Choosing Perspective

choose

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Self-Care Tip #225 – If you can’t choose a better perspective on your own, it might be time to choose it via a medical route.

Feeling trapped?  Overextended?  Used and neglected by others?  It might be true.  But why do we get in these impossible places?

In the Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, towards the end of the story we find ourselves in a room with Charles and It.  Charles is trapped by It.  He has disconnected from his own thoughts and has given himself over to the control of “It.”

Charles’ sister, Meg, comes in and reminds him about Love and that changed the perspective of everything.  It reminded Charles about why he wanted to choose for himself, to have his own thoughts, to love and receive love.  And then, with that, Charles was reconnected with himself again, whole and sharing space with Love.

The changing perspective turned what seemed an impossible bondage into freedom.

When we feel disconnected from our personal journey, impossibly overextended and trapped, remembering our freedom to choose, freedom because of Love can make all the difference.  The perspective shifts.  The impossible becomes possible.  Magic.

Sometimes, choosing is thwarted by brain disease.  When we can’t extricate ourselves, when guilt plagues us, when we feel like things are about us that really aren’t, when the emotion jarring us is inappropriate to the context – we need to use that as a cue to choose to get “free” via medical help.

Questions:  When have you felt trapped?  When you did feel trapped, how did you find your freedom?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Woven and Unravelled Simultaneously for Best Results

Change is good--Kente Cloth Loom

Self-Care Tip #222 – See the different parts of your self-care as independent yet dependent on each other.

One of my truest pleasures would be to teach well.  My temperament is, per Myers-Briggs, designed to be a teacher and I agree that I feel inner congruence when I’m doing just that.

…If you’re feeling your hands closing into a bracing grip, it is probably because you, like many, really don’t want to be schooled – which has happened in my less refined moments, so caution is understood.  This is not what I hope to do here.

After yesterday’s blog-post and comments received, it shows that I have not taught as well as I implied to myself.  Implied intimacy is a danger of any familiar relationship, including with ourselves.  The beauty of you guys, is you help me say things “out loud” decreasing misunderstandings.  You guys are teaching me and I thank you.  So whatever this is we are doing, learning, schooling, teaching or whatever it is that Mr. Rick C. does – what we are doing here together is mucho-much fun.

As we unravel the rug together, we see these threads,

  • emotions and behaviors appropriate to context – yesterday we spoke about guilt
  • emotions and behaviors inappropriate to context – yesterday we spoke about guilt as a symptom of medical illness
  • the magical miraculous beyond our current understanding – before we “see face-to-face– yesterday Carol Ann mentioned the changing power of God
  • freedom to do self-care and related choices
  • what choice yet remains when other choices are lost either by action or disease
  • (this last one I’m just putting in here to finish the pretty rainbow) – helps me get in the barn where I’m comfortable

The reason I think it’s important to see these together yet apart, as well as we can (through a glass dimly), is that too much of one or another of these, diminishes the results of our self-care intentions.  Don’t mistake this for preaching that one can get too much of God in their lives.  It just isn’t true and not in our best interest to get waylaid.

Questions:  How do you see yourself more effective in your self-care efforts and what has influenced those improvements?  In what way have certain bits of your self-care gotten “too much” attention?  Please tell me your story.

Guilt Furiously Chasing You Is Commonly Experienced In Illnesses Of The Brain

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by John Singer ...

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Self-Care Tip #221 – If you feel chased down by guilt, stop running and get friendly with yourself.

I’m so busy!  I am trying to work, raise three kids, and be a wife!  …and I’m just spread so thin!

It was new for Connie to think that where she was at in life was linked with her choices.  Somehow she intuitively felt taken along by it all, a current of life as people say, of either randomness or design.  Who could know, but it was more than her choices, she was sure, and she resented the influence on her life’s design.  Not that she had intended on taking over what was playing on her.  She just simmered in the house of cards hoping that when she got to make a play of her own, she’d make a good one and come out better for it.  In the mean time, she just had to keep moving fast.

Things would have been fine, except that over the past six months, she hadn’t been enjoying what she was living for, her kids, parenting, being a wife or her employment.  Yes, she was also  living for God but no, she wasn’t enjoying Him either.  Did she want to?  Did she feel guilty about it?

I feel guilty all the time.  It’s the guilt that gets to me.  It’s like I can’t see or feel much else.  Just when I think I’m about to get into what I’m doing, guilt comes chasing at me in a fury!  Distracting me and worrying me.  I’m on edge more and irritable from feeling defensive, and trying to get away from whatever this is.

Connie looked at me when I said,

Self-care begins and starts with “Me.”  Although we may be living for others and other things, even living for God, if we don’t take care of ourselves, our health first, our emotions and behavioral health included, we can’t give much, in the way of living, to those others.

I could see her pupils change and I got a little excited.  She was hearing something that affected her whole body and I sensed it was hope.  (See, I am an Emotions Jedi.)

We talked more about approaches she was using, prayer/meditation, exercise, grit and determination, waiting it out for better days to come and others.  Then I introduced the medical paradigm.  (You’ve heard me say it.)

Behaviors and emotions come from the brain.  We culturally think that they are volitional, under our control.  But how much can we really control of what the brain does?  Some.  But when we do the best we can with what we can control, and our behaviors and emotions are still hurting us, affecting our quality of life, damaging our relationships and connections – we need to look for biological reasons.  That’s where choice can still come into play.

She was looking and nodding.  This was at her “consideration stage” of introducing these new ideas.  I said,

I thought of telling you about this when you talked about guilt Connie because maybe your guilt is coming because of a brain illness.  It’s common in several emotional illnesses, like depression or anxiety, and in these illnesses it commonly comes in force, like you’ve described.

Her pupils had reduced to their earlier size, and her posture said she was winding down for that visit.  Whatever we discussed after that would be low yield, so we made a follow-up appointment and called it a day.

These days later, remembering Connie gets me thinking about what I would have said if she had been available to still hear more.  This bit about freedom to choose self-care, yet saying we have little to do with how our brain works can get confusing.  It might seem contradictory.  Tomorrow, I’m going to discuss it more, but for today, it would be wonderful to hear what you think.

Questions:  With behaviors and emotions coming from a material biological organ, the brain, yet knowing that we are free to choose for our self-care, what gives?  How do these ideas jive?  How have you seen it play out in your life?  Please tell me your story.

Check Your Read. Even When You Feel Shame, Bullied and Herded, You Are Free.

Eve covers herself and lowers her head in sham...

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Self-Care Tip #219 – Check your read.  Be a friend to yourself.

I’ve been reading the comments on suicide, thinking and reading and starting who knows how many posts for today, but just couldn’t pull it together.  I spent my time rather drawn to the same words that I hear so many others say as well in clinic, in church, on the street, in the home.  Instead of seeing them find their place in me like I normally do with this kind of crowd, the words kept their space; word-snobs – crutch, selfish, dependent, moral and other words, dusting and reapplying in their reflection.

I had to think, “Why?  Why am I staring like this?”  And so the rest of the day, I perused those thoughts, licked my finger, flick, next, paper-cut and so on.  After all, this is SELF-care I’m talking about, implying I am starting with me.

At last, after rereading yesterdays and past comments, I found the shame I was avoiding.  Why I feel shame about these things isn’t important in this post.  (Maybe another post.  So if you have nothing else to keep you reading, you’ll have that dish to bait you.)

Shame comes when implied or direct judgment creeps into our space.  It herds us.  We are bullied and lose our personal boundaries.  It touches and violates.  That is what shame does.  Any time our perception of freedom feels threatened, it is normal to want to defend ourselves.  Separating from stigma is a normal response.

Claiming the shame, however, isn’t forced on us.  It is our choice.  Once we own the shame, then wanting to get away from reminders of it, of course, is natural for anyone.  But jog back and see.  The perception of shame was never forced on us.  We are free.  We are free to feel, to perceive, to believe, to choose or to stop rubbernecking at the sparkling drama.

He made me so mad…!

She really hurt me.

You ruined my life!

I don’t want to take medications because my husband makes fun of me.

I take Prozac but I don’t have mental illness.  I’d be ashamed to…

It is a normal response to not want to be in the space where we feel these things.  That is natural and what many have thought worth fighting for.  But what if our perception, our Sixth Sense, wasn’t getting a good read?  A war might have been avoided.  Our lives might be lived differently.

We really are free, already, to choose.

Question:  How do you see shame affecting your ability to be friendly with yourself?  Or others?  How have different perceptions put you in a place that felt more free and safe?  Please tell me your story.

Take Care Of Yourself to Give Love to Others

Give, take 'n share

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Self-Care Tip #195 – Take care of yourself to give Love to others.

Belen came in, confident.  She was comfortable in her element.  Working in her area of specialty was her delight and she didn’t worry about clocking hours or mixing it up with family.  Her work was part of what family meant to her.  It was what brought pleasure to her life.

“Wonderful!” you say.  And yes, it is.  “Why then did she come in to see me?” you ask.  Glad you asked.

This was Belen’s third marriage.  Marriage was not where she felt confident.  Talking marriage was when her lip surfaced, quivering on her face, transforming her.  In the past, Belen had often dropped her husband’s name, laced him into stories she told and her ring was a favorite finger toy.  I had the impression that Belen was proud to be married to this man.  But it wasn’t until today that Belen spoke about Ben directly.

I sat up because I was curious about this emotion that had flickered behind it all until today, when it was front and center.

In this case, Belen was afraid of her emotions in fact.  She was aware of them, but they were in a foreign code to her.  Tap-tap-pause-tap-tap-tap-pause… and so on.  She started by telling me about their evenings together.

Ben was a grazer who expected open time with her.  Belen, however, was a barn girl.  When she sat with her husband in their “open time” over a slow dinner, a drink, watching him read a book beside her – it took everything in her reserve each day to stay put.  All her nerves were dancing, telling her to get up and work.  It was what gave Belen her quality of life.  Her work was her self-care.  Ben’s time to meander through thoughts and play was in contrast, what gave him pleasure in life.  He waited all day, pushing through a task driven job, to come home and do this.

Potential negative energy was coiling up inside and Belen was afraid that she might be overcome by it.  Belen did not want to think about what that might end with.  Another failed marriage?  Losing this man she was so glad to be married to?  Dying alone?  She looked at me sideways, ashamed of her emotions.

I’m turning into Crazy Wife.  I yell at him for things that are no big deal.

My answer came too fast this time.  It wasn’t graceful or polite.  I regret that.  It’s never been a forte for me and one of the reasons I recommend my patients find a psychotherapist who will patiently stand beside them rather than collar them and drag them to water (like a certain psychiatrist I know.)

Do what gives quality to your life.  Claim it when you do and don’t hold him responsible for it.  He’ll feel guilty and defensive.  ‘Oh, I have so much work to do honey.  I can’t sit here…’  You are not a victim.  This is your choice.

Unfortunately, there was more along those lines, but like Kevin Blumer says,

I wish the blog world was the same as the real world where people have a chance and can think about things before they (say) them.

Alas, at least we have our keyboards, pencils and erasers.

Belen was losing her lovely confidence to resentment because she wasn’t doing what she was wired to do.  She wasn’t owning her choices.  She thought loving her husband meant that she shouldn’t and because of that, she was only giving him her uncared for self.  She didn’t realize that doing what gave her joy was the best way to Love others.

Question:  How do you help the people you love realize that when you take care of yourself, you are taking care of them too?  (This should get interesting!)  Please tell me your story.

Love – Take What is Already Yours. You Have Been Given Love.

Stef's Present with Handmade Wrapping

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Self-Care Tip #194 – Take what is already yours.  Be a friend to yourself.

Parenting, we hold the power in the relationship between us and our child/ren.  If we are emotionally maltreated by our child/ren, we parents are still the ones with the power.  What are we giving to her if we teach her that we will take the terrible words and dark emotions?  When we take the projected anger when we have the power to choose not to, what message are we giving to ourselves about ourselves?  What is the message if we say by our actions that Love demands from us to accept, to take and to be a victim to the emotional abuse?  Is that what love tells us?

It is difficult to receive maltreatment from anyone.  And because of the suffering involved, we can misinterpret the message, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands” – the sacrifice is doing what other people want before taking care of yourself.

It is difficult not to receive maltreatment as well.  Which choice is more consistent with our understanding of Love?  The words in the message might be the same, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands.”  However, the interpretation of the message, of what the sacrifice is – that meaning is different.  The sacrifice is, rather, taking care of yourself first so that you have the best of you to offer to others.

To read more on this topic, please see posts, Criticize if You Love MeListen to The Intention in What People Say and Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others.

Because we as parents hold the power in the relationship, we can feel trapped by our own power.  What a confusion for many of us.  Holding power but feeling helpless.  Holding a stick in both hands, so to speak, not seeing that we can still use our occupied hands for anything else in the mean time.

This kind of choice takes Love.  This is the kind of choice that is a work of a life-time or of a moment, but is life.  See, Let It Go and Keep Going.

We can’t teach others that we are valuable and how to treat us with Love if we don’t do it ourselves for ourselves.  When we act on Love, self-care means that we don’t accept treatment that is inconsistent with Love.  If we accept bad treatment, we are saying that self-care is accepting our lack of choices versus making the choices that are still available despite the circumstance.

FriendShip... A gift of God.

Image by ~FreeBirD®~ via Flickr

This of course applies to any relationship.  It applies to any connection, whether it is in the work-place, marriage, if you are the child in the parent-child role, friendships – take your pick.  You can choose Love.  You can choose.  Self-care starts and ends with “Me.”

Freedom is a gift.  No matter how many times it is wrapped up and placed in our hands, if we don’t open it, use it, own it, we will never have it.  Freedom to choose has been given to us before we were born, just like our salvation.  The salvation will never be taken away.  Nor the freedom.  Both are elemental and constant.  But if we don’t pull on the ribbon, lift the lid and take – we can’t expect anything but living without what was inside.  Does the title “victim” even hold if it was our choice not to take what was already ours?

Question:  How do you claim your freedom to choose when all you perceive at the time is what has been taken away?  Please tell me your story.

Starting With Your Own Answers to The Big Questions Leads to Reducing Stigma In Others

Alexander Ostuzhev as Quasimodo, 1925.

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Question:  How do you see the paradigm of spirituality intersecting with the paradigm of biology?

As a psychiatrist who blogs that behaviors come from the brain and not a theater script we voluntarily revise to perform, this is a good question.  As readers, and perhaps subscribers to this same belief, this is a good question.

In church, Bible study, or circle of any kind, there are fewer things that goad me more than listening to descriptions of the moral value in emotions and behaviors.  I have found myself visiting the lady’s room more often, carousing the fellowship hall-kitchen and fridge, or thrusting myself on a poor unsuspecting soul loitering by the door with my fervent uncomplimentary words.  I do this before I stand up and pull rank on the speaker.

(I know.  The words “pull rank” sound just as arrogant, and probably are, but they were said in the heat of the moment.  Please understand that the emotion behind them and including the words came from my brain.)

It wasn’t so long ago that suicides were thought to be the ultimate separation from God.  Oh wait.  That’s still happening isn’t it?  It wasn’t so long ago that anger and sadness were thought to be from separation from God.  Oh wait, they still are.  Ok.  I’ll stop.  This is childish.

The hunched figure of Notre Dame comes to me now, ringing his bell, gazing at Esmerelda – pure heaven in flesh.  He offers up his humble life force, begging to be near her despite his biology.  He is ugly.  He is different.  He is separated by his own beliefs that he is forgotten by God.  His answer to our question is his own isolation.

This pithy topic has no boundaries across the world but yet I reduce it down to Me, one apparently arrogant psychiatrist, kicking up dirt where I stand.  I realize that the best way to protect us from stigma, to help you (again arrogant me swaggers in), is to start with my answer to this marvelous question.  I have to answer it for myself.  I have to start with self-care, spiritual care, relationship care, physical care – I have to start right here with Me.

These kinds of imposed opinions have never been reduced quickly.  We can’t take care of everyone before we take care of ourselves.  We must be patient.  We have the privilege to answer thoughtfully.  It is our freedom.  It is our right.

Self-Care Tip #193 – Answer the big questions in life for yourself, deliberately, and see that a secondary benefit is that it will protect you from the prejudice of others as well as reduce their prejudice.