From Scarcity to Abundance – Healing after loss

heather edwards grief loss wellness“How do you want to die?” These are the haunting words spoken by her doctor after being diagnosed with stage four cancer. Three months after her passing, I’ve turned toward and through my grief seeking peace.

Grief takes time. It can feel overwhelming and eternal. But it eventually changes. The cloud lifts. Clarity and lightness return.

Our love for those who have passed before us never dies and perhaps that’s what keeps us moving forward. They’re never really gone. They live on in memories, moments, and a felt sense of connection to them.

While sitting on the edge of loss and wholeness, I’m struck by the flood of ideas about cultivating a robust authentic life. It’s an integration of real science from multiple areas of psychology, neuroscience, trauma treatment, somatics, and mindfulness.

It takes effort to embody them sometimes. But that’s natural, too. From time to time, we are all challenged by real trauma and loss that interrupts our natural flow toward health and happiness. So today’s blog is a free association about the science behind wellbeing. Take a moment with each concept and consider ways to incorporate it into your everyday life.

Love

Abundance

Passion

Connection

Meaning

Movement

Wellness

Happiness

Authenticity

Showing up

Trust

Courage

Mind body

Engagement

Purpose

Flow

Yoga

Gratitude

Relationships

Silence

Meditation

Nature

Stillness

Reflection

Mindfulness

Notice

Observe

Let go

Drop in

Presence

Groundedness

Openness

Non-judgement

Hear

Sense

Experience

Positivity

Light

Choose

Imagine

Act as if

Family

Friends

Support

Animals

Sunsets

Music

Nutrition

Wholeheartedness

Boundaries

Yes

No

Truth

This moment

Vulnerability

Freedom

Breathe

Love


Since our bodies and minds naturally move toward wholeness, healing, and wellness a concerted effort can only accelerate the process. I’m not suggesting ignoring or numbing the painful feelings. That’s part of the hard work. It’s necessary to feel them. It makes the other side of those feelings more joyful when they’re reached. The contrast, the conflict, and the competition of emotions beckons us to examine them and welcome them.

heather edwards grief loss happinessIn the words of Rumi…

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

translation by Coleman Barks

Neuroscience, Narcissism, & Humanism

neuroscience heather edwardsHave you ever had an experience that was so attuned to your core essence that you felt completely content, aligned, and inspired? Well, the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium did just that.

This year, neuroscience and attachment theory for healing were the stars of the show – along with other hot topics in psychotherapy like story telling, yoga, & power posing.

It fed my intellectual appetite and at times, felt like being a kid in a candy shop – I was joyfully shoving colorful treats into my mouth, riding the sugar buzz, and continuously craving more! It was Willy Wonka minus the little blue men and scary boat scene. Just the good stuff – lots of candy & neuroscience!

Sex, intimacy, and the Tango were keynote subjects. Susan Johnson, EdD, the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy shared her methods and data which prove sex is more than just a physical act. What better? Sex, intimacy, AND professional training – um, yes, please.

Neuroscience brain scan data backed up her claims of efficacy.  James Coan, PhD shared how certain calming regions of the brain are activated and blood glucose levels are lowered by specific types of supportive interactions between people. It was fascinating.

I was blown away when Dr. Johnson revealed that her clinical framework is Humanistic Psychology, Carl Rogers’ theory of Person Centered Therapy – and exactly the same as mine.  This therapy assumes that change can only happen when non-judgement and unconditional positive regard exist in the therapeutic relationship. Every clinical concept and intervention she proposed rang with perfect resonance in my ears. [Ohhhhhhm. Insert birds chirping and angels singing.]

“But what if your client is a narcissist?”, an audience participant asked. It seemed to imply that nothing could help them.

Dr. Johnson’s answer filled me with joy. She referred back to her clinical roots and stated that as a Humanist, labels are very limiting. Humanists move beyond naming, classifying, and judging people.

The Humanist believes each client is a human being functioning the very best they can within the context of their reality. What they’re doing makes perfect sense to them in their world. It serves a definite purpose, albeit not always the most effective one. 

The Humanist meets the client where they are, and supports them in finding a better place according to them at their pace and in their way. Each person is met with openness, acceptance, and non-judgement. She stopped herself short when she said, “…and if you can’t handle that!”. I quietly smiled and felt at home again.

Labels, therapeutic tools, and therapist interventions are worthless without first developing a therapeutic relationship based on positive regard and unconditional acceptance. Once the client is heard and validated, real lasting change can happen. There’s finally hard neuroscience that proves it.

The narcissist can be extremely difficult – even abusive and/or exploitive – that’s the nature of their personality. But one must ask, what purpose does their behavior serve for them? What circumstances had to exist for the narcissist to develop this type of personality?

What fundamental safety, survival, and/or bonding need was absent or threatened as they were developing as a young child?  And what can be done to shift those factors so that the narcissistic person can live a happier, fuller, more authentic, and intimate life? …and thus, those around them.

The point at which curiosity ends, judgement begins. I’m not suggesting that anyone wait around for a narcissist to change their ways, or tolerate abuse or mistreatment. You could be waiting a very, very long time and living in a toxic relationship that is unhealthy for you.

But anybody who wants to change, can change. We are constantly evolving and adapting on a neural and molecular level. Be curious. Be open. Be cautiously optimistic. Know your boundaries and limitations. Believe that anyone can change if they want to. It begins with unconditional positive regard, acceptance, and a lot of determination, desire, and time. The data proves it.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers

 

 

photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by atibodyphoto

Retrain Your Brain – Better Stress Management

Heather Edwards stress“I can’t take it anymore!”

“I need a vacation!”

“Maybe I’ll sell everything and move to an island!”

Have you had similar thoughts?  I know I have.

This. Is. Stress.

We ALL experience stress. It’s NORMAL in our highly opinionated, fast paced, multi-tasking, master of all domains world.

In fact, I just had a perfect storm of stressors in my life that created exhaustion and overwhelm. But I’ll spare you those gory details.

What is stress??? The dictionary definition is: A state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Sound familiar?

Your nervous system is activated.

This is your fight or flight reaction.

All functions aimed at survival take priority.

And stress kills, right? Wrong!

Research is demonstrating that it’s what we do with stress that kills us.

When there’s a perceived threat in our environment, stress happens – and then our bodies resume normal functioning when that threat is gone.

In the case of poor coping, that stress response lingers, leading to an extended activation of your nervous system and potential health consequences – like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

It’s imperative that you hit the reset button after the stress trigger has left the building.

The catch is that our brains are evolved with a negativity bias.Heather Edwards stress

We naturally scan our environment for potential danger.

It’s kept us alive as a species since early man.

And It makes our brains function like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good, according to Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain.

In other words, the bad sticks and the good slips away.

Since We don’t face the same physical threats to our survival as early man – like being chased down 5th Avenue by a rhinoceros- we must work harder to hold onto the good and let go of the bad.

Here’s one way to do it…

It’s a technique using the neuroscience of retraining your brain.

We know that our brains are very plastic and can be shaped, literally by the way we think.

When you spend time focusing on the good, you begin changing your brain’s physical structure.

You develop new neural pathways, that naturally notice the good unfolding around you.

It’s just like taking a walk in a meadow.  Imagine a winding pathway through the grass. The more you walk that path, the deeper and wider it becomes.

The neural pathways in your brain develop the same way. The ones you travel most often become the most ingrained.

So travel the ones that bring you health, positivity, and peace.

My favorite way of doing this is by writing in a 3 step journal.

1.The first step is – what I’m feeling today. Check yourself and write about that.

2.The second step is – what I’m grateful for today. Take stock of what you already have. This creates an abundance mindset.

3.The third step is – my intention for today. Focus on what you want and walk that pathway into the fresh day ahead.

Heather Edwards stressIt takes about 5 minutes. When you commit to this it  jump starts positivity.

Your neurons fire in ways that feel good. The pathways to happiness are reinforced.

It’s uplifting, empowering, and grounding.

And Despite the happiness saboteurs around and within you, it invites THE GOOD to stick around longer, and for peace and calm to become your pathway of choice.

 

photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by nenetus, vectorolie, dan.