permanently damaged, I am not _______ enough, I am a failure and so on.

I work with Megan Holt, Potentia’s Coordinator of Wellness and Nutrition, to help support them in moving and feeding their bodies so their brain can get on their team and help push back on the lies and the noise of fat talk.

Lastly, we work a lot on what it is like to respect your body, even if you do not like it. This involves working on negative self-talk but also re-evaluating core relationships and boundaries.

Have you seen changes in your clients as they work to resist such negative self talk?

Yes! As they heal and draw on their amazing courage, it is truly incredible to witness their spark, hope, and healing as they push back on how culture defines health and redefine that definition to a creed that serves their true health in a sustaining and life-giving way.

How does your faith play a role in combating fat talk?

It has taken me years to finally really believe the truth about what God says about me. The kind of love, grace, forgiveness, and guidance He offers me blows my mind. I think finally trusting His words, His Truth has been medicine for my soul. Spending the last few years building my shame resilience skills and training to help others do that work has had a profound effect on shifting my core beliefs about myself on an even deeper level. I now know feeling bad, gross, like a failure, not enough is what I feel though not the truth. Now I can push back on those feelings and lean on God’s Truth, regardless of my emotional state. Some days are easier than others but whew, the freedom I feel from building my shame resilience super powers has been life-changing in my relationship with God.

What role do you see the church playing in combating fat talk?

I think the church could really play a significant role in combating fat talk. If the pulpit stopped being a place for fat talk, body shame, or buying into trendy diets in the name of holiness, that would be a good start. My dream is for pastors and their leadership teams to stop church-wide dieting and talking about numbers; to get educated on the disordered eating spectrum; to learn how to lead their congregation in a fast with sensitivity and awareness and be a safe place for those struggling with food and body issues. I have found some incredible leaders in the faith community leading courageously and boldly in these areas, but we still have a long way to go. One step at a time. One heart at a time.

Thanks so much for following along here on the blog and on Potentia’s Facebook page as we supported Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thoughts? Any new insights or convictions? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Stay connected and join our email list for blog updates and thoughts on how you can (re) define your definition of health.

Weekend Wonderment: Inspiration from the Interwebs 9/15/13

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“Being courageous requires faith.” Heartfelt words from a mother of a Sandy Hook victim to teachers and school employees as they start their school year.  Wow.

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“Failing forward means using mistakes or failures in the service of moving ahead.” via Karen R. Koenig.  And if you have not checked out Karen’s workbook, Food and Feelings: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health, it is a worthy resource on your bookshelf.

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“It’s hard: to keep your eyes on your own paper; to not want what others have; to detach from outcomes.” Parenthood, unhealthy perfection, and faith all collide in this lovely, sweet, tender post by Andrea Mauer.

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Never underestimate the power you have on those who cross your path in life.  Moving ad captures this sentiment beautifully.  Have some tissues nearby.  You have been warned.

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Are we passing down to the next generation the relentless pursuit of perfection? On parenthood, the pressures of high school students today, work and juggling it all – this provocative interview with Debora Spar, president of Barnard College and the mother of three children, touches on a lot of tender/lighting rod issues around parenting, working and being a woman.

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1. Settling + Starting

Sometimes we hesitate to start deep soul work because we are uncertain of the out come or how long it will take to reach our desired outcome. Trauma and distressing life events – and if you have been through middle school, you have had a distressing life event – can keep us stuck in fear, uncertainty, depression, loneliness, unhealthy perfection and enslaved to the opinions of others. EMDR is a wonderful to support for many who are stuck and the quick fixes are not working. Find a specialized therapist you trust and feel understood and start. This may be one of the most important seasons in your life.

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In Awe and Wonder –

Rebecca