The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

April 2021: Body Love, Pt 2

Posted on Apr 26, 2021

April 2021: Body Love, Pt 2

I received some exciting news at the doctor’s office earlier this week: I lost 3.5 lbs! After four years of steadily gaining 10 lbs per year for no apparent reason, this was a huge relief. No thanks to the medical community, I might add. Out of desperation, I began looking into my health concerns on my own. I read books. I completed questionnaires. Following recommendations from my research, I began a new supplement regimen targeted at thyroid function and female hormones as well as using essential oils and aromatherapy. I tweaked my food intake. I listened to my body. Most importantly, I did (and continue to do) the difficult emotional work.

I haven’t done the math to figure out how long it would take me to lose 40+ pounds at the rate of ~2 lbs per month (if that still continues). I am not even focusing on weight loss per se. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. As long as the weight gain stops. Because my 5’2” frame technically can’t handle this much “extra” me.

Fortunately, I am blessed with an hourglass figure plus the tendency to gain weight fairly proportionally all over my body. However, I have not always appreciated my curves. Especially in my younger, thinner years when my figure was disproportionately curvaceous in the caboose. I was teased about my big bum since junior high. I remember as a camp counsellor, campers commenting on my generous proportions in that one area. I grew up listening to my maternal aunts bemoan the state of their behinds and fluctuations in weight, size, and shape. I did not hear any positive messages about body image that I can recall.

I definitely felt defective.

I have hated my body—or at the very least questioned its abilities—my entire life. Even as a younger child I sensed I was different (eg. not wanting to exert myself physically) which turns out was likely the very early stages of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—not to mention my mental health issues that have always been there: unnamed, unacknowledged. It has been a long, tiresome, arduous journey to reclaim my unwanted bits and bobs. With my mental health finally stabilized, it was evidently time to work on body issues—both internal and external.

I remember my last significant weight loss like it was yesterday—even thought it was nearly ten years ago. At the time I assumed it was due to the grief work prompted by the death of a beloved pet, Gracie. In retrospect, it was due to Leaky Gut Syndrome (stomach not absorbing nutrients properly) which required going on a strict “diet” regimen for two years (and then slowly reintroducing foods to determine what was safe to eat). My first dramatic weight gain got blamed on a new anti-anxiety med. Changes were made, lost half the weight gained, which seemed to be my body’s new normal. Just as I was coming to terms with this version of my body, the gradual weight gain began much to my chagrin and bewilderment. What was my body dong to me? Why did it hate me so much?

On the latest leg of my body acceptance journey, I have been reading books by Geneen Roth. I highly recommend anything written by her if you struggle with any sort of compulsive behaviour. In particular, her workbook, “Why Weight?” is very perceptive and asks the tough questions with compassion. One of which is to ask your fat what it’s doing for you. For me, the answer was surprising. My extra weight responded with “we’re here for you.” Without my extreme weight changes, I would never have faced the internalized deprivation and shame messages (which surface whether we are over or under weight). I have weight/body image issues regardless of the numbers on a scale or clothing size. Looking at photos taken during my intense grief work (aka weight loss period), I recall I still hated my body shape, particularly my derriere. It didn’t help I felt unseen by my then husband. I remember vowing I would never gain weight again, discarded all my “fat” clothes (of a certain size), only to gain back all that weight and much more. I hated my body for betraying me.

Yet my weight is here for me in that if I had stayed “thin,” me, myself, & I would have continued betraying my body by shaming it every day (and several times a day). My body does know what is best for me, if only I stop to listen and respect what I hear. Just like my essential or True Self, my body longs to be loved. We have been to hell and back emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. The least I can do is appreciate how it keeps working for me—day in and day out, through good times and bad. My body loves me unconditionally. It moves, breathes, circulates blood, and heals itself (albeit slowly) regardless of how much I disrespect it.

So instead of yet another rant (and believe me, I have a few held in reserve 🙂 ), I decided to share a bit of my body love journey—and all because I lost 3.5 lbs. There are so many contributing factors, I wouldn’t know where to start; but I will make a list of resources I consulted. Key among them are the nuggets mined from Geneen Roth’s shared experiences. I will try to summarize a few key points.

1) When we compulsively [insert behaviour here: eat, smoke, clean, organize, work, etc.], we are trying to nourish ourselves—to feed a hungry heart, not necessarily an empty tummy. We must slow down the compulsion to figure out what we are actually craving (eg. attention and affection) which food (or whatever) is not actually going to satisfy.

2) Awareness of the compulsive behaviour in the moment is the starting point—and being willing to try another way to satisfy the craving/care for self/feed the hungry heart/self-soothe.

3) Show the body (and your Self) some love—mindfully bathe/shower/apply lotion, repeat daily affirmation statements, seek out comforting touch, give yourself a hug, listen to music, create something meaningful, go for a walk, be in nature, get a massage, call a trusted friend, etc.

4) Explore the shame and/or deprivation messages and do something about them: keep, discard, modify.

5) Get to know your body inside and out! Don’t settle. Honour the trial and error method. Keep looking for solutions until you are satisfied.

May you experience an inner shift in your body love journey, however slight. It all counts. Never forget: you count and matter. Love and appreciate your Self, in some small way, today.

List of resources:
The Thyroid Solution by Ridha Arem, MD (2007).
The Supercharged Hormone Diet (2011) ORThe Hormone Diet (2010) by Natasha Turner, ND.
The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Sherry Torkos, BSc Phm (2013).
The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness, by Nerys Purchon & Lora Cantele (2014).
The Art of Dressing Curves: The Best-Kept Secrets of a Fashion Stylist by Susan Moses (2016).
Feeding the Hungry Heart: The Experience of Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth (1982/1993).
Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth (1984/2003).
Why Weight? A Workbook for Ending Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth (1989).
The Self-Acceptance Project: How to Be Kind and Compassionate Toward Yourself in Any Situation, by Various Authors, Tami Simon, editor (2016)

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March 2021: Time Warp

Posted on Mar 19, 2021

March 2021: Time Warp

I fully intended to blog about something that I mentioned on social media; but this week’s life experience rose to the top of the queue. In an attitude of solidarity with fellow, mental-illness strugglers, I am choosing to rant about the absurdity of the semiannual time change.

Past experience has taught me to always schedule “recovery time” post time change—whether springing forward or falling backwards. If I operated like a corporation, this would be viewed as a significant financial loss as I am not earning an income during scheduled down time. Fortunately I don’t think in those terms. However, sometimes that is the only language the “powers-that-be” understand. Given the numerous statistics that indicate the time change is not a good idea (increased emergency visits, car accidents, and the like), it does beg the question why any country would agree to something that detracts rather than adds to a person’s quality of life.

However, the goal of this blog is not to petition the government to stop the insanity; but rather to normalize what I experienced this past week and what many of you likely also went through. This past weekend, I followed through with the usual protocols. Changing the clocks before going to bed Saturday night. Giving myself an unhurried Sunday morning. Only having one (unavoidable) scheduled item for the afternoon. Monday was more of the same. I allowed myself as much flexibility as I could as I am usually more tired than usual during these time adjustments.

So I was surprised by my drop in mood come Monday. I questioned whether I needed to ask my doctor to increase my anti-depressant (which I have been gradually reducing). That was a check point for me. I was frighteningly near the edge of the abyss; and I did not want to go there. It was akin to PTSD flashbacks imagining the effort of crawling out of the depression abyss; and I wanted to avoid that all costs. This had me worried. What was happening that my whole system appeared off kilter?

By Tuesday I was still sluggish but no longer near the edge of the abyss. I could tell my body was adjusting; but everything feels “off” given our circadian rhythm is so dependent upon the movement of the sun and takes its cues from the amount of daylight. The days feel “wrong” to me with this time warp. Made me question why we “need” an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day when we live above the 49th parallel and have plenty long enough days as it is. Who needs daylight at 10pm??? In summer I am very dependent on blocking out the evening light, not absorbing it.

To me, taking advantage of the summer sun would involve installing solar panels. Not trying to manufacture a longer day. Why do we try to play with the concept of time? The day still only has 24 hours. Our bodies can only do so much with our given time. I fail to see the logic in messing with the natural function of the planet, sun, and moon. There are so many better things to do with our resources—a key one being rethinking the structured 40-hour work week. Now there is something that might actually allow people to take advantage of daylight hours.

So I guess there is one thing I can extract from this week’s depression scare: I am grateful I am self-employed and can plan my days with wellness rather than profits in mind. The irony is that focusing on my wellness means taking advantage of the times of day when I am most productive which translates into efficiency (work smarter, not harder). But my definitions of productivity and efficiency differ from the corporate world which requires a servitude to a bottom line and profit shares.

It also made me frustrated that a nonsensical “tradition” was imposed upon me. Something I didn’t want or need, that didn’t contribute to the greater good or overall well-being of the planet. Something that actually caused harm in the form of a depressive episode. If I may add, unlike masks and vaccines which are intended to stop the advancement of a deadly virus. At the worst, masks are uncomfortable but don’t cause any harm. For those claiming duress, there are many accommodations like home deliveries to counter the need to leave your house which requires the wearing of a mask. There are no accommodations for mental-illness setbacks triggered by mandated time changes.

Hence, I am grateful I am not a slave to the 40-hour work week and someone else’s bottom line. The trade off is less personal income and no financial security; but I have come to terms with that. For me, messing with time has no benefits and only creates chaos. If it wouldn’t complicate my life, I wouldn’t bother with the time change. So if your week was as filled with emotional upheaval as mine was, take heart. You are not alone. And you are not crazy. Just live in a crazy world.

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February 2021: Body Love

Posted on Feb 16, 2021

February 2021: Body Love

We have just passed the “marker” of February: Valentine’s Day (appropriately, to me, coupled in some regions with a version of Family Day). In true “Universe” style, not so subtle hints were sent my way via reading material, client comments, social media feeds, and colleague-friends by what they were posting. The loud-and-clear message: time to focus on self-love. Let me clarify that self-love is different from selfishness. A person can participate in self-love and be obnoxious about it. It can also be what undergirds quiet confidence. Selfishness is total disregard for others. Few of us who struggle with self-love, and its companion self-care, can claim total disregard for others. More often than not, we are over-focused on others and under appreciate our Selves.

Hence why I like to replace tainted buzz words like self-love and self-esteem with self-regard or self-appreciation. This I can understand in that I am prone to give little regard to my Self (or my body) and/or not appreciate my Self (and my body). I wish my conditioning wasn’t so difficult to break in this area. Sadly, it is challenging for all of us, particularly women, who have been bombarded with messages of “not good enough” our entire lives. It is very insidious and pervasive. Like a disease run rampant and unchecked.

I noticed a significant difference when I began filtering out social media advertisements for weight loss. A person thinks they can ignore subtle messages by scrolling past; but somehow it makes its way into the psyche, burrowing into nooks and crannies, lying undetected until a heaviness settles sets in that one can’t seem to define. Like a dense fog that doesn’t lift. Where’s the sunshine to burn away the laden clouds?

How this ties in with Valentine’s Day was the reminder that this occasion was an opportunity to practice loving oneself (not just those we care about). I have come a long way in caring for my psyche, my mental health, and overall sense of well being. Where I struggle is in loving my body. My body which has never done a thing in its existence to harm me. Rather the opposite. My body takes very good care of me. To quote Susan Moses in The Art of Dressing Curves:

“Through it all, your body has been there for you. It has never stopped breathing. It has picked you up when you have fallen. It healed when you were hurt or ill. It accepted your strengths and weaknesses and carried you no matter the numbers on the scale. It’s time to respect your body for all the incredible things it does for you every day without hesitation. It’s time to be able to walk by a mirror and look at your body with pride and speak to it with love and kindness…Your body deserves to be loved in the way it has loved you unquestionably all of your life…Too often the ways of the world make it difficult to appreciate your unique attributes, especially your curves. But in reality, the world has nothing to do with it. It’s time to stand tall, look in the mirror, and acknowledge your beauty, value, and humanity with pride.”

Susan Moses, “The Art of Dressing Curves,” 2016, p. 26.

That was from the chapter entitled Body Talk. And I have recommitted myself to what I am coining, Body Love. I love my body (no, that was not easy to type, still a work in progress). It does all sorts of things for me, most notably, keep me alive. My body is more committed to well-being than I am. I tend to focus on the “practical” side of well-being (taking medications and supplements, pacing my energy, monitoring mood and thought patterns); but I am new to the practice of Body Love. So far, I must say, the positive results have been surprising.

My body size and shape remain what they are. No miracle cure for muffin top, love handles, back fat, stomach overhang, bodacious booty, or bustling bust. I am still concerned about those things from both a vanity angle and physical well being (where do these “extra” body bits come from?). But I am attempting to do so from the mindfulness approach of nonjudgemental acceptance.

Those are extra bits of body I never had before (except for the bodacious booty; that’s always haunted my backside). However they came to be (hush health fanatics and judgmental thoughts, diet and exercise and self-discipline are not the culprits), I must accept their existence. I can’t wish them away. Nor can I obsessively/compulsively starve myself or exercise myself to death. I have tried both those things. Probably why I have the extra bits I do. My body lovingly thought I needed “extra” to get me through famine, pestilence, and a plague of angry beasts chasing me down.

The point is: my body serves me well. I, on the other hand, do not serve it well. Other than I try to eat with wellness in mind and move it around on a regular basis—usually with dogs in fresh air (or the physicality required to renovate an old fixer-upper house). I throw a lot of shade at my body (hopefully using that colloquialism correctly) which it doesn’t deserve. By practicing Body Love, I am becoming comfortable in my own skin (and dare I say it, generous covering of fatty tissue) which creates new neuronal pathways in my brain leading to increased mental health. My overall sense of wellness improves with Body Love.

What does body love look like? It’s as simple as sending kind and loving thoughts (words of appreciation) to your body parts as you wash them in the shower/bath or apply lotion. Dress with nonjudgmental acceptance. Look in the mirror and appreciate the female form which comes in all shapes and sizes. Consider how you want to present your whole Self to the world—not just in clothing and accessory options, but also by attitude. Set yourself up for success instead of the usual self-sabotage.

I have noticed an improvement by turning around my pandemic-induced laissez-faire mindset toward Body-Love and Self-Regard. I have to look at myself and live with myself. I can do so in comfort without sacrificing my sense of self, style, and well-being. I deserve to look at someone who takes care of her Self: body, mind, and soul.

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January 2021: Blessed Bees

Posted on Jan 24, 2021

January 2021: Blessed Bees

I love bees. I have always had an affinity for them. When I was a young child, my father—who was an amateur apiarist at the time—taught me and my older brother to respect and not be scared of bees. I have never been stung; but my brother was once. My father promptly applied a mud pack to draw out the stinger and no harm was done. To my knowledge, no one in my immediate family has an allergy to bee stings. However, there really is only one way to find out—the hard way! But with a little education and respect, it is not difficult to avoid being stung.

After I married, my initials (BZ) came in handy to purposefully embrace identification with bees. I began personalizing handmade cards with my initials and a bee stamp. The obsession, if one can call it that, grew from there. I began collecting bee-themed objects. Now my kitchen is decorated with a bee and daisies motif. Friends and family have begun to get in on the action creating delightful works of art to adorn my kitchen walls. The feature photo is one of a pair of cross stitched projects my sister made for me this last Christmas.

Recently, I finished reading Song of Increase: Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World by American beekeeper Jacqueline Freeman. Now I wish I had an acreage on which to start keeping bees! 🙂 My yard is big enough for one hive; but I doubt the neighbours would approve. Nor am I as patient as the author in educating neighbours about healthy bee populations. But I am looking forward to planting bee-friendly flowers in my garden this summer that will certainly be pesticide free.

Beekeeping aside, this book affirmed my affinity for bees. I even joked with a client about bees being my spirit animal. A bit later, photos appeared in a text about bees from a book about spirit animals she owned. Not surprisingly, the spirit animal book focused on the industry and productivity of bees. While I am a task-oriented person that likes to keep busy, my affinity for bees goes much deeper than that after reading about their natures.

Bees are all about loving kindness. They work together for the good of the hive, the local and global community of bees, and the well-being of the planet. Using their stingers has significant purpose for it becomes a suicide mission. Bees cannot live once they have released their stinger as they lose their entire bee-hind. 🙂 It is a conscious decision on the bee’s part to sacrifice its life for the greater good: of the hive, of the beekeeper, of the cosmos.

This genuine concern for others and the greater good is what clarified my affinity for bees as I am a person who is keen on kindness and collaboration. I, too, am genuinely concerned for the well-being of others: be it friends, family, clients, neighbours, acquaintances, strangers, the global village. For me, it is both innate and a conscious choice. So much so, that I have to set boundaries for myself not to get involved at times—to make better decisions about personal sacrifice (figuratively losing my stinger).

While I may not lose my life, per se, sacrifice does cause more harm than good at times (to myself or others). I must refrain from jumping in when leaving well enough alone is the better long-term option. It also means acknowledging my limitations and, at times, accepting powerlessness to affect change. This will be a lifelong challenge for me. I take heart being in the company of such purposeful do-gooders as the bees who will continue to inspire and uplift me.

Next time I encounter a bee, I will be sure to send it loving thoughts with much gratitude for its industry as well as its goodwill. They are, after all, what keeps this planet alive and habitable—even when misunderstood and maligned. We truly cannot live without them. Brava Bees! And a Bravo for the drone bees as well. 😉 Buzz on, my friends.

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December 2020: Hope, Peace, Love, Joy

Posted on Dec 24, 2020

December 2020: Hope, Peace, Love, Joy

It has arrived: Christmas Eve. For some, tonight and tomorrow will be Christmas as usual with their immediate families living under one roof. For others, it will be a very strange Christmas not to be surrounded by the usual chaos nor anticipating its arrival.

At the start of the Advent season (the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day), I experienced a deep sadness. Some of you will have read what I posted on The Winding Path Facebook page. To give some context, it was prompted by events and postings that minimized the impact of the pandemic, trivializing the pain and suffering of others. And a blatant misuse of privileges perceived as rights to be brandished about with total disregard for others or even “the greater good.” The following two paragraphs are what I posted the last Sunday of November.

My heart aches today. As an empath who thinks and feels deeply, I find I need an outlet for my sadness. I would use my grief to facilitate change. However, therein is much of my sadness: feeling powerless to effect positive change. A blog entry is likely a better venue, but for now, suffice to say the state of inhumanity breaks my heart. Humanity’s inability to overcome pride and privilege. The total lack of kindness, compassion, collaboration, consideration, empathy, sense of greater good. Making other people the enemy rather than the virus. My heart breaks that animals treat their weakest members with more care and concern than humans do. Animals care about their own kind without turning on each other. They are incapable of humankind’s atrocities. I have yet to see evidence of human’s superiority over the animal kingdom. I much prefer the company of animals. Guess I am less evolved than the rest of the world’s occupants. I am okay with that. For now I will do something that feeds my spirit. Maybe decorating the Christmas Tree on the First Sunday of Advent is what I need. 🎄

Oh the irony. Just looked up the 4 themes of advent: Hope, Peace, Love, Joy. Today’s theme is Hope which I am dearly lacking today. Hope for what? That humankind will get its collective head out of its arse?? I must find something else to hope for that is within my grasp. I am far too cynical for any religious implications, humanity proving to be what it is. To hope for a better life for myself (read: security and stability — what every trauma survivor craves) sounds selfish. But it is true. I do hope for that. I also hope I continue to add rather than detract from instilling hope in others. I do believe in the healing journey. So here is my hope: that you and those you care about keep on keeping on. That in whatever small measure, you cling to the hope of travelling further along your personal journey to find hope and healing. And whatever we do, may we cause as little harm as possible to others along the way. Which will be tricky for me as I tend to step on toes standing up for those without a voice.

A month later, and I am not as hope-less as I was that day. I have seen evidence of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy: in my life and in the lives of others. I have also minimized exposure to the inhumanity that makes my spirit cringe. I think it has helped having Christmas Spirit increase over the past four weeks—especially my efforts in that department. I decorated my tree—always a pleasure as my ornaments all have stories to tell and memories attached. And I fulfilled my intention to listen to every Christmas CD I own. I am now on round two of that one. I also baked and iced some of my favourite cookies, sharing as opportunity arose.

Even if fewer people surround me, I have not abandoned what makes this time of year special to me: decorations, music, food, being out in the snow (either walking dogs or x-country skiing). The wonders of technology also make virtual gatherings possible. This will be a new one for my family as we are rather used to living far apart, but gathering (either some or all of us) at Christmas fairly regularly. I have mixed feelings about gathering this year (virtual or otherwise); but that is not the focus of this blog. Not that I know what the focus is!

I am aware that I have received many gifts this year, especially because I am a traumatized introvert who doesn’t need the company of others very often. I sympathize with the extroverts who have felt abandoned and lost. It has been a very trying year learning new ways of being in this world. One thing became clear to me: the Universe does have my back. I remain clothed, sheltered, fed, warm, ambulatory, without loss of sight or sound. And loved. It may not always be shown in ways that I see, desire, or even crave. But I can say without a doubt that I am loved. That in itself is a miracle. The gift of Love. The essence of our very Beings.

May 2021 be welcomed in with more awareness of Love. Particularly our ability to give, not just receive (or feel the lack thereof), the Essence of our Beings. Love is not meant to be hoarded, but to flow freely among all Creation. May we bestow more Love in the coming year. May it be a year of healing for the entire planet.

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November 2020: Subliminal Messages

Posted on Nov 24, 2020

November 2020: Subliminal Messages

Being a trauma therapist and a trauma survivor lends itself to some interesting self-revelations. Recently it came to my attention that a by-product or collateral damage of my trauma experience is the ingrained survival skill of “reading between the lines.” This is completely second-nature to me. I don’t even realize my brain is scanning for hidden messages: such as seeking out the personal application of general comments.

This type of scanning is an example of how hypervigilance “works.” Our amygdala, the danger detector in the brain, is continually on high alert. We “sense” things before we are consciously aware of them. Part of trauma recovery is retraining the amygdala as to what is truly dangerous and what is a memory related to danger. This retraining is, unfortunately, a process and not a “hard” reset like turning a computer off and on when it crashes.

Evidently, as much effort as I have already put into retraining my amygdala, there remain antennae that need reprogramming. Hard to do when you don’t recognize it happening in the moment. So we start after the event—when it surfaces to awareness. I have my doubts I can completely reprogram these antennae; but I can at least review the data, which will hopefully help progressively turn down the dial in the future.

How do I explain what I mean? Let’s say we’re having a conversation about music. We talk about all kinds of things like genres, concerts, volume preferences, etc. As we chat, my brain involuntarily scans for indicators of what is required for optimal interactions: assessing if you are upset, disappointed, frustrated, angry, happy, in sync with me, etc. In essence, anticipating what you need before trouble occurs. If my amygdala senses that something could be amiss, internalized messages are activated to ensure I keep everyone safe and contented (aka happy) and to explain the tension I sense.

This became part of my brain development from constantly having to monitor the mood in my earliest environment(s): Am I in trouble? What is expected of me? Do I need to smooth things over? Most of the time, the amygdala is trying to prevent bad things from happening—like being struck or berated or yelled at—determining what is necessary for survival and/or avoid danger. If unsuccessful, it then tries to make things better by apologizing, offering help, or escaping (either shutting down/dissociating or physically leaving).

Even if there was a tool to inform my brain it doesn’t need to do that anymore, I doubt it would believe me. So instead of trying to convince my brain not to scan for subliminal messages (what are people indirectly communicating they need from me), I need to ascertain what is my responsibility and what is beyond my purview. Such is the nature of my compulsion to “fix things.” Somehow I need to increase my comfort levels with ambiguity and generalities.

Reminds me of the criticisms I received not to take things personally or to quit being so sensitive. And there’s those internalized shame messages activated again (“not being enough”). I cannot be “un-sensitive;” but I can turn down the volume. As for taking things personally, it’s a survival skill not easily unlearned. For if I don’t look for the personal in the general, I may put myself in harm’s way. This is what happens when we grow up with covert and/or passive aggression. We become very good at reading subtext: What are they really saying?

Paradoxically, the same ones who use covert aggression are also the ones who label others as over sensitive or too personal. In reality, they are playing a “get out of jail free” card: always someone else’s fault or problem. So… given the environment I grew up in, it makes sense why my brain scans for the hidden messages. However, it creates awkward situations when it misreads situations or expectations in other contexts, and I seek to restore equilibrium that hasn’t been disrupted.

As I have processed this survival skill and its repercussions, it became apparent I need to give myself permission to be awkward. I’d rather over correct then miss a legitimate cue! Per chance I need to celebrate the relief so that my brain registers the misfire. I have been thinking I need to correct something when instead it simply needs to be acknowledged: “Oh, I misread that. Whew. Glad that is sorted.”

I physically have a low tolerance for emotional discomfort. I will do whatever it takes to restore homeostasis (that compulsion to “fix things”). Even make a fool of myself or an over correction. Checking in, clarifying is all part of good communication. I would rather over communicate than under. Mainly because if I am at all uncertain, my brain will ceaselessly gnaw on that bone—which is exhausting mentally, emotionally, and physically.

The hazard to subconscious “reading between the lines” is drawing flawed conclusions with knee-jerk reactions. Many friendships are ruined this way. The classic move is making accusations based upon interpretations of sensory input without seeking clarification. By conversing, we can be reassured that what we sensed was inaccurate. We, in fact, did not have to keep anyone happy to prevent disaster or disconnection.

Strange how my musings meandered from seeking a solution (correct one aspect of hypervigilance) to accepting awkwardness. This also means circumventing the internalized shame messages that are activated by discomfort. I am not stupid or foolish or flawed by my attempts to read between the lines or to overcorrect. It’s a survival skill.

Misreading a situation, taking things “too personally” are not bad or shameful. Simply moments in time that require a “double take.” Risking awkwardness requires courage and humility which just may help to rewire the amygdala’s hypervigilance in the long run. I may make things worse in order to make them better. Better that than resentment or conflict. My brain will continue to scan; I will continue to maintain equilibrium as best I can; I will sometimes get it right and sometimes over correct.

My distress tolerance needs to increase so that I can process incoming data and, most importantly, deal with awkwardness/discomfort and accompanying shame messages. I must hold in tension the simultaneous goals of accepting the fallout of being a trauma survivor and rerouting the shame messages that inevitably surface. That compulsion to “fix things” will only decrease by boldly stepping into awkwardness and allowing myself to spend time there without judgment.

What situations are you facing that may require risking awkwardness? Does your knee-jerk reactor or your subliminal scanner need a reset? Or do you need to be gentle with yourself and celebrate the awkward moments?

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