Fighting Shame and Fear

By Jessica Sorci, LMFT, PMH-C

Shame and fear seem to be at the root of so many of our behaviors and choices. We’re programmed to hide from shame and react protectively out of fear. All the hiding and reactivity create immense suffering in our lives. Fear and shame fuel our inner chaos, incessant looping, our judgement and our aloneness. It’s such hard work to re-train ourselves to slow down and turn around and begin to take an interest in the private, dark crevices of our own inner worlds, where we guard our shame and our fear. But it’s that work that will save us from what I think of as unnecessary suffering (some suffering comes with the job of being human). Your shame and your fear are pointing you precisely in the direction where you most need to pay attention, and to move closer.

Very few people spontaneously and joyfully raise their hands to do this work. We only look at our shame and fear when we have no other choice. When our protective structures are destroyed or fall apart, we find ourselves exposed and we become more acquainted with the fear and shame we’ve been traveling with. If this is you – if you are an avoider of shame and fear – I want you to know you are not alone. We are all born with wiring that supports avoidance of all things shameful. We don’t want exposure! Our nervous systems remind us viscerally that exposure will likely mean exclusion from the pack — and small animals with no pack don’t make it in the wild. We are absolutely wired to fit in, to seek acceptance (and love), because that is our best chance for safety. We don’t want to die.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely an adult. If you’re an adult, that means your childhood is behind you. You’re more empowered now, physically larger and not dependent on your pack for survival in the ways that you were as a child. You have new freedoms you’ve likely never fully appreciated. Left unchecked, the parts of you that were deeply imprinted with shame and fear still carry old beliefs about being bad, worthless and unlovable. And the protective parts that were enlisted to stand guard over those young vulnerable imprints continue to flash warning lights and poke you on and off throughout each day, reminding you not to out yourself from the pack. “Not safe! Not safe!” Your protective system has not not been updated about your progress through time, out of childhood and into empowerment. Your past continues to show up in your present like it’s still highly relevant, obscuring your access to all the riches that safety brings: rest, connection, open-heartedness, healing, creativity. It’s time for an update.

Therapy is designed to help us move the past out of the present, so we can grieve and celebrate our histories and actually arrive here now, where life is currently happening. In the present we can see and feel ourselves, the world and other people in powerfully enriching ways. We can still rely on our old safety systems whenever we need to – those protectors will always be on standby, ready to save us if they deem it necessary. But what a gift it is to our nervous systems, to be able to rest sometimes – to land fully in the present once in a while, where we can watch the sun set in a beautiful, vast sky that holds us always, so close.

If you could use some help getting your past out of your present, let us know.

Written by Jessica Sorci, LMFT, PMH-C

Couples Who Care

It comes as no surprise that when we’re stressed, our partners feel it; they can sometimes even take the brunt of it. Mine will be the first to remind me to make sure I’m taking care of myself, for us both.

As 2020 rages on, I’d like to remind everyone of a few things to do to stay seated firmly in care of self, care of our loves, and care of our relationships.

  1. Correct your criticism with compassion, Remind yourself of your beauty and your positive qualities.
  2. Find the daily accomplishments that you completed; acknowledge your partners wins, and share your gratitudes.
  3. Be vulnerable with yourself and your partner. Share the mundane and the shameful. Hold theirs. Hold yours. Ask questions-hold their hand.
  4. Surround yourself with the messages that will enable you to do the above. The feeds, the threads, the streams, the news sources, the friends, and the family.

Mostly, remember to assume best intentions, and allow them to mess up sometimes; especially if you want that grace in return.

Holding you in the light.

The Burnout Blues

For me, I notice I start to be unable to focus first; I miss appointments or forget shifts, and when I make it to work I watch the clock and can’t finish a project. My mind is jell-o. My sleep is shifting; and not in a good way. Every time I think about my work, my heart beats faster, my palms start to sweat, and a sinking feeling settles in my chest-dread. My friends and family start commenting on me being down in the dumps or generally cynical about my job.

While burn out can manifest in various ways for various people, there’s a clear deficit of the energy, passion, and drive for work or life that you may have had before. Depending on the field, it can go by compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, burn out, and the Monday Blues.

There are several causes for this, and right now in our current climate, several factors out of our control that exacerbate it. This can range from feeling unsupported by management, unclear or unrealistic expectations, and a work/life imbalance.

Most of the time, when people are seeing me they’re already aware of the negative consequences burnout is having. I see any combination of outrageous stress and anxiety, body complaints, deteriorating relationships, sadness or hopelessness, and unhealthy coping strategies.

Our work together is about understanding what you have control over, and techniques that can help. Are there any work/life compromises you can make, or ways to lower expectations? Who and what brings you pleasure? Who can you talk to when the world seems to throw you off? How can you stay in the moment without judgment or analysis? How can you prioritize your physical state with sleep, exercise, and nutrition?

There is rarely a clearcut answer to burnout-if it was easy to leave your job, you would have done it. Maybe you still will. Will that solve everything?

I work from a focus of increasing self compassion and try and provide small measurable changes that will shift your mindset towards positivity, peace, and connection. It’s possible to change how you feel, your thoughts, and your perceptions. Let’s do it together.

Searching For the Spark

It’s no secret that relationships are hard; that marriage is one of the most challenging things we ever go through in our lives. On average it takes about 6 years after serious problems develop for couples to seek therapy, which means by the time you’re sitting in front of me you have likely developed years of relationship sabotaging behavior.

It makes sense though, right? How do we make ourselves vulnerable again to the person who has hurt us over and over again in the worst of ways? The trouble with partners is they know our deepest shame, our biggest insecurities, and our life’s hurdles-they choose how to use that information. Yet, they’re still human, and people make mistakes. How do we build the desire and motivation to open our hearts to the idea of allowing this person in again?

So many people come into therapy because they’re lacking emotional affection/intimacy and feel misunderstood by their partner. We miss feeling loved, adored, doted on; and like we were that ideal couple! We got distracted with the laundry, the kids, the job, the responsibilities-when the hard friction moments came, we ran to the safety of these distractions. And now, who is next to us? We may know what toppings they like on their pizza, but we lost their hopes, dreams, and biggest fears of today.

So, here’s to reconnection. To the slow moments of learning each other again; emotionally and physically. To reviving the spark, reliving the joy and building for the future. Relationships are spirals, we build on each other, we develop and evolve over time.

Together, we can make sure your bond is greater than your insecurities.

Struggling With Procrastination?

You know the feeling, every time you open that project, think about investing in the back to school arguments, or decide to finally tell your spouse you need to talk, your mind zones out. You find yourself absentmindedly scrolling through social media, playing a little more animal crossing, or binging another Netflix show.

You’re not alone. This pandemic has dramatically shifted our day to day, and this is another change we can chalk up to COVID. With increased stress and anxiety, isolation, burn out, and lack of control; we’re finding ourselves craving distraction. This may seem innocent at first, another change to adjust to, but it also tells us there’s more happening below the surface.

Most of us know that, but how do you deal with it? How do you really know what is happening and figure out how to manage it?

Let’s start one step at a time. Together we’ll lead you through, show you how to question and understand what’s deeper, and adopt the techniques to overcome where you’re stuck.

We can walk you through managing the discomfort of starting, and teach you little tricks to stay mindful throughout the day. We can help you narrow your focus, catch the patterns of distraction, and call attention to bring you back. We’ll teach you to break things down, to evolve your coping mechanisms, and reconnect to where you want to be.

Handling Stress in a Pandemic

Let’s face it, today’s world is not what it was 6 months ago, a year ago or 10 years ago. I see so many people who are struggling to adjust, adapt; so many tags about thriving instead of surviving. But what if you just can’t seem to make that #thrive happen?

So you let yourself survive by putting on one more netflix episode, pouring one more glass of wine, wearing sweats on a zoom call one more time, and going to one more socially distanced BBQ. You tell everyone you’re adjusting! This is working! We can do this-the vaccine is just around the corner. But you don’t understand when a few hours later you’re crying on the way home from filling up your car and you realized you forgot your mask and the woman next to you scowled and refused to make eye contact.

In crisis situations so many people both crave human connection and consistently compare themselves to others; pushing people away while calling out for them desperately.

Through mindfulness approaches we can remember to take the deep breaths, practice compassion for ourselves, remembering that we are reacting normally in an abnormal situation. The world is in chaos, and how we respond to that chaos speaks to our primitive coping skills-whether they are healthy or not.

Take this moment to remember that through vulnerability, self compassion, and assuming good intentions of others we can change the world. Love ripples, my friends, throw the first stone.

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