Category Archives: Coaching

Self-Care Is Your Job, Part 4: Conflict

Episcopal coach and writerThis post on conflict has taken awhile because it’s so freaking huge for me. I’m really uncomfortable with conflict. In fact, I pretty much hate it.

Oh, well. Too bad for me.

Here’s why:

Learning how to handle conflict is an integral piece of growing up and taking care of ourselves instead of expecting others to take care of us.

Managing conflict well requires being willing to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.

Managing conflict well requires believing in our own self-worth.

Managing conflict well requires trusting in the essential goodness of others.

Like the other components of self-care we’ve been discussing, conflict management requires learning skills that most of us weren’t taught , and practicing skills that many people around us will find challenging and uncomfortable.

To recap.

  1. Self-care is our job because we’re holons – whole/parts that exist both as separate entities and as components of something greater than ourselves. We’re created to be who we are.
  1. Real self-care requires self-regard, self-knowledge, and self-compassion. We often settle for shallow imitations because giving ourselves what we really desire is so freaking scary. Truly caring for ourselves often looks and feels irrational, it’s labeled “selfish,” and it requires visibility and risk.
  1. So we require boundaries – knowing where we stop and others start – taking care of our side of the street. Knowing the difference between my business, your business, and God’s business, as Byron Katie puts it.

And all of these new skills will inevitably lead to conflict.

As we develop new ways, we disrupt old ways. As we become more ourselves, don’t expect people around us to form a cheering section. Do expect what Martha Beck calls “change back attacks.”

When we define our edges and boundaries, when we are clear on our values and goals, we’ll have more conflict in our life. It’s inevitable.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not good news for me. As I mentioned, conflict scares me to death. In my family of origin, conflict often meant someone was going to get physically and/or emotionally hurt.

In my adult life that’s no longer true, yet the pattern remains.

Note: if conflict for you means that someone will get physically hurt, please get help. You’re in an abusive situation and you need help, right now.

Most likely what I’m dealing with when, as an adult, I feel scared of conflict is my lizard brain, the source of fight/flight/freeze responses to threat. What’s required to deal with these primitive, false brain responses is to activate my higher order thinking skills (HOTS).

We activate our HOTS by slowing down and noticing what we’re thinking, how we feel, and what we want. The best tools I know of to do this are mindfulness, the awareness wheel, and being clear on our values and goals.

We retrain our brain by choosing to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.

We retrain our brain by choosing to know the truth and to tell it, for the sake of authentic, intimate relationships.

Our cultural conditioning, our training to be nice, to be good girls, goes deep.

This will take time, so let’s start today to build the skills necessary to be happy and healthy.

Resources:

This amazing little book by Rachel Alexandria called Woman Overboard: Six ways women avoid conflict and one way to live drama-free

Marshall Rosenberg’s work in nonviolent communication

Brene Brown’s work

And here’s the awareness wheel again. If you’d like me to talk you through an awareness wheel or two, please contact me. I’d be glad to assist.

I’d love to hear about your self-care journeys and practices in the comments!

Self-Care Is Your Job, part 3

Episcopal coach and writer“It turns out that the more intimate we are with what we want, the more self-aware we will be about how we spend our time.” –Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must

When we take ourselves seriously and really begin to care for ourselves, we become more ourselves.

When we become more ourselves, we recognize how to take care of ourselves better, and we become even more ourselves.

When we become even more ourselves, we can, with integrity, fully take our place as unique whole/parts (aka “holons”) in Creation’s mysterious cosmic building project.

As we become more intimate with what we yearn for and what brings us joy, we become less tolerant of making choices that waste our time.

As we become less tolerant of making choices that aren’t in alignment with our values and desires, as we begin to choose real self-care, two apparent problems arise:

  1. The ways we’ve been propping up other people become obvious, and we’ll need to stop because we’re no longer willing to treat ourselves badly and waste our time for the sake of someone else’s supposed welfare.
  2. The people around us will probably feel threatened by our choices. They will perceive our decisions as judgmental of them, and unloving. They will feel scared and will try to get us to stop. They will call us “selfish.”

This is where boundaries come in. Boundaries are simple, but not necessarily easy. Boundaries say, “This is me. That is you. I’m responsible for me. You’re responsible for you.”

Simple, but not automatically easy, because most of us, women especially, haven’t learned to set and keep good boundaries.

We’ve been taught that giving ourselves away is love.

That’s false.

What’s true is that we love better from a place of integrity. We love better from our intact, deep, strong, intentional hearts. We love better when we choose our “yes” and our “no.”

Boundaries aren’t selfish.

Boundaries are a gift we give ourselves, our families, our friends, and our world.

Boundaries allow us to love as only we can love.

And I’m firmly convinced that healthy boundaries and good self-care make Jesus happy.

Coming up: how to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when we’re acting with integrity and self-love.

(Check out weeks one and two of this blog series on self-care for discussions about why self-care is your job, and how to tell fake self-care from the real thing.)

Self-Care Is Your Job, part 1

Episcopal coach and writer “Self-care.”

What’s your reaction to that word? When you read or hear “self-care,” do you light up? Do you feel warm and relaxed? Do you cringe and indulge in an inner eye-roll?

I think it’s a rare woman in our culture who hears the advice to take care of herself and responds, “Of course. Duh.” I think most of us are tired of being told to take care of ourselves. We’re either already doing it, or we’re confused about what self-care means and if it’s really okay.

If you’re struggling with whether you have the right to take care of yourself, and how to do it, you’re in good company. Self-care’s a tricky subject with lots of layers, and it can be difficult to manage.

Let’s take a deeper look at self-care. Let’s delve into what self-care is and isn’t, why it’s crucial, how to determine whether our current self-care is really serving us and what to do if it’s not, and barriers to taking good care of yourself in this four-part blog series.

(You can download a PDF to collect your answers to my questions here: Self-care lesson one pdf)

First of all, what is self-care? Self-care is anything that feeds our true selves. Self-care is doing things that strengthen our connection to Source/God and that bring us joy. Self-care is taking the time to figure out what we really want, down in our core. Figuring out what truly nourishes us.

What self-care isn’t: Self-care is NOT numbing ourselves to anger, boredom, anxiety, sadness, or any other painful feeling. Self-care is NOT finding ways to tolerate intolerable situations. Self-care is NOT behaving destructively – destructive anger, being mean, indulging in addictions.

Why is self-care crucial?

Because we are HOLONS.

The concept of holons comes from the New Cosmology, a way of describing reality rooted in modern physics. So this is science, yo. The theory of holons suggests that everything is a whole/part, that nothing is separate and distinct. Life consists of nested holons of increasing complexity. Everything is connected.

We know this is true. Our bodies are made from organs, which are made of tissues, which are made of cells, which are made of atoms, which are made of sub-atomic particles… In turn, we’re part of families and neighborhoods and communities and nations. Plants and animals are composed of atoms and cells and tissues, and in turn make up forests and biomes and ecosystems and the world. Nothing living exists apart and separate. We’re all connected.

Being a holon means that self-care is your job. When you take care of yourself you take care of both the smaller components of yourself and the larger systems of which you are a part. No one can take care of yourself but you. Self-care is crucial, and it’s your job.

So why does self-care feel like such a struggle, and how can we get better at it?

When we were little kids we were better at giving ourselves what we really needed. For most of us, that skill’s been replaced with figuring out what those around us want from us and giving them what they want. Being able to read our environment and keep ourselves safe by squashing our wants was a necessary skill when we were dependent on others for our survival. It doesn’t serve us as adults.

We’re told that self-care is selfish, and being selfish is bad. We’re usually told this by people who benefit from our selflessness. When we take care of ourselves, we set and keep boundaries and other people get uncomfortable.

We’re told that those things we used to do as kids that brought us bliss are silly and unimportant. Our lives become filled with “important things” like school and work and getting through the days. Bliss becomes a self-indulgent luxury.

How can we get in touch with what really truly feeds us?

Maybe you’re already doing a good job of this. You can be our mentors!

Many of us will need to remember the kid who loved simple, everyday things. Maybe it was finger painting or playing with your dog. Early mornings or late nights when no one else was around. A favorite tree. A game you could play for hours. What smells and sensations delighted your young self? What person or place made you happy?

Consider how those kid-bliss experiences and activities are expressed in your adult life. If they aren’t, how might they be?

Being a holon means we can hold paradox. Opposite things being true is built into our whole/part DNA. Self-care is both selfish and generous. We care for ourselves both for ourselves and for the world.

So this week, pay attention to what truly feeds you, and do more of it. Next week we’ll think about the ways we practice faux self-care, why we do that, and how to tell the difference between fake self-care and the real thing. Hint: it’s like the difference between junk food and healthy food. Healthy food takes more effort, and it’s sustaining!

You can download the PDF that supports this week’s work here: Self-care lesson one pdf

Leave a comment and let me know what your self-care challenges are. And your successes!

Are you who you think you are?

Identity - who are you? who am I?

Who are you? Who am I?

I recently found out using Ancestry.com that I’m a quarter Irish. I had no idea. No one in my family had ever mentioned Irish ancestry, just German and British. I’d always looked down my nose at St. Patrick’s Day. So I was surprised.

I’m ridiculously happy about being a quarter Irish.

This is all silly, right?

After all, nothing about me fundamentally changed. My DNA didn’t change. My body didn’t change. My history didn’t change.

The only thing that changed was my story about myself.

That’s what identity is – our beliefs about ourselves.

Even those things about ourselves that we didn’t choose.

Some facets of our identity are simply givens. The facts that I’m a 58-year-old white brown-eyed woman, genetically predisposed to short stature and high cholesterol, are completely out of my control. Some talents and personality traits seem to be in this category, too.

Some facets of our identity are results of our history and past choices. I’m a Westerner, an adult child of alcoholics and a survivor of sexual abuse, a clergy spouse, and a mom.

These pieces of who we are – our givens and our history – aren’t the important pieces, though.

The really important components of my identity are completely within my control.

The crucial, determining components of my identity are the stories I tell about my givens and my history and my choices.

What do I believe about being 58? What do I believe about being a woman? What do I believe about the alcoholism in my family? What do I believe about being married to an Episcopal priest and mothering my kids? What do I believe about my schooling and work choices?

Do I believe I was irreparably damaged by the drinking and the abuse? Do I believe I’ve made irredeemable mistakes?

For a very long time I believed that I was broken by my history. I stayed quiet and hidden so I wouldn’t get whacked again. On a good day, I congratulated myself for persevering. I found things about me to be grateful for.

But because I didn’t really believe I was strong and good and smart and valuable, I had to keep proving those things to myself and others.

How tiring.

How futile.

Lately, though, I’ve been listening to the wise part of me. The quiet little voice, the one muffled by my stories, has been getting louder and louder. “You’re strong,” she says. “You don’t have to prove anything.”

What changed?

What changed is that I’m examining my stories.

Redefining ourselves accurately requires surfacing our stories and evaluating them, keeping the ones that empower us and challenging the ones that diminish us.

Redefining ourselves, becoming who we really are, requires mindfulness, courage, compassion, and support.

I’m choosing to believe that I really am a child of God. I’m choosing to believe that I’m an embodied bubble of Holiness. I’m choosing to believe that my soul, my true self, my “undamaged essence,” is intact and shiny. I’m choosing to see my stories as self-protective fictions that I’ve outgrown.

Because underneath the givens about ethnicity and inherited physiology and history lies a deeper truth – an identity that trumps all others:

I am a unique, irreplaceable, precious, absolutely essential child of God.

So are you.

When I look at myself, my history and choices, from this perspective, everything changes.

When I look at you from this perspective, you change, too.

The St. Patrick’s Day party’s at my house next year.

(The above image is unattributed online. I looked and looked...)

A Word for the New Year

word

“Always we begin again,” says Benedict of Nursia, in his 6th century rule for monastics.

Always we begin again.

Every moment is a new beginning. Some moments hit us over the head with their “new beginning-ness.” The moment our clocks click over from 11:59 pm on December 31st to 12:00 am on January 1st is a very powerful moment. There’s a whole brand spankin’ new unsullied year stretching ahead of us.

One way to harness the power of a new year is to make resolutions. If you’re a maker of resolutions and you get the results you want, read no further. But if your resolutions leave you feeling like a flat failure, I invite you to consider a “Word for the New Year” practice.

The practice of discerning a word is usually more intuitive and heart-centered than making a resolution. A word comes from within. A word acts as a guide and illuminates the path before us. A word feels kind and gentle, sustainable and sustaining, even as it challenges and provokes. A word inspires.

Here’s the process I’m using this year with several groups: Word for the New Year 2015.12.29  I based this series of questions on a poem by Spanish mystic John of the Cross, and it’s pregnant with incarnational imagery.

Abbey of the Arts online Abbess Christine Valters Paintner offers a twelve-day mini-retreat focused on discerning a word for the year, which you can access here.

If you want a more entrepreneurial, business-oriented word of the year process, check out Christine Kane’s resources.

And share your word in the comments, if you’re so inclined.

Coming soon: some ways to work with and honor your word, once you’ve chosen it, or it’s chosen you.

Happy New Year! May you harness the power of new beginnings!

~Barb

Getting lost… on purpose??

LostEvidently some people get lost on purpose. Deliberately.

This shocks me.

We’re reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World this Lent here at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend. BBT waxes poetic about the benefits of getting lost on purpose. Last night people were sharing how they enjoy deliberately lose themselves in strange cities. I’m sitting there nodding complacently, and then I remember: I HATE being lost. I absolutely HATE that feeling. Feeling lost is something that I avoid at all costs.

I don’t push buttons to see what happens.

I read the directions before using an appliance the first time.

I almost always use a recipe when I cook.

And right now in my life it’s a pretty common feeling, that lost thing. I’ve gotten lost on purpose. Granted, if I’d known that starting a coaching practice would feel like this, I never would have done it. The same could be said for getting married and getting pregnant. If I’d known how lost I would feel, I never would have set out on any of these journeys.

So, how to cope with feeling lost? Here’s what I’m doing these days:

I’m as clear as I can be on where exactly I’m headed. I have a clear picture of the healing I can facilitate, and the life and livelihood I want to create. Robert Fritz’s structural tension tool from The Power of Least Resistance, which I learned at Wings, is helpful here, as are vision boards and intention statements.

I’m asking for directions. I’m querying friends in coaching and small biz Facebook groups. I’m asking Google lots of questions, such as “How do I create an e-course?” I’ve invested in coaching to help me do this thing.

I’m checking my “body compass.” Fear and discomfort are inevitable on this journey, I know. I’m paying attention to what feels like life and love mixed with fear, and what feels like “Stop!”

I’m taking consistent action, moving ahead slowly and surely.

I’m practicing feeling lost and being okay. It’s a useful life skill, to be prepared for the inevitable times when loss and feeling lost will be foisted upon us. As Taylor says,

At this level, the advanced practice of getting lost consists of consenting to be lost, since you have no other choice. The consenting itself becomes your choice, as you explore the possibility that life is for you and not against you, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

 

E. L. Doctorow famously said that writing a novel is “like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Feeling lost and moving ahead anyway is like that too, I think. I know this journey is worth getting lost.

I offer one-hour clarity sessions at no charge, I’ll help you see where you want to go and what’s getting in your way. contact me to schedule your conversation.