A Psychological Reflection on Autoimmune Disease’s Effects on the Body and Psyche

That’s a long title up there and living with autoimmune disease feels like a long road. I am writing this blog in the spirit of sharing my personal journey to inspire you if you are also on the path of living with autoimmune disease.

I have lived with an AD since I was eleven but I did not know it was an AD until three years ago when a doctor causally said, “Oh you have Hidradenitis Suppurativa,” while giving me an exam. Before that, I only knew that I had some skin curse with no cure. I lived with it by ignoring it even though I was always dealing with it. Denial is strong.

My particular disease is ugly, insidious, painful, and a fucking cross to bear. I have immense compassion for anyone bearing the cross of AD because whichever one you have tends to be incurable and wreaks havoc on the body and psyche.

My disease caused me to feel shame my entire life. I have worked through shame by feeling it with love and letting it go. I am free of it now and it wasn’t easy to release but I did it.

In my mind, I tell myself that we all bear our crosses, all bodies are imperfect, ugliness is an aspect of life, and that being a brave advocate who knows my beauty is what can bring myself and others inspiration. I rewrote the shame story into a story of empowerment and acceptance.

I could not release shame and rewrite the story of living with AD until I got mostly in remission. Remission of my symptoms led the way for the healing of my psyche.

I say mostly in remission because I still go in and out of remission but overall I would say I am in 90% remission and it is completely connected to food and going on the AIP and ketogenic diets as a lifestyle for the long term.

I am no longer a “normie”, a term addicts use to classify those who can use alcohol or drugs in moderation without being addicted. I feel there is a big of a distinction when living with AD.

The first year I knew I had HS, I ignored it. Denial is powerful. I was in grad school and my mom was battling the cancer that would kill her a year and half later. I had no room in my psyche to face my disease. But then I did have room. I was ready in the summer of 2018.

I looked up HS online and found blogs, forums and a lot of people finding remission by going on the autoimmune paleo diet or AIP for short. I started this diet the very next day. I was desperate because my flares were so bad I was willing to try anything.

The AIP diet eliminates all sugar, grains/rice, nightshades, caffeine, seeds, nuts, alcohol, and dairy. Basically everything but organic meat (grass fed and free range), fruit, and vegetables. I switched my diet in one day, eating only chicken breast, apples, carrots, greens, and a fruit smoothie to start me off the first week.

Being a genuine food addict my entire life, I battled not having “my foods” on very deep levels, much deeper than somebody who is not addicted to food. Every day for a year I felt despair, anger, and every uncomfortable emotion yummy food had been stuffing down. I also felt isolated from my friends because I could no longer eat out or have a few drinks and I was used to doing that most days of the week.

What gave me strength to stick with it was that I went into immediate remission within weeks of staring the diet. It was a sheer miracle!

The remission did not last and new flares appeared but far less flares cropped up and they were far less severe. Remission from the severity began and has stayed with me since I began the diet and so began my journey of figuring out all of my trigger foods.

I went to a naturopath to get some help and started the journey of learning I have a huge yeast allergy and needed Vitamin D, along with other aspects I won’t get into that have helped me to deepen remission with healing the gut.

To make a very long year and a half journey short, I learned that yeast, nuts, seeds, grains, dairy, sugar, beans, fruit and many vegetables are trigger foods. I learned that I need to not only do AIP but I need to go ketogenic because insulin is a trigger. I need to cut out all fruit completely and keto adapt so my body uses fat instead of glucose as fuel. This has greatly improved remission.

I reintroduced alcohol the night my mother died in the beginning of 2019. I learned I can drink hard spirits with nothing added but I cannot touch beer or wine. I learned I can eat eggs (so far). I can also have coffee in moderation.

I tried nuts and bacon but after a few months they became triggers. This happened with avocado and broccoli. Some foods cause immediate flares while other foods build up and then cause flares. The journey is constant and never ending.

I learned that lectins, phytates, and oxalates are poison to my body and this is why vegan foods harm me which is another aspect I have had to grieve. I have the heart of a vegan. I spent many years of my life eating vegan and vegetarian unknowing of how sick it was making me. Now I am a carnivore. I had to let go of my treasured belief system so my body could be healthy.

I have grieved and continue to grieve the loss of food as addiction, celebration, and comfort. Emotional eating is over. Eating out with friends is over. Eating to “treat myself” is over. Normies say that all the time, “treat yourself”. But if I treat myself with food I get a huge flare and it’s just not worth it. The treat is poison.

Those of us with AD who go AIP, keto or both to heal cannot treat ourselves with food because it makes us feel like complete shit. I tell myself that food is fuel and nothing else. This is my new story.

Don’t count me in when you make celebratory food plans. I have no desire to celebrate Thanksgiving because I can’t eat the food and from now on, I am done thinking I need to partake of any holiday with food. When I travel food will not be part of the adventure. When a partner comes into my life he will have to live with food being only fuel for me too.

I like the foods I can eat. I like eggs in the morning, salmon, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chicken breast, coconut milk, burgers, steak, and arugula. I am satisfied when I eat even though not a day goes by I don’t crave cheese, bread, hot pepper, beer, tacos….I mean, the grief is real and the loss is daily. I compare myself to an addict in sobriety taking it one day at a time.

What feels amazing is being mostly in remission all of the time. My body is healing on deep levels too, beyond just remission of symptoms. I am healing my organs, gut, skin, bones, losing weight, and all anxiety is completely gone. Within a month of the AIP diet all anxiety left my psyche as anxiety truly does live in the body. Within a month of being keto and AIP my ability to focus greatly increased and my energy levels began to even out. The healing continues.

I love that I eat like my ancestors. I feel that how I eat connects me to them. I feel more rooted to the earth. My sleep is pristine and I no longer suffer from insomnia. I have become strong and disciplined in every aspect of my life. I exercise five to six days a week. I do what I say I will do in terms of my daily and long term goals. I can handle anything, is what it feels like.

I have no anxiety, no procrastination, no split in the psyche where what I want and how I behave are out of alignment. I have come into a much more profound sense of self love, ease, and integrity. My psyche has never been healthier and more at peace.

Funny, how each day I feel loss and cravings but each day I feel at peace with myself.

I no longer respond to loss and cravings with fear or resistance. I have learned the power of surrender. I accept loss, pain, and my AD. Grief is not something I need to avoid anymore. I am no longer in denial of the dark side of life. I am at peace with my limitations, the ugly, and all that is hard.

For now, I have whisky, mezcal, and coffee with coconut milk as pleasures I can still indulge in. I cannot overdo it so I drink in moderation and I am also willing to let these drinks go the moment my health needs it.

I have become so emotionally strong that I no longer depend on any food, drink, or substance to keep me feeling ok or to enjoy life. I cannot stress what a big deal this is as I have been a food addict and hedonist my entire life, always using food as comfort and enjoying the party. Now, I can find comfort and enjoy the party in a new way.

I am in the process of learning how be a hedonist in new ways that are good for my health. Sexual expression is something most people never explore fully and is one of our greatest gifts as human beings. No shame. What possibilities exist to explore and merge with another soul on a sexual level and experience deeper levels of pleasure, replenishment, and love?

How can my body express through any form of movement that brings heightened pleasure? Dance, hiking, sky diving, fire walking, floating, strolling….

There are many possibilities.

I find hedonistic pleasure in essential oils, incense, crystals, flowers, the beauty of nature, fashion, putting on make-up and dressing up. I find hedonistic pleasure in gazing at art, listening to music, and reading books. There is so much to imbibe and indulge in that is not food and drink. I also feel immense satisfaction when I paint, write, sing, and express myself creatively.

AD has transformed me for the better.

I know in my heart of hearts that AD is connected to multigenerational trauma. Interesting that my mother and father both had the same AD as me.

My mother had it killed with near lethal amounts of antibiotics from a certain doctor in Vegas who had his theory. I believe this treatment destroyed her gut and led to many health issues to follow. She eventually got colon cancer. I do not follow in her footsteps with my AD and for very few has antibiotic treatment worked. My father said he stopped having flares in his fifties and that it just went away. I can only hope for such a healing to happen to me. I cannot count on it.

For now, I must eat keto/AIP to stay in remission but I am thankful for this diet beyond being in remission because I am healing my body completely, healing multigenerational trauma, healing completely from anxiety, and healing food addiction all while transforming into a stronger, more centered, disciplined, equanimous, and poised individual who is no longer dependent on “the cookie”.

It has taken a year and half to get to this place of love, strength, balance and health that is not static or fixed. Like I said, I still get flares and have to figure out why. I still feel loss for food and cravings rise up all the time (though going keto took away 80% of all food cravings). There’s always work to be done and progress to be made in body and mind. Just like in a yoga pose, you need a constant focus to stay balanced.

If you are reading this and have AD, I hope to provide you with some inspiration from sharing my story. Food truly is the biggest culprit of many if not most of AD symptoms.

AD seems to be rooted in generational trauma passed down through the DNA and from diet. The AIP diet works and for some of you, keto will also work.

Western medicine still looks down upon all holistic routes but go ahead and let them. If you dedicate yourself to trying the diet for 30-90 days you will experience the results for yourself. You can reintroduce certain foods after the initial period and begin cultivating the exact diet that works for you.

Will power gets easier over time as you adapt and your body feels better as it adjusts too. Anxiety will diminish and you will become more disciplined and emotionally independent.

Grief is real for no longer being a normie and getting to eat what you want but there is liberation in no longer fearing grief. Life is suffering, Buddha said. If we face the suffering with an open heart, willingness, and a mindful approach that does not resist limitation, pain and loss then suffering will transform your soul from a mud ball into a pearl and your body will be a sanctuary living with illness.

 

 

 

 

You are not Crazy and Three Skillful Steps

This blog is inspired by strong feelings rising in me to protect who you are. There are many types of people in this world and yet some types are more glorified or seen as normal while other types are marginalized and seen as abnormal. Plenty of judgment exists for all kinds of humans, unfortunately. This blog is for the sensitive healer types who feel everything at volume level ten and often doubt themselves. “Am I crazy?” is often uttered in the mind or from the lips. I am here to tell you that you are not crazy and you are not too much. You are a valid gifted type of human being needed in this world and you are very misunderstood.

Usually one sensitive healer is born into any given family. You are the one who absorbs all of the pain of the other family members and this happens unconsciously. Most people don’t know how to feel their feelings. Our messed up culture promotes the repression of difficult feelings as if feeling anything not positive or happy or on top of your game is bad and wrong. This is unfortunate because it makes almost everyone stuff all of the difficult painful and weak emotions down into the shadow and lose feeling connection with self and others. Feelings are what connect us.

Stuffing down feelings requires distraction, dependance or addiction on some level. Doesn’t have to be eating, drinking, drugging, partying, or losing self in another person. It can be working, exercising, losing weight, or trying to be the best all the time. Over focus and dependance on getting the “cookie” (food, booze, drug, sex, relationship, attention, shopping, working, exercising, screen time, etc) keeps the mind distracted until the feelings are stuffed far out of awareness.

But you, sensitive healer type, cannot stuff your feelings away. You just can’t. You feel it all. What makes it worse is that you are not only feeling your own feelings but you are feeling the feelings of everyone around you that cannot feel their own feelings. This just happens because of systems theory. Humans function in systems and feelings travel. What your family members can’t feel, you feel along with your own feelings. You don’t know what feelings are your own and what are others, unaware there is a mix of both you are feeling. You grow up this way and then turn into an adult that absorbs the feelings of your partner, your friends, your co-workers, everyone around you. You feel everyone’s feelings inside of you and cannot tell the difference whose feelings are whose. You develop acute anxiety and perhaps depression too if you survived a difficult childhood. You think you are crazy and too much and you suffer more.

You are not crazy. You are a sensitive healer type meant to feel everything so that you can bring healing to yourself and everyone. It’s just the way it is. Not everyone is a healer. You are and when you heal yourself, you also heal those whose feelings you feel inside of you. Not all the way but to a certain extent. You heal seven generations backwards and forwards. You heal self and others too when you use the skills I am going to mention below. If you don’t become skillful with your natural healing abilities, which is your destiny, you will suffer all the suffering of your own life and those around you. It’s not worth it, trust me. You want to get yourself into therapy and any other version of healing you are drawn to.

You want to heal yourself, which is essentially rooted in differentiating your true self from everyone else and allowing your true self to live in the world, to love your true self and to honor your destiny as a sensitive healer type.

To the extent you heal others depends on the others but you clear feelings out of them that are stuffed down when you absorb their feelings and you release them from your own body. Eventually you will learn to not absorb other’s feelings as much and this will release you from a great deal of constant emotional overwhelm but just know while you are healing and growing, it’s ok that you cannot help but absorb the feelings of everyone around you.

You are meant to be you. You are meant to feel everything. You are meant to process these feelings. You are meant to be ultra sensitive. Don’t let anyone tell you different. You just need to learn how to be who you are skillfully. You need to heal your own traumas and psyche first. This blog isn’t going to tell you how to do that but self healing comes first. It is preliminary and brings real results.

What I want to share are three simple steps to help you with your feelings when you are a sensitive healer type.

  1. Know you are not crazy and own your skill of being a healer here to help humanity process all of the repressed feelings in the collective shadow. Allow your feelings to come out. Do not reframe them with a positive story. Do not reframe them with a negative story. Feel without the mind getting involved at all. If anyone tries to tell you to focus on the positive or gratitude go ahead and pour water in their face. Just kidding. But don’t listen. They do not understand that scientifically speaking feelings need to be felt to leave the body and the worse thing you can do is to stuff the feelings into the body further with some sugar coated platitude. Most people are not skilled and terrified to feel their feelings. You are not. As a sensitive healer type you have a natural skill and courage to feel the hard feelings, you just doubt yourself because the world tells you that you are crazy or too much or too sensitive. Don’t believe the majority. Don’t tell yourself that you are bad, wrong, not good enough or anything negative. Feel everything you feel fully. Fully.
  2. Express the feelings you feel creatively. If you are a naturally creative person, which as sensitive healer type you probably are, get it out through painting, singing, dancing, cooking, sewing, acting, writing, gardening, whatever your outlet is or whatever outlet you are drawn toward. Get messy and raw with this. Do not try to create a master piece, you can save that form of art making for another time. When feelings need out, get raw and messy and let it out without edit. You may need to prep for this because you have been told your whole life that you should not feel all you feel and that creativity should be polished and pretty. You probably have some perfectionist narrative. You may need to meditate for a bit to get outside of your head and into you heart. Maybe you need to blast music or stay up late or get up early. Find your path to releasing the feelings creatively and get them out. This assures full processing as feelings speak through the creative outlet or the body outlet not the mind. Cry and paint. Scream and sing. Weep and garden. Or maybe there is no body outlet such as tears or sounds. Maybe you cook or write or sew and are just deeply in the creative expression itself. This will release the feelings fully. Also, receiving other creative expressions may initiate the same release such as listening to music, watching a movie, looking at art, reading a story, etc.
  3. Protect your energy. Find your way. Call Archangel Michael (a very powerful being much older than the Judeo-Christian religion that appropriated the angels) and say, “Michael, put a bubble of light around me, any feelings not my own keep out of my body so that I only feel my own feelings one hundred percent of the time.” Wear a red string around your wrist. Do something magical or make a witch potion or spell if this is your thing. Imagine a bubble of light around you at all times. Wear protective stones (all the black stones, also pyrite). It takes effort, ritual, prayer and intention to not absorb the pain of those around you. Some of you may be so sensitive that you absorb the feelings of people around that you are not close to you. In fact, many of you do this. You get on the bus and you absorb everyone’s pain. You walk into a store and absorb everyone’s pain. You must learn to have more control over this power. It is a gift but the curse is when you don’t harness it and you collect too much from others and feel like crap and confused all the time. Find the protection rituals that work for you and do them morning and night and perhaps more. Consider it as vital as teeth cleaning. For as yucky as your teeth get missing one brushing your psyche gets missing one protection ritual. Feelings live in the body literally, like poop and need to constantly be cleansed out of the body. Protection rituals really do protect you from taking too much from others. Michael and other beings really do help you when you need daily support.

If you continually follow these three steps you will stay emotionally balanced and be well on the path of healing but of course it’s not so simple or easy. You will battle the narrative that you are too much, too sensitive and think you are crazy, especially when other people try to make you not feel your feelings with platitudes or tell you negative stories that you are too this or that. You need to get strong with this.

The one tough skin you need is to put a big wall up when other people’s words try to get you to not feel whether in judgment or caring. Understand that they only want you to “feel better” because they love you or they are so uncomfortable feeling their own pain that they cannot handle you feeling pain. They may not know what to say or how to handle you. Be kind with people because they are doing the best they can. Only healer types know how to feel fully and attune so keenly to the feelings. Most people are way too scared and uncertain and this is ok. They are really good at other stuff that you suck at. We are all supposed to balance each other out with our strengths and weaknesses.

Other people you are close with may be great at being the rock of stability, making money, doing practical things, being light hearted, etc. You are the one who is good at healing and creating intimacy by tuning into feelings, being nonjudgemental and compassionate. It’s meant to be this way. We are meant to be symbiotic with one another but due to all the untended wounds and tangled mess of the human psyche, people wind up comparing themselves to each other and expecting those they love to be just like them. People also think everyone should be equally skillful at everything. On and on the comparison, judgment and negative stories build. It’s all crap.

Truth is, you are gifted at feeling and healing and you are meant to be the one healer in your family system, with your partner, in your profession, or even all by yourself as you heal the self. Learning to trust who you are, heal, and become more skillful is a process.

Vulnerability and Attachment Wounds in Romantic Relationship

This blog is inspired by the topic of vulnerability. I wanted to write about it after writing about the sacred emptiness because vulnerability is what births inside the chrysalis of sacred emptiness.

A new form of vulnerability births in the emptiness…based upon attachment wound healing…that opens us up to a more joyful and fulfilling experience of being vulnerable.

Attachment wounding is the root of not being able to be vulnerable in relationship with others and self. Attachment healing turns the tables and allows vulnerability to become a secure and happier experience.

My reflections on attachment will be very brief and stream of consciousness…

If you want to know more in detail there are a ton of books, Youtube videos and podcasts on attachment theory.  I highly recommend listening to the “Psychology Today” podcast. The subscription is only $5 dollars a month for many deep dives into pertinent psychological topics. Kirk Honda is my favorite describer of attachment theory (and any topic in psychology) as he makes content accessible to everyone with a harmonious blend of knowledge and heart.

This is my reflection on vulnerability and attachment today….

Our brains are the place we develop our personality (ego) very early on in life (infant to about age seven) based upon how we are parented by our prime caretakers. The personality formation is strongest the younger we are and gets cemented after age seven.

Our attachment style is the aspect of the personality that relates with others and with self. It is the way in which we desire relationship, behave in relationship, and express vulnerability.

The romantic parter most closely mirrors the prime caretaker and hence, we face our attachment style/wounds the strongest in romantic partnering yet attachment styles show up in every single relationship including the one you have with yourself.

You do not need to have experienced trauma or abuse to have an attachment wound. If you have endured trauma and abuse your wounds are specific to that yet a child can develop a very deep attachment wound in a home with zero abuse and no big traumas.

The avoidant attachment style/wound (often broken down into anxious avoidant and dismissive avoidant) is created by the prime caretaker(s) not tending to the child’s emotions. There is no emotional attunement. The parent(s) do not talk about feelings or they may see emotions as weak, dismiss them, or avoid them. Boys may be more apt to be taught to repress their emotions due to cultural conditioning as well.

As with everything psychological, avoidance shows up as a spectrum. How much did your caretaker(s) avoid your feelings and avoid feelings in the home between family members? There tends to be a basic structure in the avoidant home with bedtime, meals, routines with school, etc and there may also be morals taught and other principals that foster the mind but the emotional realm of the child is not seen, acknowledged or nurtured.

Avoidant style people do not feel safe in close relationships because they feel cut-off from their own feelings. They experience anxiety around intimacy and tend to use dismissive remarks or behaviors to maintain a certain level of detachment, independence and aloofness in relationship. They either believe they do not need intimacy or they push intimacy away in a variety of ways that may be unconscious (flippant remarks, sexual impotency or lack of desire, minimizing issues and the feelings of the partner) or conscious (having a strong belief about the independence they feel gives them strength, for instance or saying they are not relationship oriented).

The avoidant style is often called the island.

Anxious attachment style people (often called preoccupied or ambivalent) is created when the prime caretaker(s) sometimes tune in to the child’s emotions and sometimes ignore them. The key is inconsistency in attunement and often anxiety connected to emotional attunement when it is present. There is some semblance of structure in this attachment style as if there were no structure in the home it would fall under the disorganized attachment style but the structure does tend to be as inconsistent as the emotional attunement. Maybe meals and bedtimes are not always around the same time or maybe the structure is generally chaotic though the child is fed, taken to school, and put to bed at some point. Perhaps the child switches homes a lot or is handed off in a chaotic fashion. The anxious attachment style is often referred to as the wave.

To be clear, emotional attunement is when the care taker responds to the child’s feelings, names the feelings for the child so they may learn to name feelings themselves, nurtures the child when upset and models how to tend to feelings in a loving way no matter what feeling is arising. Emotional attunement when secure in the caretaker, does not cause intense anxiety. The caretaker is not anxious when the child is hurting nor are they living in anxious fear of the child getting hurt in the unforeseeable future.

Anxious attachment creates a person who is not sure if they are loved. Do you love me now? How about now? If you find out (insert trait here) about me will you still love me? The anxious person needs constant validation and reassurance that they are loved. They don’t have any consistent sense of being tended to that is imbedded in their sense of self. They fear love leaving, being abandoned, and being betrayed. They may put themselves at constant fault for creating abandonment or they may build a false case where their partner will leave them due to (insert criticism here).

The wave is very overt with their insecurity and feelings. The island is very covert as beneath every island is a wave but the island is too anxious to deluge. Avoidant people want intimacy deep down underneath their fear just as much as the overt wave. It’s as if islands have an extra defense mechanism around their anxiety that the waves do not posses and this is molded by how we are parented. 

The wave is usually the pursuer of the island. Islands and waves tend to attract each other because the island needs the overt display and pursuit of the wave for them to feel loved and the wave is used to feeling insecure about not being loved and very familiar and comfortable with chasing the unavailable island. It’s a recipe for healing or disaster depending on how willing and skilled the partners are in dealing with these wounds. Without skill or willingness the island first pushes the wave away and then the wave overwhelms the island when they express needing more and this pushes the island away more until both express extreme versions of avoiding and deluging. 

Disorganized attachment is molded in the brain when the there is abuse in the home, major trauma, or the care taker(s) do not provide adequate structure or emotional attunement to the point where it is neglect. Disorganized people may vacillate between being an island and a wave, never feeling a consistent sense of self. The disorganized wound is chaotic and never follows a certain pattern other than the pattern of not being patterned.

Not having a strong sense of self is also the case for the island and the wave. Sense of self is developed in the brain by the child being emotionally attuned to and given proper structure by the caretaker(s). This is a literal process that happens in the brain (mirror neurons) that forms sense of self in relationship with others, self, and the world. With all attachment styles other than secure attachment, the sense of self is shattered in varying qualities and degrees of intensity based upon upbringing mixed with temperament (nature and nurture).

The temperament (soul, true self, the mysterious uniqueness we each posses) of the child plays a big if not a bigger role in the shaping of the sense of self.

A shattered sense of self is the attachment wound.

Secure attachment happens when there is no trauma or abuse and the caretaker(s) tune into the child’s feelings in a nurturing and loving way while also providing the child with a consistent structure. This assures the child develops a healthy sense of self if there is no trauma or abuse outside the home and if the child is not born with a struggling temperament due to multigenerational wounds or a past life wound (if you believe in this).

It is important to note that a child may also absorb anxiety from any family member conflict even if it has nothing to do with them. Families usually have the one “healer” or empath of the family who tends to absorb the anxiety from other family members and become mentally or physically sick as a result. These types are more apt to struggle and often cannot discern their feelings from the feelings of others due to their sensitivity levels yet they are also meant to be as sensitive as they are because they are the healers of this world.

Attachment wounds also present inwardly with self. For instance, you can have a disorganized attachment with yourself where sometimes you tune into your feelings and validate yourself, sometimes you avoid your feelings using some form of addiction or avoidance to ignore them, and sometimes you tend to your feeling but feel filled with anxiety and self doubt about whether you are good enough.

You can also express different styles consciously and unconsciously. For instance, you can be a wave consciously and an island unconsciously by consciously wanting and choosing intimate partnership yet always unconsciously attracting unavailable islands…or…when you attract an available partner you really like, you start pushing them away by finding fault with them at every turn. In this way the island and wave within the self and in partnership tries to find harmony.

The healing of attachment wounds is rooted in learning how to be vulnerable in the relational field and with self. This starts to show up when you no longer need to build a case against self or the partner, drink booze or take recreational drugs to feel comfortable, lay on the criticism, demand proof that you are loved, or push away the other with conscious or unconscious tactics of any kind.

Being vulnerable and intimate looks like letting each other in your feelings, communicating your feelings, being transparent about your feelings, and tending to one another’s feelings….whether during an argument, when times are rough, or during times of passion, joy, and tenderness. It means showing the real you and allowing yourself to trust your partner.

First you may need to do this for yourself but this is not always the requirement. Some people heal more through being vulnerable with a partner (or friend) first. We can build a sense of self love by going within and being alone and also through being in a relationship. It takes the right relationship if it is the latter. You cannot build a sense of self love with a partner who is unable to create intimacy and be vulnerable with you much of the time. Maybe not all the time, as we are flawed beings learning how to love….but a good chunk of the time at the very least.

Also, if you are an island, being vulnerable and close with another may not feel good for a long time. Perhaps years. You have to be willing to enter the not feeling good zone and go through the anxiety and fear. You have to be willing to enter intimacy with more courage to learn how to be vulnerable in the first place. This may feel awkward and challenge your avoidant personality that has protected you for so long. You have to learn how to trust another to care about you and you have to learn how to want to be cared about.

If you are a wave you may enjoy intimacy and even being vulnerable but you come on like a deluge every time you get triggered. This is important to understand for the island and the wave…

The moment you are triggered your animal brain takes the driver’s seat and your higher mind takes a hike. This means that you go into flight/fight/freeze mode and you cannot come out of it through logic, talking, or anything cognitive. When the wave is triggered they deluge the partner who is usually an island. When the island is triggered by the deluge they minimize the communication from the anxious wave which then triggers the wave more who thinks the island is a jerk which triggers the island more who thinks the wave is crazy and the storm intensifies into destruction.

When you get triggered in the relational field all you can do is breathe, touch, and/or take space from the other in order for the higher mind to get back in the driver’s seat. If you both are triggered, stop arguing and breathe, touch one another or allow one person to take some space. Nothing will change how to recover from a trigger because it is brain chemistry. Skill is vital when learning how to become vulnerable in a way that creates feeling more safety and joy.

Most of us are used to vulnerability feeling scary, disappointing, taxing, overwhelming and leading to our detriment. Islands build a mote around them acting like they don’t need a partner or intimacy, in order to survive. Waves desperately try to make the partner their one safe place in all of life’s pain and chaos. Both feel slayed by vulnerability. Both need to learn how to build trust through building a sense of self.

This is the key of all keys. Building a sense of self.

When you have a strong and solid sense of self you can allow yourself to trust getting hurt in the relational field because you can return to yourself as the safe place.

This is the healing of codependency, toxic unions, and everything relational. When you no longer fear being hurt, rejected, disappointed, broken up with, being single, or left alone because you have a safe, reliable, and loving sense of self to return to if the worst happens. Life never gives us a guarantee in the external world so we need the self to be the security and foundation. Islands, don’t contort this to mean you don’t need intimacy in one form or another. The sense of self is a home base and not an escape hatch to avoid the relational field.

It can be safe and feel fulfilling to be vulnerable in the relational field if you build your sense of self and love yourself with more emotional attunement and loving structure. You won’t give your power away to the partner or to addiction or avoidance. You can handle emotional pain and discomfort and in turn, experience a form of joy in relationship that arises only by being tuned in and true to self. Reparenting the self blossoms us into our true self.

True self creates vulnerable and intimate relationships that heal and fulfill our essential needs and desires in waves…and when the waves wane we can return to self for sustenance on a healthy island that can still welcome the other….

 

 

 

 

Reflections on the Sacred Emptiness

This blog is inspired by the sacred emptiness that most often is the mental and emotional space we enter when letting go of patterns, attachments, identifications, and addictions.

Ego wants the immediate gold star or the metaphorical cookie whenever we do something we feel awards us. A feel good moment. Satiation. A happy arrival into a never ending sunset. These are expectations of ego when we do the healing work of letting go of what is not serving our health, thinking if we have the courage to let go, right on the other side is an arrival into fulfillment.

But the fulfillment of letting go takes time because you are reversing the flow from getting love outside of self to feeling love within self. Building a secure attachment with self is a learning process…

The reward for letting go of patterns, attachments, identifications and addiction takes time to feel in an embodied way.

Suffering initiates ego into the dark night of the soul or the process of letting go of what is not healthy for self. We are used to suffering and have become familiar with low self esteem, shaky self worth, self doubt, unhealthy relationships, addictions, and all of the patterns of thinking and behaving that support a comfort zone of pain.

Suffering only initiates you into the dark night of the soul when you are ready to face the new an unfamiliar suffering of letting go. Suffering that comes from letting go is temporary and necessary, unlike the chronic and familiar suffering of a painful comfort zone.

The familiar comfort zone of pain is a neural pathway in the brain paved over the years by patterns of thinking and behaving that form from attaching to a person or thing outside of self because inside a wounded self feels lost, powerless, fearful, and insecure.

For instance, you may have a pattern of thinking that love is stronger and more valuable than logic which rationalizes the behavior of staying in a relationship that is logically very unhealthy for you. You are used to unhealthy attachment because you grew up with it in your family system. The neural pathway has been paved in your brain to accept the current unhealthy union because your inner child ego developed self worth wounds early on and knows nothing else. Your adult ego identifies with a compromised sense of self worth either consciously or unconsciously.

You do not realize staying in the unhealthy union is a continual and often addictive attempt to get mom and dad’s love and attention on an unconscious level. The inner child in the shadow is operating through the adult ego by projecting onto the person the role of being your care taker or savior in some way. You do not realize you either play a victim role or blame self and glorify the other, when neither are true. The truth is that you need to let go of the unhealthy person, heal your wounds, and create a secure attachment with self. You need to be your own savior and heal yourself.

Addiction forms when the person becomes your everything and you can no longer live without them. This is when the brain chemistry relies on the external person or object to literally keep self afloat. Be it a person, food, drug, alcohol, shopping, working, you name the thing; when wounds are not healed and the sense of self is insecure, the external world holds all the power and we get hooked on it in one way or another.

Readiness to heal and let go is key.

When you are not ready, you are not ready. Our patterns, attachments, identity, and addictions serve the ego by helping us stay afloat, feel valued, safe, secure, and loved…until we are ready to let go.

Pushing before readiness might lead to a mental breakdown, too much fear at once, crisis that cannot be overcome. Suffering is our initiation into the dark night of letting go but suffering in just the right amount is key. Too much suffering and you won’t heal.

The timing is the timing. Patience and love for every stage is needed.

When you are ready you let go it may feel empowering or you may have to force it mentally and enter the grief despite your fighting heart and instinct telling you to hold on. Usually it is the latter.

Letting go and entering into the dark night means the ego is not going to receive the gold star or the metaphorical cookie. Letting go means entering the emptiness.

You may first may go into withdrawals, kicking and screaming your way through. During this stage of the dark night you might try to talk yourself out of letting go and you might succeed and hop back into the safe zone of the familiar pain.

If you make it past the withdrawal, kicking, and screaming stage you enter the stage of the sacred emptiness.

In the sacred emptiness there is nothing to replace the security of that well-worn neural pathway. Even though it’s a pathway of pain and self worth wounds, you knew what to expect and you were used to the crumbs and the anxiety. You did not have to try and risk failing or risk the vulnerability of succeeding which can feel very exposing.

There is nothing to soothe the ego in the sacred emptiness other than….

the sacred emptiness itself….

In the sacred emptiness you may find comfort in the nothingness if you can allow yourself to not resist the nothingness by trying to get that dopamine hit from the outside world, person, pattern or thing that feels like love (but isn’t). You sense of security that comes from familiarity will be gone so you must also not resist feeling scared.

If you can allow yourself to feel scared and empty without resistance to those feelings you can discover a sense of comfort and inner quiet as you traverse through this stage which may take days, weeks, months and maybe even a year.

Stop trying to make anything happen in the external world to try to get the cookie or sense of security and instead find a reliable and self soothing routine to support the emptiness stage.

Maybe you need more solitude, more sleep, going to bed and waking up early, exercising more, eating healthier, taking life more slowly, getting out into nature, coloring or knitting or some form of soothing creative outlet…watching Netflix may help or reading books and allowing yourself healthy escape in the stories of others…or maybe sweating, running, dancing and having a more fiery and yang type of practice is your balance.

Find that balance within self  by rooting into a routine that becomes the foundational structure to build a new healthy sense of self, heal the wounds, awaken the soul, and fully shut down the old neural pathway.

If you can allow yourself to surrender into the emptiness and into a routine, slow yourself down, and move through the scary unknown….you will enter the next stage of the dark night.

Here, you may still be in the emptiness but also be tested and need to say no to the old pattern showing up again. If this is the case, do not take it personally. It takes a certain amount of experiences for a new neural pathway to become paved and it only becomes paved through experience. Each time you say no to the unhealthy pattern, you pave the new healthy pathway. It’s science You are not being punished.

Surrender is the key to moving through the emptiness stage whether you are being tested or laying low like a seed in the dark soil. Initiation is surrender.

The suffering of the emptiness stage may show up as needing to say no to the familiar pattern rising up again. If this is the case, say no as quickly as you can and if you mess up, it’s ok. Healing happens in a spiral not a line. Fall and get up again knowing every human being grows through making mistakes.

Suffering in the emptiness stage may also show up as feeling perpetually insecure, bored, doubtful, stagnant, confused, disoriented, and lonely. Know that these feelings are natural and do not take them personally. Allow these feelings to express as you would allow a child to express their feelings without judgement or making a big deal out of them. This will allow the feelings to leave the body.

Surrendering to a higher power is what the Anonymous (AA, NA, OA, etc) philosophy teaches and it is a real quality that provided real results. The transpersonal aspect of life is larger than self and requires no spiritual belief or experience. Call the transpersonal anything that feels right for you, the Collective Unconscious, Nature, Life, Consciousness, God, Goddess, Spirit, Source, Prime Creator, Oneness, The Infinite, Jesus, Isis, Odin, Lakshmi, Universe, Ancestors, Angels, Allies, Archetypes…it does not matter…when you call out to the transpersonal you invoke help from the great mystery and from love.

You do not have to do this work alone and truly, you are never alone. The sacred emptiness is here to serve your liberation and initiate the ego into becoming the true self securely attached and connected to your true source of power within.

 

 

 

Romantic Love Musings Inspired by Cheers

Contemplations on romantic love…with plenty of ellipses…

I have been watching the tv show “Cheers” for a stint. Haven’t seen this show since I was a teenager when it aired in real time. I want to give kudos to the writing and I see also how watching this show is like watching theater, especially in the scenes between Sam and Diane.

Sam and Diane play classic star-crossed lovers who are complete opposites. Sam is earthy, grounded, simple minded, pleasure seeking, and a conceited player with women. Diane lives in her head and is intellectual, romantic, deep, complicated, and moral.

Cupid shoots his arrow and they cannot help it. Sam and Diane are in love with one another. This is how falling in love goes, it is a mysterious experience that happens to us out of the realm of control.

Sam and Diane’s relationship, whether romantic or trying to just be friends, always winds up returning to romantic love but it’s always fraught with conflict…not so much due to being opposites but due to how they treat one another.

Who we fall in love with is out of our hands. You love who you love and you love them for as long as you love them.

Knowing real love from some form of attachment wound projection happens once you have formed a bond and made it past the initial stage of any form of relating. Once you get to know somebody the projections fall and you see one another for who you actually are…and this is when love really begins.

You see this happen with Sam and Diane quickly as television goes. They realize each other’s true nature and they drive each other nuts on a constant basis with their opposite ways of expressing love from these opposite natures. Yet they always come together sexually.

It may not always be the sexual bond that is the glue as with Sam and Diane. It might be the emotional, the spiritual, even the mental where romance expresses. Romantic love is a feeling radiating deep down beneath the constant shifting and changing of the emotions moving like weather through the body.

Love is a constant even if you are able to avoid or detach from it. You cannot escape love. Love can seize in one instant or can grow over time. Love chooses how it moves, not us.

When relationship conflict rises up between two people in love it is not due to a lack of love but usually due to the psyche’s state. Sam and Diane did not handle conflict well due to not treating each other well in their opposite natures but you also see why in their similarities…

Both Sam and Diane are competitive, stubborn, and hot headed and so they both tend toward arguing, holding their point and not seeing the other’s, and both want to be right.

This is a major cause of continual conflict for many. If you cannot come out of your perception to see the other’s as valid, you won’t turn conflict into intimacy or harmony.

If you cannot find some kindness and compassion for the other person’s way, you are doomed to fail. Diane always expects Sam to be romantic and moral and deep like herself. Diane lacks having kindness and compassion for Sam’s blind spots and for his nature too at times.

Sam always hopes for Diane to accept him as he is but he also desires to be a better person and in a way, needs her to push him to be a better version of himself. This is another aspect of relationship conflict. Sam relies on Diane to help him grow and as a result, pushes her away by being nonchalant when he feels too scared to level up.

It’s natural for lovers to need each other to grow, feel secure, feel validated…this interdependency only goes wrong if the other holds too much of what we need to hold for ourselves. Maybe Sam needed Diane to hold too much of his own integrity…

Diane may have integrity but she cannot see Sam with enough kindness and respect when he acts like a buffoon. She does not trust Sam. Sam feels belittled by her and maybe not good enough for Diane. He makes Diane hold all of his integrity and cannot see that perhaps he is not good enough for himself.

Diane makes Sam hold all of her security so she can avoid her own deep rooted insecurities. Her lack of trust is rooted in her lack of trust in herself.

This is what we do in romance. We make the other person the bad guy instead of looking within and facing our own struggles and insecurities. Becoming vulnerable to our inner stuff allows us to move through relationship conflict without destroying the entire container. It’s hard….

Sam and Diane both hold their own perspectives like flags raised high and mighty, refusing to be supple with each other’s needs or way of being because Sam needs self integrity and Diane needs self trust. It becomes quite complex when we refuse to look within to see how we mess up relationships…

If you cannot look within and do your self work then you cannot let go of the mighty expectations you have for your partner…and then you cannot sustain the partnership.

But…what’s the difference between an essential standard to uphold and an expectation to release?

An essential standard is a core value.

Does Diane need Sam to be deep and romantic in her core values or is it an expectation for Sam to be like herself so she feels validated because she cannot validate herself?

Does Sam need Diane to take love day by day without romantic gestures and grand commitments or is this an expectation he places on her because he is fearful of failing due to being out of integrity?

This is the big exploration if you want love to sustain in a partnership and there are many compromises to be made. Where can you meet in the middle? Where do you need to hold a standard? And what’s an expectation you can let go of?

The compromise is what you do when it’s an expectation you have some wiggle room to play with.

Core values are standards to be protected and upheld.

Sam and Diane both value marriage and monogamy (TV, especially back then tends to only show dominant cultural values…) There is no conflict in their standards about the kind of relationship they want. Sam only wants Diane to be more in the moment so he can have time to grow into his integrity and Diane only wants Sam to be more romantic and sweeping in his expression so she can feel trust and validation.

In real life maybe you want one version of a relationship and your partner wants another. This cannot be compromised. A poly with a mono cannot flow. Someone who wants kids wont flow with somebody who does not want kids. Core values and lifestyle are usually the non-negotiable aspects they may bring tragedy to star crossed lovers.

Love will express in harmony, tragedy and everything in between.

Expectations are usually more shallow and rooted in wanting your lover to be just like you so that you feel safe, secure and never have to face conflict, failure or not getting what you want. Wanting the other to enjoy doing the same things, like the same music, look a certain way, act a certain way, and express in a certain way…all fall into the category of expectations…

You want to enjoy some things together but you don’t need to enjoy everything. One person can love going to museums and another can hate it. One person can be extroverted and one introverted….so long as you enjoy time together in certain ways.

Sam and Diane have fun together even though he hates intellectual cultural activities and Diane hates sports. When Diane dates Fraiser she gets to be with the male version of herself and yet even having all her expectations met with Fraiser, Sam is the man she loves.

Doesn’t matter how similar or different lovers present. We love who we love.

Love wants to be a mystery and we never know what our karma will be around love…if we are meant to be with somebody very opposite or very similar…or be with somebody through very difficult circumstances….lose lover early on or have it last a lifetime and experience the grief of death…

Love is a mystery without a clue….this was the first line of the first poem I wrote when I was in the sixth grade and it sticks like a tattoo in my heart because it speaks deep truth to me. I don’t know my karma with romantic love before I live it.  I take love as it comes…

Sam and Diane never fully commit to one another in the show. It seems as if they will infinitely break apart and come back together. I am sure neither wishes for their love karma to be as such…

My inner child hope is that they eventually learn how to stay together. If Diane can lighten up on her expectations and if Sam can grow as a person and if they can both learn to let go of their pride and needing to be right when conflict arises….maybe?

I hope for love to work out between star crossed lovers because it is my temperament to be hopeful and idealistic in my heart (to a certain degree). We all have our ways. I am not right or wrong. Perhaps this resonates with you and perhaps not.

I am also a very pragmatic person and I honor self liberty at all times. I think conscious divorce, separation and breaking up is important and valuable. Very hard to do though because of our short comings…

If you fall out of love it is best to not stay out of morality and model for your children to sacrifice your core values (if being in love is a core value to begin with) to protect them from painful experiences. Painful experiences are not bad or wrong even if they are painful. Pain is meaningful lesson and growth tool. This is my opinion and there are many opinions to be valued…

If you are both still in love but cannot find harmony no matter how many times or how hard you try, maybe try to be with somebody else? Falling out of love makes it much easier to separate, as does not having a family to consider.

Sam and Diane have no kids and are archetypal representations of lovers in love coming from opposite sides of below and above…

I find is easy to see both sides and validate both Sam and Diane. I always see both sides with couples in real life too. I see how harmony can be found from a bird’s eye view. Yet to accomplish harmony we must learn how to take care of the brain.

Lovers trigger the most in one another due to mirroring when we were teeny ones with our care givers. It is what it is, we all work the same. Once triggered the animal brain takes the driver’s seat and fight/flight/freeze, projections, and intrusive thoughts dominate like massive storm in the psyche.

The logical higher thinking brain can no longer operate when these storms occur and this is when couples destroy the relationship, themselves, or each other with the actions taken and words spoken during the many storms that rise up in the relational field.

It’s only natural to grow through these storms but without skill you either repress it all and unhappily stay or sabotage and kill what could have grown (but that’s for another blog….)

Thank you Sam and Diane for inspiring this blog. May we all keep learning, growing, and loving the hell out of one another.

Reflection on Having a Mental Paradigm Shift

I have to force myself to blog this morning and I share this because it has to do with the topic at hand. Having a mental paradigm shift stems from being able to follow discipline when the feelings strongly wish to stray from the practice.

The practice is the actual root. Mediation is key. Yoga can be meditation. Chanting can be meditation. Meditation is watching the thoughts pass by while focusing inward and on breath or the mantra. With yoga, the focus is on linking breath and movement while you watch the thoughts.

The practice builds your inner witness (your soul) so you may watch thoughts but not identify with them.

Most people identity with their thoughts and feelings. You think you are your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and you believe the stories you tell yourself about yourself, life, and others. Yet these stories are only stories.

Same goes with your feelings. You are not the sorrow, despair, joy, inspiration, frustration, anger, rage, loneliness, (on and on) that passes through you in waves.

When you identify too much with your thoughts and feelings you wind up suffering.

The more you find yourself in stillness, breath, and just being, the more peace, balance, and letting go results.

You don’t need stories to define you although you still create them because as humans we are wired to make meaning out of life. You don’t need your feelings to define you although you still acknowledge and express them so that they leave the body. Through the practice, thoughts and feelings are given their right place within the land of self.

This skill of experiencing self as being develops through consistent practice. It is not magic or miracle.

When you put in the dedication and time to meditate most days or every day, you build the skill of self as being. This is where your true source of power is discovered and cannot be taken away no matter what happens to you in the external world, from slight aversion to major trauma.

The true source of power found in being naturally radiates empowerment, contentment, balance, and peace within.

As you build this skill you detach more and more from your thoughts and feelings and this is the prerequisite to being able to make a mental paradigm shift.

What do I mean by making a mental paradigm shift? Let’s say you believe in following the heart no matter what and you keep winding up in toxic relationships, or you believe that feelings are not to be trusted and always find it hard to connect with others, or you strongly believe all men are bad or all women are crazy and you keep attracting the same unhealthy relationship to project your belief onto to prove yourself right (insert your mental paradigm here). I am using only relationship examples but this could be any area of life.

Your mental paradigm is a meta-program that filters all of your thoughts into its main stance. Strong mental paradigm stances that have no room for suppleness, change, growth, or flexibility are usually put in place to protect the ego from being wounded…again. They are purposeful and were put in place to help you but eventually they become a source of suffering.

We all have a protector within us. The protector is the aspect of self that tries to protect us from pain.

Your protector may be sarcastic, flippant, accusatory, wanting to build a case, avoidant, controlling, manipulative, narcissistic, masochist, shy, show-offy, on and on…basically the protector creates the defense mechanisms we unconsciously use to keep us safe and lurking in our familiar haunts that mirror the childhood family system in some way.

Although we long for more connection, secure attachment, and freedom to be the true self, familiarity is hard to break. Most of us find comfort in the familiar pain we know from youth and we tend to unconsciously wade in it rather than risk the vulnerability required to open up to more of what we truly desire on a soul level.

The protector makes sure the vulnerable child deeper inside does not get slam dunked into pain and disappointment again. This means we don’t risk vulnerability and instead we wade in the familiar comfort that is painful but manageable.

Some protectors think they are content but rely on addiction to feed them a false sense of joy. Some protectors are self loathing and rely on feeling bad about self to avoid taking risks. Some protectors rely on being right and good and never doing wrong. Some protectors are critical and judgmental and live on high horses. Protectors project a strong mental paradigm about self, other, and life itself.

The stories that the protector projects are wide in variety but you always know it’s the protector’s mental paradigm when the stance cannot be budged, is narrow in focus, comes out unconsciously (without thinking) or uses some technique of blame, hate, minimizing or negatively perceiving self or other in a black and white fashion.

These protectors are born very young and reflect a mentally immature mind. When we were young these defense mechanism stories were the best we could come up with and allowed us to survive or cope with being a self in the family system. Even privileged children who do not endure trauma may be raised with avoidant parents, surrounded by functional addiction, not receive the attunement or structure needed to develop a healthy ego capable of making healthy choices and traversing through painful experiences.

At a certain point in the healing process, it is time for the protector to stand down and allow vulnerability to express because the protector creates suffering on repeat.

The protector’s story usually makes a hard line between victim (self) and perpetrator (the other) or the reverse of this where self is bad and other is glorified. I am not speaking of actual crimes and violence when there really is a perpetrator and victim. I am speaking of the messy relational field where we come into each moment carrying the hurting inner child wrapped inside the protector who will go to any lengths to make sure the child is not hurt again.

To let the protector stand down and to be vulnerable becomes much easier when we build the inner witness and no longer need to identity with our thoughts and feelings as strongly. There is a detachment that develops. This detachment doesn’t take away from the passion of living, it does not stop thoughts or feelings…it simply creates space so we can breathe and access our true source of power within.

When we can access and feel our true power, self love, spirit, nature, emptiness, whatever you want to call it depending on your temperament and belief….we can let go of the mental paradigm that is causing us suffering, we can allow the protector to stand down, we can allow our vulnerable self to show.

The mental paradigms that create suffering are not who you are and they do not have to rule your life. Yet to release them you must become somewhat comfortable or at least willing to feel and share your vulnerable self without it causing you to crumble to pieces when another causes hurt. The process of becoming somewhat comfortable and willing is different for each person. Trauma may make it much more complex and attachment wounds can be just as difficult.

Temperament has a lot to do with the process too. Nature and nurture are always at play. Patience is needed. Love is needed to not judge the spiral of progress that may look like two steps forward and one step back on the regular.

Human beings are designed to endure pain and we are also designed to be vulnerable.

Most of us are not present. Our wounds and insecurities live with us from the past, alive and sizzling in the heart and mind. Many of us were not safe as children. Many of us could not be vulnerable as children without being dismissed, avoided, scolded, controlled, or abused. This is why we cling to the hard nosed stories that the protectors create to make sure that the little person inside does not risk danger again.

The healing work to integrate the inner child, have the protector stand down, and develop a strong inner witness is hard work but brings potent results.

Meditation is part of healing and so is therapy or some kind of process work. You can process with healers of all kinds to help you move energy and understand your inner landscape. The point  I want to make is that there needs to be some form of processing of the thoughts and feelings, past and present.

The key is to balance not identifying with the thoughts and feelings with processing the thoughts and feelings, so that we heal from a holistic perspective. Meditation, energy work, talk therapy, depth work, using crystals, herbs, dream work, shamanic healing….whatever you are called to do is what works best.

Having a mental paradigm shift may also happen by miracle. Miracles are real. I have experienced them myself and witnessed others suddenly change. In an instant their suicide ideation is gone, their cigarette addiction is gone, their mind suddenly grasps a new paradigm just like that, a story of betrayal vanishes, a feeling and story of attachment to another turns on or shuts off…and we shift in an instant. We cannot rely on miracles but they happen.

Best to put in the daily effort to keep the self supple, growing, healing, and expanding.

Hard work is a part of life. Paradoxically, putting effort forth each day to open the mind, integrate the psyche, heal the self, and grow as a soul will make life easier and more loving and make you more present. It is not the experience itself that does or does not create suffering, it is how we digest and interpret the experience. We are the meaning makers.

Reflections on the Importance of Core Values

This blog is about core values. Are you aware of your core values? Have you defined them in your mind, do you feel them in your heart? Or are you unaware of what you value authentically as true self?

Differentiating self from others is important business. How often we doubt ourselves when a core value clashes with a core value of a loved one….how often we sacrifice a core value for a loved one…..how often we do not develop firm and loving boundaries that allow us to say yes or no to others in order to protect true self….

Our core values make up an inner map that guides us into living a life that reflects our authentic self.

This map guides us to forming and sustaining the right romantic, friendship, business, and all forms of relationships.  (The West, heart) Without the map you could partner with a person where you have to compromise too much or completely sacrifice what you value. You may also find that over time you realize a core value is not being met and enter the healing process to see if a compromise and balance may be discovered. The matter may be complicated and take time.

This map guides guides us into choosing (if we have the privilege to choose and many do not) the right livelihood that gives us what we need and provides a sense of fulfillment. (The North, body) Without the map you may stay in a job that drains you or that you hate. Becoming aware of your values may also help you see that the job you have hated is actually providing you with core value nourishment in that it may pay well or is stable even if you don’t love what you are doing. The matter may be complex.

Our core values may not give us happiness all the time but they keep us balanced and allow for true self to have wiggle room to grow and express.

The map of core values guides us into understanding when we are in or out of integrity. (The East, mind) When you feel bad about yourself you might be judging yourself harshly based upon a habit of identifying with being bad due to attachment wounds or trauma from the past. Or you might feel bad about yourself because you are not living in your authentic sense of integrity, which is different for each person. When this is the case you need to course correct and return to your integrity to actually feel good about yourself again. Core values are an inner compass.

This inner compass builds a strong foundation in the psyche that helps us act from a sense of inner truth. (The South, will) When you continually act from whatever the impulse or reactivity of the moment is, you do not have your map in hand. You live at the whim of fate and the forces of nature. Learning how to say yes and no to the constant impulses of the body and unconscious mind begins with having your core values fleshed out and firmly in place. A clear and concise map.

Questioning your core values is a developmental exercise that is vital because as we grow our values may shift and change. In your twenties you may value partying or hanging out or dreaming huge dreams in the realm of endless possibility or living in a more idealistic state, etc. When you hit your forties you may have fully lived out (successfully or unsuccessfully) the core values of youth. This is what is called “the mid-life crisis” (the next developmental transit would be around age sixty nine at the second Saturn return, the markers happen all throughout a life span).

As one friend stated in speaking of the Uranus opposition in the natal chart that occurs around age 42 (this mid-life crisis transit), it is time to metaphorically build a new house. The house is our core value map. What do you value now?

I can say from personal experience that I am more of an introverted hermit now (in my forties). I value solitude. I also value discipline, consistency, being structured, grounded and balanced through taking care of my body. The values of my youth were all about flowing, indulging, and being in the heart all the time which allowed me to heal, grow and be my true self back then. If I did that now I would crumble. Now it is solitude, disciplined practice, and my health regime that catalyzes healing, growth and true self expression. I still enjoy socializing and flowing but it is not my main focus.

We may hold onto values from the past with less weight as new values take up more space.

Developmental changes may feel like crisis because change is hard for humans. Across the board. To suddenly experience being drained by what once energized, or to experience your health decline by what once invigorated, or to experience a certain quality of relationship (or the relationship itself) go from feeling right to feeling off and wrong, or to suddenly wake up in your job or lifestyle and it no longer feels satisfying…..

Are all clues that it is time to rewrite the map because your core values are changing. To avoid crisis you would just switch to the new way of being but that’s not how we are as humans. All of us get attached to people, jobs, lifestyle habits, mental patterns, and most importantly we attach to how our values turn into a self identity.

I used to have the identity of a bohemian gypsy priestess rolling through life a leaf in the wind barely touching ground and indulging my senses as I pleased. This identity and lifestyle was partially a privilege and a way of being that allowed me to deeply heal for a period of time.

Now my identity is a grounded, stable, disciplined therapist and teacher planting roots and living like an urban Buddhist monk with how I eat and practice yoga/meditation. I went through a very difficult transition because I was very attached to my old self identity. I resisted the identity I wear now, profusely (a life-long trend for me to have aversion for what I am about to embrace). Now I am content with the new identity.

Growth is always painful and death always brings rebirth.

The artist identity has also changed value. I used to want make it in the world as an artist. Now, I could care less about getting worldly recognition. Sometimes only part of an identity shifts. The artist remains but she values making art for the sake of making art and not for achieving fame or success in the eyes of others.

Do you have a life long identity that also needs a shift within it?

Romantic relationships are a big one when it comes to core values. The kind of relationship you value now may be very different than what it was five, ten or twenty years ago. Your values here may shift in terms of the structure of relationship and in the type of person most compatible with who you are.

Discerning core values from more shallow expectations is vital. You don’t want to miss out on a great core value match because they don’t meet your shallow expectations.

Compromise plays a big role here too. If an introvert is with an extrovert, for instance, your values will clash but can you find a happy medium where you allow your partner to go out more while you stay home and sometimes they stay home with you and sometimes you go out and socialize with them?

Sometimes opposite core values find their balance when other core values match up well between two people.

It is also important to discern the difference between a core value and an unconscious wound or fear. For instance, you may value a close long term relationship but fear being in one due to hurt from the past or not feeling good enough to have what you want. If you don’t know the difference between hurt and value, you may cling to an idea that you prefer being single and free when this is not a core value but rather a defense to protect yourself from being hurt again.

You may need to discover, rediscover or hone into your core value map. There are many ways to feel what matters most to you if your mind is not producing the words.

Look to what makes you cry with tears of beauty. Look to what causes you to feel anger in defense of the sacred. Look to what makes you smile big. Look to what invigorates you and makes you feel more expanded, open, and buoyant. Look to where you find it easy to focus and lose all track of time. Look to which people make you feel like coming home or make you want to be a better person or who make you light up. Look to love.

There may be blocks in the way when wounds, fears, and hurt spiderweb through the psyche. Sometimes finding the map requires an investigation of your shadow land. Patience may be required to navigate through confusing feelings, opposing thoughts, or being disconnected from your true self and over-bonded to the values of others.

Fear of being yourself may present as a projection onto someone or a real situation when a loved one’s expectations, criticisms, and dominating personality takes up too much space on a regular basis (due to their own wounds). This may have been in your upbringing or in a present relationship. Or you are projecting this onto a current person who is not dominating and critical but simply expressing their needs or feeling triggered into their own past stuff.

The path of differentiating true self from toxic patterns in loved ones is a path that requires courage. Discerning projection from reality is a skill that takes time to develop. We all project because it’s natural and just a part of what we do.

Lastly, I want to mention that we are not our core values and we are not our identity. Our values protect true self. To change up the metaphor, identity is the costume sewn by the core values to understand and express true self.

True self is deeper than the sewer and the costume. True self is a felt experience and a verb ever-changing just like nature and life itself.