Am I Enough?

Am I Enough?

This question… this question haunts us all in so many ways.  This question creeps into crevices in our lives and strikes out at us, making us feel uncertain and unworthy.  In our achievement and success oriented society, we are beat over the head with this question, Am I Enough, every. single. day.

I’ve had this conversation several times this week, and more than I can count over the years.  Whether we are comparing ourselves to someone else, to a standard society set, or to a former or expected version of ourselves, we all do it and it is always painful.

So let’s dig in.

I want this post to be more of an experience.  I want you to settle into wherever you are, take a deep, grounding breath, and tune into yourself for a minute.  In what ways do you feel “not enough”, where does that phrase sneak into your life?  Take a moment.

This is soul grating, button pushing work.

Where does this question live in your world?

Here are a list of common areas that “Not Good Enough” tends to thrive:

  • Body Image
  • Parenting
  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Social Life
  • Intelligence
  • Skill Sets (sports, gaming, etc)

As it turns out, Not Good Enough’s best friend is shame. They go hand in hand.  When we don’t feel up to par, we feel bad about ourselves (our bodies, our brains, etc…) and that brings on shame, which only serves to perpetuate the cycle.  As a society we have perfected shame, shaming ourselves and one another for any perceived shortcoming.  We’ve disguised shame as motivation… if I don’t shame myself, how will I ever improve??? But recent research shows that shame isn’t motivating at all. In fact, it’s quite discouraging. Shocking, I know.

So let me tell you something right now.

You are Enough

In this moment, right here, right now, you’re enough.

Listen, we all have room to improve and to grow.  Hopefully our lives are one big exercise in growth. But right here in this moment, this is all we have, and it is enough for right now.  If you’d like to make some changes, grow, learn, get healthy, by all means do those things.  But for goodness sakes don’t shame yourself.  What is right here and right now is all we have so why hate it, why beat yourself up for it, why let shame cast it’s heavy hand on you?  Why?

Do me a favor and settle yourself again, take a deep breath, think of those areas where you aren’t feeling good enough. Find a place in your heart where compassion lives. It might be easier to find compassion for someone or something else first, but once you’ve found that place I want you to direct that compassion towards yourself. Tell yourself “I accept _____________ (my body, where I am in my career, etc…)”. Sit with that for a while, repeat it, feel the feelings that come with it without needing to change or ignore them.  When the acceptance has settled in a bit create some affirmations for yourself, here are some examples:

  • My body made two people, it’s pretty amazing.
  • It’s ok that I’m introverted, I am a good friend to those I have.
  • My career is only one aspect of my life.
  • I deserve to be happy despite my shortcomings.

And the best of all

  • I AM ENOUGH!

Please remember, you don’t have to be everything.  Furthermore, you can’t be everything. You may see people doing more, having more (I could write a whole different post on this one), being in better shape, etc….  You can’t do it all, and more so, you probably don’t want to.   I was discussing this with a few other therapists this week… the pressure to do speaking engagements or write a book when all I really want is to be in my office doing the work with clients.  This pressure of being considered “good enough” is pushing me towards things I am not even interested in! So when you find yourself in this place, comparing yourselves with others, here are a few tips:

  • Stop and check in with yourself. Is this even something you would want in your life?  Is it actually important to you or is it message you’re getting from outside of yourself?
  • Go to a place of gratitude. Make a list of three things you are grateful for (they don’t have to be literal things, experiences, characteristics, feelings all count too).
  • Do a loving kindness meditation- send yourself some love.
  • Use the affirmations you developed above.
  • Create a plan to move towards goals that are important to you.

But most of all please remind yourself that you are uniquely you, you are on your own path going your own way. Life is not a race or a competition so take your time to learn, grow, feel, change, and develop in your own way.  Life is painful enough on it’s own, you don’t need to help it by hurting yourself.  Be kind, be understanding, be your own biggest fan.  Repeat with me:

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

 

For more information on shame check out Brene Brown’s work:

Shame, Vulnerability, and Empathy

For information on self compassion, check out Kristin Neff’s work:

Self Compassion Info and Resources

 

Game Time!

What do you remember from childhood?  I remember a literal closet full of games stacked on top of games, stacked on top of more games.  Before the days of devices and DVRs, my sister and I would pull out Clue or Life and entertain ourselves for hours.

Play is vital for the brain’s growth and development.  Why not engage our kids in game play so they can learn, grow, and have fun all at once.  Here are a few games I have found useful in my office.

Connect Four

Teaching kids to slow down, pay attention, and think through choices.  Reflect what your child is doing. Ex: I see you’re just blocking all my moves, I wonder what would happen if you work on your own plan while paying attention to my moves.

Chutes and Ladders

Working with kids who are sore losers.  This game can be SO frustrating, it provides many great opportunities to work with low frustration tolerance and sore losing.  During this game it is helpful to reflect your own frustrations or disappointments while also noting the positives of the game as well. Ex: Aw man, I got another chute, how frustrating.  I’m glad I got that ladder earlier.

Kerplunk

Wonderful for slowing down, making thoughtful decisions, being mindful in action.  In order to be successful at this game you need to make a purposeful choice, then move mindfully to pull your stick out.  I like to let my clients pull out a stick carelessly (as many of them will) and then prompt them on their next turn to slow down and look closely at the game as they do it.  The difference is remarkable.  This can lead to other conversations about the benefits of slowing down and making mindful choices.

Similar to Kerplunk are Yeti in My Spaghetti and Honeybee Tree.  I use the Honey Bee game in my office and it is a client favorite!


Topple

Another game that promotes mindful movement and choices.

Story Cubes

Wonderful for creativity and self expression.  This game can be difficult, so it also helps children persist despite the challenges and feel a sense of accomplishment.

There are so many more games out there, enjoy looking… and mostly, enjoy playing with your kids. I know they’ll enjoy playing with you!

New to the Practice!

Friends, I have some exciting news!

In the past several months I have felt like I am coming out of the dark! My daughter turned three and has blossomed in so many ways, including becoming more sure of herself and more independent from me.  This has allowed me a bit more free time and I have found myself reading more and more.  I think after 5 years focused on family and growing my practice, I was thirsty for growth myself!  In addition to reading, I began seeking out opportunities to train to increase my skills. After a lot of thought, I decided to pursue EMDR, and wow am I glad I did!

I spent this past weekend in an intensive EMDR training, the first of three, possibly more.  I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities of this kind of therapy for my clients and my practice.  Let me explain

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, but don’t get caught up on the name just yet.  The very basic description of EMDR is this:

The human body has a beautiful and natural way to heal itself, and it moves towards this tendency on it’s own.  The mind is the same way, when there is an injury or trauma, the mind moves towards healing.  However, if we get a cut, and there is dirt or bacteria in there, the cut may not heal, it may become infected.  The healing is blocked.  The same can occur in the mind, the natural healing process can be blocked.

When we experience trauma (big or small) it is stored in our brains not just in verbal or visual memory, but is sounds, smells, bodily sensations, and more.  When the healing process is blocked our mind cannot fully heal from the trauma, we cannot fully process it and therefore, are vulnerable to be triggered by similar sites, sounds, bodily sensations etc… We are also more likely to symbolically recreate this trauma in our lives as our mind attempts to solve it and move past the block.  Many, many people live with fear, anxiety, depression, substance use, and more at the hands of blocked trauma.

It is important to say here that trauma isn’t just big things like war, rape, natural disasters, etc… It can be smaller (although they may not feel small) things such as experiencing rejection from parents or peers, being shamed by a teacher, going through a divorce or major life transition, and much more.  Many of my clients are resistant to the word “trauma”, I’m ok with that as long as they don’t minimize the impact of the incident on themselves and their life.  Whatever you choose to call it, your experience is important, honor it.

Ok, back to EMDR.  First on a whim, then through multiple published studies, Francine Shapiro realized that traumatic or emotionally upsetting memories could be neutralized (eliminated of their emotional charge) through bilateral stimulation.  Originally, Shapiro used two fingers, moved back and forth across the field of vision as bilateral stimulation. Currently, there are a variety of other means including hands tapping the client’s outer thigh, and machines that provide sensation in handheld “tappers”.

Many studies have shown that bilateral stimulation, combined with therapist prompts and guidance can rid even the most activating traumas of their emotional charge.  The incident remains in memory, but no longer stirs up negative feelings and sensations.  This effect has been replicated in numerous published studies.  Although the exact mechanism is not entirely clear, it appears that the bilateral stimulation unblocks the channels and allows the memory to process to completion.  The amazing part is that this process is much faster than regular talk therapy; Shapiro sites an average of 4.5 hours in single trauma incidents (Shapiro, F., Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing (EMDR) Therapy, Third Edition).

I know it sounds too good to be true, but in my training this weekend, I watched it happen, I even had it happen to me! As therapists in training, it is essential to practice our skills, and equally as important to know what it feels like to sit in the client seat. So, during trainings we are the therapist and then we are the client.  I addressed two issues from my past that still bring up negative emotions when I think of them.  I sat in my client role as my fellow classmates practiced their new skills on me, and was AMAZED as I watched memories and sensations flicker in front of my eyes and move on past.  Upon completion, these incidents no longer held an emotional charge for me.  Being a neuro nerd, this is absolutely fascinating!  Being a therapist, I am filled with hope for my clients to reach a place of peace and calm sooner than previously thought!

If you’d like to learn more about EMDR, check out EMDRIA’s website

www.EMDRIA.org

For information on the specific Attachment Focused EMDR model that I am training in please visit

www.parnellemdr.com

*It is important to note that no results can be guaranteed in therapy, even with mountains of research behind it!  And that I am considered “in training” until the completion of my third training weekend in the fall.

A Day withThe Yes Brain

Despite horrendous traffic and the occasional shifting of the earth, living in the Los Angeles area has it’s perks.  One of those is proximity to UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.  This past Saturday I was lucky enough to spend the day taking a MARC workshop from my professional (and now personal) hero Dr. Daniel Siegel and is oft coauthor, the inspiring Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.  The workshop was entitled The Yes Brain, coincidently (not at all coincidently) the title of their new book.

Let me start by saying that I was nerding out in a big way about seeing Dr. Siegel in person.  I have read so many of his books (although he seems to write them faster than I can read them) and listened to even more of his talks online. I have used his “handy” model of the brain in more sessions than I can begin to count.  More than anyone else, this man has influenced the way I practice therapy.  And, if you recall, which of course you do because you are a faithful reader of my little blog here, I wrote my first blog post (which became my second when I decided to introduce myself first) about his book Parenting from the Inside Out.

Even with all of the build up of meeting my hero, this workshop did not disappoint.

The workshop was a synopsis of the book and was for everyone, not just for professionals.  Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson had such a great rapport, which made the talk feel like a conversation.  Dr. Siegel is the consummate expert at explaining the neurobiology in an accessible way, and seeing him demonstrate the hand model of the brain in person was, for me, like seeing my favorite band play my favorite song.  Did I mention I am a huge nerd?  Dr. Bryson masterfully took all of the science and applied it to real life parenting. They used examples from their own lives, which made all of it feel so human.

Since it took them 3 plus hours to break down the book, I won’t even try here, but I can give you a little peek.  The difference between a Yes Brain and a No Brain is a great place to start.

NO BRAIN

Reactive

Shut Down

In Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Faint Phase

Perfectionistic

Rigid

Recoils from failure

Unwilling to try new things

 

YES BRAIN

Receptive

Open to learning and connecting

Resilient

Able to hold on to curiosity and creativity

Socially engaged

Willing to try new things

Flexible

 

How do we know if our kids (or ourselves*hint hint) are in a Yes Brain state.  The authors call this the Green Zone.. Physically speaking the Green Zone looks calm, regular breath rate, relaxed muscles, clear thinking, and the ability to respond by making rational choices.  A No Brain can be seen in two different zones, the Red Zone looks a lot like the fight and flight response; increased heart rate, breath and blood pressure, tense muscles, shaking, and reactive.  The Blue Zone looks like the faint or freeze states, limp muscles, markedly decreased heart rate, collapse, and playing possum.

So how do we keep ourselves and our kids in the Green Zone.  The authors use a cheesy acronym:

Balance

Resilience

Insight

Empathy

~Did you get the pun???  We’ve already established that I love a good pun!~

How do we establish the BRIE in our kids?  That is the heart of the book.  There is no way I can do it justice here, so I won’t even try.  But, I will speak to my hint above.  In order for our kids to have a Yes Brain, we have to have one too.  We can’t expect our children to learn something that isn’t modeled to them, it’s like saying “here, I expect you to know all about reptilian anatomy without ever reading a book or laying eyes on a reptile.”  It doesn’t sound super realistic when I put it that way does it?  So get ready to get your yes brain working, because you’ll need it to help your child develop one!  And enjoy the read, you may become a Siegel/Bryson fanatic like me!

 

Mindfulness- Let’s Begin

Let me start by saying… I have SO much to say!

I can talk about mindfulness forever.  I can talk about therapy FOREVER.  So, you can only imagine how much I have to say about mindfulness AND therapy!  BUT, in an earlier post I made a commitment to you all that I wouldn’t go on and on.  So, just know that this is the beginning. There will be many more mindfulness posts, many. I’m going to start with the basics today.

I’ll admit that mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword right now.  This happens in therapy (and life), things become trendy and all of the sudden everyone is diagnosed with something, or training in something, or buying something for their office, you get the idea.  The irony of this is that mindful practice is almost as old as the mind itself.  But then again everything I wore in middle school is back in style; so I guess everything has its time and then comes around again.

So what is this new (old) thing we call mindfulness?

Well, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) defines mindful awareness as “the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences”.  Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (and a HUGE deal in the community) describes mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” It’s about being connected in the present moment, and further, being connected to your body and mind in the present moment.

Here’s the trick. We may think we are connected to our mind and body.  You may read that and think “I know my head hurts right now” or “My body feels fat in these pants today”.  It’s a different kind of relationship. It is a relationship without judgement, in fact, this relationship asks for acceptance.  Can you feel these sensations in your mind and body without judging them?  Without even thinking about them?  That’s why we use the phrase “bring your awareness to…”  If you have a headache can you bring your awareness to it without thinking about it (I must be dehydrated) or attaching feeling to it (I’m worried this won’t go away).  Just be aware of it, allow it to be what it is, sit with it. (A little secret: you might find that it gets better or goes away, but that’s for a different post).

What can mindfulness do?

Well, research into mindfulness is still new, and some of the kinks are still being worked out.  I won’t bore you with research talk, however results are coming in!  In their book, Fully Present, Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston write that research is beginning to show that repeated mindful practice can:

  • Reduce Stress
  • Reduce chronic physical pain
  • Boost the immune system
  • Assist in coping with painful life events
  • Assist in coping with negative emotions
  • Improve attention or concentration (also supported by a study from Smalley et. al)
  • Enhancing positive emotions
  • Enhancing performance
  • Changing brain structure in a positive way

That last one is my favorite! So many people think therapy and therapeutic techniques are “all in our heads”.  That it isn’t real.  But mindful practices can actually change the physical structure and connections in your brain!  I like telling clients that mindful practices are like weightlifting for your prefrontal cortex (I’m a nerd, don’t judge). It also shrinks the grey matter in your amygdala, the part of your brain that contains the fight or flight response, but I don’t want to get to “brainy” on you!

How can you start?

We can start right now.  Take a breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Now take another one but try to feel that breath in your nose, maybe even down through your windpipe and into your lungs, and then try to feel the breath as it leaves your mouth.

You just had a mindful moment.  Congrats!

Mindful meditation consists of doing what you just did for an extended period of time.  Find somewhere quiet (or if you are a parent like me, relatively quiet will do), breathe normally, and focus on the feeling of the breath, whether it’s in your nose, chest, belly, or mouth.  If thoughts enter your mind just gently and non-judgmentally direct your attention back to your breath. Start small and work your way up to longer meditation times.

Please remember that it’s called a practice for a reason.  You aren’t supposed to be good at it at first, there is always room for growth.  Don’t let it be a time where you beat yourself up.

We’ll talk about more ways to be mindful later, for now here are some awesome resources to help you get started:

Websites

Mindful Awareness Research Center Free Guided Mediations

Mindful

Apps- Available in Google Play and App Store

Stop, Breathe, and Think

Calm

Insight Timer

Books

Fully Present

How to Train a Wild Elephant, and Other Adventures in Mindfulness

How To Talk To Your Child About Difficult Things

I wrote this post a few weeks back and never published it, but in light of the devastating events in Las Vegas last night, I decided to publish it today.  I hope this helps facilitate some of the difficult conversations that may come up in the days ahead.

Please take care of one another.

~Abby

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A lot has been going on lately. From the devastating storms in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico, to political feuds, there is no shortage of difficult topics out there; and it can be a lot for our children to take in.  So how do we go about addressing these things with our children in a way they can understand?

Let me first say that a lot of this is less therapeutic discussion, and more parenting choice.  You as the parent know what you kids can handle and what may be too sad, scary, or overwhelming.  Use your intuition as to what’s best for your child, in terms of what they are capable of understanding and processing.  Taking the path of “they need to know or should know this can be damaging if your child isn’t ready.  Issues or events may be incredibly important to us personally, but that doesn’t mean your child is ready to hear or learn about them.  If you need help assessing your child’s readiness, answer the following questions and use the results as a guide:

  • Why do I feel compelled to share? (ex: it is important for them, it is important to me, they are asking questions, etc…)
  • What will my child gain from having this information? (ex: safety, increased understanding, increased knowledge, nothing?)
  • Can my child handle this information?
    • Is my child sensitive?
    • Does my child scare easily?
    • Does my child worry excessively?

If you’ve gone through the questions and decided to discuss with your kids, or if they got to the information prior to this process, here are some helpful tips:

Plan Your Discussion

 Think our what you want to say ahead of time.  Sometimes in the middle of a difficult discussion we realize it opens the door to other difficult topics we weren’t prepared to address.  Plan your main points and try to anticipate questions your child might have so you can be prepared to answer them.

Use Age Appropriate Language

 Make sure your child can understand the words and concepts you use.  This will keep the discussion simple and understandable for your child.

Be Honest, but Prudent

 Children look to their parents for a safe, trusting relationship.  It is crucial to be honest, but also purposeful with what you sharing and why. Your child may not need to know it all.

If your child asks, it may be helpful to acknowledge that bad things happen and sometimes we don’t know why.  Reassure your child that they are safe and that there are people in their lives who work hard to keep it that way.  If your family is religious, it may be helpful to discuss your particular religion’s perspective here.

Keep it Short and Leave Room for Questions

 Often, the more we talk, the less kids listen.  Sometimes all that language can be overwhelming. Make sure to pause, ask your child if they understand, and provide your child the opportunity to ask questions.

Check In

Check in after the discussion, children take time to process things and may have questions hours, days, or weeks later.  Honor those questions, answer them thoughtfully, and encourage them to keep asking questions if needed.