A Closer Look at Shame

What is shame and how does it serve us? Shame is a self-conscious emotion; typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self. It also differs from guilt.

Shame tends to have deep roots and it typically develops because of early experiences with disconnection. A parent fails to become attuned to their child’s emotional needs, the experience of being physically or emotionally abandoned, all acts of abuse. The lack of connection doesn’t allow the child to see themselves as worthy and loved and as a result, they begin to feel flawed.

As children, we have no true ability to deal with such distressful and unpleasant emotions, and so we carry them. Shame is tied to our sense of self, and when we are triggered to feel it, we immediately go to feeling flawed, unworthy, not lovable. Shame often imbolizes us; keeps us feeling stuck, hidden. But it does not have to be this way. 

First, we can begin to recognize that shame is the brain’s way of dealing with the threat of disconnection. The word ‘threat’ we can recognize as one that needs to be examined, for as a child, we may have not had the ability to deal with traumatic experiences, but as adults we do.

The first step is to simply label what we are feeling. “I am feeling shame right now and that is okay. I know that it protected me at a time in my life when I couldn’t protect myself. I can move out of this feeling and have a voice. I can make my own choices.”

Labeling shame is the first step in distancing ourselves from the emotion. Tomorrow’s post will examine how self-compassion allows us to transform shame from something that owns us, to something we can manage.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@silvestrimatteo

 

Words to Keep Going

Sometimes the road seems long. Uncertainty almost always undermines our confidence. This quote by Morgan Harper Nichols can help us to realize that grace is always at work (even when we don’t feel it):

“Remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. Remember the things you never thought you would accomplish but did. You may have a long way to go but never discredit how far you have come. May you always remember endless, boundless grace that finds you over and over again.” – Morgan Harper Nichols

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Village of Attachment; Post 2

Yesterday’s post featured the importance of a village of attachment for our children. It is the concept that embraces the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and how kinship and community can provide adult relationships of attachment for children in addition to their parents.

In westernized society, the nuclear family has moved farther and farther away from the concept of village, and has become insular. Some ways that we can begin to move towards cultivating our own village of attachment include:

  • Being open to the concept of a village of attachment. We can begin by familiarizing ourselves with what attachment means and how children can flourish by having extended family (and friends) as additional attachment figures.
  • Begin to create a network of ‘aunties and uncles’. Get to know your neighbours, cultivate friendships, connect with your children’s school and their teachers. One of the principals of our local elementary school believed in the importance of connection and she would greet each child by name when they walked into the school each morning. That is cultivating a village of attachment.
  • Become involved in community organizations. When we first moved into our community 25 years ago, the Welcome Wagon showed up at our door. Not only did we get a lovely basket of locally made goods, we were given valuable information about service clubs and organizations of our small town.
  • Offer to help. I will never forget being down at the park when my three year fell off her bike, newborn in my arms, and two moms came over to help. By offering to help we cultivate the notion that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • Ask for help. When we have begun the process of cultivating familial type relationships with others that we trust, we can both ask for and offer time shared so that our children can be influenced by other parents/family members who share our values.

When we value the village, we value relationship. It won’t happen overnight, but it is possible to create a village that not only allows our children to rest in the security and safety of attachment, but one in which we feel the love and support of others around us.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@barchpou

Our Village of Attachment

My sister and I grew up away from family as my parents settled in a small Ontario town for a job opportunity. As a result, we saw our maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins only a few times a year. Although we were close and loved going to Massachusetts, the physical distance didn’t allow us to fully take advantage of our ‘village of attachment.’

The African saying of “It takes a village to raise a child,” is a rather accurate reflection of what our attachment village is – the natural circumstances that allow kinship and community to help with the raising and care of children. It is the emotional bonds children form with extended family members, close neighbours and family friends, that allow a child to be influenced and cared for by adults in addition to their own parents. When we lean into our village, we broaden and expand our circle of attachment, creating for our children deeper familial roots and a stronger foundation from which to navigate from.

Perhaps because of our experience of being away from extended family, a natural response for my sister and I was to cultivate an attachment village for our own children. Time spent between our homes, and that of our parents was pretty free flowing; if it wasn’t sleepovers for the kids on the weekends, it was time spent together after school. Summers were a often a blur of children to be found in any of our three homes.

Although I can honestly say that the intention to form an attachment village wasn’t based on the knowledge we now have about the importance of kinship in raising our children, it happened nonetheless and I am forever grateful that my girls have a strong village – which also includes life long friends who have become family to my kids.

It takes a village to raise a child.

Tomorrow’s post will look at how we can move towards creating an attachment village for our children.

Photo credit:https://unsplash.com/@nixcreative

5 Facts About Energy (and how it relates to mental health)

It is surprising how much energy can play a role in our mental health. Here are 5 interesting facts about it:

  1. A body in motion stays in motion. Newton’s Law of Physics applies to us as well; when we have a plan for our day and begin to work through our list, we generate and sustain energy. This allows us to feel accomplished and productive.
  2. According to the law of conservation, energy can not be created or destroyed – it can only be transformed. This helps us to see the importance of putting out into the universe what we wish to receive. This can include positive affirmations, thoughtful intentions for ourselves and our loved ones, moments of peaceful reflection.
  3. Everything around us is energy. All the more reason to get outside and soak up the peaceful energy of the trees, the sun, the rain, the silent drifting of the clouds, the calm stillness of the water, the gentle breeze of the wind.
  4. Our physical energy directly affects our mental energy. 3 ways that we sustain physical energy is through proper nutrition, enough exercise to keep ourselves healthy, a good night’s rest.
  5. Energy is renewable. This applies to our energy system as well; we renew our energy throughout the day by giving ourselves permission to rest and consciously feeding our comfort system.

We can use these facts about energy to purposefully design our day to include the use of our energy field to best support our emotional health. Sounds like a good plan to me 🙂

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Affirmation to Ground You

The words “I am” have the power to bring that energy into your life. I came across this lovely affirmation by Carly Marie:

I AM GROUNDED

My spirit is grounded

deep in the earth.

I am calm, strong, centered 

and peaceful. I am able to 

let go of fear and 

trust that I am eternally safe.

I am worthy of all things

BEAUTIFUL.

– Carly Marie

When we can shift our focus into an energy that we want to increase in our lives, it has the potential to create that which you seek.

Photo credit:https://unsplash.com/@emben

4 Attention Seeking Behaviours that Are Not Cool

Communication in relationships takes work. It is one of those things that doesn’t always come easily; firstly, due to our emotional brain and how it likes to trump our rational brain, and secondly, we have often learned unhealthy communication patterns throughout our relationship history.

When we get annoyed or angry with someone, it is often a natural response to lean into attention seeking behaviours. In those moments, we have shifted to a focus on being right; on having our feelings justified. Four attention seeking behaviours that, in the long run, hurt the relationship include:

  • Threatening to leave the relationship. Using ultimatums when you are angry serves no valuable purpose. We can only change ourselves – threatening to leave as a way to induce change never works in the long run as it creates a promise out of fear. We should only use an ultimatum when we are prepared to follow through. 
  • The silent treatment. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the silent treatment is effective. It’s sulking. Period. Something didn’t go your way, so you punish the other by not speaking to them for days. The silent treatment is an immature anger response.
  • Trying to induce jealousy. Any time we compare a loved one in our lives to someone else (an ex, sibling, friend), we are character shaming. Nothing good can come of that.
  • Behaviours that tend to be dramatic in nature. Eye rolling, ignoring texts or phone calls (or excessive texting), slamming of doors, smashing something. Those behaviours do get attention, but not the right kind as they pull our loved one into a game, and not into repair and solution.

Relationship communication tends to work best when we are aware of our attention seeking behaviours and work to curb them. Whatever is learned can be un-learned; this will lead to healthier communication habits that will ripple out in all aspects of our relational lives.

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Why Crying is Good For Us

When we have a good cry, we generally feel better. In an article entitled “8 Benefits of Crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears” by Lana Burgess and featured on MedicalNewsToday, we get a backing up with science as to why crying is good for us. A few points that resonated:

  • It creates a soothing effect. “Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which helps people relax.” Hello comfort system 🙂
  • Crying is primarily an attachment behaviour. When we cry, we also get soothed by others as they are drawn by compassion; this also helps to strengthen connection.
  • Crying is a mood booster. “Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins.” This is great news for not only lifting our spirits, but for relieving pain as well.

Although we have often been taught that crying is a sign of weakness, we can begin to recognize and appreciate the therapeutic role of shedding tears. Shared tears can also lend ourselves to greater experiences of bonding as we often feel comforted when others share our pain. And crying in therapy is nothing we ever need to apologize for – as a client recently said to me “If you’re peeling the onion, you can expect to cry.”

To read the article cited above: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319631#benefits-of-crying

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A Little Reminder About Curiosity

In order to experience growth in our lives, we need to be curious. It is, after all, the greatest challenger of fear. When our fear response is activated, we become very focused on what threatens us – both real and perceived. It is the perceived fears that will hold us back; that will keep us stuck.

When we begin to question the validity of the fear, we begin to loosen its grip.

“Does it have to be this way?” “What would happen if I looked at this differently?” “What would it feel like to begin to explore the possibility of an alternative (job, relationship, habit, etc.)?” “Can I tolerate the discomfort of trying something new?”

When something feels unfamiliar, we fear it and therefore assume it must be avoided. And yet, sometimes what feels familiar isn’t healthy. It is the realization of this that allows curiosity to begin its lovely work of gently reminding fear that although valued for keeping us safe, it is also time to step aside. After all, we have work to do 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@jkmills

One of the Top Ways to Love Unconditionally

To love someone unconditionally takes a conscious effort. We have our own value systems, attitudes, opinions and beliefs. We have ways we like to do things, habits that have formed over time, and individualised experiences that help form who we are in relationship. And as a result, if we are not careful, love can become conditional. It can be overt or implied; conditional love involves a ‘set of rules’ that one must follow to feel approval and acceptance from their loved one.

Unconditional love includes acceptance of who a person is. It is not about their behaviours, choices or their level of success or achievement. Loving someone unconditionally involves stability, consistency and being attuned to their needs. What is one of the top ways that we can consciously love someone without condition? Show up.

  • Be intentional. Check in on loved ones, ask how someone is doing. Invite someone over, suggest a time to chat.
  • Listen with an open mind. Feeling validated is a core component of feeling accepted.
  • Be open to being vulnerable. Sometimes we are going to get feedback that may insult, anger or hurt; this may require being vulnerable to our own actions that may be hurting the relationship in some way.
  • Be mindful of relationship manners. Get somewhere on time; don’t be the friend that always cancels or doesn’t answer texts.
  • Remind someone that they are loved. Sometimes our loved ones are struggling to make healthy choices and we need to set some boundaries – within that process, we can still say “I love you.”
  • Create opportunities for joy. Moments of joy and laughter help to cement the relationship through shared experiences.

Loving unconditionally is not always an easy process. By showing up, we help another to feel accepted, appreciated and cared for. We help feed their soul.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@k_yasser