Sometimes Love Stays

Have you ever loved someone so much that “moving on” seems to impossible? I am not speaking about the mere concept of accepting that the relationship has ended and your life is significant and full without that person. I am talking about an inability to imagine your life with anyone else. I don’t think up until this point in my life, I have experienced heartbreak that has left me more interested in dating myself than anyone else. Somedays, I’ll make a conscious decision to try and date someone else. I’ll go to single meetups, I’ll download apps and I even “put myself out there.” However, no matter how hard I try to take dating seriously – I can’t. At this point in my life, regardless of whether or not the person I love is coming back – I can’t emotionally, spiritually or physically see myself with anyone else. I don’t know how to explain it. And I remember dating people who felt this way about people from their past and feeling angry with them. How could they do this to me? And I guess I now understand how they feel. And it isn’t like it makes your reality any less enjoyable. In fact, all other areas in your life seem to get better. You focus on yourself. You eat healthier, make friends, rediscover all of your passions, you focus on your career. And even if you haven’t found love, you use your past experiences to love yourself that much more. I think I am realizing that no matter how many times you tell yourself to get over someone, getting over someone you truly loved takes time. It takes a lot of time. And I guess, I never loved someone enough to actually feel this way. I know in time, I am going to meet someone and it is going to be amazing. And I have no doubt that I am going to get married and do the whole shebang. It isn’t that I am rushing to any kind of finish line, and I am not particularly desperate to meet someone. I really just want to meet someone who will take me into the mountains to go climb a 14er – ya know what I mean? That would be really cool.

But I guess, practicing patience and self-compassion for yourself when your heart isn’t aligning with what you know you need to accept is a really good first step to truly moving on. Sometimes, I think God puts experiences in our lives that we need to walk through. I think God doesn’t always give you the immediate satisfaction of swiping right or left to meet the person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with – and for that, I am truly grateful. But until I meet that person, my love stays.

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

 

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is the third generation of behavioral therapy, which expanded on earlier attempts to understand cognition and internal dysfunctions. Instead of actively trying to change the context and formal structure of an individual’s cognition, third-generation behavioral therapies emphasized the flexibility an individual experiences with their cognition. Developed by psychologist Steven Hayes, acceptance and commitment therapy targets an individual’s ability to make sense of external and internal stimuli they’re processing. For instance, “…he learned that thoughts could be viewed as hypotheses rather than literal truth; from radical behaviorism, he learned that all psychological events have effects based on their context.” (Sharf, p.623, 2008)

Relational frame theory (RFT) is the basis of ACT.

In this theory, language and the association’s individuals form with language make up a distinct part of an individual’s experience in the world. In his book World Hypotheses (1942), philosopher Stephen Pepper developed a philosophy to understand how an individual conceptualizes their relationship to the world based on the assumptions we make about the different criteria for what is knowledge and what is truth. When language is developed around stories (myths, morals, maxims, religious beliefs) as well as personal experience it also has an influence on an individual’s perception, responses and behavior.  For instance, a woman who is afraid of conflict and perceives her boss as authoritative might have anxiety about asking for time off.  Instead of targeting behaviors and changing them like more traditional behavior therapies, ACT looks to identify goals that will help the client to generate awareness and find acceptance with the abnormal experiences they’re living with. The goal of ACT is psychological flexibility, “meaning that ACT aims to train individuals to actively and openly contact their ongoing experiences in the present moment as fully conscious human beings, without defense and as it serves their chosen values.” (Sandoz, Wilson, DuFrene, p.17, 2011) Psychological flexibility is the ability to discover and develop the flexibility to interpreting their thoughts. This can include developing what is called “valued living.” In valued living, the individual discovers that living within their particular set of values and lifestyles will increase their overall happiness. In ACT, the development of psychological health is all about fostering and developing psychological flexibility. This is reflected in the idea that the phenomenon of psychopathology is a direct reflection of human suffering. From an ACT perspective, human suffering emerges from psychological processes, particularly those involving human language. Therefore, we cannot readily assume that all psychological suffering is a byproduct of diagnostic labels but just something we all experience in our lifetime.

ACT has six key processes including cognitive defusion, experiential acceptance, present moment focus, transcendent self-awareness, valued living.

 

Cognitive defusion “involves experiencing an event in its complexity without emotions or cognitions about the event dominating the experience. (Sandoz, Kelly, DuFrene, p.20, 2011) In more concrete terminology, cognitive defusion involves the ability to assess the nature of thoughts resulting in the ability to identify and let go of those that cause suffering. Take for example, a client whose manager corrects her for not getting to work on time and she experiences feelings of failure. Cognitive defusion would include assessing the thoughts and whether they are true, specifically whether being chastised for being late is equivalent to failure.

 

Experiential acceptance is the process of openly accepting an individual’s experiences without deeming them as positive or negative. It does not mean accepting the accompaniment of unpleasant experiences or not witnessing their experience but allowing them to be there without judgment or action to avoid further suffering.

 

In present-moment focus, the goal involves employing a flexibility in the perception of intra and interpersonal event. This means understanding the different things in an individual’s current cognition that are causing distractibility.

 

Transcendent self-awareness is the ability to experience flexibility in the way an individual perceives themselves. There is no over-arching or dominate aspects of one’s identity that makes it impossible for the individual to feel different sensations or things. It involves not letting certain experiences of the self, hinder an experience in the moment. Someone who is able to have transcendent self-awareness is able to be a boss at work, a partner to their spouse, and nurturer to their children.

 

In Valued Living, “valued living involves living in such a way as to facilitate contact with chosen values.” (Sandoz, Wilson, DuFrene, p.22, 2011) This means that values from an ACT perspective are congruent with an individual’s actions and behaviors that dominate the core of who the individual is. For example, a mother who is breastfeeding and experiencing post-partum depression might be experiencing thoughts and beliefs about her child that is not congruent with her value of being a loving mother. Focusing on the value of being a loving mother, while accepting that pain in motherhood is a normal example of incorporating valued living into treatment.

 

Eating Disorders and Anorexia

 

Eating disorders are exceptionally difficult to treat, especially amongst adult patients with a long-term history of the illness. Eating disorders tend to by symptoms of a complex ego system, with individuals who possess the disorder exhibiting extreme ambivalence to treatment. Inpatient or residential treatment is often needed to help regulate individuals with extreme symptoms and although these solutions can produce short-term improvements the discourse on long-term improvements appears to be relatively low. “For adults with anorexia nervosa, there are currently no treatments that have achieved empirical support.” (Agras et al., 2004; Kaplan, 2002; G. T. Wilson, Grilo, & Vitousek, 2007). However, treatment for anorexia has seen strides in using cognitive therapies to help individuals with their thoughts and perceptions of their experiences with their bodies and eating. A growing body of research suggests that ACT methods such as experiential avoidance, hyper-awareness, and disordered values are central to the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Eating disorder difficulties are mapped out in terms of deficiencies in the 6 core processes of ACT including present-moment focus, cognitive defusion, experiential acceptance, transcendent self-awareness, valued living, and committed action. Treatment for anorexia looks to understand the avoidance, awareness and deficiencies of the 6 core components of well-being while increasing flexibility. “Experiential avoidance has been shown to be particularly high in eating disorder populations” (Cockell, Geller, & Linden, 2002; Keyser et al., 2009; Mizes & Arbitell, 1991; Orsillo & Batten, 2002), and it appears that eating disorder symptoms often function as a way to help the patient avoid upsetting internal experiences (Hayes & Pankey, 2002; Keyser et al., 2009; Paxton & Diggens, 1997; Serpell, Treasure, Teasdale, & Sullivan, 1999). Experiential avoidance represents an individual’s attempt to avoid certain thoughts, feelings, sensations or experiences related to their disordered eating. Individuals with eating disorders become very critically aware of their body and food intake as a means of controlling their external and internal environment. “Patients with eating disorders also tend to be less aware of their emotions than healthy individuals, which may make it more challenging for these patients to defuse from these internal experiences” (Merwin et al., 2011; Merwin, Zucker, Lacy, & Elliot, 2010). Research also points to the fact that individuals with eating disorders also show less regulation in emotional intelligence and poor personal awareness. Because of the emphasis placed on the eating disordered individuals weight, shape, and eating behavior, other areas of their life become neglected such as behaviors that maintain physiological and psychological well-being. “Patients with eating disorders also tend to have poor clarity for values unconnected with food and body image.“ (Fairburn, 2008) When it comes to addressing valued living, it is particularly difficult to motivate the eating disordered individuals to live from their personal values. This is because their values are skewed toward achievement on a specific body weight, shape and size. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), is helpful because of its emphasis on taking committed action toward living within proper value domains and increasing greater psychological flexibility and tolerance for discomfort. According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Eating Disorders, “From an ACT perspective, eating disorders are particular forms of psychological inflexibility.” (Sandoz, Wilson, Dufrene, p.24, 2011) In a practice used to help increase psychological flexibility in the book, “Living in Your Body and Other Things You Hate: How to Let Go of Your Struggle with Body Image Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,” the practitioner asks clients to take deep explorations into their inner-awareness through understanding their bodily sensations. Through guided visualizations and meditations that bring awareness to what the client is experiencing in the moment, they’re able to increase the client’s overall psychological flexibility by understanding and noticing their breath, how the body feels, bringing attention to different parts of the body, body scans and more. Through each sensation, the client is asked to breathe through any discomfort they’re feeling while accepting what it feels like to be connected to their bodies. An example of this looks like the following:

 

“And now let your awareness gently expand out and take in each of the physical experiences you are having right now, from the strongest to the most subtle. If you find your attention drawn into a single sensation, see if you can expand out from that sensation to take in the whole of your physical experience. See if you can let your attention hover there, on the whole, for use a moment.”

(Sandoz. p.61, 2014)

 

This is an example of how ACT can help increase an individual’s acceptance, present moment awareness, and transcendental self-awareness. Along with implementing mindfulness-based practices that help shift an individual’s tolerance for sensational experiences, ACT helps shape functional targets that help clients interact more effectively with the things in their lives that are causing distress, pain and intolerance. Clinicians also find it helpful to present opportunities for present-moment focus, “the present moment is where contingencies are being presented that can shape effective behavior.” (Sandoz, Wilson, Dufrene, p.24, 2011) This is what clinicians guide individuals through as present-moment awareness that helps implement more self-compassion for what the individual is experiencing. Much like understanding cognitive distortions, in cognitive behavioral therapy, creating acceptance and patience for an individual’s thought process is an integral part of helping achieve present moment focus.  Many individuals suffering from eating disorders, struggle with cultivating acceptance for what is. A painful experience that happens in the individual’s life might cause excess suffering and rumination around rigid ways of thinking and behaving and how to avoid the pain in the future. Having control over their eating, the individual gains relief by imagining how she/ he might skip a meal in an attempt to control her weight loss. Using ACT in helping mitigate these thought cognitions is great for developing present-moment focus and accepting drawing attention to their thought processes in the present moment without complications of the future or past. Using present-moment awareness, allows the eating disordered individuals to leave their rigid focus on their body weight and focus on their present sensations in the moment. It is understood that present-moment focus, acceptance and self-awareness are not tools that should be ideally discounted in the therapeutic process. It is about generating presence for the things that are most meaningful for the eating disordered clients. Even though experiencing the sensations of the body can be especially challenging for eating disordered individuals it is important to cultivate in order to produce adequate change. However, this adequate change is documented through the process of valued living and committed action. In committed action, an example of a therapeutic intervention would look like the following:

 

“take a moment and list five situations in your life that are both meaningful to you and likely to get your awareness scattered or stuck. Now write two numbers between 1 and 10 next to each situation, representing how meaningful (M) and how challenging (C) that situation is for you, with 10 indicating that the situation is one of the most meaningful or challenging you’ve experienced and 1 indicating that the situation is one of the least meaningful or challenging you’ve experienced. “

(Sandoz. p.71, 2014)

 

After the individual identifies what has been a challenge for them about staying present and accepting their bodily sensations, they’re asked to make a commitment to living a life that is indicative of present body awareness. An example of this commitment might be noticing the way an individual’s shoe feels as she takes each step forward every morning on the way to school. This process is an example of how one might increase cognitive defusion while staying committed to living within their value system.

 

It is clear that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a great therapy to use for the treatment of eating disorders because of its 6 core processes that bring awareness and acceptance of intolerable suffering to the client.

 

Psychodynamic Theory of Marcus’ Pleasure Principle

Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy

“The history of man is the history of his repression.” – Freud

The origin of psychoanalysis came from Sigmund Freud who was considered the father of psychiatry. Throughout the 20th century, psychoanalysis was the most influential therapy where virtually every major theorist was trained in a certain branch of psychoanalytic thought. Among the psychologists that really shaped and helped influence psychoanalytic theory are Erik Erickson, Anna Freud, Lacan and more. However, the formation of psychoanalytic theory was very much an original Freudian discipline. According to Theories of Psychotherapy and Counseling (2008), in order “to understand contemporary psychoanalytic thought, it is important to be aware of the five theoretical directions: Freudian drive theory, ego psychology, object relations, self-psychology, and relational psychoanalysis.” (Sharf, p.30) In drive theory, Freud focuses on the innate drives & instincts humans develop in relation to our preservation as a biological species and our culture as it relates to the instinctual structures of humanity. These purely humanistic structures represent two distinctive drives and motivations that create human civilization: Eros and Thanatos. Thanatos representing our self-destructive counterpart or our natural inclination towards aggression as a biological species and Eros representing our need for life. According to Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud,

“The animal drives become human instincts under the influence of the external reality. Their original “location” in the organism and their basic direction remain the same, but their objectives and their manifestations are subject to change. All psychoanalytic concepts (sublimation, identification, project, repression, introjection) connote the mutability of the instincts. But the reality which shapes the instincts, as well as their needs and satisfaction, is a socio-historical world. The animal man becomes a human being only through a fundamental transformation of his nature, affecting not only the instinctual aims but also the instinctual “values” – that is, the principles that govern the attainment of aims. The change in the governing value system may be tentatively defined as follows:

From:

Immediate satisfaction

Pleasure

Joy

Receptiveness

Absence of repression

To:

Delayed satisfaction

Restraint of pleasure

Toil

Productiveness

Security” (Marcuse, 2015, p.1)

These ideals of the biological transformation into humanistic qualities can be what Freud describes as the transition from the “pleasure principle” to the “reality principle.” “the reality principle supersedes the pleasure principle: man learns to give up momentary, uncertain, and destructive pleasure for delayed, restrained, but “assured” pleasure. This adjustment from animalistic pleasure implies a subjugation of the internal drives that make up our instincts and desires, therefore, creates a set of organized ego states within a fixed environment or society.” (Marcuse, 2015, p.4) Freudian psychoanalysis is a theory that relates greatly with social psychology, the “notion that a non-repressive civilization is impossible is the cornerstone of Freudian theory.” The largest part of the subjugation from the pleasure principle to the reality principle is the development of repressed states of consciousness. As an individual may have different parts of consciousness which make up someone’s conscious awareness, preconscious and the subconscious (our repressed experiences). An illustrative example of memory and the subconscious is painted further by Marcuse, “If memory moves to the center of psychoanalysis as a decisive mode of cognition, this is far more than a therapeutic device; the therapeutic role of memory derives from the truth value of memory. Its truth value lies in the specific function of memory to preserve promises and potentialities which are betrayed and even outlawed by the mature, civilized individual, but which had once been fulfilled in his dim past and which are never entirely forgotten.” (Marcuse, 2015, p.8) The expression of the pleasure principle and the reality principle can be seen in what Freud has chronicled as the three ego states: id, ego and superego. In the earliest stage of development, Freud’s theory is built around the antagonism of sex and life instincts. According to Theories of Psychotherapy and Counseling: Concepts and Cases, “When conflicts among the id, ego and superego develop, anxiety is likely to arise. It is the purpose of the ego and superego to channel instinctual energy through driving forces (cathexes) and restraining forces (anticathexes). The id consists only of the driving forces. When the id has too much control, individuals may become impulsive, self-indulgent or destructive. When the superego is too strong, individuals may have set unrealistically high moral or perfectionistic standards (superego) themselves and thus develop a sense of incompetence of failure.” (Sharf, p. 36) These drives are developed by what Freud has coined as the “psychosexual stages of development,” where Freud believed that the nature of conflicts among the id, ego and superego change over time as a person grows from child to adult. These conflicts make up 5 different stages Freud calls the oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital stage. Erik Erickson creates these stages of development by continuing to add in the eight psychosocial stages of development, which include infancy, early childhood, preschool age, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age and later life. These developmental stages are all indicative of the child’s ability to resolve the internal conflicts of their transformation from the “pleasure” seeking principle to the “reality” principle. According to Freud, failure to resolve one of these stages could lead a child to become fixated in that stage, leading to an unhealthy personality. The idea of healthy childhood development according to psychoanalytic theory could be further examined by understanding the development of “ego states.” Ego states develop as a creative way to cope with an individual’s surrounding environment and allowing an individual to distinguish between acceptable social responses in social, home and school situations. An example of this would be a child learning to ask permission at school to use the restroom. The second type of ego state is the ego state where we internalize various aspects of our parents and other important figures in our lives we grow up attached too. For instance, an adult may have a two-year-old ego state who experiences regression to time periods of unhealed experiences and memories. Ego states can also be created in responses to different traumatic events that develop throughout an individual’s lifetime. Addressing the developmental schema of the Freudian ego states as they pertain to our consciousness is also a way of overcoming the complexities of the formation of the id and the ego. “Anna Freud believed that the ego, as well as the id, should be the focus of treatment in psychoanalysis.” (Blanck and Blanck, 1986). The largest layer of our mental structures when it pertains to the development of our egos is formalized in the id, ego and superego. The fundamental, oldest and most connected layer is the id. “The id is free from the forms and principles which constitute the conscious, social individual.” (Marcuse, 2015, p.7) The id does not have a conscious drive or motivation for any other forms of pleasure or relationality other than striving “for satisfaction of its instinctual needs, in accordance to the pleasure principle.” (Marcuse, p. 8) The ego serves as the medium ownership of the id and the socially constructed world it makes up our “perceptual-conscious system.” Its job serves as a manager, constantly determining and reflecting back the true pictures of reality or what reality should serve as a means for survival and cooperation as a species. “In fulfilling the task, the chief function of the ego is that of coordinating, altering, organizing and controlling the instinctual impulses of the id so to minimize conflicts with the reality: to repress impulses that are incompatible with the reality, to “reconcile” others with the reality by changing their object, delaying or diverting their gratification, transforming their mode of gratification, amalgamating them with other impulses, and so on.” (Marcuse, 2015, p.20)

 

 

Overview of Anorexia

Steve Levenkron, a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders, has broken the development and progression of the eating disorder into four simple steps. According to the novel Anorexia: Biographies of Disease, “The first stage is the achievement stage.” This stage is developed by a subconscious need to increase our reproductive fitness. Many people will enter this stage in order to feel better about themselves physically and emotionally. For many individuals who develop anorexia, the reward system for pleasure is directly related to unconditional praise and attention they get for their physical appearance. However, recent neurobiological research proves that anorexia is a fairly genetic concern and involves an absence of 5-HT chemicals in the central nervous system.

 

However, one could argue that the development of this genetic abnormality was the consequence of evolutionary, sociocultural expectations within the realm of idealistic feminine beauty. Once seen as a symptom of hysteria by Freud, anorexia and eating disorders are now treated as their own neurobiological, complex issue. Anorexia was first seen in psychiatric units in the early 18th century. In Anorexia: Biographies of Disease, they say that psychiatrist “William Stout Chipley was the chief medical officer at the Eastern Lunatic Asylum of Kentucky. He was the first American physician who, in 1859, published the American Journal of Insanity descriptions of self-starvation in American insane asylums… Chipley then discussed another group of patients who refused food and tended toward hysteria. Typically, they were adolescent girls who had been brought to the asylum by their parents because they refused to eat. Chipley recognized that this group of girls felt that refraining from eating was an accomplishment that made them special and unique, and furthermore, that it was a way to attract attention, sympathy, and power from friends and family. ” (Stryer, 2009, p.17) Pierre Briquet first saw examples of anorexia in his hospital and observed symptoms which mainly consisted of adolescent females, which included “an aversion toward ordinary food, sometimes having an attack of hysteria if that ate a particular food, and acquired a strange appetite. Briquet observed that, no matter what type of food aversion they had, it always appeared to be influenced by unpleasant experiences and emotions.” (Stryer, 2009, p.17) During the early twentieth century, it seemed that values pertaining women’s status and respect in society shifted from highly moralistic aims (grace, love and joy) to values that directly reflected the exterior significance of female femininity.  In Steve Levenkron’s next step for the four stages of anorexia, he says this is when individuals will enter what is called the security-compulsive stage. “Instead of stopping here, however, they begin to increase their weight loss efforts and develop a new goal, around two pounds a week. Yet, this time there is no end in sight. They become obsessed with measuring every part of their body.” In stage two and three, the illness of anorexia has taken over the individuals life and is now worrying their family members. In stage four, “the pseudo-identity stage,” anorexia is now a core-component to the individuals sense of identity, self-concept and self-esteem.  They feel more in control of their lives when they’re achieving the reward of controlling their weight. Sociocultural theory, believes that anorexia is a disorder that was developed due to advent of Western cultural expectations on women’s femininity. However, applied through the lens of psychoanalytic theory one could argue that these expectations for feminine beauty is purely an example of the consequences of the construction of a civilized environment and adhering to the “reality” principle. The connection between an individual’s response or avoidance to eating might be directly linked to the way they are responding to unconscious feelings thoughts and memories associated and linked to deep childhood wounds.

 

 

Eros and Obsession: A Fixation Divulged from Civilization, Manifested through Emptiness

 

Anorexia is a disorder that corresponds with an individual’s subconscious desire and need for control in a subterranean culture and climate. According to “the implication of the sadistic superego in anorexia,” consumerism in America is a defining concern in the development of distorted body schema and the drive for obsession. However, one could argue that this obsession is deeper involved within the intrapsychic connection between the individual and their longing for emotional attachment and unconditional love. By analyzing Eros and Civilization and the self-destructive nature that our ego predicates in our lives, we’re able to step into the shoes of what an individual coping with reality by denying, restricting or overeating might be experiencing. If you were to look at Eating Disorders through a psychoanalytic lens, you would see that the ego has taken control of the individuals life and the individual is coping with their existence of reality in a way that provokes their subconscious desire for death. According to psychodynamics, “a psychodynamic viewpoint regards the etiology of Anorexia Nervosa as largely developmental in nature. It views the disorder as a response to deficits in development whereby a lack of parental nurturing led to a failure in the now anorexia patient to develop a coherent sense of self.” (Marlow, p.64) In Erik Erickson’s model of development, we find that the early life stages of 2-6 are incredibly important for connecting an individual to a caregiver and developing a proper sense of security, attachment, and love. According to Lacan, “a individual  experiences herself as a mass of separate experiences and requires the nurturing presence of an empathic and loving caregiver to bring these experiences together into a coherent whole.” (Lacan, 2007). When an individual is not given the proper love and attachment needs they need to experience as a basis for biological self-preservation, they are thus taught to transform those emotions through the “reality principle.” Their avoidance and rejection of food are directly tied to a natural biological need for survival. However, this need or biological “craving’ is actually configured in reality as something that is undesirable or wrong. In the sociocultural atmosphere thinness, health and appearance are considered a women’s most valued reproductive variables. At a young age, if an individual is not given the formation of a sound and secure personal identity, our ego develops states of consciousness which help us compartmentalize the confusing messaging that our ego, id, and superego develop in relation to our surrounding environment.  Plainly, a narrative for the self-destructive client coping with reality by restricting and suppressing their desire for food might look something like the following:

An individual’s mother tells her she is not good at school and never going to get anywhere in life. The individual being at the age of 10 has not developmentally, categorized her existence apart from the perception and world of her mother’s views. Unable to identify or understand how her mother could not love her and be in love with someone else. The patient feels shame for wanting simple biological needs like love and attachment. This shame is deeply connected to our biological need for food and life. Due to extra stimuli in the patient’s environment about women’s rights and sexual reproductive features, the patient feels a continued sense of shame for her “pleasure” seeking drives (i.e. food and love). Processing these stimuli and the mixed incoherent messages about reality and what is “wrong” or “right,” the patient’s ego creates a separate illusion of principle and guidelines. This looks something like, “I am not good at school, I do not deserve food” or “I am not pretty enough, I must throw up.”

  • This illustration is a process that is similar to how Herbert Marcuse describes the formation of our superego, “In the course of development of the ego another mental “entity” arises: the superego. It originates from the long dependency of the infant on his parents; the parental influence remains the core of the superego. Subsequently, a number of societal and cultural influences are taken in by the superego until it coagulates into the powerful representative of established morality and “what people call the ‘higher things in human life.” Now that the “external restrictions” which first the parents and then other societal agencies have imposed on the individual are “introjected” into the ego and become its “conscience;” henceforth, the sense of guilt – the need for punishment generated by the transgressions or by the wish to transgress these restrictions (especially in the Oedipus situation) – permeates the mental life. (Marcuse, p.56)

Creativity is my Motivation

Have you ever approached a period in your life when you’ve considered giving up? I remember when I was in high school, I wanted to give up on dance. I turned my back on dancing and decided to pursue visual art. Little to my knowledge, I was going to be better at expressing my individuality in an art class, then I was standing in unison cheering for a football team.

I ended up getting accepted into some of the best creative art schools in the country. However, naturally rebellious in my youth, my mother opted out of paying a high-end art tuition. In revolt, I stopped pursuing art – for a time.

I wanted to be a painter or dancer, and I had truly felt like I was getting cheated out some kind of entitled right to pursue my passion.

When I turned my back on art for three years, I felt more disconnected from the experience of who I was than ever before. I honestly became a disingenuous, fake production of myself. It took me a lot of time to come back around and realize that the mere act of expressing myself creatively is something that is critically inherent to who I am as an individual. I learned a lot about my journey, and I know recognize that creativity is everywhere.

Creativity is in the way we walk. Creativity is the way we cook. Creativity is the way we deeply allow each moment to pass with serenity. It is the voice in the back of your head that wants to play, dance and laugh. I am proud to say that I found abstract painting and ballet as a means of individualistic expression. And I don’t see this as a method of giving up, but possibly moving forward to pursue creativity in different facets of society.

I will always be a dancer.

I will always be a painter.

Our Obsessions Cause Us More Lonliness

Understanding our personal obsessions is an important aspect of overcoming our personal inability for acceptance. Sometimes, when I am in a dark place, I obsess over things that I can’t control. One second I am pacing around the kitchen looking for the spatula and the next I am overworking my body thinking it is going to make me a better dancer. Today when I was in dance class, I had a real epiphany. I had gotten to dance an hour early and started working on my stretches and crunches. I then did a pro-cheerleader dance class and then stayed for another contemporary class. In the middle of stretching for my contemporary class, something came over me and I felt myself becoming light-headed. “What is going on,” I thought to myself. I calmly and diligently started listening to what my body was telling me.

“I am tired,” I heard my body say. “You’re overworking me and you need to let me cool down,” it repeated back to me.

I typically have a tendency to want to be the best. To want to strive, work and exacerbate myself in order to feel more entitled to my personal ability to showcase my talents. However, I started listening to my body. I stopped doing crunches, and I just laid on the floor to catch my breath. Did I feel shame? Did I feel inadequate? Possibly. However, my body was thankful. I could feel the life-force energy coming back into the tips of my fingers, and I knew that I was doing the right thing.

I feel like there are so many times in our lives when we forget to listen to our bodies and do the right thing. 

Sometimes, my ego disallows me from doing the right thing and I can even be hurtful to others. For a long time, I never quite grasped the concept of hurting others. I think it was because I was living my life from a locus of control that ensured my personal safety and disregarded the personal safety of others. I think that is because, for a long time, I felt that other people were not safe. However, I tend to have an obsessive nature. I tend to obsess about the things that I cannot control a lot and it causes me a great deal of anxiety, worry, and self-destructive behavior. But now I have the ability to stop myself. I have the ability to trust others and see that they might be hurting more. And when I am able to sense their personal pain, hurt and agitation – it allows me to accept them for who they are. Every relationship is essentially a two-way street. No matter what people tell you. If someone is doing something mean to you, then they’re hurting – no, ifs, and’s or buts. It is the truth: hurt people, hurt people. And that is why understanding why hurt people lash out is the first step to staying safe. And what I mean by safe is understanding their words, thoughts and actions do not define who you are. Do not let the pain of another person imprint on you, and do not let the actions of someone who has hurt you allow yourself to feel less about your capability, integrity, and personal resiliency.

We have to accept the choices that people make. We cannot dwell on the past and smoother ourselves with unnecessary pain. Letting go and accepting a person’s choice is the greatest, most noble act of love there is.

Obsessive love is not real love. And your body will tell you. Your body tells you everytime you have anxiety or fear. You can feel it by the rate of your heart, the sweat in your palms or your newly disoriented perception of reality. Every time, we’re obsessing to gain something we have no control over, we’re losing control over ourselves. We’re acting in the opposite of love. We are reacting with fear.

 

 

IMG_1194-1.JPGIMG_1195.JPGIMG_1196.JPGpaige swanson

 

The Loving Presence of God Helps Mend Our Wounds

Spirituality in Nature

Many times when we think about traumas and mental health, we think about the need for individuals to improve their own self-worth. Self-worth is a large part of why we overcome shame and guilt and begin to find a feeling of wanting to belong. Guilt is the idea that we have done something bad, while shame is the idea that we’re inherently bad.

Although, shame and guilt are just as powerful as one another shame is usually the destructive part of us that believes we can no longer change or do better. Everyone at some point in their lives experiences shame. When I was working with alcoholics at the rehabilitation center, the majority of them felt shame for what they had done and believed that they could not change. People who are LGBTQ experience a form of shame for the way they were born and never learn to fully believe in themselves. Many times people deal with shame by overeating, withdrawing, exhibiting compulsive behavior and more. These are all unhealthy coping mechanisms people pick up because shame directly impacts our personal self-esteem.

Brene Brown says, “If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story.”

There are many times we feel inadequate and like we will never be enough and it is in those feelings we begin to act out those exact feelings. The message we say to ourselves is, “I am not worthy.” Because of what happened to me as a child, sometimes I feel like I will never be worthy of love. However, there is one guiding principle that diversifies us from our shame. That diversification is a fire in the soul. What is a fire in the soul? That is the loving presence of something larger than us.

In Elizabeth Smart’s autobiography, “My Story,” she walked through her tragic story of kidnapping, rape, slavery and horrendous abuse. Every ounce of her self-worth and self-esteem was stripped by Brian David Mitchell. Although, there were plenty of times she thought of planning her escape and dreaded the idea of living out the rest of her days as his wife. There was not a single point where Elizabeth Smart thought of taking her own life. Seeing those words written in her book made chills run down my back.

How could you go through something so terrible and wicked and not want to die?

Elizabeth Smart had something that I believe is an essential part of healing and recovery for all victims of mental illness. She had an undying love for a higher power. I believe that there is something that happens to us as humans when we hold on to the concept of our soul – to the concept of something larger than us.

With spirituality, we are able to connect to a wholeness that is lost without it. The idea that God is inside each and every one of us is not just a Christian fallacy. I believe in order to self-actualize, there needs to be a connection to a creative force or energy that completes who we are. Many times, mental illness can be the consequence of what I consider to be a spiritual crisis. I believe my diversity is in the fact, that I am a strong believer in all religions, spiritual groups, and practices. I have practiced Wicca, shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.

I take and pull from each of the disciplines and create a spiritual template that aligns with my soul. Indeed, that creates an everlasting flame that will never blow out. Cultivating a resilient spirit is dependent on finding wholeness within ourselves and overcoming shame.

I believe one of the best ways to heal shame is to find forgiveness and healing with your higher self. 

 

Never Give Up Hope