What is perfectionism costing you?

“We have more access to information, more books, and more good science – why are we struggling like never before? Because we do not talk about the things that get in the way of doing what we know is best for us, our children, our families, our organizations, and our communities.”  

— Excerpt from “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

Like many of you, when I read Brené’s The Gifts of Imperfection, I was captivated by her research and her languaging of what I have struggled with much of my life.

I remember reading through this book underlining paragraphs and writing personal thoughts in the margins all the while talking about with everyone I knew.

Parts of me led life through the lens of perfection believing this was the best way to live and do life. As destructive as all or nothing thinking is – it also provides a container of control and purpose to protect – giving the illusion this approach to life is sustainable. Until it isn’t.

I now know perfection is a fierce protector. Hustle. Numb out. Focus on the results. Or do not try at all. Perfection thinks it is the ultimate safety armor. And yet it also ends up wreaking havoc on faith, health, confidence, courage and creativity because the anxiety of perfection fuels both overfunctioning  and underfunctioning.

Perfectionism is often behind:

  • Missed social events + work
  • Loss of sleep
  • Physical symptoms (GI distress, panic attacks, appetite confusion)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Exhaustion
  • People pleasing and worries of letting people down
  • Dread of being misunderstood
  • Procrastination and missed deadlines
  • Constant feelings of failure and unworthiness
  • Panic and perseveration
  • Overwhelm + Obsession
  • Competition and comparison
  • Fears of being found out as a fraud

There is great cost to living a life led by perfectionism.

It is related to loss of revenue and professional opportunities scarcity mindset, relationship difficulties, physical and emotional health problems all the while crushing confidence, faith, calm, and clarity.

A life led by perfectionism costs us our sense of what it truly means to feel worthy – regardless of what we do or what others think. And it sure fights to keep status quo as it fears moving away from this lens will cause more pain and struggle. 

Reading Gifts of Imperfection shifted so much for so many. And years later, we are having brave and honest conversations about perfectionism. It has been powerful for me and many I know to have “Me, too.” conversations around this topic.

At the same time, all of the insight and awareness around perfectionism has created perfectionism around not being a perfectionist.

In essence, perfectionism can hijack the process of trying to move away from the perfectionism. It is an interesting beast, for sure.

Behind perfection is shame, anxiety and fear. There is nothing pretty about these emotions and the impact they have on our lives and the world around us. But the pain needs to be unburdened – not stuffed, minimized or camouflaged or they will keep hijacked what you desire most: connection, confidence and safe community. Which is why I am offering a workshop focused on the fierce protector so we can get curious about its intent and discover ways to shift away from a perfectionistic mindset without triggering feelings of overwhelm. 

If you say to yourself one or more of the following:

  • Why am I still struggling with____? You should have had things figured out by now…
  • No one can ever see me struggle.
  • Why try? It will not be good enough no matter what.
  • Everyone else has it all together but me…
  • I am obsessed with eating healthy – food is good or bad and my body is the enemy.
  • I can’t stop counting calories. If I do, I will lose control and not be desired.
  • You are the one who has to keep it all together. You can’t struggle.

…. then perfectionism is still trying to protect you the best way it knows how. 

And at the heart of these emotions lies trauma, betrayal, attachment injuries, rejection, loneliness, confusion.

If you try and fix perfectionism without digging deeper and doing the work to heal the root of the pain, you will only get temporary relief. And this work is not easy. But it can be so fruitful. It never ceases to amaze me what we learn about ourselves because we have the help of trusted support.

We can’t think ourselves through the pain – we have to feel our way through it. Perfection says fix it now and be done. Wisdom says this is a lifelong process.

My excitement about doing the work to (re) define perfection is in part selfish as I am doing this work continually myself. Safe community is a powerful space to continue to rumble with perfection and (re) define its role in your life.

If the pain of perfectionism resonates with you, I encourage you to consider joining us in San Diego on May 18-20 for (re) Define Perfection: Choosing Flexibility Over Rigidity – which is part of our summer mental health series for adults.  You’ll learn how to implement daily life practices to help build the resilience and courage needed to show up in life with both boundaries and an open heart. Learn More.

What do you rumble with this most? How is perfection costing you? I want to hear about your experiences with perfection and rigidity and how you are tackling this common issue.

With gratitude – Rebecca

What are your NSV’s? (And a special invitation + year-in-review download)

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This is the time for resolutions, intentions, goals, and dreams. Research is clear that you have a higher chance of keeping your resolutions if you write them down and they are as detailed as possible.

The Potentia team is a fan of the Passion Planner and we have been busy personalizing our planners with our hopes and plans for 2017.

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When it comes to resolutions, one of the most common goals for the new year is around weight loss. Carrying extra weight sure has been demonized to the point of many developing an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy (orthorexia). Because it is an easy measure, checking the number on the scale is common practice with the goal, though often misleading, for improving health.

As a result, our culture is very focused the scale. Because the brain gives a dopamine reward every time we check that number, we often feel compelled to check this number frequently. The scale is tricky as it is a common measure of health – yet not the most important one. Things like activity levels, how your labs are looking, and the quality of your relationships + connections are much better life-span indicators.

Whatever the number being chased, the results of the scale usually leave you feeling wanting: for more weight loss, fear of gaining weight or maybe thinking you can lose just a little more weight – even after you hit your “goal” weight. Often with the scale, it is never enough – scarcity mindset in all its glory.

And when scarcity mindset is running the show, your worth quickly gets tied into the number on the scale. Then you are living from the protective parts of you which are shame-based instead of leading from a place of calm, clarity, confidence and courage.

Goals which focus on true health contribute to a longer life-span and offer a more enjoyable life with increased sense of meaning and improved relationships. These are a few of the areas we encourage our clients to focus on as they detox from a diet-mentality and move to a (re) define health mentality.

Some more of our favorite “non scale victories” are around improving:

  • Mood
  • Energy levels
  • Mental clarity
  • Libido
  • Confidence
  • Lab results
  • Connectedness with self and others
  • Strength
  • Emotional Resilience

Which non scale victories would you add to the above list? And as you wrap up the year, we created this download to help you with some of you goals for the new year. We can’t wait to hear about some of your looking forward-looking back reflections.

Special Note to our San Diego/Southern California based friendsPlease join at us our upcoming I Choose Respect Open House + Fundraiser. We will have great food + community in addition to featuring local artists and makers + our I Choose Respect Photo Booth while raising funds for Project Heal Southern California and Feeding San Diego.

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Happy New Year + cheers to good health, deeper connections and more courage in 2017 –

Rebecca

 

2016-year-review

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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. 

 

 

The Loneliness of Suffering in Silence

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suf·fer·ing noun the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.

Too many people are suffering in silence. Our neighbors, classmates, colleagues, members at our church and our social media friends may not look like they are struggling because most people do not wear their loneliness and shame on their sleeve.

We all have become pretty darn good at hiding our suffering.

In vulnerable and authentic conversations, I hear people say:

Well…everyone seems to have it all together.
Why am I still struggling? Others seems to get over challenges quicker than I do.
I am the exception to grace, forgiveness and peace.
I can’t talk about my loneliness. No one will understand because I have so many blessings in my life, I will just seem selfish. 
I am tired of trying again and again and nothing seems to work to help me feel better. 
It only makes me feel worse worrying the people around me – it is better to just keep my pain to myself. 
If I really told people about why I am hurting, I would lose my job, my family, my friends. No one at church would talk with me anymore. 
I do not have the resources to get help. I need to just figure this out on my own. 
I do not think people want to hear the pain. It seems everyone wants to fix me instead of understand me. 
Too many people think mental health struggles are my fault. If I could do something to stop feeling this way, I would! I have tried!

Story shame disconnects, blames and fuels fear beyond its protective origins.

Shame wins when you stay silent about your pain. And shame also wins when you shrink from the messiness of entering into another’s story of struggle because of judgement, blame and fear.

I made a vow to myself when I was in high school to do everything I could to make sure people did not suffer in silence like I did during my teen years and beyond.

The mentors, friends and professional in my life were anchors as I navigated figuring out how to adult in a way that made sense to me and was sustainable.

Eventually studying why people struggle helped me develop a deeper understanding of my own story, my brain and the spiritual aspect of suffering which eventually led me to my current professional passion as a therapist.

Mental illness is real and the statistics around those wrestling mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders are way too high.

But even greater is the epidemic of loneliness.  This is the kind of loneliness that is not based on whether you have people around you but more about whether you feel seen, heard and understood.

The kind of loneliness I am talking about is a deficit of social connection – which may seem ridiculous to those who say we are more connected then ever in this era of social media. But what is presented on social media is often not a holistic picture of people’s lives.

This video address the connection of loneliness and social media brilliantly:

Loneliness impacts our physical body and our souls. It is a biological warning sign there is a threat to our social connection. It activates the pain triggers in our brain to inform us we are in danger.

Loneliness is different than depression but is a bedfellow with it, for sure. And shame, oh the narrative of shame, gets fueled when we are in connection deficit.

Experiencing positive connection often does not eradicate the loneliness immediately. But if steadfast in the practice of reaching out and showing up with the right support, you can begin to get your mind, body and soul to recalibrate. Genetics, temperament, history and life experiences all play a role in the impact of loneliness and suffering along with how we heal from these difficult states.

It is also risky business to be steadfast with someone struggling. Rarely are there quick fixes and it can be intense navigating how to help, when to help and when to step back.

It is scary to reach out for help. It is also scary to help someone.

Committing to help someone struggling involves uncertainty, messiness and stress.

Committing to keep trying to heal involves energy, motivation and commitment.

When judgement spikes when confronted with stories of struggle, be clear it is armor to your vulnerabilities which have been triggered by giving witness and feeling painful emotions.

“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?” – Henri J.M. Nouwen The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

We desire so deeply to be seen and when we are  – it can also be one of the most terrifying experiences, too.

I think there is more we can do in our communities to decrease the numbers of those suffering in silence.

We are not the ‘other’. Either we are struggling or we have come out of our time of suffering so we can support those who are in the pit of pain.

We need to cultivate in our communities permission to share struggles, regularly communicate the message to never stop trying and that showing up for help is deeply important, if not necessary.

This UCLA Loneliness Inventory is a useful tool in assessing you loneliness scale and the need for additional support. 

For those feeling suicidal or who know some struggling with suicide and need support, connect with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To text for help, contact Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., click here international support. Grief and loss resources are available here. (link http://www.griefshare.org/.)

My challenge to you is to dare to reach out this week to one person – whether to share you care about someone or to reach out for your own help.

Never underestimate a courageous act.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Living and Loving in a Culture of Never Enough

 

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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

Space, Agency and Calendars in 2016

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Hello and Happy New Year!

If your email inbox and Facebook feed are anything like mine, it is full of opportunities to buy books, programs, courses and services so you can heal/fix/change what is causing you pain.

It can bit tricky discerning who or what to bring into your circle of support. Breaking through the noise of good marketing can be an exercise in mental gymnastics and restraint – especially when you desire relief asap.

Now, I am a big believer in investing in the right support to achieve my goals both personally and professionally.

Shoot, I have a stack of non-fiction books – fueled by Amazon Prime – about the brain, faith, the soul and human behavior by my bed that are at various places of being read or re-read. I am currently in the middle of consultation to become an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant which has me working with some sharp and big-hearted mentors. And Potentia is inspired by the desire to be a place of refuge that offers specialized and collaborative support in a beautiful space as people rumble with their struggles and goals for a better quality of life.

Yes, desired change is most likely to happen not in a vacuum but when you have the right support surrounding you.

The New Year offers a natural time to reflect, reboot, start, stop – you get the idea.

Sometimes a new beginning can happen mid-year, too.

I had a second quarter course correction last March when I got really sick. So sick I had to cancel work and family trips and almost ended up in the hospital kind of sick.

This wake up call taught me I need to improve how I manage my allergies and recent diagnosis of asthma…. and get more rest. It was a big ah-ha moment reminding me of something I talk a lot about with my clients.

I was so used to the way my lungs were functioning that it was my normal. Like many of my clients, I have a high tolerance for pain as the normal and I was not taking time to notice, reflect and get curious about my discomfort because it was my homeostasis.

When my doctor looked at me and told me about the results of various tests and how surprised she was at all I had been doing with my current lung function, I laughed out loud. She was less amused… and the irony of it all was not apparent to her.

Yes, we all have our blind spots – even when it comes to our personal and professional loves, whatever they may be for you.

But as someone who has “shiny sparkly syndrome”, it is easy for me to get distracted by fun ideas, passions, interests and exciting opportunities.

So, I decided to a hard look at my calendar and made some big changes.

I love calendars. I have a few hard copy versions and I also have everything on my i-calendar. (This one, this one and this one are my favorites of late.)

Because my eyes have always been bigger than my calendar, I had to become better at editing, focusing and being realistic about my time because my old default was if I saw blank space on my schedule, I would fill it. Recalibrating back to my core values and some long conversations with my husband were essential during this second quarter course correction.

I shook my fists as I realized, again, how competition and scarcity sneaked their way back into my life and into my calendar. Oh, how relentless and slippery they are!

Competition and comparison are in our bones – whether you know it or not. It is a dark part of our humanity and you are fooling yourself if you think you can just “stop” competing or comparing without the investment of some serious time in practices to help redirect your default go-to mindsets. In fact, I think it is naive to think they can be eradicated from our lives entirely.

Our brains fire at such a speed that insight takes a bit to catch up before we realize the emotional tailspin we are in. It is more realistic to develop a practice to identify these beasts so you can call them out when they are trying to run your life.

Never forget: Your time and resources are precious commodities. There are billions of dollars invested to have access to your time and resources.

Which makes you pretty darn powerful, whether you believe it or not.

It may not feel like you have agency over your time and resources – especially when they are scarce due to health and life circumstances or just feeling like life is running you.

And the connection between how you manage the stressors in your life and your health, wellness and shame is crucial – or your time and resources slip away in a way that zaps you of living a life that is fulfilling and connected.

As you look at your 2016 with whatever calendar you use – make a commitment to re-evaluate how you want to use your time and resources.

If you are desiring more from your relationships, career, faith, physical health and are not sure where to start – scheduling time to invest in your desired area of growth is not a waste. And focus on one area at a time. In truth, all of the areas you desire change and growth are connected, so start one place and be steadfast.

Scheduling space to honor your priorities to: pray, write, reflect, create, play, dream, heal, grow is crucial.

That time does not need to be burdened with bullet points or to-do lists fueled by reactive “shoulds” outside of your core values. Nor does it have to be explained away or justified. You have been given agency and stewardship over your calendar.

Adjusting your expectations of all you need to do and when you need to do it by may help decrease the stronghold of perfection and scarcity mentality.

Perfectionism and scarcity may call this time indulgent and spike feelings of anxiety when your schedule is not completely booked. But if you schedule this space – just 3-5 hours a week – into your calendar to focus on what matters most to you this year, you may surprise yourself.

I ever-so-gently dare you to try this new approach to your time.

Of course, I have a bias on the importance and impact of mental health on our lives. Making time to rumble with emotional aches, loneliness, loss requires marking time off on your schedule to create space to heal instead of numbing out with the busyness of life.

Literally blocking out time on your calendar for what honors the desires of your soul is an investment. It also exponentially increases the chances you will make the time to do what you scheduled.

If you have been running at full speed for years, it will spike some anxiety in your brain as it takes time for your brain to develop a new homeostasis.

A good place to start using your calendared time of reflection is to do an inventory of where you spend your resources, your thought life and your time – it gives a good picture on what matters to you and who+what is getting the best of you.

And I often find that this data is not always in sync with core values and priorities – which is good data for further reflection.

This space is about looking at the hard things straight on and getting curious about how they are impacting your life.

As a result, new boundaries, improving tolerance of the discomfort of letting people down and (re) defining relationships may be necessary. All of these will require some space and even some support.

Consider engaging in this process with others in some capacity. It gets you out of your head and dares you to trust those who have earned the right to hear your story.

Remember – you are very powerful. Billions are invested into getting access to your time and your resources  – whether they are life giving or not.

Even if your power has been taken away from you, you can rise.

Instead of resolutions, diet programs or succumbing to the allure of quick fix programs, consider just making this space in your life – and on your calendar – to ask these questions:

  • Where do you desire change in your life?
  • Who+What is asking for your time and resources?
  • Who is even getting the opportunity to have an audience with you?
  • What is driving how you spend your time and resources?
  • What do you want shift in these areas in 2016?

Let me know what additional questions you are adding to your reflection time.

And go get 2016. The world needs you to show up in your circle of influence and make your art. Make the space – your life matters.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

Struggle does not equal failure – and other thoughts on struggling.

struggle does not equal failure

Last spring I had the chance to give a talk on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: body and story shame. One of the slides I shared during my talk – featured at the top of this post – garnered the most feedback from participants. I was struck by how powerful this statement was to so many and what a relief people said they felt when they gave themselves permission to separate struggle from their worth and value.

This feedback echoed one of the most common frustrations I hear from people about their frustration with the presence of struggle in their lives and the suffering that often ensues.

Many of the men and women I have met over the years show up in my office feeling like a failure because they are struggling (or are frustrated because they are still struggling) believing “everyone else seems to go through life without struggles like mine.”

Comparison is a beast to reckon with when it shows up. Our brains think comparison is helping us get safe when in fact it just pushes us deeper into the tar pit of fear and frustration.

I have given witness to countless individuals who realized what they believed about struggle was fueling shame. They decided to take a leap of faith and reach out for support  – hoping a different approach to their struggles would offer much needed relief.

Some of the most common myths I hear about struggle are:

  • All struggle is bad.
  • Struggle means I am a failure.
  • I am always going to struggle.
  • A life without struggle is possible and if not achieved, you are doing something wrong.
  • Only weak people struggle.
  • There is no place for struggle at work or in relationships.
  • Struggle means it is all my/their fault.
  • I can’t handle struggle.
  • When something is achieved without struggle, it is not worthwhile or valued.

I believe struggle is crucial to healing and growth. My desire is to continue to grow, heal and learn for the rest of my life, so I know struggle will be a reluctant companion of mine for seasons. It is now important for me to reflect on how my struggle came to be and what has/has not been done to achieve change but also how I respond to the struggles I face.

Be wary of responding to struggle with perfectionism: look perfect, act perfect, be perfect, never let people see you struggle, never let anyone struggle or be disappointed. Perfectionism keeps us frozen in homeostasis, squelches faith, keeps us chasing the unattainable and robs us of the opportunity to build our bandwidth for struggle.

Also caution against responding to struggle with shaming, finger-wagging questions like, “Why did I do that again?”  or “Why do I not have this figured out by now?” or “I know better, why I am still struggling?”.

Taking a posture of curiosity and respect when looking at your struggles or those of your loved ones is crucial. Turning away from the seductive reactivity of judgement, blame, gossip and numbing when struggle arises is also important so not to devalue the pain and uncertainty struggles trigger.

Responding differently to struggle involves (re) redefining your struggle narrative. I believe wholeheartedly in the following:

Struggle is data not an identity.

Struggle is a place of refinement.

Struggle can help discern if it is time for an ending, a change of focus or direction.

Struggling refines and builds fortitude.

Struggle is opportunity to engage and move through the pain, uncertainty and fear.

Struggle is where discomfort and breakthrough meet.

Please note: While I believe struggle is a foundational ingredient to sustained change,  if struggle ever involves physical, emotional, spiritual abuse it is imperative you remove yourself from the situation and get safe along with the appropriate support.

While we are walking this planet there is not a guaranteed end to struggle – which makes all of us susceptible to believing offers of quick and easy ways to deal with the pain of struggle. I am very suspicious and often frustrated with people who offer quick fixes to pain.

These gimmicks feed on fear and exhaustion with well-written promises that are enticing by speaking to your pain points. Good marketing is just that  – good marketing. It even gets to me and causes me to challenge what I know to be true: there is no way around the pain of struggle except through it – taking one step at a time while using hope as a flashlight in the dark.

We also need to caution against equating the duration of our struggles with our worth.

We like the certainty of quantifiable data and there is indeed a good amount of information available which can provide perspective and frameworks on your expectations around struggle. There are many excellent resources available in books, blogs and courses to learn, grow and develop important practices which can revolutionize how you engage with life.

But one-size-fits-all formulas which fuel unrealistic expectations and offer a cure to our struggling are misguided.

To change the narrative around struggle, we need to improve our bandwidth and tolerance for struggle along with the messy and uncertain. Doing the work to address trauma and distressing life events in your story is an important place to begin or continue healing. We are big proponents of EMDR Therapy at Potentia because of its efficacy, the research behind it and the respect it offers when addressing the tender parts of a client’s story.

There is nothing tidy about being a human who desires to engage in a life full of meaning and purpose. Figuring out how to set and maintain boundaries (not walls), getting clear your core values (which help you set boundaries) and building a sustaining shame resilience practice are necessary components to the journey of being human.

The story you tell yourself about struggle can have a powerful impact on how you show up in your relationships and at work; how you pursue dreams, handle rejection and disappointment.

What is the story you are telling yourself about struggle?

Start by sharing your stories of struggle with people who have earned your trust. If you do feel like you have someone to trust with your unedited story, write it down and start wrestling with all aspects of your story of struggle with a posture of respect and curiosity.

It is my hope you view struggle not at something to erase or mask but instead a space where redemption and grace ooze and fill in the holes of pain, loneliness and shame.

For those of you in San Diego, there are some workshops coming up at Potentia where you can can more clarity on the story you are telling yourself about struggle. Register here for the following:

  • (re) Define Perfection: July 31, August 7th and August 14th from 9AM-12PM Cost: $197
  • (re) Define Courage One Day Redux Workshop: August 21, 2015 Cost: $247 Ministry, Student and Wellness Professional Rate: $197 RDC Alumni Rate: $100

And for those of you not in San Diego:

  • The (re) Define Body Image:Choosing Respect Over Body + Story Shame e-course will be launching again this fall on October 5th. It will be a pay-what-you-can fee, though the suggested rate is $97.

I am also going to be giving the (re) Define Body Image: Choosing Respect Over Body + Story Shame talk I referenced at the beginning of this post at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene on September 19th from 9AM-12PM. Email me at rebecca@potentiatherapy.com and I will send you the registration details when they become available.

Cheering you on as you seek to tell a different story about struggle –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

 

 

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

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

 

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.