Compassion

STEPPING OUT OF THE STORY

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I know my old story.

It is :: I AM BROKEN.

And even before that it is :: I AM NOT WORTHY.

The stigma of having been divorced, the first of my friends and in my age group to do so, often bites at my heals, begging for me to pick it up and ride the downward spiral of WHAT IFs and SHOULDS. 

What if I tried harder to make the relationship work?
What if I wasn’t tolerant enough of my husband’s behavior?
What if I had staged an intervention?

I should have been able to see it sooner and leave…I wasted so many years.

I should have known, as a therapist, what my husband’s issues and my issues were.

I should have been able to help myself.

I should be married with children now.

And then the WHYs come parading into my brain in an endless stream of existential confusion.

Why have I been given this life?
Why must I go through these trials?
Why can’t I have the family I dreamed of as a child?
Why do they teach us fairy tales as children if that is not the script of reality?
Why didn’t anyone see what was wrong and tell me to leave the relationship?
Why can’t I get it right?

How long have I held this belief of unworthiness? Where did it start? Why is it so hard to shake?

I get lost in the story and forget to breathe. I look at the clock and I see how much precious time I have wasted trying to figure out an answer to the uncertainty of life. The unsolvable.

Then I melt into the embrace of unknowing and uncertainty, gratitude towards my path, trusting that I am headed in the direction I am supposed to be going. The anxiety and groundlessness ends as I sink into my feet, allowing the energy to disperse throughout my limbs and trunk, loosening my grip physically and mentally. I take a few moments to notice the peace I am currently surrounded by, the smell, the image, the sounds. I send an energetic bow of thanks to the universe for giving me the journey I am on, appreciating the highs and lows, the experience as a whole.

To say it no longer hits me would be a lie. I can, with strong conviction, assert that it hits me much less often and for short increments of time before I identify it, kiss it, and say goodbye. I trust my path. Only with time and practice have I learned to tune into this power, my power, my own intuition drawn from my feminine divine energy. 

I invite you to tune into your feminine divine energy to step out of your story when you can. To end the cycle of rumination over the unsolvable and unknowable and instead to tune into and be grateful for what you have now.

To tuning into the Divine Feminine in you, me & us,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute consultation for art therapy, talk therapy or sensorimotor psychotherapy to begin the process stepping out of the story, email kim@yoursoultherapy.com

Why Badass Women Come to Therapy

In our private practice, we see some of the brightest and most ambitious women in Washington. They are well read, highly accomplished, and typically have checked off most items on their bucket lists. Outside of a deep wanderlust, what is missing in the lives of these women who know how to fully live? If you’re their friend, colleague, acquaintance, it looks like they have it all. These women would agree that most of the time, their lives feel amazing.

One might wonder why are badass women coming to therapy? Relationships.

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Whether they are single, dating, partnered, or divorced, these women don’t feel like themselves in intimate relationships.   They feel anything but badass.

Exhausted, Frustrated, and at times Heartbroken by a Never Ending Dating Process

Many single women have no problem dating, but they have not found the one despite many dates or relationships. A number of these women date the same partner twice, for 3 weeks, or things end by month 4.

Each time they meet a new someone, they continue to walk on what feels like the tight rope of dating. Should I be excited on the first date even though it probably won’t lead to anything? Maybe I should take a break from dating because it all feels like too much? They have no idea why they continue to get the same results.

They can’t understand why so many women around them are happily dating or partnered. They feel that something is innately wrong with them.

Women Dating Unavailable People

This often starts with dating the most charming, passionate, or promise-you-everything man or woman. The initial dating process is mind-blowing on many levels.

Then a shift happens. The women see that their man or woman is unavailable in one or more ways. The partners live in different countries and won’t move or meet in the middle. They may be workaholics and prioritize work over the relationship.   They may be in the pull me close, push me away dance with touch, play, interest, and intimacy on many levels.

Where there previously was all passion, spark, and play, there can be equal amounts of disappearing, confusion, passive aggressiveness, or anger. These women find that most of their partners are not just emotionally unavailable but are not wanting to make any promises or commitments.

They don’t understand why the continually find themselves with the same unavailable partners and burned at the end of the short lived relationships. When they dig deeper, parts of them don’t feel that they know how to be close to a healthy partner.

Women Who Struggle to Believe that Their Partners Love Them

For many partnered women in our practice, they cannot believe that their partner could love them as much as they do. Their partners continually show up, believe in them, and love them even in some of the most challenging situations.

These clients struggle with receiving love from their partners.

No matter what they read or how hard they try, they don’t know how to let love in. They don’t know how to feel the love that their partners are consistently giving them.   They are blocked for many reasons from trusting themselves and the person that wants to be close to them.   Fear, longing, anger, and grief along with chatter laced everyday worthlessness can be some things that take these women down emotionally.

 

Partnered Women: Who Want More

These women are in relationships that aren’t working anymore. Often the relationship was what they needed for months, years or even decades.

In recent months or years, these women have experienced a deeper sense of self awareness about their needs and desires or may have even had a spiritual awakening. Their partners have struggled to pace with them or grow in their own ways.

These women are wanting more for themselves, their relationships, and lives. It is often complex because families, friends and even children are intertwined. Some of the women are torn between taking care of someone who isn’t fully able to emotionally care for themselves. The dance of overfunctioning and underfunctioning resentment is released with forgiveness and compassion with the work.

Other women are able to finally take a stand for themselves. They have learned that taking up space in a relationship is a brave and healthy decision.

Moving from the Fight to Being ALL IN

None of the decisions or paths is easy, but these women have walked through the one or more dark nights of the soul in their relationships and dating experiences. In our work together, they learn the meaning and purpose of suffering. They connect with themselves as not to recreate that path or dance as means of waking themselves into consciousness. They have taken their learning and stepped into deeper connection with life, themselves and the people they care most. This process of transformation is radical and subtle at the same time. Badass women might fight this quest at the beginning, but are all in by the end.

If you are wanting to be ALL IN in your relationships, connect with Kim@yoursoultherapy.com or Amy@yoursoultherapy.com

4 Ways to Connect with Desire & Let go of Should

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Can you remember a time or a part of your life where you walked your talk, dreamed big, or even believed that things could change for the better?  For some — that sense of hopefulness, longing, or desire is present in one or more parts of our lives.  However, many people have dampened that inner voice that connects us to our values, hopes, and dreams because of insecurities, shoulds, no, or stuckness. We have become disconnected from our fire or desire for living life with meaning or from our soul’s deepest longings.

The voice we hear instead is the clear and sometimes harsh or demeaning sound of the inner critic.  The voice of the inner critic may have been around for years or decades of our lives.  This voice of self-criticism often dictates all of the shoulds in your life and plays off of our biggest insecurities. How you should be: eating, exercising, working, numbing, avoiding, pretending, pleasing, performing, perfecting, changing…the list can go on. The voice of should keeps us small or in perfectionism and doesn’t allow us to take up space in our own life or relationships, keeping us stuck or disconnected from the people or parts of our lives or relationships we care about most.

Many clients that come to see me want to live more fully in their relationships. The desire to be fearless, have clarity, cultivate self-awareness, and to find the one. They want to let go of living in should and are exhausted from having it all together all of the time. They want to not have to care for everyone else but themselves and are tired of putting their wants, needs, and desires last.

So how do you start to connect with desire and let go of living in should? This can feel like a huge leap into the unknown. Here are 5 ways to start living the life that was meant for you.

1. Give yourself permission to savor small decisions in your daily life.
Rather than defaulting to having a non-opinion (e.g., It doesn’t matter to me; You pick; I really don’t care), let yourself be curious about you really want in small moments. Whether it is about what you’re eating for lunch or what shoes you’ll wear for the day, listen to the voice inside you that says, “YES!” in any way shape or form. Give yourself permission to feel grateful, compassionate, joyful, or even giggly about tuning into what works for you in what may have used to have been a shut down space.

2. Tune into your body for directions around what step to take next

Our bodies do not steer us in the wrong direction. It is often the chatter of the inner critic or should that propels us into a catch 22 frame of mind (e.g., we know ourselves, know the problem, but we can’t get past it). Start taking time to listen and feel what sensations are happening in your body when you want something. Notice if your body is giving you feedback without label emotions. Starting places to tune in:
~temperature change
~heart rate pace
~heaviness in heart, throat, or gut
~spaciousness
~wanting to move or walk
~goosebumps

3. Follow the breadcrumb trail
This process reflects learning to trust your intuition or highest self to continually guide you. Trusting this part of you to guide your decision making process, rather than listening to your inner critic or should. This can feel like synchronicity when the world reflects pieces or parts of your hopes, dreams and desires around decision making.

4. Practice Self-Compassion
If opening to desire, longing and/or authenticity feels simple yet radical, you may want to cultivate a practice of self-compassion. Learning to nurture yourself while learning you are worthy of amazing things and relationships can stoke the fire of the inner critic and old ways of living in should can resurface. Practicing self-compassion can allow us to be open to allowing others to give to us and for us to receive. Kristen Neff‘s work on self-compassion and Tosha Silver‘s work on balancing giving and receiving can be wonderful resources, especially if you struggle with boundaries or have codependent patterns or relationships.

If you are ready to let go of living in should or staying small, you can learn to courage to live authentically one decision at a time and stoke your internal fire for deep meaningful soulful connection and living.

To dreaming big and living fully,
Amy

9.25.14 National Psychotherapy Day

Today, 9.25.14 is National Psychotherapy Day.  Many efforts are underway to spread the word the therapy helps.  I’m a proud communicator of this message along with many amazing colleagues.  

The Team at http://www.nationalpsychotherapyday.com/
Jodie Gale of Australia : http://jodiegale.com/creative-spaces-inside-25-counselling-psychotherapy-rooms/
Margarita Tartakovsky of psychcentral.com http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/09/25/national-psychotherapy-day-therapists-reveal-what-therapy-can-do-for-you/
Goodtherapy.org http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/national-psychotherapy-day-september-0918124


The poem, Everything is Waiting for You, speaks to the possibility that feels just out of reach for so many people. Psychotherapy, counseling, art therapy, and sandplay 
can help you ease into the conversation of your loneliness, suffering, pain, fears, failures, shame, messiness, or stuckness. I accompany clients in their journey of the their humanness. I am here to be the sherpa on this path give me a call to step further into courage, hopefulness, and everything that this world has to offer 202.540.0796.

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

Top 10 Recommended Books

My clients often appreciate receiving resources and homework as a part therapeutic process.  They are ready to continue moving forward toward their goals.  I provide book recommendations as one avenue for clients to maintain their momentum and support with self care between sessions.

           Top 10 Recommended Books

Top-10-Books 1.  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown
Vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  Brene has a gift for languaging people’s experiences, and men and women alike can connect to taking different paths in their families, organizations and communities.

2. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Dr. Kristen Neff
If you are able to extend kindness, generosity and compassion to others, but you often go to being self critical before thinking of showing yourself compassion, this book may be for you.  Dr. Neff  provides the research on benefits of building a practice of self-compassion to cope with life’s big and small challenges.  If you would like to learn more about Dr. Neff’s research, read more in this post.

3. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
Do you have a need to control people or relationships or put them before yourself or believe if they would just change, you would be happy?  Melody offers a variety of stories, exercises, and questions to help you navigate codependency.

4. Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood
Are you interested in emotionally unavailable men and do you find nice guys to be boring?   This book can help understand the roots of your patterns in relationships and is another lens to look at co-dependency.

5. The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Dr. Harriet Lerner
Anger can be a difficult and complex experience for many women.  For women struggling with anger, Dr. Lerner teaches you  how to identify the true sources of your anger and use anger as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change.

6. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
If your marriage is dominated by criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal, consider committing to reading this book and using Dr. Gottman’s four-step program as a couple for breaking through negativity and allowing one’s natural communication and problem-solving abilities to flourish.

7. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Dr. Daniel Siegel
No matter if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or trauma, Dr. Siegel shares his research around the non-spiritual practice of mindfulness based techniques as a means of managing symptoms, stressors and challenges to lead a more healthy and fulfilling life.

8.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. If you are an introvert or in a relationship or work with an introvert, this is a must read.

9. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
Traditional Buddhist wisdom is offered with radical modern clarity and accessibility.  Most people try to avoid pain and discomfort, which only leads to more pain and discomfort.  Pema offers advice that goes against the grain of our usual habits and expectations that helps one to navigate painful and uncomfortable situations and experiences.

10. A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield
Another Western Buddhist master, Kornfield shares everyday wisdom for developing a spiritual practice of awakening.  He offers great insights around metta mediation or the practice of loving kindness, which can provide much healing.

Seeking More Motivation, Stronger Relationships, and a Healthier Lifestyle, Begin a Self Compassion Practice

The idea that a practice of self compassion will offer more motivation, stronger relationships and a healthier lifestyle is in direct conflict to our strong cultural norm.  Within American culture, we are taught that self criticism leads to stronger self motivation and less laziness.  The research indicates that a practice of self compassion improves various aspects of lives, whereas self -criticism actually has the opposite effect. The self compassionate practice is linked to increased motivation, stronger relationships and taking greater responsibility for a healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert and pioneer researcher on self-compassion.  She has published numerous journal articles, a book, “Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind,”  and has presented: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen.

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Dr. Neff’s research outlines that our self-esteem driven culture in which feeling special and above average is the expected norm and feeling average or less than usually feels devastating.  There are many costs to a self-esteem focused society: the highest rates of narcissism in history and a bullying epidemic to name just two.  Focusing on advancing our own self esteem, feeling stronger and better than the other depends upon success.  Failure is not an option, especially when the self critic is at the helm. We are often our own worst enemies.  Many people rarely treat themselves as they would their closest friends or partners.

In contrast to a self critical focus, a practice of self compassion is one where we relate to our whole selves for our strengths and challenges.  It is a practice of treating yourself with the kindness, understanding, gentleness, encouragement that you would extend to your closest and dearest friends.  The practice of self-compassion connects us to ourselves and to others in our own humanness.

The practice of self-compassion is also at its core, a practice in mindfulness.  Being with what is in the present moment is central to a self-compassionate practice.  In essence,  we accept that we are suffering to give ourselves compassion.  If we go into self-criticizing mode, we get lost in the role of the critic, and don’t realize that we are suffering.  When in self compassion, we acknowledge the moment and experience of suffering, which leads to the resolution of the suffering.

The research shows that when we self criticize,  adrenaline and cortisol are released, which activates the fight flight response.   The threat to self is attacked, setting up a dynamic where we are the attacker and the attacked. In this constant state of stress, we are more prone to mind and body illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, adrenal failure, fatigue, and sleeplessness.

In contrast, when we are in a self compassionate state, we feel safe and comforted.  Dr. Neff’s research reveals this is an optimal state of success strongly related to having less depression,  experiencing greater motivation,  taking more responsibility for healthier lifestyle choices, and enjoying better interpersonal relationships.

There are so many ways to begin this practice.  A yoga of teacher of mine in graduate school used to end each class with this self-compassionate filled statement.  See how it resonates with you.

Walk gently and sweetly with yourself.
Take each moment to love who you are.

Let us know your thoughts about self-compassion and self-compassionate practices.

Warmly,
Amy

Letting Go: Taking the First Step. Welcoming What Needs to Come.

Every ending is connected to a new beginning.  The holidays and year end lay the ground work for contemplation in the quiet of winter and the new year.  Post celebration, activity and travel, we are in a new space of openness.  This reflective space can especially illuminate the endings and beginnings in relationships with ourselves and with others. We may find ourselves considering what we need to release and what we would like to invite into our selves and lives.

Within our hearts, minds and bodies, we may want to let go of obstacles put in our paths.  When the obstacles have served their purpose and lessons have been learned about why they were put on our path, we are often most ready to begin letting go. Even with this understanding, it is common for the anticipation of letting go to bring many concerns and feelings into the mind body.

A metaphor that speaks to this for me is captured in the image below of the North Kaibab Trail of Grand Canyon (credit NPS).  Similar to taking the first steps of a long journey along a steep canyon, when we take the first steps in letting go of something or someone, we often feel and recognize the risks at hand because we know the bottom and focus on it.  This emotional and relational bottom can be about not having that something or someone in our life and being disconnected from them and ourselves. The fear of the falling to the bottom can stop some from taking that first step of letting go on the journey because it obscures the bigger picture.

However when we look at the larger view of the journey ahead, we can sometimes lean into the first step knowing that letting go  will release the obstacles, allowing something new to take its place.  This new aspect of ourselves or opportunity in our life may lend itself to being more connected.  Welcoming what needs to come in its place is often key.  With the metaphor of walking along the steep canyon, taking the first step reconnects one to the path, moving one forward on the journey.  This preparatory welcoming truly invites the opportunity to take in the full views and experience of being in the canyon, eventually allowing one to see  and be in the spectacular that was initially hidden by the perceived fears by focusing on the bottom.

steep-canyon

Tosha Silver is an eloquent and profound story teller of life.  I share her words below. Consider them as a parting gift to yourself as you venture into the open space by taking the first step in letting go.  This will help to welcome the new connections in relationship to yourself and with others.  Read them aloud to fully feel them resonate in the mind body.  You may even want to write them or make art about them.

“Let what needs to go, go. Let what needs to come, come.”

With openness for what needs to go and come on the journey,

Amy

Making an Offering of Love and Hope

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Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light get’s in.
~ Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Thinking about the 20 precious children and 8 adults, who were lost, and the families, schools, and communities, who are crumbling at this time, I believe that one of the remedies to this darkness is to bring light.

I believe that we can offer our own light, as a means of shinning into the collective darkness.  One of the most powerful ways to share our light is through making an offering of love and hope.  By making a deliberate and conscious decision to do one thing that offers hope and love, you can honor the lives lost.   This offering also allows our light to seep into the cracks of  our own hearts and hearts of others.  The heart ~ mind ~ and body integrative wisdom used to create this offering will provide light to you and others.

One’s love and hope offering can manifest in many forms.  The offering can be alone or the community of family, friends and others.
~Prayer
~ Extra hugs for loved ones
~ Preparing meals with love
~Blowing bubbles filled with love and hope with your children or friends
~Going to water and floating hope on the water or down the stream, river or ocean: fresh cut flowers, intentions and wishes
~Burning a candle and offering something in this light
~Attending a vigil
~Exercise: talk a walk, run, swim or yoga practice filling each movement with love and hope
~Offer the gift of sound and music
~Create: making something with your hands with hope and love
~Reconnecting with whom you have lost touch
~ A random act of kindness for a stranger
~Metta Meditation
~Raising awareness around mental health needs from a place of hope and love
~Raising awareness around gun control and safety from a place of hope and love

Talking with your children about this tragedy can be filled with love and hope too.  If you are wondering about how to process this with your children, Brene Brown offered a heartfelt post about how to move forward with resources.  My local colleague, Dr. Rebecca Resnik provided practical steps in her blog.

What will your offering and hope and love be…?

Honoring the hope and loved filled light in you and those who have past,

Amy

Reconnecting to YOU through the Creative Process

We moms are so busy that sometimes we lose the connection to our creative selves. Read on for some thoughts/resources on how to find your “flow” and help bring your heart and mind together from Guest Blogger, Amy Tatsumi.

What makes you feel alive?  What allows you to be connected to your true self? For some, it is singing or dancing when no one is watching. It could also be reading, swimming in the ocean, stargazing, running, enjoying spa time, or eating fresh strawberries.  Others may relish old traditions kept alive: Baking bread, knitting, family dinners, or making art.  All of these activities involve the action of creating directly or indirectly for ourselves.

Sometimes we, as mothers, are so busy with all of our responsibilities that we can get disconnected from our true selves.  We may begin to view life from an intellectual or pragmatic place where we over-think or rationalize the same scripts over and over in our heads.

We tend to put everyone’s needs before ours because that is what mothers, wives, single parents, or outstanding employees are supposed to do (no matter how tired or burnt out we are).

The mom wars of our time seem to reinforce this script that no matter what path of motherhood you choose, someone may find fault with you.

From internal and external pressures and criticisms, we can see our brilliant light dimming.  We don’t make time for ourselves or for the pastimes or activities that help us to feel alive.  We then experience less joy, satisfaction, contentment, and equanimity in our daily lives and relationships.

What can we do to bring our hearts and minds closer together?  The creative process supports both those who have the words and those who don’t. Art therapy provides a healing space for children, teens, and adults alike to connect with images, the creative process, and words to better understand how and why they are feeling disconnected.

Art Therapy helps people who struggle with anxiety, depression, grief & loss, trauma, chronic illness, relationship issues, major life changes, and decision-making. It is practiced in schools, hospitals, wellness centers, the military, and in mental health centers. It is important to note that you don’t need to be artistic to benefit from art therapy.

Art therapists are master’s level credentialed clinicians with training in counseling and art.  They offer various mediums (e.g., paint, digital photography, sewing, sculpture, etc.) to help their clients create solutions for the hows and whys of their lives.

Recently, I met with a mother who was feeling unfulfilled and overworked.  She began reconnecting to her hopes and wishes through talking and exploring metaphors in watercolors.  The fluidity of the watercolor medium helped this mother to make decisions for herself and family that flowed with balance and joy most of the time.

Another woman contacted me because she was feeling anxious about returning to the work force after being home with her child for some time.  She was stuck in feelings of guilt and anxiety about her home and work balance.  Through exploring a variety of art mediums, this mother used the art making process and her personal metaphors and imagery to feel more grounded and balanced in her everyday life.

Tapping into the creative process can help you reconnect with your authentic self. Try it to discover how your heart and mind can work together to live a life filled with possibilities.

This blog was originally published on http://jenniferkogan.com/archives/764