Writings

Pain: A Very Special Form of Resistance (or, How To Shrink Your Life)

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Pain: A Very Special Form of Resistance (or, How To Shrink Your Life)

Bonsai are fabulous, aren’t they! Those twisted, dwarfed trees, trained through the process of cutting the tap root and wrapping limbs in heavy wire, seem still to capture the beauty of natural process, trees compensating for wind and soil to continue living. When I was younger, I wanted to cultivate bonsai; I think, as the daughter of a psychiatrist, I saw in them a reflection of what I saw in people, in myself: stunted at the root, twisted by outside forces, yet profoundly beautiful for all of that. Oh, youth! At some point, I began to realize the downside of those lovely contortions...

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“It’s just pain:” Turning the mountain into something more like a mole hill

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“It’s just pain:” Turning the mountain into something more like a mole hill

Learning to manage, and not avoid, pain is a crucial life skill. In doing healing work, our bodies learn both to tolerate discomfort better, and to rebound more quickly from the pain that life continues, at times, to bring. And it is in the tolerance to pain, the ability to move to the edge of it, and with breath and presence embrace it, that we learn once again (back to the bonsai metaphor), to extend our own taproots deeply into the earth and to straighten our limbs (oh, but not completely, for it is in the marks left from life that we count our experiences, and what we have learned). In...

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Pain as my teacher

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Pain as my teacher

Stephen Gaskin, cofounder years ago of a commune in Tennessee called The Farm, once said the degree to which one is enlightened is revealed by what one says when one hits one’s thumb with a hammer. Metaphorically, even literally, that hammer threatens all of us: divorce, termination of employment, violence, illness, and a host of other disruptions confront our lives. We wrestle with each other, contrary needs vying for primacy. We crash, at full throttle, into the walls of our limitations and those of others. Death, metaphorical or literal, sooner or later leaves an impact on our lives....

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Ouch! Just saying “no” to pain…and the cost of doing so

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Ouch! Just saying “no” to pain…and the cost of doing so

Bonsai are fabulous, aren’t they! Those twisted, dwarfed trees, trained through the process of cutting the tap root and wrapping limbs in heavy wire, seem still to capture the beauty of natural process, trees compensating for wind and soil to continue living. When I was younger, I wanted to cultivate bonsai; I think, as the daughter of a psychiatrist, I saw in them a reflection of what I saw in people, in myself: stunted at the root, twisted by outside forces, yet profoundly beautiful for all of that. Oh, youth! At some point, I began to realize the downside of those lovely contortions...

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Talking to the Hand

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Talking to the Hand

Resistance gets a bad rap. Without air resistance, we couldn’t fly. Without water resistance, our sailing days would be over. Without muscle resistance, we’d be rolling helplessly on the floor. And without emotional resistance, we’d have no boundaries. Sitting ducks for any jerk that wanted to take advantage of us. Let’s face it, in this all-too-real world. Jerks exist. We need boundaries. So say this out loud and with confidence: “I need resistance”” And then whisper to yourself, “as long as I choose it and can thin those boundaries when it serves me.” Anyone who watches...

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Dancing Stillness

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Dancing Stillness

If you’re a shark, ignore this. Sharks must move; for them, stillness equals death. Of course, if your experience in life involves being chased by sharks, you’re probably not familiar with stillness either. As a psychotherapist working with trauma, I find most of my clients fitting into that category. Stillness is not frozen. My clients are all too familiar with that; the held breath, the rigid musculature, even the tunnel-vision gaze are all too common. The essence of the frozen state is one of past and future; a body stuck in a past of thwarted defense mechanisms, a feared future of...

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