In the course of a human life-span, there are so many transitions to contend with. Most of us will transition, as children, from one school to another. Many of us will move from one home to another, sometimes it will be a ‘big move’ to another state. About half of us will deal with the divorce of our parents in childhood.
As adults, we often have major transitions to college and into the working world. At these times we are thrust into a new world that demands that we find new resources: new people to depend on, new grocery stores to find our sustenance, new schedules and daily routines. We may have to find new ways to relate if we are in an entirely different culture.
In any transition there is often an anticipatory period, an acute period of active transitioning and an adjustment period.
In the anticipatory period we are contemplating the transition and planning for the change to come. This phase can take weeks, months, or years. When the transition is a sudden death or unexpected situation, we skip this phase.
In acute transition we are in the throes of labor and delivery if we are giving birth, we are hauling boxes and furniture if we are moving, we are signing a marital license and saying our vows if we are getting married, or having the difficult conversations about terminating a relationship if one needs to come to an end. The acute phase is the shortest one, but often the most emotionally or physically taxing.
In adjustment, we are working on acclimating to our new life situation. Unpacking – both literally and figuratively – is taking place. Perhaps we enlist the support of a friend or therapist to process the shift and come to terms with what has taken place and how we can reorient ourselves to what is happening now.
When life’s big changes take place, we often lose our rhythm with our coping skills and healthy habits. Due to various factors, we stop doing the things that we generally rely on to keep us grounded or centered.
This is a big part of what makes transitions so hard:
Another major factor:
While smooth transitions are ideal, they don’t always happen. Last minute SNAFUs, delays, and setbacks seem more likely when we’re in the midst of making changes. Uncertainty and the anxiety that it can bring about can be so overwhelming that it can keep us stuck in the familiar, yet undesirable, forever.
If you are finding yourself in a period of transition and would like to talk about what is coming up for you: whether you are seeking closure, clarity, or needing support, I would be happy to help. Contact me today to see if we’d be a good fit to work together.
Asheville is such a wonderfully unique community. An oasis of open-mindedness and diversity amid an otherwise deeply conservative bible belt. In the abundant therapeutic community we have, your options for providers are many. When it comes to wanting to talk about some of the most intimate aspects of your humanity, your gender identity or sexual life, the provider you choose for counseling can determine the success of your endeavor.
I offer a sex-positive approach, which promotes safe and consensual expressions of sexuality. It is my view that sexuality, in its many forms, is a healthy and life-giving part of our human experience.
Sexual experience is not the same for everyone. Not everyone chooses monogamy. Everyone does not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. Sexual attraction to the “opposite gender” is not always the case. It is vital to honor these variations in our experience.
I offer gender-affirming care in my psychotherapy practice for individuals that identify as gender diverse, gender nonconforming, transgender, genderqueer, or nonbinary.
In my counseling practice I work with:
Monogamy and Polyamory
Sexual Self-Esteem and Confidence
As a cisgender female identifying woman (pronouns: she/her/hers) I am aware of my own privilege and I am not an expert on, nor do I truly understand what it is like to be trans or gender nonconforming. However, I do have a deep respect for these experiences and can support, affirm, and hold space for individuals on these journeys.
Also, while I am not a certified sex therapist, and I do not provide couples therapy, I can offer a knowledge base of issues faced by individuals struggling in the areas of gender, intimacy, sexual preference, and anxiety related to sex.
I offer an accepting, non-judgmental space to explore your unique sexuality and challenges you are facing.
I am currently in the process of reading Kristen Neff’s book Self Compassion and just came across, seemingly for the millionth time, the reference to “putting on your own oxygen mask first.” In case you haven’t heard this frequently used in-flight instruction demonstrating the importance of self care, I am here to break down why it is simply the greatest psychology metaphor of all time.
Psychotherapy and Exploring The Self
So much of what we psychotherapists are doing with our clients is exploring The Self: the self as separate from family of origin, from partners, parents, friends, children, and siblings. So often, the reasons that elicit the need for psychotherapeutic services are relationships gone wrong. Early childhood trauma, parents that were too self absorbed or uneducated on the basic needs of infants and young children or the lifelong impact of not meeting those needs, and unsatisfying or abusive adult relationships often leave individuals feeling confused, stuck, and anxious and lead people to seek help.
As we look at what has transpired within these relationships, and how they have become sources of pain, we also begin to look more closely at the self of the person who has sought our help. Together, we begin to inquire. Who is this person? What are the needs of this separate self?
What we often find is that the self has needs, desires, and ways of being that are distinct and unique. Taking good care of that separate self is one of the chief tasks of adulthood. Hence, the analogy.
We, as adults in relationship with others, must become good stewards of our own experience so that we can, in turn, be good caregivers to others.
An Experiment for Cynics
Don’t believe me? Here’s an experiment: for the next week, avoid doing anything simply because you enjoy it. Commit only to doing things that are in the service of others: your kids, partner, friends, colleagues, etc. Notice how you feel at the end of that week (if you can make it that long!). Exhausted? Irritable? Angry? Resentful?
How are the relationships themselves? Strained? Tense? One-sided?
When we care for others at the expense of caring for ourselves, ultimately, relationships suffer and everybody loses. A burned-out, overworked and anxious employee is hardly in a position to offer the same level of clarity, creativity and critical thinking as someone who has a balanced work/play/rest lifestyle. An exhausted, energetically depleted mother can not give the same level of presence and empathy to a struggling child as a mother who is rested and well cared for.
Back to The Metaphor
The instruction given at the beginning of every commercial flight states “in case of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting someone else.” This clearly illustrates how caring for yourself is paramount in order for you to truly care for others. Breathing is a symbol for life, for being. Inhabiting a human body requires regular care and maintenance: rest, food, water, touch, movement. If we don’t tend to the needs of the body we get sick. Tending to the needs of the psyche/soul also sustain life, infusing it with meaning and understanding, allowing us to make connections, grow and evolve. Taking a holistic perspective requires that we view ourselves as consisting of many parts: mind and body; soul and spirit.
As adults, we afford ourselves and those in our care the opportunity to experience true generosity and abundance when we are able to tend to our own metaphorical gardens. Otherwise we run the risk of showing up for relationships empty handed, without resources and craving that someone else will fill us up. Not only can this lead to disappointment by expecting from others what they may not be able to give, but this caring for ourselves also serves as a protective function. When we do show up for relationships in desperate need for affection and attention, we open ourselves up to victimization by predators who may give us something, but ultimately take more than what’s offered.
Essentially, this metaphor encourages us to help others. It stresses the importance of being able to be there for others in their time of need. But who are you going to help if you can’t breathe?
So many of us struggle with the daily grind of motherhood. Depending on our children’s ages, it could be exhaustion, maintaining a demanding nursing/feeding/sleeping schedule, lack of family support, emotional meltdowns/tantrums, social obligations, sibling feuds, a general lack of resources, or other life stressors that we find most challenging. While motherhood can be incredibly isolating, it can also be an incredible growth opportunity – a time that we shift our focus and understanding, or our way of showing up in the world.
Coming together in a small group format of 4-6 women, Mindful Mamas will gather weekly to learn about and explore the intersection of Buddhist philosophy and motherhood. Groups are a great way to find connection, validation, and perspective on our life situation. In this six-week group that includes both educational and experiential components, we will cover the following:
The basics of Buddhist philosophy and how they relate to the everyday challenges of motherhood
Ways to deal with negative emotional states such as guilt, anger, and worry from a Buddhist perspective
Mindfulness practices that will best serve you in discovering and maintaining inner calm and presence
As a mother of a toddler and step-mother to both a tween and a teen, I can relate to the need for practices to sustain, nourish, and cultivate the inner calm necessary to remain afloat in the occasionally murky waters that are motherhood! As a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice, I hold certifications in Buddhist Psychology and Teaching Classical Hatha Yoga. I have been a practitioner of yoga and meditation for over fifteen years and I feel that both my life and the lives of my loved ones are benefitted from these great traditions.
In the past year I have been enrolled in and engrossed by a certificate course on traumatic stress, offered by The Trauma Center and The Body Keeps the Score author Besel Van Der Kolk. During weekly lectures, I have learned more about different types of traumatic experience and ways to work with these experiences in psychotherapy than I would have previously thought possible!
One particular area of my research is something that is referred to under many different names: Developmental Trauma/Attachment Trauma/Interpersonal Trauma/Early Attachment Wounds/Slow Trauma
This is the trauma that results from a lack of attunement in early life experiences, either in infancy or childhood, with our primary caregivers. The experience of neglect, or of absence of care in the tender moments when we most needed attention, support, loving kindness from the adults in our lives, especially when this lack becomes the standard rather than the exception, can be incredibly damaging on the nascent psyche of a child. It is sometimes called slow trauma because it takes place over time, during repeated experiences of not being reassured, held or supported by a mature adult when we are most in need of care, rather than one specific traumatic event that occurred.
As adults, we can experience the damaging effects of this neglect as feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, low self-esteem, as a sadness that seems to be without origin, and often, it results in challenges regulating internal states of distress and can lead of chronic anxiety and depression.
A passion of mine is working with individuals dealing with this type of trauma. Through connecting with the inner child that was hurt, deep grieving and cultivating new practices that support and nurture the Self, we can return to the source of the pain and heal the parts of self that most need nurturance.
“I’m not a good meditator, I can’t stop my thoughts”
“I’m not a good breather”
I can’t count the times I have heard these sentiments expressed, but every time I hear them, they break my heart a little bit. Truth be told, I am guilty of having said the second statement myself. I said it during my first year of graduate school, in my mid-twenties, during a time that I was encountering multiple new worlds: yoga, meditation, fully embodied presence and clear and effective feelings-focused communication which I had never before encountered. I was overwhelmed and awed by this paradigm shift and in my new understanding of what was possible.
I was also extremely self-critical. I had come to associate the relentlessly analytical judge in my mind who let me know when I had said or done the wrong thing with my true self. (I later realized this judge was an impostor!)
I know now that I am a natural-born breather. I know that my breath will sometimes be fast and labored, particularly during times of heightened stress. I also know my breath can be slow and steady. It can calm and soothe me when I harness its power to affect my parasympathetic nervous system. I also know that my breath can be used as a tool to anchor me in the present moment, so that I can be fully aware and come back to the now when my mind begins to wander or I get lost in my own thoughts.
As a part of my work as a licensed professional counselor, I often introduce clients to meditation and breathing exercises, and I often hear these “I’m bad at it” concerns expressed. Dispelling the myths about what mediation is and is not is often the first step in that process. Above is a short video by Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg that breaks down some of those myths and includes a few minutes of guided meditation so that you can learn and practice on your own. Below is another, longer guided meditation by meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.