Do Less. Hold More.

Do Less Hold More

Do Less. Hold More.

This is a teeny little phrase I like to remind myself and also one I share with colleagues and clients alike.

We live in a pretty fast past, instant gratification world. Understandably, we’ve grown to expect that the answer to everything is at our fingertips.

And perhaps it is. But often, I find we humans get it all mixed up.

We need to do less.

We need to stop trying to fix, apologize for, and make better the pain others bring to us.

We need to hold more.

We need to be more present and attuned to our own needs and also the needs of those around us.

When your partner, child or client shares their pain -be it emotional or physical pain- with you, as much as you may wish you could be the superhero to remove all suffering, perhaps the most authentic and human exchange you can share with them is simply one of being.

Be present.

Show up.

See, hear and understand their pain. See, hear and understand them.

Hold them.

You don’t have to agree with them. It doesn’t have to feel good. Just hold. Healing happens in the holding.

In the bearing witness.

We all need to be held.

It’s a human need.

And if you'd like some holding as you explore your own Connectfulness practice of doing less and holding more, I may have just the thing for you...

[button type="default" text="the {Re}Spark e-course for couples" url="https://connectfulness.com/respark-ecourse-invite-list" open_new_tab="true"]

[button type="default" text="The Messy Parenthood Community" url="https://connectfulness.com/messy-parenthood-community" open_new_tab="true"]

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Adventures in Parental Monogamy | February 2016 Chronogram

If you regularly pick up the Chronogram, our 'regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of the Hudson Valley', you might happen to notice this article on page 28 of the February 2016 edition.

Adventures in Parental Monogamy

12670260_10153995113842216_1122271670616438655_n

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Hillary Harvey, the Chronogram's Kids & Family editor, last month. And this article contains much of what we discussed. And I must add that I am flattered to be quoted alongside some amazing colleagues, Cyndi Darnell,Lily ZehnerEsther Perel (I'm a bit starstruck to say the least).

This topic, modern parental monogamy, is much of the focus behind the e-course I'm creating, {re}spark. If this intrigues you, I hope you will check  out the article and then come back to post here, or email me.

I want to know what you want to discover and explore about this topic.I want to help you answer your own big questions and gain a deeper understanding of the intimacy you desire and the struggles you experience.

[button type="default" text="grab your {RE}SPARK INVITE here" url="https://connectfulness.com/respark/" open_new_tab="true"]

Or join my Valentine’s Day mid-day couples retreat in Accord, New York.

one thing during the holidays...

"If you think you're enlightened go spend a week with your family." Ram Dass

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in people. There is something magical about slowing down and focusing on the people you love most in the world. And, there is also something incredibly triggering about focusing on the people you love most in the world. Even for the most enlightened amongst us.

In family, as in all in intimate relationships, you are at your most vulnerable. You crave belonging, and that craving makes you vulnerable to rejection. After all, it’s a human drive to connect, to bond, to attach. In fact, research shows that we barely survive and certainly don’t thrive without it. Scientifically speaking, we refer to this intensely human drive as attachment.  It’s also the very place your vulnerability emerges from that drive to attach.  

During the holidays, just like everyday, your mind is busy trying to regulate this drive. You want to connect, but you don’t want to be rejected.

You, me, all of us...we make constant bids to connect. When these bids go well, you feel good. You feel heard, seen, and accepted. And this helps you feel safe and secure in the presence of the people you love. All this makes for good connection flow. But when these bids don’t go so well,  you feel defensive, invisible, that your thoughts and feelings don’t matter. That compromises connection. And often, it triggers a domino effect of reactions that disconnect you.

During the holiday season, you may find that you want more attention and connection from the people you love. Or, you may find that you withdraw. This is completely understandable if you aren’t use to your need for connection being satisfied or if you’ve experienced loss.

You're human seeking security.

What I’d like to help you shift your attention to this holiday season is that this is dance of connection and disconnection is true for all of us, in all intimate relationships (between couples, parent/child, siblings, the “just like family” friends, and colleagues).

And it’s true for me too as a relationship therapist. Yep, my skin gets prickly and I get triggered when I go home for the holidays too. Gasp. There I said it. I’m simply not that enlightened...yet.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: the beautiful mess of relationships, the desire for connection and reflection and learning in the missed opportunities -- it all offers awesome opportunities to tune in and find your {re}connection.

The painful, sticky less enlightened moments remind you to slow down and pay attention. By slowing down you take back control. You reset your focus and tune back into yourself in relationships and into what really matters to you.

Be thankful for these sweet-sticky moments; they guide you towards connection with the people you love most.

Connected Parents. Balanced Kids.

[embed]https://youtu.be/F5o199cOpAA[/embed] Maybe you already know me, for those who don't, I’m Rebecca Wong a Relationship Therapist and a Connectfulness Coach based out of New Paltz, NY.  This is a transcription of my vlog, above.

 

Why connected parents make for more balanced kids.

It’s pretty simple, OK?  The idea here is that parents —when they maintain connections to one another— they model for their children a little less conflict.  Maybe it’s not even so much that they model less conflict.

It’s that they manage the conflict better.

And that’s probably the most important point here.  It’s in the managing conflict because when we don’t manage conflict, we breed anxiety.  And when we breed anxiety, we model that anxiety for our kids and—kind of hard to be balanced and to grow into a healthy human—a healthy adult human—when you’ve got a lot of anxiety going on.  

The anxiety is the stuff that gets in the way of our relationships.  

There’s a way to work with that anxiety and let it really help us in our relationships, but that takes a lot of skill.  And it’s not something that our kids are going to figure out on their own.  It’s something that we have to show them how to do.  

So, I get that relationships are tough—it’s something I work with everyday.   But, it’s really important for parents to look for a way to rediscover their connections to one another.  And this is true for all parents.  This is true for parents that are separated.  It’s true for parents that are divorced.  It’s true for parents that are married, whether they’re happily married, or not so happily married, or trying to figure out how they’re married.  

Finding your way to be on the same page with one another, to connect with one another, even if it’s just over tiny little moments, even if its over something that your kid did that was awesome.  This is important.  

It’s really important to show your kids a united front.

I hope that something here rang true for you today.  And if it did resonate, and if there’s anything you feel you could use a little help with, feel free to reach out.  Give me a call at 845-419-1494 or shoot me an email at rebecca@connectfulness.com.  

Ditching the fear. Let's start talking about intimacy.

I invite you to join me in what I consider to be a really important discussion around ditching the fear of talking about intimacy.

The effects of not having a safe space to talk opening about intimacy and sexuality is one of the issues that brings many adult clients into my office. Twenty somethings who are working to redefine a healthy sense of sexuality so they can build safe secure relationships that they didn’t learn about in their childhoods; young parents who are sorting through what it feels like to love and be loved, trying hard not to push one another away as they raise their children and tend to their own child-selves. Empty-nesters who feel unfulfilled intimately.  And I know that as much as we struggle to discuss this topic, it's not a struggle we hope our children will share.

transcript

Hi, my name is Rebecca Wong. I’m a Relationship Therapist based in New Paltz, New York. And I want to start a discussion with you today about intimacy, about relationships, about sexuality, and how it all defines who we are and how we have healthy relationships with one another.

Most of us learn about intimacy when we are children. We watch our parents in relationships. We watch how well they get along,  or don’t, how comfortable they are with their own sexuality, with each other, with talking about difficult topics like menstruation, and the birds and the bees, and where babies come from. And having sex. And pleasure.

Pleasure is one of those things that we don’t talk about very much.

We learn about intimacy from the media and pornography and the movies. And we learn about it from our peers. And what ends up happening is that we don’t have a lot of safe places to talk about what it really can be.

So, how do we go about having healthy adult relationships? How do we go about teaching our children about having healthy adult relationships as they mature? We end up walking through relationships from this place of fear, instead of from a open, light, playful space where we just get to enjoy and explore how to connect with another human being because that’s really what this is all about.

So, I’d like to begin a discussion over at Connectfulness.com and I hope you’ll join me there. Take care.

If I've struck a cord, please leave a comment and let me know what you want to hear more of!

balance

You strive for more balance in life.

balance (5)Your Life is busy. There's always a lengthy list of competing demands on time and energy. It can seem like a daily struggle to find and maintain balance. And just when you feel like you’ve found balance...it's gone. Fleeting. Elusive. That pesky little sucker.

I think of my own life. I'm balancing my marriage, our kids, my business & clients, my own self care, our house, laundry, meals, personal & professional growth, my list goes on. Often I catch myself wondering if I am good enough and I know I am not alone. I hear this inner chatter reflected back from countless clients, colleagues, family and friends.

There's an art in maintaining balance. The art lies in developing and maintaining awareness of when we are off balance; this awareness, of when we are out of balance, allows us to make adjustments to bring us back into balance.

Balance is not static.

balance (4)I think for example of a practicing a handstand.  While a perfectly poised handstand seems so solid and strong, the gymnast is artfully tuning in to each little shift and responding accordingly, hollowing their core, driving through the shoulders, pointing the toes, playing with the back and forth fine tuning of maintaining their balance in their hands, ever so slightly back and forth between the palm and the fingers.

Balance begins within.

To bring about harmony, reconciliation, and healing within, we have to understand ourselves.  Looking and listening deeply, surveying our territory, is the beginning of love meditation.

--Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love

 A practice of self compassion, begins with deep listening and curiosity and doesn’t leave room for the chatter and fear that you aren't good enough. You hear that chatter but are not stuck in the muddy muck of your mind.  You notice your worries and fears but do not feel paralyzed by them.  Awareness becomes your greatest teacher.

Balance is the art of awareness and response.

When you look for others to value, affirm and admire you -- instead of looking within yourself, admiring yourself, finding your own value and affirmations -- balance often will continue to elude you. When you start looking for balance within yourself, you'll soon experience more of it outside yourself and within your relationships too!

 

I’d love to hear how this resonates for you and how you apply (or plan to) a practice of self compassion to bring you back into balance, join the discussion in the comments below!

 

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If you say it, they will learn it

Family history colors how we interact with the world. We take in the stories we read and hear through the lens of what we have been exposed to through our family, it’s what we know.  Similarly, our sense of security and trust --the ways in which we understand, feel and show our love-- are all made up of lenses we constituted as children. Our adult lenses are colored by the lenses our own parents modeled for us as children just as our children's lenses will be colored by what we model for them. These lenses affect everything.

The romantic partnerships we are drawn to.  How we value and respect ourselves, or don’t. How we raise our children and how they learn to value and respect themselves, or don't. Who they are drawn into romantic partnerships with.  How we interact with our communities and the world.  How we negotiate stress and what we find soothing.

IMG_8541When we honor and understand the lens our child self grew into we are more equipped for lens updates. If instead we go through our adult lives without reference (or reverence) to our child selves we continue to miss opportunities to update lenses that no longer serve us well.

My husband has a way of reflecting me back to myself. He’s fine tuned the art of it. Sometimes he can catch me before I catch myself and give me an opportunity to reflect before I speak.

“If you say it, they will learn it”

He knows me well enough to help me recognize the stuff we don't want to pass down to our daughters. Those internal momologues on why I am not good enough. He's my reflection and I'm grateful for him. He helps me tune into myself and update my lens before I model it to our girls.

To grow is hard work, it’s one’s life long project. Maturing, deepening connections and (hopefully) passing down updated lenses to our future generations. It's doable, but can often be met with resistance.  I find that making these updates is easier when we have a reflection so we can better see ourselves.

Partnership makes life easier.

We don't have to do it all alone. This is the work of relationships.  We grow together.  We help and support one another.  We evolve together. It's a process of growth and deepening awareness and receptivity over the years. Enjoy the rewards of growth, it helps make future obstacles easier.  Growing together makes life easier.

Sometimes though our relationships shut down. You've probably experienced that. I believe it is a rite of passage of all relationships.  It's bound to happen and when it does it offers us an opportunity to tune back into one another, and ourselves. If only we can stay with the process.

The path of becoming who we want to be.

 

10995921_10153195558267216_1698011193282903365_nUnderstanding our legacies and sharing our awareness with another offers us access to intimacy and connection. As we deepen our awareness of our own legacies we cultivate compassion and develop our own unique compass for growth. Understanding what makes us who we are allows us to create more space for our own growth, maturation and evolution.

We often shut down before we have an opportunity to observe, understand and grow. We shut down because we don't feel safe. Because something from our past resonated with something that just happened in a way that didn't feel good. Once fear enters into our memories we freeze, or run or fight and our relationships stagnant. We stay stuck in old stories! To sustain openness and connection we must feel safe.

Our motivation is driven by either compassion or fear.

The choice between the compassion and fear; that can be hard to see. Especially when the compassion and fear we struggle with is internal. When our motivation is colored by those outdated lenses. Begin by being curious around your own defenses and wonder about why they are up. Take pause. Notice. I refer this to as cultivating curiosity.

This may be too much to do alone. That's OK.  Remember partnership makes life easier. You don't have to do this alone. I can help you create a safe space and teach you how you can adjust your lenses and rediscover the intimacy you really want.

 

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the connectivity paradox

We live in a world that is overly connected.  Connected to things that matter and things that don’t.  Things near and far.  The everyday stuff loses a sense of importance even though, in our little corners, it’s the everything.  It’s all that really matters. I am not suggesting that we close our eyes to what’s happening in the world around us, but rather, that we use our awareness of the world to help redirect our attention at home and within.

We are too connected to the things that don't matter and not connected enough to the things that do.  

photo-2-300x300That's incredibly over simplified but lets look a teensy bit deeper.  Our world is a big scary place. For as long as our human species can recount, it always has been.  There is a constant onslaught of things gone wrong, people gone mad, terrorists, war, sadness and fear.  And if we take it all in that's a lot to process!

Processing all that doesn't leave much emotional space at the end of the day.  It makes parenting harder.  It makes that thankless boring job harder.  It makes connecting to your partner harder.  It makes life harder.

What if —instead of tuning into world events and social media— we directed that same attention and emotional space towards ourselves and our dear ones?  Towards our nest.  Towards what makes us feel more connected rather than more isolated and scared.  What would happen then?

World events wouldn't change.  Not immediately anyway.  But perhaps we'd practice feeling more connected to ourselves, our families, our communities and perhaps more at ease in our lives.

Its about taking back the power of connection.  

 

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Being Seen

Everybody needs to been seen. To be witnessed. Everybody.  

And it's a healthy need.  It means we desire connection to others and the relationship, and energy shared between us matters.

Age doesn't matter  —babies, toddlers, school kids ("look ma, no hands!"), 'tweens, teens, adults, elders — we  all need someone to bear witness.  To our struggles, to our accomplishments, to the magic of our lives.  

If we are blessed, we find such witness in our most intimate relations -  our partner, parents, siblings. For the large majority of us, it takes attention and work towards cultivating relationships with others that provide the reflection we so crave.  

Ideally speaking, relationships provide us a mirror.  Through our interconnectedness with others we see ourselves reflected back.

And in all honesty, our reflection is the only way we can see ourselves as others see us.  By relating with others, we learn more about ourselves and through this knowledge, we grow.  

So when it comes to a desire to be seen what we’re really asking for is a reflection to grow from.  

I'm so aware though of how easy this sounds and how difficult it can be. The paradox!  Being seen, though we crave it, can sometimes also be so incredibly difficult to remain receptive to.  

 

What happens when we don’t like our reflection?

The people in our lives are our mirrors, but there’s no guarantee that they’re going to offer a pretty reflection. One of the scary things about being in relationship is that when we don’t like our own reflection, we often can feel judged by he other.  Sometimes we feel to scared to disappointed another that we retreat from the relationship.

 

We retreat in the form of lashing out, turning away, shutting down, and withholding ourselves from connecting deeper.  By doing we also, inadvertently, shut down our own ability to grow beyond where we are in the moment.   We retreat then, not only from the relationship, but also from ourselves.  

 

Releationships aren’t accidental.

We pick our partners, friends, therapists...based off of the reflections we receive and how they make us feel.  That feeling determines how well we fit together. We've all experienced good fits and bad fits.  Whether we are talking about a pair of jeans or a certain someone, we know when things feel just right.  And when things feel right, when the relationship fits, we are more inclined to remain receptive and open to our own growth.

 

I'm completely imperfect. I have flaws and plenty of room for growth. We all do.  That’s the beauty of our shared human experience. We never stop growing. My kids and husband will often desire more of my attention and connection. All of my relationships and yours will, for all the days of in our lives, provide us with a constant opportunity to see ourselves in reflection to others and adjust.

 

Everybody shares the same desire.  Everybody wants to grow in connection with others.  Our interpersonal dances all share a common theme; that play between enjoying our autonomy and thriving in connection.  We need both, but too much of either and we start to feel stuck.  

 

Allowing ourselves to be seen is often the magic that unsticks us.  



 

What is Mindfulness?

  I am flattered to be included among such a wonderful group of contributors in this 'What is Mindfulness?' post on the Simmons School of Social Work blog.  After reading through the contributions, this consistent message is clear: mindfulness is about practicing attentiveness/awareness to the present moment.

whatismindfulness

One typically conceives of achieving mindfulness by way of a regular mediation practice.  I wish I managed to make space for such in my life.  But the truth is, that I hate sitting on a cushion and meditating.  Still, I crave that connection to the present moment.  I so want to be less distracted and more here.

2For me, connecting to the present moment means simplifying.  Stripping away layers of junk, put away the iphone, stop multitasking, stop making to do lists in my head, and just find my center.

Sometimes that means rolling around on the floor and laughing with my girls.  Sometimes it means making love with my husband.  Sometimes it means engaging my body; running, lifting weights, yoga, snowboarding.  And sometimes, it means anywhere from 10-seconds to 10-minutes of eyes closed in + out breathing spaced throughout the day.

And in reality, I never actually shut off my mind.  What I do however is I watch my thoughts. I notice when my thoughts try to run away with me and I practice pulling myself back.  I disconnect from most of my thoughts leaving behind only a few that really matter.  My mind becomes less cluttered.  I create space inside myself.  I build a connection to the nowness of being me.

I love learning about mindfulness.  If you do also, make sure to check out this Train Your Brain webcast; sit back and learn what neuroscience is discovering about mindfulness and how we can literally reshape our brains!

I'm going to go out a limb and suggest perhaps connection is what mindfulness aims to achieve.  Maybe my version of connecting with those I love and within myself, mind/body, is just as transformative.  It certainly feels so.

 

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Playing with connection

3Many moons ago (almost two decades ago now), I worked as a wilderness field instructor with Project U.S.E. I was alone prepping for a course when I approached our base camp and found a small (but still rather large) bear playing on a large teeter-totter that had just been constructed for our adventure programs.  We'd use it to teach groups how to work together to navigate from one side to the other while trying not to let it touch the ground. The bear was having a joyous time exploring balance on it's own.  It needed no instruction, it just knew to play to explore its environment.

I recently shared this story with a client when I wanted to emphasize how natural play is.

Sadly, many of us don't know how, have forgotten how, or don't prioritize play.  It's rampant in our society.  My clients share with me that they are too busy to play, they lack time, energy or desire.  They share too that play feels hard.  That intrigues me.  Play is hard?

There was recently an article that went viral about why kids can't sit still in school, it  pointed to their lack of movement as the cause for the jump in ADHD diagnoses.

I'm thinking it's not just kids that are moving (and playing!) less these days.

IMG_6561No wonder we struggle to connect to ourselves.  No wonder intimacy and relationship satisfaction dwindles, especially after babies are born into families. No wonder we get frustrated with our children, lose our cool and then wonder why they don't listen to us.  We've forgotten to play!

I'm recalling an evening a few months back when my husband and I were struggling to get our daughters into their bath.  They were so busy in their own worlds that they couldn't join us in ours.  It was frustrating!

Our voices started to get louder until I surprised them all (and myself too) but exclaiming "OK, lets try something new.  Everyone crawl on all fours to the bath!" And then we all did, just like that, we bear crawled to the bath-tub.

We are actually built for play

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, play is a state of mind.

We are built for play. It helps sculpt our brain and allows us opportunity to safely try out things without threatening our well-being.  Play is that space where we develop a personal understanding of how the world works. In play, we get to imagine new possibilities.  We get to explore.  We get to fail and succeed and figure out what works in our own way.  We get to master our environment.  We get to test boundaries and learn social cues.

Watch a pack of puppies play; they utilize play to establish pack roles.  Watch how they test limits and how they learn limits.  The testing and learning and part of play.

Play is the space we learn how to engage with others.  Play is also the space we learn to engage with ourselves.

The mindset of play makes it safe for us to explore and fail.  Play makes taking risks feel less threatening. Play is riddled with successes and failures.  It's suppose to be. Failing means learning.

Play is how we learn and grow; long into adulthood.  Mindset is key though.  Play is a doing activity, not a trying activity.  We don't try to play, we play.

The playful mindset invites connection

What I've seen over and over is that making small tweaks to how we initiate connections with ourselves and with others makes all the difference.  Playfulness invites connection, ease and balance.

When we play we don't overthink.  It's easier for us to get comfortable in otherwise uncomfortable dynamics.  And that's just what I see when I coach clients through a play session in my office.

My client Jane* struggles to communicate with her partner without everything feeling heavy, without her partner shutting her down when she is finally feeling ready to be vulnerable and share her feelings.

We've played with new ways for her to lighten the opening of the discussion.  Ways Jane could playfully engage him in asking questions to help her open up rather then dumping her insecurities and leaving him feeling flustered. And guess what?  It works!

Jane and her husband are having more fun and communicating better, all because of a shift in her mindset which created an openness in their discussions.  An openness that allowed him to react to her with ease and without defense... She shifted her mindset and created space to enjoy connecting with her partner.

 

Have you explored this shift of mindset in your own life? I'd love to hear what it opened up for you!

 

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{*name changed}

 

 

 

the curious thing about connecting

This morning, as I was in the midst of juggling breakfast, lunch making, school bag packing, getting myself and our 2 girls dressed and out the door (only an hour behind schedule) my youngest approached me and announced

"Mommy, we need you ALL day. How we can get you ALL day?!"

Pause.  Breathe.  Respond.  I offered up myself ALL weekend and then acknowledged that wasn't enough because, yes she wanted me today. I honored her desire and reflected that I missed our time together also.  We've been busy and I'll be working late again tonight, so she's on to something...she wants more of me.

1924506_10152863533947216_5378901463281585378_n-300x300It can be overwhelming.  Awesome, yes.  But, overwhelming also.

And yet, what strikes me is that this is really what we all want.  It's human nature to seek connection.  To truly feel seen and heard.  To feel understood and acknowledged. And so often it's the very root of what brings clients into my therapy office.  Teens, adults, parents, couples, families… There is a disconnect; the connection simply isn't being experienced.

We are so afraid of feeling disconnected that we try to protect ourselves by defending and guarding against further pain, hurt and disappointment.  In doing so, we also block ourselves, and those we so deeply desire to connect with, from connecting.

We pick up our [stupid] smartphones and connect with others instead of connecting with those we are with.  We work late.  Our kids (and often us adults too) act out and seemingly defy all attempts at reasoning.  We tantrum.  We withdraw.  We withhold connection.  Then we stew in anger over feeling disconnected.

 

1So how do we break the cycle? How do we create pathways for connection?  It's an interesting question and one that I've been researching for years and working to integrate in both my personal life and professionally with my clients.

The shutting down, withdrawing, stonewalling, isolating, cold shoulder (whatever else you want to call it) process is the antithesis of connection.  Yet we all do it.  It guards against our vulnerabilities.  And it protects us.  But often these very defenses also guard us against connecting.  Against having effective, satisfying and fulfilling relationships.

There is a pathway towards reconnection.  I believe it's through honing an open, curious, playful mindset.   It's about being mindful of connecting.  It's about HOW we engage.  It's about pausing. And noticing when we are disengaging.  And then as my client's call it softening and finding our way back.

Usually we disengage around our fears, the curiosity though is that those same fears hold a deep magic of connection...if we can open to it.

 

But there's more.  The disconnect, that's necessary.  Without it we can't test the waters of the connection and come back together.  It's like a tide.  We need the eb and flow to be sure of it.

 

I'd love for you to share your musings over what obstructs your connections.

 

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embracing vulnerability

5Just three days after our daughters returned to school I started showing signs of a bug shared amongst the kindergarten.  A week later, it descended and targeted my reactive airway. I haven't touched a barbell in over a week and the emotional implications are settling in. Getting everyone fed, dressed and out the door the morning feels like running a marathon! I miss feeling strong and capable. I recognize this is temporary and that my strength will return.  Still, this impasse has tuned me in.

As I struggle to breathe, many of my typical coping mechanisms are on hold...yet, what's left is being present. And yet, it's a daily challenge to get over myself enough to recognize where I am now, not where I want to be, or where I was a week ago, but right now, this place. And it's a gift really. As hard as it is to embrace in the moment. And I'm not sugar coating, it's incredibly difficult. It is a gift, too.

These, are the very 'tweaks I talk about in my work with clients. 'Tweaks that unstick us when we feel stuck. I have a choice. I can feel sorry for myself while I am recovering. Or, I can focus on and practice the art of coping with feeling vulnerable. Because that's what this really is all about. Its about the uncomfortable emotions that are uprooted by feeling less able, more dependant, weak and frail.

It is these uncomfortable, vulnerable, mortal moments that make up our lives. And the more we practice coping with these moments, and the uncertainty they evoke with us, the more fluid (and less sticky) our experience becomes.

These are human moments.  Humanity isn't a comfortable experience.  Our mortality is our only certainty. And yet, so often it's precisely these existential mortal anxieties that provoke discomfort and pain in individuals and relationships.

 

On a daily basis my client's share with me such discomforts and vulnerabilities and their relationship struggles that ripple out from these feelings.  We humans don't enjoy feeling vulnerable, heck what animal does?  Corner me and I'll defend myself.  That's the stuff that makes for relationship struggles.

So what happens then when we suddenly realize that the relationship we are defending is our relationship with ourselves?  With our wellness?  This is precisely where I find myself as I write this.  And also why I am calling this a gift.  It's a moment to reflect on what happens when we stop defending and start listening.

When I slow down and embrace the moment, what happens?

 

Everything —E VE R Y T H I N G— because everything comes back to how we relate to ourselves.  It's the one constant throughout our lives. Our relationship with our self.  So when we don't allow for the moment, when life is always about defending against the vulnerability, how does that affect us?  And how does it affect the relationships we hold dear?

Maybe, just maybe, my strength doesn't come from everything I am capable of doing but rather on how comfortable I am embracing my vulnerability.

 

 

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Parenting with Connection

published in April 2014 Organic Hudson Valley Magazine

Parenting with connection.  It’s multi-faceted and layered.  It’s about the connections we have with and within ourselves --with our elders, our spouses, friends and community and, of course, the connections we foster with our children.  Connection is at the root of all human interactions.  In the best of scenarios, our connections have the power to make us feel strong and grounded.  On the contrary, when opportunities to connect are repeatedly missed it can leave us feeling lost and empty; sometimes even angry.

By the time a child is a year old they have developed a strong tie to their primary caregiver. This connection develops out of instinctual behavior, an innate need and desire for children to be in close proximity to their primary caregiver(s).  What inspires and interests me --as both a psychotherapist and parent-- is that these early ties are closely linked with other social behaviors, such as mating and parenting.

Chances are, if a child doesn’t experience satisfying connections with their parents they may also struggle in maintaining connections with others.  The relationships we have as children with our own parents shape how we relate both to our partner and to how we parent.  Parents’ attitudes towards themselves and their children are an opportunity for learned styles of connection.  Interestingly, satisfying connections with others blossom when you cultivate an awareness of your values, replenish your reserves and hone your priorities.

Make time for yourself.  Parents often come into my psychotherapy practice when things aren’t going well at home.  The needs of the family are out of balance.  Many parents, with the best of intentions, devote all of themselves to their child(ren).  The problem is that this leaves you with empty reserves and depletes your resources to care for yourself or others.  Think of what they tell you on the airplane: ­­if there’s a loss of cabin pressure, air masks will deploy; put yours on before assisting someone else.  You must care for your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs if you expect to have resources available to care for someone else.

Make time for your relationship.  It’s the little things that matter most.  Staying available to your partner with both body language and responsiveness --that’s the stuff kids watch, absorb and model themselves after.  When you repeatedly miss opportunities to connect with your partner your children see parents who are at odds with one another instead of on the same page.  Parents connect with their children in a much more effective way when they parent as a team.  When you make an effort to connect to your partner on a daily basis you are modeling what healthy relationships look like.  It helps your kids create a healthy framework for the relationships they will have later in life.

Slow down, re-prioritize and listen.  The more we create and include our children in daily routines, the more we seize the opportunity to connect.  When we connect, we influence and we create opportunities to pass down our values.

A personal example: recently, our young daughters have become finicky eaters.  They want this, they don’t want that, and then they change their minds mid-meal.  A result of their pickiness is often wasted food.  While we don’t want them to feel they can’t change their minds, we also need to respect our resources.  My husband and I share these observations with them.  Then we each reopen the discussion while planning food shopping lists as a family. We discuss this need to respect our resources again while we grocery shop together.  Of course, they still change their minds, but less frequently and with awareness.

Understand that you are cultivating a relationship that --for the rest of their lives-- will enable your children to feel confident as they explore the world.  That is the parenting connection.

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Balancing Motherhood and Work

Weeks ago our 3-year-old woke with enough of a cough and runny nose to keep her home from nursery school, which led to our 5-year-old protesting going to kindergarten.  It seemed a generic protest at first.  Then I sat with it.  I had worked late the night prior and arrived home long after my husband had tucked the girls in for the night.  Our youngest was staying home, I had canceled clients to stay with her, and she was happy to be getting in some mommy time.  Our oldest wanted the same. I swept our 5-year-old-daughter into my arms carried her into her room, helped her to get dressed and talked all the while about why she wanted to stay home.  I helped her find words when she couldn't find them on her own.  She told me she missed me.  My first reaction was to feel a deep pang of guilt for expanding my practice and taking on more evening work hours.  I missed her too.

We managed for me to be a part-time-working-mommy for much of their early childhoods.  It's now time for me to be nurturing my career again, as well as my family.  Finding balance is always a challenge, always a test, something somewhere always has to give.  I resisted my impulse to apologize for working late as I realize this is our life.  Instead, I guided her in a discussion of how she can get more of me.  We brainstormed together.  She asked me to curl up in her bed and cuddle her when I got home. Sounded good to me.  And like that, the tears were done and she went happily off to school.

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A week or so later, I had another late evening of sessions scheduled but managed to arrange for our awesome sitter to bring the girls by my office after school during a brief opening between clients. I had stopped at a local bookstore during lunch and picked up picture books for each. It was a short but meaningful moment for me as I again missed bedtime. I'm learning to be grateful for moments like these.

I'm learning too that this balance falls into place a heck of a lot easier when we approach all we have to juggle with a greater sense of ease, curiosity, gratitude and wonderment (and it's also the best cure for judgement, depression and anxiety).

Warmly,

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Open House

5 Cliff Street, 2nd Fl., Beacon NY

Saturday January 11th, 2014

from 3-6pm

New Year & Local Art Celebration

5cliff full

Event Sponsored by The Beacon Public Space Project & The 5 Cliff Street Studios including:

  • Rebekah Azzarelli, Homeopathy
  • J.C. Calderon Architect, LEED AP  www.jccarchitect.com
  • Elizabeth Casasnovas, LCCE, Childbirth Education, Doula, Prenatal Yoga  www.beaconbirth.com
  • Emily Joslin-Roher, LCSW, Psychotherapist
  • Paul Supple, Lawyer www.supplelaw.com
  • Hope G. Turino, LCSW, Certified/Licensed Psychotherapy and EMDR
  • Rebecca Wong, LCSW, Psychotherapy & Coaching  www.rebeccawonglcsw.com

I wish you enough.

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.  I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.  I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.  I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.  I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.  I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.  I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."—Bob Perkes

My thoughts drifted back to this quote as I reach out to family & friends on New Years Eve.

044I'm currently enjoying a peaceful night at home with my family.  Our eldest has a mild case of the croup but somehow even the tender moments we spend comforting her tonight are filled with contentment.

I recall years past when being present paled against what I felt I should be doing to bookmark the last eve of the year.  Regardless that wherever that place that I should be was, I stumbled in awkwardness when I was there, pulled out of that present.

This year, I know I am right where I should be.  I'm at home, on the couch with my husband, kids asleep and a romantic bottle of sparkling cider.  I'm comfortably content.

So, on that note, I wish you enough in 2014.

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CRAFTING REMEMBRANCES: Honoring a Mother's Loss

CRflamesMonday, December 16th, 2013, 6:00-8:00pm Hosted by Illuminated Baby at Fiberflame, 1776 Route 212, Saugerties, NY 12477

We gather together, as Women, to support and nurture one another as we share our journey of healing after the loss of a child, miscarriage or stillbirth. Using our hands and hearts we will "craft a remembrance" to honor our beloved child and our experience as we move forward in a safe supportive space facilitated by Rebecca Wong, LCSW.

There is a $15 Material fee (for which some donations have been received)

Registration is required: contact illuminatedbaby@gmail.com or 845-684-7024

Find our FaceBook event HERE.