Today is one of my "favoritest" days of all. 4th of July!! Ever since I can remember, this holiday has been a special one for me.
I grew up in a small town called Bartlesville - at least it felt like a very small town when I was a kid. Right across the street from my house was Sooner Park. One of the best things about Sooner Park (aside from the barely safe curly slide), was the huge hill that during the winters served as a place to go at break neck speed down on a sled and during the summer was the staging ground for the local fireworks show.
This meant that every July 4th, friends and family gathered in my front yard for the best seat in the house. The food food was amazing (down home fried chicken, potato salad, watermelon, pies of every type). The fireworks and sparklers and those strange ones that looked like a worm when you lit them kept all of us kids busy until the main show started.
I remember sitting amongst my aunts and uncles as they told stories (no doubt this rubbed off on me) and also talked about their struggles.
The memory of this time fills me today with a warmth, it is a comfort -- and yet, I'm also struck by another memory.
When I was 20-something, I had been out on a few dates with this girl when she asked me about my childhood. I remember saying, "There's nothing good to say about that - next topic."
See, at that time in my life, I was so consumed by the unhealed trauma that my focus and attention was singularly on all that had been bad, hurtful, disappointing, hard, scary...
So much so that I couldn't even access these 4th of July memories.
This is something that I have seen myself do and most of my clients do -- fall into this "tunnel vision" perspective of ourselves, our lives, our experiences, and others.
One of the most wonderful surprise benefits of healing trauma is that we are able to reconnect with our full life experience -- and the bad becomes interwoven with the good rather than being always on the main stage.
My hope for you today is that, regardless of where you are in your healing journey, that you can find a moment today to consider the full picture of your life journey. Not as a way to dismiss the trauma that you are healing. Not as a way to pretend that things really weren't that bad. But simply as a way to connect to yourself and your life as a whole.
Happy Independence from Tunnel Vision Day,
Watchthis video to learn what Sean Stephenson has to say about overcoming anxiety.
Read this article to learn how you can hit your brain's reset button.
What is one favorite memory from your childhood? Spend some time journaling about this membry.
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Freak: The True Story of an Insecurity Addict by Rebecca O'Donnell
"From its first caustic, blackly hilarious quote to its unbelievable ending, Freak examines a roller coaster ride of a life and never lets up. It tells the true story of Rebecca O'Donnell, an atypical hero who found joy and laughter in the darkest of circumstances. Unlike so many spunky survivors of damaged pasts, Rebecca belonged to those far more common gray areas of depression and insecurity, hidden behind a mask she showed the world."
Are you ready to finally look in the mirror and like what you see?
For survivors of abuse, shame can be one of the most pervasive feelings we carry well after the abuse has ended. As a result of trauma, we come to believe that we are at fault or to blame for what has happened.
This then transforms into a deeply rooted way of being that impacts our sense of self. For example, we might come to believe that we are unlovable because we were abused. We might come to believe that there is inherently something bad or wrong about who we are. In other words, all of our judgments about "self" are derogatory or negative.
Boy have I been there! And I can't wait to share with you what helped me put an end to the constant self-blame and judgment.
It's June, and I'm so glad it is -- though San Francisco is generally refusing to get in line with my dreams of sunshine and BBQs (typical!).
But today is gorgeous! So, I'm gonna run out and take advantage of the sun while it lasts, but first, I want to share with you a recent interview I did with David Van Nuys, host of Shrink Rap Radio. We cover a lot of territory in this interview, so I hope you hear something that supports or inspires you today and brings a little "sunshine" into your life!
To enjoying the little gifts of life,
Watchthis video to learn how childhood trauma can affect your health.
Read this article to learn more about foods you can eat every day to beat depression.
What is one small thing you can do today to take care of you, improve your health, or get moving?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind by Bija Bennett
"a broad range of simple body-mind techniques that can positively affect our emotional well-being, including the dynamic interplay of movements, breathing exercises, meditations, lifestyle skills, rituals, gestures, and healing sounds."
Many years ago, I was sitting at a table with friends, listening to the conversation. They were smiling and laughing. One person feeding off the other. There was a camaraderie and a banter that was happening as they swapped stories.
I was enjoying taking this all in, but then, all of a sudden, a deep sadness hit me. It was as if the table stretched away from me like in a movie when time slows down, and I was very present to how "on the outside" I felt in that moment. I felt disconnected, separate -- an observer -- and I just knew that I didn't belong.
Maybe you can relate?
Later that night, I turned to my partner and said, "I think I'm really lonely and always have been." He was shocked! We'd only been dating for a short time, but to his mind, I was a very social and connected person.
I burst into tears and said, "I know! What the hell is wrong with me?"
This moment launched me into investigating loneliness and trying to understand how I could be surrounded by people and at the same time feel completely separate.
Along the way, I discovered that, as a result of the abuse I experienced, I had come to believe that there was something different about me, something that people just could never understand. And so, as a result of this belief, no matter how many connections I had, I could only connect to a point and then no further. The result being, I was left with this deep loneliness.
As I set about to resolve this, it led me to exploring many aspects of connection and relationship: trust, setting boundaries, intimacy, vulnerability, communication.
And bit by bit, I was able to address each block that was keeping me isolated and disconnected.
This past weekend, I was away at a work + play weekend with eight other amazing women who I consider friends for life. I found myself once again at a table, watching my friends share about their lives (the good, the bad, the ugly), and I felt a deep warmth as I sat in their presence -- connected, receiving, and able to give of myself in a way that I once believed would never be possible.
Today, if you're feeling lonely -- I get it! I want to encourage you to try on challenging any belief that is causing isolation or disconnection in your own life.
And, of course, I'm happy to be here to support you in taking that on!
Watchthis video to learn how loneliness may be impacting your body.
What is one small thing you can do today to create more connection in your life?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White
"Many people, over the course of the past several years, have asked me why I would want to write a book about chronic loneliness. The subject, they hint, is embarrassing; it's best kept unmentioned. And loneliness, they say, isn't 'real' --- at least not in the way that depression or bipolar disorder are real. Every word I've written has been penned against a chorus of 'Don't and 'Why bother?'”
Learning to set boundaries and to communicate is one of the key things that led to more connection in my own life. I hope you will download this master class that has been specifically designed to help you reach a place where you feel confident, joyful, and empowered. The strategies I share in this class are practical, easy to use, and the most effective ways I know to overcome the "people pleasing" and pain that comes when we lack boundaries.
April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and has been since 1983. I was seven years old when this month became equated with a time to pause and reflect on the current status of our country (world) with regard to child abuse.
At this age, I was likely being abused but only have vague memories (it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I started experiencing abuse consciously).
This past December, I turned forty. Thirty years later after my first full conscious experience of abuse, my life has changed in ways that I could never have dreamed of.
But, on a broader scale, there is still much work to be done to raise awareness, increase prevention, and create global healing for those who have been abused.
This feels like a very big job some days!
Yet there are amazing organizations (here's one: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/) and amazing people (too many to list!) who are taking a stand each day to bring this issue out into the light and to make sure that more and more people are able to recognize abuse and take steps to protect children from ongoing harm.
There are still many cracks in the systems that are meant to protect children, but today, I'm feeling encouraged as I see more and more people becoming advocates, healers, peer counselors, speakers-- there is a clear refusal to sit down and be quiet!
Today, I want to encourage you to consider one small thing you could do in your network of family, friends, and/or community to help increase awareness.
Watchthis video to learn 7 Sneaky Things Narcissists Say to Get you Back.
Rachel Evan Woods, actress and star of Westworld, reveals she was raped. Read her story.
What is one small thing you can do today to break the silence and increase awareness in your communiy?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
"...Action always happens in the present, because it is an expression of the body, which can only exist in the here and now. But the mind is like a phantom that lives only in the past or future. It's only power over you is to draw your attention our of the present.”
Happy March! I am sitting outside enjoying some much needed sunshine (it's been rain, rain, and more rain here in San Francisco lately). And just as I sat down to write my note to you this month, my two cats came blazing through the backyard in a game of chase - clearly enjoying a bit of spring fever.
Now the older cat, Sable, is pretty sly and immediately heads to a safe spot behind a nearby bush, but the younger one, Bandit, decides to hold his ground firmly out in the open. Eventually, he got bored and flopped down on the warm earth. And as soon as he let his guard down, whoosh! Sable pounced!
What came to mind as I watched this play out is how I used to believe that this is how relationship worked! You chase, pursue, scurry after the thing you want and then as soon as you let your guard down - bam - hurt again, betrayed again, left again.
It has been a journey for me to learn to leave these negative patterns behind so that I can enjoy a healthy, fulfilling relationship, free of all of the fear, and being ever watchful for pain.
I share a bit about how I did that in this interview I did recently with Melanie Tonia Evans. I hope you'll check it out and perhaps find some freedom from your own relationship "madness".
Watchthis video to learn some strategies for staying out of toxic relationships.
Did you know that less than 40 percent of children who are sexually abused tell anyone - and a fraction of those cases end up being reported? Learn more about one survivor's experience.
What is something that you believe about relationships that keeps you in the "madness"?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back by Claire & Mia Fontaine
In powerful parallel stories, mother and daughter give mesmerizing first-person accounts of the nightmare that shattered their family and the amazing journey they took to find their way back to each other. Claire Fontaine's relentless cross-country search for her missing child and ultimate decision to force her into treatment in Eastern Europe is a gripping tale of dead ends, painful revelations, and, at times, miracles. Mia Fontaine describes her refuge in the seedy underworld of felons and addicts as well as the jarring shock of the extreme, if loving, school that enabled her to overcome depression and self-loathing. Both women detail their remarkable process of self-examination and healing with humor and unsparing honesty.
It was a great honor to be able to speak about this issue to the general public. Though, to be honest, it also feels like a small drop in the bucket. I'm not minimizing the experience and I'm hopeful that what I said helped someone, but I am also extremely aware these days of how much of an epidemic this issue is.
Last month, I also appeared on United Intentions Radio and spoke with the host about a variety of things -- including what we can do to better address this epidemic.
Some days, this issue feels as overwhelming as the anger, PTSD, shame, and confusion that I felt years and years ago. I find myself always coming back to something my mom said to me: "Rachel, honey, you can't save everyone, but you can do something for the one person in front of you at any given moment."
Today, instead of cutting myself and curling up in a ball, I'm appearing on radio and tv shows (it's a bit surreal at times). And because of this, I remain inspired that we can face this, we can overcome this, we can heal. In fact, we have to!
For every one of us who has been hurt by the bullshit, harmful choices of an abuser, we must fight, we must heal -- because there will be someone, someday who will look to us to be his or her guide out of the pain.
To broad and deep healing for all,
Watch this video to hear Dr. David Lisak discuss the challenges male survivors face as a result of the myths that exist about men and sexual abuse.
Did you know that there are 19 million male survivors of abuse? Men, you are not alone, you have a voice and can live beyond surviving. Learn more about an amazing organization fighting for male survivors.
What is something that helps you keep moving, even when you don't see how to take the next step?
BOOK OF THE MONTH
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
"Mine is a story of craving; an unreliable account of lusts and troubles that began, somehow, in 1956 on the day our free television was delivered." So begins the story of Dolores Price, the unconventional heroine of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone. Dolores is a class-A emotional basket case, and why shouldn't she be? She's suffered almost every abuse and familial travesty that exists: Her father is a violent, philandering liar; her mother has the mental and emotional consistency of Jell-O; and the men in her life are probably the gender's most loathsome creatures.