Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful face on an empty head.
It was just too funny.
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful face on an empty head.
It was just too funny.
All around me I hear people talking about finding your “True Self.” I hear it in podcasts, coffee shops, in magazines and even books.
What the hell was everyone talking about and if there is such thing, how does one find it?
First, apparently, it depends on who you ask. If you ask a therapist you get a vastly different answer than if you ask a spiritual guide. Honestly, even from one person to the next your answers will vary.
These are all synonyms of this mysterious phrase. After looking at countless websites, I like what the Huffington Post said in the article, “What does it mean to be your Authentic Self by Judith Johnson.” “Living in a place of profound authenticity involves being rooted in your deepest beliefs, values, and truth and living a life that is a true reflection of them. It is about being true to yourself through your thoughts, words, and actions.”
So from what I gather, the true self is something that is within us. Is it nature or nurture? Or is it something in between (the damn gray area that surrounds our lives)? I don’t have an answer for this, but from what I read and what I have experienced, it is a real thing. It’s ingrained deep in our heart and soul.
When I was younger, I was working at a camp in Ensenada for the summer. It was one of the best summers of my life and I felt that I was becoming the best version of myself. That same summer I met a girl (yes, you can roll your eyes now). I fell head over heels for her and we ended up getting married. We were together for fifteen years, and often I would look back and wondered what happened to the man I was becoming and why wasn’t I feeling any closer to being a better version of myself? I felt that I was slipping away and losing myself.
I wrestled with why. Did I fool myself that summer? Did that woman I fell in love with strip me of my manhood? What happened?
The marriage didn’t go. I decided I wanted a divorce, which happened to be one of the first real decisions I had made for myself since I met her. Pain of the failed marriage filled me, but I also felt the emergence of the boy 15 years earlier. My “true self” surface and that I didn’t have to look back in remembrance of that person. I decided that I was going to become the man I had always desired (I do not blame my ex for the hindering of this man, but blame myself. More on this in another post).
I care about the true self because I struggled for years to step on the road and begin the journey. Guilt, shame, and fear were around every corner. This trifecta left me questioning everything I did (and I still struggle with it at times). Being in that dark place is hard, and I want to help others know there is a better way. It’s not the easy way, but it’s the better way. Or as my friend, Major Lewis would say, “The hard right over the easy wrong.”
The easy answer is to be real with yourself. The hard answer is that I only know how I did and it might differ from person to person.
In my first marriage, I was a fraud and could become whomever the person I was talking to wanted me to be. I was like Julia Roberts in, “The Runaway Bride.” Depending on what guy she was with, she liked a different type of egg. Poached with one man. Scrambled with another man. I morphed myself into someone in order to be liked. Sadly this left my true self-hiding behind layers of falsehood. I pushed away those close to me in shame. My unconscious was wreaking havoc on me. I was messed up.
Be true to yourself. Look in the mirror, and know who you are. It takes time and won’t happen overnight. The first time I went to the shoe store to buy shoes after my separation I ran out in a panic because I didn’t even know what shoe I liked.
I started by giving myself permission to experiment. I would try things and then evaluate if I liked it. Slowly, month after month, year after year, I began to understand what I liked. Then I would do more of that. The small steps of trying something new and being honest with yourself will start to open your heart up to seeing deeper questions.
Self-care Tip: Take a chance on yourself. Try something new. If you hate it, great! If you loved it, great! Either way, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities and trying to ignite the flame of your true self.
Brandon Fries lives in Southern California with his lovely wife and daughter. It was through his life struggles that he found a path towards happiness.
“Who is changing this TV channel to cooking shows?” a nurse was asking, exasperation evident in her voice. “Every time I turn around, someone changes it, and I am sick of it.”
The voices from the ICU patient room were audible in the hallway. I stopped to listen before I entered the room.
“But the patient…” – the nursing student couldn’t quite get the word in. “What about the patient?”, the nurse interrupted. “I am sure the patient doesn’t want to watch some boring cooking show; here, I am changing it back to the news.”
I’m a hospital based cardiologist who does a lot of consultations. Today, 88-year old African American Mr Jaafir, very sick all over, including lungs and heart. A ventilator had been breathing for him for about a week and it didn’t look like he would be able to get off any time soon. Still, he was mostly awake; when people asked him questions, he was able to write the answers on the paper – the ventilator kept him from talking. During one of my earlier visits, I had run into his large family at the bedside – a younger stylish wife and several verbose sisters, all of them clearly attached to the patient, and eager to pass on his life stories.
The family had told me what the current nurse Marcy did not know – Mr Jaafir had been a chef, and a famous one at that! I had listened as they told me of his famous dishes – the ones that people traveled distances to sample, and were featured in local newspapers and TV shows. Not only was he well known for his restaurant cooking but his home was a central location for the whole neighborhood. I had also learned that being the center of attention had resulted in an interesting life with several marriages and numerous children and grandchildren.
I told all of that to Marcy. She knit her eyebrows for a second to think and then chuckled, “So, Mr Jaafir, this is why you have been banging on the bedrails when the channel was changed?” The patient glared. Having been an authority figure to numerous family members and friends all his life, he did not take kindly to the loss of control. The cooking channel stayed on for the rest of the day. And for Marcy, Mr Jaafir now had an identity apart from being a random patient on the ventilator.
Over the next couple of weeks, the family and friends came and went. Mr. Jaafir stayed opinionated – the bedside table was littered with sheets of paper, his directives with exclamation marks and triple underlines readily visible. However, his strong opinions could not sway his weakened body, and it finally gave up. He knew it before it happened, and his writing changed from “I want to go home” to “let me go”.
I stood at attention with the rest of the staff and his family when his body, covered by the American flag to honor his service to our country, was taken away to the morgue. I had admired the way this man had lived – with a strong sense of self, touching multiple lives on his way, taking care of his family, commanding strong respect in his career. Even more, I admired the way he had died. The formidable sense of self had accomplished a rare feat – retaining his identity while helpless in the ICU. He died as he had lived – strong, surrounded by family, firm in his insistence to choose his own path.
Self-care tip: You are you. Don’t let people change that. Keep your identity.
Question: Have you felt your identity fading in difficult life situations, such as depression, sickness, and/or stress? Tell us your story.
Sweaty, well-worn, in bike-ware, she was eating comfortably with her friend. I kept trying not to stare and just had to fight it! I wanted to imprint her shiny wrinkled yet blooming geriatric status and break down what I saw into categories of self-care moves to grow old by. She looked really good.
I managed to finish eating at, (Oh my word! Yum! My new binge and bolt location,) Zinc Cafe, without ruining her appetite with a big hug and smooch from crazy-staring-stranger, me. I almost congratulated myself, it was so hard not to do. Nevertheless, when walking out I did stop and tell her she was beautiful and that I wanted to grow up to be her. She bloomed even more, right there and then. It was swell. Good food. Good role-model to remember.
We think it is our best years that people will identify us by. But they do not just do that. They think of us as how we are now too. More importantly is how we think of ourselves – of Me.
It is different for everyone. Why we want to be here. Understanding why, is a universal interest. It is the other side of value in the aging process.
My parents are getting old. I am. My patients and their parents are getting old. We are dying.
My dad is old. He just turned seventy-nine. He is not wearing bike shorts. He is not a blooming geriatric. But I value him and saying why, well, I realize starts with “Me.” It is not because of him thirty years ago. It is about his life these last thirty years. It is about his Me, now.
The present does not prove nor negate the past. Our value is more than that.
Sometimes I visit community practitioners. Please visualize that all of this is in the middle of their busy clinic day, racing between exam rooms to meet patient needs. I am standing at a nurses station perhaps, dressed in something über professional, (to hide the gypsy in me as well as I can. But if it were you, you would not be fooled by the cut of my lapel!) I catch the eye of the clinician and receive a strained smile, almost hearing her say, “Come on! I’m dying here! I have three patients waiting!” But generally they do not actually say it, generally. And sometimes, they are snagged by the magic of connection, take my elbow and draw me away into a private space where they can share their story. In a matter of moments.
We are skilled at shaving moments here and there. Skilled at putting as few words into a fat minute that can convey the large concept needed just Now! We learn this over brow-beating years of managed care medical practice, personal choices, convoluted expectations and need to please – self, other, insurance or what not. When clinicians share stories, we do it like we are late catching the train to heaven.
From these visits, I get more to my quality of practice. I get known, and get to know. Awesome. It is a newer part of my “work,” that I have been doing this, and I am loving it. I meet the people who are the other side of our patient’s treatment team. I meet people who are both human and medical clinicians. Realness surrounds them. Life stories come from them. In a fat minute I hear about their past, gain some understanding of their present and from that, I am given much. One physician told me of his beloved daughter who suicided, another of her husband’s chronic brain illness and how their family struggles. I shared how my young cousin hung himself and that part of me who is groping toward that space and time before he died.
To know who we are despite our changing emotions and behaviors, our changing identities, improves our understanding of life value. Somehow, Dad has known that, without bike shorts. He continues to mentor me in that. I do not know about the beautiful geriatric at breakfast, but who is to say she does not know her value? Not Me. But I am going to explore my own, for my sake. I am getting old.
Self-Care Tip: Look and look some more for why you are valuable.
Questions: What is valuable about you, even though you have lost so much in life? Why are you still alive? Please tell us your story.
Oh my freaking word! This is so funny. I am crying over here.
My Brother and his family came over today to visit with sweet moves and perfect middle-eastern minor cords coming off them. The great GoRemy is now a favorite.
I wish I had seen this before reuniting with my family from Lebanon yesterday at my parents home. They are just in from Beruit and, my word! The stories they live. I am glad GoRemy will bring a smile to their faces. They are in a terrible war and live yet with hope, although death is all around them.
“Why are you going back?!” I asked them.
I wanted to wrap each them up in some filo dough and take them home with me forever.
I cannot explain exactly why they are going back soon. Who can explain the reasons why we each want to be home. Reading, “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” by Patricia MacLachlan, with my kids the other day, I remembered their fight with the land that betrayed them during the dust bowl. I remembered their dad, as if he were my own, running out into the hard weather to save what he could. They were hungry, overworked, thirsty and looking at each other for meaning. Their fear of losing what they loved was as intense as their fear of any disaster.
“Caleb Witting: Seal was worried. The house is too small, we thought, and I am loud and pesky. Anna Witting: We thought you might be leaving us because you miss the sea.
Sarah Wheaton: Well, I’ll always miss my old home, but the truth of it is, I’d miss you more.”
And I guess for my relatives, it is no less of a conflict.
I hope you enjoy “The Tobouli Song,” with us and think about your own story. Keep on.
Self-Care Tip: Explore what makes you go back.
Questions: What makes you return… Or not? What do you call home and why? Please tell us your own story of what is worth it to you.
On Jun 18, 2013, Anon wrote:
Hello Dr. Sana L. Johnson-Quijada,
Thank you for coming to talk to share some of your experiences and views associated psychiatry. I am sorry I have not emailed you sooner. This was my first year taking three sciences and when it came time to study for finals, I pretty much ignored everything except school.
Thank you for giving the class and myself some exposure to psychiatry. Your talk was very intriguing, especially how you see a person, in particular how their brain health affects their personality. When you started to talk about homelessness it brought back painful and confusing memories from my childhood.
My parents divorced when I was seven and the majority of my time was spent with my mother because my now deceased father had a difficult time keeping a roof over his head and doing the activities of daily living. When I was a little older I even loaned my dad some money when his car was impounded. I could not understand why my dad was in the situation he was in and why I was seemingly more capable than him. I loved him very much and wanted to help him in any way I could. But in the end, I could not make any of his decisions for him.
My older brother is living in a shelter and he reminds me of my dad in so many ways. When we lived together, before my parents divorced, my brother was just about as hard to get along with as my dad, and my dad was physically abusive to him. I was so confused and could not understand why we could not love each other or ourselves. My dad’s incessant fear of doctors and my brother’s fervent choice to self medicate only complicated the situation we were in.
My heart goes out to my family and people like them and I have a strong desire to help people. Your short talk resonated with me and I was intrigued by psychiatry because I thought it might be a way for me to help. How do I learn more?
On Jun 18, 2013, at 5:16 PM, Sana Quijada wrote:
Hey. So good to hear from you. I remember you well. Sniff. Big hug. You are not alone, dear man.
How to learn more? Hmm. I would start by attending some local NAMI meetings. Follow up with me in a bit after you do and we can keep the lines open and ideas flowing. It is an honor to connect with you.
I celebrate your focus and completion of finals.
I would love to post your email letter on FriendtoYourself.com …
Your story is seriously powerful. As my six-year-old says, boom! Smile.
Till next time,
Sana Johnson-Quijada MD
On Jun 24, 2013, at 5:00 PM, Anon wrote:
Yes you may post my email I feel honored. It took a lot of courage to write and I am glad you were receptive.
We all might take what we have lieft and love it. We have this remaining and losing self. The now person and the person that is losing something else on top of it all again and again. Another tooth chipped. Now it’s hard to find words. Now training takes longer to get the same time.
We have what is left. More or less, we have this. This here in this moment in this person we might love, we have. We have these with indefinite value, yet to be described by what passion and friendship we bring. We have the bigger experience. We have the slower pace. We have the deeper understanding. We have another night of rest. We have breasts that have been remade. We have a cancer free day. We have a way of making bread like a story baking in a pan. We give the value or spend our emotional bank on taking it away.
Whom of us hasn’t seen the little child’s vulnerable eyes taking a verbal slap,
“You are such a f—er! Why did you do that?!”
The value was placed so low on that potential.
What do we do for our remaining selves?
Let us join together, lean in and enter the unknown space of discovering this person we have and are becoming during and after loss and gain. Let us grieve together what and who has died. Let us discover together what we have left.
Self-Care Tip: Discover the value of what you are after losses.
Question: Tell us your story of loss and gain in your remaining self.
So thinking more about Alena and her alien psychiatrist-poser…
Why is Alena known, or recognized, by Alien?
Where Alien came from, brain illness isn’t sustained by the stress of living on her planet. Those with brain illness either adapt to the primitive resources they live in or they, (pause,) “don’t.” The community doesn’t know this is happening consciously. They just know that some people are able to do what earthlings consider magic. Those with brain illness evolved to survive. Alien was one such benefactors of time and stress on biology. She was not there for the process, but for the product
Earth was alarming. It was the first time she’d ever seen someone with a broken mind. Knowing where she came from gave her mixed feelings….
I’m getting my hands into this Time-play playtime! Woohoo! I have been rumbling over the beauty of all the beloved connections I enjoy, the cherished anchors and reflectors that I’ve used so long to stabilize my identity with. My heritage, my profession, my employments, my interpersonal relationships, family, my body, currencies, and so much more gives me a sense of security. A sense, however, in truth and not Time-less. As so many of us know what the other side of that water-fall looks like – divorced parents, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, illicit drugs, loneliness, poverty, a bone spur or arthritis.
If Time is an arrow, what gives the increasingly obvious wispiness of our securities power? What is our strength from?
I remember back when we discussed our Essence, the bit of Me that isn’t lost to death, suffering or brain illness. According to, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, by Sean Carroll, he’d say this can only exist if this Essence in Me is connected to space and Time.
Question: Where does your connection come from?
Self-Care Tip: Discover where you security comes from.
My kids look at fruit as if they are inspecting a diamond for flaws.
Is this a good one Mommy?
My daughter was pointing at a blemish that comes from fruit grown outside in dirt and not genetically engineered.
My huffing sounds are barred by something almost like maturity, just in time. I pick up a different White Sapote with broken skin and beak marks where it is half eaten by whoever got there first.
After spitting out the seeds, I remembered bits of my filthy self as a daddy-chasing kid. The words dusted off and important to me again, I heard Dad say,
Pick the fruit that the birds have pecked at. They know what’s good better than we do. Here Sana. Take this one. This is really sweet.
The fruit turning in my daughter’s hand, the cast-offs still in the basket, her anxiety about finding the best and my dad’s words came at me like the sounds between Broadway and 42nd Street. And out walked Jean.
Jean was a patient I had known, particular to me despite common problems.
Abuse since at least my daughter’s age or younger. Neglect. Disgusting trauma survived.
Jean who, after getting picked on for the first thirty years of her life, came to me, insisting on living. She resisted being a White Sapote in a bowl on the counter, inspected by passerbys. Her community had tried to declare her value, her second chances and hoped to cast her off.
Pick the fruit that the birds have pecked at. They know what’s good better than we do. Here Sana.
Jean’s face was in my memory. Her white scar on her black skin shocked me; a large keloid.
Take this one. This is really sweet.
I gave my daughter a squeeze and told her what Papa had said. I’m so glad my daughter reminded me about this in we who have been hurt. (Okay. That’s all of us, see it or not.) The way Jean grew, looked for light, the courage she answered to, the newness that came out of used up and shabbiness – Jean was teaching me about value.
Even when we are not behaving well, when we don’t look good and when we drop the market price, we have value. Somehow, being chosen for life is more important than being chosen to suffer. I wish I could explain why and how better but it’s just something each of us will have to experience for ourselves. We will have to in humility and wisdom, like Jean’s or my dad’s wisdom, find the sweetness in Me.
Self-Care Tip: Discover your sweetness. Be a friend to yourself
I’m back to everything starts and ends with Me. It is such a delight to spend time in that space that I can’t help myself. It draws me. In that space, I find hope for conflicts in my life, a plan I believe in, I am accountable but not destroyed by my mistakes, I am less lonely and more connected to others and to God. In that space, I am more a part of my life and the lives of others than I ever was in the “lose yourself in service” philosophy I was more familiar with or any other philosophical approaches to quality of life. But I dont’ know sometimes how to share that with those who are afraid of Me. I don’t know.
For example, sometimes when I’m in church and see the excellent people around me, I wonder what they would think if they read this blog. I wonder if I were given the mike, would they be in their seats for long. I’d want them to be. I am a teacher and I get a lot out of sharing this message. I thrive on connection so I’d be blessed that way too. There’s much more about how that would roll back to Me and I to them.
Self-care is a reference point for me in these questioning times as well. “What is the friendly thing to do?” I ask myself, “for Me?” During these times, in any environment that turns me into a bunch of uncertain questions, I go back to “Me.” That is where God is, my support network, my family, my coping skills, my health, my books and favorite toys. That is what I call Me; my home.
If you’d like to read some more about this, see “Related Articles:”Everything Starts and Ends With Me Are You Empowered to Start Everything and End Everything With Me? Emotions and Behaviors Will Get Better As You Heal. The Relationship Between God and The Me In Self-Care Self-Care Works You, Pushes You, Tires You Out Until You Are Happily Spent On Your Friend – You
A barrier to getting friendly with ourselves might be our culture. The inverse of course could also be true. ‘Takes culture to design the flavor of our homes and habits, our communities and the energy between us and them. Think, TV in the bedroom, alcohol tasters offered to children, books or the absence of books on the floor and shelves. Think religion and diet, family meals or take-out. The way we deal with shame. Culture is a gate-keeper for many of us.
We could call our culture, the way we live together at home, the balance between each family member and the flavor of emotions there. Culture might be layered, wrapping us from one balance of energy into another into another creating our own galaxy between each point of light. In any room, if we look we can find culture. In any space outside, there is a flavor telling us how to maintain the balance between me and thee.
I don’t know if sociologists look at culture this way yet, but I hope they will. With all that observing, data gathered and surmising, I hope they study how the individual can be a better friend to herself in “this” culture. And then I hope they tell us.
Becoming an active designer of your culture is not always easy. But it is friendly.
Questions: How has your culture introduced you to your friend, “Me?” How have you been able to develop a more friendly culture for Me to live in and grow in? What’s still keeping you? Please tell me your story.
Today, I can’t get my thoughts away from the frolic in temperament-land.
Teacher, what must I do to be happy?
Who hasn’t asked this? I remember Nicodemus who asked Jesus,
Teacher, what must I do to be saved?
I bet he was wondering, too, about happiness.
I’m not equating happiness with salvation or morality. I am saying this might have been a parcel of his question. Happiness is an emotion per our language and cultural definition. And we have enjoyed our path of discovery in seeing how emotions are tools we use to interpret the world around us. They are not universal or constant between us.
After I read,
Individualism, a stronger predictor of well-being than wealth,
in R. Fischer, PhD’s Meta-Analysis of Well-Being, I followed my thoughts toward the Jungian Typology of Temperaments. Remember our pasture and barn people? The Jungian Typology of Temperaments is our playground where we have a wish-basket equipped with supplies to become any variation we might choose of what our design requests. Read the article and you might follow a similar path of thought. Or not.
In case you’re wondering, and per Dr. Q (who is a poor statistician so take this for what it’s worth,) a meta-analysis is a study of studies. A meta-analysis brings together a number of studies that reflect a population of people and a methodology that is as objective as we can find. We compare them and through the tools statistics and logic offer, we make a summary conclusion.
If you are familiar with the tomatometer on RottenTomatoes.com, you already have a sense of what a meta-analysis does. (I love rottentomatoes.com.) There is more power in the indexed findings of many studies than in just one study. There is also more power in a fresh tomato than a rotten one.
You might recognize these five questions from yesterday’s blog-post. Thank you for your testimonies. Is there anything more powerful than hearing someone’s personal story? I think not! Here is what Bipoblogger has to say.
Q1: What does being a friend to yourself mean to you in real-time life practice?
A1: That’s easy, but not so easy, LOL! Being “a friend to yourself” means that I acknowledge I need to respect myself, just like I do other people. It means not sabotaging my self, plans, job, relationships, etc. I love myself enough to not kick myself when I am down.
Being bipolar can be so detrimental to my being, but just like normal people, I still have the need to …allow for room and time to grieve about whatever horrible circumstances (were) caused (by) the bipolar disorder.
…Stop every once in a while to acknowledge my accomplishments and own that.
Q2: What helps you do this one time vs. another?
A2: Yes, I have found that BPD is in part an anger disorder and knowing the true source of the anger can help me go forward.
I have chosen to no longer hurt myself cause when I do, and anyone else, I build up layers of hurt and it hurts to start to take the layers off when I’m ready, so why even do it? …
Also it helped me so much to learn that God doesn’t deal with me the way I deal with myself or another. I’m not a fanatic, but I just believe in what makes sense.
Q3: What still hinders your efforts?
A3: Wanting to be better than I already am. Not accepting that the balance I have is better than having less or no balance at all, …(which means various kinds of) risky behavior.
Q4: What has pushed you past those barriers?
A4: Really just forgiving myself for how I was affected by BPD and remembering that I am breakable and valid as a human, just like all of us. If I keep practicing a constructive way of life, I will be okay, and that has been true for the last 3 years.
Q5: How do you understand the interplay between biology and choice in being “a friend to yourself?”
A5: I was created with the choice to choose how I live my life and I do, BPD or none. Natural inclination is to do the wrong thing because I am imperfect. I seek power, fame, notoriety and in someway someone, including myself is gonna get hurt in the process. …People without mental deficiencies don’t experience or don’t carry out to this degree. So in short, biologically the deficient brain makes more extreme choices, overly withdrawn or overly outward and destructive.
Whoa, I smell smoke. I never think that hard. LOL.
Questions for you:
Someone, who has experience fighting for her emotional and behavioral health, advised me to listen to Lady Gaga – Born This Way. She said, “Don’t be scared by it! Just listen!”
So I did. And then I did again. Her message is not, “Don’t stress out. Don’t work hard. Just be who you are.” It is rather, “Figure out who you are and embrace that fully.” By her own example, she tells us to work harder than anything else on embracing that. Gaga says, love this unique self and respect it openly and privately. She tells us that we are all beautiful in mass and individually.
So let us know what you think! Is her message our message here at FriendtoYourself.com? Are you uncomfortable with loving yourself so well? Please tell me your story.
Tonight my eyes are heavy and I’m yearning to go exercise before the clock denies me the chance. I’ve thought of you folk all day and your thoughtful replies to our difficult questions. I sense that the difficult questions are not finished for us. We wonder together, and that wondering in company with you has become my white light – many, perhaps small, particles of different colors and brilliance coming together into what we have.
Thinking about your comments, I remembered Marsha, a young adult who asked me, intelligently, hands flung open to the universe at large,
Who am I if I’m a different person just by taking these pills. I’m so different! I like that difference but I’m scared by it too.
She was so vulnerable sitting there, lip faintly quivering on her down angled face. She asked as we ask together, as I believe God wants us to ask, to know that we have an essence and because that essence has an indestructible connection to Him, the intuitive fear falls into a more friendly perspective.
Good night friends who bring light. Thank you. Keep on.
Self-Care Tip #229 – See yourself as a friend by including biology in your self-perception.
In clinic, out of the clinic, here, there, if I were to pick one barrier to treatment anywhere, I’d pick the misunderstanding that behaviors and emotions come from somewhere other than the brain, and then from there, the outcropping of understanding why.
I don’t think most of us say it in so many words, but it’s intuitive. Maybe when pressed we’d say, “Where else do they (behaviors and emotions) come from?!” And then agree, the brain. But the connection that allows for self-care is missed. The connection that allows us to choose the freedom to feel good and behave well for our own sakes is lost in the shame of failing to do those very things. The stance of courage it takes to be our own friend when we don’t even want to be in our own company, takes a lot to maintain.
The marvelous @MarjieKnudsen, tweeted a reference to a wonderful post by Sarah Boesveld, How ‘self-compassion’ trumps ‘self-esteem’. I enjoyed reading it very much as I felt it spoke to me and my generation with great perception… except! that it was without mention of biology, the brain; i.e. where behaviors and emotions come from.
In clinic, Naomi told me about her “failure” when ever she felt anxiety come on.
Why do I feel depressed when I feel the anxiety come?
I’m wondering what you think, reader, about this simply related story and the question.
I mirrored Naomi’s question,
Why do you think you feel depressed when that happens?
Today (similar to Naomi,) girl-crush, alias Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, wrote about feeling like a failure as well. She asked at the end of her post the pithy questions,
What about you? How have you failed? What kind of wisdom has helped you deal with it (i.e. sense of failure)?
And I thought, how to answer? Here I am again “in the presence” of someone wonderful who in her post didn’t make it apparent that she was considering that this emotion might be a symptom of something biological. We are willing to look under every rock, be in the space of our emotion and ponder reasons why. We have the courage not to “run” even when we don’t like ourselves, but haven’t said it out loud to ourselves yet,
I might feel this way because my brain is dishing it out. I might otherwise have not done anything to set this emotion or these behaviors in motion, other than being alive.
Girl-crush remains despite response. So readers, don’t be scared to answer what you think. If you even care, I’ll still admire the socks off you! – even if you think you are hyper every day since conception because you ate too much sugar.
Questions (In case you want me to write them again, which I’m really happy to do – anything you want so I can hear your responses): Where do you think your behaviors and emotions come from? …such as a sense of failure and/or a depressed mood? What has helped you deal with it? Please tell me your story.
Self-Care Tip #220 – Take your freedom and be good to yourself.
Free-will keeps cropping creeping climbing clambering up with us. Go figure. As usual, Carl pushed buttons and inspired me to remember the lovely word “self-government.” I was so delighted that not only does the term self-government say it so well, but I felt like I was the first to come up with it. Then I googled around and found Webster, many countries (possibly yours,) and even our own constitution of the United States (“We the people…”) might have wrinkled time and stolen it from me before I even thought of it (See Einstein and the Fabric of Time.) Can you believe that!
While calming my unappreciated self, I ran across like-minded David Rigoni’s splendid work at the University of Marseille. (After reading this, I’m sure he will delight in hearing us named, “like-minded.”) Dr. Rigoni says,
Folk psychology tells us if you feel in control, you perform better. What is crucial is that these effects are present at a very basic motor level, a deep level of brain activity.
He and his team studied thirty people over different tasks, using different mediums of examination and deduced that it is better to believe.
If we are not free it makes no sense to put effort into actions and to be motivated.
Dr. Rigoni’s work reminded me of the work of MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung. Some time ago, Dr. Seung gave a wonderful TED conference,
Dr. Seung tells us the good news that we are more than our genes. The connections among neurons are where memories and experiences get stored – not in the genome.
My pleasure grew when I read about the collaborative work from a few schools we’ve heard of – see NYU news. ….Apparently goals and habits show overlapping neurological mechanisms.
This is all very exciting to our self-government. I’m sure that we the people would hate to find out that all this time we’ve demanded our freedom – it wasn’t even possible. But it is – even per the hot-shots of the world. The sophisticated and unsophisticated, in paradigms of thought, Time and Timelessness, learning, beliefs and feelings, in my country and in yours – we continue comfortably and with confidence to say, SELF-CARE BEGINS AND ENDS WITH ME. (See Ghettysburg Address.)
Questions: When have you found yourself unable to claim your freedom to be friendly with yourself? How have you managed to cross the barriers you perceived around yourself or others? What would you like to tell Carl or Carl? Please tell us your story.
Self-Care Tip #217 – Connect better with ourselves, others and God.
I was watching (and I’m not proud of it), Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010,) while working my stationary bike over. It is an offshoot of Goethe’s poem, Der Zauberlehrling, written in 1797.
Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel) becomes Balthazar’s (Nicolas Cage) apprentice. Dave asks,
Is sorcery science or magic?
Yes and yes.
This short conversation was potently familiar of our questions regarding the connection between emotional health, behaviors, biology and our essence/spirit. This affects how we practice self-care.
Is self-care science or magic?
Yes and yes.
That word “magic” makes many of us uncomfortable so if you like, use spiritual or that which is yet not fully known.
The reason this is important to self-care, is that it allows for us to connect better with ourselves, others and God. Suffering is when we feel alone.
Questions: Is self-care science or magic? What does that mean to you? How have you seen that affecting your quality of life? Please tell me your story.
Self-Care Tip #213 – Live in safety. Be a friend to yourself.
I love psychiatry because for me it is a safe place. A place where I am comfortable pushing aside distractions. The blinking lights disappear and I don’t have to waste myself on B.S. Some time ago, I told you about how Mom has been when Dad’s been hospitalized in the past. When she pushed his tubing aside and just got in bed with him to hold him. All that mattered then was Love. They didn’t see the clutter any more. That’s what psychiatry offers. If we want, we can come together and be real. In twenty to forty minutes, we can hune and warp time and find a gravity where we breathe differently.
Unfortunately, I have found that the longer I do this psychiatry thing, the worse I am with life otherwise. Whether I’m with the grocer, dog-trainer, my child’s teacher or person in front of me in the coffee-line – I just don’t graze well. (See blog-post, “Do You Feel Pleasure.”) I’m always yelling, “Hit it Chewbacca!” and we’re off at warp speed into asteroids of personal information; perhaps inappropriate to the setting. (See blog-post, “Using The Force.”) I hate to think what I’ll become when I’m more thoroughly demented and disinhibited. These things just get more pronounced with age and soon I’ll just be that crazy Auntie with her bra snapped on top of her bathing-suit in winter yelling at the young kids to turn the music down so we can talk.
The truth is, I’ve never been so wonderful in tinsel-town. I found home and found that home needs to be a place where we are safe. In fact, this is true materially in the home we live in. It starts there and diffuses out. If at home we are able to speak uncensored knowing we respect others and are respected because we are human, not because we have to earn it, if we can enter our kitchen and not fear temptation from chocolate chip cookies, open the fridge and know as an alcoholic the wife or husband didn’t buy beer, argue and trust that we are loved enough to be a priority, we know the issue won’t be lazily passed up, we know we are safe – then there is a ripple and a ring of safety and another ripple and another ring of safety and soon safety follows us because we just aren’t interested in anything else. (That was a super-sentence.) We have found home.
Questions: How do you define safety? What feels safe for you? How do you grow your circle of safety? Please tell me your story.
Self-Care Tip #206 – Write your letter to get what you’re looking for from self-care. Be a friend to yourself.
So why am I so interested in self-care?
I’m not sure who said this first, but I heard it from speaker and author Peter Rollins, and it rings true. People write letters not necessarily to communicate to others but because they needed to hear the words themselves.
For example, the smooth Paublo Neruda wrote in his poem XVII (I do not love you…) as translated by Stephen Tapscott,
…I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
You may also remember this verse from the movie Patch Adams. I think Paublo Neruda must have really wanted connection. And so with me, I’ve been writing my own letters of sorts – every day about self-care. What do you think about that?
The truth is, it’s not hard to see why I’d need that.
This leads us to victims. We’ve all seen them, and probably been them at one point or another. Parents who blamed their kids behaviors for their feelings. Spouses who blamed their Other for their feelings. Physicians, nurses, accountants, judges who blamed their colleagues, who blamed their employers – “Every day there is just so much work put on me. The system’s corrupt.”
What I realized is that I was also living like a victim. I wasn’t taking care of myself. No one can give what she doesn’t have. And I didn’t think I was responsible for this. I actually thought at some conscious and including subconscious levels that all these other things in life were reason enough to suffer like me. Many of us think this way – stress leads to poor treatment of ourselves. It may, or it may not. But all we can have any control in, is our own selves.
This was my ah-ha. Self-care begins and ends with Me. This became a passionate love-letter for me even though I’m still not above “victimhood.”
For us who were “ruined” by their circumstances, tired and loveless because someone cheated us, mad because of thoughtlessness – we were in need of Love.
No one is responsible for my emotions but “Me.”
Questions: Why are you interested in self-care? What letter have you been writing? Please tell me your story.