6 Principles for Befriending Yourself: Part III

June 8, 2019

6 Principles for Befriending Yourself, Matt Licata, Jeff Foster

 

Enjoy this third and final installment in our new mini-series of Befriending Yourself, written by Jeff Foster and Matt Licata. Ready to go deeper? Check out their new monthly online community! Get all the details here. 

 

In our previous excerpts (which you can view the first installment here and the second installment here if you missed it!), we discussed the first four principles of befriending yourself:

  1. STOP TRYING TO BE HAPPY (happiness is not something you can “do”)
  2. TRUE MEDITATION IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK (it’s what you are)
  3. “ONE MOMENT AT A TIME” (this one idea could save your life)
  4. SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL (but sometimes pain and grief are inevitable)

 

Here are the final two principles on befriending yourself…

 

 5. WORDS ARE MAGIC SPELLS  (so cast them wisely!)

We can get so tangled up in concepts and words, especially heavily weighted spiritual and psychological concepts such as “awareness,” “ego,” “integration,” and even “healing.” We forget that words – no matter how subtle and profound – can never, ever capture our first-hand embodied experience. Words always come after the fact. Concepts are general and abstract, and not subtle, nuanced, specific, or concrete enough to match the sheer uniqueness of what you are experiencing in one here-and-now moment.

Does the word “flower,” the idea of it, really capture the sheer inner mystery of a flower? Does the word “anxiety” really begin to capture the sheer LIFE surging through the body in a given moment?

For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I’m anxious,” (or scared or angry or lonely or bored, etc.), as an experiment, try dropping the word, and attuning to the actual lived experience you are encountering in the moment, which will be very unique for you. In other words, come out of the mind and its thoughts and ideas and judgements and stories and negativity about anxiety, and come back to your body in the present moment. Be a beginner. Meet the moment as if you didn’t know anything about anxiety, but wanted to connect with it for the first time. It is this “Beginner’s Mind,” as they say in Zen, that is the wellspring of meditation.

Ask yourself, “How do I know I’m anxious? What is my lived experience of anxiety? Where do I feel what I call “anxiety” most strongly in my body, RIGHT NOW? What is happening in my belly, chest, throat, head, RIGHT NOW? Can I begin to bring attention to the raw sensations in my body, without judging them, without trying to get rid of them, without trying to escape them or make them go away?”

What kind of sensations do you notice? Are they fluttering, pulsating, throbbing? Are they moving fast or slow? Do they feel shallow or deep in the body? Are they warm or cold? Are they intense or gentle? Are they moving in straight lines, circles, zig-zags? Are they sharp or dull? How far under the skin are they? Do they change when you bring awareness to them? Do they become more intense? Less intense? Do they expand or contract? Do they start moving around in the body?

Can you become curious about all this life in your body, without trying to fix or change it? Feel or imagine your breath moving into the sensations, so you are bringing the warmth of your presence and the gentleness of your breath to this contracted, aching, sore place. Perhaps this is just a part of your body that is starved of attention and oxygen. Breathe into that place that feels tight, contracted, bound-up. This is an act of love.

Say to yourself, “These are just sensations. They are just the intelligence of the body. They are not dangerous. They are just LIFE. They are not hurting me. They are not working against me. They are not a mistake. They are not a sign that there is something wrong in this moment, or that I have failed in some way. They are just parts of me longing for love and kindness. They are the abandoned parts, the parts I need to take care of right now..”.

Scientific research over the last couple of decades in the area of mindfulness and self-compassion suggests that courageously bringing curious, accepting, non-judgemental present-moment attention to sensations in our body, even if they are intense and uncomfortable (and therefore “unwanted”), can soothe our nervous system’s more urgent fight-or-flight response and help us to access the slower, empathic circuitry of the prefrontal cortex. Slowly, over time, we can build tolerance for difficult experience, come to discover its ultimate workability, and eventually use our hooks, triggers, and activations as invitations into deeper holding and compassion for ourselves and others. We can come to realise that feelings and sensations in our bodies are ultimately safe, even if they feel unsafe.

What is happening inside you is unique, unprecedented, vast, and majestic, and will never be captured by experience-distant concept words like “unworthy,” “anxious,” or “ashamed,” which – if you think about it – are all other people’s words, given to you when you were young, or by the medical community, or by a culture who has fallen out of touch with the wisdom of raw experience. There is a world before words, before the mind itself. And in that world, you may find the peace and wholeness you seek.

Even if the intensity of sensation does not diminish with our kind and curious attention, that intensity begins to occur in a much vaster space, in a larger context, one that is warmer, more open, and safer than we imagined. Instead of being caught up inside a feeling or mood or bundle of sensations, we recognise that these energies are actually caught up in us. We are actually bigger than any thought, sensation or feeling. We can begin to hold our fear and boredom and sorrow, so they don’t hold us. We are not the victims of our anger and confusion, we are the space for them, the vast open sky in which they can come and go. Some call this space Awareness, but we could also call it Love. Or Who You Really Are.

 

THE SECRET OF “HOLDING, NOT HEALING” (“negativity” as a call for love)

Imagine or visualise a difficult thought, feeling, urge, or emotion as a child knocking at your door. Allow your challenging present experience to take form, imaginatively, as a young child (or other figure) that you can enter into a relationship with.

If you are feeling sad, for example, imagine a sad child arriving at your door and knocking, wanting to come in. Perhaps they are cold, confused, shaking, and exhausted from a long journey. They have not come to harm you in any way, but just to be held, to be allowed back home, into the warmth of your heart. Once inside, we can sit with them and have a conversation: Why have you come? What do you need? What do you want to show me? We can listen to the wisdom they have to share, and help them to release any burden they have had to carry on our behalf.

How would you respond to this frightened little one when you opened the door?

Would you slam the door in his or her face and distract yourself with TV or food (or even spiritual beliefs and practices) and try to forget them? Would you lock the door? Would you look sternly at them and state that they are welcome to come in… once they have changed? Once the sadness has been transformed to joy, the anxiety to calm, the uncertainty to clear-knowing… ah, then yes you can enter?

Or would you allow this one in to the living room of your own heart, Now, where you can listen and tend to them with curious, loving awareness? Would you open your arms wide to them, and let them come home?

It can be helpful to turn a difficult thought, feeling, memory, urge, or impulse into a figure with which you can dialogue or have a conversation. Doing so allows us to open our hearts to our pain, our emotions, and our experience rather than relate to it merely conceptually or from a distance. It’s not easy or natural to cultivate a caring, interested, warm relationship with a concept, such as “grief,” “shame,” or “rage.” But to meet a grieving child, or figure who is ashamed or enraged, we can more naturally move closer to them, listen to them, open a dialogue with them, and bring movement into our experience where maybe it had become stuck. Rather than becoming flooded or swallowed up by this energy, imaginatively allow it to form in front of you where you can ask it why it has come, what it needs to show you, what it wants. This is how you can begin to reclaim your power in the face of a scary, uncomfortable, unknown, or difficult energy. See it as a lost and helpless and forgotten part of you, looking for your help, seeking love, not an enemy or a dangerous force from outside of you.

“Befriending” is not as much about “healing” as it is “holding.” In true befriending, we do not have a heavy agenda to change, shift, fix, cure, transform, or, surprisingly, even “heal” this energy. From this perspective, we are never “unhealed” or “untransformed”, really. We are not a project to be improved, but a mystery coming into form, moment by moment. We are always whole, even in moments of intensity and discomfort. We were never not whole (healed).

By “holding” our experience in any moment instead of rushing to try and fix it or run from it, we are inviting relationship with the present “visitors” – the thoughts, feelings, images, and impulses – that have come in a moment of activation, without falling into the extremes of either denying or repressing them on one hand, or becoming fused with or flooded by them on the other. We disentangle a bit from them so that we can enter into loving relationship. We can practice a certain kind of intimacy with them, but without fusing or identifying, or drowning in thoughts, feelings, and sensations. We can dialogue with them and even have boundaries with them, letting them know of our intention to move toward them, but only in a way and at a pace that works for us. We can take back our power from the ‘dark’ material within.

In our own unique ways, through experimentation and curiosity, we discover a sacred middle place between repressing a thought or feeling, or habitually and unconsciously expressing it or acting it out. In this middle place, this third possibility, we slow down, and breathe, and infuse the visitor with curiosity and loving breath:

“I am here to meet with you, to hold you, to listen to you, to care for you. But not to be flooded or fused with you. Let us be true friends. I trust that you are just a part of me, needing love. I want to get to know you, moment by moment. This is a beginning, not an end…”

Remember this image of holding in moments of activation and overwhelm, in both its personal and transpersonal dimensions. We can hold ourselves and parts of ourselves when we are triggered and hurting, but we can also relax into a kind of Sacred Holding that is always, already happening through something greater than us. We are holding and we are already being held – by the Earth, by the sky and the mountains and forests and oceans, by the Universe itself, by the Loving Mystery that is every living thing.

Even in the moments we feel we cannot “hold” ourselves, we are already being held by Life. Even in the moments the present moment feels “unbearable,” Life is bearing us. This is the true definition of surrender. It is not something we can understand with the mind.

 Ultimately we do not “do” healing. Healing is “done” to us in the moment where we stop struggling against life and our own thoughts and feelings and relax into the Mystery.

As we let go of the inner war with our experience, soften into this instant of life and open our heart and being to what’s here – even if what’s here is uncomfortable, raw, scary, and intense – we are no longer victims of the moment, but become the infinite and victorious Power that allows the moment to be, the Calm in the midst of life’s storm.

Our power lies not in refusing the moment, but softening into it. There is strength in our vulnerability, power in our willingness to open our arms to whatever the moment brings.

 

Thank you for reading this series on the mysterious dance of being and befriending! Our words are intended as “fingers pointing to the moon,” as they say in Zen. You will find your own way into the vastness and sheer mystery of your experience. May you honor your wildness, your individuality and eccentricity, as you take your own unique journey to the Home you never left. We hope these words have helped point you in the right direction… one that leads back to YOU.

As Rumi reminds us…

 “There are hundreds of ways

to kneel and kiss the ground.”

 

We hope you enjoyed our new mini-series of Befriending Yourself, written by Jeff Foster and Matt Licata.Ready to go deeper? Check out their new monthly online community! Get all the details here. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

JOIN JEFF FOSTER AND MATT LICATA EACH MONTH IN THEIR NEW “BEFRIENDING YOURSELF” MEMBERSHIP SITE: www.befriendingyourself.com

6 Principles for Befriending Yourself, Matt Licata, Jeff Foster

MATT LICATA

Matt Licata, PhD is a psychotherapist, writer, and independent researcher based in Boulder, Colorado. Over the last 25 years, he has been active in the ongoing dialogue between depth psychological and meditative approaches to emotional healing and spiritual transformation.

His psychotherapy and spiritual counseling practice has specialized in working with yogis, meditators, and seekers of all sorts who have come to a dead-end in their spiritual practice or therapy and are longing for a more embodied, creative, imaginative way to participate in their experience, in relationship with others, and in the sacred world.

Matt’s spiritual path and exploration has been interfaith in nature and includes three decades of study and practice in Vajrayana Buddhism, Sufism, Daoism, and Contemplative Christianity. His psychological training and influences have been in the larger field of relational psychoanalysis, Jung’s analytical and alchemical work, and Hillman’s archetypal psychology, to  name a few. He is the editor of A Healing Space blog and author of The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You (Wandering Yogi Press, 2017) and the forthcoming A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times (Sounds True, 2020). His website is www.mattlicataphd.com

 

JEFF FOSTER

Jeff Foster studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In his mid-twenties, struggling with chronic shame and suicidal depression, he became addicted to the idea of “spiritual enlightenment” and began a near-obsessive spiritual quest for the ultimate truth of existence. The search came crashing down one day, unexpectedly, with the clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything and the discovery of the “extraordinary in the ordinary.” Jeff fell in love with the simple present moment, and was given a deep understanding of the root illusion behind all human suffering and seeking.

For over a decade Jeff has been traveling the world offering meetings and retreats, inviting people into a place of radical self-acceptance and “Deep Rest.” He has published several books in over fifteen languages. His latest book is The Joy of True Meditation: Words of Encouragement for Tired Minds and Wild Hearts (New Sarum Press, 2019). His website is www.lifewithoutacentre.com

 

Jeff Foster

Photo of ()\

Jeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of "all this, here and now." He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

Foster, Jeff © Emily Goodman


Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Jeff Foster:
The Deepest Acceptance »
The Deepest Acceptance: Part 2 »
Unconditioned Awareness and the Challenges of Everyday Life »

Matt Licata

Also By Author

Victory! A Poem

Victory!

By Jeff Foster

 

You don’t have to be the best. 

You don’t have to win. 

You only have to be yourself.

 

You only have to be real. 

And speak from the heart. 

And know that you have the right to see how you see, 

and think how you think, and feel what you feel, 

and desire what you desire.

 

You don’t have to be a success in the eyes of the world 

and you don’t have to be an expert on living.

 

You only have to offer what you offer, 

breathe how you breathe, make mistakes and screw 

up 

and learn to love your stumbling and say the 

wrong thing 

and stop worrying so much about impressing anyone 

because in the end you only have to live with yourself

 

and joy is not given but found in the deepest 

recesses of your being 

so there can be joy in falling and joy in making 

mistakes 

and joy in making a fool of yourself and joy in 

forgetting joy 

and then holding yourself close as you crumble to 

the ground 

and weep out the old dreams.

 

Joy is closeness 

with the one you love: 

You.

 

You don’t have to be the best. 

You really don’t have to win.

 

You only have to remember this intimacy with 

the sky, the nearness of the mountains and feel the sun 

warming your shoulders and the nape of your neck

 

and know that you are alive, 

and that you are a success at being alive, 

and that you have won already, 

and you are victorious already, 

without having to prove 

a damn 

thing.

 

To anyone.

This poem is excerpted from You Were Never Broken: Poems to Save Your Life by Jeff Foster.

 

jeff fosterJeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

book cover

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The Courage to Stand Alone

The Courage to Stand Alone

It can be scary when we are called to confront our aloneness, the seemingly infinite depths of that empty, homeless feeling inside of us. When all our old protections fall away and the abandoned and neglected ones inside come begging for our love and attention. It can feel sometimes as though there’s nowhere to turn, like we want to crawl out of our own skin, urgently get out of the Now and into some other time or place.

It takes bravery to stop, breathe, and—slowly, slowly, slowly—turn back toward the lonely, dark, empty “void” inside (in reality, there is no void). To actually turn to face the sense of abandonment buried deep within our guts, to soften into the sense of separation that has been with us for as long as we can remember. We don’t have to make the feeling go away today, only lean into it, breathe into it, begin to make room for it, maybe even learn to trust its presence. 

quote image

Perhaps loneliness is like a cosmic nostalgia, a preverbal memory of a deep womb-connection, with ourselves, with the planet, with every being who has ever lived. In leaning into our own loneliness, shame, and existential anxiety, we may be able to touch into compassion for the loneliness of every human being, for every heart longing to connect, for every grieving heart, every frightened heart. 

We are alone, yet never alone. This is the great paradox of existence. Our loneliness, when not resisted or numbed away, may actually end up connecting us more deeply to life and each other, like it did for me and my sweet father that winter evening. 

Let us learn to be alone, then! Alone, without distraction, which is true meditation. Alone, communing with the breath as it rises and falls. Alone with the mind and its incredible dance. Alone with the rain and the morning sun. Alone with the crackle of autumn leaves under our feet, or the crunch of winter snow. Alone with the hopes and joys and anxieties of this human form, living a single day on this remarkable planet. Alone with our precious selves, with this unfathomable sense of connection to all things, with birth and loss and death and their myriad mysteries. 

Alone, with all of life.

This is an excerpt from You Were Never Broken: Poems to Save Your Life by Jeff Foster.

jeff fosterJeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

book image of excerpt on lonliness

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Into the Belly of Meditation

Into the Belly of Meditation

By Jeff Foster

 

You are weary, friend. 

Sit. 

You are thirsty. 

Here. Drink.

 

You are hungry. Here. Take this. 

A piece of bread. 

A small bowl of soup. 

See how God has taken form! 

It is all I have but it will keep you alive.

image 1

I will light a fire that will never go out. 

A sacred flame. Unconditional in its burning. 

To illuminate us in the darkness.

 

Oh. I see you are wounded. 

Bruised. Bleeding.

Exhausted from the world. 

You have suffered much, I know.

 

image 2

Come. 

Take off these dirty rags. 

Don’t worry. It’s safe. 

There is strength in your nakedness.

 

Here. Wash. 

Rub this medicine onto your wounds.

 

Put on these robes, they are clean and dry. 

Lie down. Close your eyes. 

I will watch over us tonight.

image 3

Listen. You have not failed. 

I see new life breaking through. 

I see birth. An insurrection. 

The sharp edge of hope.

 

I have no teaching for you. 

No wise words.

 

I only want you to trust what you are going through. 

To bring this fire inside of you.

Until the end.

 

I have known this pain. Yes

This courage to keep moving. Yes

This courage to rest, too.

The sacrifice of the known world.

image 1

Friend. 

Drop into the belly of meditation now. 

The place you were always seeking. 

The vast silence at the Earth’s core which is your own core. 

Breathing into the gut now. 

The throat. The chest. 

Irradiating the nervous system with unspeakable 

tenderness. 

Flooding the body with soft, warm light. 

Drenching the human form with divine love. 

And sleep. 

And sleep.

image 2

I may not be here when you wake. 

We may not meet again in form.

 

Yet I leave you with all you need. 

Food. Water. A bed. 

A chance to rest. 

A touch of kindness.

And your unbreakable Self.

flowers

This poem is excerpted from You Were Never Broken: Poems to Save Your Life by Jeff Foster.

 

jeff fosterJeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

you were never broken cover

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You Might Also Enjoy

Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

whole girl bookSounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Indiebound

The Trauma-Trigger Cycle

When you are stuck with old unprocessed experiences living inside you, they can create what I call a trauma-trigger cycle because they are still very much alive in our systems.

Here’s my analogy to help you understand how this works and why it causes so much trouble. Imagine that you have a very difficult experience, for example, having to say goodbye to a sick pet. All of the details in the form of individual feelings, smells, images, sounds, and more get bundled up and deposited into a metaphorical glass trauma capsule—which gets stored in the body. It sits there with all of the old feelings we experienced at the time the event happened. While you might not be aware of it constantly, you are likely feeling those emotions at a low level all the time. When any current situation reminds you of any of those details hanging out in the capsule—either consciously or subconsciously—the old trauma gets “poked,” or reactivated. This is how we get triggered. Being triggered can bring up flashes of those memories, including images, feelings, and any sensory stimuli.

For the most part, except in certain cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from major life events, where sometimes the trigger is known, this trauma-trigger reaction actually happens at a subconscious level, outside of your awareness. Even in obvious situations, you may think you know what the trigger is, and try to avoid it, but it may be something totally different that got stuck in the metaphorical glass trauma capsule. Often, people come to me and say, “Nothing set this off,” “I’m depressed for no reason,” or “I suddenly started feeling terrible but nothing happened.” While this may seem true, I can bet on the fact that while the bad feelings might seem random, they are being triggered in some way that you simply haven’t yet identified. Triggers can be foods, colors, smells,sounds, weather, or anything, really! Finding and resolving triggers can become almost an entertaining game if you let it.

As you can imagine, this entire trauma-trigger dynamic is very unsettling and unpredictable—which can feel like danger to your system and keep you stuck in that freakout response. Not only that, but in this state, you can actually be excessively tuned in to your trauma, seeing reminders of it everywhere, which further traumatizes you.

I had an experience after going through a loved one’s difficult health crisis where every single place I looked, I saw reminders of the experience. And for someone who wonders if everything is some greater “sign from the Universe” (fact: not every single thing is) or my intuition is trying to get my attention because another loved one might be in danger (second fact: trauma and fear clouds intuition), it felt like torture to me. I kept meeting people who had the same illness that my loved one had had, saw posters and billboards advertising medications for the condition, and more. As a distraction while on vacation, I had deliberately picked out several seemingly lighthearted books to take—and it turned out a character in every single book had that same medical condition! I was constantly on edge and further traumatized by all of these things. This is a perfect example of what happens to us in a traumatized state: we become highly attuned to the world around us, perhaps subconsciously scanning for danger, but in the process, we see and get triggered by everyday things we’ve probably passed by a million times before. I realized that had I been tuned in to any other single thing out in the world, like peaches, I likely would have seen that everywhere. This recognition actually led to a funny mantra I used during that time to keep things light while I did the deeper healing work: Look for the peaches! But in all seriousness, what happened as I worked to release the trauma, just like you’ll be doing in this chapter, was that I stopped seeing reminders of it. I have to be honest in that this took months of using energy therapy in different ways to overcome the trauma I had experienced, like you’ll be learning soon—but it worked. Did all the people with this condition go away? Did all the billboards get taken down? No. The less traumatized I became, the less heightened my sensitivity to it was. This is a perfect example of why it’s essential to work with unprocessed experiences.

Emotional memory is stored throughout the entire body. Thanks to the work of Candace Pert, we know that “unexpressed emotions from experiences can get stuck in the body at the level of cellular memory.” This is such a simple explanation for why we feel bad when we haven’t resolved our past experiences. We are still quite literally feeling them. And even if it’s at a subtle level, it may only take a “trigger” from that metaphorical glass capsule to awaken it.

While your own unprocessed experiences may not disrupt your life in the way that clinically diagnosed PTSD does, you may relate to what it feels like to have PTSD, when one or a few memories from life takes over all of it. This is, again, why we must deal effectively and consistently with our emotions instead of suppressing them. Otherwise, we are at risk of our emotions becoming part of future unresolved experiences.

Even knowing all of this, there’s no need to panic. Again, not all experiences traumatize you. And, not all traumas will need to be dealt with in order to get you feeling better. But the ones that do need careful attention. I want you to understand that by working with trauma, we are not trying to force a positive perspective on it or make you be okay with something bad that happened to you. Not at all. What we want to do is release the stress it’s causing you, even if that stress is undetected consciously. We don’t want these traumas taking up space and energy in your body anymore or triggering you without your knowledge.

Working with unprocessed experiences will help empty the metaphorical glass trauma capsule so we stop becoming triggered by the world around us. In other words, you’ll be seeing peaches more easily instead of trauma triggers.

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy b scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

how to heal

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The Importance of Being Vulnerable

Emotions are the primary way we connect with others. In fact, for all the ways we perceive that sharing our emotions causes trouble, it’s actually worse for us not to. Sharing our truest, most vulnerable selves actually prevents us from the isolation that occurs when we miss out on the deep connection that only comes from this type of transparency. While social media can be a place of great support, it’s also caused a huge challenge. Because we’ve created a world in which we are addicted to showing our curated emotions, social media posts rarely tell the entire story. We’ve gotten accustomed to holding back our real selves—so much, in fact, that we have a totally distorted view of what’s “real.”

On a wet fall day as I was researching the negative effects of social media for this book, I noticed that a heavy sense of melancholy had fallen over me. Pushing myself to go out for a short walk in my beloved Central Park, only a block away, took every ounce of energy I had. When I was out, my sadness didn’t fade, but astounded by the colorful change of leaves, I felt inspired to take a handful of photos. They were the kind that Instagram is made of. When I got home, I decided to post them on social media. But earlier that day I had read something that was still with me: what happened when Tracy Clayton, host of the BuzzFeed podcast Another Round, asked people to repost photos they’d previously shared on social media, but this time, with the “real story” behind them. The photos that most of us would have longed for had painful stories behind them. One woman admitted to a terrible anxiety attack that took her all day to overcome, someone else shared the grief over a loss of a loved one stuffed under their smile at a party, and so on. What this shows us is that we are all running after a farce. But what’s worse, it shows that we’re all co-creating it.

So after a brief pause, I posted my gorgeous fall photos from the park with this: Full disclosure: Inspired by research for my next book about how social media posts screw us up by making everything and everyone seem OK even when they are not, I’m adding the truth here. These pictures were taken on a walk I dragged myself on because I felt sad today for no particular reason (except for that life is a lot sometimes).

I am typically not a sad person, nor am I one who shares it on social media when I am. I am very transparent on my author account, but for some reason, I am less so on my personal page. The response that day when I shared how I really felt took me by great surprise. Dozens of people I rarely heard from came out of the blue with comments, texts, and private messages. And what most of them were saying was, “I feel that way too.” In our technological age, we are more connected than ever before, but also lonelier and more isolated than ever before. I wondered that day, What if everyone stopped staying so busy pretending everything was perfect? What if instead of hiding our vulnerabilities to prevent the isolation we fear, we are driving it?

The bottom line is that, over and over again, I’ve learned that emotions are better in every way when they aren’t kept inside and to myself. 

This is an excerpt from How to Heal Yourself From Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Amy B. Scher.

 

amy scherAmy B. Scher is an energy therapist, expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can and How to Heal Yourself from Anxiety When No One Else Can. She has been featured in the Times of India, CNN, HuffPost, CBS, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Curve magazine, and San Francisco Book Review. Scher was also named one of the Advocate’s “40 Under 40.” She lives in New York City. For more, visit amybscher.com.

 

 

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