Sensitivity to Possible Embarrassment

I was just listening to NPR in my car to a show about people’s real life experiences of being embarrassed, including the long-term repercussions from these incidents. I could relate. A central aspect of most, if not all, extremely embarrassing situations is humiliation. I believe actual mistakes that lead to feeling embarrassed are generally forgivable/reparable. But, even when, say, a group of witnesses or even the public has long moved on from judging a person’s perceived mistakes/errors in judgment, the physical/somatic sensations of feeling humiliated remain, triggered forth again by some subtle reminder(s) in one’s environment or even simply by a passing thought.

A lot of us have survived intense embarrassment, often repeated occurrences of this emotional state, including by someone(s) very close to us in childhood, which results in a betrayal of trust. The world can then seem like humiliation lurks around the corner. You never forget because, as trauma specialist Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk states in his well-titled book, “THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE.” Even small embarrassing moments can and often do trigger a mental and physical cascade response to past, old humiliations. Through helpful somatic-oriented psychotherapy, these embedded-in-the-brain and body reactions can be shortened and de-intensified, but I don’t think they ever completely go away. I believe this is evolutionarily important. It is good to hold some memory so one can retain helpful knowledge of these past painful experiences and avoid repeating them as best as possible. Also, empathy for others is deepened, or at least the opportunity for this to happen is presented.

I’ve done all I can to distance myself in proximity and time from those in my past who humiliated me. I know others have also accomplished this for themselves. I’ve created a wonderful, stable life filled with supportive and neutral (such as strangers in my neighborhood) people. I’ve worked on healing myself deeply, including developing a level of self confidence (such as in my competence as an effective psychotherapist) I wasn’t quite sure I’d ever know. But, there is admittedly an edge of caution I still retain. This translates into avoiding more potential embarrassment that could arise in, say, speaking before large groups of people, something I’ve hardly ever done in my life. I remain quite sensitive to the possibility of being humiliated, albeit significantly less so than I used to feel.

If you or someone you know is particularly concerned about being embarrassed and, likely, humiliated, which is not exactly the same as worrying about what others think of you (which I largely could care less about except with a small few who I know well and love), please hold patience and compassion for that individual, including yourself. Sensitivity to embarrassment, especially the sting of humiliation, is a scar on the psyche, a reminder of one’s tender humanity.

Brief Note to Self About Narcissism

Note to Self: Narcissistic people are everywhere, living from a deeply self-centered “I above everyone else” frame of mind. It’s so important to give this way of thinking as little validation as possible while doing whatever you can to genuinely value the whole person(s) before you as (an) equal(s), neither above or less than any of us. Mindfulness around actually practicing/applying this view is key. Please remain aware and alert as best as possible. Enjoy and nurture genuine reciprocity (true connection) with others wherever you can, like the precious life resource that it is.

Some Brief Thoughts on Narcissism, Including Hope


I think it’s quite common in childhood and early adulthood to have fantasies of grandeur. These can be part of daydreaming, which is often an adaptive coping skill in the face of enduring difficulties in one’s environment that are out of one’s control. I believe more of us than not outgrow the need to focus on these types of fantasies, except, perhaps, on infrequent occasions for sheer entertainment or as part of enduring some acute, unpleasant stress.

Those folks who make it a point to manifest their fantasies of grandeur, no matter what the cost, enter a dangerous zone, ethically and relationally. They have foregone efforts to live from out of true Self, which they surely don’t believe even exists in them. Instead, it becomes all about creating/manufacturing an inflated, sadly false, self that must be constantly fed by external validation from others to exist. Hence, why such a way of living is akin to vampirism, albeit in an emotional, psychological way.

Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula, who specializes in understanding narcissism and helping others heal from narcissistic abuse, urges a paradigm shift in collective thinking and response here around the age-old glorifying of narcissistic behaviors, which continue to be admired and enabled, particularly in leaders. Like her, I see no need to glorify asshole-dom in any form. We survivors of narcissistic abuse and our allies can take back power in sharing and emphasizing other narratives and stop headlining the narcissists’— other than ones, perhaps, in which these kind of folks are finally put in their place with the rest of humanity. After all, narcissists are human like the rest of us, part of the collective “we,” who put on their clothes each day like we all do.

I hold hope that narcissism on both a collective and individual level can be healed, even if only up to a point for actual full-blown narcissists (who are likely incurable, yet possibly somewhat healable). It’s a very tall order, but possible. It comes down to a critical mass of dis-incentivizing and extinguishing overly self-centered behaviors in people and reinforcing healthy, pro social ones, over and over again. I understand, however, that at this moment in time, one might as well try and herd a mass of cats than embark on such a social endeavor I’m proposing. Still, large scale change often starts with widely sharing a proposed paradigm shift and then proceeding to explore ways to execute it. I think many efforts across assorted disciplines and projects (small and large) point to being planted seeds for the growing forth of such a societal shift I’m talking about.

Brief Thoughts About an Instance of Internal Play Therapy

Recently, I did internal play therapy with a client whereby they showed up in their mind in a scene with a small child part of their psyche. I sometimes suggested what they could ask and say to their child part, who presented toys and a story to be acted out with them. The client acted as therapist for their inner child while I was the outer therapist for the adult before me.

The human imagination is amazing, frequently showing us ways to begin transcending difficulties.

Brief Thoughts on These Terms: Toxic, Narcissist, Narcissism, and Narcissistic

I believe everyone has a wonderful Self at their core. I also believe that emotional burdens, originating from painful past experiences, lead many people to express toxic behaviors and engage in toxic relationships (a dynamic whereby physically and/or emotionally harmful behaviors are participated in between two or more people). That is not the same as labeling a person themself as “toxic,” which I do my best to avoid ever doing.

When I use the terms narcissist, narcissism, or narcissistic, I am referring to a certain clustering or set of behaviors being exhibited, not implying that the person or persons of concern are somehow inherently bad or “toxic.” Let’s face it, narcissism outwardly expressed is toxic to others witnessing it and is best dealt with by doing all one can to avoid enabling or reinforcing such behavior. This is ultimately best for anyone acting narcissistically.

Labels are powerful and useful, but, yes, if used thoughtlessly/with lack of discernment, they can be abusive, indeed toxic.

On Arriving Into Open-Heartedness

This noticeable opening of my heart has happened before. I’ve briefly written about it on at least a few occasions over past years, including over on Facebook. This time, there’s much more conscious awareness accompanying the process. I’m observing where this is coming from and how myself and others— including dear friends from much earlier times in my life— are connecting so openly and deeply of late. Emerging from over a year of enduring the COVID-19 pandemic has something to do with this, but there’s much more to it than that. Now well into middle age, I think I’ve finally turned a corner in emotional and spiritual development. Better late than never. I’m clearly, acutely aware now how I have discernment ability and choice around when and where to have my heart wide open and when it makes sense to briefly shield it, be that partially or completely so. This is akin to pulling a thick covering over someone or something that requires protection from nature’s harsh elements until one can bring the vulnerable being or object into safety again. I finally trust my own judgment around when to do this with my loving heart and when such action is not necessary. I have admittedly been too over-protected/closed-hearted much of the time, due to being far under-protected during a lot of my childhood/youth. I have been fortunate to live long enough to experience a steady development of conscious awareness, familiarity of heart-centered relating, and how those two can and do work naturally, even gracefully, together.

I am practical and realistic. I know that I need to and shall develop a practice to maintain this open heart consciousness way of living. Over on Facebook, I asked people to refrain from giving me suggestions concerning my spiritual practice. I ask the same of readers here as well. I’m fine with deepening my own familiar practices and exploring more additional options. I can and will ask certain people I know if and when I want suggestions. Please honor this request.

I am grateful to all of my dear loved ones who have helped me along the way with arriving here in this more awake and open-hearted place. Wherever I can, I will continue to be thankful and say how I love them.

Brief Thoughts on School Grades and Success in Life

Throughout my compulsory schooling, my academic performance was generally poor until my last two years of high school. I went on to graduate from a good state college with Honors in my major (psychology) and, sometime later, earned a Masters degree from the school of my choice, which is nationally respected in the field I’m in (social work). My point here is that I’m a living example among many of how academic performance throughout a child’s development is not the best determinant for her/his/their later success in life. Far from it. Valuing school grades can be over-emphasized and needlessly anxiety-ridden for everyone concerned.

When a child gets low grades on a school progress report, here’s something she/he/they could really benefit hearing from a parent: “You’re not as good or as bad as your grades. You’re still wonderful. I love you no matter what.”

Healing as a Form of Magic

It’s been said elsewhere that magic is a change in consciousness. Healing is one such form of magic. Also, magic equally involves both the recipient and the initiator of it, whereby both parties are directly affected.

I am so grateful to be doing healing work, which truly often feels magical. I’m healing while my clients are too. Thank the gods for this calling I’m in (trauma psychotherapist) whilst so much of the world around us is scarily out of control. I may not have much effectiveness directly out there. But, more up close in my life, I’m reminded that I wield good healing power, which I handle with utmost care and respect.

Physical, Not Social, Distancing

Please consider replacing the term “social distancing” with “physical distancing.” The latter is more precise and focuses on the actual activity everyone needs to do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The former term wrongly implies the concept of socially isolating from others, which is the last thing that should be emphasized. As human beings, we need social connection more so now in these scary times than ever. Language shapes narrative, which, in turn, shapes culture and society. Let’s foster a sense of connection with each other as best we can. One way of doing that is emphasizing the need to be physically distant from people, for the time being until this pandemic is over, but not at all socially/relationally apart where and whenever possible.

A Strong Hope

In regards to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis here in the United States, my frustration and sadness over not only the lack of presidential leadership but absolute detrimental, minus leadership from out of the White House are felt acutely of late. But, these feelings are placed right up against a strong hope that solid leadership from other quarters, including by some governors, congresspeople, doctors, nurses, and many others around us will somehow be enough to see us through.