Nothing is Magic

This title has been rolling around for a number of days.  Because I can’t decide if everything is magic or nothing.  I’m thinking about the changes I’ve made since my acupuncture appointment, and what it means to have your mind, body, and spirit all working in harmony.

Aside from the projects getting completed over that first weekend, I have connected with a PhD student who wants to support me in my vision for Mixed Race community space; I’ve experienced some really affirming and beautiful feedback about who I am as a person and what I contribute to my environments; work has gone very well; I was part of an incredible trauma training; and I’ve finally made a commitment to getting my body back where I want to be – bad coping habits are under control and I’m re-connecting with my love for exercise and the feeling of being strong and fit.  Aside from the things I can name concretely, my overall mood and energy are better, and I’m beginning to see small things appear in my life that are in line with the hopes and intentions I’ve been cultivating.

Last year my mantra was “Better feeling thoughts.”  I played around with that all year through the ups and downs of events that came my way.  The mantra was inspired by things I’ve been hearing from Abraham-Hicks.  I listen to these videos often to get my intention back in line with my best good.  They’re teachings about the Law of Attraction, but in a practical way.  Which sounds funny because basically it’s an old White woman channeling a set of ghosts/energies.  If you can get past that, it’s practical information.  But over the past year especially of listening to this stuff, it’s really just CBT+ (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and then some).

CBT is like the most standard form of change therapy.  As therapists, we’re taught about it from day one, it’s the basis of a lot of curriculum for clients, it’s standard.  It’s the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interrelated.  Law of Attraction says that Like Attracts Like.  Whatever you practice (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits), you bring into your experience (behaviors and relationships).  The hook is that most people don’t want to think they have that much control.  But if you make a commitment to observe this interrelationship, you can see the way you’re contributing to your own joy or misery.

The + in CBT+ for me is taking the additional leap to say you can create your own reality once you have a really good understanding and take control of the thoughts you think, which make you feel good (or bad), which make you think other thoughts that align with feeling good (or bad) which strengthens the feeling, and so on… which brings the experiences and relationships that match your feelings.  For me, part of the key has been that my feelings are the real indicator of where I’m at and where I’m headed.  I think part of where I was stuck was thinking I would get magical results quickly based on good intentions and feelings, rather than realizing it takes some time to get some momentum going in the direction I’m headed.  And I would give up too soon.

However, I think sometimes, there is a blockage or stuckness where you can’t get control over your thoughts and feelings.  This can be depression, grief, trauma, blocked energy, whatever you want to call it.  When I touch on the idea of medication with very depressed people, I talk about the idea of being in water.  When you’re at the surface of the water, you can tread, you can get a breathe, you can swim, you have choices.  When you’re depressed, it’s like you’re underwater and you don’t have those choices available to you, you can’t even see them.  Sometimes medications can help you get to sea level.  Medication is not going to swim you or breathe you, but it gets you up to a level where you’re able to make those choices.  And that’s what I feel like happened for me with the acupuncture.  All of these things that are happening now were in the works, but I couldn’t access them.  I was stuck.

I don’t think medication is magic.  And I don’t think acupuncture is magic.  I don’t fully understand what happened, but I know that something shifted and I became able to jump the dead battery of my life.  And with that, I’ve been able to see things start working out for me in ways that I’ve intended for ages and I’m creating now.  I’m very grateful for that!

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letting my freak flag fly

so I have this new supervisor and I feel like she can see straight into my soul.  she’s an adorable little lady, probably in her late 60s/early 70s, black woman with close cropped salt-n-pepper natural hair.  she’s been doing therapy for so fucking long, she can read people like magic.  I seriously asked her if she was magic when she asked my client whether she had a fear of elevators, closed spaces, bridges (she was right). 

most people who meet me remark at how calm I am, what a comforting presence… do you ever get angry?  but I can be very tightly wound under the surface, I have some control issues, and have some situational anxiety.  I send a lot of work emails.  yeah, i’m that girl. 

so she’s way more hands on, more of a mentor, gives me critique than any other supervisor I have had as a therapist.  today she told me I was being difficult.  I was wavering about whether to cancel some clients to attend a planning meeting in our other location and she called me on it.  it took me a good hour to process being called difficult.  aren’t I the people pleaser, the perfect one?   but at the same time, part of it made me feel good!

over the past week or so, she has told me a couple of times to let my worries drift over me, don’t get attached to the anxiety, relax into it and let it flow away.  I think it has taken me that long to really begin to hear it.  something about the way she can see through my nonsense is making me boil over with freakishness.  in the middle of this meeting today, I told her, “you’re more hands on than any manager we’ve had since I’ve been here.  I really appreciate it and it’s very challenging.”  we all laughed about that.  I then went on, “everyone thinks i’m so calm, but i’m totally anxious and controlling underneath this exterior!” 

she affirmed both sides.  “the calmness makes you a good therapist, very comforting and safe and approachable.  but you can’t be calm all the time.”  god, that’s so good to hear.  she’s giving me permission to have the both/and while remaining an acceptable human being.  I’ve got a tattoo on my wrist that reads, the courage to be imperfect.  it’s there for good reason!  I can’t believe how many times I have to learn the lesson that it’s ok to be exactly who I am, without sugar coating or apologies.  it’s ok to be a dichotomy.  being reprimanded for being difficult would’ve sent me into a full-on, no turning back, shut down fit in the past.  i’m happy to be able to just accept it and move on today. 

both. 

life goes on

i’ve had an incredible week at work.  yesterday was kinda tough, to fully capture my strong feelings i should’ve written this a day or so earlier, but… what can you do.

i truly feel that my work has a component of holiness.  i’m a therapist and i’m lucky enough to share in people’s process from hurt to healing, darkness into light.  i have individual clients and do group work with people in treatment for chemical dependency.  i’ll mention that chemical dependency is very intertwined with social services and the legal system where i live, so many people are either court ordered or are there because it’s a stepping stone into other services.  i have mixed feelings about this.  obviously when you’re not there for the purpose intended, or you’re being forced to be there, you may not reap the benefits intended.  but, you may get something unexpected.  and that goes along with what i believe about my profession.

in group this week, one of the men asked me if i take my work home with me, the things i hear, the sadness.  i told him i’m not a robot and i think about my clients a lot outside of work.  but i also don’t see myself as a savior.  i didn’t get into this field to save the world.  i came to give whatever help i can – to provide conversation pieces, to be a second pair of eyes, to build perspective.  i’m a gifted listener, that’s kind of what my talent boils down to.  with that, i built on skills about what to clinically listen for, verbalizing helpful support and pointed questions.  some people will take what i bring and run with it, others won’t.  i can’t be connected to the outcome (though i notice change and rejoice in it).  i choose to focus on the growth, hope, and beauty of people, even in periods of brokenness.

this week at my agency, we’re implementing some new groups and re-vamping our programs.  it was terrifying and exhilerating to try new content and methods.  i’ve really taken a leadership and ownership role on this project and the benefits are amazing.  i feel so good!  a colleage came in to say hi and said i was glowing, she could see it on my face.  i told her what i had been working on in group, and she said, “you’re stretching.  doesn’t it feel nice to be brave and stretch and grow?”  it really does.  in addition, each individual session i have had so far this week has had this holy element, too.  we’re connecting.  i’m asking the right questions and my clients are having this wonderful insight, and i can see them growing, too.  to be with people as they experience growth and insight is the most humbling, exciting, heartfelt feeling.  i really love my work.

finishing school in the summer and moving straight into intensive caretaking and grief, i’ve been halfway checked out of my work for a while.  granted, this is the only kind of work i would’ve wanted to have been doing this year.  it had to be meaningful and helpful for it to make any sense with what i’ve gone through this year.  diving head first into grief over the past couple of months has made returning to work manageable somehow.  i’ll never get over the deaths of my aunt and grandma.  i still burst into tears unexpectedly and i’ve got so much more to process.  but really feeling the grief allows for me to set it aside and get present with my work and my life.  i’m determined to move forward.

my last conversation with Barb has haunted me and stuck with me, it always will.  i’ll save the details for another time, but the gist was her encouragement for me to leave the dead behind and to go LIVE.  in her last weeks she also pointed out how we liked the same things – art and psychology.  my decision to go into therapy had little to do with my aunt.  but during these times when i feel the holiness of the work now, i feel a part of her in it with me.

instigator

i’m thankful for something i’m learning at work.  i’m a great listener and that’s a good asset to me as a therapist.  but i’ve come to the realization that listening is not the single most important part of therapy.  i have to have the background knowledge and training of course, i have to know what to look for.  yes, that’s important, too.

to backtrack, i’ve just been through a phase of feeling kind of incompetent:  i’m great at building rapport.  people feel accepted by me, they get comfortable, they like being with me.  but most people don’t wanna show you their ass, they want you to stroke their egos while they do a super job being a rose-colored representation of themselves.  i’m good at the ego stroking, but have felt stuck when trying to figure out what i can do about it.

i’m laughing to myself right now because what i want to say seems so obtuse, so not something that you normally affirm as a good thing.  but sometimes, as a therapist, i need to stir the pot, manipulate, mess things up a little bit so i can see why this sweet little carefully crafted mask sitting across from me is really here.

that’s my job.  that’s what i’m there for.  crazy!

i like when things get interesting.  last week i had a father and son who had been the perfect image of family cooperation flip out when i was laughing at the son’s solution to dealing with bullies (“say some yo mama jokes”).  and then today i had to whoop this little 9 year old girl’s ass at checkers so she would stop acting like the perfect little angel trying to convince me she didn’t have a dark side that her mom can’t handle.  she messed up the board, used verbal trickery and smoke and mirrors to try to convince me that her last move was three moves, and tried to force me to move my king-me blockers so that she could start winning again.  she showed me her ass!  now we can get somewhere.

i’m starting to remember why this job is awesome!