One of the great travesties of our time is most of us don’t learn how to relate with our more difficult emotions.
- We are bombarded with messages that we should be happy and successful.
- We believe we should know how to have control over our emotions and our lives.
- We believe we shouldn’t get angry or sad or afraid.
- We believe we should never fail.
- We walk around with a list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that reinforce the belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
- The reality, though, is these “shoulds” go against the very nature of being human.
It is the nature of being human to feel pain at times.
Pain can show up in the form of loss, anger, fear, or grief. It is the nature of being human for things to not always go according to plan, for things to change and end. The more we fight this reality, the more suffering we create.
- We become fearful of our fear.
- We try to suppress our sadness.
- We repress our anger, or we rage at others to try to avoid the pain we are experiencing inside.
There is another option.
Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, and Shadow Work® are powerful modalities that offer a different approach.
Mindfulness teaches us how to turn toward our experience with tools that make the full dimension of our inner experience something to be explored with openness, curiosity, and acceptance.
Radical Acceptance cultivates the willingness to experience ourselves and our lives just as we are. It helps us find a new perspective from which those parts of ourselves we have rejected become deeply okay and lovable and even enjoyable.
Shadow Work® supports understanding, honoring, and integrating the different parts of ourselves that have been in conflict. This allows us to grow toward our goals and visions without leaving any part of ourselves behind. In my experience, this is the only kind of change that creates lasting transformation.
My counseling and coaching approach integrates Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, and Shadow Work®.
I also offer Expressive Arts Therapies and Nature Therapy when those modalities are requested. To learn more about these approaches, read below.
Shadow Work® Coaching is a personal growth model developed by Cliff Barry in Boulder, Colorado. Shadow Work® is based on Jungian ideas about how we disown certain qualities of our personalities in childhood as a way of maintaining safety and connection. It uses Robert Moore’s four-quarter model of Sovereign, Lover, Warrior, and Magician archetypes as a way of looking at both our strengths as well as areas of our life that are asking for further development. Trainings that have been inspired by Shadow Work® include the ManKind Project and their New Warrior Training Adventure and Women in Power. Shadow Work® has similarities to gestalt, psychodrama, and voice dialogue but is its own highly refined process for helping people transform stuck patterns in their lives.
The power of this work begins with helping you gain greater clarity about the different aspects of yourself that contribute to difficult patterns in your life. Each of these parts is honored fully for the role it has played and is invited to bring its wisdom into transforming these patterns. Experiential opportunities are then offered for shifting these dynamics in your life. The series of steps in this work create a powerful and integrated foundation for deep and lasting change to occur in your life.
Shadow Work® rests in the perspective that the ways we are most stuck in our lives often come from decisions we made early in life about how to be safe. Shadow Work® offers an approach of honoring where these stuck behaviors come from and seeing them as an important protective aspect of ourselves. When we try to get rid of these parts of ourselves, they often hold on more tightly because they believe our safety is at stake. By understanding and honoring them, we lessen inner conflicts and learn to collaborate with them in the changes we want to make.
Shadow Work® is intentionally designed to be a shame-free process. Our natural inclination to try and fix or get rid of certain aspects of ourselves can exacerbate the sense that whom we are is not okay. Shadow Work® is based on building strength in the areas where there are deficits rather than trying to decrease the areas where there is an overabundance. Click here to visit the Shadow Work® website and watch a video about this work.
Mindfulness has been shown to be highly effective as a therapeutic treatment for anxiety, depression, and many more emotional concerns. Mindfulness skills support greater effectiveness in managing distressing emotions, tolerance for strong emotional states, greater self-acceptance, improved communication, deeper relationships, and greater overall enjoyment of life.
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” When we pay attention to the present moment, our thoughts and emotions can be distilled down to sensations in the body. Mindfulness offers tools for working with those sensations so they don’t become overwhelming. Focusing on the breath is a way of bringing attention to the body in a soothing way. This can be a great resource for working with anxiety, stress, or trauma. Often when someone is experiencing a difficult emotion, there is an actual physical sensation connected to that emotion in the body. Through being curious about these sensations, we discover we can experience these emotions as pressure or aching, as coolness or warmth. When the meaning is removed, the sensations become far more tolerable. Mindfulness can ultimately help us discover even the most intense emotions can be experienced at a physical level without any threat to our emotional or physical safety. I practice these principles and practices in my own life on a daily basis and find they have made a tremendous difference. I can so confidently offer them to others because I know they have great value for me personally.
Radical Acceptance is a phrase I learned from Tara Brach, a meditation teacher and author of the book Radical Acceptance. She defines this approach as “the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is.” This perspective means we don’t need to feel good or peaceful all the time to be okay. Sometimes we can just be mindful of how much pain we are in or grief we feel.
For me, Radical Acceptance is about being willing to experience what is real without trying to escape it. When I practice mindfulness, I notice all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways my mind tries to avoid discomfort. I also notice that as long as I try to avoid discomfort, there is a tension inside myself, a grasping after something, and an aversion to what is happening. If I can soften into just experiencing what is going on for me, then that tension eases.
Radical Acceptance does not mean becoming complacent in our lives. It is an orientation toward our inner experience that can actually free us up with more capacity to take action for our values in the world. Radical Acceptance does not mean letting people hurt us. Instead it means being willing to notice how we are impacted by others and taking action in response to that awareness. It doesn’t mean we let ourselves act out hurtfully toward others, but rather we learn to allow the feeling of hurt or anger inside ourselves. We learn how to be with it skillfully without having to act on it. Radical Acceptance also does not mean feeling a pressure to be accepting of ourselves all the time. It means accepting the ways we get frustrated with ourselves or the ways we want to be different—and relating skillfully with these qualities as well. I see it as a practice of continually widening the circles of what we can accept in ourselves—especially the qualities that are contradictory to how we think we should be.
Expressive Arts Therapies
Some things are best expressed not through words but through the creative expression of the body. Movement and Dance Therapy can be especially useful for anyone seeking greater connection with their body and their own authentic self-expression. I have a wide range of therapeutic movement possibilities in my toolbox. We will work together to explore the kind of movement and expression that works best for you in meeting your unique needs and desires. I also enjoy incorporating visual art, writing, drama, and music as further ways of using creative expression in a therapeutic manner.
Authentic Movement is a process that uses movement and witnessing to help you find deep connection with your own authenticity. Without music, you are invited to follow the impulses within your own body, a process that can lead to the emergence of gestures, movements, images, sensations, memories, and feelings. This experience can help you access new aspects of yourself, gain powerful insight, and create profound emotional healing. Authentic movement is based on the belief that people have a natural impulse toward healing and self-actualization that can be accessed through the body. As the witness, I hold a safe and non-judging container and use my presence to attend fully to the experience of the mover.
Authentic Voice coaching creates a safe environment for you to begin exploring the expression of your voice, without words or notes to sing. Many people have been told they cannot sing, and because of this, they have lost connection to one of their strongest forms of personal expression. I will help you discover the power of your own voice and to use that power in the service of your own full authenticity and expansiveness.
Nature Therapy holds that our own personal well-being is deeply impacted by our relationships with the natural world. In a therapeutic context, we can create experiences of connection with the natural world that facilitate accessing your own fullness and a sense of guidance, safety, and support from the natural world.
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