Psychotherapy

When a Superwoman Falls

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If a superhero falls in the forest, is she still a superhero?

So many of us are in pain, lonely pain. When we feel pain, we are taught to hide it as it might be shameful to share any perceived flaws or struggles. We take on blame for the pain and isolate ourselves from those that care for us the most. Our culture emphasizes independence as a source of personal value, rather than interdependency.

What would a superwoman do if she fell into a depression or a loss? Would she share her struggles and reach out for help? Would her imperfections cause her to be seen and valued as something less than a superhero? Would she do what she could to recover in her own space to shield herself from others’ judgment and her own shame?

I have to imagine that she would be hesitant to reach out given how tied her identity is to her image to the public. Her profession makes it difficult for her to appear anything less than perfect. In fact, if she lost to a villain in a fight, she could probably loss her superhero title, right?

And aren’t we all – us women – just a bunch of superwoman wannabes? We’ve been taught to do it all and don’t forget the smile. Conquer the masculine world of success and achievement in careers, have family, support partner, take care of parents, learn and grow all the while. All great things, and so is superwoman’s fall.

Truth is we all fall at times and I believe that not only is the fall a good thing, it is actually an important part of our feminine nature which fuels feminine growth. Our descents into the abyss of our emotions and our shadow can sometimes take years and seem like they will never end. Fortunately, they eventually pass and when we arise from the ashes of our previous selves, we have taken an enormous leap forward in our spiritual maturity and wisdom. In order to come out of our isolative descent, we must realize the importance of our feminine tribe. We must trust that the women (and men) that care about us in our lives want to be there to help the superwoman in each of us. Reaching out to them will not change their opinion of your superhero status, in fact they will remind you of your superpowers. And someday they will return the favor by sharing what their kryptonite is, if they haven’t yet.

I am not suggesting you share with everyone what your personal kryptonite is, just with a few close friends that you know will support you no matter what. If you don’t have them, make them! Join a church community, a community service community, a support group, or a workout community. Intentionally pick out your superhero support team and reach out. Trust that you need them to help you out of the descent and they will be there best as they can be.

Perfect is being brave enough to reach out for support in our struggles and to reach our for celebration for our successes. Even superheros need support.

To the superwoman in us all,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, EMDR, or sensorimotor therapy or to work with a therapist who knows how to support your inner superwoman in Washington, DC, email her at kim@yoursoultherapy.com

#BADASSWOMENCONFESS

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I must confess…. I too am in fact, a BADASS WOMAN. And I am PROUD OF MY BADASSERY.

I never pass up a good opportunity.
I don’t play dumb.
I am active.
I work very hard.
And I like a challenge.
I make decisions in my life based on what is right for me.
I follow my intuition.
I am a warrior goddess.
I live in the world of reality, work, recreation, creativity, and the soul.
I devote time to me and those I love.

I do not let people walk on me.
I gracefully (and sometimes not so gracefully) love people, but I do not let people take advantage of me.
I am genuine, no bullshit, strong.
My morals are high and I am honest to a fault.
I have tattoos.
I rock climb.
I enjoy getting my hands dirty.
I am real, and I am a BADASS WOMAN.

And, I am imperfect. My life can be messy, my mind can be messy, and my heart can be messy.

In my first few years of college I struggled greatly with anxiety. Fear consumed me and left me hopeless and exhausted. Despite my BADASSNESS, at times I struggled to make it through the day. I spent many days isolating and avoiding. Until I began to do my work and recover. It took all my determination to move forward.

At 26 I was married after a 7 year long relationship, and at 27, I was divorced. My world crashed around me, as I released the life plans I had made and ventured into my new reality. While I knew I did not want to end my marriage, I could no longer sustain my heart and soul energy in that relationship. I made the brave and terrifying decision to leave. I promptly planned a party with my closest friends to celebrate the separation. And I moved on.

Many tears later, here I am. Braver, stronger, smarter, and more content. What did it take to get me here, to a place of more stability and contentment? A few key elements helped me survive these difficult periods in my life.

I believe that walking towards fear and depth is one key element to my growth. When I am fearful, I know it is an indication of an attachment I have to the world or life.

Reaching out to friends and family for support has also been invaluable for my heart and soul. I am eternally grateful for the unwavering support of my friends and family.

Mentors and spiritual experiences along the path have guided me to remove the limits I place on myself.

And my own personal work has been the most important aspect of my growth. I have worked with therapists, coaches, and supervisors throughout my life. I would not be able to show up for my clients without doing my own work. I know my shadows and my light. I practice self-care and self-compassion.

Being a BADASS WOMAN means stepping up to the challenge of self exploration. It takes bravery and determination to delve into your own depths and know your shadows and light. Being a BADASS WOMAN means feeling your emotions and following your soul’s path.

To living into the fullness of your badassary,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, or sensoriotor therapy or to work with a therapist who knows badass women in Washington, DC, email her at kim@yoursoultherapy.com

5 WAYS #BADASSWOMENRELAX

 

 

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For part two of my blog series on my favorite kind of women – the BADASS WOMAN – I thought I would write a little about how to incorporate relaxation in to the badass woman lifestyle.

Badass women are women who function highly in many different areas of life and career paths. If you are a BADASS WOMAN, you refuse to take shit from others and stand firm in your beliefs, ideals, and life choices. You are not afraid of climbing the ladder, telling someone what they think, and being successful. You know what the line between right and wrong and you make sure others follow in the lines. You almost never choose the easy road, you chose the road you want. You are polite and caring, generous, yet, no one can stand in the way of what you want. You may be in a high powered position or perhaps you have chosen an alternative career, but you are most definitely great at what you do and an invaluable worker.

For all you badass women out there, you know how difficult it can be to really take time for yourself to relax. You are set on “DO” mode and may find it a struggle to just “BE.” Perhaps you relax with TV series, netflix movies in solitude and/or spend free time socializing. Your socializing includes time out with friends drinking or using substances to relax and you feel like you have to be “ON” all the times, maybe even as if you are the entertainment for the crowd.

You wear a mask and seldom feel as if you are yourself while out with friends. In your solitude, you may fill the hours with entertainment and while it is relaxing to numb out in front of a screen, you feel as if you there is something missing. You may even try yoga, running or other sports and still feel disconnected from receiving benefits of the activity. You feel inauthentic, as if you are acting a part, a fraud. You want to DO SOMETHING, but you are not sure what. 

As you tune into your body, you come into the awareness that you often feel either angry or anxious. It feels like this fluctuation is present almost constantly. At times you may rage out, only later to come to the realization that you overreacted and likely regret your behavior. In times of anxiety, it is difficult to settle, to sitstill and think clearly. You hide from others the distressful state of your internal world and push through the day. You cannot seem to just relax anymore.

The real trouble is that you feel out of control of your internal world. You can’t believe it has gotten to this place and you are ready to do something to ease the pain and struggle. 

The great news is that you did not chose to create this internal world for yourself, it has happened over time and you can recover. Your behaviors, while no longer serving you, are protective in nature and have kept you safe.

Here are some places to start to relax. 

  1. Gratitude.  Thank your mind and body for protecting you. Anger and anxiety are animal defense mechanisms. When they arise, your mind and body are trying to keep you safe. Remember to be thankful for your body and mind’s protection rather than beating yourself up for having these reactions. Adding a layer of guilt and shame to your worries can further exacerbate your overall stress level.
  2. Breath.  Breathing is a powerful mechanism for turning on the self-soothing chemicals in your mind and body. Breathing in 3 counts and out 6 counts can turn on soothing chemicals in your body, turning off the stress response. Try breathing in the 3 inhale, 6 exhale count about 4 times and notice how it changes your body state.
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation. Before going to sleep, spend five minutes tensing and then relaxing each muscle group of your body, one at a time. Or if you prefer, just relax and don’t tense muscles. Start with your toes and move to the top of your head, relaxing one muscle group at a time with each exhale.
  4. Connection. Humans are wired to connect for survival. It is important to spend time connecting with people while doing calm activities. Yoga, meditation, hiking, making art, and attending religious services all can be very soothing. Spending a few hours of your week participating in these activities can improve your mood and help you feel relaxed throughout your week.
  5. Solitude. Spend some time in soulful activity on your own. Explore meditation, mindful walking, making art, dancing, or any other soul nourishing activity for just one hour a week on your own. Notice how that one hour a week can affect your week.
  6. Reach out. Because connection and relationship is such a large part of our functioning, reaching out for help and receiving help may be the most powerful tool for overall relaxation and mood stability. Often dysregulation of your mood and mind is a result of very old wounds in our relationships. Repairing these wounds with a therapist is powerfully healing. The great thing about this is that it does not necessarily mean sharing traumatic stories, instead the focus is on the limiting beliefs you may have.

Much love and gratitude to you in your journey,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, or sensoriotor therapy or to work with a therapist who knows badass women in Washington, DC, email her at kim@yoursoultherapy.com

The Myth of Laziness – 4 STEPS TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF IN YOUR CAREER LIFE

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“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” 

– The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Do you often label yourself as LAZY? Do you feel like a FRAUD at work?

Do you find yourself needing to hyper focus for several hours a day at work just to get it done, and then you become distracted by social media, reading article upon article on news and entertainment, or better yet, Tetris.  As you count the hours you ACTUALLY WORK at work, you notice a trend of many many seemingly wasted hours. You feel that you should be feeling thankful for a job that is well paying and high up the ladder, yet you find yourself feeling lazy.

Perhaps you’re lack of focus and laziness is something else.

Maybe your bouts of hyper focus and laziness are more about a lack of interest in your work, need for a challenge, and a need to escape. Often, when we are not stimulated enough, we become uninterested, unmotivated. So we need more stimulation and challenge. If you imagine yourself in a job you love and are passionate about, do you see yourself often escaping to Tetris and social media, or will you be too busy and focused on building your dream to be concerned with time wasters?

Or maybe you feel motivated by your sense of self-worth. Very often we are driven by a need to feel “good enough” rather than a wish to be self-compassionate and live out our personal dreams. This wish to be “good enough” is integrated into our sense of self-worth at a very young age and is difficult to consciously see. Take a moment and notice, DO YOU TAKE ACTION TO FULFILL YOUR DREAMS AND NOURISH YOUR SOUL OR DO YOU DO IN ORDER TO FEEL GOOD ENOUGH AND AVOID FAILURE?

Let’s recategorize your laziness to domains a) lack of motivation and b) a need to escape some aspect of your work environment and c) a need for dreams, challenges, and stimulation. Filling the different domains of your life with fulfilling, soul nourishing activities are the seeds to growing joy and contentment in your moment to moment and lifelong path.

Here are some basic ways to start building motivation, taking steps towards a life in which you will no longer label yourself as lazy. A life in which it is possible to enjoy, be financially supported by, and feel fulfilled by your career. Listen to your heart space and intuition – embrace your dreams.

1 Identify a Long Term Vision. 

Create a list of all the career goals you want to achieve in your life (as we are talking about career aspirations, we will focus on this, though you may substitute career goals with other types of goals and/or values). Examples include helping others, leadership roles, owning a business, charitable donations, discovery, traveling, financial stability, creative endeavors, etc. Take no more than 5 minutes to narrow your goals to no more than 3 using your gut. Write out your 3 top goals on a piece of paper.

2 Vision and Visualize

Place your goals in a place you can see daily and every morning allow your mind to come back to this vision and further flush it out. Take time here and there to meditate on it and visualize the details and concrete vision of this future career path. Perhaps it lines up with your current career, or maybe it is very different.

3 Materialize your Vision

Create a plan for action. What steps will you take to work towards this goal? Networking, workplace interviews, research, consultation calls? Daily life will continually try to get in the way of your dreams, you will have to make some time and space to materialize your vision. Allow the plan to be loose yet be committed. If you are unable to meet deadlines you set for yourself, be compassionate and continue to work towards your vision. Notice your blocks, pursue support to move past blocks, ask for help rather than self-sabotaging.

4 Check in with your Self-Talk 

Notice how your self-talk has changed now that you are working towards a dream. When you feed your soul – the energy resonates, and reverberates. You will see the difference this makes in your internal world as well as your external, your soul nourishing energy will magnetize to those with similar presence. You deserve to make your dream a reality.

I know this plan works because it is my reality. With some dreaming, visioning, hard work, and trust in divine power, I am now living my dreams and more. I love my work, I feel joyful when I arrive at my office, financially stable, and feel highly fulfilled by my work on a soul level. I share my experiences with my clients, generosity plus boundaries breeds joy. I am honored to help you manifest your dreams. 

 

To dreaming & living big,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, or sensoriotor therapy or to explore a career transition 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

Energy Warps

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Time is the only commodity at which I consistently grasp for. No matter how enlightened I am feeling, I still feel the nagging pull of precious time and the seconds passing before my eyes. As I fight for time to slow and bargain to fit in just a few more things before my heavy eyelids close involuntarily, I have yet to learn the secret to controlling time.

Today, I witnessed in full awareness as I entered a threshold and shortly after exited an energy warp where my soul was deeply met and felt in a psychospiritual way. No matter which lens I view this the words are not quite there to describe it.

Energy flew around in my mind and body as if unconstrained by my self-limiting structural beliefs or rigid goal focused thinking. Creativity bounced through my entire being and time did not hold me back. I made connections and conclusions on an intuitive and cognitive level at a speed exponentially faster than normal.  I have felt this before, though not with the same clarity or awareness as with this experience.

Curiously, I examined the trigger or source of this wonderful experience. Several precursors were in place: a weekend of learning and growing, self-care, and positive energy connections. I spent this past weekend learning a new way of working, in awe of the incredible experiences of the trainer and my cohort. Learning, growing, making new neural pathways. Additionally, I work hard to take care of my mind, body, and spirit.

And in the moment leading up to my energy warp, I was impacted, felt moved by and then resonated with the positive inertia of my client’s energy. She reveled in the progress she was making, and we celebrated her experience. We shared the savoring of her experience, enjoying the joy and exploring the new space it opened in her heart, her new free flowing energy.

The concoction of these three conditions consistently brought me into this state through the threshold into an energy warp, a period of soul enlightenment.

I invite you to walk with me and inviting this concoction into your own life. 

What is your experience of energy warps, spiritual states or similar experiences?

What precursors and conditions encourage this joyful and enlightening type of experience for you?

In exploring the expansive connected energy in you and me,

Kim Ottinger

Connect with me for a free 20 minute phone consultation for art therapy, psychotherapy, and/or sensorimotor psychotherapy by emailing me at kim@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

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

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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

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.