May 28, 2014

What Facebookers Have to Say About Coping with Loneliness

So, lately, many of my clients have been getting particularly stuck when it comes to loneliness. This is definitely a topic I've explored and included in my guidebook, but this week, I went to Facebook to see what others had to say on how we can cope with loneliness.

Here are just a few of the great responses:

Love yourself! "I rarely feel lonely any more. Before that loneliness was my constant companion from a young age."

Get a hobby! "I research anything that triggers my fancy. Right now I'm teaching myself how to make bread. I find three things to feel grateful for each day and write about it."

Go to a support group! "I've found, in addition to working with a support group, simply spending time with the groups here on FB helps me connect with others who've been through similar situations. This reminds me I'm not alone.

Say something positive! "When you brush your teeth in the morning .. Look at yourself and say out loud.. I am Beautiful .. .I am Good .. I am Worthy.... because it's true .. and You now have to learn to believe it.. when you do others will be drawn to you as your essence will radiate it ..."

Get some professional help! "Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I took a class for one year, learned lots of skills for coping with my life, and found the wherewithal to reconnect to others & to the world. I also recommend Barbara Feldon's book "Living Alone & Liking It". (She played Agent 99 on the 60s TV show "Get Smart".)"

Take it slowly! "Take one day at a time."

Distraction, distraction, distraction! "Lots of reading, work hard then sleep, create, write, listen to music, go for a walk, play online, explore Facebook, dance, clean, sew, paint, journal, sports..."

Have faith, lean on a spiritual practice! "Pray."

Be playful! "I find someone to play with my hair and talk to me."

Embrace it! "I'd rather be alone some days because there is a certain beauty in being alone. I wouldn't get artwork done if people were bothering me all the time. I have found people that have a hard time being alone have a hard time focusing on their inner self."

Get involved! "Join a club, volunteer."

Get a furry friend! "If life were a movie...get a dog"

All of this reminded me of when I was twelve years old and went to one of the many slumber parties that sprinkled my childhood days. I was super excited to be going to this particular slumber party because my best friend was the hostess. She lived next door (so there was the added comfort that I could just go home if things went wrong). We had spent lots of time together playing in the wide open fields behind our houses, so I was at ease about going to the party, knowing that there was at least one person there I could have fun with.

This definitely was not always the case. After the abuse, I remember days when it felt like all of the color had been drained out of the world. I would watch my peers play with their dolls and even beginning to gossip about which boy they thought was the cutest in the class. In those moments, I felt like a complete outsider. I wanted to scream at them, “How can you be so silly! Don’t you know really bad things happen in this world?!” I felt alone and like I just did not belong with these girls. This feeling has stayed with me through the years, even as the conversation has gone from cute boys to, well, cute men.

Abuse changes how we see the world. It strips away our innocence and we grow up well before we should. It is as though I was walking along a similar path with these other girls and then we reached a fork in the road. I continued on my journey that included the experience of abuse and they continued on theirs. My path was a bit thornier, bleaker, but there were clearings at times where I could see the other path and the sun and laughter that was there. I would try to soak up as much of it as I could—if even from a distance—but could never seem to break away from the path I was on.

This universal experience of abuse survivors—of being forced to grow up too soon and, as a result, feeling like we just do not belong—is one that stays with us for a long time. It is often one of our deepest false beliefs —“I don’t belong.”

As adults, we often find it hard to relate to others who have not shared our same path. We long for the look of recognition and ability to think deeply about things that matter and are turned off by relationships and conversations that remain shallow.

The trouble is that we are constantly out to prove that we do not belong. So, regardless of the situation, we stand on the outside and judge or evaluate rather than engage and bring an attitude of openness. We need to understand that the story of “I don’t belong” greatly impacts how we connect to others. We may find it harder to connect with others, but we only exacerbate the problem when we continue to have the attitude that we are somehow an outsider, flawed, damaged, or never fit in.

We also need to accept and appreciate that not everyone is our cup of tea! It is okay if we do not connect with someone. Our job is to not use this as further evidence to support our story.

Did you know that being lonely can actually provide us an opportunity for growth? Our ability to sit and remain grounded in the lonely times is no small thing. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis is telling the story of a man who has lost his son and is experiencing a deep sense of loss and emptiness—loneliness. Lewis writes that, in this void, “in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.” When I read this, it immediately jumped out at me. Lewis did not go on to explain what that “something else” was, but I think it is independence.

The experience of abuse often leaves us clamoring for love, affection, and attention. We bounce from relationship to relationship, job to job, activity to activity, refusing to ever stop long enough to deal with who we are when we are on our own. Now, this is in no way related to the popular idea that we must “love ourselves before we can love others.” I think, quite frankly, that is a ridiculous statement. I have actually come to love myself much more deeply through the relationships and reflections of my partners than when I was on my own.

What we can gain by developing the capacity to be in the loneliness is a sense that we can stand on our own two feet. We come to understand that the love and experiences that come with being with others are amazing and to be appreciated, but we also learn that our existence is not dependent upon “belonging.”

As a result, one very important thing changes: We stop saying “yes” to things just because we are afraid of being alone or trying to prove that we do not belong. Instead, we begin to powerfully choose for ourselves who we want to spend time with and what experiences we want to have.

Furthermore, we can learn to appreciate the “happy people,” as I call them. We may not enjoy spending a lot of one-on-one time with them, but we can, in fact, soak in their lightness, giggles, set aside our cares, and just enjoy the simple things with them.


How has loneliness been a part of your life?

How do you isolate yourself from others?

What things are you saying “yes” to out of the fear of being alone or not belonging?

May 11, 2014

A New Kind of Spring Cleaning: Tossing Out Negative Beliefs

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about spring cleaning. Even though these past couple of weeks have felt like a wild, lack of ozone layer produced summer here in San Francisco -- it is still technically Spring time.

Every Spring, when the days are long, the flowers are out, and there's that wonderful breeze picking things up and setting them down in new places, I always go into cleaning mode. Digging through drawers that have gone unopened for months, file cabinets get ravaged and cleared out, that little do-hickie thing that I was holding on to "just in case" gets chucked.

Today, I came across this great little pic ...

... and I thought, "Heck yeah! That's exactly what needs to be done!"

I imagined a "thought junk drawer" that I could open up, tip over a trashcan, and all of those negative ideas and beliefs that drag us down end up exactly where they belong -- in the trash!

I know, having been through the long haul of recovery, how hard it can be sometimes to not feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts. In fact, I think I used to be a hoarder of negative thoughts -- can you relate? 

Our minds are extremely powerful except when cluttered by all sorts of junk like "I'm no good", "No one will ever love me", "It's my fault", "I can't trust anyone." 

So, today, I want to encourage you to do some spring cleaning of a new kind. Open up that junk drawer in your mind, imagine a trashcan (maybe a very large trashcan depending on how long you've been hoarding negative beliefs about yourself), and just dump it all out!!

Whenever a new negative thought pops up, imagine sending it straight to the trash heap (I also like to make sound effects to go along with the image - like crumpling paper and tossing it).

Happy Spring Cleaning!

May 6, 2014

Amazing Children Speak Out About Their Private Parts

Okay, I just had to share this video this week! These kids are beautiful, amazing, and most importantly - educated! I don't often speak or write much about the prevention side of things, but I'm so grateful that videos like this exist these days -- and, man, do I wish I had seen a video like this when I was a kid!

If I had I would have known that my grandfather had absolutely no right to touch me and that I could tell someone. 

What would you have known to do if you had seen this video before you were abused?

Sign up for my free guide so you can stop spinning your wheels and instead navigate your way through each stage of recovery with ease and clarity. Get the support you need today