Emotional Erosion

I was doing some reading of my favorite blogs this weekend, and found a beautiful piece on GOOP (Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog).  It was so strange because the night before I read this, I had a dream about soil… about being depleted vs. having rich, nurtured, complete soil.  I don’t believe in coincidences.  The difference it makes in how when soil becomes depleted, nothing can come from it anymore… there can be no more growth.  When applied to our emotional health, this analogy is brilliant. 

Enjoy this article from GP’s blog, consider it a “re-blog.”

The 1930’s is known as the “Dirty 30’s” because of the raging dust storms that ravaged much of Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. A decade of deep plowing by farmers had displaced the native grasses that kept the topsoil in place. With the grass gone and the increased use of heavy, mechanized farm equipment, the land was fully exposed to the elements, degrading quickly and losing all of its life-giving power. When a severe drought came, the un-anchored topsoil dried out and became as fine as powder, taking to the air as the winds whipped across the open plains. What was once living, nutrient rich soil became useless dirt, devoid of any nourishing or nurturing capabilities. Starvation quickly ensued for both man and animal in this area of the country. It’s this despair that Steinbeck’s characters were trying to escape.

Inside all of us, there is grassland that needs tending with the greatest of care. It’s a spiritual ecosystem that’s completely self-contained and self-supporting, so long as we know how to farm it the right way. When we don’t have the proper tools to nurture it, the soil of our soul becomes exposed to the damaging effects of our negative life experiences. quoteIt dries up, loses its nourishing capabilities and blows away, leaving us completely ungrounded. How many people do you know who are flighty, scattered or addicted to drama? They’ve lost their resilience, the ability to nourish and nurture their soul through the ups and downs of life. Think of it this way: If lightning strikes the plains and burns thousands of acres, it only takes days before new shoots of green grass start poking through the ash. The grassland maintains its resilience and can recover from such a traumatic event because the underlying soil, which contains the nourishment for rejuvenation, was never disturbed by the surface damage. Such is how it is with the soul.

quoteSome of us are never given the tools to get through life’s traumas. In a perfect world, it’s our parents who comfort us as children, teaching us how to self-regulate our emotions.  Unfortunately, crying and anger aren’t always met with compassion, and so we learn how to repress our feelings to avoid the consequences. We teach our children—especially young girls—to be people pleasers from a very young age, choosing emotional responses that are agreeable rather than authentic.

Without proper modeling, it becomes impossible for us to navigate the difficulties of our adult lives—divorce, job loss, quoteillness, or the death of a loved one. We can’t apply compassion, empathy, understanding, and non-judgment toward ourselves because we never learned how.  Sure, we can stuff our emotions down and get on with life, but we still carry the emotional charge that’s poisoning the soil of our soul. Eventually, unresolved traumas deplete our soul’s nutrients—like innocence and understanding—and we end up living in a spiritual dustbowl of self-judgment, hopelessness, and cynicism.

quoteRenowned psychologist Wilfred Bion called this kind of existence living in an uncontained state.  Bion believed that elements of thought or emotion carry projective (male) or receptive (female) functions.  If someone is projecting a powerful emotion like anger, his state is uncontained.  He’s in need of someone who understands—who can receive that energy and contain it, completing an emotional cycle where each cancels the other out and equilibrium is restored. For Bion, the crux of his famous Container-Contained Theory is that psychic growth only happens when we can integrate this process within ourselves.

As adults, tens of millions of Americans are living in a perpetual state of uncontained emotion.  quoteTheir soul-scape is completely barren and because they can’t nourish themselves internally, they rely on external sources—illicit drugs, psychotropic medications, food addictions, crime—to do it for them. It doesn’t matter what the mechanism is: It’s always false and its effect, temporary.

I believe it is uncontained emotion that holds the secret to healing all chronic diseases, especially for women.  From an early age, parents inadvertently teach girls to deny their feelings in order to please others, and then the media convinces them to hate their bodies in subtle and insidious ways.  Later in life, we put them in a catch-22: If they stay home to raise their children, they’re holding themselves back, but if they choose work, they’re absentee mothers. We’re constantly putting women up against standards they can’t possibly meet. When you can’t be the ideal wife, mother, girlfriend, teacher, cook, church volunteer, corporate executive and activist at 20 pounds below your healthy body weight, what’s left but to silently (and subconsciously) hate yourself because you’re not perfect?

quoteI believe that this subtle, relentless, uncontained self-hatred is at the root of the autoimmune disease epidemic in women. How else would you personify a body that’s attacking itself as the enemy? The National Institute of Health estimates that 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Even more shocking is the fact that 75% of them are women. The disparity between men and women is even worse when you look at specific kinds of autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (10:1); Grave’s disease (7:1); lupus (9:1). The occurrence of autoimmune disease is so prevalent among women that a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2000 declared that total cases exceeded the 10th leading cause of death for all women, across all categories, between the ages of 15 and 64.

Bion and I would agree that the uncontained self-hatred that gives rise to autoimmune disease needs to be contained with self-love. The problem is that most of us were never taught how to love ourselves, or we have a distorted understanding of what it means. Love affects the body in profound ways, but it’s not enough just to receive it: We must be able to generate that energy within ourselves if we are to maintain our health. To achieve this, we can’t begin at self-love but at self-forgiveness—forgiveness for not being a certain body weight, beauty type, Mother of the Year, the perfect daughter, wife, or anything else. When women let themselves off the hook, they will acquiesce into a place of self-acceptance. It is only in acceptance that we learn what love is.  When love is the nourishment we’re using to seed our soul, our lives become fertile in all areas again. There’s no need to fear the future because we know that so long as constant change is life’s nature, survival doesn’t go to the fittest, but to the most resilient—and resiliency always resides in the richest soil.”

(link to full article & blog: http://www.goop.com/journal/be/270/goop-mag-14-soul)

Advertisements

Inspiration

I’m so happy to see Christie Brinkley’s 60th birthday is this Sunday – seriously, can this woman be aging backwards?  To me, she looks even more beautiful if that is possible, than in her younger years.  Her youthful aging is inspiring.

I’ve always loved the quote from Coco Chanel,

Nature give you the face you have at twenty.  Life shapes the face you have at thirty.  But at fifty you get the face you deserve.”

Little known fact about this woman, she loves art – and creating art.  She moved away to Paris, France at only 18 in order to attend an art school there.  She worked there for 3 years before being scouted as a model by a street photographer, she was still very hesitant to give up her work.

And I can’t seem to stop obsessing over these beautiful creative quote images from Clementine Daily.  They are just beautiful & inspiring.  Click on them to enlarge and save to your computer for inspiration.

And while browsing Clementine’s site, I found this wonderful page on the 8 secrets to a JOYFUL life.  I totally agree (http://clementinedaily.com/2013/12/8-secrets-joyful-life/).

Have a wonderful weekend & remember to look for the beauty in everything.

(Christie Brinkley facts from www.biography.com)

(Clementine Daily photos from www.clementinedaily.com)

Christmas Eve: Wisdom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
 
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
 
I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
 
I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
 
I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
 
I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
 
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
 
I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
 
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
 
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
 
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
 
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

How to Turn a Guy Down

When I was 14, I decided to become a volleyball player – I was never very good, but it was fun and exhilarating.  My parents let me go to a special training camp over the summer, to work with some great coaches and play alongside some of the best in the city – they were really good… really athletic… one girl even dyed her hair blue and made it a point to drink a whole gallon of water a day – ok maybe that wasn’t volleyball-related, but it was interesting for our age.

After the camp, our parents would pick us up, mine always worked till 5pm so I’d wait outside the immense Gymnasium watching for my mom’s car.  They had other sports camps there, and one day a basketball player that had been eyeing me came over and flirted.  I’m naturally kind so I was polite, but I had no intention of making him a boyfriend, or even a friend (I wasn’t nice to strangers).  He flirted harder, I tried to stay neutral to not lead him on, then my mom’s car pulled up, I was relieved.  He asked for my number and I gave him one, the number my mother always called for time and temperature!  I was bad, I didn’t care much about guy’s feelings then, or honesty in general, so of course I told my mom about it and laughed at him in the car thinking myself a real man-eater.

Fast forward 13 years, whenever I have a man flirt with me or outright come on to me now, I’m kinder & upfront.  It takes a lot of courage and guts for a man (or even boy) to come up to someone they think is beautiful, and actually ask her out.  To be rude to them, or worse, ridicule them for daring to go near you is cruel!  I’m reminded of why my mother always told me that young boys prefer real women… because they’re kinder than young girls.  But even men deserve honesty – and they appreciate you so much more because of it.

We had passes to a water amusement park this past summer, so I would take my son fairly frequently, I suppose I look like a single-mother, a young handsome guy came up to us and started flirting with me.  At first I was so annoyed thinking, really?  Can’t you see I’m a mother?  But I could tell he was a genuinely good man, so I was kind to him and thanked him for his compliments and promptly told him I was married (showed him my ring) and put an end to it.  He was so sweet, he brushed aside his embarrassment and still complimented me, saying I was a very beautiful woman and an obviously good mother to my son, and that my husband must be a very lucky man.  I blushed and told him that I was lucky, that my husband is incredible.  I also went outside myself and became very forward in order to compliment him – and tell him that he seemed like a very good man, a lot like my husband, and assured him that he would find someone amazing to love him – and that he deserved it!

He thanked me, and actually blessed me (well… said God bless you with heart-felt meaning behind the words), and we went different ways.  No time & temperature numbers, no leading each other on, just honesty… it’s amazing how much difference it truly makes!  His dignity was preserved, I wasn’t guilty of being cruel, and we both truly blessed each other with very genuine compliments to each other’s souls.  Here are some tips for turning someone down if you’re single & not looking, or married or in a relationship: 

  • Be honest but also kind – don’t say something that’s true but cruel, preserve their dignity, they are a human being
  • Don’t lead them on, tell them you aren’t looking for a relationship of any kind right now
  • Don’t feel like you have to explain why, a kind answer of honesty that you’re not interested is enough
  • Try to imagine that they are a friend or relative, and give them the same treatment
  • Acknowledge their courage & encourage them or compliment them on their gentility
  • If you feel like you might’ve led them on (if they were already a friend) apologize, even if you didn’t mean to

Above all, be genuine and real.  Men (& women) appreciate that the most in life, in every circumstance.