On Sobriety and How Less Is Often More

I started abusing alcohol on a steady basis late in life, a few months after turning fifty, to be precise. This coincided with finally “making it.” My husband and I had just bought our own condo. and I was a few years into having my own successful private psychotherapy practice. It all came together, including living near a vibrant town center with a lovely bar and restaurant where I’d hang out with some colleagues and even made a few new friends. For almost five years, I was riding this gravy train of “making it,” lubricated along with wine and mixed drinks, especially on weekends but on my one day off during the week too. In my own way, I was luxuriating after years of having less, believing, a lot of that time, that I didn’t deserve much. I’ve since learned, after letting go of drinking (now over a year ago), that, often in many instances, less is actually more. No alcohol has meant more health and well-being for me and my husband. And there are so many other ways to meet each day in celebration of having “made it.”

Here’s to everyone who’s alive and meeting each day. You’re here. You made it this far and, to those I actually know and like, I’m so glad we’re friends, family, and/or somehow associates in life. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

On Loyalty Binds

From the MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY, this is what is said about the word “loyalty”: “Loyalty implies a faithfulness that is steadfast in the face of any temptation to renounce, desert, or betray.”

The quality of loyalty can be expressed towards another person, a country, a team of some sort, a product brand, etc. The relational context I am particularly concerned with here is between people. An individual can find themself in a bind of loyalty between two other parties whereby they feel somehow pressured to be less connected to one party than the other. Inner feeling states of anxiety and, often, guilt, arise over the sense that they will be somehow betraying one person over another by being also in positive connection with that other. A common example is when a child feels they are betraying their biological parent if they develop a close bond with their other bio. parent’s new spouse/life partner. And that bio. parent may or may not indeed be putting external pressure, however subtle/nuanced, on their child to not become close to the stepparent. Unprompted, children, in their bond with each of their birth parents, tend to already feel internally like they are somehow abandoning their parent(s) by developing closeness with their new stepparent(s). As a young child, I was in a loyalty bind between my bio. mother and former step/foster mother, then, much later as an adult, for a while between my former step/foster mom and current stepmother. Loyalty binds in blended/step families can and do occur for adult children as well.

That all said, loyalty binds can show up between friendships and coworkers, among other social contexts. Some people can be possessive and expect loyalty to them to mean loyalty to another/others has to be less or non-existent. The factors and situations where these binds arise are hard to quantify. Some people can carry around an internalized sense of loyalty binds where none exist, particularly if they grew up experiencing a loyalty bind within their family of origin and/or with a very close friend.

Try and be aware of loyalty binds that arise for people, both actual ones and for people who have an internalized sense of them as automatically accompanying any efforts to be close to more than one person within a social context. As discussed above, these commonly, likely inevitably, occur within blended/step families, such as within my own family of origin. But, these challenges can and do happen in other types of relationships as well. Patience, compassion, and curiosity are good to practice with ourselves and others in these situations.

Internal Family Systems trained family therapist Patricia Papernow is a compassionate and eloquent expert on loyalty binds within step/blended families and on other unique dynamics that arise within these types of family systems. To inform and deepen my work with individuals coping with an array of family histories and challenges, I will be reading her book Surviving And Thriving In Stepfamily Relationships: What Works And What Doesn’t.

“Healing Happens in Relationship.”

My undergrad. clinical and humanistic psychology professor at UC Santa Cruz, Ralph Quinn, said on more than one occasion, “Healing happens in relationship.” He included here a relationship with a higher power besides with another person or people. By extension, I think this certainly can and does apply to a connection one has with a pet, a wild animal, or with all or part of nature for that matter.

(Photo accompanying this post by Sebastian Arie Voortman.)

On Outgrowing Relationships and Experiencing Unconditional Love

A little earlier, over on Facebook, I wrote about how, sometimes, one outgrows a relationship, be it romantic, familial, a friendship, whichever. It isn’t healthy to try and remain in it out of guilt and obligation and/or fear. (I am excluding here those people who are in tenuous circumstances where leaving a problematic relationship is not an immediate option. Privilege and power differentials within and between parties are so often major factors.)

In response, a certain friend replied: “Life is not like a Hallmark movie. Most of the time we spend a ‘moment’ in time with someone. It does not diminish that relationship if it was not FOREVER. Unconditional love is a misnomer.”

I found this response of his interesting and thought-provoking. I replied by saying how I try my best to practice holding and sending compassion for others, including those I have moved on from and them from me. I went on to explain that I think unconditional love can be selectively practiced over those closest to us who we do not grow apart from.

I myself never experienced unconditional love growing up or into most of my adulthood, until I met my husband. Now, I’m experiencing what feels like that between him and myself, though it has definitely had to develop. It’s not about the romantic, passionate “fireworks” feeling, sensation, and thought states. Unconditional love for someone is a comparatively calmer, deeper emotional-sensory inner experience arising from having a sustained, safe outer connection with another, who congruently shares a similar inner emotional-sensory experience with the other. All of this phenomena goes beyond words.

This kind of love comes from one’s core, true Self. For most if not all of us, accessing our own Self takes a steady practice over time, informed by our own personal histories.

On Letting Go of Non-Resonating Energy From Others

I have experienced wonderful healing recently via sessions with an energy and sound healer, Katie Rose of Rose Energetics in Killeen, TX (her link here: https://roseenergetics.com). Regardless of what you may think and feel about the legitimacy and value of such a modality, one generally useful nugget of wisdom I’ve found helpful is Ms. Rose’s well-stated truth that not everyone’s energy resonates with one’s own. This doesn’t mean that all or part of another’s energy is bad, it just means it’s not always right for someone else, such as myself. It is simply non-resonant/non-resonating. And vice versa, of course, is the case with my energy not always resonating well for others. This has been so affirming and releasing.

The implications of this understanding are powerful. No longer do I feel the need, out of guilt or some other negative motivator, to remain engaged with non-resonant energy of someone in my personal life anymore, ever. And I don’t need to pursue trying to make my energy resonate with someone else’s. It has been so freeing to clear away this old habit of tolerating and engaging with non-resonant energy(ies) from others. Letting go of or avoiding non-resonating engagement in the first place can and should be un-coupled with polarizing/demonizing a non-resonant other. That is a more nuanced, newer insight I have been coming to.

I have been integrating all this for a good while now, but Ms. Rose’s wisdom (which is not hers alone) has basically cinched the deal, so to speak, further embedding in me this healthy outlook and way of engaging in the world. And I most certainly help my clients come to all this understanding for themselves as well. Now, I’ve got some additional helpful language and subsequent perspective to offer.

Brainspotting the X-Men’s Wolverine

Here’s a fun, geeky thought I had earlier today. I imagined enjoying the challenge of doing Brainspotting treatment on the X-Men’s Wolverine as a client of mine. He’s got to be one of the most traumatized comic book superheroes ever created. I also imagined having to ensure a thick window made of some sturdy material was placed between us. Hence, we’d actually be sitting and facing each other from separate rooms. This would minimize the likelihood of Woverine possibly killing me in a fit of rageful abreaction (acting out/releasing of emotion) while processing through some violent flashback scenes in his life, such as the time when Adamantium metal was surgically forced around his bones.

I think Wolverine would be a good candidate for telehealth therapy, which is how I continue to meet with most of my clients.

Dream About Brainspotting Senator Warnock

I woke up from a dream in which I was doing Brainspotting with Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, the “spot” being his intention to win re-election. The imagery was interesting, as I had Mr. Warnock focus inward on a circular image representing his achieving this goal. I felt confident and focused in the dream.

I just made my fourth small donation to his campaign. I hope I can help make this dream come true.

I can’t recall any other time where I dreamt of my work and national politics converging. Wild.

On Dropping Down Inside With Attuned Silence

I am realizing how I have often just scratched the surface as a psychotherapist, the surface of so much talking to and with others. Entering further into a focused, attuned silence with clients has allowed them to drop down into deeper parts of their brains, beyond the verbal, eventually leading towards more lasting calm and clarity, among other states. This goes below the culturally conditioned back-and-forth of talking. Powerful.