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The story of the story

- by Carolyn Bergen

Four children playing together on a dock

Picture this:

Four children are lying on the dock and happily playing looking at the minnows. They are chatting a bit back and forth, adding sound effects as the little fishies swim back and forth in the water. All of a sudden, one child looks up and notices something: "Hey guys, l like sand. Let's go play in the sand" Two other children jump up with the first and go over to shore.

The fourth child, still watching the minnows, looks up and notices the other children get up to go play in the sand. There is a moment of uncertainty, maybe some confusion, and then this last child positively melts. Dissolves into tears.

This child, with fingers still wet from the water, runs down the dock to his mom in total despair. "Mommy--no one wants to play with me!!!"

OK...so...let's slow this down and be mindful of the story...or rather, the layers of stories:

1. There was an outside story. 

This is the story of what happened. What happened as the video camera would see it. 

In this case:

Four children watching minnows and playing in the water. One child says he wants to play in the sand. All but one child joins him.

That is what happened. 

Simple, it would seem, eh?

2. There is an inside story

This is the story that Ia person tells him/herself about the story. 

The child notices the other three children going to play elsewhere. The child feels abandoned and/or rejected by the other children. The child "knows" that the other children don't want to play with him.

This story is one that we tell ourselves as we seek to make sense of the events. All the little boy has is his experience...where the other children are leaving the fun he is having with him.

3. The inside story and outside story are essentially fused and only seen as a single true story

The child doesn't recognize that there is not only one story of what actually happened. The child is also telling himself an understanding of the story. Without recognizing that there are two stories, he just assumes the story he is telling himself about the outside story is also part of the truth of the story.

The story is re-membered and related as one that is critical and despairing. The child feels rejected. The child can go on to use this story to confirm what he actually layered onto the story--that he is unlovable and his friends don't like him.

The child doesn't even consider that perhaps the other children just were tired of watching minnows before he was. That these are small children with short attention spans and they saw sand and were distracted. He can't even conceptualize that it wasn't about him. 

He can't fathom that the children leaving was just about the lure of the sand. It had nothing to do with him.

Loving the book #RisingStrong and challenging myself to realize the stories I am telling myself about what has happened.

Posted by Bergen and Associates Counselling on Monday, July 27, 2015

4. The inside story is generally informed by shame

Shame is that feeling that we are somehow flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. 

So often folks, like this small child, tell themselves an inside story about the outside story in a way that has them understanding the story in a way that shows that they are "less than" and "not enough".

Those inside stories have us tell ourselves painful and terrible versions of what happened. Stories that predict and understand the world of being critical of us. These are harsh stories that we are telling ourselves.

I've been reading Brené Brown's new book, Rising Strong, which I received as an advance copy...a brilliant book about wrestling through the hard time with integrity to deal with "the stuff" we carry. (The book becomes available at the end of August--pre-order now!)

She says, amongst many other good things that:

A. We as humans love to make sense of things. 

We are wired for story. 

We need to make meaning of what is happening in our lives. 

We will do what it takes to find and create meaning.

We are more concerned with meaning than with accuracy.

B. We as humans often find meaning without even realizing that we are creating it. '

Confabulation is a term that psychological types use for when people are making up stories without deliberately lying. People with certain kinds of memory issues or dementia can tell a great and convincing story--and it never happened. They aren't lying...they are actually telling you what they believed happened.

Until recently, we thought it was only people with memory issues that confabulated. We are starting to realize how we all confabulate. For example, when researchers ask a person to select a pair of socks from 7 pairs of socks and then ask them why they chose those socks...they will hear all sorts of rationale for the pair that was selected...quality of the sock, the brightness of the sock, etc. What's interesting is that all 7 pairs of socks were identical, and the researchers knew it.

So...we as humans "connect the dots" so to speak, creating a design that we believe fits the situation. 

Have you ever seen the constellation of Orion? Three big stars make up his belt. Other stars supposedly show his arrow and bow and the rest of him.

Frankly, I don't see it. I just don't.

Orion is a constellation where someone has connected the dots in a way that makes sense to him but seems random

Somebody connected the stars and decided they looked like Orion, an archer. Good on whoever that was, a long time ago...but frankly, they musta had their own agenda when they connected the stars to show it was Orion. 

..which leads to a third point in the book, Rising Strong:

3. We as humans often connect the dots through the lens that is so common to us all..."we are not enough". 

Our shame filters has us default to connect those dots in a way that has others judging us, criticizing us, treating us badly in some way. 

We connect the dots in a way that makes sense to us...which unconsciously arises out of the "I'm not really lovable paradigm".

From #RisingStrong : My first story:"i

Do you think only little children playing with toys watching minnows do this?

 Lemme humble myself and tell you a story:

A couple of months ago, I was having an extremely busy day at work. Lots of demands, unexpected tasks and things calling my attention. I was feeling preoccupied with work...even though my first priority is my family.

On my way home from work, I was running a little late, but I dashed into the store, because I knew we were short of bread and milk. As full as my brain was with work stuff, I was feeling rather proud that I managed to get what was needed for essentials. If there are two things that are important in my house, it's bread and milk...the stuff of adolescent boys!

I scrambled to do a bit more work in-between the cracks of life after work.

There was a game that night...a playoff game, and the Junior Tribe Member lost. He was sad, and the car ride home was somber. It was punctuated with proclamations of disappointment over the officiating, frustration with his teammates, and some general disgruntlement, as is common for all boys who hate to lose. I held my tongue (with difficulty)...

We get home. And he goes to make sandwiches for his lunch the next day...and begins grumbling about the bread I scrambled to purchase on my way home.

He says the bread is small. He says that he will have to make 5 sandwiches in order to have enough to eat.

And I say, "OK, make 5 sandwiches". With some irritation.

He says that making 5 sandwiches is a lot more work than making 2 sandwiches.

I say, "It's the same number of square inches. No big deal." With growing irritation.

He says that the bread to crust ratio is all wrong, and he doesn't like crusts and 5 sandwiches have a lot of crust.

I go into the kitchen and LOSE IT on him. I tell him all sorts of inane things about how it's no big deal, how ungrateful he is, how he should be glad we have bread at all. My volume is much higher than I'm proud of. I probably say a few other things that aren't pleasant or reasonable...but I honestly can't remember what I said. I wasn't being rational. 

At one point, this JTM looks at me and calmly points out that I'm the only one who is yelling. 

That does not help.

At some point, I send him to bed, and tell him I will make his stupid sandwiches. There is a teeny, tiny part of my brain that understands that I am not rational, and that the best thing is to remove my Junior Tribe Member from my presence so that I will have less opportunity to inflict damage. 

This only looked like an argument about bread size. (And, to be fair, the bread was considerably smaller than our usual rye bread)

The day I yelled at my JTM, it was about bread size.

When I slowed the story down, and looked at the story I was telling myself about the story, I realized that my over-the-top ballistic reaction was in reaction to my "story about the story".

The story I told myself was that he was confirming for me what I already had been struggling with, and trying to overcome all day: "I am a bad mother". 

All day long, in my busy and preoccupied state, I'd struggled to maintain my position in the "good mom" category as I felt myself dangerously close to slipping into "bad mom" category. I'd been hustling for my worthiness by deliberately doing "good mom" things to earn "good mom" status (which never works, but that doesn't stop us from trying, right?).

When my JTM suggested that my "good mom" behavior of dashing into get bread didn't qualify, I really felt like that put me firmly in "bad mom" category--and I came out swinging.

(Now, I'll just point out the obvious: there is an irony in yelling at one's child to demonstrate that one is a good mother)

Being a good mom is incredibly important to me. And feeling like a bad mom is about the worst feeling I can have..

So I reacted to my internal story, the story I was telling myself...but I reacted to the inside story like it was the outside story--like it was the ONLY story...and so my Junior Tribe Member was the target of my reaction.

And then I sat down to cool down. And think about what happened. I rewind the event to around the bread and the sandwiches, and to the rest of the day.

It takes me the better part of a day. By the time we re-coonect as a family over supper the next day, I can tell him.

JTM..I try really hard to be a good mother. Really hard. Yesterday, it was really hard to be a good mother because work was hectic...but I squeezed in time time to shop for that bread. It was hard to be a good mother because you were not easy to be around after the loss...and I worked hard to let you be disappointed and feel what you were feeling. I was tired and frazzled and I tried really really hard to be a good mom...and when you criticized the size of the bread slice, the story I told myself was that you thought I was a bad mom. Good moms buy the right bread, and because it wasn't the bread you wanted, I was a bad mom. I hate being a bad mom, and I reacted very strongly to being called a bad mom."

JTM's sometimes have a wisdom that is simple, but profound. He just said: 

"Mom...it was about the bread. Only about the bread."

Sigh...by the next day, I KNEW THAT...because I spent about 18 hours trying to figure out why I had gone wackadoo on him.

Now that we've slowed it down to understand that we tend to fuse the story and the story we tell ourselves about the story as one and the same--and feel our feelings and live our lives out of that...even though they are two distinct stories which may not be related to each other...now what?...well, that's Part 2! Stay tuned!



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Introducing Heather and Lindsey

- by Carolyn Bergen

Lindsey and Heather are two new therapists at Bergen and Associates Counselling

I love my job, for multiple reasons...the well appointed offices, the smooth systems we've now got running like a well oiled machine, the clients who bravely show up to tell their stories ready to wrestle with new insights and move forward with courage. 

 We are all far from perfect, but we show up anyway at the offices, therapists and clients alike, to engage in the messy work of living and growing. What I love about Bergen and Associates is that mistakes are encouraged within the environment that they make us better people; when there is disagreement, it is opportunity to learn a unique perspective of another; and goofs are a chance to model apology and forgiveness so that others have permission to make their own goofs.

One of the best parts of my day is mixing with the colleagues who work alongside me. The therapists at Bergen and Associates all have a drive to give our clients the best therapy possible, to learn our craft in a way that has us always growing, and an environment of safety for each other and our clients to say brave things and feel valued and affirmed.

We've had some changes amongst our team lately. Deanna Carpentier and Sarah Murray are on extended family leaves...they will be back in several months, though for less hours than they are around now. Deanna recently welcomed Hannah Jean into her family...and she is busy falling in love with her new daughter. We are still waiting to hear about Sarah's baby!

Our team is stronger than ever, with two more therapists to the team:

Heather Pringle is no stranger to Bergen and Associates. She was our intern for this last year, and we had a chance to get to know her over the last year. Sometimes, you just know someone is gonna fit on the team, and we are happy that we didn't have to say good-bye to her at the end of the internship. Heather has graduated now and has successfully transitioned to become a full therapist.

Heather Pringle is a new counselor at Bergen and Associates Therapy in Winnipeg

Heather just has a way of deeply and intuitively understanding people...and then using that understanding to help a person move forward. She thinks carefully about her work, and works deliberately with clients in a profoundly respectful way towards the growth they seek.

She has jumped in with both feet and is already teaching the Transforming Destructive into Constructive (TDC) Anger Management Course that we offer mostly over two Tuesday evenings.

And this spring, Lindsey J. Walsh, walked into my office and into our lives. He came to interview me at his request...he said he heard good things about practice and wanted to get to know us a little better. He interviewed me for about a half hour or so. I guess I musta said the right things...because he then handed me a resumé and said he wanted to work for us. We passed his test. I kinda liked that he checked us out before he applied to be a part of us.

Lindsey is a therapist at Bergen and Associates in Winnipeg

That's a little quirky to interview the business before you ask to be interviewed...but that's pretty typical of Lindsey. Quirky. I like quirky. Quirky is interesting and unique and personable. He's fun and authentic and super interesting...and his smile is never far away. He loves his family and loves the idea of helping other families. 

Families are all about connection, and when families can improve their connections, they can enjoy each other so much more. Lindsey believes in improving those connections...between parent and child, between husband and wife, or even between a person and other parts of that person. He loves to get on the floor with kids to make a difference in their lives.

Heather and Lindsey are already hard at work, engaging with clients to improve their relationships.

Two more reasons for why I love my job--Heather and Lindsey!!

Please join in me welcoming Lindsey and Heather. While their schedules are filling up fast, they both have several openings available. Give us a call at 204 275 1045 or contact us via our webpage to let us know you'd like to book an appointment!


Inside Out's Flaw: Male Vulnerability is really real

- by Heather Pringle

Another guest post by Heather Pringle while Carolyn Bergen catches up on household projects and summertime reading.

As time goes on, I find myself pickier about movies I’d recommend. Inside Out is one that I would still recommend despite one aspect of the movie that is troubling me.

First off, an intro to the movie: In the movie Inside Out, 11-year-old Riley’s emotions - Joy, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust - are portrayed as cartoon characters. The movie offers us a parallel look into the various parts of Riley’s mind, alongside the outward experience of a big family move from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Riley’s emotions congregate in the control room of the mind, interact with each other, and have very different priorities and ideas for Riley’s reactions to events. 

In one scene, we also get to see a small piece of what happens in Riley’s mom and dad’s minds as they interact with Riley. I had some uncertainty about this part of the movie and was especially disturbed by the way dad’s inner mind and emotions are portrayed:


Yeah, I get that it’s just one scene that’s meant to be funny, I know.

But I think it is representative of a larger lie.

Strong words, I know, but maybe it would help to break it down. In the movie, it goes something like this: the man is spaced out and unaware of any troubles while he enjoys an inner imaginary show of a hockey game, the man needs to be nudged twice by his wife to have some involvement. When he does try, Riley talks with what he perceives as “sass” and he feels disrespected. He “puts his foot down” and orders Riley to go to her room, the man’s emotions cheer, thinking that he has managed the situation well.

When I saw this scene, I thought: “that is so far from what I think that character would actually be feeling”. The scene is a family interaction that ends in disconnection.

It portrays the dad as being satisfied and happy (i.e. all of his inner emotions cheering), when in reality, I think he would experience vulnerability, and perhaps sadness at his daughter’s struggle, even if perhaps mixed in with a sense of success.

Here’s something that I’ve been so privileged to experience with many of the men I know:

Men care deeply about their loved ones and how their actions influence those people and relationships.

When they don’t know how to respond to a partner, friend, or child who is in distress, they are troubled…deeply.

There can sometimes be a fear of weakness and a sense of shame that comes with that feeling of weakness. 

When men set out to be helpful and when they fear this isn’t happening, their inner emotions don’t cheer (as they did in Inside Out), their inner emotions collapse and implode and explode all at the same time.

It seems inaccurate and sad to portray a dad’s mind in this way: lacking vulnerability. Then again, in the movie, Dad is also shown in other scenes to be empathetic and vulnerable - attempting to reconnect with his daughter; I’m not saying the movie totally fails in regards to portrayals of men.

Everyone--yes everyone--we all do--has their “I just messed up” moments and it often takes time to realize the mistake and make amends.

I just wish the movie didn’t promote the lie of a lack of vulnerability in that scene.

The stereotype of men that dinner scene shows betrays the inner workings of the character and promotes a stereotype of men that is harmful. What would it have been like to have that scene show a little bit of fear and vulnerability mixed in with the “DEFCON 4” mental process? Maybe showing a twinge of vulnerability would explain how dad is able to empathize and reach out to his daughter after this conflict.

This topic makes me wonder, as part of the bigger lie that men don’t experience vulnerability, if in general many of us sell ourselves short in the way we interact with men as emotional people.

Do we perpetuate the lie (or perhaps it’s more of an inner wish?) that the men in our lives would be strong all of the time?

Brené Brown talks about the one unrelenting shaming message that men receive culturally: 

Do not be perceived as weak. 

Weakness is also often equated with vulnerability--which is so necessary for meaningful connection in relationships. When I see a scene with the character like the dad in Inside Out, I think: there is that message being sent out to children, the notion that internally men don’t even have a part/emotion that feels fear or weakness.

So. Not. Real.

And when we deny reality of how men experience the world, how can we truly connect with them?

Jump to about the 16:20 minute mark to zero on the part where she learns about men and shame and shares that wisdom:


How can men truly connect to their own experience if we, as a culture, tell them that it is wrong for them to connect with the softer, more vulnerable parts of themselves?

What would it take for us to see men as experiencing vulnerability and to be able to be with them in that?

It can start by realizing the benefits of vulnerability for all people--including men, giving them permission to feel fear, sadness, soft affection and so on.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. Brené Brown

Brené Brown states it takes incredible work for women to be able to sit with men in their fear and pain. Hey women, may I be so bold as to challenge us, that we do that work, and support men who are taking that risk to be real with their vulnerability.


Pixar's Inside Out and the Wisdom of Sadness

- by Lindsey Walsh

Hurt doesn

Another blog post written by Lindsey Walsh, our newest therapist. Spoiler Alert: This post is about the Wisdom of Sadness and how the Pixar film, Inside Out honours deeper emotions in kids and adults. 
I'm grateful to my colleagues who are taking on the challenge of writing some blogs, while I take some time "nesting" with my newly enlarged family, and reading some great books, including Brené Brown's new book, Rising Strong. The themes of Pixar's, Inside Out and Brené Brown's thoughts about overlap significantly. 

Inside Out shows us pretty clearly the hurt that happens when we try to fix, ignore, or circumscribe Sadness. When we don’t let Sadness express itself, well, the whole Inner Family – Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness - gets out of whack.

Our Inner Families need Sadness. 

A picture of Sadness.  Downloaded from Inside Out

Sadness is a vital part of being a balanced human being.

Our Real World families and communities also thrive when they can honour and hold Sadness, too. This is especially the case with Sadness because, well, our society has some deep prejudices against it.

Honestly, it’s about the wisest Hollywood movie I’ve ever seen in a long time. And the gift of insight it offers to parents is…

Well, it’s pretty cool. 

But, before I do get into all that mushy stuff, I’d like to get something off of my chest…

Ahem…

I’m pretty sure Joy does not actually look - or dress - like Tinkerbell from the Peter Pan cartoons.

What I’m trying to say is that, every one of us is going to experience Joy a little differently. 

Not necessarily like Tinkerbell.

Me? Well, my own Inner Joy is actually much more like Ernie from Sesame St.

Or Feist. Possibly Feist. 

But that’s just me: I’m more of an Ernie/Feist-Joy kind of person. 

Thanks for letting me share that.

Despite my misgivings, I figure Joy is represented well in Inside Out. Joy is always trying to make everything ok. And she uses her wit and zeal to do so.

Seems remarkably unlike the typical lead character in a summer blockbuster, doesn’t it? 

And you get a sense of how frustrating and exhausting it is for Joy and everyone around her to always need to be so, well…

ABUNDANTLY JOYFUL!!

Because, lets face it, the best way to be happy is not to pursue happiness. 

The best way to be happy is to do stuff, even hard stuff, that you find meaningful. 

There is probably someone in your life who is like Joy in the movie. You know, that person who never seems to frown or cry, who seems to have boundless energy, who is great at saying the right thing, and excels at getting sticks out of spokes.

Or maybe you’re like that? Maybe you have a hard time just sitting with Sadness. Maybe it’s next to impossible for you to listen, to really, truly hear the message your sadness or a loved one’s sadness is trying to share.

It’s hard to not try to make everything ok.

Anyhow, I’m like that sometimes. Sometimes I try to solve problems for my family, when all they want is to be heard, held, and acknowledged. 

And, yes, sometimes we do have to face the world with a smile, even when we don’t want to.

But, sometimes, that doesn’t feel so good. To be fixed. Or to be told to “fake it til’ you make it”.

Sometimes, you don’t feel like the Joyful people in your life hear you. They are too busy fixing the problem, to stop and listen.

And that can feel awful. Really, really awful.

It can feel sort of like you’re inner world doesn’t matter. Like you don’t have the right to feel Sad, or Angry, or Disgusted, or Afraid.

There’s probably a big part of you that would like to be able to share what’s on your heart with at least someone in your life just a little more often. Maybe you would love to share a deep feeling of sadness - or regret or shame or anger - with your spouse, or friend, or parent, or another person you love, and feel totally heard and accepted.

I bet, sometimes, just sometimes, you’d like to look at that particular person (or in a mirror) and say, “I’m having a rough day.” I bet you yearn to say that sometimes because you are feeling something and it hurts and you don’t want to hold onto it all by yourself.

You want to hold onto a hurtful feeling, but to share its weight with someone else, for a while. 

But you don’t.

You don’t share your rough day with that person you love (or with yourself). You put on a happy face, or you shut down and get angry.

Because you believe that their response will make you feel even more lonely.

So why bother!?

Maybe you stopped sharing for a very good reason: You didn’t feel like you got the response you needed and deserved. You felt like your emotions were ignored, downplayed, or denegraded.  

I think we all feel that way, sometimes. Whether we can acknowledge it or not, sometimes we just don’t feel like we matter to the ones we love.

Maybe you stopped sharing your rough days or deep emotions with the people you love because, like Riley in Inside Out, you have shared with someone who really matters and felt really let down.

Maybe you’ve repeatedly felt let down? Maybe you said something like: “I had a rough day. I don’t feel like I fit in.” And got a response like this:

“Of course you will fit in! You’re beautiful/handsome and smart as a whip/very creative/good at sports. Besides, I already told you, it’s going to take some time to settle in. Don’t worry about it!”

Or maybe you got an even worse response. Maybe you were simply ignored, or told to be quiet. Maybe the other person just turned up the volume on the tv. 

If so, I’m sorry about that. 

My guess is that most of the time whomever you were sharing your Sadness, Fear, or Anger with answered the best they knew how.

My guess is that they just didn’t know how to do a better job.

That’s the neat thing about Inside Out: It demonstrates how very loving and caring people go from trying to do (or say) the right thing to totally blowing it and hurting their child’s, and possibly each other’s, feelings. 

Inside Out shows us that this is pretty normal behaviour. Sometimes we screw up. It doesn’t make us bad people, it just means that our Inner Anger or Disgust or Fear has taken charge.

This is especially clear in the part of the film used in the movie trailer where we see the Inner Family of Mom and Dad inside their heads. 


But this isn’t just another movie to make us feel bad about ourselves. It shows adults making mistakes and then tuning into the emotions of their loved ones in order to make it better.

I figure it does a tremendous job of demonstrating love, resilience, and good communication. Yes, Inside Out shows us one way to get on the right track. It demonstrates, clear as day, how to tune back into the emotions of ourselves and others.

I know, I know, easier shown than done, right? Watching a movie is not going to make everything better. Still, a good demonstration can go a long way.  

So, yes, sometimes we get judgmental or angry with our children or other loved ones.

And yes, it sucks, but it happens. Even to the most loving and compassionate among us is going to make someone feel small and unimportant at some point this week.

The big deal is not what we do wrong.

The big deal is how we tune into our loved ones and learn from them how to make it right.  

So, yes, it is just an animated movie. Yes, it was created in order to make Disney/Pixar lots of money. Yes, parts of it could be construed as manipulative or sexist or at least insensitive to young women who aren’t built like Tinkerbell.

But, well, it’s a movie that demonstrates some very important things. It’s a film that can help parents remember to stop ignoring or tying to fix things.

It’s a motion picture – or an Emotion picture – that reminds us, that when our kids are crying, sometimes its best to simply hold them as they sob in our arms.

It’s a movie that reminds us that ALL PEOPLE CRY because it is the best way to let our loved ones know we are in distress.

And we all know that we let loved ones know we are in distress because we need them to help us stay safe. No child, man, or woman is an island.

No one survives alone.

That is why Sadness is so utterly and inescapably valuable:

It’s all about safety. Sadness keeps us safe by helping us and the ones we rely on to tune into us and our deepest needs. 

And, when the ones we love hear our cry (or simply pick up on the catch in our voice) and reach out to us, well then we do feel very Joyful, don’t we? 

So, that was what really moved me about Inside Out. It honoured Sadness.

And, beyond that, it gave a very potent (and often funny) demonstration of how we can embrace all of our emotions in order to lead – and help our kids lead – rich and fulfilling lives.


Inside Out: Your Inside Family and Outside Family

- by Lindsey Walsh

Yes...Bergen and Associates Therapists are Pixar's Inside Out fans.  Lindsey Walsh continues our love for the movie...and explains why he, even before he sees them movie, loves the concepts behind it.

Has Hollywood finally gotten something Absolutely Right?

My wife and I have a date to go see Pixar’s Inside Out. I can hardly wait any longer.

Honestly, I haven’t been this excited about a cartoon since the original (and much, much, much better Transformers movie 25 years ago).

After all, this is a movie about emotions - and emotions matter.

Inside Out’s trailer shows us how Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Fear, and Anger all try to guide the mom, dad, and daughter through a troubling situation.


And at first they blow it.

Yup, all the emotions get together to make things worse for the little girl and her emotions.

But, since Pixar/Disney make movies with happy endings, I’m guessing that at some point mom and dad actually get it right. I’m guessing that Mom’s Inner Family and Dad’s Inner Family – all those emotions – get together to help their daughter feel nurtured and cared for.

So, you can probably understand why I’m so excited about this movie. Hollywood is generally making us mis-understand or deny our emotions. I have good reason to believe Inside Out does a better job!

And, yes, it’s true: all people have both an Inner Family and an Outer Family. You don’t see that in most movies.

And sometimes our Inner Families are in harmony with themselves.

And sometimes, just like our Real World Families, they are in disharmony.

Just as I have a mom, a step-dad, a wife, a son (who also has birth parents - somewhere), I have an Inner Family.

My Inner Family has lots of members and it looks like Inside Out got it right: Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness would be the Inner Family Members we hear from the most.

Oh, except for one that’s possibly missing: let’s call him/her Fearful Reason.

Fearful Reason tries to manage us. Fearful Reason’s job is to keep us from making fools of ourselves. Fearful Reason is calm and composed and s/he sounds a lot more rational than s/he actually is.

I’ll prove it to you:

When you were a kid, did you ever want to tell your mom or dad a teacher that they did something that hurt your feelings? At that moment, Fearful Reason probably launched into a monologue like this:

“Oh, don’t say that. Don’t tell them that. There are two outcomes here, buddy, and neither of them is any good for you:

    • “Outcome 1-- Fearful Reason continues, “Mom/Dad/Teacher hears you, and they feel bad – and then you won’t be able to get them off of your back
    • Outcome 2-- They deny what they’ve done or said and you will feel even worse!

So, just keep your mouth shut!”

Sound familiar? (Or have I just been watching too many cartoons?)  Anyhow, that’s how Fearful Reason likes to talk. And when Fearful Reason is at it, there is much less colour in the world.

You will notice your world seems much more black and white, and much less nuanced when Fearful Reason is talking.

And, if you listen to Fearful Reason for too long, you might find yourself making lots and lots of assumptions.

Yes, it’s often the case that when you start making negative assumptions about what you and other people are feeling, a good guess is that you are probably dealing with Fearful Reasoning.

I like and honour my Fearful Reasoning part. I know F.R. is just doing his job of keeping me from eating shoe leather. Still, it’s important for me to not let him take charge for too long. There are other emotions to listen to, as well, up there at Headquarters. 

Understanding emotions using Inside out and Rising Strong. Quote by Brené Brown: When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don

There’s one more thing that I’d like to mention before I close off Part One of this Post.

(I’ll write and post Part 2 once I’ve actually gone to see the movie.)

There’s one more crucial message, and one that is at the core of every therapy session I have with adults and with children.

It is the one idea that helps make the craziness of our world manageable:

At the centre of your and my Inner Family, in the midst of all of those messy and wonderful emotions, is something we can choose to call Self, Soul, or Spirit.

I’ll stick with “Self” since most people refer to “myself” on a day-to-day basis.

Anyhow, your Self is the natural leader of your Inner Family. It is yourself--that listens to your Sadness, Joy, Fear, Anger, or Disgust. It is your Self that chooses how to respond.

When we have balance in our lives, our emotions trust our Self to take the lead. 

Our Self is the driver of the bus. The emotions are the passengers sharing what they see, hear, and feel with the driver.

But, sometimes, the passengers revolt and take over.

Literally.

For instance, when a person gets cut off while driving… many of us are not so centred at those moments.

No mater how calm, curious, and compassionate we were feeling a moment before. No matter how Self led our emotions were before getting cut off…

Suddenly, for a lot of us, all that is out the window and Anger takes the opportunity to shove Self out of the driver’s seat.

And maybe, just maybe Anger expresses itself (in your head or out loud) with some words that you or I wouldn’t use in day-to-day conversation with our grandmothers….

Since this is a family-friendly blog, I won’t get any more descriptive than that.

Or maybe Fear kicks in. Perhaps your child and spouse are in the car and you get cut off.

For a moment you are terrified! You slam on the breaks and do a quick check to make sure your loved ones are ok…

And then Anger kicks in and maybe you make your loved ones feel a little less OK by sharing a few choice words that you might not say in day-to-day conversation with your grandmother.

So then what? How do you regain your compassion and your composure? How do you get back into Self?

Perhaps it takes a gentle comment from your spouse, or catching a random comment made by your child in the back seat. Maybe your child repeats one of your words and you blush, and then chuckle.

Who knows.

But something probably brings you back to Self. You stop being Mad Max, Road Warrior, and return to being…

You. 

Now, people sometimes have asked me, “How do I know that I am being my Self, and not letting an emotion drive the bus?”

It’s a great question.

I guess we know that our Self is driving the bus when all of our Inner Family Members have a seat. When Sadness, Joy, Anger, Disgust, and Fear all get to go along for the ride; when each of our emotions gets to pick what music is on the radio from time-to-time…

Then you are probably being You.

Same goes with our Real World Families!

When my son and wife know that I hear and hold their emotions; when they feel that I am right there with them, no matter what happens, then they trust me and we have harmony in our household.

It is my Inner Family that helps my Self relate and connect to my Real World Family.

Without Sadness, Joy, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, well, we’d all be totally sunk and alone.

So, cheers to your Self and the complexity and diversity of your Inner Family!

 


Joy and Sadness: Thoughts on the Inside Out Movie

- by Heather Pringle

Therapists love Inside Out, the movie that gives a window into folks' emotions. It may be a cartoon, but there's some well respected neuroscience in it, and the movie gives voice to the way we often talk to clients about different parts of themselves. So...we will be hearing from a couple of therapists and their take on it. First, Heather Pringle...

I believe that we want first to be heard and understood, more than we long to be rescued. 

That’s why I love one of the main ideas from the movie Inside Out, of having separate characters personify emotions; it gives us a new way of understanding ourselves that’s not only fun but can also open the door to compassion. 

In the movie Inside Out, 11-year-old Riley’s emotions - Joy, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust - are portrayed as cartoon characters. The movie offers us a parallel look into the various parts of Riley’s mind, alongside the outward experience of a big family move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions congregate in the control room of the mind, interact with each other, and have very different priorities and ideas for Riley’s reactions to events. 

Spoiler alert!...

Throughout Riley’s life so far, Joy has been in charge and is set against Sadness touching anything in Riley’s life. When Riley is about to go to her new school in San Francisco, Joy works tirelessly to keep Sadness away from Riley’s thoughts and memories.



Sadness is rejected – “NO SADNESS ALLOWED” but she keeps showing up and trying to have some input. 

When Riley deeply misses her home in Minnesota, Joy works to keep Sadness away from those good memories of home. Why let Sadness touch a favorite fun memory? Why let Sadness near the control board of the mind, when Joy could run the show and things would be, well, joyful? 

Joy sees impending disaster as Sadness seeks to touch Riley’s life more frequently. 

Similarly, I wonder if today’s trend towards positive thinking sees sadness as something to avoid at all costs. I imagine these signs up all around us that say “NO SADNESS ALLOWED”, “BE HAPPY OR YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG!”. 

And that makes me wonder what’s happening to Sadness in each of our lives; does Sadness have something important to say or a different role to play that we maybe haven’t realized

In the movie Inside Out, eventually Joy and Sadness work things out. I don’t want to spoil all the fun details from the movie. For now, it’s enough to say that Joy comes to look at and approach Sadness in a new way. 

My favorite part of the movie is the idea that in accessing, allowing, and accepting her emotions, all of her emotions, Riley becomes aware of what she needs. 

Embracing and exploring sadness is a helpful reckoning.  Inside Out movie helps us learn that.

This awareness leads to a deeper connection with herself and other people. 

When Riley feels her Sadness and it is honoured and allowed by the others parts, she makes good choices. The process seems more attuned to the way we’re wired than simply “looking on the bright side”. 

Accepting Sadness as part of our loved ones’ lives also has healing effects. 

  • When Riley’s parents honour Sadness by allowing it and showing they relate to it, they show Riley that they understand and accept all of her experience of the world. 
  • When Joy lets Sadness touch memories of a precious place that is now gone, the memories don’t lose their beauty but rather are appreciated in a way that shows how precious the special moments, people, and places have been for her.
I can kind of imagine some potential “ya, buts…” and objections because maybe listening to Sadness or another emotion feels so difficult or it hasn’t gone well in the past. Maybe you already feel stuck with Sadness and desperately need Joy to feel alive. 

Allowing and accepting our emotions doesn’t mean we have to be stuck in them, act on impulse, or do or say things that harm ourselves or others. Awareness and acceptance of emotions can open the door to listen to ourselves in new ways so that we can glean some new information or energy. 

Sometimes this can be quite daunting, scary, or confusing, especially if we’ve spent a long time trying to keep an emotion away, or our reaction has been destructive to ourselves or others. The chain between thought and emotion can feel so impossible and painful to untangle at times.

It’s good to have others journey with us when it’s feeling like too much to experience on our own. When it feels so heavy, a safe person such as a caring friend or therapist can go a long way in helping us discover different ways to relate to our emotions. 

When we can grow in the way that we look at our emotions, we can become more compassionate towards ourselves and others. 

We can see the beauty of our minds in new ways and gain some insight into what is precious to us. 

It might sound strange, but Sadness and Joy working together produce something more beautiful than what would come with just Joy alone. 

**Poster is from a quote from Brené Brown's new book, Rising Strong. I've been reading an advance copy and it's great!  Pre-order it today!

 


First Step, Second Step, Third Step...

- by Carolyn Bergen

"I DID IT, I DID IT, I DID IT!!!"

Over and over. That's what I said to my husband when I called him right after the radio show.

I'm an introvert. I've always been kinda shy. I had a years long standing belief that I could not speak in full sentences in front of a microphone. I'm kinda a background sort of person. 

I do really like to sorta fade into the background, so being a talk show host on 680CJOB felt like a ginormously humungously ridiculous task for me to do.

I consented to co-host Dahlia Kurtz's radio program with Dr. Syras Derksen several weeks ago. She assured me she believed I was ready to do it. 

I was not so sure. In fact, I was quite sure I couldn't do it.

However, the timing was perfect to do it...end of June, beginning of July when things are winding down but not yet in full on summer mode. I had no other commitments, and I had the time to prep. There was no good reason to say no. Except for the terror factor--which was huge. And because of my personal commitment to not saying no because of fear, I had no choice but to say, "yes".

My adventure into radio talk show hosting.“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”  ― Brené Brown, Poster by Bergen and Associates

I could hardly imagine myself doing all the radio host things that radio hosts do. And doing it confidently and competently the way radio hosts pull it off. And having interesting conversations while one eye is on the clock and one eye is on the producer who coordinates with breaking news and one eye on my co-host and guest (yes, I only have two eyes, and thus the issue. I thought mothers multitasked, but moms got absolutely nothin' on radio hosts!)

I felt like a one armed wall paper hanger trying to look at my prep notes, keep an eye on the Facebook page, be aware of the news bulletin, watch the clock, and be aware of the prizes, all the while trying to sound relaxed and engaged in conversation with the guests and with Dr. Syras. 

There's this thing about what us psychological folks call self-conscious affect. So the whole time I'm talking with Dr. Syras and the guest, there's these little voices in my head that say:

  • Are you really going to do this? Do you think you can? Why did you say yes?
  • You sound too serious. Don't be so grumpy sounding
  • Are you nervous? Do you think people can tell? 
  • Well, my last comment was kinda dorky, eh? What did the audience think about that.
  • Are you going to screw up and say, "CJOB680" instead of "680CJOB" like you did last time? Are you? Are you? Huh? Huh? Watch it, watch it...awwww...you did it again!! How hard can it be to get the order right (especially since you've got it written down right in front of you!!!
  • Is it time to break yet? What if I can't figure out how to wrap up the guest when Kyle tells me we need to go to break? Only 3 more minutes until the break...yikes, are we gonna be able to fill 3 minutes? 
  • Can you remember your own name? (For serious. Yes. I thought that.)
You may not have known the term "self conscious affect" until just this minute--but you get it, at a cellular level, don't you? I am a therapist...I eavesdrop on people's little-but-loud voices for a living--I know how it is for all of us.

I have to say, though, that there were moments when it was just cool. Like, interviewing Tim Hague, Sr. That was fantastic. My Junior Tribe Members and I had a party with a ton of people watching the Amazing Race Canada finals when he won with his son--they gave us such fun the season they were on. And here I was listening to his experiences and chatting with him. Having the other guests come on and creating conversation was a blast. 


I like challenges. Actually, much more accurately, I like having had a challenge and having overcome. Co-hosting with Dr. Syras was quite a ride.

My vulnerable adventure into radio hosting. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren

I impressed myself with my ability to do something that felt like such big audacious leap. As I was marvelling out loud on the weekend about the audacity I had to say "yes" to something that is so totally "other" from how I see myself and what I thought I was capable of, my husband gently pointed out something that I thought was wise. 

He said..."Remember how you didn't think you could do a single interview, but you did? That was the first step. Then Dahlia asked you to be a regular guest. You didn't think you could do it every week...but you did. That was the second step.  When she asked you to co-host, that was the third step. You could only do the third step because you worked your way the first two steps. It felt big, but it wasn't impossible, because you were faithful in showing up for step one and step two. Step one and two were really really big for you at the time, but they prepped you for step three."

He was right. And then I thought about how much bigger step three was then the first two steps. 

And then I realized step three only felt that much bigger right now because that was the step I was on. Step one terrified me, and I didn't sleep the night before. Step two, at the time, felt huge, too. I remember thinking I would commit to weekly radio until I was no longer scared...and figuring that I would then have to do it for the rest of my life.

Each time we choose to tackle something that we are intimidated by, we claim more territory to develop into a zone of competence for ourselves--we increase our capacity. And new territory that is claimed is, well...new. And new is familiar and uncomfortable and anxiety provoking--until it's not new anymore. 

Being scared and being brave at the very same time is normal when you are showing up and being seen in new territory. 

New territory can be: 

  • an activity we've never done before, 
  • a job that's more advanced, 
  • a new relationship that we are invited to
  • a move to a new city, school, apartment
  • taking a new course
What's totally cool about new territory, that I discovered this week is this: 

Once you conquer step three, then all of a sudden, step two (which was previously terrifying) now becomes a zone of comfort.

I noticed myself thinking this thought: "Boy, am I ever glad to be going back to being Dahlia's regular weekly Thursday 2:30 guest." And I realized that this previously terrifying activity had now actually become a comforting thought. 

To be only a regular guest now feels like something I want to do. It's a relief of sorts...something I never thought I would find myself thinking about talking on the radio.

This is stuff I watch and witness in the therapy room regularly with clients as they claim new space emotionally, relationally, in their career, in their own development. It's cool to watch. Clients are brave even as they are fearful, and they move forward in ways that open their world. They enter a new arena with fear and trembling, but enter it they do.

This is stuff I'm going to have to hold onto, to remember, to remind myself of, and to trust on faith if ever a Step Four comes my way. It's gonna seem impossible, terrifying and everything in me will want to run home.  I'm gonna need to hold onto the memory of the previous steps and remind myself that although it feels like a big leap, it's do-able.

Lordy, let Step Four take a while to come my way!! I need some recovery time!


First Row Living--Co-hosting Radio Live!

- by Carolyn Bergen

There are some things I absolutely knew I would NOT do in my life. Astronaut. Brain Surgeon, Professional Race Car Driver. Radio Talk Show Host.  Y'know...some things are just beyond a person's scope of imagination...it's not remotely possible, with skills I would never, ever have. Being these wasn't gonna happen for me.

Except one is. Tomorrow I'm gonna be a radio talk show host.

Now, to be clear, I'm on co-sharing duties, and doing it for exactly two Fridays while the regular talk show host, Dahlia Kurtz, is on vacation. So...it's not like I'm changing professions...but still. Something that wasn't even remotely on my bucket list of things to try is something I'm gonna do tomorrow. YIKES!!!!

Still shaking my head on it.

Hard to believe they asked me. See, I'm not a person who could ever be a radio talk show host. I've never even had the guts to call into a radio show. I just couldn't. Y'know how sometimes we know things about ourselves...we just know these things to be true, and we live out of them? 

We stick ourselves into boxes of a smaller size because we determine who we are in a way that limits us. We tell ourselves stories about who we are and we live out of those stories. Sometimes those stories we tell ourselves make our stories too small.

After CJOB680 asked me to co-host these two shows, I found myself forced to re-examine why I "couldn't" be a talk show host. There were two main reasons:

  1. I lose the ability to speak in full sentences when a microphone is put in front of my face.  I know this. I have experienced it for years. I freeze and start to stammer and hesitate. My sentences don't make sense--at least to my ears. I can spend days second guessing how I got it only half right and "shoulda/coulda/woulda" myself half to death. Over recent months, I've gotten past this, thanx to folks like Dahlia Kurtz and Dana Foster. I know that I'm far from perfect, but when I go in front of CJOB's guys microphone, I trust myself that Dahlia and I are gonna do OK. That folks...is a minor miracle (that was hard fought with months of day-of-show anxiety, and reminding myself of all the things I coach clients on to do terrifying things.
  2. With the first gradually debunked over the last year and a half, one very real one persisted. I can't be a radio talk show host because I am not cool. I'm not. Not at all. I know this. How do I know this, you ask. I'll tell you--I know you're eager to know. I asked myself how I knew this...and the answer came from a faraway place deep inside me very quickly:  I started wearing glasses in kindergarten. I was the only kid with spectacles in my class. While other kids were still cute, I was not. While other kids grew up into beautiful young woman, I remained bespectacled and therefore not in the cool group. The cool kids in my school were athletic. I was on the teams, but only because essentially everybody that tried out made it...I didn't play much...I wasn't cool. Then it became increasingly clear that I was an introvert...and so I would be off in the corner at a party getting to know one or two people in really interesting conversations, while the cool extroverts were in the centre of the room regaling the crowd with their wit and wisdom. I stereotyped myself Only cool people are radio talk show hosts, right? So I couldn't be one.
But then Dahlia asked me a few weeks ago to cover for her along with Dr. Syras, her relationshipologist. She asked me! That's a little nuts.

I wanted to say no

I was sure I would have a sore throat that day (weeks away). I might be too busy. I might have to clip my fingernails or water the plants. But I have this rule that I'm not to say "no" because of fear...and I knew that everything I could come up with was only a flimsy and fear-covering excuse, not a valid reason to say no.

I work with folks who come into my office with no excuses, no hiding--they talk about the things they've always kept silent. I have a front row seat to the courage of my clients...how can I live any different?

So I said yes. 

I told Dahlia I wanted to make her proud. And sweet, dear friend and wonderful person that she is, she responded:

Look. You already make me proud. That's why I chose you to do it.

I heard someone say once somewhere that encouragement is fuel for the soul. Dahlia's words were very much for me that day, and these days leading up to tomorrow--the day I become a co-host of a radio show.

Showing up and being brave: radio show hosting.  possible because: Encouragement is fuel for the soul

I can't quite imagine doing this--because there is something still in me that "knows" I can't do it. But I've done things before, out of my ridiculous and terribly short sighted "not allowed to say no because of fear" rule I live by that I "knew" I couldn't do. I've done them. A buncha times. 

And been the richer person for it--enriched me deeply.

I saw this photo by British photographer, Grace Robertson today:

You can choose to live in the front row or the third row poster.  Photo by Grace Robertson

 Caption is by picturequotes.com

I love this idea...and it is spurring me on to go for it tomorrow on-air. To read who is sponsoring the weather and tell the time and read the weather like I own the place. To have interesting conversations with fascinating people to hear stories that inspire me. I'm gonna push buttons to turn the microphones on like I belong there. Being a co-host for the first time is a definite "front row experience" for me.

So...here's the deal. I'm sticking my neck out. I'm writing about this adventure I've signed up for before I've gone on the adventure. I have no idea how it is gonna go. I may fall flat on my face...and my first row living will look disastrous.

But here's the other deal. Dahlia, who works in radio full time (so theoretically she knows what she's talking about) says I'm ready. 

And I know, no matter what: 

  • I go home to a family who loves and cares about me. 
  • I'll still be Carolyn. 
  • I'll still have clients who do good work with me. 
  • I'll still have my friends who know me and love me.
  • I'm still gonna operate from a place of worthiness because I know that no single two hour span of life defines me.

So often, when people talk about exiting things things, they talk about them in retrospect, when they have triumphed. I want to proclaim, right here and right now, that I have triumphed in saying "yes" to something I find terrifying and that I feel unqualified for. I think life is best lived when the triumph isn't in winning, but in showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Being brave is the triumph.

The triumph is not in the outcome, but in the Yes

The yes to new experiences, to being stretched, to learning something new, to trying on something I've never done before.

What sort of "yes" are you being challenged to? And how much do you live in the front row of your life?

Front row living can be humbling...those ladies have their undergarments showing in ways those third row ladies do not! But I wanna go through life feeling like the front row ladies, even if that means I get humbled sometimes.

Yikes! I'm talking myself into this by writing in this blog. I'm still scared, but I'm gonna do it. Tune in tomorrow on CJOB680 at 1:00 to listen in to Carolyn Bergen and Dr. Syras filling in for Dahlia Kurtze from 1-3 pm!


What is Your Calling?

- by Lindsey Walsh

Our newest therapist, Lindsey Walsh, lets us in on his thoughts today...

Therapist Lindsay Walsh is a counsellor at Bergen And Associates Counselling in Winnipeg

Do you have a calling? I’m guessing you probably do, even if you don’t know it yet.

I must confess: I’m a late bloomer.

A veeery late bloomer.

Winter wheat late.

Trick-or-Treating at American Thanksgiving late.

Late.

And yet, here I am, nearing the big Four-Oh and I find myself with both a calling and a bit of a specialty. The calling I’ve had for eight years now. That came about because someone I was volunteer-counselling with said,  “You should really do the Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy”.

I’m not even sure I’d heard of such a being before. How do you fit everyone on the couch? I wondered.

Just kidding!

My fellow volunteer basically summarized Marriage and Family Therapists as “Professionals who help people get their emotional needs met and to change the negative patterns that can get in the way of change, growth, and fulfillment.”

That sounded really neat to me, so, I followed my co-volunteer’s advice. I applied to the program with Aurora Family Therapy Centre at the U of W and I got in.

And here I am, seven years later, with a great deal of practice under my belt. I’ve worked with individuals of all ages, faiths, and many different backgrounds; straight, lesbian and gay couples; and lots and lots of parents with their children.

Lots,

And lots, 

And lots of kids and either one or two parents.

Lots.

And I absolutely love it. There really is nothing like helping people feel heard, understood and appreciated by their loved ones. And when I can help a child feel her or his mother’s, father’s, or other caregiver’s full, compassionate, curious, and courageous presence – well that’s just magical.

After all, when we know our loved ones are there for us, then we can really, really blossom. Then the world doesn’t seem like such a big, scary place. And when it is big and scary, at least we aren’t facing it alone.

So, that’s my calling: Marriage and Family Therapist. It’s what I put on my business cards. Along with being a dad and a hubby, it is perhaps the truest expression of why I’m here on Earth.

What do I love about this challenging work?

As a therapist, I get to:

  1. serve my community
  2. pay the bills (along with my very hard working spouse),
  3. grow professionally, and
  4. build amazing relationships with and between people.

What an amazing way to spend my work days.

But what about a specialty? Is there anything that I am a little more passionate about? Anything that I have a bit of an edge on?

I am committed to serving many different clients with many different needs. But, there is nothing I am more passionate about than helping caregivers nurture kids.

Parenting therapist Lindsey Walsh at Bergen and Associates.  Poster states If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.  Quote by Alfie Kohn

I love working with parents and other caregivers, helping them really tune into their kids, to soothe them, and help them overcome their struggles.

And sometimes people do deserve help, because it isn’t easy being a parent.

And it definitely is not easy being a child.

So, I’m here, you know, just in case you want some help making it a little easier to help you and your Junior Tribe Members listen to and share with each other.

How about you? What’s your calling? What do you get out of bed every morning to do? What carries you past that first cup of coffee? Do you have a specialty? Is there any one thing that you are just a little more passionate about and skilled at doing?

If not, maybe someday someone you love – or like me, a complete stranger – will give the best advice of your life. The advice that moves you from being a lovely person, to being a lovely person who has a career, or hobby, or whatever-it-is that you can call…

Your Calling.

Sincerely,

Lindsey Jay Walsh

If you are interested in booking an appointment with Lindsey or another therapist at our office, please call 204 275 1045 or contact us via our webpage.


Wasn't washed away

- by Carolyn Bergen

Reflections years after having silent born sons. quote by Anne Lamott: The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me but each time it hit again and I bore it...I would discover that it hadn

I have three Junior Tribe Members that don't live with me. On Monday, one of those JTM's came over for supper...we caught up as we ate our meal, made snickerdoodles together--one scooping cookie dough while the other rolled the balls in the cinnamon sugar--and then watched the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I so enjoyed hearing his news and just hanging in the same space.

I visited the other two JTM's today that aren't under my roof. I went to the cemetery to visit them...or rather, where their ashes are buried. I brought them each a white rose, as I have for years...

..."Crapiversary"

That's a term I have learned in the last year...a significant remembering of a hard, awful day years ago. 

I kinda liked it.

I was thinking about using it for today, but I have decided not. It doesn't fit

Today, June 18th, is the day when I remember my silent sons. It's the day I remember the year that I celebrated Mother's Day as a pregnant woman, anticipating being a mom. The year I went to the hospital thinking I would be told I was an over concerned first-time mom. The year they actually told me, instead, that it was bad, really bad. The year then I found out that I didn't have one, but two little ones whose lives hung in the balance. The year that I went on solid and utter bedrest to save these little ones, and it looked like we might beat the odds. I remember it was the year that we didn't beat the odds, and one morning they couldn't find the heartbeat of either baby. The year they were born silently.

It is not a crapiversary. There are those. But this is not one of them. This is a birthday. 

It is a day to honour two little Junior Tribe Members who I held briefly in my arms, but will hold forever in my heart.

So...I write all the time about the value of connection and community. I know it, I see it, I live it, and and I work with this knowledge every day. It's the air I breath...but today I am experiencing it in my life in ways that fairly take my breath away:
  • The annual daisies from L and G...every year she remembers--even the year when she was getting married the next day. Those daisies are a highlight of my life.
  • I am married this year for this birthday of mourning...and my Senior Tribe Member is on call the entire day. Let me know to call him whenever and wherever and he will come. Gladly. Ready to be there for me. Ready to give me space (which I think is even harder). Whatever I want. And oh...supper today is taken care of--I don't have to think about it. I mean...Seriously. Wow.
  • M, my Thursday morning coffee buddy for 10 years, was sitting waiting for me this morning and treated me to a latte today. She often gives me a gift on June 18th--their birthday...she said she couldn't think of a single thing to get, but she said she could give me something even more important: The gift of knowing my little JTM's were not forgotten by her...they are very clearly remembered. She's right. That is the most valuable gift ever.
  • Emails from family letting me know they remember. (Note to self: I suck at dates and remembering other people's significant dates...I gotta write things down and think to let people know it's on my radar...knowing people remember rocks! To know that people are with me during the hard times is big.)
Today is a day that I remember, specifically...where I go to the gravesite to cry and think and pray and ponder and imagine.

But, like many who have and continue grieve, it has become a part of the fabric of who I am--everyday.

It doesn't make me miserable anymore (there were months that it did)--it changed me.

I think the me I've become is wiser...Life happens. It isn't fair. There are times when nothing anyone says will make it better. When someone hurts, care for them. When something hurts, it's ok to cry. Y'know...obvious stuff that sometimes we forget to know.

I think the me I've become is one that understands pain and loss better than I did before. I'm kinder.

I think the me after being their mom, and losing them is braver. I have more courage. I know how to bounce back. There is a sense of: 

"If losing kids doesn't finish me off, nothin'will. So what the heck--lemme try it/say it/do it/live it!"

So...this is a hard day, but a good one. It's not a crapiversary. It's a day when I celebrate two of my children that rarely get to be celebrated. It's a day when I surprisingly find myself grateful--for what having them being my children, and grieving their lives--has done in my life. 

It's a day when I cry--but it's not crappy, it's a gift.
Tags: Grief

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Blog ~ A Thoughtful Look at Life

July 28, 2015

Reading an advance copy of Brené Brown's Rising Strong! Challenging myself to separate the outside story and the story I am telling myself about the story. Not recognizing the difference can get us into big trouble!

Introducing our newest therapists...Lindsey Walsh and Heather Pringle!! :)

The series on the Pixar's Inside Out...Posts by Heather Pringle and Lindsey Walsh. Figuring out and feeling our feelings as a way of living life more effectively.



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