Fear

FROM GRIPPING TO EMBRACING FEAR

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Today I take a step towards embracing fear and releasing my grip on fear.

You may not believe this….. but guess what? I am an imperfect psychotherapist.

I am on my own journey, weaving in and out of the depths and surface of this life. I delve deep and stay for a moment, in solitude, attuned to my inner goddess. Shortly after, I get in my car and drive around Washington DC or listen to a stand-up comedian and exist on the surface. The next day, I show up to hold the space for my clients, walking with them in their own journey in and out of the depths of soul and surface. I show up for different people in the place that they feel comfortable, accessing the different levels and parts of my being. At times the chameleon-like process feels like whiplash, though well worth the disorientation for the experiences and souls I have the pleasure of encountering. 

Today, I acknowledge my fear.

I journey in and out of depth and consciousness, lack of awareness and forgetting, surface living, and reaction.

At times the fear feels consuming and my body tightens in response to the fear. My breathing constricts, my palms sweat, my heart races, and my gut feels unsettled. As I notice the reaction has already occurred, I recognize that I did not intervene before it had a hold on me.

I acknowledge the hold of my primitive reptilian flight response
and begin to take breaths. 

3 counts in – Calm

6 counts out – Relax

3 counts in – Calm

6 counts out – Relax

3 counts in – Calm

6 counts out – Relax

I notice my body loosen, my heart slows. My mind slows and becomes more at ease. I see that fear again but from a more objective place. I see that my habitual response around this fear is to grip, grasp, hold on for dear life. Yet, my life is not at stake.

I REMEMBER my baggage, the internal space I continually have to go back to and challenge myself on. The attachments and expectations I created long long ago as a small child to have the illusions of control and certainty.

Today I release certainty and embrace my fear. I REMEMBER that fear is part of the experience. It informs but does not have to cause suffering. I lovingly embrace fear as it returns and listen in to what it has to tell me.

To remembering in this breath and moment,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, or sensoriotor therapy or to work on anxiety & fear in Washington, DC, email her at kim@yoursoultherapy.com

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

Walking My Talk…Dreaming Big

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As a woman, wife, mother, psychotherapist, supervisor, and business owner, practicing self care is a must. Over the past few years, I have worked to align myself with my values with much gratitude to The Daring Way community, the metaphysical teachings of Tosha Silver and my Jungian analyst for this. Cultivating practices that are embedded with vulnerability, courage, connection, integrity, rest, play, awe and wonder keep me honest, grounded, and real. I #walkmytalk and this has changed my personal and professional life beyond my wildest dreams. I live into heart-mind-body-soul wisdom in daily practices and decisions, as well as big huge vulnerable leaps (like writing this blog post). My vulnerability is guided by aligning with my values and a force much larger than me. This way of living and showing up in the world is an imperfect process that I wouldn’t have any other way.

When working with women in psychotherapy, art therapy, sandplay, urban retreats, supervision, consultation, or practice building, I support them through the lens of walking their own talk. My clients learn to source themselves from the inside out into their deep confidence. Each woman’s flow, process and outcomes are unique, but what they have been seeking or felt blocked by (fear, shame, failure, impostor syndrome, heartbreak, loneliness…) dissolves through through this work. Witnessing their transformations is the most profound work of my life and of the deepest honor.

I have taken the leap to share more about how I work today because I’m on the brink of taking one the biggest professional leap’s of my career. Tomorrow, I am headed to Costa Rica for a business retreat filled with all things wanderlust, sisterhood, yoga, big dreaming, horseback riding, surfing, waterfalls, and beyond. My intentions are to recharge, replenish, reconnect, surrender, and be open to receiving. I hope to return to pay forward this experience by offering my own retreat later this year.  I will be fully unplugged for the next week.  I would love to connect with you for a free 20 minute phone consult when I return on 3/10.  Email me amy@amytatsumi.com to schedule your consult.

~In walking my talk & dreaming big,
Amy

Having it All, Playing Small & Fully Showing Up

From the outside, others might think that you have it all. Part of you knows what it is like to get things done, what it is like to be good or having it all and still not feeling fulfilled. There may be a clear sense that this is all you have ever known or what you should be doing to keep things as they are. Your psyche may be all too familiar with the fear and self-judgement around having it all together, getting things done, not complaining, or being close to perfect. The voice of our inner critic may feel powerful, forceful and relentless in its quest for certainty and maintaing the status quo of keeping you small and disconnected aligning your life with your values.

Part of you may know that there is more to life than playing it safe and small, always being predictable for others, or denying yourself of things you long for. The internal battle between who you should be and who you would like to be can bring up mixed feelings in the heart, mind, body, and soul. Because so much of you has had the default setting of emotionally being small, controlled and good, taking action around what needs improvement may feel hazy both emotionally and intellectually.

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Letting go of playing small by tuning in

You may have dreams, wishes, or daydreams of what it would mean to be all in or fully showing up in your life or you may only have fears and self-judgment that block you from knowing your dreams or desires. The part of you that is curious about a different way of being may be ready to tune into what needs to be improved in your life. Baby steps are key. When we can commit to tuning in as we go, the baby steps will fell more aligned with coming into our own. If you feel hazy or blocked, facing the fears around change or what it would be like to fully show up or be all in can be a place to start. You can also allow yourself to be open to the possibility that you aren’t dreaming big enough into all of who you could be or haven’t found gratitude for all you have accomplished or who you have been. Journaling and making art about the fears or blocks can help get you out of your head or self-talk. When you put the fears onto the page you can take perspective and identify the baby steps for moving forward one decision at a time.

If you have been or are living in perfectionism, people pleasing or putting everyone’s needs before your own, you may be tempted to slide back into those ways of being while practicing the baby steps around what needs to change in your life, especially if you struggle with overwhelm, sitting still, having nothing to do, boredom, or feel like a martyr putting yourself last. If you find yourself being pulled back into your old ways of being, perseverance will become a mantra.

Getting in touch with a deeper sense of knowing and trusting yourself as you align with what is important to you will keep you on track with micro decisions and baby steps. Commit to tuning in from the bottom up in one area of your life or self that you’d like to improve at a time. If your psychospirtual root system is blocked or disconnected around moving forward, your first step will be tuning into understanding what the block or disconnection is really about.

Wherever you’re wanting to tune in during the coming weeks know that there is a sisterhood of women wanting to grow, improve, heal, or love alongside you in their own lives. Give yourself permission to take the baby steps to begin to fully show up and let go of being small. If you are considering therapy, give me a call or text 202.540.0796

The Fear of Being Boring: Managing Social Anxiety & Dating

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While many people take on dating as a or even a social experiment, for some the fear of being boring or awkward eclipse their ability to fully engage in dating or cultivate deep or soulful connections.  I have worked with many incredibly successful and engaging women who feel anything but that when it comes to dating or relationships.  Outside of their romantic life, they are all in.  However, they would state that one of their biggest fears is being perceived as or perceiving themselves as boring when it comes to dating.
These irrational fears trump their ability to have meaningful conversations or at times even go on dates or continue onto the 3rd date due to nervousness, rehearsing tragedy, catastrophizing, or daunting self-consciousness.  They stay small or don’t show up at all in many parts of their dating or romantic life.  Some people with these excessive or irrational fears in social situations have Social Anxiety Disorder.  This is very different from introversion or shyness because the disorder often disrupts the quality of one’s life.  There are strategies for managing social anxiety, and I share them as related to dating below.

Strategies for Moving Toward Connection and Out of Social Anxiety Therapy

Therapy

Getting counseling or psychotherapy  from a licensed psychotherapist or a credentialed art therapist to help manage your anxiety can be immensely helpful allowing you to work through the barriers that keep you feeling stuck, unmotivated or that you aren’t ______ enough in romantic relationships.  Various models are effective at helping people work through social anxiety (e.g., Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Expressive Therapies, Psychoanalysis, Shame Resilience Therapy).  Each model of therapy varies from symptom management to resolution to understanding the root cause of the fears.  Therapy can also allow you to get to know yourself fully, which is a huge asset in romantic relationships.

Perspective Taking

When you are in the midst fearing that you are the most boring date ever or whatever fear is coming up, learning to take perspective will keep you grounded and help decrease the anxiety. Perspective taking allows you to step outside of your thoughts and feelings and take the perspective of another. In this dating example, thinking of all of the people on dates in this moment who may be feeling awkward, other, or boring will allow you to see that you are not alone or the only one. This connection to our humanness often will get you out of anxiety, fear and disconnection from yourself and the date. With practice, perspective taking can connect you the humanness of your experience, rather than in the comments of your inner critic for not being perfect. Keeping an a sense of openness or curiosity rather than judgmental self evaluation can also support perspective taking and staying out of the tunnel vision experience of social anxiety.

Learning to Be Present

Whether you are fighting, fleeing or feeling the anxiety, you can access a calmer, more regulated, rational and functional place when you are present. One of the keys to being in the moment is to not fight, flee or judge your feelings or sensations. Our bodies reset to a neutral state when we have given ourselves space to feel the feelings. Many clients I see have anxiety about having feelings. With dating, they fear being boring or not enough even when they aren’t on an actual date. This creates a heightened sense of everyday anxiety and struggle. Their bodies can’t calm down because they having let go of the fear around the feelings or perceptions. Getting in touch with your breath can allow your body to know that you’re tuning and and ready to release. Rather than taking deep breathes, which is often a struggle with the shallow breathing that is associated with anxiety, give a long deep sigh with a audible tone. If you’re on a date, go to the bathroom and close the stall and sigh a few times until you feel the release (your shoulders dropping or feeling your breath regulate). Get in touch with the feelings of being where you are in the moment. You may feel more in control and relaxed and be able to enjoy the rest of the date. There are many other mindfulness techniques that can support you in managing and decreasing the overwhelm.

Social anxiety doesn’t need to rule you or your dating journey.  While you might not become the most amazing conversationalist in your romantic relationships, you could learn to feel like you are enough because you matter.  With support from therapy and cultivating practices of mindfulness, you can find your confidence and sweet spot in dating.  You will be able to own your romantic intentions rather than being pummeled by fears of being the most boring date ever.   You can learn to fully show up and have fun in the process of dating or in deepening your connection to someone whom you care about and cares about you.  This may even look like giving yourself permission to be you, curious, present, and whatever else you may in at that moment…be it all in or wanting it with your whole heart.

~Amy

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

Should We Share Our Relationship Stories?

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Whether you are single in the city, dating, partnered, married, or divorced, you most likely are an expert storyteller about your relationship(s)or lack their of. With friends, some family members, and even choice colleagues, your relationship stories may be sprinkled with a mix of humor, sarcasm, and disbelief. While the laughter or shock factor keeps things light, this level of storytelling doesn’t reveal any fears about relationships, intimacy or you. Part of us holds onto the idea that “this (experience) will make a good story.” This notion protects one from feeling or thinking about why your relationship isn’t working or why you’ve been on endless OKCupid,match.com, Tinder, JDate.com, eHarmony, or speed dates without finding any lasting connections.

At some point during the ups and downs of being single, dating, or partnered, most of us will have had our fears about life, others, or ourselves exposed. Our inner dialogues, banter and stories about our relationships are most likely too painful to share.

Many people tell the story that all of the data points in their life reveal a singular – capitol “T” – TRUTH. The data points show that they are (the only one) not worthy of a being in or having a real relationship. Our inner stories are often not shared because we believe that everyone else around us has it figured out or is doing it better than we are.

When we want to reach out for real support, sometimes we are at a loss. What we are wanting is be met with empathy to be seen for our humanness. However sometimes, we are judged, blamed or shamed for our struggle or story.

Learning who has the right to hear our story is an invaluable skill. Below, I share a few tips of when to share or not share your story.

When Should I Share My Story?

Consider friends or family in your life. Out of this group, who takes you as you are, accepting or loving you for all of your strengths or struggles. Often, there may be 1-2 people in our lives, who fit this description. You trust them. These are the people, who are able to hear your story or your struggle and respond with empathy. When you do choose to reach out to them to check in about the inner story you are telling, you feel more connected because they meet you where you are. They may not know your specific relationship struggle, but they connect with you from a deeper place of knowing a painful struggle in their own life but they don’t make the conversation about themselves. The offer feedback when you request it. Their feedback is nonjudgmental. They are willing to sit with you in your struggle knowing they can’t take the pain away, but they share that they will there for you. Practicing reaching out to this type of person can be helpful to manage the pain and disappointment that comes with relationships. This takes both vulnerability and courage.

When Shouldn’t I Share My Story?

Think about the people in your life you have been sharing either the internal version or external version of your story. If after sharing either version of your story, you were met with unsolicited: feedback, solutions, advice, sympathy, sarcasm, judgement, blame, or shame, you may want to consider not sharing with them in the future. Those responses are disconnecting on many levels. We feel disconnected from the responder, from ourselves and even at times from our sense of worthiness. It often time unsolicited feedback and responses further fuels the data points that detail our inner story, tapping into our worst fears around feeling unlovable or that we will never belong. Learning to set clear and healthy boundaries is essential. This will support you in not sharing your story or struggle with people who judge, blame or shame you.

Between the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others, navigating relationships can be challenging. I highly recommend the following books to support you on your relationship journey.

Beattie, M. (1987). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.

Chödrön, P. (2000). When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times. Boston: Shambhala.

Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

If you are ready to create a new story around relationships or need help navigating them, call Amy at 202.540.076 or email her at amy@amytatsumi.com for a psychotherapy free 20 minute consultation today.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost – J. R. R. Tolkien

I have always been a wanderer.  From an early age, I wandered in the garden and forest.  By my late teens, I began traveling to many places inside and outside of the US seeking a myriad of things.  Through my 20s and early 30s, I continued to be a seeker of sorts in my personal and professional life.  Throughout that period, I didn’t know what I was seeking (even with lots of amazing adventures or thoughtful sessions with my own therapist), but my heart longed for something I didn’t know how to name or even imagine.  It wasn’t until I started to learn how to wander inside of my life and story (not matter where I geographically lived or worked) that I knew what I was seeking.

So what does belonging look like now for me-professionally? Until 2 years ago, I would have never imagined standing before my colleagues, mentors and well esteemed experts in my field presenting on my perspective because belonging felt so evasive an inaccessible to me.  Last week at the American Art Therapy Conference in San Antonio, I co-presented with Megan Robb and Lisa Thompson-Gibson on Building Relationships with Authenticity and Vulnerability from a theoretical lens (Relational Cultural Theory & Shame Resilience Theory) and in practice with clients and supervisees.  Presenting on vulnerability and sharing a part of my story and perspective with colleagues felt (by no surprise)  incredibly vulnerable for me.   How did I get through this presentation?  I was able to anchor myself to my sense of belonging.  I belong to my professional community even if what I was sharing was different or even radical.  It mattered because I was offering opportunities for relationship building for therapists with clients, supervisors with supervisees, and for therapist outside of the therapy room.

So many of us have a wanderlust or longing for something deep in our souls.  Most of the clients that I see have been wandering for much of their lives – wanting confirmation to know that they matter and are worthy of love and belonging.  Their studies, research, careers, love for travel, or relationships have taken them to many places.  Their intercultural experiences have transformed them, but no matter how much they enjoy the journey – they struggle to know how to really belong.

How do we learn to belong?  Some of the keys to trusting ourselves around  knowing how to love and belong can be found in cultivating practices of vulnerability and authenticity.  As adults and even teens, we have often lost touch with knowing how to trust our selves or what it means to be real, vulnerable and authentic in boundaried and meaningful ways with people that we care about most or even how this might look in our professional world.  Learning to trust ourselves through boundaried vulnerability and authenticity can be taught.  In learning how to trust ourselves, we can also learn how to belong even to our own hearts.

As this time of year lends itself to wandering, you may want to take time while you are wandering or at home relishing in your travels by journaling or making art to notice:
~Where your sense of belonging is (does it live inside or outside of you and your story)?
~How you are trusting yourself on your journey or in your relationships?
~How do your boundaries allow you to be more or less vulnerable and authentic?
~What are small steps you can take  or clearer boundaries can you set to support your sense of belonging?

Whether you are wandering or at home this summer, make time to navigate back to your own heart and sense of belonging no mater where you may be.

P.S.- If you’re looking to dig deeper this summer, I’m offering a 2.5 day weekend intensive on belonging.