Search Results for "compassion"

Mindful Gardening: Six Seeds to Sow to Nourish a Thriving Recovery!

As a young girl, I loved to play in the fields of sunflowers by my home and watch as they reached higher, higher, and higher, always facing the sun. They thrived in the light.

As a teenager, I became disconnected from my love of the earth and as my eating disorder destroyed my life, I barely noticed the neglected tulips outside my window. I hid in the darkness and so did my garden.

As an eating disorder survivor and now a professional counselor, I play in my garden daily to nurture my recovery, to nourish my soul, and to reconnect with my authentic self. While I have been recovered for more than 10 years now and feel very solid in my recovery, gardening is an integral factor in sustaining my recovery.

I am blessed to be able to help others who struggle with eating disorders to find their own light in their recovery process and I often utilize metaphors from mindful gardening practices (and get our hands in the dirt and actuallypractice it!) to help them cultivate their own inner gardens.

Do you like to garden? If you were a plant, which type do you think you’d be? Why?

The earth is a natural source of healing energy for us and if we connect with it, we can soothe our inner hunger and feed our soul in a way that food cannot.

Six Seeds to Sow in your Inner Garden

1. You are the artist of your own garden. There are hundreds of flowers, herbs, vegetables, shrubs, and other beauties that can make your garden lush and bountiful! Yes, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it can also be fun! It’s up to you to decide what you like, what you don’t, what you want to experiment with, and what is aesthetically pleasing to you. In recovery, it’s so important to learn that you are unique, you are wonderful any way you want to be, and your voice is the one that truly counts when it comes to taking care of yourself.

2. Can you try to embrace your inner weeds instead of pull them all out? Weeds can sometimes be unpleasant, unsightly, unwanted parts of our gardens. They show up when we didn’t plant them and crowd into our beautiful peony plant. You can spend hours upon hours weeding (trust me, I know!) and while it can be therapeutic to do so, you can never get all of the weeds to permanently scram. This is also true of things in our lives that we feel we want to go away — we can spend so much time and energy trying to get rid of them that we don’t have much space left to notice and appreciate what we already have. Also, some weeds are beautiful and can pop up unexpectedly in the most amazing places — kind of like in recovery when we focus on what we’re grateful for and notice that some of our challenges can sometimes be our greatest teachers.

3. Just as any garden does, your inner garden needs tender, loving care. Self care is so integral to eating disorder recovery. Listening to your inner needs, voice, and limits can foster a healthy bed for lasting recovery. Sprinkle in some self-compassion and you’ll have a beautiful recovery garden nurturing inside of you. Just as gardens need water, sun, shade, and fertilizer, for your recovery garden to thrive you will need to actively and regularly tend to it as well.

4. There is no such thing as a “perfect” garden. Sometimes the gardens that are the most quirky, fun, and unconventional are the ones that we gravitate toward. They embrace themselves even if they don’t follow all of the “rules” of gardening. Just as a garden’s uniqueness is refreshing and inspiring, on the road to recovery it’s essential to remember that there is no perfect body, shape, personality, life, family, recovery, etc. We each discover our recovery in its own imperfect and messy way and through acceptance of this, we learn to accept and cherish ourselves just as we are.

5. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again. There is no such thing as failure, just learning and having fun. In May, I had just planted my little seedlings that I’d been carefully nurturing indoors for two months. They were finally strong enough to go out in the earth and grow! Of course, the next day we got a MASSIVE hail storm that just about drowned all of my little plants in golf-ball sized pieces. I was so upset, worried and frustrated. After some deep breaths I came to realize that I cannot control nature and that my little plants are going to show me how resilient they are. Once I embraced what I could not change or control, I turned my attention to what I was grateful for and my stress oozed out of me.In recovery, trying to embrace what you cannot control is one of the most difficult but also most freeing concepts — I cannot say that I’m always successful, but hey, I’m not perfect.

6. Patience is a virtue. What seeds do you want to nurture in your own inner garden? Take some time to think of several that you would love to grow in your life. Plant them by writing them down or planting your own garden and setting intentions for each seed that you sow. Of course, some seeds may not grow — this is the nature of nature and also the nature of life. Just plant more. Then, have patience. The most beautiful and magical gifts in our lives take time, gentle care, and acceptance for them to thrive.

Recovery is a garden worth waiting for!

Post originally written by Kate Daigle, MA, LPC and published on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders site.


Five Steps To Becoming More Embodied: How To Be At Home In Your Body

Many of the clients that I work with report feeling “disconnected from”, “at war with”, “disgusted by”, or “dissatisfied with” their bodies.  To me this says that there has been some form of trauma that has caused a rift in the natural mind-body connection.  This could mean an actual traumatic event in one’s life, or, more commonly, it could mean that some form of internal experience (feelings) has felt too painful or too disregulated and we must disconnect from it.  Our bodies can be a battlefield for our emotions.  Castlewood Treatment Center defines one’s body image as:

‘Body image is comprised of how one sees their body, lives in and experiences their body and perceives how others see their body. Negative body image can serve a protective function to distract clients from painful feelings or emotions held in the body.’

To heal from this disconnect between mind, body and soul, we strive to become more “embodied”, to literally attach ourselves to our bodies once more, as we were when we were born.  To find a way to be accepting of our internal and experiences and thus more accepting of ourselves.

What does it mean to “be embodied”?  Being “embodied” signifies:

  • feeling at home in your body
  • feeling connected to your body in a safe manner
  • an increased ability to be in your body in the present moment and to feel all of its sensations (emotional and physical)
  • Safe and healthy expression of needs, desires, fears and wants through the body
  • an increased ability to self-soothe when feeling escalated or agitated
  • an ability to identify inner needs and tend to them appropriately
  • Connection to and acceptance of all parts of your body and of yourself
  • Connection to your sense of self; your soul
  • Ability to recognize and correct cognitive distortions related to your body

Here are a few ideas for beginning to implement these and be on your way to “becoming more embodied” in a safe, accepting, nonjudgmental, and joyous capacity.

1.) Bring your focus to the daily essential tasks that your body performs for you.  Have you ever noticed how many muscles, bones, and ligaments it takes to walk effectively?  It’s not just our legs and feet that need to be involved; our whole body is on the job as we walk down the street and keep us balanced. What about all of the steps it take to take a shower?  Have you ever slowed down and tuned into each step?  Your body does so much for you — much of it out of your consciousness — and you may not realize this.  By bringing attention and focus to the physical tasks it implements for you, you can begin to feel more present, grounded, and appreciative of your whole body and the miracle it is.

2.) Draw a body image timeline. What is the story of your body?  What would it say to you about its life if it could speak?  Begin with a large piece of drawing paper and some art materials.  Draw a line from your earliest memory of your body to the present.  Fill in each of the events that stand out to you (for example: ‘felt self-conscious in my bathing suit at the pool party, age 13’, or ‘gave birth to my first child, age 33’).  Use colors, shapes, words to describe the journey your body has been on until this point.  Add influential people to the timeline. This is not about weight, but about how it has felt to be in your body.  Then, draw a line from the present into the future: how do you want the story of your body to look from here on out?

3.) Pay attention to the messages you send to your body. These may come from both internal and external sources.  What kinds of statements do you send to your body?  That it’s not good enough? That it’s awesome and strong?  That it’s beautiful?  That ‘if only I could lose 5 more lbs, I’d be happy’?  Write these down in a notebook.  Then try to reframe the negative ones to thoughts that feel more accepting, validating, kind, and compassionate — the kinds of messages you would send to someone you love very much.  Offer kindness to what it’s been through — pains, injuries, surgeries, etc — and how resilient it is!

4.) Dance, dance, dance! We all can project feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, or insecurity on our bodies.  Have you ever watched someone dance in a way with complete abandon, fearlessness, and joy?  Try it!  You can begin in your own home.  Turn on a song that you love, one that really gets into your soul, your joints, your body.  And let yourself dance to it with no rules and no self-consciousness.  Fling your arms around; gallop across the floor; jump in the air!  Do whatever your body wants to do — just follow it.  See how it feels!

5.) Spend a day tracking your emotions and your body signals.  We tend to hold our emotions in our bodies, and they can often show up as somatic concerns if we don’t address them.  Have you ever had a stress headache?  Or shoulder tension?  These could be the result of untreated emotional pain you are holding in your body.  When we take care of our bodies appropriately (and this means REST as well as movement!), then we send the message to our emotional selves that we deserve to be appropriately tended to as well.  Spend a day tracking the messages from your body and your emotions.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On one side, track any emotions you feel that day (sad, angry, lonely, surprised, etc).  On the other, track physical sensations you feel (headache, stomach queasy, muscle spasm in leg, tight hamstring, etc).  Just notice where these line up next to each other and if you see any connection.

These are only a few ideas to helping you become more embodied in your body, your soul, and your life.  This Saturday, March 29th, I’ll be facilitating a full-day workshop on this topic, using some of these techniques and so much more!  There are a few spots left, so contact me ASAP at 720-340-1443 to reserve yours!

Leave a comment below with ideas you have tried that have helped you feel more “at home” in your body.  What are the daily practices you use to facilitate this?  There are more great ideas as Embodiment Training as well.

This is the only body you’ll have.  Let’s see how we can celebrate our bodies and pamper them instead of judge and criticize them!

 


How many of us must wait until something life-transforming happens before we really appreciate our bodies?

While immersing myself in texts, articles, conversations and daydreams to begin putting together a body image group coming in January 2014 (updates coming soon!!), I came across a beautiful and brilliant photo book by photographer Rosanne Olson entitled this is who I am.  Within the book’s covers, fifty-four women are photographed nude, each with stories to tell to prove that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes:

“The portraits, taken by award-winning photographer Rosanne Olson with a steady, non-judgmental eye, speak loudly to the American obsession of feminine perfection — slim hims and full breasts, high cheekbones and tiny waists, taut skin and eternal youth — and even more loudly to the way real women, with real bodies and real lives, look.”

I was struck by the pure humanness and depth in the eyes and bodies of all of the women represented in the book — women from all walks of life, ethnicities, ages, and with their own unique stories.

Utilizing this book with clients who are struggling with their own various body image issues has proven to be an eye-opening and introspective journey.  We have found a richness in exploring how what we see on the outside does not necessarily tell us the true or whole story.  When looking at a photo of a twenty-two year old slim, blonde woman, one might be compelled to focus on her body first and assume (by society’s standards) that she is happy, rich, popular, and perfect.  Reading her story, you learn that she has had part of her lung removed as part of complications of cystic fibrosis and that she lives with other complications every day.  Look in her eyes and you sense a wisdom, perhaps one that delves into her soul and makes her look older than she is.  You sense that she knows her story and its twists and turns.

What do learn or assume if we focus on how a body looks as an assessment tool for how happy, peaceful, confident, healthy, wealthy, etc etc etc a person is?  How true of a measuring tool is that? What are the consequences to this approach?

Ms. Olson posed intriguing questions to her subjects in her “goal of complete revelation — not hiding behind clothing but exposing both body and mind.  What would we learn about ourselves? Would we — could we — become more compassionate?  Not only towards ourselves but towards another?”  I invite you to peruse through the other questions she posed and see how you would answer them yourself:

  • What do you love about your body?
  • How long has it taken you to arrive at acceptance/love of your body?
  • What frustrates you or what would you like to change?
  • Has your body let you down (if you feel that it has) or have you let your body down?
  • How have you supported your body?
  • How have your feelings changed towards your body since you were younger?
  • In general, how do you feel women feel about their bodies?
  • How do you feel the media have affected how women feel about their bodies? (read an excerpt and see some of the stunning photos here)

She then asked each participant why they agreed to be photographed.  Some of the women struggle with eating or exercise problems.  Some have suffered from medical issues or illnesses that have affected the way their body functions, feels, and looks.  They all have had experiences in their lives which have forced them to become more aware of their bodies — whether in a joyful or painful way.

What story does your body hold?  If photographed, what messages about your internal state of being would your body send to those looking at the photo?  Is your internal state congruent with the energy you exude out of your body?

I have been journaling about my own journey with my body.  It has been through so much with me, and yet here it still stands, walks, talks, and dances, my ever dedicated soldier.  I am so grateful for my body, though my relationship with it can wind through sticky paths as well as bright ones.  In my own recovery, I have learned that I must take care of my body, and this is not negotiable.  My body is unique just to me, a gift.  I admire the women in these photos who allow themselves to be vulnerable, naked, and yet to connect to each other and to those who read their stories and see their photos in such a powerful way.

We have so much to learn from the wisdom of our bodies. Why must we wait until something life-changing happens for us to tune into and adore them?

Stay tuned for my Body Image Acceptance Group coming in January 2014!  The group will be limited to few participants, so sign up quickly.  More info coming soon to my Events page.

 

 


All or Nothing: The Dangers of Getting Trapped in Rigid Thought Patterns — And How to Break Free!

I was recently asked if I thought there was such thing as “good foods” and “bad foods”.  To me, this is like asking “do you want to get stuck in a rigid cycle of all or nothing thinking?”.  The answer is no!

For myself while I was going through my recovery many years ago, and for others who are actively engaging in recovery today, ‘all or nothing’ thinking can be a common yet very limiting and confining behavior centered not just around eating, but branching out to many areas of life.  ‘All or nothing’ thinking occurs in eating disordered behaviors but is not limited to this realm.

Many of us have caught ourselves thinking or feeling: “It has to be this way or nothing at all”, or “I am not able to enjoy my day until I do x, y, and z.”  These limiting thought patterns can make us feel like there are only two extremes to choose from, both of them so extreme that they are unhealthy to maintain and actually diminish our life satisfaction.  It’s like we’re keeping ourselves in a jail cell, yet we don’t have the key.  What gives?

For people who are struggling with disordered eating (and this concept can be applied across many realms, struggles, or concerns), they can arrive at a dichotomous crossroads where there is some sort of decision or classification made about themselves and their experience.  These choices might be related to weight, body shape, numbers, or certain food types and amounts.  Once there is a “rule” set about these things, it can become quite rigid and hard to challenge.  Some folks may decide that certain foods with lower fat or carb or sugar content are “good” foods, while everything else is “bad”.  This is based on a fear of gaining weight, but I also see it as a fear of letting go of control.

What is the function of the “all or nothing” thinking?  There can be numerous reasons for this, but one of the most common is that seemingly only having two choices (“good or bad”, or “right or wrong”) helps to create a focus where they can put their energy and attention.  Food might be something that they can control, when something else in their lives feels out of control — whether it be emotions, a family situation, a relationship, etc.  Food can be the “red herring“, the object that is focused on instead of what’s really going on underneath.  The problem is, when a rule such as “I can only have x y and z food (even if I don’t really like it), but not a b and c foods (even if I love those foods)”, the body and the emotional self begins to feel deprived and to crave those foods that “aren’t okay”.  This can commonly lead to eventual out of control behavior around food, such as bingeing or emotionally overeating and “feeling out of control.”

In recovery, I help my clients find the “grey area”.  This can be very scary at times, as living in the “all or nothing” has felt safe, albeit not healthy at times.  Only in the grey area can we embrace life’s imperfections, its joy, its silliness, its sadness, and to find ways to tolerate all of these without needing rules to govern them.  In the grey area, there are no rules about food, emotions, or the human experience.  So, to answer my original question, : “NO, I do not think there are things such as “good foods” and “bad foods”, as these trigger the dichotomous thinking and lead to a rigid, rule-driven, stuck emotional place.  By offering ourselves and our experiences compassion, we can eat all foods — especially the ones that we really love! — in moderation and enjoyment.

I don’t want to undermine the importance of nutrition.  Getting our nutritional needs met is very important! Some foods have higher and more diverse nutritional content than others, and these foods will make our bodies feel strong, energized, and healthy.

I think that sometimes when ‘all or nothing’ thinking becomes extreme, folks can become convinced that only certain foods with low fat, sugar, salt or carbs means “eating healthily”, when in reality, we need a good dose of those things for our bodies to function fully.  Consulting with a nutritionist is a great way to learn about your body’s specific needs.  When fear consumes certain foods for you, the true meaning of nutrition and health can go out the door, and the “food rules” can become more about control than about truly nurturing your body.  Don’t forget to also nurture your soul — sometimes an ice cream sundae is just what your soul ordered!

By exploring what’s really going on underneath, and having compassion and tolerance for those feelings, we are able to move forward and walk the life of value that we’ve always wanted.

Tell me, what is your experience with “food rules” or “all or nothing thinking” and what are some ways to find more balance and flexibility?


The Labyrinth of Recovery: An Ancient and Mysterious Archetype in “Eating in the Light of the Moon”

“In surrendering to the winding path, the soul finds wholeness.”

As I embark upon research and reading for my presentation at Friday’s Conscious Living Book Club event, I have come across the metaphor of the labyrinth.  This metaphor is truly speaking to me at this moment.  In Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, PhD, the symbol of the labyrinth highlights each of the chapters as Dr. Johnston explores how metaphors, stories, and fables can describe our relationships with food and can help us understand and heal from disordered patterns of eating and experiencing our bodies.

“The labyrinth walk is a request to nature for harmony.”

A labyrinth is a pathway that loops back repeatedly upon itself, reaches the center, and then winds its way back out again.  It’s different from a maze in that there are no barriers, false turns, or dead ends.  You cannot do anything wrong.  There’s only one path to the labyrinth, and you have no choice but to follow it.  The labyrinth is typically in the form of a circle, with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the center and back out again.  On the spiritual journey we meet fellow travelers, obstacles and unexpected turns. The labyrinth walk is a process meditation that seems to suspend time as well as judgment and invites us to embody our experience in a completely new way.

Many see the labyrinth as a symbol of the journey of life, death, and rebirth and our journey through life.  In recovery from disordered eating or from any other type of addictive behavior, says Dr. Johnston, the journey requires you to follow a twisting, turning, winding path to your center.  You must leave behind perceptions of yourself that you have adopted from others and you must reclaim your own inner authority.

On your path, listen to your inner voice and allow it to offer guidance and support as you search for true thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Let go of linear expectation of progress, disengage the rational mind, embrace the power of emotion and intuition.  When you are able to do this, you can find freedom from behaviors and compulsions that have seemed to be holding you hostage, and your inner voice can guide you to nourish the TRUE hunger that you are feeling.

One of the cool things that I love about the labyrinth is that you can actually, physically, take this walk.  There are hundreds of labyrinths dotting our earth, many ancient and naturally born.  They have been healing tools for us for thousands of years!

As you wander the maze either literally or figuratively, imagine that you are wandering to the true center of yourself, you inner voice, your pure soul.  However, when you get to the center, when you find the essence of who you truly are, this is not the end of your journey — your task then becomes to find your way back out again and exit the labyrinth, and as you do so, integrate this new vision or understanding of yourself with a new way of being in the world.  This is the most pure definition of eating disorder recovery.

A mentor of mine uses the labyrinth concept regularly with the clients she helps, and envisions someday creating a real labyrinth for them to follow as they are working through healing issues in their own lives.  She had the idea that as they wandered through the labyrinth they could share all of the worries, anxieties, doubts, or negative self talk that plague them every day, and offer space to these feelings.  But once they reach the center and turn to find their way back out, they will come up against these feelings again on the path and this time they must offer them compassion, hope, and grace.  This exercise allows our FULL experience to be accepted and all feelings we might have, but as we integrate a new worldview on our way out of the labyrinth (or on our way in recovery) we can show ourselves that we are able to fully experience joy, peace, and love as well as the “negative” feelings.

Tell me:

  • How do you think the labyrinth could be a rich tool for eating disorder recovery?
  • How could it help you heal parts of yourself and discover what you are TRULY hungry for?
  • How does the metaphor of the labyrinth fit in with your own life journey and soul searching?
  • What other metaphors can be used in recovery?

Leave a comment with your own thoughts on this concept and any other ideas for how it can be healing!


Addictions as metaphor: What are you TRULY hungering for??

closeupofdancingitlotmI thrive on being inspired. Experiencing others’ wisdom feeds my soul.  Today I am particularly inspired by two amazing women: Chela Davison and Anita Johnston.  These two women are writers, healers, and visionaries.  Chela writes in poetic prose on her blog, words that we can all relate to: “Our addictions keep us all wrapped up, entangled in the illusion of release”.

When we become addicted to something — alcohol, food, sex, gambling, drugs, work — this forms a way of coping with a particular sensation that is uncomfortable.  “But it’s not the vice that we crave”, writes Chela, “it’s the relief from the arising sensation.”  What if we found a way to eliminate the suffering that can come with pushing away uncomfortable feelings, and instead found a way of being with them in an accepting way?  

Dr. Johnston is a clinical psychologist and the author of one of the all-time flagship books of my own journey to recovery and ultimately helping others, Eating in the Light of the Moon.  I am fortunate enough to be invited as the guest speaker at the Conscious Living Book Club on June 14, and I have chosen this book as a spark for discussion and deep meditation.  Why? Because it invites us to explore, through storytelling, myth and metaphor, our relationships with food and emotions, where “stories help us connect with our inner world, to the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth, and to the power of our intuitive wisdom.”

Chela and Anita both draw us deeper — they invite us to truly meditate on what nourishes us and how food or other “things” can become ploys for trying to meet some deeper need.  Can we find what we are truly looking for and stop the seemingly endless race (sometimes in a hamster wheel, spinning, spinning) to avoid what we are feeling?  What if we already have everything that we will ever NEED?

I invite you to begin a meditation on what your “drug of choice” — whether it be food, alcohol, sex, relationships, shopping, exercise — truly does for you (or used to help you with, but doesn’t work so well any more).  What’s your metaphor?  What are you truly hungry for?  Could it be love?  Attention?  Self-acceptance?  Companionship? What is its symbol?

We are taught from a young age that pain is something that is bad to feel.  That we shouldn’t feel it.  That we should do everything we can to change it.  This might involve eating, drinking, or taking drugs as a way to try to change that feeling.  However, pain is a normal, human feeling that we all feel.  It’s okay to feel it.  The true struggle comes when we exert endless amounts of energy to try to avoid it, and then we develop eating disorders and other addictions because it doesn’t work.  Food, at that point, is not what we’re truly hungry for.   

As infants, we eat intuitively.  We don’t want to eat when we’re not hungry.  Sometimes, as a way to try to meet selfLoveFortune-500x375our needs, our caregivers may feed us when we actually are tired, lonely, in pain.  Thus begins the cycle of trying to soothe an emotional need with a physical thing.  Food can take on a whole other role: companion, soother, nurturer.

How do we free ourselves from these struggles?  First, we must understand what we are truly hungering for.  Then, we must find a way of connecting with our bodies and our emotions (ALL of our emotions, even the scary ones) in a healthy, accepting way.  At this point, we are able to shift the way we experience our emotions and find a way of being with them that is nurturing, not self-destructive.  Your need to use food or other substances in unhealthy ways will no longer be so forceful!

So what’s your story?  How does food talk to you?  Eating in the Light of the Moon uses a metaphor of an old woman in Japan who followed her hunger to a dark cave filled with scary creatures who tried to keep her captive.  Only by finding a way to give them what they TRULY needed, was she able to escape.  Reading this, and other stories in the book, can help us sort out what’s going on under the surface in a fanciful, endearing and enlightening way.

Interested in learning more?  Attend the Book Club on June 14, or email me for your own FREE copy of Eating in the Light of the Moon. I would love to hear your own thoughts and musings!

Tell me: What are you TRULY hungry for? And how can you nourish that hunger in a compassionate, accepting way?

 


What Would it Be Like to Accept Your Emotions Instead of Fight Them? An ACT Approach to Mindful Recovery

images-11 copyI don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to change something.  When I was a teenager, the focal point of the thing I wanted to change was myself.  This dissatisfaction with myself, or parts of myself, spiraled into an exhaustive effort and cycle of “if only I looked like…if only I could do…THEN, I’d be happy”.  Let me tell you how that ended up: in an eating disorder.  Only when I was able to accept myself, ALL of myself, and the range of emotions I experienced on a daily basis, was I able to stop destructive behaviors and lead a value-driven life.  I know that I am not unique in the way I was thinking; I believed that my emotions were the problem and that my thoughts were “bad” and that I needed to change all of it.  When I stopped struggling with all of those beliefs, I was free.  That didn’t mean accepting the negative beliefs and talk I was saying to myself, but stopping the struggle with my emotions, as I learned that it is not the emotions themselves that create dis-stress or dis-orders, it is the struggle, or attempted control, over the emotions that is the problem.

Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive over-exercising and other types of disordered eating behaviors as well as body image struggles can be borne out of a desire to find happiness and peace — but somewhere that mission gets diverted into destructive behaviors that lead to suffering.  It seems that there is a call to find a way to “be with” our emotions in non-destructive ways.

I am currently getting trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, an empirically-based therapy that “makes no attempt to reduce symptoms, but gets symptom reduction as a by-product”, writes one of its founders, Russell Harris.  This approach is rooted in values, forgiveness, mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, living in the present moment, and accessing a transcendent sense of self, a therapy that encourages us to accept what is without judgment, and to be find some peace in our struggle (while acknowledging that some type of suffering is part of the human experience).  ACT has been clinically proven to effectively treat eating disorders and other types of conditions such as OCD, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress, amongst many others.

ACT uses six core principles to help people develop more psychological flexibility and to get out of some of the rigid patterns that keep us stuck in self-destructive pattens:

  • Cognitive defusion: when we are able to ‘step back’ and observe language without being caught up in it.  We can notice our thoughts at a distance, release some ownership of them, and tell our minds “thanks, mind, for that thought” instead of automatically believing it to be true or a real part of ourselves.  As we defuse our thoughts, they have much less influence.  This can be very effective with negative self-talk or eating disordered thoughts that could lead to destructive behaviors.
  • Acceptance:  making space for unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings, emotions, sensations, urges, and allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or letting them “drive the bus” (a metaphor in ACT where emotions may feel overwhelming but you can still take charge of driving the bus of your life).  I find this to be quite powerful in eating disorder recovery because it allows us to be with our emotions and to find a way of accepting themimages-12 copy (even if we don’t necessarily like them) so that they don’t feel like big scary monsters that we need to flee from.
  • Contact with the present moment:   the practice of bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experiences with openness, interest and receptiveness.  This is akin to mindfulness, where we are able to engage fully in our present moment and be open to all that it has to offer without trying to change any of it or judge it.  The key here is: not trying to change anything.  Yes, we have painful experiences that we would perhaps like to change or erase.  The goal of mindfulness, which in this way is helpful to recovery, is to be in the present with openness so that we can feel our emotions and hear our thoughts but have some space from them so that we can make a choice about what type of behavior is associated with this experience.  This can lead to choosing less-destructive behaviors as a way of relating to the emotional experience we have.
  • The Observing Self: a way of experiencing directly that you are not your thoughts, feelings, memories, roles, sensations, etc.  In eating disorder recovery, this means disconnecting from the eating disorder and seeing who you are separate from the ED and empowering that self to heal, soothe, and find balance in accepting ways.
  • Values:  clarifying what is most important to you, deep in your heart what gives you energy, joy, purpose.  What sort of person you want to be, what is meaningful and significant to you, and what you stand for.  Finding and focusing on your personal values can facilitate the process of accepting your emotions and can be a motivation for sitting with uncomfortable feelings in pursuit of a value-driven life.  Values are what come after an eating disorder; our values are the parts of us that were suffocated by the ED and are powerful and eager to be free.
  • Committed Action:   This is the “action” piece; setting goals, guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them.  This makes it all worth it!  This is the behavioral part of recovery where destructive behaviors become extinct and value-driven choices and actions replace them.

I’m eager to utilize this approach with clients and am excited about the way that it encourages us to be ourselves, knowing that we are okay just as we are.  To me, this is a big sigh of relief!

Are you interested in  applying some of these principles in a hands-on experiential way?  Are you ready to cultivate a more peaceful, accepting relationship with food and yourself?  Join me and colleague (and ACT expert) Christine Allison, MA, LPC on March 2nd, 2013 for a workshop where we will practice all of this!

Early bird special ends on 2/15 so ACT now!!!

Held at my office, 709 Clarkson St, Denver, on 2/3 from 10am-2:30pm, the early bird rate is $65, and after 2/15 it will go up to $85.

Contact me to sign up TODAY — seats are filling up!

See the flyer here:

Cultivating a Peaceful Relationship with Food

Read more about ACT: Embrace Your Demons by Russ Harris


Nourishing Growth and Giving Breath to my Hungry Private Practice

I’m very excited to be selected and featured on the Inaugural Private Practice From the Inside Out Blog Carnival!  Private Practice From the Inside Out (PPIO) is a blog and professional resource center created in 2003 by Tamara Suttle, M.Ed, LPC, and is “designed to help [therapists in private practice] cultivate an openness to new and different ways of developing your practice into a vibrant story of possibilities”.  She has been an invaluable resource to me as I build and nurture my own private practice and I encourage you to sign up for her weekly blog posts of you are thinking of starting your own practice!

The theme for this blog carnival was “Creative Responses in Building a Private Practice”.  Below you will find my reflections on tending to my hungry practice and “feeding” its needs.  Please note the links at the end of the article to posts by my colleagues who were also featured in the blog carnival.  I’m so grateful to be among such talented, creative, and dedicated colleagues.

Nourishing Growth and Giving Breath to My Hungry Private Practice

 

The day I founded my private practice, Kate Daigle Counseling, I breathed life into a dream I’ve always held.  Today, more than two years later, my practice can breathe on its own, as I continue to tend to its hunger, its fullness, its voice, its energy.

I have imagined my journey to developing my private practice as akin to nourishing a living being.  My practice grows; my practice breathes; my practice slows its steps and stops for reflection.  I find I can best support my practice by not only becoming informed in business-building skills, networking opportunities and clinical best practices, but by also approaching my practice as a creative and unique entity whose needs are always evolving.  By relating to my practice in this way, I am also able to tune into my own needs in my personal, clinical, and professional life and notice where I am starved, where I am satisfied, where I am growing my branches to connect with others.

Developing a successful private practice involves embodying multiple roles, some of which might feel out-of-sync with our clinical therapist training.  Therapists, myself included, can feel uncomfortable standing up for the financial needs of their practices and shy away from the business side of this career.  Networking with large groups of other professionals might feel intimidating to a therapist who thrives in small one-on-one environments.  At times, the work involved in this journey can feel exhausting and overwhelming and might dry up our internal resources.  When this occurs, I try to tune into what my practice is asking for.  As I use body-centered techniques in my work with clients to try to heal the mind-body connection, I similarly need to support my practice and myself in the healthiest and most authentic way so that my business can grow deep roots and I can maintain energy to breathe into it.

What do living things need?  How do trees grow deep and sustainable roots so that they may provide clean air and shade to those in need?  How can I tend to my practice so that I can continue to offer support to clients and take care of my own personal needs, allowing me to be as present, open, and connected as possible?

Wearing my “new” therapist shoes  – I am of the mindset that I will always be learning and growing throughout my career – I have settled with a few observations as to how I can support the authentic, creative, and organic growth of my private practice.

  • When it’s thirsty, give it water.  This might mean different things for each practice, but I know that my practice needs to be watered in several ways.  I try to make time for writing, both personal writing and business-related writing such as blogging; I make time to read articles related to clinical practices as well as business-building; and I plan days that are not too demanding on me so that I can have energy available for my clients, who are the most important part of my practice.  I also must schedule in self-care and make it just as significant as anything else.
  • Help it to connect to others so that it may grow, learn, and rejuvenate.  One of the most nourishing things for my practice is its connection to other therapists, practices, and other health professionals.  As my practice extends its branches all over this city and into other cities, I am able to deepen my knowledge, identify referral sources, and find solace that there is always support out there if I need it.  This, in turn, helps me identify my ideal client, refer out when a client’s issues are out of my competency, and support my clients in a comprehensive and complete manner.
  • If your practice seems under the weather, there’s always a remedy (even if it’s the one you’d least expect).  One of the things I love most about having a private practice is its uniqueness wherein I am able to have creative freedom in how I structure my approach.  In this way, when I come upon a problem or feel stuck, there are numerous possibilities to try to attend to it.  This might feel overwhelming at times, but I remind myself to reframe and become open to alternatives.  A hard-learned lesson about supporting my practice has been allowing my business to digest, breathe and settle.  Why is this challenging?  Because there is a feeling that I “need to always be working on something related to my business” and that “it won’t succeed unless I’m meeting my daily goals”.  Well, these goals have led me to feel burnt out and drained at times, and by stepping back and taking a day off, I am able to truly give back to my practice in a refreshed, mindful way.

By approaching my private practice as a living, breathing being who has needs and hungers, its heartbeat enables me to offer compassion and space for it to grow.  In this way, I can creatively plan ahead for how my practice might look as it matures over the years, and how I can continue nurture this meaningful dream.

 

Don’t forget to continue your ride at the PPIO Blog Carnival!  Other informative and interesting submissions include:

Please feel free to comment on my post and any of these unique posts and begin a discussion about your own creative responses to building a private practice!

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Welcome, autumn! Loss and re-birth as a new season emerges

As we welcomed the arrival of autumn on September 22nd, we opened a new chapter of crisp fall air, changing colors, brisk mornings, and harvest dinners.  This is what fall is all about and for many, it brings an inner comfort and a desire to snuggle under the blankets with a big cup of hot tea.  What else does autumn represent?  As each season passes, I am always mindful of the gifts from the outgoing season and the promises of the one yet to come.  As nature cycles through her natural patterns, humans and all animals alike take notice of this change.

Change is embraced by some and feared by others.  When one is in recovery from an eating disorder such as bulimia, binge eating, anorexia, or any other type of disordered eating, change can bring overwhelming anxiety as it suggests a shift in an all-too-familiar routine.  I often sit with clients and hold space for them to share these anxieties, excitements, worries, and anticipations of upcoming changes in their lives.  I like to remember that with every change comes a loss as well as a new birth.  Moving into a new home is a significant change in someone’s life, bringing new things to adjust to, new neighbors, new routines.  Going back to school similarly offers some “unknowns”, some uncertainties of what is yet to come which might feel unsettling for some.  A birth of a new child is a huge shift in a family, as the child is welcomed into the fold and the parents adjust to new responsibilities, expectations, and roles.

If you feel stuck in a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging, negative self talk that devastates your self-esteem, or any other type of harmful behavior, you might be ready to make a change in your life.  Clients bring with them this hope for change, for a life without self-destructive behaviors or thoughts, and with a hope for accepting and loving themselves.  They can also admit to some fears about what they might have to “give up” or “confront” when making this change.  This is completely normal!  Just as fall eventually turns into winter, a time of hibernation and reflection, change is inevitable — and it can feel simple to slip into a mindset of “dreading” or “avoiding” change.

I try to remind my clients (and myself, if I find myself getting stuck), that winter has its own gifts to offer and that spring will come again.  While some may see winter as a time of cold and darkness, you also might approach winter as a time of rejuvenation, slowing down, resting, and preparing for the birth of spring.  A new routine, a different way of approaching and caring for yourself, trying to accept your feelings instead of push them away — these all represent change in our lives.  And instead of focusing on what is wrong about them, perhaps we could ask ourselves to notice the benefits of this change and remind ourselves that a re-birth is yet to come, whatever that looks like for each of us.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself about your relationship to change in your life:

— What am I losing in this change, and how can I offer myself kindness and compassion around this?

—  What am I gaining with this change in terms of growth, healing, and self-care?

—  How can I be mindful about this change, and check in with myself daily around my feelings about it and try to remind myself of the gifts of the present moment?

Don’t forget to turn your attention inward and notice your emotions around this transition.  New beginnings, like autumn or any new beginning in your life, might bring up unresolved feelings or issues from previous life cycles.  Perhaps autumn reminds you of a friendship that was lost last autumn which you haven’t allowed yourself to feel in some time.  Maybe autumn brings the birthday of a child and each year you are reminded of the pure joy you felt the day he or she was born.

allow yourself to feel.  Journal about what you feel, draw what you feel, sing what you feel, dance what you feel.  There are no “good” or “bad” feelings, and like a wave in the ocean, each feeling will eventually ride out.

Nature allows us endless opportunities for healing, re-birth, renewal, and getting back in touch with ourselves.  How are you going to embrace this new season in your life?


Dishonesty in treatment and recovery: working the stages of change in eating disorder recovery

Recovery from an eating disorder is a complex and difficult process.  I believe that it takes a combination of several factors to fully recover:  honesty, accountability, compassion, and determination.   Treating eating disorders is also challenging because treatment may require holding all of those factors all at once and finding a balance with them in the therapeutic process.

Many people enter counseling because they want to create a new way of living their lives.  They have a desire to change.  The readiness to change, I think, it probably the single most determining factor in actually creating a change.  There are several stages of readiness to change, and clients may show up in any of these stages.

The stages of readiness to change are:

1.) Precontemplation – at this stage, almost all of the desire to change is external to the client, meaning they might be forced to come to therapy, they might be ambivalent about it, they may change only if the external pressure is significant enough — but this type of change is typically short-lived if not internalized.  People in the precontemplation stage might feel ‘demoralized and don’t want to think about their problem because they feel that the situation is hopeless. “There is certain comfort in recognizing that demoralization is a natural feeling that accompanies this stage-and in realizing that if you take yourself systematically through all the stages of change, you can change.”‘

2.) Contemplation.  People in this stage realize they might be stuck and desire for things to be different.  “People acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it. Contemplators struggle to understand their problem, see its causes, and begin to wonder about possible solutions.”  Often, people in this stage are not quite ready to risk taking action, and as a result can stay in this stage for a very long period of time.

3.) Preparation.  This is the stage where people begin to make changes — within the next few weeks or a month.  This intention is made public, perhaps by involving loved ones or support systems.  It is important to feel solid in this stage and to develop a foundational plan for how to follow-through with the change; moving too quickly through it might decrease the person’s chances for success.

4.) Action. This is a ‘busy’ period where behavior is overtly changed and modified.  These changes may be more visible to other people (for example quitting smoking or decreasing eating disorder behaviors), but some of the internal work of this stage and prior stages might not be as overtly visible.

5.) Maintenance.  This stage is where changes and steps taken up until this point are consolidated and continually reintroduced to the client.  These might be solidifying new coping mechanisms and preventing relapses.  This is the longest stage of change and requires commitment and ‘active alertness’.

6.)  Termination:  The final goal!  This is where prior issues or struggles are no longer present and recovery feels solid.  In eating disorder recovery, this may mean that behaviors have been eliminated for a long period of time (years) but that alertness is still required to take care of oneself and prohibit a relapse.

Change involves not only modifying behaviors but learning to cope with and manage  emotions in a healthier way.  Lying and dishonesty in treatment and recovery from an eating disorder can come up commonly in several stages of change.  Those where the most committed action is involved — Preparation and Action stages — can create confusing and conflicting emotions.  When the eating disorder is directly confronted and perhaps threatened, it can try to take back control in such a direct way that it may manipulate the client into being dishonest or lying to their therapist or support system.  This is an attempt to remain ‘safe’, even though it may be maladaptive.

Why is this?  There are a few reasons why dishonesty creeps up in recovery.  It may be that the client wants to be “perfect” at recovery, or to please their therapist or loved ones because external validation may feel like the primary form of inner comfort.  If they are struggling, they may feel like they are disappointing those who are supporting them.

It also may come up as the client begins to realize the enormous loss that is felt when an eating disorder is taken away.  This change requires forming new relationships with the self and learning to cope in healthier, more fulfilling ways.  If the client has used the eating disorder to cope with an inner hunger or emptiness, thinking that this needs to be let go can be terrifying.  It is when the client has ‘fed’ that inner hunger in a more loving way that the eating disorder loses its power.

It is important for clinicians to recognize the signs of dishonesty in recovery.  This is a great time to enact change in the eating disorder behavioral process and to show compassion for the struggle that the client is experiencing.  Holding clients accountable and challenging them is a crucial part of the recovery process.  Parents and loved ones can learn more about their role in this process in an article written for parents called Your Role.

It is possible to fully recover from an eating disorder.  Sometimes this might mean going through a few of the stages of change several times, or staying in one for a period of time before you are ready to move on.  If you feel like you or someone you know is ready to make a healthy change in your life, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at 720-340-1443.