Although the trend towards perfectionism is not limited to young people, it is particularly painful for parents to watch our sons and daughters strive to be perfect, especially in comparison to those around them and on social media. The truth is, perfection is a moving target. There is no perfect. Instead, there are just practices that help you to orient back to yourself and what is important, bringing you back to your center and a place of relative calm. As Parents, we can practice these ourselves, and help our young people understand the value of them as well.
Know your values. By assessing what is truly important, we can determine if our life choices are aligned with those values. They are our guiding light. It is easy to compare your life to others and feel pulled off center, ashamed, or lacking by what you don’t have. Knowing what your own individual or family’s values are can help pull you back to a more centered, grounded place within yourself.
Don’t take 100% responsibility for everything.Allow others, who are capable, to take responsibility for themselves and their own lives. Allow others to have their own emotional response to your choices without trying to control it, make it better, or take it away. Take care of your own emotions.
Savor something at the end of the day.Set an intention at the beginning of the day for something to savor at the end of the day. A fulfilling life takes a lot of effort! So, in order to honor all of the effort you make throughout the day to live a meaningful life, allow yourself to enjoy the sweetness of the life you have built each day.
Make yourself laugh. Laughter is a present moment experience of our life energy, our vitality! What a gift we have been given! Being able to laugh at your shortcomings or your mistakes or your embarrassing moments is one of the best ways to take the power out of them. Laughter diminishes shame and self-criticism, because we learn to not take ourselves too seriously.
We can’t control what happens outside of us, but the more we relate to our inner world, the more we realize that our imperfect unique humanness is far more interesting and beautiful than any airbrushed and “perfected” version of ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but as the school year ramps up, my overall stress has also been ramped up. It’s just a lot to manage, both as a parent and as a young person. We are all feeling the stress of transition. And then we add in all of the other fear and uncertainty going on in the world and it is hard to find any peace in our systems. We can’t control everything going on around us and we can’t control everything that our kids are going through, but we can build our own ability to cope and be resilient in the face of it all. As our nervous systems become more regulated, we are better able to stay calm, think more clearly, and move through stressful situations with more ease. Additionally, if we are regulated, then it is more likely that those around us (kids, partners, co-workers) will also be able to feel more regulated too.
So, when you notice your shoulders tensing and thoughts racing and your irritation growing, take a moment to breath by focusing on your breath coming in and out of the area around your heart at a count of 5 on the inhale and 5 on the exhale. As you do this, focus on a feeling of love or ease and let this feeling wash over you for a few minutes. Practice regulating your nervous system by calming your breathing a few times a day and notice if you start to feel a increased overall sense of calm or at least, the ability to calm down more easily.
Participating as a therapist in the Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) project at the Integrative Psychiatric Healing Center in Boulder, Colorado has been a fascinating and encouraging journey. In a short amount of time I have seen clients having profound insights and relief from harsh depressive symptomology. In this small article I will address four themes that I have noticed and observed in my work with clients during the process of KAP.
Accessing traumatic states with support
It is a rare and valuable opportunity to work psychotherapeutically with the support of a medication that accelerates the healing process. In working with clients undergoing KAP I have witnessed and facilitated people accessing traumatic memories and repressed feelings. Clients become more easily aware of traumatic material without being as triggered or activated as they are when touching into those states without KAP. This allows for the integration of past experiences associated with their current states of anxiety and depression.
Flexibility of mind
During KAP clients tend to enter into a state that I call “mind flexibility.” Stubborn mindsets and introjected beliefs about themselves and their experience of life that create great suffering and sometimes feel involuntary and irrational can be experienced with a sense of ease and softness. Clients often begin to access a certain gentleness in which they hold their beliefs. This process can also allow them to access the memories of traumatic life events that shaped those foundational internalized messages. With KAP the pressure or threat that solidified those mind states is temporarily alleviated or eased, allowing the individual to let go and soften the grip on those beliefs. As the mind and body access a sense of ease while touching those core inner messages and traumatic feeling states, clients can find a new template for being. There can be a shift not only around how clients think about themselves, but also around how they feel about themselves and their lives in a more embodied manner.
With the help of an emotionally available, attuned and attachment informed psychotherapist, clients undergoing KAP can potentially reshape their sense of safety and capacity to be in relationship with others. While under the effects of Ketamine, clients’ brains are in a malleable state that can more easily open to a sense of “right relationship.” Clients become capable of finding empowerment through relaxation, and access the emotional availability necessary to relate to others and claim relational boundaries when appropriate. While in KAP the role of the therapist is to support the client to find a natural sense of connection, safety and access to emotion that is often disrupted in the face of relational trauma and that attachment psychology claims is every human’s birthright/natural state while in relationship.
Embodiment/Temporary ego dissolution
Another theme I have witnessed facilitating KAP sessions is that there is an experience of temporary ego dissolution. When medical professionals use Ketamine for anesthetic purposes, such as medical surgeries, the result is a complete yet temporary dissociation from the body in order to not feel the pain of the surgery. In KAP, however, the clinical dose is a fraction of the medical anesthetic dose, which allows clients to track a mild dissociation from the body that actually has the unique and paradoxical effect of intensifying an awareness of the body and invites a new kind of presence into the client’s lived experience. In this process the coping strategy of dissociation, often linked to severe depression and anxiety, starts to unwind and clients can experience their bodies in a more vital and present way. While under the influence of Ketamine the experience of being in a body changes, thoughts and feelings can seem suspended, having a personality and the way one perceives time and space become temporarily altered and there is often a total shift in ones sense of self location. Although experiences like these can be frightening, strange and confusing, with the anesthetic effects of Ketamine combined with a skillful psychotherapeutic facilitation those states can have a profound reorganizing and relieving effect. Clients can potentially have what Abraham Maslow called “peak experiences,” experiences that challenge our usual lived perceptual reality. Peak experiences can support clients to renew and expand their sense of self and connect to a sense of wholeness. Those experiences can be perceived as being spiritual or transpersonal and have the potential to be profoundly liberating.
For many people, the process of grief is one of the most challenging and painful experiences in our lives. Whether it is grief following the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, the loss of a job or a home, the death of a pet, or even just the experiences of loss that come with the myriad endings we face each day, the experience of grief can be overwhelming.
Grief is one of the most common of human experiences, although it can feel absolutely strange and frightening. Grief impacts us on every level of our being; emotional, psychological, physical, mental, spiritual, and social. We may experience feeling of overwhelming sadness or anger; we may literally feel like we are going crazy; we may feel like we can’t breathe, can’t sleep, can’t eat; we may feel numb and disconnected from the people in our lives; we may even feel like life is not worth living. In some ways grief itself is like a vicarious death and we ourselves feel like we’re dying. These are just a few of the many different ways in which grief moves through our systems.
Many people wonder: Is what I’m experiencing normal? You may have heard that there is a normal process to grief and that there are specific stages of grief that everyone goes through in a specific order. The truth is that when it comes to grief, there is no one defined way that every person experiences and processes grief. Some people may feel the different emotions we associate with the classic stages of grief model described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), but not everyone feels these exact emotions, nor do people feel them in this order or only once. In addition, these experiences only describe the emotional/psychological levels of the experience, but not necessarily all of the other ways in which grief is experienced, like for example on the physical level.
When it comes to grief, your grief process may look entirely different from someone else’s, and whatever you are experiencing is normal. Really.
People often ask, “But, do I need to seek help?” When it comes to grief, seeking “help,” can often be incredibly useful, no matter where you are in your grief process. Seeking help does not need to be seen as a last resort, but potentially an integral part of the process. Many people come into therapy feeling like they have somehow failed because they were not able to “get through it” alone. In actuality, seeking support, whether that means reaching out for the support of friends and family or seeking the guidance of a therapist or support group, does not need to be a last resort option, but can be seen as an important tool in processing your grief in a healthy way. Grief is a completely normal, universal, human experience and in this way it actually has a way of moving through our systems quite naturally, if we let it. But, most of us have lots of reasons why it is hard to just let the process do its thing, and outside support, can be useful in helping us see where we might be impeding the process and making things harder on ourselves.
In addition to using outside help to support a normal grief process, there are some additional situations in which seeking help is recommended. The following are a few of these situations:
If you feel that you are at risk of hurting yourself or another person.
If you do not feel you are able to attend to your basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
If you feel unable to attend to the basic needs of your children, or any other people or pets that are dependent on you for their basic needs.
If you are concerned that the ways you are coping might be hurting you (e.g. excessive alcohol or drug use, self-harming behaviors like cutting or burning, etc).
If you do not feel that your grief process has in any way changed after what you consider to be a reasonable amount of time, and you feel like it is debilitating your ability to engage in important areas of your life, such as work, relationships, etc, and you are unsure of how to move forward.
In addition to therapy, which can be incredibly helpful for processing the experience of grief, there are many different types of support groups specifically designed to help individuals in the grieving process. Groups can be one of the most effective supports for grief because of how powerful it can be to recognize that you are not alone in your experience.
Grieving is a process that can take a very long time. Especially in the beginning, it may feel like it will never end. As cliché as it sounds, time does heal in many ways, but even when years have passed and there is a sense that the grief has really moved through, there may still be moments where the sense of pain and loss comes flooding back; like anniversaries of various kinds or important life events. This too is completely normal, and you can trust that having been able to live through the early days (and months and even years) of grief, even in the unexpected moments when the grief returns, you will have the capacity to be with it and get through it. Although it may be hard to believe this if you are in the early stages of coping with a loss, grief is incredibly powerful in its ability to change and even transform in positive ways. The process is not an easy one, but it is a profound and universal one; it is an experience that we all go through in some way at some time, and that changes us forever.
(If this blog resonates with you in any way, or if you have any additional thoughts, suggestions or questions in regards to this topic I welcome any comments!)