YOUR PERSPECTIVE, OUTLOOK, EXPECTATIONS, AND BOUNDARIES CHANGED.
You think that your life miraculously got better, but the truth is, life runs on monotonous cycles offering the good with the bad to everyone.
Our environment affects how much good we’re able to see or pull out of life.
Your life didn’t suddenly get better, you did.
Your perspective, outlook, expectations, and boundaries changed.
Before you saw limited options, now you create opportunity.
You’ve taken time to discover yourself, in part voluntarily, and in part through forced life experiences.
The job you hated 10 years ago is a piece of cake compared to what you’re doing now.
The relationship you thought you couldn’t stand 5 years ago is the same relationship you’re searching for now.
The friendships you’ve had since high school are the same friends who are strangers now.
The family members you were striving to please are the same ones you’re distancing yourself from now.
Opportunities to thrive are presented time and time again but you’ll never see them until you’re ready.
You know you’re ready when your ego dies a little bit.
It’s when you simultaneously realize your vulnerability and your strength. It’s when you’ve learned through your mistakes and experiences. It’s when you take responsibility and stop blaming other people.
It’s the feeling of having drunk too much and now reality hits. You’re sober.
It’s letting go of unrealistic expectations, not because you’ve given up but because it wasn’t ever the life you wanted.
It’s when you realize that you’ve based so much of your happiness on other people and societal norms instead of what you really want.
It’s when you realize you can do whatever you want.
You’ve had to change. You were faced with trauma that shattered your being and emotions to the core.
You’ve suffered enough and decided it’s not serving you anymore. You’ve experienced joy, a taste of something more, so you commit to choosing better.
As you change so do your needs. As you become more self-sufficient, you require less. You pinpoint the make it or break it factors, what really matters, and leave the rest.
You realize that life isn’t some fairy-tale, it’s what you make of it. Life didn’t improve, it’s always been there. You adapted.
So now what?
Do you live in mediocrity? Hell no.
You keep on exploring and figuring out what an actualized life looks like for you.
It’s easy to lose ourselves along the way. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come, to get discouraged and feel alone.
What you need are reminders, it’s about tracking the little wins instead of looking at what everyone else is doing. This is about you. Your path is different.
Look at everything that’s going right for you and keep evolving.
Creative therapies have been linked to decreased anxiety, depression, stress levels, increased immunity, self-worth, and social identity.
I’m a Registered nurse, writer, and spoken word poet. I dabble in various forms of creative arts.
I’m most balanced in my health and emotions when I’m creative. I’ve called it the sixth vital sign.
Creativity isn’t optional, but now a necessity for my health.
Creativity is a non-negotiable part of holistic health, especially for women. John Gray, authour of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus says that women have twice as much stress as men. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is twice as high when she walks into the house. She’s thinking about everything she has to do.
It may not necessarily be that she has more stress, but that she feels more stressed. This is why socks on the floor or dirty dishes may send her through the roof. It’s added to her list of stressors, while it may not be a big deal for her partner.
This may contribute to women losing attraction and sexual desire for their partner.
The quickest way to a woman’s heart and libido is doing anything that promotes less stress- it’s probably the same for men as well.
Hey, let’s stop stressing each other, and ourselves out.
Gray, suggests one of three de-stressors women can do for themselves is to,
“do the things they love to do.”
Throughout documented history, people have used stories, drawings, dances, and chants as healing rituals.
Music therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety. I help facilitate a depression and anxiety seminar by Dr.Neil Nedley and we specifically use classical music to help with reducing anxiety.
Studies show that enjoying music with someone can also create emotional balance.
Even music that’s added to positive words is shown to reduce the effects of pain. Research results on cancer and coronary artery disease patients showed a reduction in heart rate, oxygen demands, and tension levels- producing a calming effect after music therapy.
Music is an expression of what is felt but not said. It represents the range of your emotions. Music represents the range of your personality.
Try incorporating, specifically classical music into your day, in your car ride, or as you wake up.
Use it in combination with other health modalities such as walking outside, sunlight, or while taking a hot-and-cold shower.
Art helps us express experiences too difficult to put into words.
Visual art is a part of self-expression that can help you think good about yourself, especially if you’ve received a new health diagnosis.
In trauma, cancer, dialysis, and chronic illness patients the positive effects of visual arts therapy were identified as, a distraction from thoughts of illness, reduced depression, improved outlook on self-worth, life experiences, and social identity.
Women participating in art, especially things they could touch, such as pottery, textiles, card making, collages, and pottery saw 4 specific benefits.
Focusing more on positive life experiences.
Increased self-worth and identity by creating opportunities to overcome challenges, grow, and reach personal achievement.
Positive social identity by not letting their illness define them.
Expression of feelings in a symbolic way when words are difficult.
-Incorporate touch with creativity. Sleep on silk sheets, arrange flowers in your home. Wear a plush bathrobe. Make a vision board. Create multiple levels of healing.
The first time I went for therapy they had adult colouring books. I didn’t even know it was a thing back then. All I knew, was that it brought my anxiety levels down and made expressing myself easier.
Movement Based Creative Expression
In middle-aged women, elderly patients, and breast cancer patients, movement-based therapy has shown improvement in physical symptoms such as walking. But also in mental, such as learning ability (through theater training), and mindfulness.
I’m memorizing lines for a theatre audition right now. It’s sure exercising my recall ability, which doesn’t seem to be as sharp as before. Wish me luck!
Body movement is linked to the mind. Movement moves emotions.
There’s a type of primal therapy, which encourages the release of suppressed emotions through instincts like screaming, dancing, and movement.
Primal therapy says, let me run free, like how I was as a child. Even during social distancing we can go into a quiet spot in nature and move our bodies.
-Dance, put on some music, loosen up, even if just in your living room.
-Transmute your suppressed emotion into repetitive action, chopping wood, boxing, knitting, sewing.
You’ll find me at home or on the grass dancing, doing cartwheels, stretching, or air boxing while listening to Sia-The Greatest.
Last, but not least, my baby, writing.
Pennebaker, a leading researcher on the healing aspects of journaling and expressive writing, has seen countless results in people who have improved their illness by writing.
People who write about their traumatic experiences have significant improvements in physical health, immune system function, and their ability to socialize.
In HIV positive, chronic, and fibromyalgia patients the positive effects of writing have shown improvement in CD4 lymphocyte counts. Low lymphocyte counts can indicate infection or illness. Writing has also shown improvements in feelings of anger, pain, lethargy, and depression.
I’ve used journaling most of my life to work through my emotions. I also use it to write my prayers when I feel too distracted to say them out loud. I think it’s kind of neat to have documentation of my life.
I’ve also had positive experiences in poetry therapy, where I’ve met with other like-minded individuals to analyze, create, read, and express emotions through poetry.
Given the benefits of healing through creativity, I wonder…
Why isn’t creative therapy a bigger part of health care?
In the hospital, I’ve noticed creative therapy being used frequently with children.
What about adults? I have an inkling that we’re not as open with our creative minds. We want a pill for everything. Hey, I get it. If there was an eat-healthy-pill, I’d be interested.
Many patients come into the hospital for stress-related cardiac or anxiety events. Yes, we treat them with medication, but that doesn’t fix the underlying problem we all have. We’re stressed.
We need more than a pill, we need a lifestyle change. While we might not be able to change the circumstances looming in the world, perhaps we can incorporate more play in our lives. More healing through creativity.
It’s not easy, especially in the climate of politics, illnesses, and economic strain.
Now, is the best time to heal yourself, as history has shown, we’re going to be faced with different versions of the same events. There’s not always going to be a perfect opportunity.
While creative arts therapy has come a long way, it’s up to us, to not wait, but recognize the importance of these practices in healing.
We can start healing by bringing creating backinto creativity. We can sit in our stillness and start healing ourselves through creative expression.
We’ve lost the power of healing through mournful songs, dance, and crying out our pain.
Crying garners unique yet universal responses from individuals. It can make us uncomfortable. We either want it to stop or to provide comfort. Unlike any other emotion, genuine tears can be quite difficult to control, and almost impossible to fake, it basically says, hey, I need you right now.
There we were, at my grandmother’s funeral, 13 of her kids, and several dozen of us grandchildren.
The priest was trying to complete the reading of his passage- but my one aunt had a moment. I’m not gonna lie it was a little nerve-wracking she poured out her pain through crying and weeping. It kept interrupting the service.
The priest said a few words-she’d cry out.
He’d say some more-she’d wail until she was comforted and gently ushered out by one of her brothers.
I realized that I was holding my breath the entire time, only exhaling a sigh of relief when she sat down, but why?
We were in a safe, comfortable place. I was back home in St.Vincent and this form of expression was more normal than not. People were expressive, you knew if they liked you, you knew if they didn’t, they sang when they were happy, they cried when they were sad without fault.
After the funeral, there was the traditional wake, the celebration of life, filled with singing, dancing, crying, and exorbitant amounts of drinking.
I was uncomfortable because subconsciously I’d told myself that crying- no wailing out loud wasn’t socially acceptable. It made people uncomfortable. It was a feeling I didn’t know how to handle so I thought it should be subdued, that other people should filter their crying.
We’ve lost the art of sharing to our pain, longings, and disappointment through unrestrained expression.
We hold back tears when we want to cry uncontrollably.
We pretend we’re fine when we want to run into the streets and scream our heads off.
We get angry when we really want to be held and comforted.
We’re all trying to practice socially acceptable behaviour, but we’re killing our natural human instincts.
Crying out is therapeutic, it’s a kind of Primal Therapy, which suggests that some raw behaviours, like screaming, can help us reach repressed emotions, actually releasing and processing them.
Go ahead, find a quiet place in nature, maybe in your car, and scream out the mixed emotions of the year, the frustration of losing a job, having your wedding canceled, not being able to see your friends, that relationship that didn’t work out, the passing of your loved one, and everything in between.
The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.-Arthur Janov
Crying, weeping, and mournful song are the acts that bind us together, that keep us resilient through otherwise unbearable times.
When we don’t express our pain we create room for mental and physical illness within ourselves.
What’s The Purpose Of Crying?
Crying Soothes Your Pain
Crying is a natural pain killer that we’ve turned into an act of shame. We’ve made it acceptable for women to cry yet an area of emasculation for men.
Crying doesn’t discriminate. It has a self-soothing effect. It helps decrease stress levels, calm distress, and balance our emotions.
Sometimes our tears seem to shed down without our approval because our bodies know that we need to shed dead ends, that we need to heal.
Allowing ourselves to cry is an act of self-care. It shows our compassion, vulnerability, and strength. It’s our deepest self saying, hey, I know you’re overwhelmed right now but I’m going to take care of you.
Crying Let’s You Know That Something Has To Change
Sometimes you need to breakdown to get your life back.
I was on the tail end of a relationship that ate away at my self-esteem when a big dutty cry came out of nowhere. I prided myself on keeping my shit together for the outside world, especially when it came to work. This day was different, I went to work, as usual, but the moment I stepped into the department it was like the world was in slow motion, the weight of my pain and suppressed emotions buried me. I had to go back home.
I ended taking some personal days to process what was happening. I wasn’t the type of person who let those emotions get to me at work. That was the day I knew something was seriously wrong, that something had to change.
Crying, weeping, wailing out, and uncontrolled tears, let’s you know that something has to change.
Crying Brings Community and Support
Sometimes our tears come down in front of other people unexpectedly because too many of us are crying behind closed doors. Crying is meant to bring support from our community.
We’ve been crying since birth. It was our primary way of communicating our needs to our parents, as adults, crying is still a behaviour about connection. It’s a survival tool to let others know that we need social support.
A 2016 study suggests that crying is a survival skill especially for those of us who have a high avoidance attachment style. It’s the style where we suppress our emotions, our need to be seen, heard, and validated. It’s when we are experts at taking care of others but refuse to let others get too close to us for fear of abandonment or getting hurt.
Crying is a defense mechanism against attempts to withdraw ourselves. It physically draws people near to us, to alert them that something is wrong, to garner support, or share in our joy.
Let it Out. Cry.
Weepingmay endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Weepingmay endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Hallelujah for the joy, Hallelujah for the joy. Hallelujah for the joy, joy comes in the morning!”
I grew up hearing, especially the women in my Caribbean community joining hands, clapping, and singing this upbeat song until their collective pain was a little less. Each verse louder, each conviction stronger.
Crying out our pain, weeping, mournful song, and dance, especially in front of others can be uncomfortable but it’s a primal behaviour that helps us release, even process repressed emotions. When we don’t release our pain we create room for mental and physical breakdowns.
Crying helps us to heal, it soothes our pain, it helps us know that something has to change, and it brings community support.
The next time you feel overcome with sad or happy emotion don’t be afraid to pour out your soul for healing through your tears.
Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? You may find that the life you’re living isn’t even yours.
You’re struggling with not feeling good enough. Someone told you through their words, actions, or lack thereof that you weren’t enough for them just the way you are, without doing or being anything else- and you believed it.
Feelings of inadequacy are fueled by shame. Shame is uncomfortable. It’s a self-conscious emotion that comes from looking at yourself poorly. It makes you feel anxious, exposed, deceived, and powerless.
Unaddressed feelings of inadequacy create people-pleasing behaviour. This comes at the cost of destroying your core being, who you really are, not the person hidden behind your spouse, gender, or religion.
You were not meant to be invisible. You were meant to enjoy life, add value to it by being yourself, and express your unique personality, talents, and skills.
Women are multidimensional, we are not easily compartmentalized as the world would like to have us seem. We are vines shaped every day by our experiences. We twist, turn, adapt, grow, and continually bloom through different seasons of life. The song lyrics that come to mind when I think of this is Alanis Morissette’s, “ I’m a bitch, I’m a mother, I’m a child, I’m a lover, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I do not feel ashamed.”
Shame is a thief that robs you of power. To disarm shame you have to get to its root, which is almost always the thought of, I’m not good enough.
You must have a defiant spirit that is able to take an ego bruise, yet be your unwavering motivator.
It’s that kick, scream, claw blood, and skin, until you break nails, type of determination.
There are two key concepts in taking your power back when you feel like you’re not good enough.
1. Reject the cycle of shame, and feelings of low self-worth by relentlessly choosing yourself.
Make small choices about what you want to do. Take time, scan your body to figure out what feels right, safe, and authentic. At first, it will go against every fiber of your being. It may bring up feelings of guilt, pain, and loneliness. People in your life might get upset but stick to it.
Exercise the discomfort of repeatedly choosing yourself, knowing you will get through. Choosing yourself is not going to tip you over into some self-absorbed world of no return where you don’t care about other people. Caring is too ingrained in your psyche for that.
Continue to people-please and see how you feel. Hey, why not? Take note of the pain, self-loathing, and resentment you feel afterward. I would convince myself to do just one more favour for someone, even when I was tired or just didn’t feel like it. To be fair, I felt that they were for completely valid reasons- it was for my friends, it was for church, it was for someone uber nice, it was for someone who had nobody else, it was for someone who was sick, and the list goes on.
If continually extending yourself to other people turns you into a bitter, unrecognizable person then you’re living in inauthenticity.
A wise quote says that God loves a cheerful giver, being a cheerful giver comes from being happy with yourself and your life.
2. Stop the spread of shame by having grace, empathy, and self-compassion. You must choose to believe more of the good stories about yourself over the negative ones.
I don’t know about you but when I mess up, my default is to beat myself up. I say you should have known better, how could you let this happen? and the negative self-talk continues. I wouldn’t say these things to my friends, so why do I say it to myself?
It’s hard to have self-compassion when you’re a perfectionist, when you see mistakes as a weakness or when you hold yourself to a high bar.
Ask yourself whose hero are you trying to be? And why? Most of the time the things we’re doing, the life we’re living have nothing to do with us.
No wonder you’re hard on yourself and unhappy. This isn’t even your life.
Cultivate self-compassion by having grace, by saying more kind words about yourself. Below are some of my favourites, when I’m present enough to remember (eek face), if not you can always remind yourself after the moment.
I’m still learning
I’m in recovery.
This is something I still need to work on, good to know.
This is still a trigger for me so I need extra support.
When thinking you’ve done something “stupid” you don’t even want to hear about compassion. It’s challenging to talk yourself out of negativity, but no one else can do it for you. Each new experience helps you learn triggers and is a reminder that healing work is continual.
We can summarize grace by a quote from Brené Brown, a researcher in shame, vulnerability, courage, and empathy, that says,
Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.
We struggle with never feeling good enough when people tell us through their words, actions, or lack thereof that we aren’t enough for them- just the way we are.
These feelings of inadequacy are rooted in shame. If we don’t reject shame it will destroy our core being, robbing the world of our talents, values, and unique personality.
We can take our power back by rejecting shame through…
-relentlessly choosing ourselves,
-having grace, empathy, and self-compassion by believing more of the good stories about ourselves. We also do this through the words we tell ourselves like, I’m still learning.
Lastly, I want us to remember that shame is all around us, it can be overwhelming, daunting, and discouraging, but the most powerful thing we can do is to decide, decide that we are moving forward no matter how slow or how long we take, continue to reject shame.
When your life didn’t turn out how you thought it would.
I’m working on a stress reduction e-book. The more I work on it, the more stressed and defeated I feel.
The feelings seemingly came out of nowhere. I have a few things on my mind, but my environmental stress is minimal. I have a job, I’m not starving, I have a quiet place that I don’t have to share with any extroverts. What’s my problem?
Have you ever felt sad for no reason?
You’re a beautiful soul. You aren’t sad for no reason, though it feels that way. You’re sad because even if your life is relatively stable- you’re not homeless on the streets- you’re told you should feel happy. But you feel the weight of a life bigger than your own. You feel an undertone of constant grief from pushing against the world.
Everything is a fight, not with guns but with your essence. You grasp to keep pieces of your soul, each day trying to grip tighter. You feel like a fraction of who you once were.
You see the emptiness behind people’s smile, you see the innocent child and think of their future of ups and downs.
No matter how happy you are as an adult freedom doesn’t feel the same as childhood, back then, you didn’t have a care- or bill payment in the world.
I guess that’s what the ancient Bible story means when it references the tree of life. A tree that held the power to know good and evil. When its fruit was eaten by Adam and Eve (who were newly created by God) their eyes were open. They weren’t carefree like children anymore.
Likewise, you no longer view the world through the eyes of a child, you have a sense of responsibility. You have a sense of right and wrong and sometimes seeing all the wrong makes you feel defeated.
You hear the buzz of the media, though you try to tune it out. You see more deaths from a pandemic sweeping the nation, you see increasing numbers of violence, racist attacks, and death.
Maybe being so aware, so well-read, so educated, or such a self-help enthusiast makes it worse. In theory, you can figure out how to be happy, and you have moments of genuine happiness. In fact, you have a bank of happy memories for the future.
You know you need to live life in the present, but there’s a nagging that says, “how long will the good times last?”
I guess that’s why they call you a dreamer.
This is for the people who dream too much, people with beautiful minds. You can’t be lied to. You think far beyond the moment because deep down you have hope that you can save yourself from your future.
You believe that you can save other people from their future. It’s like you’re living in a time warp. You keep jumping to the same timestamp trying to warn them, but you’re always too late.
You’re far from being sad for no reason. You’ve loved, mourned for love, and dreamt about love. Life didn’t turn out how you expected, but you’re still here, making the best of it.
You’re sad for many reasons that aren’t yours. You’re sad about the suffering, and deceit in the world. It’s an unknown longing that also brings an eerie sense of peace.
That’s why you’re complicated to understand, but I’ve never met anyone like you who wasn’t resilient.
You don’t have to drive the future of innovation. You don’t have to save the world, but you want to, not in a tycoon type of way, but from your place of understanding, a place of healing.
It’s different for straight A people, they see logic-they are good at completing projects and finding solutions. Some aren’t concerned about the abstract concepts that you are. Some aren’t feeling the emotions of hundreds of people. They execute because things need to get done.
You have a challenging time doing tasks that don’t have personal meaning or value. It’s difficult to carry out work you’re not passionate about.
I’m going to make it more complicated. What if you’re able to toggle between the two? No wonder you feel defeated.
You still strive for kindness when you have a plethora of reasons not to. You maintain your character, even though you seem like a ruff rider on the outside.
You are a survivor in a war that only a few can see. Many people think you’re losing, but you’re not fighting their war.
Don’t let defeat get you down, you have a warrior’s heart. A heart that values legacy, character, and truth. Success has a deeper meaning for you.
We often measure success by productivity, by doing, and constantly going. We have no time for stillness, and when there is, it brings anxiety. Stillness makes you painfully aware of the life you want, wish you had, and life you’re not even sure you want.
Some of us are stuck in stillness, some of us are stuck in productivity. Are we so different? One has a difficult time getting started, the other doesn’t know how to stop. Both slaves of not being good enough.
We aren’t sad for no reason. We feel the weight of a life bigger than our own.
We are constantly being told what to do, how to feel, and how to act.
Find freedom from pressure, expectations, or advice, even if for a moment.
If you’re deep in your feelings today, you may already know how to get yourself up, you don’t need more advice, you don’t need to feel pressured to do anything.
This year has been the emotional roller coaster you never expected
At the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic year, I remember waking up with a tingling through my body that said, this is the most alive I’ve ever felt.
It’s not something I said out loud because it wasn’t about glorifying death and chaos, it was about becoming interested in life. It was about challenging beliefs, stretching the depths of who we are as humans, a sense of knowing our purpose, of empathy, and healing amidst sudden life changes.
This year has been the emotional rollercoaster you never expected. The kind that leaves you cliff-hanging with the anticipation of when it will start again.
You’ve lashed out at the very people you love in efforts to sort out your own emotions.
You’ve reclaimed emotions you weren’t aware of. Things that were bubbling unconsciously, but have spilled over to the surface.
You’ve come face to face with how you really feel about yourself. Your perceived lack, your hidden blessings.
This year has brought a lot of changes for you. This has been a year of self-discovery.
This year you’ve realized your thirst for love
You realized that even though you can do it all on your own, you don’t want to. You’re tired. You want to have someone that means more than just a place to exchange toxic sexual fluids.
Maybe hookup culture is not all it’s cracked up to be. You can feel what you want but don’t know what it looks like, or how to get it.
This year has taught you to surrender. To stop hiding, to just ask.
You’ve recognized the people who have snuck into your heart. The ones that mean the most to you, while others have escaped, they were also the ones that meant the most to you.
You’re scared. You’ve seen loss all around, it prevents you from getting close to people. You never know when they’ll leave.
You protect yourself by shutting people out, by becoming a master of self-sabotage.
It’s been an emotional year, you’re allowed to be unsure of what’s next. You’re allowed to temporarily retreat.
This year we realized that life is short, this isn’t a reason to act out of fear, but it’s reason enough to cut all your bullshit. Cut through the need to protect yourself, cut through your insecurities, cut through your fears, look in the mirror, and face yourself damn it. You might be surprised that we’re all facing similar fears. The right people are more accepting than you realize.
This year you’ve lost love
This year you realized that while you were busy living, you let the people and things you love slip away. You’ve accumulated dry bones, missed the heart of your love, become empty, strangers.
You’ve been disconnected for a long time, this was the catalyst needed to realize that you weren’t watering your relationships.
You think you’ve grown on your own, when in fact each person you meet is meant to challenge you, rub you the wrong way, catapult your growth.
This is a year of mourning. You’ve faced broken relationships, engagements, marriages, families, and friendships.
You’ve lost love, and reclaimed pieces of yourself.
This year you’ve faced death
Death is a fickle thing. My cousin passed away recently and I stared at my phone replaying her voice notes, not fully understanding how she could be gone. Death takes a while before it becomes real. It changes your perspective.
You’ve had to deal with the loss of people you love. Even if you knew it was coming, you could never really prepare. You still weren’t ready for the shearing effect it’d have on your heart. You’re not sure how to deal with the feelings of hurt, even resentment beneath it all. You’re questioning if there was something more you could have done, words you could have said, anything to make it better.
Life doesn’t stop. I imagined that life would pause and say, here humans, take time to reflect, but it keeps going. It makes you realize how insignificant a body is. A body is just a conduit for your soul. The essence of your being is in everything you are, everything you’re passionate about. We spend so much time surviving that we never really live.
We think we need to do more in life when it’s usually a matter of doing less.
In the end, all we’re left with are the memories we make. Make memories, make fierce, passionate, compassionate, shake your head, ghastly ones.
Loss came in many forms. Some have lost jobs. You’ve spent months in anxiety, searching for the next meal, trying to keep a roof over your head.
Some have lost independence. Your safe place. You’ve had to share living spaces, been forced to move out, to leave toxic environments, to disrupt the only world you’ve ever known.
Loss doesn’t just come in physical death, it comes as everything in between.
This year you’ve had to learn to self-regulate your emotions.
I’ve blown up at a few people, whoops. The beauty I’ve learned is that my emotions are my responsibility. I can’t force anyone to make me feel better, everyone is already at their emotional capacity. I can’t necessarily depend on others to heal me. We need to learn coping habits, new ways of being, how to regulate ourselves. We need to be able to self soothe, to make ourselves happy.
Here I am drinking my green smoothie, listening to smooth writing music on Spotify, a candle burning beside me, and spilling my heart to you on this “paper”. In this single moment, I have everything I need and am happy.
Give Yourself A Break
You’ve turned to addiction, drinking, smoking, drugs, and lashing out to numb the pain. The pain that comes from the cycle of questioning, am I good enough, what have I done with my life? What do I do next? Have I done enough? What’s the point of all this?
We live in a world of doing, productivity is what keeps many of us alive. We perform because people are relying on us, we have families, fans, a mission, a purpose that doesn’t stop. I understand that.
You’re allowed to have off moments. Moments where you’re quite not yourself, moments where you’re a little sadder than before, moments where you need to pull away from everyone, moments where you take care of yourself first, moments where you don’t put in 100 percent, moments of screaming into the air, crying into a pillow. Just don’t pull so far away that you never come back. (advice from my Mom)
You don’t need to beat yourself up this year, not after everything you’ve gone through. Everything you’ve survived.
You don’t need to take things personally, everyone is a little off-kilter, a little more volatile, a little on edge.
Give yourself a break, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop going. It just means that you can reject the negative dialogue.
I help facilitate a depression and anxiety workshop and one of the best and most difficult exercises for my mental health is not saying anything negative for 14 days. If you say anything negative, you restart the process. It helps you realize how many negative things you say. It helps clear the mind.
Another way to stop being so hard on yourself is a lesson I learned from behavioral expert Marissa Peer. Instead of beating yourself up, use the phrase, “oh silly me”, then move on, try next time to correct your behavior.
Give yourself a break. You’ve had a year of aspiring to love, you’ve had a year of lost love, you’ve had a year of death, you’ve had a year of overwhelming emotions.
We are being forced to evaluate our lives, refocus our purpose, face who we are and what makes us feel most uncomfortable.
When we are burned in the fires of tribulation, we forge new, better versions of ourselves.
I’m not in love but this shit is still going to hurt like hell.
You didn’t know that I never live in this world, my head is in the clouds and I come down once in a while to pretend to live, to pretend to belong.
You didn’t know that I live in addiction, love addiction that I fight with, grips my brain and squeezes every matter out of it.
Loops in my head after two seconds with a man I connect with, change my life, wife, knife zombies, stay with you until the end of the world.
I’m not in love but this shit is going to hurt like hell when I can feel your hands over me, the same ones I force you to rip my heart through my chest with.
Drain that blood until I’m sick, that’s how I like it.
Then I crawl and gather guts and bones to create myself again with.
So, that’s why I don’t do casual very well. My light, being, force, wild beast of a feral woman scavenges.
She scavenges hearts and feeds on pieces. I keep her on an iron chain, scrapping, choke, collar, rope but sometimes she suffers through the pain and burrows in the dark wet shadow of the closest heart that feeds her scraps.
And there I am, left to find her. Months, years after, she starves there. I don’t recognize her, I only hear her deep beast cry, I try to lure her back to me.
She wasn’t even in love but that shit still hurt like hell.
She’s a love addict, they spit in her face, piss in her hair then rub it in telling her it’s not real. She’s delusional, crazy, rabid, seething.
Poor girl, I watch her dance in euphoria, throwing her clothes to the wild, then craving the blood of his heart, his love that he throws her in pieces. Nevertheless, she’s hooked, then dependent, drugged up on fake love, then pulling back, in bed for days, sweats, nausea, the bile of withdrawal into relapse.
They tell her it’s not a real thing, so she stops talking about it, she just feels it and knows this shit hurts likes hell, but she’s always made it through.
A little more empty, brick wall, fence, barb wire, fortress around herself. Cold, they say she is cold.
And here I am always trying to save her, trying to chisel away at her walls before she is gone. So you see, we are both, never really here.
We don’t do casual anything very well. We are intense, bring down heaven, raise hell women who are bearers, protectors, gatekeepers of warrior hearts in a world that is darkening.
We’re not in love but this shit is still going to hurt like hell. Our love is meant to encompass something bigger, but here we are, the irony of fighting this love addiction.
Stop feeling guilty for having a “non-productive day.”
Why do you feel guilty for being still? For doing exactly what the body wants you to do?
Society has taught us that doing is being, being is living, and if you’re anything but- you’re dead, a dead beat.
Busyness is not productivity. When we truly know what we’re doing, our goal is to enjoy the moment, not to hurry without a cause. Constant hurrying comes from systems of chaos.
Hurrying is a tool to convey urgency, not a way of life.
Take rest when needed.
Take the days to lounge, to catch up on the little things, or nothing particular at all.
You know exactly what you need, never cheap out on yourself, it will cause those you meet to do the same to you.
Give yourself what you need, and do it well. Do it better than anyone else, do it so that anyone who tries to treat you better than the way you treat yourself-leaves you in awe.
Take rest when needed, leave guilt on your bedpost, never on your bed. If you really want-as it seems that you do- you can wear it again when you’re done, like a rotten, crusted, foul-smelling pair of underwear.
Rest is redemption.
Rest is rejuvenation.
Rest is rejecting the rhetoric of the rapidity of life.
Rest is productivity.
I challenge you to change the narrative, change the perspective on productivity.
Productivity is gaining a large supply or great results in something.
Let that something also include calmness, sorting, rebuilding, processing, and repairing your body, mood, and mind.
People are depending on you? Delegate.
Can’t delegate? Mentor someone to be almost as good or even better than you.
Can’t mentor someone to be almost as good as you or better? Plan, schedule ahead.
Can’t plan, schedule ahead? Create a new system.
Can’t create a new system? Explore why you’re afraid to rest.
It’s something deeper.
Do you associate your rest with failure? laziness? weakness? or a vault of repressed emotions?
Rest doesn’t lessen your value, self-worth, manliness, survivor spirit, or drive.
You become the ultimate master when you learn to take rest when needed.
You shouldn’t just get married for love. You should get married for compatibility.
Having a successful relationship is not a matter of chance. It’s a matter of identifying synergistic traits between you and your partner.
You get butterflies in your stomach.
You search for articles highlighting any reason to stay together.
You stay up all night sending each other voice notes.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent too many hours in a relationship wondering if you should stick it out.
You don’t know what the future holds, you don’t know what you can withstand, you don’t know what will pull your relationship apart; even with a seemingly perfect partner, it takes work.
In a world where everyone seems to be turning to hate and resentment, where relationships aren’t valued, I want us to succeed. I want us to say that we’ve explored all our options, that we’ve poured out our heart. Then and only then, we know, that no matter what happens we can truly say that we’ve tried with the person we love.
John Gottman is a recognized relationship expert and founder of the Gottman Institute. He discovered four markers of relationship failure that predict divorce with 93% accuracy. Recognizing these traits is a step we can take in maintaining successful relationships with one another.
These traits are known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse:
The phrase originated from a Bible prophecy in the book of Revelation.
The horsemen predict the events before the end of the world.
The first horseman is on a white horse. He brings conquest. He overcomes and takes control.
The second horseman is on a red horse. He carries a sword and is allowed to remove peace from the Earth, causing war.
The third horseman is on a black horse, he has a pair of weighing scales. He represents famine.
The last horseman is on a pale horse, his name is Death, and causes death through war, famine, infestations and wild animals.
Pretty gloomy. No wonder Gottman chose these to represent doom in relationships.
All relationships will have some aspects of these traits, but healthy relationships work on minimizing their use.
The horsemen are not restricted to intimate relationships but can be used with friends, or family members.
The first horseman is criticism. Criticism is disapproving perceived negative traits in your partner. You think you’re better than them, thus have the right to judge them. It’s different from giving a person critique.
Criticism generalizes your partner as being less than, while critique focuses on individual action or a specific mistake:
Criticism: You always leave the tap running. You’re so inconsiderate. You only think about yourself.
Offering Critique: I don’t like it when you leave the tap running. It gets water everywhere, I feel frustrated. Please turn it off next time.
Notice that criticism faults the other person. It takes responsibility away from the accuser by the constant use of you, though both parties are responsible for their actions.
Why is criticism so terrible in a relationship?
Criticism tells a person that you don’t like them. It says, I want you to change vs. I want you to change your behaviour.
You focus on them when you should be focusing on yourself, on how you can be happy, despite their actions; how you can live life without relying on them.
This means accepting them as they are, leaving, or whatever alternative works for you.
Nagging causes your partner to feel unappreciated, inadequate, attacked, and rejected. They may seek validation somewhere else, from someone else. When criticism escalates it leads to the second horseman, which is contempt.
Contempt is thinking that a person is beneath consideration, they are scorned, looked at in disgust. Contempt can be displayed in the form of mimicking, eye-rolling, or scoffing.
It’s meant to make your partner feel worthless, undeserving of being in your presence.
Criticism is thinking a person isn’t good enough. Contempt is showing them they’re not good enough.
Contempt, of all the four horsemen, is the greatest determinant of divorce.
What to do about contempt?
Disagreements with your partner should be dealt with promptly to avoid contempt. When a problem is left to simmer, the person holding the grudge reaches a point of explosion. It appears to come out of nowhere, but they’ve been stiflingly contempt.
Couples who show contempt towards each other also have an increased risk of getting an infectious illness such as the cold, or flu.
Criticism leads to defensiveness. Defensiveness often comes in the guise of playing the victim in an attempt to disarm the other person.
This method rarely works. Defensiveness says I refuse to listen to your concerns, I view them as personal attacks.
Defensiveness looks like this:
Were you able to pick up the dry cleaning today as we agreed?
You know my day is busy, maybe you should have picked it up. If I counted the number of times between the both of us, I’ve done more.
A defensive response shifts the blame and minimizes responsibility. A defensive person does not hear you, nor do they seek to understand you. Their main priority is to protect their ego.
A healthy response sounds like:
“I’m so sorry. I got caught up with work and forgot. I should have asked if you could have done it, that’s my fault. I’ll go do it now.”
Understandably, you want to defend yourself when feeling attacked, and in some cases appropriate. However, repeated defensiveness is ineffective and will only escalate the conflict, especially if neither person backs down or apologizes.
Defensiveness is a method of blaming, not conflict resolution.
Prolonged defensiveness leads to stonewalling.
Stonewalling happens when one partner pulls away from the conversation or shuts down. The stonewaller pretends to be busy, making their partner feel like a placeholder, or invisible, instead of a person.
Stonewalling looks like this:
I get upset when I’m questioned like this. I feel like I’m being interrogated for no reason.
Can we talk about this? What can we do to make this better?
Gottman suggests that stonewalling is predicted by a heart rate above 100 beats per minute. It’s marked by other physiological symptoms such as the release of stress hormones and initiating the fight or flight response. The stonewaller shuts down because they are trying to keep calm, or from exploding. They are hoping their partner will pull back so they can process their anger and de-escalate.
Stonewalling is a late sign of distress in a relationship as it blocks communication. When communication is ineffective nothing gets solved and you continue to grow apart.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling represent doom in a relationship.
They also represent the starting point in healing your relationship.
If you’re interested in mending your relationship it’s important to notice when these horsemen creep up to avoid hating each other.
Michelle Obama and her husband, the former president of the United States, had relationship problems, they went to couples therapy and use it as an area of strength, not shame.
Let’s look deeper into remedying each of the four horsemen.
Remedy for criticism
You’re going to be unhappy with some things your partner does in the relationship. That’s not an issue, the problem is the way you express it.
Gottman suggests using a gentle start-up. This addresses the issue in a straightforward way, while keeping it positive, and avoiding blame.
Every complaint is really a desire for something you need from your partner.
Asking yourself the following questions can help you process what you need from them while keeping positive.
What emotions do I feel?
What do I need from my partner in this circumstance?
An often undervalued aspect of communication is tone. You can say something very direct without appearing rude or condescending by adjusting tone.
Ask for what you need behind the criticism, (attention, rest, intimacy).
Avoid using a condescending tone.
Remedy for contempt
Contempt is best resolved by reflecting inwards to identify your thoughts and feelings about a specific issue.
Focus on yourself, how you can improve versus your partner. Learn to create happiness without relying on them. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but granting them a sense of freedom creates freedom and peace for yourself, it gives them space to appreciate and miss you. This isn’t for the faint of heart, this may take a while depending on the amount of contempt you’ve built up. Hang in there if you’re intent on fighting for your relationship.
You can also decrease contempt by showing appreciation and respect for your partner. Gottman speaks to the 5:1 ratio, which is having 5 or more positive reactions to every one negative reaction. This is displayed in showing regular affection, appreciation, attention, gratitude, and respect.
Focus on making yourself happy despite your partner.
Practice showing regular appreciation, respect, affection, and gratitude.
Remedy for defensiveness
Defensiveness is resolved by taking responsibility, even if it’s only for your part of the conflict.
In a healthy relationship, your partner is not going to get defensive when discussing a problem. They validate you by expressing interest in your concern. They don’t brush you off or take it personally, they make an attempt to understand how you feel.
It’s difficult to admit or see our faults. This is called a blind spot, an area of improvement that others can see but we can’t.
You can get more insight into defensiveness by asking close family members and friends for feedback about areas of weakness in your personality.
These people should have your best interests in mind, they offer critique to help you better yourself. Do not ask people who constantly put you down or have a toxic effect on your life.
Take responsibility for where you were wrong.
Identify your blind spot by asking close friends and family to point out areas of weakness in your personality.
Remedy for stonewalling
We’ve learned that stonewalling produces a physical stress response in the body. When this happens it can be almost impossible to concentrate on having a discussion in a meaningful way.
You should give the stonewaller time to calm down. This means stopping the argument. Unfortunately walking away from an argument mid-sentence may add more fuel to the fire.
It’s better to discuss how you’re going to argue beforehand. Make an agreement that, if the “time out” hand signal is held up or a certain phrase is said, it means that you’ve reached a boiling point. Use whatever you like, as long as you both understand its meaning.
This is the perfect time to practice self-soothing. Use the time to engage in healthy grounding behaviours, whether it’s going to your favourite recliner, watching a show, or listening to music.
Agree about how you will argue before the argument.
Practice self-care. What do you need in order to feel calm?
While all relationships have some aspects of the four horsemen, successful ones limit their use or address them before they escalate.
The four horsemen give you a starting point, a definite road map as to the direction of your relationship.
They are indicators of the death of a relationship, but more importantly, navigation tools, that if you choose, can turn your relationship around, leading to life, to success.
The four horsemen are predictors of divorce but they also serve as a roadmap to healing and having a successful relationship.