Category Archives: forcing

Super Fast: Projection is Like Barfing

Standard

My youngest son came to me this morning, complaining about a disagreement he had with his older brother. He was upset about it because the things his older brother said to him about him were mean and hurtful.

It bothered me also to hear that one son could be like that toward another son, but I also know that in my household that my boys hold this mentality about their siblings, regardless of birth order or pecking order: “No one kicks my brother but me.” I smile at that sentiment a little because it’s funny and it’s true.

Nevertheless, my youngest was injured emotionally and I have to agree that the things his brother said were ugly.

So I set my youngest down and talked to him about projection.

“I have said some really unkind things about other people. I have believed them. I have even said those things to the people. Sometimes, I’ve hid behind a symbol or an event to say those things and yet try to blame it on the context, the ‘where I was’ or the ‘what I was doing’ or my state of mind. Like if I had a headache or was busy, but the reality is that I was like a stereo speaker, or a movie projector of that thought, image, opinion, sentiment or belief that I HAD ABOUT MYSELF that I hurled on to that other person, my target.” I said to my youngest, who was doing his best to pay attention. It was a lot of words.

He rubbed his eyes and sighed.

“Because I felt that way about myself first.” I added.

Then it started to make sense.

“You know when I say, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have?'” I asked.

He nodded.

“It’s the same with projection. If you don’t have love or kindness, then you can’t project, like a speaker projects sound, that love or kindness.”

I started to lose him again.

“How’s this? When you feel good about yourself or what you’re experiencing, you share nice thoughts. You share thoughts or behaviors that are like copies, or the song in the speaker with a person…”

He brightened.

“So, when you feel bad about yourself or what you’re experiencing, you share not-nice thoughts. You share the copies of your bad feelings in the form of bad behaviors or a bad song coming out of the speakers, or bad pictures coming out of the movie projector. It’s like you blame your bad behavior on that person when you’re the one with the bad mood… the bad feelings are inside to begin with…”

He nodded and stared a little blankly and said, “So when you’re tired and you say mean things or are super fast and not nice about things, it’s not at me, even though it feels like it, but it’s because you don’t feel nice inside?”

“YES!” I shouted and surprised him. “Yes. Let’s stay on the idea that it’s me, because sometimes it is. It’s because I don’t feel nice inside. Sometimes you can be with me and I’m tired, or stressed, or sick, or that I feel really angry about something else … What I sometimes don’t do, when I project, is separate my feelings inside — whatever they are — from the person I project onto, in this example, you.”

“So projecting is like vomiting. That’s where ‘projectile vomiting’ comes from?”

“Yes. Projecting is like vomiting. Great analogy. It’s like the feelings are so bad inside that person, your brother in this case, that he vomited his emotions all over you.”

“Yup. It is. So … then what?”

I liked where this was going.

“Well, if you’re a target of projection, like if you were barfed on, you can stay there and get stinky, cold and crusty and feel bad, probably worse that the person who barfed on you, because …”

“Because when you barf, you always feel better…” he said. “But it can get other people sick, because it’s contagious… and I usually feel really empty inside after I barf, like I hurt in a different way…”

My son’s a genius.

“Right! You likely feel worse than the barfer, and are stinky. You can stay there and be angry at the person who barfed on you, and like you said, spread the barf and be mean to another person, or… you can get up and change your clothes and feel a bit sorry for the person who’s feeling so bad, they had to project their bad feelings on to you. Or you don’t have to feel sorry. And that new pain? That’s because after barfing, or projecting, that person is still sick or weak. The “yuck” is still there. But, if you feel sorry for them, chances are you might end up feeling bad with them, which is their point usually. It’s like they feel so ugly, they want you to feel ugly too, so they’re not alone…”

I started to lose him again.

“But they don’t want you around … why would they want you around? You said ‘so they’re not alone?‘ So when my brother does this to me again, I can get up and walk away…”

“That ‘so they’re not alone’ is a figure of speech and it’s confusing. Yes. You can get up and walk away. But will you? Sometimes people want to get back and do something nasty to the person who made them feel bad. That’s a natural feeling, revenge, and it reminds me of the different pain we have after we barf, but … one of the things I like to say to myself, when I’m feeling very vengeful, is that I’m lucky I’m not her… the person who barfed on me…”

And that’s the truth.

He didn’t answer me, about whether he’d get back at his brother, or take the high road. He’s eleven. I don’t have huge aspirations for him in that vein, but I hope to plant a seed.

Eleven?! It can be hard to practice this level of self-awareness at 47!

So much of our pain and its projections comes from a place very deep inside, very old, very real so much so that one confrontation with Truth (a rejection, a situation where you perceive a comment as a threat because maybe it’s close to Truth…?) can feel like an actual threat; as though everything is riding on our survival (read: fight to the death) of that moment.

Viktor Frankl said,

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Man’s Search for Meaning

I like to call that space, a breath. A breath that slows things down and lets us come to a place of calm and acceptance that things ARE NOT life and death. Rather that breath can mean the difference between having a life and living a life.

I’ve used my blog as a platform to have my say about things that bug me, and I will absolutely submit that I’ve projected my pain on it. It’s my catharsis. In those instances, my use of my blog is emblematic of the fact that I feel I’ve run into a brick wall, that I’m just at a point where I feel as though my message has run into a cognitive dissonance machine and that I need to process it. The funny part (to me) is that there is SO MUCH I don’t share here. However, I will also submit that I can meditate more on the point of my blog, that it needn’t be a platform because I feel unheard or worse, voiceless. If people think what I write is about them, or they don’t like what I’ve shared, that’s … well, their ego; it’s tickled a notion in them and…that’s not my problem. My dad has a saying, “If people react to what you’ve said, that means you got to them. Either way, it’s about them.” My distant relative, a priest, had a saying for that, “You’re not mad at what you’re mad at.” 

So my son turned to me and he said, “You’re a great mom. I think I get it. It’s like now, I feel good inside for talking about this and I want to share it with you. Will you be my date to Starbucks today? I would like to buy you a coffee and a scone with my birthday money.”

How to refuse that?!

So we went. Here’s our “us-ie” from the date:

one of the best dates i've ever had.

one of the best dates i’ve ever had. we talked about minecraft and Christmas and legos and Little Big Planet and sugar cookies.

So try to not see your moments of hurt and frustrations as things or places where you have no choice but to fire an invective at someone OR a thing where you have to wear the stinky wet barfy clothes.

Try to see them as lessons, teachers, messengers from your deeper, inner self to address a feeling of __________ from long ago. And then, try to “listen” to it; try to hear its lesson. Try to be OK with it. Feelings are just sensations. There is no threat.

Thank you.

Gentle reminder: Take Care of Yourself

Standard

This isn’t about Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza or Boxing Day. It’s about something more lasting that that: cold and flu season.

Borrowing from the season however, I’ll just begin:

Tis the season to be

  • barfy — my youngest has vomited twice in the last 24 hours.
  • sneezy — I think i have another head cold.
  • exhausted — the sun sets so early now I want to nap at noon.
  • moody — bugger off man with the Salvation Army bell and bucket! (But I sincerely and cheerfully gave him a $20 anyway yesterday…)

Two of my oldest sons have strep.

Who knows what my youngest has. I DON’T CARE. Just make it go away.

But there’s something else at play these days and it’s got nothing to do with Kleenex or frequent hand-washing: it’s our emotional health when we think we have to do it all, all the time, all the days.

Here’s the news: we don’t. I encountered a Facebook friend’s status reporting utter exhaustion. To this person I wrote privately, but I think we all need to hear it now…

It sounds glib, but i’ll say it anyway: HYDRATE. take mini breathing breaks. allow yourself to let some shit go too. we can’t do it all. we aren’t meant to — look: if humanity was supposed to get it right it would’ve gotten it right with the first humans and it would’ve ended there. we haven’t. in fact we’ve epically screwed it up; but that doesn’t mean we should break ourselves down trying to fix all the stuff and unstupid the stupid. when we overwork and get down, we add ourselves to the negative vibration, no matter how hard we try to be positive. we are a suck hole of energy… so be good to yourself. i hope you are feeling better. i love you. (didn’t meant to sound preachy, i just wanted to be efficient.) xoxo

So let some shit go. Let 90% of what’s on your mind go. You can’t change the world today. Clearly we’re going to continue to jack up things until the end of humanity, which these days is pretty inhumane. So don’t get too down on it. As Tara Brach said, you can’t “Bad! Bad! Bad!” or hate something into transformation.

Turn off the TV.

Shut down your computer (once you’re finished with this post).

Put down the phone.

Make yourself some tea.

Fetch a blanket.

Grab a book.

Turn on some music without words.

If you need to be somewhere in an hour or so, set an alarm to wake you.

Read and fall the heck asleep.

 

When you rise, don’t freak out when everything is where you left it.

It’s ok. It’s all going to be ok. Really.

Control is an illusion.

Thank you.

How Your #Rage Can Harm Your #Body; How Awareness Can Cure You

Standard

“The subject is pain. But we’re not talking about pain that’s due to some sort of structural abnormality; but rather the pain that is generated in us when we put ourselves under pressure to be perfect and good.” –Dr. John Sarno, M.D.; Rehabilitative Medicine, New York University Medical Center

“I have never met Dr. Sarno. I have seen miraculous results of people I’ve sent to him. Results from people who just read his books.” –Dr. Andrew Weil, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

There’s a film documentary coming out that might change your life, spare you surgery, save the country millions of dollars, get people off drugs and change the way we think about pain. The pain we’re talking about here includes:

  • TMJ
  • Migraine
  • Back ache (me!)
  • Plantar fasciitis (me!)
  • Tendonitis (me!)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (me?), and more

I say this with a ton of confidence because the movie is based on the proven work of John Sarno, M.D., whose many books have changed lives.

Whose lives? Senator Tom Harkin, John Stossel, Howard Stern, Larry David, mine, friends I won’t mention because that’s their personal business.

I’ve been in contact with one of the staffers on the film’s promotions crew and we’ve been emailing back and forth. She was so interested in my story that she asked me to share it with you on my blog and mention the movie in hopes to get more people to support it or at least spread the word.

Here’s the public pitch for “All the Rage” (of which I am a proud Kickstarter backer):

“All The Rage” is a film that can save America from untold suffering and economic collapse. This isn’t hyperbole. The cost of pain has risen from $56 billion per year in 1986 to $636 billion in 2012. Dr. Sarno knows the reason. The pain is caused by stress related to the repression of our emotions. Sounds crazy, but it makes sense. In the 70’s he predicted this epidemic. The cure is knowledge and this film can deliver it.

Here’s the trailer for it (my favorite place at 2:22 is when Senator Tom Harkin is speaking at a formal hearing about his successful experiences due to Sarno and the man on the other side of the table can’t seem to answer him):

I have written here and here about my own journey with mindbody and chronic pain. I have written here candidly and humorously about my eye-opening journey regarding PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD — the opposite of “euphoria” is “dysphoria”) and it wasn’t until last week when I was corresponding with a member of the promotions team for “All the Rage” that I made the connection about my personal Sarno-related issue (which I’ve yet to really talk about because I suppressed so much of it), that it revolves around my anger; my deep rage that I have relative to my own personal story; and the fact that my PMDD is quite likely related keenly to mindbody medicine.

I want to include a clip from the film. It’s an interview with Dr. Sarno’s wife, Martha, who was a revolutionary speech pathologist. In her work she made the connection between the indescribable (no pun intended) trauma in her patients’ personal lives and their inability to speak. I can’t share it with you because you need to be a Kickstarter “backer” to see it. But I’ll quote her:

…They were so focused on the disability; ‘fix the speech,’ ‘fix the language,’ forgetting that these poor people were going through horrors in their lives. They couldn’t express themselves. Their families were desperate. And nobody ever talked about how they felt…

Martha Sarno changed all that. She made that connection and now because of her work and incorporating the psychological aspect into her healing regimen, she radically changed treatment of speech pathology issues. In the clip, she continues to speak about how her husband’s work is a threat to established orthopedists and rehabilitative specialists and surgeons everywhere…  What Dr. Sarno has uncovered will end a lot of country club memberships for a lot of fancy doctors and health insurance people…

All of a sudden the pain was gone, it was the closest thing I’ve ever had in my life to a religious experience, and I wept. –Larry David

I’ve tinkered for years with the concept of writing a memoir. I even wrote a fictionalized one about three years ago. At the time, my mother was still alive and I never felt “correct” about what I wrote or shared. I felt as though I owed her some sort of coverage or protection despite the years of emotional trauma and neglect. I still, at 47, am reluctant and almost fearful about writing anything really personal on my blog or in a book because it would offend my father, who is still living. Regardless: I suffered in my childhood and adolescence due to my mother’s addictions and mental illnesses. I also believe there was a great deal that could have helped her and it wasn’t done. She endured a tremendous loss: her second son was born and died three days later and she never met or held him. In those days, 1965, you didn’t talk about your problems. You bucked up. I can’t imagine her grief. She self-medicated for that and enormous anxiety. She told me a little about her grief from losing John a few months before she died, but it was masking her rage. She said that too.

I’ve never disclosed a lot of what I grew up with. I’ve alluded to it and I know it doesn’t compare to some other peoples’ issues, but it’s my story so it’s real to me. I’m sure I’ll catch hell for saying this much; some form of silent treatment, but I’m an adult and I realize that if I continue that narrative, that everything was roses and carrot cake, that I will continue to have muscular pain, tendonitis, undiagnosable GI stuff (food sensitivities and reactions which make no sense) and sciatica.

How do I know they’re not real? Because they come and go. Because X-rays and MRIs (yes, lots of insurance billing going on) tell me that they see nothing. That there’s nothing wrong. But the pain and the symptoms are real. What do you do then? If you’re me, you learn to compensate. You build muscle anyway; go for a row anyway; run a few miles in pain anyway; do push-ups with elbow or shoulder pain and downward facing dogs with sciatica burning down your leg. Why? Because when the stress is gone, the pain is gone. I also choose the push through it because my mom didn’t.

When I shared a friendship with someone, I never connected the unbearable neck and shoulder pain I had during a conflict and then just as a matter of course as time wore on. Even now, I can feel it creeping back in. When we separated, the pain almost melted away. If I think of her, the pain comes back. Last week, I considered reaching out to her because I felt bad about how things have gone, but then two nights ago I had a dream that I was in her car and she took me on a wooden roller coaster in her car (I couldn’t buckle my seat belt) and I couldn’t get off the ride. It was as vivid as reality: my stomach swelled upon the rise to the crest of the first hill and then I felt the plunge and g-forces of the drop and my body ache on curves and my head hurt on the loop-de-loops. When I woke I was nauseated and exhausted and my back hurt. I know now that there’s no chance I can be well — I would be ignoring my very body’s signals! — if I ever resumed that relationship.

If you can allow yourself to allow the experience (yes, lots of allowing going on) that your throat gets a lump in it when you feel like you’re going to cry, then you can allow yourself to allow to understand how continually bracing yourself against a psychic and emotional tidal wave composed of unexpressed feelings ( disappointment, anger, fear, jealousy or other heavy emotions), can leave your body looking caving in to protect itself or … for a way to express it.

And that’s what this is about: your body’s expression, quite literally, of that emotional repression. In a yoga sense, a lot of this ties in so beautifully with the chakra systems and the sides of our body which experience “dis-ease.” In mindbody medicine, concept is that your psyche can’t deal with the emotional pain, so it “distracts” you by referring the pain to your back, jaw, brain, digestive system… it’s not that different from a panic attack. How does a panic attack get you to not think about the emotional stuff, what’s really bothering you? By telling your body you’re dying.

Dr. Sarno talks a lot in his books about “goodism” and “good-ists” — those people (all of us) who feel pressure to Do The Right Thing, Always, based on what is morally or socially correct and acceptable. For example: sometimes you just don’t want to go to a _____________ but everyone is going to be there and having a great time, so instead of honoring your needs, you go to ______________ and then you get a headache or your back goes out or your stomach hurts. It’s all related, trust me.

How to stop it? Well, in the meantime before the movie comes out, read any of the books Sarno has written and join thousands of other people who feel relief just from READING A BOOK. Why does that work? Because you realize you’re not crazy OR alone. There’s no placebo, no waiting room, no patronizing nods of sympathy from a jaded receptionist. No looking for a parking space.

Most of Sarno’s patients don’t require psychotherapy or other similar interventions (some may) and there’s no fear about changing your personality. You don’t even have to talk about it or consider a memoir like yours truly. You’re fine the way you are, but your pain can go away.

I read twenty pages [of Dr.Sarno’s book] and my pain almost cuts down by 75%.
–Jonathan Ames

What this movie and book and movement are giving to me is the confidence to move forward with writing my memoir because I feel like I have a relevant space to hook it into: health and personal advocacy. I’ve already decided that my first line would be, “I never knew how angry I was until I wasn’t anymore.” My well-being and health had been held hostage by my anger at my parents for the lies I witnessed and the confusion and pain I endured. Thanks to the emails I’d shared with the movie publicist, I connected that my food issues began in the spring of 1994 when I was planning my wedding. That was my first trip to the Gastroenterologist. All my “flare ups” happen in the spring when I was planning the wedding. I also saw a cardiologist then because of panic attacks (this just came back to me right now); my heart was all wonky but brought on by anxiety. I am convinced my PMDD was related to my rage from growing up with all that dysfunction as well.

You don’t have to hail from a dysfunctional family to benefit from Sarno and this film (even though about 80% of us are from dysfunctional families or are in families with some measure of dysfunction surrounding them). You could simply be disappointed that you never felt ______ in your life and are dealing with chronic pain and nothing you’ve done so far seems to help.

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you for help, but today I am. If nothing else, please spread the word to help support this cause. The Kickstarter campaign ends December 17, 2014.

Thank you.

 

Quick and Dirty: What’s Yours is Yours … Boundaries.

Standard

One of the worst things we as parents or leaders or teachers can do is foist our success (and ultimately failure) onto a child or a subordinate.

What’s yours to do is yours to do.

I was on the phone one time with my therapist years ago and he heard me say to my oldest son, “Please put your toys away, that will make Mommy so happy, when you do that…” and I think, that if my therapist were able to reach through the phone and throttle me, he would’ve.

“No. No. No. No. No.” he said, instead.

“What? Why? I want him to put away his toys. It pleases me when he does that. I’m being honest with him. I thought that’s what this is all about…” I protested.

“It’s not his JOB, EVER, to make you happy. You phrased it wrong; you phrased it in a way the creates one of the worst and most classic and textbook examples of codependence ever: that your very existence and happiness hinges on his DEVOTION to you; to your needs, to your happiness…..” He intoned.

“But…” (“Isn’t my happiness the ultimate goal here? Isn’t what I need to have happen what we’re doing this for?” is what I wanted to say, and actually meant.)

“No. He will ultimately fail. It’s in his life’s path to fail. He’s supposed to fail. Failure is what makes us win, in the end…. but that’s his. What about when you’re in a foul mood… with your programming him the way you are right now, he will take it upon himself to be the jester, the fool, the clown in order to bring you back up. So in thirty years from now, if you’re having a bad day, he will feel responsible for it. And when he fails, then what? Who’s going to pick him up? You? But he ‘lives’ for your happiness. His compliance, performance, good moods… it all has meaning –to him– only if it PLEASES you. Do you want that?”

“No. I don’t want that. My mother says stuff like that to me all the time… ‘if it weren’t for you, I don’t know what I’d do…’ and ‘you’re the reason I’m still here… ‘ and ‘You’re the mother I always wanted to be…’ shit like that. It really hurts, because I just desperately want her to be her own person; to own her stuff and make her own life better. It feels claustrophobic after awhile, all that mine and ours stuff…” I said.

I was on to something. Usually my therapist would let me read the tea leaves, come to my own conclusions, but I think when we were dealing with an innocent three-year-old, time was of the essence.

“So instead of saying to him that it makes you so happy when he puts away his toys, you can say, ‘What a good boy you are! You’re putting away your own toys! Doesn’t that feel good when you do the right thing?'” he explained.

It was like the clouds parted. “Oh,” was likely all I could utter.

Suddenly everything seemed to make more sense. Codependence is insidious. It exists on the very basis that you somehow garner your worth based on someone else’s performance, either by implicit statements to the effect or by conditioning through manipulation. When you DON’T do the right thing by someone else, with whom you’re codependent, YIKES:  you hear about it real quick. When you do, the quiet grows to a point where all you’re doing is performing so as to NOT upset the balance; you tip-toe around, fearful of cracking the eggshells because that other person has got you exactly where he wants you: enabling him.

The cycle which inevitably develops is another equally toxic side effect. Suddenly one person is unable to meet the expectations of the other person, and then that disappoints the other person and then guilt ensues and then resentment, dysfunction and all sort of cycles take shape. One person can never be happy enough or quiet enough or sober enough. No one is ever honest.

It is impossible to live inside someone else’s head. And trying to is a shitty way to live. No one else gets blamed or credit (sometimes they’re the same thing) for your good mood or sobriety or mania or addiction. They just don’t.

Here’s one for you: “You Are My Sunshine” — read those lyrics and then tell me that’s not a steaming, heaping serving of codependence stew. Did I ruin that song for you? Did you sing it to your kid all the time? Was it sung to you constantly? Yeah. It’s subtle. Until it’s not. Then you see it everywhere.

I had a boss who did this. When I did what she wanted, she gave me tootsie rolls and called me by a nickname. When I apparently didn’t, when I chose for myself, the tootsie rolls ended and I was given the silent treatment. She was cruel. I knew something was amiss, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Being raised the way I was meant I was a prime candidate for further ruin, but I eventually figured it out, thanks to neutral third parties.

Our intentions to get people to know how much we value them can be misinterpreted all the time. When we place ourselves in a position of self-worth and self-value, the sense of contentment and satisfaction, at putting away our own toys, will speak for itself. Don’t ever tell anyone your happiness, survival, endurance, humor has anything to do with that person. Because it doesn’t. Their presence might make life easier for you, or more enjoyable, or their perspective might help you see the sun in a different way, but it’s your eyes that you choose to open, it’s your feet you choose to move.

Because here’s the alternative: what about the people who choose to not progress, who choose self-harm, who choose to stay where they are? Is that your doing too?

No. Get yourself out of the way. The goal, my friends, is to have you be your person and the other person be its person and then you have two distinct and perhaps close-to-whole people walking in the same direction.

What’s yours is yours.

Thank you.