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Another way to answer your child's questions

- by Lindsey Walsh

Today I’m drawing inspiration (forgive the pun) from Calvin and Hobbes and its creator Bill Waterson. Sadly, I don’t have permission from United Press Syndicate to put the strip up on our web page – Hobbes charges a pretty hefty appearance fee.

Sorry about that - it’d be awesome to have it up here.   

But we still have two options that don’t involve breaking copyright law.

Option one:

   CLICK HERE TO READ THE COMIC 

(then come right back, please!) :)

Option two:

Simply read on! I’ve transcribed this strip below. (In case you haven’t got a lot of time, rest assured: it’s only about as long as a Haiku. For those of you who haven’t got a lot of time and who don’t know what a Haiku is, it’s about as long as a Tweet….)

Scene: Daytime. Calvin and Parents driving over a bridge in the family car. At the foot of the bridge, a sign reads: “Load Limit 10 Tons”

Calvin: How do they know the load limit on Bridges?

Dad: They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.

Calvin: Oh. I should’ve guessed.

Mom (to Dad): Dear, if you don’t know the answer, just tell him!

I have read this comic many times over the years. It stirs up mixed emotions for me.

I find it reassuring, funny, and sad all at the same time.

For me it’s reassuring because my parents weren’t like Calvin’s dad. 

They respected my childhood curiosity. To them, being curious was natural and necessary.

I remember being very young and asking questions at the dinner table. Invariably, my mom would jump up and run to the shelf of New World Encyclopedias in our living room. She’d grab the right volume and page through it to find answers.

That’s one way she joined me in my curiosity. She made it safe to ask questions. And she demonstrated that even mom’s don’t know everything.

Unlike lots of adults, it seems my parents get more and more Curious every year. And my wife and I do our best to pass on this spirit of Curiosity to our son.

So, that’s why I find this comic reassuring: It reminds me that I have parents who tune into me, who acknowledge and embrace my curiosity, who do their best to listen.

Who in your life helps you know it’s ok to ask questions? Who makes it safe to be brave enough to say, “I don’t know”?

What about funny?

I don’t know about you, but a bunch of things come together in this comic to make me smile.

Firstly, there’s the look on the dad’s face as he tells this outrageous fib to his kid. He is smiling the purest, most innocent smile. No smirk, no snickering, just a joyful expression.  

And the line itself. “They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks” – to me that’s smart-funny. It’s a witty line.  

In the 19th century Calvin’s dad could’ve riffed with Oscar Wilde. In the 21st century, he could win an Epic Rap Battle.

Though Calvin’s dad, despite his wit wouldn’t do either, of course.  

And that’s the sad part:  Calvin’s dad has sort of given up on Curiosity. 

I don’t mean to put too fine a point on it, but it seems to me that his witticism collapses the very bridges his son is trying to build.

Meanwhile, Calvin, is so jam packed with Curiosity he’s bursting with it.

That’s why his hair looks like an explosion: Calvin is literally bursting with Curiosity. And like all kids, what Calvin really wants is for someone to burst with curiosity with him. To join him in his wonderment and to help him make sense of the world around him.

I have to special talent, I am only passionately curious. Quote by Albert Einstein

At minimum, joining with a child in their curiosity really is a multi-stage process: 

Join the child, engage their curiosity, then answer. 

Or, if you don’t know (or are willing to pretend not to know for a while), team up with the child to find out the answer to their question.

This does a lot of things:

  1. It honours their inquisitive spirit
  2. It models love and attentiveness
  3. It opens the door to doing something way more interesting than playing Candy Land for the zillionth time that day (any thing but Candy Land, or the Game of Life. Yuck!)
  4. It collaborates and empowers. Kids often love working together on stuff. And, hey, don’t worry, it might hurt your feelings a bit to be rejected by a seven year old, but you can handle it! If they don’t opt in to investigating with you, at least you’ve offered, you’ve gone over and above in order to build bridges with them. 
  5. IT FEELS REALLY, REALLY GOOD! You know just as well as I do that there is nothing more precious than a child with her eyes lit up with curiosity and passion for something.(...Nothing more precious, except, let’s be honest, a sleeping child.)

In short, save your cynicism for the next time a teenaged stranger asks you to pick him up a six pack “Cuz I left my ID at home, man”.

Or when you glance at the magazines at the check-out line. “Really?! I could have a body like that in only 6 weeks?! Yeah, right!”

Young people haven’t learned to fear Curiosity. They don’t know yet that it’s a sign of weakness to not know stuff or to be really, super passionate about the world around them. They need us to acknowledge that Curiosity is human kind’s truest form of engagement with the wonderment of the world. (It also helps us to know stuff we don’t already know, like how to put on our pants without getting both legs in the same leg-hole.)

Without Curiosity, our questions harden. 

They become rhetorical: Why did you do that? (Meaning: Only a right and proper idiot would do that.)

Without acknowledgement that Curiosity matters, we become defensive or snap back in anger. 

Or maybe we simply shut down and shut up.

For me, Calvin’s response is the saddest of all:

“Oh,” he says,

“I should’ve guessed.”

So, on behalf parents and of all of our inner-children I offer this correction:

[And feel free to try responding like this, if you don’t already, next time a child asks you a question.]

“Calvin, you asked a clear question. You saw the sign that said “Load Limit 10 Tons”. You read it correctly. And you wanted to know how they got that number 10 Tons. I don’t know the answer, but your curiosity makes me feel curious too….

Do you have any guesses, Calvin, about how they got know the load limit for that bridge? What are some ways to figure out how strong a bridge is? [I’m sure Calvin has lots of ideas - I would have when I was his age.]

…Maybe when we get home, Calvin, we can look it up…

…in the New World Encyclopedia.


In my next post I’ll write about how we can fully embrace Curiosity in ourselves and in the children in our lives.

After all, without the Courage to be Curious, we’re left in the dark valley…

...weighing the wreckage.

 

 


comments 

Rumblin' and reckonin'

- by Carolyn Bergen

I heard a few stories from a few friends in the last few days (not from clients, btw--I don't ever tell client stories on the blog):

A woman in her early 30's tells the story of her parents divorcing when she is her teens. Several months after the separation, her dad called the children together to say to them: "I am moving away. There is nothing for me in this town." 

She lived for years "knowing" that she didn't count. That she didn't register as mattering to him for him to stay in the town. She was part of "nothing".

It took her many years to recognize the cost of the divorce on her father in the small town...that his career and his friendships and his life had been so affected that staying wasn't an option. As an adult she had a perspective she did not have as a teen.

The story she told herself about her dad's departure was painful and mean. It led to years of seeking approval and value from men in ways that cost her. She lived her life to be noticed and valued in ways that were desperate. She ignored her inherent value as a human being. (And I can't begin to tell you here about all the ways she is an incredibly lovely woman and it blows my mind and hurts my heart that she drew the meaning she did from her father's departure.)

The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our liveability, divinity and creativity.  By Brené Brown from Rising Strong
A woman I went walking with this week told of how she had recently had a bad day...her purse had been stolen from her car and she had been berating herself for her stupidity for leaving in the locked car while she was at the beach.

Her boyfriend hugged her and soothed her. He reminded her of her strengths and gifts. He let her know how much he valued her, and saw her as capable and gifted.

She felt so much better after what he said. 

When she talked with me, she was scared. Did the fact that she felt better because of his affirmation and encouragement mean she was needy? She has heard that being "needy" is bad...and what does it say when the love and comfort she gets from another has a healing effect?

She was still in the process of working out her "neediness" when we were walking--somehow in her world, being encouraged by another was a form of dependence.

Connection doesn
And now...a story of my own:

My new husband is a sweetheart. He loves me, and he seems to cheerfully choose to use every opportunity to show it. He asked me on Thursday what time I wanted my latté the next morning. I told him I didn't want him to bring me a latté. He asked me why...I wouldn't tell him, I just repeated that I didn't want him to bring me me latté the next day.

He asked me if I didn't want the beverage or if I was just not letting him bring me one.

I have a commitment to not be deceptive to him...so I told him that I knew that Friday was an early morning for both of us. We had had a couple of late nights. And if he was to bring me a latté, then he would have to get up even earlier to make it and I wasn't willing to have him do that.

At another time in my life, I was told I was "high maintenance"...and trust me, that was not intended as a compliment. I was told I was wanting to avoid being needy and demanding...so, in general, I spend energy making sure that I am not "high maintenance". Refusing a latté is one way I can appear lower maintenance.

The pejorative comments from another years ago has the danger of creeping into my incredibly loving relationship my husband...unless I let myself explore the discomfort beyond my initial gut response of refusing his kindness.

I push my loving husband away, just a little bit, when I push away my own story.

It's tempting to just leave it there. It's only a morning latté; refusing it doesn't break the relationship...my process could stop there. I could let the old narrative make the decision for me.

However, when he pressed me for details, the story became overt...and then we had to deal with it. I can decide to own my story; by reflecting on it, remembering it, mulling it over, exploring it's significance. By trying to determine other perspectives that are possible with the passage of time and growth and other input, I can choose to dig deep, draw on my courage, and decide its impact on me.

It is easier to be judgemental, but richer to be curious about the underlying strings that pull my thoughts and behaviors. 

It's uncomfortable to be in the space of exploring the underbelly of one's thoughts...but the power of these thoughts on how we live our lives is so often underestimated. An unexamined life leads us to be pulled away from our authenticity, and away from deep connection with others.

Curiosity is a shit-starter. But that

(Blush) The above poster has strong language...makes us want to avoid curiosity even...because it's hard to wade into our own sh*t. 

That memory of being called "high maintenance" still affects me, but it doesn't have to hijack me, and determine my actions and my feelings. 

I get to choose my actions and my feelings once I know what I'm dealing with.

All three stories above required the experiencer to be honest with some painful stories...to marinate in the discomfort in order to better process it. Lotsa ways to do that: write about it, go to therapy with it, walk with a friend--and really be honest about the way we wrote the story about the story. 

The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories but our wholeness and our wholeheartedness actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences Quote by Brené Brown from Rising Strong

Once the story I tell myself about it is identified, I can wrestle with it...rumbling with truths and issues of worthiness and authenticity, shame and vulnerability...I can do some of this on my own, but often it is with friends (with no small coincidence, often over a latté), or a colleague, or my husband, or with my readers on this here blog. For me, writing is an excellent way to find out what I'm really thinking. :)

So...this wrestling and rumbling and reckoning...discovering our deepest longings and our deepest truths and our deepest hurts...and recognizing how we have allowed old and painful stories to pull us away from who we truly are--this is painful stuff. It's easy to feel there isn't time for it, or judge it as useless navel-gazing, or any number of excuses that save us from the challenging battles with our own internal hijackers.

But to not rumble and reckon is to lose out on the learning and the growing and the releasing from the power of the crappy stories that are just beyond our grasp unless we stretch hard to grab them and pin'em down to understand 'em.

The middle is messy, but it

It is often through relationship that we receive our deepest pain...and thus it is through relationship that we often receive our deepest healing.

On Thursday night, I took a deep breath and told my husband the time I was getting up the next morning and what time he could bring me the latté. 

I told him that I loved his lattés and I was also scared about what bad thing it might say about me if he brought me one. I told him that it felt selfish and mean of me to expect him to be kind to me when he is tired and going out of his way early in the morning. I told him that I was worried he would love me less when he did nice things for me because it would burn him out. I told him it's hard for me to let him bring me a morning latté. (even if waking up to a kiss and a latté has to be one of the absolutely finest luxuries possible in all of life).

He gently told me that if he offered, it was because this was something he wanted to do. If he was offering, I could decline it if I didn't want one, but to decline it to save him the trouble wasn't fair to him.

And he told me that he was glad I told him all that. And he told me that he wouldn't offer if he didn't want to, so I should know if he offered, it was part of the way he would have fun in his day.

The rumble isn't over for me...I will have to remind myself of this conversation the next time he offers an early morning latté. But I'm thinking it will be easier to stay connected in meaningful relationship with my husband knowing what he said and what I've worked through.

...and once again, Brené Brown puts words and concepts around ideas that I have swirling around in my head. Her new book, Rising Strong is now out on store bookshelves ready for you to snap it up, and devour it...time to start rumbling and reckoning with your own stories!! (All the above pictures are snaps from her book...you'll love the pages that are behind the posters!)


Big birds in small cages

- by Sabrina Friesen

Sigh...summer is such a beautiful time isn't it? And with it comes altered schedules...Carolyn's writing routine is off and she will be returning to regular writing on the blog soon. For now, another beautiful blog by therapist and writer, Sabrina Friesen...

I’ve always been a word girl, finding solace in the words of others and making sense of my own experience through writing as well. What that means for me is that I’m also a pretty big fan of music, particularly songs with soul. Not as in ‘soul music’ so much, but songs that embody meaningful story


Basically, I’m a folk music junkie. I am pretty sure I could chronicle my life for you in song, starting with a little Def Leopard, Heart, and Bryan Adams with a side of Sharon, Lois, and Bram. I’d like to think my tastes have improved a bit since I was subjected to the music my mother loved. 

As a girl I would often sit at our cassette player in the living room listening to one tape after another. Now I listen while I run, drive, or in my kitchen as I cook. Now I don’t know about you but every now and then I come across a song that is just so...striking. 


Often the lyrics are a bit mysterious, and they almost always tell a story. 


As a ridiculously unmusical person I appreciate music simply as an uninformed listener. I don’t understand the meter or how harmony works, or what a key change really entails. 


There is something about a good song that stirs up feeling, and sometimes my insides just say yes!

If you’d been in my van at all this summer while driving about, you’d undoubtedly have come across me listening to this song by Patrick Watson: 



Before you think I’m some sort of song interpreting guru – let me be clear, I don’t really get it. But the lyrics have been running through my head for weeks, and I feel like I’m on the edge of something each time I hear it. 


There was a house halfway 'round the world

And I was invited in for a small taste of gin

There was a hallway a thousand birds long

But the biggest one of all was in a

Cage too small


I asked the caretaker cause he was the Maker

Looked at me and laughed, took another sip from his glass and said

Open up your ears and heart

You put a big bird in a small cage it'll sing you a song


You put a big bird in a small cage it’ll sing you a song...” 

There was something about this picture of a bird stuffed into a tiny cage that, even for this non-animal lover, was heart wrenchingly devastating. The image of this caged creature somehow seared itself on my heart, and the sorrow of that stuck place felt like a weight in my chest. This lamenting bird imprisoned, wedged in, and unable to move in the way it was intended. 


I listened to it over, and over, and over again.


Stuck.
Caged.
Not able to fly. 

That feeling. 


I know that one


I don’t know if it’s quite proper to call this a ‘universal’ feeling, but I wonder if most of us can relate to feeling imprisoned in one way or another. Maybe we haven’t been physically restrained, but..

  • what about being caged in a relationship? 
  • Or under the weight of someone else’s expectations? 
  • Or captive to our own shame? 
I think this space of feeling like we aren’t doing what we were made to, or living out of our full capacity is something that a lot of folks can resonate with. Sometimes we come up against structures or people or our own thoughts that just. keepusstuck.


And so when caged, we respond. The bird sings, some shut down, others get angry. Some pretend they fit the cage and try to make it work. 

As I ponder my responses to these spaces, I think I’ve managed to do a combination of all of these. And I can’t help but wonder, if the door was opened – does the caged bird even know how to fly? 


You put a big bird in a small cage it'll sing you a song....


Only the song doesn't end there.


You put a big bird in a small cage it'll sing you a song.

That we all love to sing along

To the sound of the bird that mourns.

This part nearly did me in. 

First because it is simply sung so beautifully, but mostly because the contrast between the loveliness of the song and the ugliness of the reality it speaks of is so profound. This part calls to us as witnesses, as those observing the stuck and captive place of another. 

It also suggests something smacking of sinister...that we on some level enjoy the misery of the caged creature

Yuck.

I’d like to distance myself from that thought, of singing along with this lamenting bird and somehow enjoying its tormented tune. And yet as I think of being caged in other contexts I can see all too easily how this just might be true. I think of times I’ve rejoiced the misery of others, or the ways I – because of inherent privilege or position – have both intentionally and unintentionally contributed towards the capturing and caging of others. 

I have been the caged bird, and I have enjoyed singing along with the sounds of other captives

I don’t want to be either. 

I want to be a bird that flies freely, or at the very least one that has freedom to move around a cage that fits. And I surely don’t want to commiserate in the misery of another.

I want to be a cage opener, to run down the long hall and coax caged birds out. 


I wonder how we, armed with this knowledge, could do life differently with those we know and love? 

Perhaps uncaging your teenager means letting them get that awful haircut that they really want. 

Does uncaging an employee mean that you give them freedom to do the project their way, even if it’s not your way? 

Does uncaging your spouse mean that their passion or hobby gets to be included in the family budget? 

Hafiz: The small man Builds cages for everyone He Knows. While the sage, Who has to duck his head When the moon is low, Keeps dropping keys all night long For the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners.  Poster by Bergen and Associates Counselling

And for us who live in cages: I wonder what it looks like to fly the coop. Maybe it means we speak up when we typically back down, or bust out of the cage of perfection by owning an area of weakness or asking for help? Maybe it means giving ourselves permission to open the door and try flying.

What ‘cages’ do you find yourself in? In what ways are you caging others? And what does it look like for us to open up the cage doors for ourselves and others?

You are the centre of you

- by Lindsey Walsh

While Carolyn is away on vacation, Lindsey Walsh steps in again to respond to questions about emotional parts and how they interact with each other...

After reading recent blog posts, my friend Alejandra e-mailed me the following question:

“While y'all are talking about Inside Out, can anyone please explain to me what should I make of Mom's "Chief Emotion" being Sadness? […] Is this meant to be "contentment"?”

Thanks Alejandra! This is a vital question.

The short answer is: Inside Out, treats our Inner Worlds like an orchestra without a conductor.

Like children in a home with no nurturing adult.

Like you without YOU.

And sometimes we do feel that way. Sometimes we experience our emotions like kids without caregivers.  

And most of us can agree that those are the hard times.

Luckily, the kids are not actually in charge. Or, if they are today, they don’t need to be tomorrow.

One of the most influential Family Therapists (and a hero of mine), Richard Schwartz, puts it this way:

“Everyone has a Self that is different from the parts [emotions]. [Self] is the place from which a person observes, experiences, and interacts with the parts and with other people.”

Just like a conductor has a different role from the musicians in an orchestra, my Self (Soul or Spirit) is different from my emotions, or what Schwartz and others call our “parts”.

You’ve maybe even said things like, “A part of me gets so angry when she says that.” Or, “A part of me feels so small when he treats me that way.”

That’s exactly it!

That’s the key idea that we forget sometimes: There is a “me” and there are the “parts of me”. There is my “Self” and there is my Anger, my Sadness, my Fear, my Disgust.

In the same way that the conductor of an orchestra is different from the musicians, the Self is different from the emotions, the parts of us. Self has a role and a responsibility to see the whole picture and to act with centredness, courage, compassion, and creativity.

In the same way that the conductor of an orchestra is different from the musicians, the Self is different from the emotions, the parts of us. Quote by Lindsay Walsh

Just as a cellist is not responsible for the tempo the trombone plays at, it is not my Fear’s job to soothe me. My Fear has one job: To alert me to real and potential danger and to protect me and those around me from danger.

That’s it.

I cannot - and should not - rely on Fear to nurture my child or listen to my wife’s day at work.

Fear cannot nurture.

And though Fear can listen, the sort of listening it does is partial at best. You know this from experience.

Fear cannot nurture or listen with empathy. These are not his jobs and, when he tries to do these jobs, things go poorly.

Very, very poorly.

Fear’s job is to remind me that my son GOT TO THE TOP OF THE KITCHEN STOOL AND IS LOOKING WOBBLY!!!

In short, Fear is a vital player, a valuable member of the team.

Fear is not a conductor.

Children need caregivers; orchestras need conductors.

Just as it is always my job to nurture my son, to provide him with love and guidance, to demonstrate respect and love for his mother and our family,

it is always my job to nurture my emotions. To appreciate my emotions. To learn from them.

But to never be led by them.

My emotions are the players in my orchestra. When they trust me to lead, we can make harmonious and beautiful music. When I leave the podium – chaos!

My emotions are the children in my inner-family.

And I am their father. When I can listen to, hold and soothe my own deep emotions--that is when they help me lead a rich life. That is when I can truly be in with my family and friends and clients. Then I can be compassionate and courageous enough to love my family and to serve my community with all my heart.

Then I can be me.

 

Tags: Living Well

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! 

(OK, so it took me a month to get this written...but it's summer!)



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!

 


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Blog ~ A Thoughtful Look at Life

September 1, 2015

Lindsey is curious about curiosity...how to join with our children to help them explore their worlds. How do we keep our lives magical and mysterious?

Brené Brown's Rising Strong book is out...it's interesting and profound...and connects with each of us. My connection with it's theme over something as simple as a latté.

And while Carolyn is away, the other therapists play...with words that is. Sabrina writes beautifully about cages and birds, and freedom and keys...




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