Day 320

Putting Myself Out There

So becoming a coach is like not being able to swim, and standing at the deep end of a pool contemplating diving in–will I sink or swim?

There are so many anxieties around this whole process. I had my first teleclass today and it was pleasant, but I couldn’t help comparing myself to the other trainees. They all seemed to have coaching experience, and the instructor talked as if we were all experienced coaches. It was intimidating at first, but I took a deep breath and said, just listen and learn, which was great because the class was about powerful listening.

After the class, as part of the graduation requirements, I had to post my reflections on the course forum. Not knowing exactly what to do, I just created a new post and wrote about my impressions, sharing the reflections from the class module. Shortly after that, I messaged two potential peer coaches, and introduced myself to my study group. The whole time I felt vulnerable and exposed. I kept thinking, “Am I doing this right?”

With no clear guidelines as to what to do and how to proceed, this process is a bit scary. However, it is good. I am autonomous. There’s nobody saying how I should do this; I know the requirements; I just need to fulfill them in my way. It’s finding my way that is anxiety inducing.

Venturing into new territory sheds light on so many uncomfortable truths. My inner children are screaming for my attention. I hear them, but I am not quite ready to meet their needs. I’m frozen by fear.

I know I have the tools I need to integrate these parts of myself I had abandoned, or that are trapped in the past due to trauma. I know what to do, but I’m rusty. When I started this journey I delved deep into the recesses of my psyche almost every day, but now, I avoid those unexplored parts of myself. It will be like starting for the first time.

Well, the vacation’s over. Time to get back into the swing of things; time to make my needs a priority. Time to get to work.

It’s a labor of love of course. More to come.

Peace.

Day 98

Two Steps Forward and Three Steps Back?

I’m trying to stay positive and learn something from what I am going through, but I can’t help feeling really lost and really awful. Last Thursday was the last day of my Zumba class. Several weeks prior, the class had stopped being fun for me. I was beginning to wonder why I should continue going.

The only reason I can think of was my reluctance to disappoint a small group of classmates that seemed to care whether I showed up or not. One of them was an expat like me and we had talked a few times before and after class; we had even talked about meeting outside of class but whenever we tried to get together, one or both of us would be too busy or unable to meet. I was beginning to think that although she seemed to care about being friends, she didn’t seem interested in meeting outside of class, and with the class being cancelled I probably would not see her again.

She was also part of a tight knit circle of friends to whom she referred as her Japanese family. They were also very friendly and welcoming, but I always felt like a third wheel or tag along, and it was hard to find a place among her circle of friends. So my reason for going to Zumba was beginning to lose its power over my decision to go. Two weeks ago, I left the class feeling really down, so I decided that I would not return despite the fact that it would be the last class. I knew it would disappoint the others, but it was no longer a good enough reason to do something I no longer enjoyed.

That day I sent an email to the expat to explain my decision not to go to the last class and to extend an invitation to stay in touch despite the loss of our Zumba class. We were both teachers and we seemed to have more than Zumba in common, so I still wanted to keep in touch. I was happy with my decision because I made it not based on my perception of what others would think and how others would feel but on what I thought and how I felt. I also asked the question, “What would someone who loved themselves do,” and the answer was a resounding, “Stay home and do something fun with your family. Do not spend another minute doing something you do not enjoy doing.” So, that’s what I did. I stayed at home.

I was able to have dinner with my husband and daughter. We played a word game to help my daughter learn how to read, and I did my own cardio to replace the activity I missed by not going to Zumba. I felt like dancing, so my daughter and I danced in our living room, and I was able to tuck my daughter in and spend some time with my husband before going to bed. It was a wonderful evening and I was happy that I missed Zumba. It meant that I had put myself first, and it was a good feeling.

That was until today when I received my friend’s reply to my email. It turns out that she and her friends had prepared gifts for me. By not going to Zumba, I was not there to receive those gifts, and I feel that I may have offended them by not being there as I said I would the week before. Now I am beginning to doubt the purity of my motivation to stay home.

I knew that my friend and her close knit circle of friends would be disappointed if I did not go, and yet I decided not to go. This is ironic because I have wanted a circle of friends, and I made a decision that denied me the chance to feel like I was part of one. It was painful to read about how they had felt sad that I wasn’t there. My friend had even made me cupcakes. If I had gone, I would have been able to receive those gifts and show my sincere appreciation and seen how much they cared about me. I would have been able to say good bye and our parting would have been pleasant. Instead, I have to live with the regret of not showing up and leaving them hanging.

I feel confused. On the one hand, I made a decision based on how I felt and I honored my desire not to go by staying home. On the other hand, by staying home, I missed the chance to say goodbye to my friend and her Japanese family. I missed an opportunity to thank them for their kindness. A part of me did not want to say home. I dismissed this as my ego afraid of how my not being there would damage my reputation. I realize now that it was more than that. I should have acknowledged that part of myself and gotten to the bottom of my desire to go. I deeper look at the motivation behind the desire and the conflict between staying home and going to Zumba might have lead to a better decision.

I can’t rewind the clock and do Thursday over again, but I will learn from this. I don’t think I made the wrong decision. It was the decision I needed to make to make it perfectly clear that I still need to do shadow work when I feel upset. It probably wasn’t my adult self that was reacting to that situation. It was an inner child in need of attention. By choosing not to go, I was protecting that inner child from an unpleasant situation, but in doing so, I may have damaged any chances I would have had to deepen my relationship with my friend and her group of friends. Regardless, this situation has shown me the importance of continuing shadow work. So that’s what I am going to do now and whenever I feel upset or any strong emotions.

Now, it feels like I’m regressing, but that is not the case. I am getting closer to change and with change there is often resistance. As I unravel more and more layers of my psyche and get closer to aspects of myself that lie deep in the shadows, my tendency to resist the change strengthens. This is a sign that I am on the right path; I just need to trust the process and move through despite the fear.

 

Day 93

Sugar Free: What I Learned from a Two Week Sugar Fast

Sugar when used in moderation can be an added pleasure to the culinary experience, but when abused it can wreak havoc on the human body. There is no danger in using sugar in small doses, but in our modern diet of processed and prepackage mass produced easily accessible food, consuming sugar in moderation takes some culinary acrobatics. For me, sugar is a huge part of my diet. I have a major sweet tooth and until quite recently, I did not go a day without eating something sweet. I’ve known for some time that I have sugar addiction, but until recently, I hadn’t done anything about it. Two weeks ago, I decided that I needed to cleanse myself of sugar so that I could begin a new chapter in my life where sugar was just a part of my diet rather than the focal point of my diet. So I swore off sugar in the form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose for fourteen days. Here’s what I learned.

I was physically dependent on sugar

The first seven days of my fast were really difficult. I actually had physiological reactions to the lack of sugar in my diet. I was sluggish and tired, and I was unusually irritable. I craved sugar and dreamed about eating Snicker’s bars and cake. I would finish a meal and have a desperate need to eat something sweet afterwards. The need for sugar manifested as a physical ache, and I spent long days reminding myself of the benefits of life without the pull of sugar. I kept a record of the fast in a small notebook that I carried with me. The first few entries show how much I craved sugar and how it affected my mood. I am now convinced that I used sugar to alter my mood.

I was emotionally and psychologically dependent on sugar

After seven days, the physical cravings for sugar dissipated, but even today the psychological need for sugar lingers. I miss the ritual of eating sugary sweets. Every night my family eats a dessert after dinner. Dinner just isn’t complete without a sweet of some sort. During my fast, I’d watch as my husband and daughter enjoyed dessert, and I’d feel sad that I couldn’t partake. At the same time, I was mindful of what partaking entailed. Before the fast, I would eat dessert after dinner. Although I was satiated and even at times full after eating dessert, minutes later, I’d feel hungry again. I’d eat chips or a piece of toast although I had been full a short time before. I would always feel guilty after indulging, and that made me eat more sugar to comfort myself only to feel guilty for eating too much sugar, and the vicious cycle continued.

During my fast, when I’d watch my husband and daughter enjoy their dessert, I noticed that I was not ravenously hungry after eating. I did not need that extra bit of calories I always craved after dessert, and over time, when the cravings abated, I began to appreciate the feeling of being satisfied after a meal. The absence of sugar showed me that having a dessert after dinner didn’t really add to the experience, but rather deprived me of the sensation of being satiated after a meal.

However, even now, when I am anxious and nervous, I still think about getting something sweet. Not having the option to indulge in a tasty treat in times of distress has made me mindful of the fact that I am resistant to feeling anxious. It is perhaps the most unwelcome emotion that I have. Without the release that sugar offers, I have had to sit with my anxiety and examine the root cause of it. I am sorry to say that I haven’t done shadow work so great is my resistance to this emotion. However, having taken the option of sugar as a coping mechanism off the table, I am more inclined to face my anxiety head on, which is a step in the direction of health and well being.

Sugar is a wonderful teacher

The most important thing that this sugar fast has taught me is that I rely on sugar too much for a emotional release. Accepting that I have a problem and taking steps to remedy the problem has taught me a lot about myself and about the aspects of myself that still dwell in the shadows. It has brought me closer to an authentic perception of myself and it has shown me that I can survive without abusing sugar. It has acted as a foil to the lasting and meaningful release that shadow work and a deeper knowledge of the self provide. The empty fix that sugar has provided all these years has taught me what I truly need and want, and that is not a temporary release from emotional pain and discomfort, but a permanent solution to the cause of that pain and discomfort. This was a valuable lesson to learn and I am deeply grateful that I have learned it.

Sugar Free: My Life After My Sugar Addiction

Although I spent fourteen days abstaining from sugar, I am not going to cut sugar out of my life completely. I still enjoy sweet things. However, it has now taken a healthier role in my life. It’s power over me is gone for I no longer seek release through its consumption. I am learning to replace that with healthier outlets. I have; however, decided to no longer partake of processed sugar. I will now eat fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth. On special occasions like my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas I might indulge; however, I am beginning to wonder if even that will be necessary. It does seem a little too soon to say that I am free from my sugar addiction. This is not the first time I’ve thought I was clear of it only to be pulled back into the vicious addiction cycle, so for now, at least today, I will say that I feel better about my relationship with sugar. I am grateful for this moment in my life when I have chosen my well being over my need to escape emotional discomfort.

A Message for You

For those of you struggling with an addiction, my heart goes out to you. No matter what you are going through I know that there is a way out of it. We can learn from our addictions. They tell us vital things about ourselves and our needs. Our addictions are motivated by a need to feel loved, to be comforted, and to feel safe. For me, my sugar addiction taught me that I have a need to feel comforted. I will no longer look to sugar for that comfort because I know at my core that this a false comfort.

I encourage you to examine your addiction without judgment. Find out what it has to teach you. It is not easy, but I know we all have it within us to change the things that do not serve us well. Our addictions serve us, but they do so myopically, and therefore not very well. There are aspects of our psyche that can and will meet our needs healthfully. We have only to get in touch with that wise part of ourselves.

That is what I did. I listened to the soft but firm voice that said, “You no longer need sugar. It’s time to cleanse yourself of this toxin and restore it to its rightful place as a simple pleasure.” This voice speaks to us in every situation; we just need to learn how to listen and then we have to trust it. In my experience, it has never steered me wrong. The power is within all of us to take control of our lives and make healthy loving choices for ourselves. I believe in you and I wish you the very best.

 

 

Day 66

Psychological Wounds, Inner Children, and the Beauty of Emotional Pain

Upon reflection of yesterday’s decision made out of anger and a desire to stop the pain of loneliness, I have come to the realization that there might be another way to change my situation besides moving to another building. I asked the question that I probably should have asked before, and that is why do I feel lonely and isolated. Delving deeper into the origins of those feelings brought me to an inner child who was stuck in the past in which she was isolated and alone. Once I paid attention to that inner child, the one who spoke through me in my last post, I realized that the loneliness and isolation that I was feeling the other day had very little to do with my current situation. In retrospect, the feeling of anger born of a sense of powerlessness should have been an indication to me that there was more to the situation than what I was experiencing at the surface. Once again, the strong emotions that I felt were a reflection of my psychological wounds.

Psychological wounds manifest as parts of myself that are stuck in the past because of childhood trauma or self abandonment. They keep me in the past and make it difficult for me to discern what is happening in my current reality. These wounds take the form of inner children who take over in times of stress or distress and make it hard for me to make adult decisions. In the moments where situations arise that evoke emotions that I have suppressed, I am transported back to the past and I become an infant or a small child unable to make sense of the situation, and like an infant or small child, I cry out for attention, love, and comfort.

Seeking those things externally can never meet my needs because it is not the adult L’Shawn who is crying out, it is the inner child, and I am the only one who can sooth my inner children. Knowing this, I realize that in times when I am crying out for attention and significance, it is most likely an inner child calling out for my attention so that I can bring them out of the perpetual pain in which they are trapped and integrate them into my psyche making myself whole one child at a time.

In the past, before I understood what psychological wounds were and how they affected my behavior, I thought that these immature reactions to various upsets in my life were an indication that I was irreparably damaged. This would give rise to feelings of intense shame and despair and I would spiral into a depression that would last anywhere from a few weeks to a month. Believing that my negative emotions were indicative of weakness and imperfection, I would deny my feelings of anger, loneliness, and isolation thereby ignoring my inner children who were in desperate need of my attention. This of course did not resolve the situation, so I was stuck in a cycle of of emotional stability punctuated with bouts of deep depression.

I have known about psychological wounds for about three years now. I learned about them when I was searching for answers to cure my depression. The late Peter K. Gerlach, who passed away recently, posted a series of videos on YouTube. These videos made it possible for me to understand and name the root cause of my immature and unproductive behavior. However, it wasn’t until I started this process of self-love that I have been able to benefit from Gerlach’s lessons. It wasn’t until I was able to give myself permission to feel angry, and lonely that I was able to move past these emotions to their source.

Giving myself permission to feel angry and to react to my feelings of loneliness the other day allowed me to see the truth behind those unpleasant emotions. Once I was able to move through the emotions rather than block or resist them, I could do the shadow work that was necessary to resolve the real issue which was an inner child in need of rescue. Now that she is in a place of love and acceptance, I no longer feel lonely and isolated. I was able to be present for most of the day today. I connected with a number of my colleagues, and I was able to be vulnerable without the fear of being judged or rejected. I was able to be myself, and it was a great feeling.

Having that clarity of mind and being self aware really emphasized the fact that I was not reacting to my work situation at all but rather, my work situation had awoken an inner child which transported me to the past and out of the present. It is through this realization that I have now begun to grasp how the universe teaches us through contrast and reflections. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world when that inner world is fractured or not integrated. Any time we experience an emotion that is similar to a past unresolved emotion, we are pulled back into the past where the emotion originated. Until the experience tied to that emotion is resolved, it will continue to arise throughout our lives. In other words, we cannot move forward or be fully present if parts of us are trapped in the past.

Today I learned a profound lesson about myself and the nature of psychological pain. It is through our psychological pain that we learn about our wounds. It is through compassion and unconditional love that heal those wounds and reintegrate the parts of us that are trapped in the past. The ability to feel emotional pain is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It is the first step to awareness. Without emotional pain, we cannot heal, we cannot grow, and we cannot move forward. Before I hated being in emotional pain, but now I welcome it because it is an opportunity for growth. It is also an opportunity for empowerment.

Any emotional pain that we feel can be resolved through introspection. This means that the power to heal is squarely in our hands. We all have it within us to heal ourselves; we only need the tools with which to explore our inner world. We are fortunate to live in a time and place where there are so many tools available to help us explore our psyche. Each of us has our own individual paths and we must come to this realization in our own time and on our own terms. Some of us come to this faster than others, and some of us go our whole lives without realizing this. However, when we do reach a point where we realize that the answers are truly on the inside, it is an amazing experience. We are then able to be present and to connect and to really live our lives to their fullest. It is my sincere hope that we all get to experience this at some part in our lives.

So now that I have learned this, I have decided that I do not need to move to the other office. For now, I will stay where I am, and I will learn new things about myself while I’m interacting with my fellow teachers. I will learn how I make connections and how I become part of a group. It will be the first time in a long time that I will have allowed myself to belong. It’s an exciting prospect.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

Day 62

I’m Not Stupid I’m Sleep Deprived

Checking out an article on the effects of sleep deprivation, I realize that what I perceive as stupidity is really the results of months of sleep deprivation. One of the many negative effects of not getting enough sleep is cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation affects long and short term memory, and people who don’t get enough sleep, are easily confused, have a hard time making decisions, and have difficulty controlling their emotions.

As I read the article, I saw myself in all the descriptions of how sleep deprivation effects the body and the brain, and I thought to myself, this is my problem. I’m not stupid, I’m sleep deprived!  Since my son was born, I haven’t been getting much sleep. I believe I get an average of about four to five hours of sleep a night, and some nights I don’t sleep at all. I think that this is a form of self abandonment and self neglect. So, it’s time to start taking better care of myself.

In addition to committing to fifteen minutes a day of meditation, including physical activity in my daily routine, and doing shadow work to make my psyche whole again, I will go to bed at a decent hour. So from now on, I will track my progress and see how much better I function on a good night’s sleep. Having said that, I’m signing off.

Until next time, I wish you all the best and sweet dreams.

Day 61

Exploring My Biggest Fear: What I’ve Learned So Far

Last time, I addressed the fact that my biggest fear is having a lower IQ than someone in my position should have. I have no idea what my IQ is but considering I was put in remedial math when I was in elementary school and my teachers did not have much faith in my academic abilities, I assume I didn’t have a very high IQ. I am terrible at taking standardized tests, and I’ve never been good at math or science. These observations have led me to believe that I am not very smart. So as a result I feel inadequate and inferior to my fellow instructors.

The key here is my feelings of inadequacy. I think at its core this is a reflection of my consistently low self-esteem. Although I have come a long way, this little hiccup is an indication that I have much more work to do. There are still parts of me that do not feel valued, and I need to delve into the shadows once more to rescue them and remind them that I am not that shy little girl counting on her fingers and relying on touch math to do the simplest equations. I am a grown woman who has accomplished a lot and has a lot to offer the world, and has done a lot to contribute to English education in Japan. Moreover, my worth is not determined by how smart I am or what I have accomplished or what I have done. I have value because I’m L’Shawn and that’s enough. I do not need to prove my worth.

Sitting with this fear and allowing myself to feel the sadness and frustration that comes with the core belief that I am stupid and therefore unworthy of love or respect has taught me another thing about myself. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I noticed today that I go to great lengths to reduce my emotional discomfort, and it was with some effort that I let myself be uncomfortable. Throughout the day, I found myself seeking emotional comfort from colleagues, only to realize that I was escaping feelings that I judge to be bad and therefore unacceptable for me to express or feel. The more I denied myself the chance to unburden myself  to my colleagues, the sadder and more isolate and desperate I felt. However, I knew that I needed to allow myself to get through the emotional pain without getting quick fix from those around me. I could not abandoned myself, so I let myself get through the pain, and eventually, I began to feel better, and I was happy that I allowed myself to let the emotion play out.

Having discovered that I have a hard time feeling sad or lonely, I am going to redouble my efforts to continue shadow work and to learn to accept these less desirable emotions. To fully accept myself, I must be present no matter how I am feeling. Emotions are neither good nor bad they just are, and I have got to learn to let them be. I have heard that mindfulness is a great way to learn this very valuable skill, and I will meditate for at least fifteen minutes a day.

I am grateful for my fear of being stupid because it has given me the opportunity to learn more about myself and to reintegrate the parts of myself that I abandoned in my childhood or adolescence. As I learn more about myself through my emotions, I also learn about the ideas to which I am attached that may not be helpful. Attaching my self-worth to my IQ is neither helpful nor necessary. I can still live my dream despite my level of intelligence, and I am learning to be okay with that.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

Day 50

Riding the High of Self Love

So in my last post I described how I rescued the inner infant that was the source of my loneliness, and I am happy to say that the loneliness is still gone and I feel loved for the first time in a long time. This morning I had Dido’s song “Thank you,” playing in my head. I realized that I had no idea what the music video meant until last night. In the song, the speaker is describing all these bad things that are happening to her, and yet she is completely unaffected because she feels loved. That’s how I felt today when I overslept, and kind of started my day in a less than ideal way. Before I would have been really stressed out, but today, with the massive weight of loneliness lifted, I went through my day smiling and feeling as if I were floating on air.

It’s a wonderful feeling, and now instead of feeling fear and despair when thinking about my future, I feel hopeful and excited. I honestly feel physically lighter than I have ever felt. I have a different perspective on things that once disappointed me. Before when I was disappointed, felt under valued, or unimportant to people whom I valued, it was devastatingly painful. This of course was my inner infant begging to be loved and cared for. Now that she is being nurtured and feels loved, I no longer feel so down when things don’t go well in my social life. Sure I’m disappointed and a little sad, but I recover from those emotions much quicker than I did when such disappointments evoked the deep seeded loneliness born of the neglect and abuse I experienced as an infant. Now that I have reintegrated that part of myself that was stuck in the past, I am more present in the present. I feel fantastic.

I know I still have a long way to go, and there are still parts of myself that are still waiting in the shadows sending out signals to let me know my work has only just begun, but for now, for a little while, I am going to bask in the warm glow of feeling loved.

Wishing you all the best.