A Different Perspective on Scarcity Mindset and Responding to a Culture of Never Enough

Scarcitymindset

Note: This adapted post was first posted on the Darling Magazine blog summer of 2016. 

WHAT IS SCARCITY MINDSET?

Down to our DNA, we crave connection, adventure and a life of meaning and purpose. If you are living from a narrative fueled by scarcity mindset, the world can quickly become small, lonely and scary, shrouded in judgement and entrenched in the never-ending hustle for safety.

When we don’t believe we are enough – that we are doing enough, or that there is enough opportunity in the world for us – then a scarcity mindset is in the driver’s seat where you belong. Scarcity mindset is a cocktail of shame; it’s obsessive comparison and competition, and a disengagement from taking risks which may result in failure, being misunderstood or being seen as flawed. Living from a scarcity mindset leads to emotional exhaustion and constant distrust.

The following are warning signs that scarcity mindset is impacting your confidence. You…

Are in a constant state of comparison.
Find yourself wishing others do not succeed and are consumed by competition.
Find your worth and identity are externally motivated.
Feel worse about yourself after an interaction with someone in person or on social media.
Are constantly anxious but do not know why.
Are clinging to perfection as the ideal way of being/doing.

Becoming a wise consumer of information is crucial in our culture of ‘never enough.’ Relentless messages about whether you are enough, there is enough or your are doing enough takes a toll on the brain and the body. Scarcity mindset can hijack your confidence, your trust and confuse what you value by using the fear of disconnection and rejection as your guide on how to think and act. Marketers, advertisers and others desiring to get you to buy, vote, share, or believe are attuned to the psychology of human behavior, and are aware that a scarcity mindset is a powerful force of influence that allows fear and shame to be the leading emotions driving your decision making process.

Scarcity mindset can hijack your confidence, your trust and confuse what you value by using the fear of disconnection and rejection as your guide.

At the root of scarcity mindset is fear. Fear is an important and protective emotion, but too much fear can leave the nervous system in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, seeking immediate relief and comfort. This intense, emotional state chips away at the resilience needed to tolerate sitting in the space of suffering and struggle, and finding ways to grow from it.

Choosing to invest in relationships and dreams leaves all of us vulnerable to a scarcity mindset. Left unchecked, it infects our ability to trust and stay grounded in knowing that things will be okay, even when the outcome is uncertain. When self-worth becomes intertwined with what you do, look like or have, confidence disappears and the chase for the approval of others becomes the norm. Claiming the power and agency given to all of us is a crucial practice and a powerful resource in response to the messages of scarcity.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON SCARCITY MINDSET

Here is the curve ball on scarcity mindset: It has a noble cause. It’s trying to protect you from failure, rejection, being separated from needed connection. Scarcity mindset is actually a protective part of your inner world and is not to be loathed, fixed, or banished. It is one of the brain’s many ways of trying to keep you safe.

Most of the threats we experience these days are to our sense of self — keeping our nervous system on high alert. This is exhausting and can have a detrimental impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Scarcity mindset gets you to turn on yourself in an attempt to get safe.

When you develop confidence in the face of uncertainty, fear has a way of cleansing and clarifying – you become powerful instead of paralyzed. 

One question will help you get clarity and to the heart of how scarcity mindset is impacting your life today: What are you afraid of?

This self-awareness is crucial. When you take the time to be honest about your fears, you are then able begin the work to re-wire your brain’s responses to these threats. When you develop confidence in the face of uncertainty, fear has a way of cleansing and clarifying – you become powerful instead of paralyzed.

Scarcity mindset gets you to turn on yourself in an attempt to get safe. In her book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy, Ph.D. writes about the importance of claiming our personal power to stay grounded in our self-confidence:

“Personal Power is characterized by freedom from dominance of others. It is infinite, as opposed to zero-sum – it’s about access to and control of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities, our boldest selves…Personal power makes us more open, optimistic, and risk tolerant and therefore more likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.”

HOW TO RESPOND TO SCARCITY MINDSET

It’s easy to over-identify with the pain and suffering we see around us. Approach the scarcity mindset part of you with curiosity and compassion. Confidence combined with the lens of common humanity — we are in this human journey together — reminds you to stay grounded in the truth that your imperfections, failures, mistakes and difficult life experiences are what unites us all. It is a part of being human.

Respond to self-critical thoughts with compassion and curiosity. Instead of viewing these thoughts at the enemy and something to be eliminated, recognize this part of your inner life is trying to protect you and serves a purpose.

On the hard days, give yourself permission to:

– Unfollow
– Unplug
– Reach out and connect with someone, in person
– Practice choosing respect, which may feel awkward and inauthentic at first
– Rest
– Move
– Get outside

Caution against seeing abundance as the opposite of scarcity – which is a common message in response to scarcity. As Brené Brown notes in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, “The counter approach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin.” Chasing abundance only fuels scarcity mindset and the feelings of never enough.

Does a scarcity mindset sound familiar to you? What is is one way you can challenge yourself to live outside of fear?

Scarcity mindset is not going anywhere, especially in our information age where so much money is to be made by seeking quick fixes to the distress of not feeling enough. Fight to claim your power and confidence in this culture of never enough and know the space you create will be contagious. The world needs you to show up and be seen.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Consider making this one thing a priority in 2017…

therapy-couch-at-potentia

“The opposite of belonging is to feel isolated and always (all ways) on the margin, an outsider. to belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.”

Peter Block in Community – The Structure of Belonging. 

At Potentia, we understand the deep need for all of us to find a place to belong. We also know first hand hand how easy it is to let parts of your story hijack your present and your future.

Our culture’s mixed messages around what it means to be well can fuel fears of being misunderstood, keeping many scared while rumbling in secret with stories of struggle, afraid of losing what matters most – connection.

Addictions, betrayal, mental health struggles, grief, trauma, perfectionism and shame touch all of us directly and indirectly through those we love and lead. Attempting to try and think yourself out of your pain often exacerbates the pain fueled by the barriers of stigma + access to resources – keeping way too many people in isolation.

Though struggle can trigger feelings of:

  • fatigue from stagnated attempts to heal
  • overwhelm
  • frustration
  • being trapped by the belief that change is not possible

it is easy to forget that struggle is not failure but a place of growth, wisdom. And every rumble to heal has a timeline of its own – so caution against comparing your struggle to the journey of others.

I know we are biased on this matter but we believe one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones is to make healing emotionally something to respect and value.

Our hope is that you will make your mental health a priority now and in the new year. Leaving mental health issues unaddressed will make it harder to achieve your goals, desires, dreams, and to find that sense of deep belonging within and with those in your life. 

Yes… the time, resources and energy that is needed to heal is nothing but tidy and streamlined – any quick fix plan offered to heal deep soul pain will fall short of you showing up day in and day out to do the messy work to heal.

Slower is often faster when it comes to mental health healing. Making mental health a priority in your life will help you show up in your life with more clarity, connection and confidence.

All of us at Potentia continue to invest our own time and resources studying, training, consulting and collaborating – along with supporting our own mental health –  so we can offer our clients and their families the best support. We also believe you play a crucial role in the process of changing the stigma around mental health issues. By doing your own deep soul work, you are leading by example. Your courage in this process will be contagious and inspire others to take the brave leap to ask for help.

We would be honored to help you and those you care for find relief and more meaning in life. If you are looking for resources outside of the San Diego area, check out the following sites to find support near you:

Psychology Today

edreferral.com

EMDRIA.org

Center for Self Leadership

The Daring Way™

Cheers to (re) Defining Health in 2017! Keep us posted on how we can be a resource for you.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

 

PS – We would love for you to come to our I Choose Respect Open House + Fundraiser on January 14th, 2017 from 4-7PM. Local artists and makers will be featured along with great food + community plus our I Choose respect photo booth as we prepare for our 4th annual I Choose Respect effort. Click on the image below to register!

 

icr-2017-open-house

Results May Vary…

Happy Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results. May. Vary.

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

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

Yes, results still may vary.

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

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

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

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

With gratitude  –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Founder + CEO of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

 

(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

Are you in? Fat Talk Free Week 2014

Your voice is powerful.
I really appreciate the leadership of Delta Delta Delta and their vision for Fat Talk Free Week.

This year’s Fat Talk Free Week kicks off tomorrow and runs through Friday, October 20th.

I value taking a week – with the hope it will extend longer – to intentionally redirect fat talk in our heads, with our friends or about others to more honest, life-giving, respectful dialogue.

We all need a break from the “I am so___”, “If only I were___”, “I hate my _____”, “I am not ______ enough” conversation.

Scarcity culture is exhausting. (Click to Tweet)

Bullying others or ourselves with fat talk only fuels deeper pain and fat talk represents attempts to manage the parts of our story triggered by pain, fear, loneliness, anxiety and more.

Which is why taking a break from the fat talk is important. Even more important is to get to the heart of the meaning of our fat talk by talking about our hurts in a constructive manner – with the right person at the right time.

Taking a break from fat talk does not mean stuffing your pain.

Early in my training in the treatment of eating disorders and trauma, I was told “fat” is not a feeling. Over a decade of treating men and women taught me differently – that it is often a fight to have a positive relationship with their body and their reflection in the mirror. They also taught me how the quick fix pressure to “just love their body” often backfired because they felt so ashamed for not loving, let alone liking, the body they have been given.

So, yes, stopping the fat talk is needed. Desperately. But we cannot stop there.

We still need to talk about how we are feeling and develop a better way to tolerate struggle and negative emotion. Distressing life events, brain chemistry imbalances, family of origin, temperament all can alter our trust in ourselves, our bodies and others.

When we are feeling out of control – focusing on our bodies or comparing ourselves to others is a common default. Turning on ourselves or others with biting, judgy, harsh words only fuels more biting, judgey, harsh words.

At the heart of fat talk is a lot of hurt and insecurity which needs to be voiced and given some air time. Our struggle feeling comfortable in our skin along with our desire to feel connected is real. Fat talk is an attempt way to hot wire connection or appease our inner critic.

What we really are searching for is to know if we are ok, we are loved, we belong. When there is doubt about our worthiness, we often look to others to approve or disapprove of our worth. We all struggle with this dance. Belonging and connection are innate desires.

And for those with faith, I see this matter of worthiness dig even deeper as they feel like they are the exceptions to God’s wild and radical love and grace.

It is a constant recalibration to stop externalizing our worth to others and redirect our worth to the One and those who truly matter.

Fat Talk Free Week is not just about semantics or becoming the word police. It is a chance to listen to your heart and see where you are feeling convicted for operating outside of your authenticity.

When fat talk surfaces, it is an opportunity – and a risk – to change the conversation.

Words are powerful. Your voice matters. Choose wisely.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

5 Surprising Ways to Love Your Partner

Note from Rebecca: I am thrilled to introduce you to Brian Reiswig, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. I first met Brian when he was a graduate student of mine last spring. His big heart, sharp mind, wisdom and calming presence inspired me to invite him to join the Potentia clinical team and I am so grateful he agreed to join us! He is digging deep in his training and supervision as he develops his clinical expertise to support couples, men with compulsive behaviors, trauma/EMDR and those struggling with food and body issues. I am excited so many will have a chance to learn from him via this blog in addition to his clinical work at Potentia. Welcome, Brian!
——
I recently attended a training event for couples therapists from one of the true masters in the field, John Gottman. Known for his straight-forward and practical insight about why marriages suffer and tools for making your marriage great, he’s been a pioneer in the field for more than 40 years. I showed up expecting to learn some new and powerful ways of helping couples get past pain and disconnection and nurture a loving bond. What I didn’t expect was how much his 40 years of research has revealed some insights that are counter-intuitive to what I intuitively thought what made a good marriage. Here are 5 insights from the training that will probably surprise you and will definitely help you foster a deeper, happier connection with your spouse.
 
1. The heart wants connection but the brain gets in the way.

One thing that Gottman did in his research, that most researchers don’t, is he studied what was going on inside the body during conflict not just what was going on between the couple. What he discovered was that the physiology of the brain changes drastically during high stress conflict. When we get into a fight with our loved one, our heart rate speeds up. When it crosses the 100 beats per minute line, we go into a “diffuse physiological state” and our whole body changes gears. To make things worse, our bodies start secreting adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) which send the message to our brains that we are in imminent danger. So, when a conversation about dirty dishes with our partner starts to get tense, the fight or flight response is triggered. The part of our brain where we listen and problem solve shuts down – right when we need it most.

Helpful tip: When you notice yourself getting upset, don’t wait to take a time out. Tell your partner you need some time to calm down, you love him/her, you really want to hear their point of view and be able to take responsibility for yours. Then set a time limit on this break – less than 24 hours. This break isn’t a strategy for abandonment, but one for closeness. Then go practice a calming skill and take a break from thinking about the problem. If you keep thinking about the problem you actually keep your brain in an escalated state.

2. Solving all your problems won’t solve all your problems.

Another counter-intuitive discovery that Gottman made in his research is that conflicts are not resolved by solving problems. Gottman observed that over time, the majority of conflicts in a marriage (about 69%) are never “solved.” Ever. So, for example, the conversation you avoid every year about whose family to visit for Christmas probably isn’t going away. Most couples never finds a solution that puts their big issues to rest permanently. There can be ominous sense of impending doom that comes with unsolved problems between you and your beloved. The difference between the happy marriages and the unhappy ones is that the happier couples make peace with having some issues unresolved and continuing to work through them.

Helpful Tip: Remember that all marriages struggle with unresolved conflict. When you and your partner can’t find a comfortable middle ground to a longstanding conflict, the struggle can grow and grow until if feels like the relationship hangs in the balance. Unsolved problems have a way of feeling like a bad omen, foretelling the demise of your union… unless you remember that all couples have unanswered problems. Just knowing that this kind of struggle is normal takes the emotional charge out of the problem and allows couples to approach their problems from a not-so-catastrophic point of view.

3. Conflict isn
’t the problem.
The day after I proposed to my wife, Sarah, we took a 7 hour road trip to visit family and celebrate the engagement. On that road trip I had a very specific itinerary that we would take advantage of the face time and discuss our vision for our married life together. One of the goals that I had for our marriage, which I had gleamed from endless hours reading self-help books and listening to inspiring speakers, was to never fight. And yes, I was serious. I’ll never forget her face when I explained my expectations, like she was looking at a little boy who wanted to be superman when he grew up. She smiled and gently said, “That’s sweet, but I think we’re probably going to fight sometimes.”  If you just read my reflections on my engagement story and thought my marriage vision was a bit ridiculous – congratulations! You’re way ahead of where I was back then. But it illustrates a myth that I think many buy into and that the idea of conflict is inherently bad.

Helpful Tip:
At it’s core, conflict is healthy. Conflict means you’ve discovered a part of your partner that you don’t yet understand. Conflict is an opportunity for new depths of intimacy. Conflict is an opportunity to know your partner better. But you can get derailed when you bump into those opportunities and mistake them for threats. According to Gottman, conflict is all about listening. Instead of listening to understand, many often speak to be understood or to prove a point. Some just speak to shut down their partner. It is an absolute game-changer if  – in the moment  you realize have entered into the misunderstanding zone – you can remind yourself that all you have to do in this moment is listen. The understanding that comes with listening will ease the tension, even if you do not find a solution to the “problem.” 

4. Friendship is more important than love
As it turns out, the Beatles were wrong. Love is not all you need. If fact, its not even the most important thing you need. Many ask me what could be more important than love for a happy marriage. The answer is friendship. If love is the strength of your commitment to your spouse, than friendship is the strength of your connection. There are a whole lot of people that I love, who I have no interest in spending time with, no sense of safety in sharing my heart with and no special inside culture that is just our own. There are people in my family who I love but I am not really friends with. On the other hand, within my sacred group of people I consider my dear friends, there is no one I do not love. Friendship is the substance of healthy intimacy.

Helpful Tip:
Gottman has discovered that the average U.S. couple with school-age children spends about 35 minutes a week in actual conversation. And most of that time is spent discussing who is going to do what, when, etc. With that sobering statistic in mind, it is no mystery many struggling couples report they love their spouse but when asked about the status of their friendship, they are not as positive. Perhaps a more useful benchmark to the health of our marriages is not “how are we keeping the romance alive?” but instead “how are we keeping the friendship alive?”

5. The landscape is always changing
Building on this idea of friendship as core to marital health, Gottman urges couples to think of their partner as an ever-changing landscape. Just because you got to know them in a deep and personal way while you were dating, or before you started that new job, does not mean you your sense of knowing them is the same today.

Helpful Tip:
Gottman proposes thinking about your knowledge of your spouse as a “love map” that you must constantly update. Building a love map is not a task that you complete. Instead, It is a task that is an ongoing practice. Building a love map is the process of rediscovering who your partner is, what are their values, their beliefs, their preferences, what makes them laugh and what keeps them up at night. Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers.  Asking questions every week about life, goals, dreams, fears and disappointments gives you and your partner a chance to be known and you can show each other that your love is not based on the bond you shared years ago but the one you share today.
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I would love to know which Gottman insight resonated with you the most? Which one surprised you?

Please share your thoughts, reflections and questions in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.
– Brian

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.

Discover the Power of Your Wanted and Unwanted Identities

1. I decided

I am ____________ (fill in the blank).

Many of you can finish the sentence above with a variety of descriptors and attributes. The core beliefs about your identity directly impact how you make decisions in your relationships, at school, work, and in life.

Culture, your family of origin, your faith community, schools, and places of work are constantly communicating messages about your worth and value.

Some of these messages are negative and challenge your ability to see your true worth and value.

And at some point, you start believing some of the negative messages shifting your lens on yourself and the world.

You are not alone. We all wrestle with negative core beliefs about our identity. Sometimes these negative beliefs are screaming at top volume between your ears while other negative beliefs are a quiet whisper that nag at you daily.

Regardless of the volume, inaccurate core identity beliefs can lead to unsafe and broken relationships, isolation, eating issues, addictions, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.

Usually our negative beliefs come from experiences in our story and have taken root in our brains in an effort to keep us safe but end up working against us.  Most of these negative beliefs fall into one of the following categories:

  • I am not enough/I am not _____ enough
  • I am not not safe
  • I am not capable/in control

Our upcoming (re) define Identity workshop will help you:

  1. identify your ideal and unwanted identities
  2. build awareness on how you respond when you are seen in ways you desire and fear
  3. narrow down the core negative beliefs that are keeping you stuck in your relationship with yourself, God, and others, launching you into the process of reclaiming your true identity, worth, and value.

For those seeking to dig deeper and and get unstuck with struggles around your core identity, I recommend finding a practitioner certified (or in process of certification) in EMDR.  This is a powerful psyhchotherapeutic approach that has changed the way I conceptualize cases, approach trauma and all distressing life events.  You can find a local practitioner in your area here.

Space is limited at our upcoming (re) define Identity workshop on September, so register soon if you are interested.

ReDefineIdentity

We cover this material more extensively in our cornerstone Workshop: (re) define Courage: Dare to Show up+Be Seen (formerly Cultivating Courage).

redefine-courage-slide

Our September Weekend Intensive has sold out but there are still spots available in the Nov 1-3 weekend intensive.  January dates for weekend intensives and weekly workshops will be going live soon.  Sign up here to be the first to know about these dates.

 

Enjoy the last days of summer and all the best to those transitioning back to school!

Rebecca