Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Inspiration, Beauty, Your Dysfunctional Family, and Human Evolution

photo courtesy of Saffu, Unsplash

“…Then consider what it means to be broken. What if you could proclaim yourself sick and hurt and sad and broken and malfunctioning, every single day, and still believe that you deserved love? What if you could sit in the rubble of your shattered castle, and still feel compassion for yourself? Because compassion for the self is the same thing as passion: That’s where inspiration and beauty are waiting for you…”      Heather Havrilesky

I’m a psychotherapist. Every day I sit with beautiful souls who’ve been deeply hurt. Usually by family members. They feel broken. Fearful. Alone.

I wonder how humans can ever evolve when so many continue to abuse their own children.

With your sensitive, empathetic, rainforest mind, you’re likely painfully aware of the malfunctioning in your own family, in your community, and in the world. Maybe you “sit in the rubble of your shattered castle.” You notice there’s a heck of a lot of rubble. So much rubble. So many shattered castles. Yours. Your parents. Your ancestors. Your neighbors. Your friends. Your politicians. Your ex-partners. Your dog, Fido. OK, maybe not your dog Fido.

I know about rubble. I’ve been digging out from mine for years. It’s a lot of work. The bigger the castle, the more rubble you’ve got. Therapy can take a long time because of all of those gorgeous broken stained glass windows that you need to replace. OK, maybe they didn’t have stained glass windows in castles. Humor me. Maybe you’re more a cathedral than a castle. Don’t you just love metaphors? But I digress.

The point is. Compassion. For yourself. Human evolution.

I know. It’s hard to find self-compassion when the early messages you received, directly or indirectly, were that you were a mistake. Or that you weren’t good enough. Or that the world was unsafe and there was no one you could trust. So, you learned how to cope, how to survive. Usually by blaming yourself and feeling unworthy of love.

And, if you were also a highly sensitive, empathetic being, which you know you were/are, you may have felt responsible for saving your family members. You may have felt pressure to achieve. Or pressure to underachieve. You may have become the caretaker in the family, honing your intuitive capacity, heightening your hypervigilance, closing the door to your heart.

And you wonder why you’re in therapy for, oh, years? Which, by the way, if you go for one hour a week, every week, that’s only 52 hours a year. Out of 8760. That is not much time. After daily 24/7 exposure during your most vulnerable years immersed in the energies, beliefs, behaviors, and pathologies of your malfunctioning family.

Just saying.

So, now that you’ve recognized the rubble, how do you start to rebuild? How do you open your heart back up? How do you find compassion for yourself? How do you help humans evolve?

Here’s one idea. (Besides getting 8760 hours of therapy, which you know I highly recommend.) Have you heard of Pema Chodron and the practice of tonglen? It’s a simple but powerful meditation technique. You’ll want to read about it to get an accurate sense of it but in summary: Notice how you feel. Anxious? Sad? Ashamed? Fearful? Then imagine all of the other people on the planet who are feeling that way in this moment. Welcome them in as you breathe in. Welcome your anxiety, for example, and the anxiety of everyone else everywhere who feels the same. (Sounds kinda overwhelming, I know. Move it through you. Don’t hold onto it.) Then breathe out love. To yourself and everyone else. Continue this way for about 15 minutes or so. Notice how you feel. It’s counter-intuitive but likely that, over time, you’ll feel more peaceful. And more compassion. For yourself. While you’re sending love out to the world.

And then, Inspiration and beauty will be waiting for you.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? Are you sitting in the rubble of your castle? What are some ways that you’re rebuilding? Do you know that making the choice to heal from a dysfunctional family is an act of courage and human evolution? Have you tried a tonglen practice? Even if you don’t think you can benefit from meditation, this might be something to explore. Thank you for sharing your comments and your open hearts. I’m so glad you’re here.

Thank you to Heather Havrilesky for her wise words. For more on self-compassion, try: Kristin Neff. 

Note: As with everything I recommend, you’ll need to decide if it’s right for you. For some of you, tonglen may be too overwhelming and not be appropriate. Take care of yourself!

If you’re looking for another way to build your self-compassion through gifts for this holiday season, check out my book! 🙂 And if you’ve already read my book, could you write a review on Amazon? Thank you!

 


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Dealing with Anxiety When You Are a Highly Sensitive Overthinker*

photo courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash

There are so many reasons to be anxious these days. So many reasons. What’s a sensitive, empathetic, intuitive, analytical person to do?

I don’t need to tell you what there is to be anxious about. You are quite aware of the little things and the big things and all of the things in between. You could create a very long list. Your capacity for super-thinking and your vast imagination, enormous empathy, and non-stop brain has already added 14 items to your list since you started reading this post.

And, that’s not even taking into consideration that you might be a parent. A person with children. You can just double and triple and quadruple your list of reasons if you made the choice to bring a little vulnerable being into the world. Not that I’m judging you. But, really. What were you thinking? And you thought you were a worrier before you had kids.

I’ve written about this before here and here because it’s such a real phenomenon for people with finely tuned nervous systems, which you know you have. Not to mention, your capacity to feel the suffering of neighbors, trees, children everywhere, and your lonely Aunt Lucille.

Not only that. If you had to start worrying when you were two years old because your mother was screaming obscenities at you and your father was unreliable and self-absorbed, for example, well then, you likely have developed a remarkable ability to become anxious at a moment’s notice. Or to remain anxious all of the time on all occasions (called hypervigilance**) Just in case. You never know. You need to be prepared for the worst.

So, my darlings, you see?  Stop berating yourself for your worrying ways. Stop pressuring yourself to be cool, calm, and collected because you’re so smart. There are reasons for your extraordinary capacity to worry.

I have a suggestion.

In addition to all of the tools and techniques listed in the many articles out there, here’s another that I’ve recently started to practice more regularly. That I’ve found surprisingly helpful.

Here it is.

You know how fear tends to make you want to freeze or shrink or hide or push it away? Instead, notice it and be with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Hello, anxiety. Then, remember that it’s just a part of you. And you are bigger than it. Imagine yourself expanding. Breathe and expand. As odd as it sounds, welcome the anxiety. Bring it on, baby! And keep expanding. You will begin to feel your higher Self and the Love that is in you and around you. Breathe. You might start to notice that you feel lighter and more peaceful. The fear may still be there but you’ve become so large that it becomes insignificant. Imagine that!

The more you practice this, the easier it will be to get into this more peaceful state. And if you want to take it one step further, turn it into a tonglen practice (from Pema Chodron) where you breathe in all of the anxiety all over the world (Seriously!), and you breathe out Love to everyone, including yourself.

Including yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: I’m breathing Love to you right now, my little chickadees. Tell us about your anxiety and your worries. What do you do that is helpful? If you try this technique, let us know how it goes. There may be other, more concrete things, to try first. Sometimes, you need to address the basics first and get spiritual later. Trust yourself. If you grew up with chainsaws, give yourself time to heal via many paths.

*For the perfectionists among us: Is overthinker one word? Should it be hyphenated? Is it two words? I hyphenated it in another post so  should I be consistent? Am I over-thinking over thinking? Oh, brother.

** If you have an extreme case of anxiety, due to early trauma, medication may be an option as well. Sometimes the bio-chemical help is needed so that you can manage your life enough to be able to benefit from the other techniques.