Shaming: A Form of Cultural Manipulation?

Warning: I am on day 6 of a round of chemo so my inhibitions are down. You can only imagine what this one week on/one week off protocol  is like for the people I live with. But I got some things that my boundary seeking self just can’t let go…

There is a very popular post going around on Social Media that basically says that because you don’t know what is in a McDonald’s hamburger or what is in your deodorant or what was in the vaccines you had as a child, you should blindly accept what is being passed out as the savior of the world: the Rona Vaccine. Honestly, it is not my opinion of the vaccine that feels insulted, it is my intelligence.

Let me publicly state that if you want to get the vaccine, I encourage you to do so. If that alleviates your fears and allows you to interact with your elderly mom or the people you work with, by all means, do what you have to do. But listen up…if you try to SHAME me into your line of thinking or act as if you have some moral pedestal custom made for you, then I have to speak out for myself and my growing list of clients who are literally being traumatized by the smugness out there. 

The fact of the matter is that we will not know for a very long time what the lasting effects of any new drug will be. There may be many good reasons to risk the long term effects for the immediate result of having life get back to normal. People’s lives are being ruined by unemployment, mental distress, lack of human contact and if a vaccine offers a return to normalcy, let’s have an open discussion that evaluates the risks and the benefit of accepting those risks. As a cancer patient, I take straight poison in hopes that  killing cancer cells will outweigh the destruction of the healthy cells happening at the same time. I am not risk adverse, but taking educated risks is healthier than uneducated, naive and I-choose-not-to-think risks. SOMEONE, ANYONE, give me an amen.

Until you have received a diagnosis that changes your life forever because you took Zantac for an ulcer or used talcum powder to freshen yourself up…or watched a child suffer from Guillain-Barre after a flu vaccine, or are living with autism in your family because your child had the reaction that only a small percentage of people have, it may be in your best interest to make a decision that is right for you and not feel that you need to condemn those who may not agree. And please don’t ask those people who trusted once, to blindly trust again because if they don’t, they are hindering others from going to a concert. 

I commented on a few of these posts and the response was basically that because I have cancer, my circumstance is different and maybe I was over-reacting to the post. Ironic that one of those who thought I was overreacting was the Biology teacher that taught me about viruses to begin with. He is the reason I know that we can’t outrun a virus…it will always catch up through mutation. I respect his decision to vaccinate because he is elderly and wants to see his grandkids…but oohhh…anyone who knows me, knows that I advocate for boundaries, freedom and personal empowerment and I hate it when people try to shut me up by suggesting I might be overreacting. Didn’t your mama tell you to never tell a woman to calm down when she is just getting started?

Wanna know something funny? The literature that comes with my chemotherapy says in bold print: DO NOT RECEIVE VACCINATIONS OF ANY KIND WHILE ON THIS TREATMENT. ALSO, REFRAIN FROM CONTACT WITH ANYONE WHO HAS BEEN RECENTLY VACCINATED. I don’t know why this warning on a box of poison makes me crack up. Don’t be near anyone who has recently been vaccinated? Think that one through as it should inform anyone who is wondering about how to protect themself, either with a vaccine or otherwise.

I am fortunate. It turns out that despite being exposed to Covid several times, the most I seem to get is what feels like a bad cold. My health limitations do not seem to be a hinderance but I can’t help but wonder if the fact that I do know what is in my food, shampoo, deodorant and cleaning products is helping me fight from a position of strength. I actually research vaccines before blindly accepting them after I watched my daughter loose the use of her legs for 3 days after a routine flu vaccine and was told we got lucky because the paralysis wasn’t permanent. Maybe this is why I choose to understand my risks and not just follow the crowd out of fear. 

Many of my clients have shared that they are exhausted by the shaming that comes with having a counter cultural thought process, and I am not just talking about vaccines. Are you living life in fear, by letting others coax you into decisions that don’t feel right for your situation or are you making your decisions from a place of confidence, after doing research that matches your life situation? Are there other situations in your life, marriage, job, education and family where you see this pattern? Fear based decisions or choices made because people have made us feel bad, are rarely our best decisions. I encourage you to advocate for yourself in your relationships, your job, and your health by knowing what risks you are taking,  and evaluating whether or not the outcome will be worth it to you.

And when you make a decision that is right for you, I will be the first to cheer you on.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Discernment: Use it or lose it

If I had a dollar for every time a client said to me…

“I knew that I shouldn’t have (married that guy, trusted that person, stayed in that job, gone to that party, taken that loan, bought that car, tried that drug….) but I ignored the feeling”…

Well, let’s just say I would have a few dollars.

We all have an inner compass that guides us through life. We refer to it as our gut, intuition, our energy, the Holy Spirit. That internal guide works to convict us, warn us, alert us and protect us. It can also work to confirm decisions, tell us who to trust and push us to do something good. But for some reason, many times when we are getting our strongest messages, we hesitate to listen because it may mean that we have to give up something we want or alter our path to a journey that appears more difficult to navigate and because of that, we ignore it.

Unfortunately, when we fail to trust our gut, listen to our heart, and use our discernment, it all gets a little foggy. That muscle doesn’t increase in strength, it gets weak and confused and maybe even stops working at all, leading to more bad decisions, disappointment and heartbreak.

Ohhhh….if I could back up my own life and walk away earlier from that bad business partner, that terrible church, that boss….right? Can you think of times that you allowed yourself to get beat up because you didn’t listen to that inner voice?

If you feel like you need to strengthen that muscle again, take some steps to build it up by pushing the pause button when it starts to work for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are wondering if you should listen to the warning bell ringing in your head, or pay attention to the red flag waving at you:

Do I have to make this decision RIGHT NOW or can I take some time to get good counsel and think it through?

Am I making this decision just to please other people?

Does this decision benefit me as much in the future as it does in the present?

Is this situation similar to anything in my past? If so, can I use the wisdom gleaned from that situation to inform this one?

Is there anything about my situation that appears too good to be true? Should I examine this a bit more?

Will other people get hurt by this decision? Do I need to consider that before I commit to it?


Discernment is a gift. You may not always like what it is telling you to do. Honestly, that most likely is the time to really listen. Learning to trust the spirit in you is a process that leads to empowerment. Give it a try.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Sex Education: Wanna go there?

Lately, all my ‘magazines for therapists’ that I get, have one thing in common. They are attempting to educate me on how to work with people who have gender identity issues and/or people who have chosen lifestyles other than heterosexual relationships. There is an ever increasing need for therapy for those struggling with sexual addiction as well, including everything from porn addiction to sexual addiction within and outside committed relationships, crossing the lines of gender, age and species. This rampant addiction is ruining marriages and important relationships. An article I read recently was discussing the need for diversity in sex education at the elementary and middle school level so that all children could have an understanding of the issues they may encounter as they discover their personal sexual identity.

I remember when my own children had sex education in our local public school. We had some VERY interesting conversations in our home during that process. To be clear, I am not averse to sex education being offered at school…for goodness sake there are a lot of good reasons that the people spending most days with our kids need to make sure that they know some stuff. But for those of you parenting our impressionable youngsters, you may want to involve yourself in the process no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Just because there is a curriculum being followed does not mean that the person teaching the curriculum doesn’t bring their own perceptions, opinions and let’s face it, baggage, to the table. For example, 1 in every 6 women has been molested or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Depending on how she processed that event, she may be struggling with her own thoughts of how to be sexually healthy. This is only one example of something that could influence how sexuality conversations might be impacted within your child’s school setting. There are many more.

I also remember my own 6th grade sex education class and when I make the comparison to what is culturally acceptable today, it makes me laugh that my parents had to sign a waiver back then. What we learned back in the late 70’s/early 80’s was mostly science…there was not much sexuality being discussed. From a developmental stand point, this was very appropriate as what 6th grader is ready to make a commitment to a life long decision such as sexual preference? What adolescent should be making decisions that could impact them for life? And goodness knows that most 11-12 year olds are not going to enter into relationships that have good boundaries and heart protecting communication applications. To drive home the idea of who is teaching your children may impact their thought process, I had a teacher who literally told my class that oral sex is most effectively used when a woman is pregnant and may not want to have intercourse…huh? I can still see my mom’s face when I relayed that little tidbit. Oh goodness…I am laughing out loud as I write this, remembering that moment with my mom.

Is it possible that sex education in our elementary schools and junior highs should be focused more on personal development? Maybe instead of focusing on the sex act, we should be teaching communication skills, ways to communicate deeper level emotions, expectations in reciprocal relationships…I could go on. Let me spell it out for you. Very few couples come to counseling because they are confused about how to have sex. They are struggling because they have unmet expectations in their relationship, they have destructive ways of communicating, and life has been less than perfect so their relationship is suffering and thus, their intimacy isn’t near what they hoped it would be.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that personal identity choices are best made when we are emotionally healthy, when we execute good boundaries and when we have a firm grasp on our non-negotiables in our relationships. Teach your elementary school and junior high kids about how to respect themselves, how to have healthy relationships evidenced by good communication and respect, and they have a better chance of making sexual choices that are healthy for themselves. If you don’t teach them these things, they run the risk of making sexual choices as a result of low self esteem, need for validation and the mistaken expectation that sexual interactions are always an indication of true love.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

You did me wrong song: Boundaries after forgiveness

As I walk beside people in the counseling setting, I have found that forgiveness “in the moment” is difficult for most of us. It is hard to look the other way when someone has made us hurt, or move on from a toxic situation where we keep getting burned. There is a struggle between wanting to get over a situation and wanting to give it every available inch of your mind space, 24 hours a day until you feel good and ready to release it. Sometimes that inner dialogue is hard to turn off when you are feeling pooped on.

It is important to understand that forgiveness can walk right alongside the execution of good boundaries, allowing people to forgive almost immediately. It is possible to feel confident to move on from blows that are bound to come, if you live in this world where miscommunication, unfortunate life circumstances and dishonesty in relationships can bring painful interactions. I have found that it is possible to forgive, even forget (although not at the risk of losing the wisdom that comes from remembering what you have learned). No bill-paying, full-fledged adult has to put themself in a position to be clobbered by the same person or situation if they choose not to! Forgiving and walking away is an option!

In life, there are situations that occur when people you think have your back, just don’t. Depending on how much you invested in the relationship, the pain of betrayal can feel like a big ol’ kick in the stomach. I feel like I have had this experience in life plenty…enough to know that the pain is real. But I also know that it does not have to be debilitating. To be clear, I can look back and remember times where I was so debilitated by people wronging me that I experienced situational depression…bad enough to sit and stare at a wall for days on end. But not today…not today. Forgiving and walking away is an option…did I already say that?

Forgiveness is not saying that what happened is okay. Forgiveness is the acknowledgement that we all screw up at times and grace is an important gesture if we are all to live, work and grow side by side in the journey of life. But any person with good boundaries has a responsibility to self protect after the extension of grace and in some situations that means it is best not to interact for a time or for forever.

When forgiveness and boundaries work hand in hand, a person who is trying to spend less time lamenting and more time living life, can forgive whole heartedly, but also realize that there are times when people and situations are not meant to be. Sometimes we can forgive from across the room, or across the city or across an imaginary world from the person who betrayed us. Sometimes the best way to keep the situation from taking over our mind space is to literally move on with life by acknowledging that hurting people hurt others, and you can choose to not be the human punching bag for the family member, friend or co-worker who makes you their target. Removing yourself prevents the toxicity from taking over your life….it gives you freedom to be the positive-you that you want to be.

When I counsel people, I liken this to standing on a train track when there is an oncoming train. The first time it hits you, you might blame the train. Maybe the conductor didn’t see you on the track or tried to put on the brakes but not in time.  But if you stand in the same spot and get hit again, the responsibility might lie on you to get off the tracks and get out of the train’s way. People who get hit over and over by the same oncoming train might need to get away from the train. Yelling and screaming at the train, thinking they will for sure stop THIS time is not healthy for anyone. Remember:  Forgiving and walking away is an option. (The teacher in me knows that if you read this 3 times, you might remember it for the test. The bold print should help with that too!)

Being able to forgive and move on is freeing. It enables even the most wounded of people to remain positive and life-giving in a world that can be exhausting. Forgiving others allows you to get your sleep back and enables you to focus on the people and situations in your life that motivate and encourage you. If you have a situation in your life that is taking up your mind space and keeping you from being all you were made to be, ask yourself if it might be time to get off the train tracks…

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Eliminating Chaos: Think Marie Kondo for your emotional state

Living simply, minimizing your carbon footprint, downsizing…it is for good reason, all the rage. I have personally been hoping to move for a few years now, so every time Goodwill or ARC calls and asks for a donation, I use it as an opportunity to get some of my castaways to the curb. I have never, in my married life, lived in a house so long. For awhile there, we were moving every couple years which is great for cleaning stuff out. I moved into this house when my kids were 5 and now they can legally buy beer. I don’t want to think about what it is going to look like when we finally journey on!

I am fascinated by the cult following of Marie Kondo. She is an organizing mastermind and is taking over the world with books and speaking engagements. Her method, known as KonMari consists of taking a look at each possession and determining if it brings you joy or not. Out with the bad… the joy-inducing possessions get to stay.

One could argue that it isn’t that easy in real life to get rid of stuff. When my kids were little I would have to throw out the broken toys in the middle of the night, to avoid a meltdown. I would like to get rid of my daughter’s comforter-used-more-by-the-dog-than-her, on her bed, but she may divorce me if I do. She told me it reminds her too much of her childhood. Still, there is merit to this method and I can see that it could be of value in our emotional lives as well.

It is a proven fact that visual clutter can contribute to stress, depression, anxiety, lethargy…many life-halting conditions. Cleaning up our surroundings helps us feel energized, focused and ready to get things done. I remember when I was in grad school, Mike loved it when I had a paper due or a test to study for, because he would come home to super tidy surroundings. I wasn’t able to concentrate when I felt my surroundings were a big hot mess.

We can also experience negative symptoms when our emotional lives are in disarray. For example, it can be hard to concentrate at a job you hate, when your child is struggling with addiction or failing out of the 7th grade. Our relationships with frustrating friends can get strained when we are dealing with a struggling marriage, fighting an illness or dealing with a personal loss. When we find ourselves feeling out of control in our emotional space, it can be a good idea to channel our inner Marie Kondo and do some tossing out.

If you are in a particularly stress-filled season of life, you might feel out of control and overwhelmed. Think about it. When you are feeling awesome and in control, there might be people or situations that are not joy-inducing that you can tolerate because in-balance, life is feeling breezy. But when life gets super hard and you are being tossed in the waves a bit, those same relationships can feel toxic. Self preservation might include taking some of those people or situations out of the mix until you have the bandwidth for them. You might need to, for a time at least, focus only on the joy-inducing situations and relationships. I don’t want to go so far to say that you are going to “throw out” relationships but my guess is, once you take a break, you may want to continue to focus on the joy, don’t you think?

This doesn’t mean that you only hold on to what is perfect. I have a cracked teacup that I will never throw away because I can still see my mom holding it in both hands. It brings me joy. I recently spent a few days with some of my besties from college. Each of us are in a tough life season and are less than our awesome selves right now… but in our weakness, we shared, loved and laughed and brought one another great joy. I will keep those girls forever. They bring me the kind of joy that I can barely put into words.

Is it time to focus on joy?

Romans 12:12 says: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Do you have people in your life that will do this with you? If you do not, it might be time for some KonMari…

As always, let me know if I can help.

Love,

Sonia

Value Your Time: Are you worth more than a tank of gas?

A few years ago, my husband and I began using a phrase when we felt people were taking advantage of our Empathic-ness. It came out of an experience he had with a local realtor who kept canceling meetings and when they finally settled on a time to share a lunch, the guy was over 30 minutes late. Mike left the restaurant and when the realtor called to explain his tardiness, his excuse was that he had stopped for gas and he hoped to reschedule. Now, let’s be clear…there are lots of good reasons to cancel a commitment and lots of reasonable excuses for tardiness but….really?

So now, when we encounter situations in our life where it is clear that our time, our love, our commitment, is not being appreciated how we hoped it would be, we declare (or mumble…or emphasize with an eye roll…) that we are INDEED worth more than a tank of gas!

It took us years to get here.

Are you an Empath that finds yourself in situations where the other person in the relationship does not seem to put the same value on you, your time, your commitment, that you put on theirs?

Is it hard for you to claim self-worth because it feels selfish? Let’s try to reframe this so that you can start living in an empowered, more “true to yourself” way! Give and take in a relationship is part of every healthy friendship, marriage or business relationship. However, an imbalance can occur, leaving one side or the other feeling really taken advantage of and hurt. Without fail, the more Empathic you are, the more you tolerate as you seek to preserve the relationship.

Chasing after a relationship that is doomed to fail, is common for Empaths. They are prone to think that there is something they can say or do that will make the other person respond more favorably. Unfortunately, in this process, respect can be lost leading to more situations where the Empath does not feel heard, understood or valued.

If you are the Empath, there is wisdom in taking care to reserve that “extra effort” for relationships that have a hopeful outcome, or for members of your family that you are bound to for life. But putting on some protective armor for other relationships is important if you want to find meaningful relationships in this life. The longer you stay connected to someone who does not value you, the longer you risk being away from the relationship that will value you.

Because YOU are worth more than a tank of gas!

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia