Author Archives: Cindi Rivera MFT

About Cindi Rivera MFT

Psychotherapist for over 25 years, working with adult individuals, couples and teens. Bilingual Woman of color therapist using mindfulness to work with anxiety, depression, loss, parenting, relationships. Also offering online Mindfulness courses. Listening with heart, warmth and compassion.

Life is like a block of Swiss cheese

What do you do when you fall into a hole?

swiss-cheese.jpg

It started when I checked in, with my consultation group – stated my feeling of frustration and lamented about how hard it is to change my brain and live free of self-defeating thoughts. The same unkind thoughts that come up and replay over and over. I tried to change them but couldn’t. I had been feeling not good enough/unloved yet again – after a (minor transgression, really) hurt that I had experienced from someone I care about.

When I spoke it in the group I felt like I was just checking in honestly – acknowledging an awareness I had had about how stuck and pathetic I was feeling, and felt some relief just to articulate, say it. Having an awareness about a feeling is a little better than simply being overrun by that feeling. I also felt a little stupid and not as effective as my colleagues who always seem to have it all together. I thought I was speaking about something unique to just me.

But I was further uplifted to hear everyone else acknowledge in their check-ins that they too had self-defeating thoughts at times and they too struggled with how to deal with those.

We began talking about how life is like Swiss cheese… And I felt immediately understood – gotten. And oh yeah – not alone.

So often my clients tell me about some slip or dip they’ve had in their lives that brings them down. Ruminating about how they were feeling so good, but suddenly got caught off guard when their partner said something unkind; or when too many challenges piled up (being sick, tired, having a misunderstanding with their teen; not having enough time to have a conversation with a loved one, worrying about a sick coworker; and hearing of one more anti-immigrant sentiment expressed in the news, or another person of color who has been mistreated… Etc.) and they felt overwhelmed or inadequate; or feeling a pervasive sadness or irritation for seemingly no reason at all.

Sometimes they’ve eaten too much, or not eaten well; or not slept or not taken good enough care of themselves. Sometimes they’ve been crying too much, or raging too much, or feel hopeless or unmotivated. Sometimes they’ve been impatient with their kids and snapped at them. Sometimes they can’t seem to ever like themselves even though they’ve tried, or they’ve just had a long period of feeling some unwanted feeling (self-judgement, sadness, loneliness, vulnerability, heartache…) that they couldn’t shake or don’t know where it came from or what to do with).

These experiences remind me of Swiss cheese and how life is like a block of Swiss cheese.

Don’t you also think of Swiss cheese automatically, whenever you’re struggling with one (or several) of life‘s hardships? Let me explain…

We go along, feeling more less secure, intact in our lives. We have some good relationships, housing, families and friends we can choose to be with or not; a job, activities we enjoy. We’ve grown to feel mostly OK about ourselves, even if we don’t always take the best care of ourselves. That’s when we’re living on the structure, ridges, solid parts of the Swiss cheese.

And then, usually quite by surprise, we fall into one of those holes. Some holes are small, tiny, almost unnoticeable. Some are bigger and deeper. Suddenly we’re in the empty space of the Swiss cheese; the holes of life. It’s not just that Swiss cheese (life) is full of holes that is bad enough, but it’s what happens to our mind when we fall into those holes that really wreak havoc.

Typically we’ll experience a different state of mind when we fall into the holes. And sometimes one of those holes in the Swiss cheese leads to the next hole, to the next empty space, or to the next series of holes just like that.

Our state of mind shifts (or crashes) into being hurt, insecure, feeling unloved or not good enough like always when we slip into a hole. We might become distant or shut down, or hyperactivated; pessimistic; angered or very anxious. We get down on ourselves and can feel like pitiful examples of human beings. We may fall into old negative self-talk or those repetitive messages that always come up when we feel bad. We think we’ll never get it right; we’ll always be stuck.

Now Swiss cheese is actually pretty yummy. And the essence of it is that it’s full of holes. In fact, Swiss cheese has the right balance of cheese and holes so it still has flavor. The holes are what make it Swiss cheese. When people eat Swiss cheese, they don’t lament that the holes are there or that one hole is bigger than another. And maybe it’s the holes that actually hold up the cheese part, giving it definition, character, surround. Sometimes the slices are all holes… Sometimes it’s more firm. Sometimes a slice is rather lacy in design.

The holes in Swiss cheese come from bacteria that creates carbon monoxide bubbles that pop or from particles that get that process in motion. The holes in Swiss cheese are actually also called eyes. The holes are the identifier of the cheese – not a source of imperfection in the cheese. Turns out that the larger the eyes in the Swiss cheese, the more pronounced is the flavor. Although of course, cheese that has too many large eyes does not slice well and comes apart, so the size of the holes in the Swiss cheese are actually regulated in order to have the best cheese possible.

  • We all have self-defeating thoughts, criticisms, disappointments with ourselves and others. This is our default mode.
  • We all have some degree of difficulty when we fall into the holes of our Swiss cheese life. This usually takes place with a shift in our minds.
  • We all experience something in our bodies when our mind shifts (rapid breathing, heavy heart, tension in our necks or forehead, upset stomach, etc.). Our memories can even change.
  • We can soften the impact of falling into the holes of our Swiss cheese life: We can bring compassion to ourselves.
  • We can appreciate the “holes“ as what makes the Swiss cheese what it is. Maybe even see the holes as the foreground and not where something is missing. See the holes as what supports the structure of the cheese.
  • We can get out of the holes with kindness rather than making the holes bigger and losing the whole essence of the cheese.
  • We can see the holes as just another interesting hole, not a bottomless pit.
  • We might acknowledge the hole to someone who cares about us and feels instantly better by their sharing their Swiss cheese story also.
  • We might meditate our way out of a hole.
  • We might laugh at the absurdity of expecting we would never fall into another hole again.
  • We might notice that when caught in the middle of a hole in the Swiss cheese, that there is always some cheese nearby.
  • We might see the holes as what makes the Swiss cheese whole.

What happens when you fall into a hole in your Swiss cheese life? I’d love to hear from you about what you notice or how you get out (or stay in!) the hole. Just reply to this post.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with, in, or getting out of the (Swiss cheese) holes of life, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Heart Full Moments – November 2018

The fire inside you burns brighter than the fire around you

BLESSINGS.jpg

A monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause, or uplift my heart. Wisdom spoken in just a few words. They reflect what I’ve been reading or learning, or values I share, or what’s been going on in our world.

It’s been another very challenging month, and I know we each need some insight and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to Healing from sorrow, anger, gratitude and generosity, peace, and a way to make a difference in the world – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “Just keep going.” – Marie Forleo
  • “I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.” – Leonard Cohen
  • When the washing is done, they end with a phrase from the Song of Songs, a poem from the Jewish bible: “You are beautiful my beloved friend and there is no flaw in you.” – after preparing the Jewish shooting victim martyrs for burial.
  • “Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” – Rumi
  • “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – Interpretive Translation of Talmudic Texts
  • “The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves. “ – Br. David Steindl-Rast
  • “Waiting is an opportunity to turn inward, to find a moment’s silence, to meditate. Let’s be quiet and enjoy our wait.” – Paul Brunton
  • “Life is so painful, but I try to remember the beauty and miracles. “ – Elaine Mansfield
  • “It’s in that convergence of spiritual people becoming active and active people becoming spiritual that the hope of humanity now rests.” – Van Jones
  • “It is a powerful practice to be generous when you are the one feeling in need.” – Allan Lokos
  • “I have decided to stick to love… Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “In the new year, look for the good in people, instead of always looking for the bad.” – Jamie Foxx
  • “People who routinely express gratitude enjoy better health and greater happiness.” – Greater Good Science Center
  • “The vast majority of human acts each day are constructive: making meals, tending to children, saying hello, restraining anger, completing tasks, planting seeds, teaching, healing, nurturing, cooperating, smiling, and on and on it goes. Recognizing this truth is comforting and inspiring. There is still hope!” – Rick Hanson
  • ”For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” – L. R. Knost
  • Aristotle writes that “anyone can become angry. That is easy, but to be angry at the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and that is not easy.”
  • “We cannot escape the tragedies that arise in our lives. We can search for a reason and ask – why? Maybe we could hold others at fault or imagine what life would be had this not happened, but perhaps what defines our character is not our struggles but how well we meet them and rise up after getting knocked down. Faith will overcome fears, doubt and insecurities. Sometimes in life we don’t recognize how strong we actually are until we are faced with a great tragedy in our life. This calamity we face today will help develop the strength and fortitude we need for tomorrow. Losing everything we own is sad, but the things we own do not diminish who we are inside. Sometimes the worst situation brings out the best in us and others. When you put together a jigsaw puzzle made of hundreds of pieces, you put it together one piece at a time. No one can go back and change what has happened, but we can all start today and make a new tomorrow, one shovel at a time, one day at a time.” – GB (letter left to fire survivor)
  • Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward
  • ”For each new morning with its light,
    For rest and shelter of the night,
    For health and food,
    For love and friends,
    For everything Thy goodness sends.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Dear Creator,
    You, the borderless sea of substance,
    We ask You to give to all the world
    That which we need most — Peace.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
  • “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Adrienne Gusoff
  • “A person of good intelligence and sensitivity cannot exist in this society very long without having some anger about the inequality – And it’s not just a bleeding heart, knee-jerk, liberal kind of a thing – It is just a normal human reaction to a nonsensical set of values where we have cinnamon flavored dental floss and there are people sleeping in the street.” – George Carlin
  • Another way to give and make a difference on Giving Tuesday: Send a free beautiful e-card to someone you love or are grateful for in your life. Make their day (and your day) better with an expression of gratitude.  https://gratefulness.org/connect/send-an-e-card/

So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that holds some meaning for me. I hope your month has been graced with compassion and reflection and that you might take a moment of pause to connect with what inspires you and replenishes your soul.

I’d love to hear back from you…what’s inspiring you these days? What’s meaningful that touches you? How are you coping? Just reply to this email.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to find moments of full-heartedness, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Heart Full Moments October 2018

We are twice armed if we fight with honor…

IMG_0628.jpgA monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause or uplift my heart. Wisdom spoken in just a few words. They reflect what I’ve been reading or learning, or values I share, or what’s been going on in our world.

It’s been another very challenging month, and I know we each need some insight and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to justice, sanctuary, emotional gardening, mindful pause, voting, and even girl power – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • Click here for everything you need to vote.
  • “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
  • “If you restore balance in your own self, you will be contributing immensely to the healing of the world.” – Deepak Chopra
  • “Start just here. Tune into your heart. That is where love, wisdom, grace, and compassion reside. With loving attention, feel into what matters most to you. Yes, there are anxious thoughts, and there is grief and trauma, but don’t let your heart be colonized by fear. Take time to quiet the mind and tend to the heart. Go out and look at the sky. Breathe in and open yourself to the vastness of space. Sense the seasons turning, the rise and fall of dynasties and eras. Breathe out and dwell in loving awareness. Practice equanimity and steadiness. Learn from the trees. Become the still point in the center of it all.” – Jack Kornfield
  • Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that in uncertain times, our own steadiness can become a sanctuary for others.
  • “In these days of shared difficulties, first make your heart a zone of peace. And then, with courage and calm, you can act, you can speak up, help those in need, dialogue with others, register voters, feed the hungry, care for the vulnerable, contribute to the whole.” – Jack Kornfield
  • Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching to mend the part that is within our reach.”
  • “I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin
  • “There are many fine things which you mean to do some day, under what you think will be more favorable circumstances. But the only time that is yours is the present.” – Grenville Kleiser
  • “Until then, I had never really thought of the emotional life as a garden. But that is much closer to reality than seeking the instant miracle. Experiences are akin to soil, the rich terroir of growth. Left untended, certain emotions choke out others, like the weeds that threaten my lettuces every spring. In my garden, I pay attention. I know the difference between seedlings and the invasive plants, cultivating the greens and pulling out the others. So it is with our emotional lives. The same soil allows both weeds and good seeds to grow, and it takes a watchful gardener — and more than a little practice — to ensure the health and productivity of the whole. Over decades, I learned to work the garden of my own soul, and discovered that it was the spiritual work of gratitude. The gardening image has been helpful to me in many ways, most significantly by reminding me that some things take patience and time. To think of the emotional life as a garden moves us away from notions of instantaneous change toward a spirituality that emphasizes learning, attentiveness, trial-and-error, and growth. More than once, I have felt like I have finally overcome anger or grief only to discover it was not really gone. I may not want to, but sometimes I have to rework old soil, replant seeds, and try again. Gardening is the oddest combination of accepting what is (including your own limits and failures) and developing persistence. Suffering is in the soil. From it grows both negative and positive emotions. The negative ones are like weeds in the high summer; the positive ones — including gratitude — too often the smallest of shoots. I have discovered that hard work on one’s knees is the surest way to tend the garden. Both in prayer and rooting around in the soul’s soil, recognizing the difference between what will inhibit the growth of goodness and that which is fruitful, and then plucking out the invasive species. If the work is done, the garden flourishes. And there: gratitude grows. It is a miracle of a sort. One that takes time. And patience.” – Diana Butler Bass
  • Watch this – Sure to make you smile…girl power! Watch Eight-Year-Old Drummer Cover Led Zeppelin – Rolling Stone
  • “The first step in learning to practice the informal pause is to be intentional, know you are stopping. Then, take three full breaths — very long in breath and very slow out breath. Right away, that starts to relax the sympathetic nervous system and help you to acclimate. And then, pay attention to waking up your senses, so you know you are here. To occupy the pause, know that you’re listening to sound right here; the forms you are seeing are right here; the sensations in your body right here. Three breaths, open up your senses, and then, with kindness, invite yourself to be here. That’s it. And if you practice pausing in many different situations, you will start getting the knack of homecoming.” – Tara Brach
  • “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu
  • “Dear Survivor: you are not defined by the violence that happened to you. The earth is not defined by the asteroid that struck it, but by the million years of life that came after.”
  • “We are twice armed if we fight with honor.” – Plato
  • “And if this isn’t a day when your universe has tilted and something precious you take for granted has not been suddenly irrevocably lost, bow before the mystery and let gratitude wash over you for the miracle of life, health, and this brief walk on our fragile planet.” – Carolyn Moore
  • “I thank God no one’s been hurt, And I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people who have protected us. There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People MUST vote!” – Robert De Niro
  • “May I become free of all suffering so I may help others be free of all suffering.” – Pema Chodron
  • “The more I wonder, the more I love.” – Alice Walker

…So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that holds some meaning for me. I hope your month has been graced with compassion and reflection and that you might take a moment of pause to connect with what inspires you and replenishes your soul.

I’d love to hear back from you…what’s inspiring you these days? What’s meaningful that touches you? How are you coping? Just reply to this email.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to find moments of full heartedness, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

30 Ways to Tame Your Anger That Will Help You Get a Grip When You Are Outraged

You have to take care of your anger to move through it

anger-tiger.jpg

Spoiler Alert: This is a bit of a personal diatribe. If it feels too long and “ranty”, click right here to bypass the anger and go straight to the helpful suggestions about how to tame your anger when it’s eating you alive…

I’ve been mad. Not mad insane. MAD ANGRY. I am outraged about all the madness going on (and here I mean mad insane). I think actually that I’ve called it madness as a way of protecting myself – if other people‘s behavior is crazy or insane or outright mad, I can manage at least a little bit of empathy for them – they know not what they do… They can’t be blamed for their thoughtless comments; poor judgment. They are acting this way because of some underlying complex factors that I am not aware of yet. They must be suffering from fear or hurt and can’t access any kind way to communicate that. They are at the mercy of their mental illness…

But after this last week of Senate Judiciary committee hearings with Judge Kavanaugh, I have no empathy. I am incensed and furious about what I perceive as a complete lack of judgment, compassion or wisdom, and in fact an excess of calculated, deliberate, purposeful, vengeful and harmful words and actions. I am mad about the injustice of it all.

This anger has hit me like a tidal wave, making every little or big situation be kindling for my fire of rage. As a result, I realize how generalized and over the top my reactionary rage has been.

I AM MAD…

At the noise level in a restaurant, where I can hardly hear the person I am meeting with.

At two white women who obliviously entered the crosswalk in front of me as I was ready to turn left, moments before it turned green for me; trapping me…

At the service technician to come to my house, no less than five times to repair my dishwasher, And piece by piece, bolt by bolt, has replaced parts and rebuilt it rather than replace it altogether through the policy I have, through which I have already paid enough for a brand new machine. And mad at each technician who has complained about every previous technician who did not do his job right, who in fact put in pieces backwards! And mad that even after this last service visit, my dishwasher is still not working properly!

I HAVE BEEN MAD…

At my friend, a rich white powerful male (who is one of the good guys) who came to me at an event and was disappointed with me that I couldn’t offer him words of solace and hope, to make him feel better after the emotional week he had had listening to the hearings of Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh… Talk about white male privilege! Why isn’t he sharing his outrage and disappointment with all those powerful white males who don’t live by the rules they make or who have separate “rules” for themselves? And with whom he has much greater access than I?!

At every man, just because he is a man. I have been over generalizing my anger and disgust toward all of them – regretfully, even disparaging all the good guys.

At the black prospective mayoral candidate, who only acknowledged the men around me at an event, and did not shake my hand or introduce himself to me; making me invisible. What? My vote doesn’t matter to him?

At the guys I know and care about who have admitted to me their own improper behavior toward females while they were in high school.

At the two black guys who came to my door trying to sell (very expensive) magazines as a means of supporting themselves and who challenged me when I did not buy, with ‘didn’t I agree that people need second chances?’

I AM ANGRY…

At the ways so many people are leading with, and over-fueling their anger as they communicate with loved ones, and seeming to not care about the negative impact their rage has on those loved ones.

At the TSA customs officer who treated me like a criminal, recently when I traveled internationally and he barked at me; had his associate pat me down completely from head to toe; threatened to and did throw away my belongings in the airport security line, and scared and humiliated me as I was in his country and felt targeted, being one of the darker people in the line. (I had nightmares about this later, when I was in my own bed, and struggled with a suffocating sense that I could not breathe. This was just a little trauma and yet it stayed with me for days).

At the anxiety, shame, trauma, overwhelm, visceral shaking and quaking that so many of my clients and loved ones have experienced or had re-triggered this week, after listening to the hearings for our next supreme court justice. Many are talking to me as if they have just been raped (literally and figuratively) and telling me their stories again, or for the first time. I am angry that they’ve been knocked down from an already vulnerable position of balance, having worked very hard (or not yet been able to do the work) and having found a tiny place of healing or safety, where their daily lives are not completely consumed and determined by that horrible trauma they experienced at an earlier time in their lives. Things they thought had been put in place have re-emerged as disruptive, invasive and devastating, as if it were all happening again, and their world is rocked.

At the reminders of my own experiences as a teenager of having been sexually exploited by an older white good ole boy/man.

At the sense of hopelessness, I feel.

I AM OUTRAGED…

At the terrible terrible heartbreaking interrogation done of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – having to answer absurd questions, so many that so clearly had nothing to do with the trauma she had experienced, but that grilled her publicly for hours. I felt I was witnessing a grueling therapy session that was actually re-traumatizing in that moment. I wanted to be a kind caring listening therapist to her, and support her in her struggle, but could not protect her. I learned a lot from her about how to be vulnerable and strong at the same time, and how to handle one’s emotions honestly, even when in the middle of trauma. I hope she didn’t watch Kavanaugh‘s interview since that would’ve only traumatized her further.

At Kavanaugh‘s defensive, petulant, entitled, compassion-less, lying, disrespectful, narcissistic “testimony“ after Dr. Ford’s courageous, heartfelt, honest, vulnerable and incredibly strong testimony at the hearing.

At the rules made by the good old boys network that is so biased and only good for one side and that was practiced and heralded by most of the old white male senators at the hearings – the unfairness of it all is so maddening.

At the lies blatantly spoken and emotionally cried about in Kavanaugh’s testimony.

At the utter disrespect shown by Kavanaugh to Senator Klobuchar when he turned her questions about his drinking onto her.

I AM ANGRY…

At the man who sat across from me while I was dining, who winked at me and blew me a kiss and licked his lips while staring at me.

At the members of my family who perpetuated any kind of sexually abusive or otherwise abusive behavior.

At the horror of watching Trump publicly shame, blame and basically re-traumatize Dr. Ford – who has more courage in her little pinky than he has in his whole life. And at yet another demonstration of him having no empathy/compassion whatsoever. I am angry to witness his vileness.

At the sham of the investigation the FBI conducted, and the restrictions put out by the White House of who’s truth would be considered.

At the invasiveness of receiving a ‘Presidential Alert’ on my cell phone. How fu**ing dare he come into my personal space? I don’t know about you, but I feel as if all of my devices have been hacked and are operating in a dysfunctional way, since that alert. Later it occurred to me that this warning of ‘something terrible is happening’, was indeed a true and accurate metaphor for the times.

At myself for allowing a couple I was seeing to carry on a long hurtful argument with one another, right in front of me, without helping them to have understanding or compassion for one another. I essentially stood by and witnessed them injure one another…My deepest apologies for my overwhelmed inaction…

At a guy who has known me for a long time and reminded me that I stole and shoplifted when I was in high school. He then questioned if I should be judged for that misbehavior, in my role today as a therapist.

At the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, even though there is nothing just or fair or honorable about him…

These are but a few of the many transgressions I have had a strong reaction to in the last ten days, that have connected me to a deep anger within. Some have brought forth an over-reaction on my part, or an irritation, or some a sense of long standing resentment, or a brooding grievance. Some have brought forth outright rage. I have been like a bundle of fireworks, one setting off the other in an explosive chain reaction.

When I read this list now I can see how absurd and over reactionary and even unfair and judgemental some of my rage has been in response. But all together it has been quite a tumult of righteous anger, rage, grievance, condemnation and my own animosity, for me to hold and try to deal with. This is definitely work in progress for me. My intention is to move through it with minimal residual damage to myself or anyone I care about.

I have felt the many layers of this anger in my body – as a tense agitation, tightness in my shoulders and arms, frequently clenched fists, ready to throw blows. My body is strained, hurting, my head throbs, my brow is furrowed. I feel an intense heat coursing through my veins, a kind of boiling over. I feel heaviness in my chest, and an overfilling of my tear ducts. I feel particularly bristly and full of sharp edges. Teeth grinding, jaws locked, heart steeled but searing. I am angry. Hear me ROAR…

So why am I describing all of this to you, you might be asking?

I have been keenly aware of the pervasiveness and global feeling of my anger. I am not usually given to react only through my lense of anger. Usually I can access a much wider range of feelings, and be present to their comings and goings.

But this anger has been all encompassing and unwieldy. And I have struggled to contain it. Or move through it. Or release it. Or not let it poison me. Or manage it somehow.

I know I am not alone in being flooded with anger. Many of us share this difficult emotion, whether it’s in relation to what’s going on in our current socio political arena, or related to past hurtful, unjust, fearfully perceived or actual mistreatments.

And I wanted to offer some tangible things to do with it, so this anger that is a perfectly human and normal emotion doesn’t become self destructive or destructive to the larger community.

As you know, anger is one of the more difficult emotions to handle. Teasing out what’s legitimate about it (when it all feels justified), while not letting it contaminate everything else in our lives is really challenging.

Anger is not bad. It is not something to be gotten rid of. But we need to learn how to manage it in order to benefit from the potential constructiveness of it. We need to learn to take care of our anger. Not blame others, or blame ourselves. Anger is a natural reaction to threat, hurt, fear and can teach us or help guide our attention to what is truly needed.

So here are a few helpful and practical tools I have sought out, researched and tried myself that I think will be helpful to you as you try to manage any anger you are struggling with…

How to get the best of your anger so it doesn’t get the best of you:

  • One meditation on anger I listened to suggested when you are angry, don’t do or say anything. Sit still and find your body via the breath. Do this by feeling the temperature in your hands, or noticing what’s going on in your lower jaw, or checking in with where in your body you feel stirred up. This meditation indicates that when we’re angry we can’t feel anything. And that anger is a reaction to feeling. To take care of anger we must let our bodies become a big enough container to simply feel the raw sensations of the anger, without attaching our story about the anger. Check the energy in your legs, forehead, the skin on your neck. This allows the anger to settle so that we can more easily connect to and feel the feelings underneath the anger (being hurt, abandoned, afraid, disappointed). When you’re angry you don’t know what you feel even though you think you do. If you can ride out the wave of anger, which usually lasts at most a few minutes, then you can move through the fire of anger to the place of feeling again. To that human place, where connection, compassion, communication can occur.
  • Another meditation offered a way of addressing the anger within and the different shades of it. Do this by being mindful of the discomfort it causes in your body, and any attachment or justifications you might have to your anger. Notice if you appraise it in exaggerated or simplistic ways, or how much energy you give to making a case about what you’re angry about. Be aware of your own moral judgments that have become righteous or have a sense of superiority about them. Be mindful of intentions you might have attributed to others, or how personally you are taking a situation. Maybe you truly are a bit player in this situation? Shifting your perspective about the anger that you’re feeling helps to release it and then you can replace anger with more positive emotions like peace or forward thinking or self-confidence or forgiveness. It is a kindness to you to find forgiveness for them. Releasing anger helps you to find appropriate determination or principle or future wise action.

More tiny steps to working through your anger include:

  • Notice when your anger is generalized or exaggerated, and acknowledge when it is sometimes unfairly and overly reactionary.
  • Try to tolerate your anger and just be with it a moment longer.
  • Say things like, “I don’t like it but it’s here and I’m acknowledging it.”
  • Notice when your anger is building, when it peaks, and when it begins to subside. Notice if it is a ripple or a wave or a tsunami of emotion.
  • Take care of your anger so it is not acted out and not acted in.
  • Notice the way the leaves shimmer in the breeze, or how the light falls as the time changes.
  • Walk in nature.
  • Pet a dog.
  • Be intentional and limiting about the time you spend with the news cycle or on social media.
  • Help someone.
  • Try to feel your anger without the story attached to it.
  • Acknowledge your grief, sadness, hurt, anger, disgust, powerlessness. Have compassion for yourself for feeling these difficult emotions.
  • Do no harm.
  • Write out every little thing you feel angry about.
  • Be creative, artful.
  • Breathe. Breathe again. And again. Rinse and repeat.
  • Share how you feel with someone you trust.
  • Ask for a hug.
  • Send thank you notes to people who have acted in courage and identify everything you appreciate about them.
  • Speak your anger clearly, firmly, with conviction, from your heart.
  • Limit what you absorb.
  • Notice the beauty of your real life versus the online distasteful life of politics and news.
  • Do things that make you feel safe and in control.
  • Make choices about how you express your rage. You do have control over that.
  • Recognize you are safe in the here and now.
  • Identify and tend to all the parts of your body that are manifesting the anger.
  • Have gratitude about the things that are right in your world. Even have gratitude that you have the capacity to feel your own shades of anger.
  • Find and be with the soft feelings protected by the anger.
  • Make your heart a zone of peace. Keep the peace.
  • Stretch to mend the part of the world that is within your reach.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s making you angry these days and how are you taking care of your anger?

If you or somebody you care about needs help around managing the anger that you feel, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

 

Heart Full Moments – September 2018

Help! Things have been so hard…

A monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

Coping with injustice, grief in a mindful and respectful way. Quotes of wisdom.

These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause or uplift my heart. Wisdom spoken in just a few words. They reflect what I’ve been reading or learning, or values I share, or what’s been going on in our world.

It’s been another very challenging month, and I know we each need some insight and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to coping with injustice, compassion, respectful speech, grief, mindfulness and even a hero’s words – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “We’ve got the gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard, or just think it’s gonna get on with itself. You gotta keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it…and nurture it.” – John Lennon
  • “The world is a shitty place and I’m not gonna make it worse.” – Alex Williams
  • “One must view the world through the eye in one’s heart rather than just trust the eyes in one’s head.” – Mary Crow Dog
  • “If you are neutral on situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
  • “Interdependence: This is the practice of remembering that we are part of something larger than our individual selves—a karmic web of humanity—and what we do has impact.
  • Compassion: The practice of compassion is a weapon of mass healing.
  • Harmlessness: The practice of nonharming in body, speech, and mind is essential for respect and safety.” – Ruth King, Mindfulness of Race
  • “In my country, we go to prison first and then become president.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “What would your parrot say about your speech?” – Ruth King
  • “When we attend to the discomfort that kindles unwise speech, we discover that unwise speech is a habitual strategy that attempts to disguise the anxiety we are experiencing in the moment. Once we give kind attention to the impulses of our speech, we are more likely to uproot the habit of uttering unwise speech.” – Ruth King
  • “Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the magic.” – Herman Melville
  • “Two things to remember in life: take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words when you’re with people.”
  • “Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.” – Alan Cohen
  • “Walk fearlessly into the house of mourning for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy and, after all these mortal human years, love is up to the challenge.” – Kate Braestrup
  • “Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” – Maya Angelou
  • This month, welcome the opportunity to share celebration, kindness, gratitude, and empathy with a heartfelt message. Peruse our free eCards, newly updated with fresh beauty and grateful sentiments. Make a difference – share your love and care. Enjoy our collection – Gratefulness.org
  • “Are you aware of any laws that give the government power to make decisions over a male’s body?” – Kamala Harris
  • “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself; if you want to eliminate suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own transformation.” –Lao Tzu
  • “Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.” –The Dalai Lama
  • “Mindfulness meditation helps you say to yourself, ‘This is a feeling. It doesn’t define who I am and it’s not going to last forever.’” – David Creswell
  • “When the waves close over me, I dive down to fish for pearls.” – Masha Kaleko
  • “Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valarie Kaur
  • “If all eligible young women voted, you would have the power to determine EVERY. SINGLE. ELECTION.” – #IGNITETHEVOTE
  • “They say ‘this could ruin his life’; without acknowledging it already has ruined hers.
    They say ‘he was just a kid’ without acknowledging she was too.
    They say ‘it was just a few stupid minutes ‘ without acknowledging how those few minutes changed all of her years.
    They say ‘he doesn’t deserve this’ as if she does.
    They say ‘boys will be boys’ without realizing that denied this girl her girlhood.
    They say ‘he deserves better’ while implying she does not.” – Marisa Kabas
  • “I draw prayer round me like a dark protective wall, withdraw inside it as one might into a convent cell and then step outside again, calmer and stronger and more collected again.” – Etty Hillesum
  • “Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.” – Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Hero
  • May I be filled with lovingkindness.
    May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
    May I be well in body and mind.
    May I be at ease and happy….
    May you be filled with lovingkindness.
    May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
    May you be well in body and mind.
    May you be at ease and happy.” – Loving kindness practice

…So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that holds some meaning for me. I hope your month has been graced with compassion and reflection and that you might take a moment of pause to connect with what inspires you and replenishes your soul.

I’d love to hear back from you…what’s inspiring you these days? What’s meaningful that touches you? How are you coping? Just reply to this email.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to find moments of full-heartedness, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

How I Help with Racial and Political Anxiety

Dealing with the overwhelm of the times

34818D1D-896F-455C-A2B7-6215FC4A3ED5.JPG

It’s been another difficult week, and this week people have had to contend with hearing about more negative interactions in the government, and the possibility of long-lasting terrible implications related to our justice system. Anonymous op-eds, the continued separation between parents and children, deaths of the good ones…the stress from these news events is enough to make anyone anxious.

You might notice you are carrying an underlying current of agitation or feeling hopeless and frustrated (or horrified), even more often than not. You dread hearing about, yet another ludicrous decision made by those in government. You cringe in the face of everything happening, you have heartache in response to the bad leadership we have, you might rather stick your head in the sand, or barely be able to put one foot in front of the other, you feel so overwhelmed. You might feel powerless or enraged. Or afraid for the future.

And you really care – about the impact of this troubled time on your children, your family, your community, yourself. You care deeply about all those people who are struggling so. And often don’t know how to respond or what to do next.

While there is no easy answer, and no one thing that will resolve everything, there are many things that can ease the overwhelm, and continue to bring light into your life. Even with so much suffering going on, it is possible to live a life filled with compassion, courage, and meaning. And even joy.

At this anniversary time of 9-11 and in honor of all the lives lost and devastation that impacted so many, physically, socially and psychologically, I offer these suggestions for living a whole life, even amidst the heartache and wretchedness that surrounds us. This is not meant to ignore all that’s going on and the precarious state of our world; but to provide support and a buoy, if you will, toward strength and well being, especially during difficult times.

Here’s a list of some things I do to help clients who are struggling with the  political/ racial anxiety of the times:

  • As a bilingual woman of color therapist, I offer a safe place where clients of all backgrounds can share deeply about their real experiences, sometimes in the comfort of their mother tongue, and have the experience of being heard, understood and not judged. My warm down-to-earth presence lets them know I get them.
  • Sometimes it helps to simply let my clients grieve their deepest feelings, hold those feelings, and even grieve with them about the world’s sufferings or their own. I invite the depth of the emotion of their woundedness, and often shed tears with them, in my heart or on my face.
  • I honor whatever acts or actions of courage my clients have demonstrated.
  • I encourage putting into the universe small acts of kindness, or sending goodwill to self, to loved ones, to difficult people, to acquaintances, to strangers, and then to enemies, if possible.
  • I advocate self-compassion as a key to empowerment.
  • I encourage listening deeply to each other.
  • I encourage my clients to speak with their wise voice.
  • I support honest reflection and soul searching into oneself, and the welcoming of all emotions, even the difficult or hard to admit ones. I help them to unpack their own biases, and to recognize the damages of internalized oppression.
  • I suggest, teach and practice mindfulness skills as a way of calming the soul.
  • I advocate dance, journaling, walks in nature, yoga, a variety of breathing techniques – and various ways of freeing the body from the bondage of hatred or discrimination.
  • I help couples, and parents and their kids to have calm caring discussions especially about sensitive issues, with the intention of doing no harm, especially when they themselves are triggered.
  • I offer that those of us who are resisting must take great care to not get stuck in the bitter rage and divisiveness and negative thinking of the times, or we become part of the problem and no better than those we are angry with. We must care well for ourselves, so we can continue in the struggle.
  • I remind people that often the turbulence comes just before the true transformation that occurs. I offer hope that things will change for the better.
  • I offer guided meditations, mindfulness apps, body scans, sleep practices and ways of bringing mindfulness into everyday life, in order to build resilience so they can continue on in the struggle without being completely overwhelmed.
  • I listen. And listen. And listen some more.
  • I share a RAIN practice to use when dealing with difficult experiences: R for Recognize (Notice and name what’s happening in the moment); A for Allow (Can I be with what’s happening right now?); I for Investigate (How am I relating to what is happening? Can I do it without judgement or avoidance or resistance?); N for Nurture (How do I care for this distress?).

These are but a few of the ways I help clients to manage the distress and overwhelm of the current negative political and racist society we are surrounded by.

I am also proud to acknowledge that I was quoted in a colleague’s blog, who talked with several therapists to get best ideas for helping clients who are dealing with anxiety related to the difficult and stressful political and racist times we are living in. He is the creator of the progressive mental health directory, Therapy Den. To read the blog of Jeff Guenther, and to get more ideas about how to take care of yourself during these very upsetting times, click here (I’m honored to be mentioned three times): how to cope with political and racial distress.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and thoughtful to you and others. I’d love to hear from you…How are these times affecting you? How do you tend to what’s really important in your life?

Take good care.

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed and is struggling to find peace amidst all the negative political and racist injustice swarming around, please call me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Heart Full Moments August 2018

Keep on Keeping

A monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

IMG_9337.jpg

These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause, or uplift my heart. Wisdom spoken in just a few words. They reflect what I’ve been reading or learning, or what’s been going on in our world.

It’s been another challenging month, and I know we each need some insight and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to the challenge of creating good relationships, dealing with the unpleasant, truth and integrity, and even a little humor – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “Always do the right thing even when no one is watching.”– Maui bathroom
  • “Listen without judgment. Talk without criticism. Put differences in reverence.” – Harville Hendricks
  • “Listening is the price you pay to be heard.”
  • “An amazing couple is one where only one person goes crazy at a time!” – Kohut
  • “The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest challenge is being happy with what you find.”
  • “President Trump’s inner child is very wounded. He’s always looking for validation. He probably never felt good enough as a child. He needs love, compassion, joy.” – Deepak Chopra
  • “The most important thing I learned on retreat is how to find a deep and authentic care for both myself and others.” – teen iBme retreat participant
  • “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • “If you can be with the pleasant without chasing after it, with the unpleasant without resisting it, and with the neutral without ignoring it – that is an incredible freedom.” – Rick Hanson
  • “This thought doesn’t serve me well. What could I think instead?” – Shari
  • “Some people feel intimate when they joke and laugh together. Some feel it sparring with one another in a playful way. Other people feel it much more sensuously, like when they’re taking a bath together or making love. Others feel intimate when walking side by side exploring ideas, talking philosophy or dreaming about future goals.” – Ellyn Bader
  • “Patriarchy damages both sexes” – Terry Real
  • “This is the essence of straight white privilege: to not have to worry that your neighbors will be violent toward you because of the color of your skin; to not have to assess each neighborhood for signs of racism or homophobia to make sure you and your children will be safe.” –
  • “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” — Oprah Winfrey
  • “Is she someone you find interesting?”:
  • “You will spend more time with this person than anyone else for the rest of your life,” Obama said, “and there is nothing more important than always wanting to hear what she has to say about things.”
  • “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall
  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
  • “Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have.” – Hailey Magee
  • “You are not here merely to…make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson
  • “Healing from trauma is about regaining access to those parts of you that shut down in order to cope, and/or the things that trauma took away from you. Sometimes the reclaiming doesn’t work for you, but even the attempt can be empowering.“ “I can’t emphasize enough that “resolving“ trauma is not pretending it never happened, or going back to the way of life you had before the Traumatic incident. Resolving trauma is becoming aware of your coping mechanisms and triggers, and acting from conscious choice rather than automatic reaction’s.” – ‘Reclamation is a Part of Healing’ in Fierce Passions Blog by M’Kali-Hashik
  • “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” – Rumi
  • “I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.” – old Inuit song
  • “R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Find out what it means to me
    R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Take care, TCB
    Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)
    A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me) Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
    A little respect (just a little bit)
    I get tired (just a little bit)
    Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
    You’re runnin’ out of fools (just a little bit)
    And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)” – Aretha Franklin, Respect
  • “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.” – Barack Obama
  • “Soul: The deep place inside every human that gives us the power to overcome obstacles, care for those in need, and assert ourselves when our minds tell us we don’t have the energy or heart.” – Ted Perry
  • “What I know for sure is that you feel real joy in direct proportion to how connected you are to living your truth.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.” – Jules Renard
  • “When we can sit in the face of insanity or dislike and be free from the need to make it different, then we are free.” – Nelson Mandela
  • Walls and Bridges: interesting conversations about race, politics, gender, immigration, extremism, etc. Definitely worth listening to here.
  • We all need some fun to lighten our load and lift our spirits. Check out this video of ten hilarious easy and cool party games. These would be great to play with your family too, and believe it or not – are actually mindful practices disguised as fun!
  • “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White

…So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that has some meaning for me. I hope your month has been graced with compassion and reflection and that you might take a moment of pause to connect with what inspires you and nourishes your soul.

I’d love to hear back from you…what’s inspiring you these days? What’s meaningful that touches you? Just reply to this email.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to find moments of full heartedness, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Best Tips for Dealing with Back to School Stress

Suggestions for easing Your Teen’s Mind

back to school stress; therapeutic activities for teens; calming resources.

Wow! Once again summer has raced by and back to school time is upon us. It seems that kids have to get back to school earlier and earlier every year, which sometimes seems to correlate to the time when it actually gets hotter and hotter.

Getting back to school can be stressful for the student who has enjoyed sleeping in a bit (it seems that the early hour that we start school really is not conducive particularly to Teens’ natural wake up rhythm). Or to the student who is starting high school, or just having concerns about new teachers, a new schedule, wondering if they’ll have friends, or feeling scared about all the work coming. Kids experience stress in response to the social dynamics at play with classmates, bullies, social media, and the socio-cultural-racial (and racist) world we live in.

Even if kids are excited to get back to school and looking forward to reconnecting with friends, they can experience stress as they make the change in their routine.

Of course, the stress can also be felt by the parents who have to get their kids back into an ‘early wake-up and get out the door quickly’ routine, and who have to deal with the frustrations or low energy or struggle that comes up about doing homework and other school-related projects. Or who are faced with fear and unease as they send their kids into potentially hostile and unsafe environments, that lack diversity or sensitivity to those kids’ needs.

Some parents may be happy to be back into the school routine and out of the challenging ‘summer time I’m bored’ routine, but as with any change (desired or not), there is some related stress as each person has to adapt to the new.

It’s important to remember that any change brings about some stress and we need to be mindful of that and make some room for the variety of responses to stress that can occur in ourselves and in our family (irritability, quick temper, tiredness, tearfulness, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, drama, grouchiness, withdrawal, intensified anxieties and worries, needing to talk a lot, sullenness, etc).

Here are some potentially fun and lighthearted ways to help your kids and teens to manage the back to school stress that they might be feeling. These are tools that your kids can learn and do, in order to be more present and therefore better able to deal with school and home life stress that is inevitable:

  • Play the game of sounds – that is, write down for a few moments all the different sounds that you can hear. Your teen can do this by himself, or you can do it together and see who hears the most sounds, or take turns and go from one to the next person naming the sounds that you hear.
  • Counting sounds – when you first arrive somewhere and you feel a little anxious, your teen can count the first 5 to 10 sounds that they hear. This can help them to settle in and get comfortable.
  • For an entertaining video that illustrates the point of going from our fight/flight/freeze response (which happens automatically whenever we feel threatened) to feeling more at peace, watch “The Fly“ on YouTube. It demonstrates that what we resist persists, and helps us to be more accepting of whatever is – which allows the hard stuff to actually pass more easily.
  • Listen to music. Have your teen identify a favorite song that makes them feel happy, sad, anxious, mad, etc. When listening to music they can listen for any silence that happens during the song or they can listen for one particular instrument only.
  • They can use a breath ball, opening it as they breathe in and closing it as they breathe out. Count to four in, pause for the count of four, breathe out and count to four, and then pause for a count of four again. Keep repeating this. This helps to calm down any anxiousness. They can also breathe in thinking “I’m giving myself a hug,” and then breathe out thinking “I’m giving the whole world a hug.”
  • The important thing is to build in purposeful pauses throughout their day, where they simply take a deep breath and check in with themselves to see how they’re feeling emotionally and physically, and to be kind to themselves, however they are.
  • Do a mountain or lake visualization. When breathing in, say to yourself ‘I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out I feel strong and solid.’ They can visualize a tree or an animal or someplace that holds meaning for them and that they connect to a sense of calm.
  • Parachute or scarf breathing. Toss a light scarf into the air and breathe in, and then allow yourself to breathe out at the same rate as the scarf as it falls.
  • You and your teen can align your breath with each other and be a mindful mirror. Change your breath to mimic theirs. Let them vary their own breath any way they like, and you follow. Then switch.
  • You might have mindful minutes with them by drawing with your finger on their back and having them guess what you’re drawing.
  • Encourage them to have every interaction of a day be meaningful.
  • Set limits on device use and screen time. Have designated tech-free areas in your home, or times in your week. Put your devices down too. Let alerts and reminders be reminders to be grateful about something or check in with your body.

All of these suggestions are tools to help be more mindful that are useful for your teen, as they’re getting back to school, as well as for yourself as you are adjusting to the next routine in your daily lives. Being mindful is about being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, without judgment. Being mindful to your immediate experience helps to create more sense of calm and ease with whatever you are facing.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s helpful to you or your teen as you deal with back to school stress? What are some tricks you might have for creating calm in the midst of the storm?

If you or a teen that you care about is having difficulty making adjustments to changes in routine or dealing with adolescent issues, or you’d like more help with parent-teen interactions, please contact me for a parenting or teen therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Best Tips for Making Your Relationship More Secure

When we feel safe in our relationships, we can have more closeness and trust

Learning how to calm yourself can help build security in your couple relationship.

When we feel safe in our relationships, we can have more closeness and trust.

Often, we come into our relationships expecting that OUR PARTNERS are the ones who will make us feel safe and secure. We have the fantasy or wish that THEY will respond to our needs in positive ways, and THEY will be trustworthy, and THEY will be supportive no matter what we’re going through; that THEY will communicate clearly and understand us when we don’t.

It might come as a difficult realization to find out that our partners have the same wishes from us: that WE will be able to control our reactions so they can feel comfortable; that WE will be able to communicate our needs in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them; that WE will be available and supportive and affectionate in just the right ways whenever they are feeling stressed; that WE will read their minds and know just what they need, when; and WE’LL be able to prioritize their needs over our own.

We might forget that a relationship really is the creation of two people 100% and it’s never just one partner who should take on the lion’s share of the responsibility or who is the only one needing to make changes. Both people in a relationship contribute to the sense of safety (or discomfort) that is felt by themselves internally, and that felt by the partner.

I talk to so many couples who get caught in a terrible cycle of reactions that don’t feel good to either one of them, and that seems to lock them into some repeated pattern of poor communication, or who immediately feel the need to defend themselves or react intensely from what has hurt them. Many of these couples are needing a sense of safety in the relationship but have been ineffective in bringing that about.

Usually, when we are in a reactionary mode it doesn’t bode well for how the rest of the communication can go. When we feel unsafe or threatened we are reactionary and not thoughtfully responsive. We try desperately to get safe from the feeling of being rejected or hurt or pulled away from, or having somebody be angry with us. We do whatever it takes to protect ourselves, and unfortunately, this is often hurtful or aggressive toward or withdrawing from our partners.

What we often don’t remember is that our actions and reactions to our partner contribute as much as their actions and reactions do, to the wellbeing and feeling in these important relationships. We may be making our partner feel unsafe and anxious by the way that we express our emotions, or react to something they’ve opened up about, or when we pull away or come in too close in a demanding or critical way. We think that’s the way we should be because they have come at us in bad ways also, and we don’t want to be hurt again ( or taken advantage of, or dismissed, etc).

The good news is we can also impact the cycles of communication in a positive way and we can actually be creative and resourceful about bringing safety into the relationship. There are things that we can do that can create more an environment of comfort and security, that will contribute to our partner feeling safer in a relationship with us, and therefore not being so reactive with us, and so we can feel safer with them. We can take responsibility for the tone of our interactions, and actually enhance the connection that we have with our partner.

Here are a few suggestions for how to create a sense of safety within yourself, and a safe space for your partner and the relationship, and it goes without saying, it will be better for the both of you.

Don’t threaten that you will leave or that you can’t take it anymore. It is very stressful and not enhancing of a relationship to live with the uncertainty of wondering if your partner will stick around. Commit instead to not leaving, and to being there while you work on things. Even when things get hard and you think the only way to get through this is to leave. Greater willingness to stay present actually brings about more freedom and allows one to live with more security and safety.

Do the ‘Welcome Home’ exercise whenever you’re reconnecting or one person is coming home or you’re seeing each other after being apart. This rebalances a sense of safety with each other to deal with the stress, demands or distractions that do come up. To do the ‘Welcome Home exercise’, whenever somebody enters the door, stop what you’re doing and give a full body embrace or hug and hold onto each other for a few seconds, until you feel your partner physically relaxing. This re-stimulates the connected warm secure feeling we had as babies with our caretakers and restores our sense of security in the world.

Take a few moments to gaze into each other’s eyes at least once a week. This also resets the body and sense of safety that you feel. Really look at and notice whatever you see in each other‘s eyes. Hold a warm gaze and convey your appreciation or love for your partner through your eyes only. Again, this repeats important bonding that occurred when we were babies and helps us to feel loved and safe, from the inside out… If you didn’t experience this as a child, it’s not too late to begin experiencing the secure feeling this provides as an adult, and the healing that can come from this.

Be present with each other. You don’t have to discuss anything but be fully present together. Notice mentally and then out loud what you’re experiencing in your senses, emotions, body sensations, thoughts. Listen to sounds together. Maybe do a walking meditation together where you are both attentive to the experience of walking each step, and of doing that together.

Try to get to know your partner from a new perspective. Notice his or her mannerisms, body posture, reactions, facial expressions, signs of hunger or anger or tiredness or other emotion. Approach your partner with curiosity while trying to become an expert on their behavior by noticing subtleties and nuances about them. Especially look at the things you think you know so well about your partner, with new eyes. Approach your partner with curiosity in order to understand more what it feels like to be them, not through your lens as much as from their perspective.

New experiences can help to build attraction for someone. Even in your long-term relationship, you might be able to have increased experiences of novelty and share that excitement with each other. You might walk in a new neighborhood, or try out a new activity. When you do something you enjoy, tap into the good feeling that comes up in those new situations to spark enthusiasm for each other – acknowledge how happy, excited, interested, blessed you feel being with each other. Call your partner when you’re thinking of him or her in an exciting way. Tap into those feelings of excitement when you try novel experiences and direct a similar level of enthusiasm to your partner.

Do a writing exercise meant to clear the clutter before having a discussion about something potentially difficult. Both of you take a moment to acknowledge and write down your immediate stressors, your distracting thoughts, what you notice about your breath, and what you notice about any body sensations. Taking 5 minutes to write this down will help clear away the “noise” allowing for a clearer and more present conversation to be had with your partner.

In order to calm yourself and make yourself safely available (before things get too heated, or even in the moment of noticing that stress is still present) try some diaphragmatic breathing where you take slow deep breaths in and intentionally fill up the lower half of your lungs, and hold your breath a few seconds before exhaling even more slowly. A calm breath leads to a calm heart and better performance in the art of relating. Diaphragmatic breathing slows the heartbeat, helps to disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations, and promotes internal quieting and relaxation. This creates a safe space for each of you.

Another calming breath: Try breathing in through your nose to the count to five. Then hold for a count of five. Then breathe out through your nose for a count of five. And repeat five times. This kind of breathing is always available to you in whatever your circumstances are. You have the power to create calm and safety within you and to impact the sense of security that both of you have in your relationship.

So I’d love to hear from you. What do you notice brings security and trust to your relationship? What are things that you are aware of that can make the level of safety better or worse?

If you or someone you care about is having difficulty finding or bringing safety into your relationships, please call me for a couples therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Heart Full Moments July 2018

What has touched you this month?

A monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

IMG_9120.jpg

These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause, or uplift my heart. Wisdom spoken in just a few words. It’s been another challenging month, and I know we each need some insight and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to the challenge of managing our anger, feeling our pain, and carrying our hope – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “Let’s be wise and not go about acting out our anger, but instead act upon the wisdom of our anger.” – Amber Ray
  • “Unlike self-criticism which asks if you are good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you.” – Kristen Neff
  • “Deference is different from unquestioning acceptance,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, blasting the majority opinion. She made the rare move of reading her dissent from the bench and closed with an ad lib: “History will not look kindly on the court’s decision today — nor should it.”
  • We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Zeno
  • “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic to the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in life, you will have been all of these.“ – George Washington Carver
  • “Sometimes I go about pitying myself when all the while I’m being carried by great winds across the sky.“ – Ojibwa saying
  • “To this day I believe we are here on Earth to live, grow, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” – Rosa Parks
  • “Until we extend the circle of compassion to all living things, we will not ourselves find peace.” – Albert Schweitzer
  • “I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” — Agatha Christie
  • “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
  • “We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.” – Roshi Joan Halifax
  • “I know what happens when children are separated from their families. They collapse into themselves and try to become as small as an atom, infinitely divided. They fold their sorrow over and over again – hoping that by taking up less space they may create room for their families to rejoin them.” – Marcela Rodriguez-Campo
  • “In appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.” – Fred Rogers
  • “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what,” the Thai navy SEALs posted on Facebook. “All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.”
  • “Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” — Dalai Lama
  • “Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children’s health,” reads a statement from AAP president Dr. Colleen Kraft. “We can and must do better for these families. We can and must remember that immigrant children are still children; they need our protection, not prosecution.”
  • Writer Dell Cameron, who was sent to foster care during a custody battle, notes that workers at such centers often have no understanding of the children they’re caring for. When these kids inevitably act out as a response to their emotional stress, they are punished. “Hope is what I lost as a child. It was destroyed by the state,” Cameron wrote. “Detaining children when parents love them and want them is a crime against humanity.”
  • “We all want to be happy. So if you want to be happy, be grateful. Gratefulness is the key to happiness.“ – Br. David Steindl-Rast
  • Paying attention is an ongoing act of reciprocity, the gift that keeps on giving, in which attention generates wonder, which generates more attention—and more joy. Paying attention to the more-than-human world doesn’t lead only to amazement; it leads also to acknowledgment of pain. Open and attentive, we see and feel equally the beauty and the wounds, the old growth and the clear-cut, the mountain and the mine. Paying attention to suffering sharpens our ability to respond. To be responsible.” – Dr. Robin Wall-Kimmerer
  • “Turns out that their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, who led them on a hike into the cave when it flooded on June 23, trained in meditation as a Buddhist monk for a decade before becoming a soccer coach. According to multiple news sources, he taught the boys, ages 11 to 16, to meditate in the cave to keep them calm and preserve their energy through their two-week ordeal.” – Eliza Barclay
  • “In meditation, “you’re cultivating [peace, kindness, clarity] so you can offer it to others. When you sit with someone who’s calm, you can become calm. If you sit with someone who’s agitated and hateful, you can become agitated and hateful.” – Brother Phap Dung
  • “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” – Henry Boyle
  • “I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.”
  • “Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.“ – Church billboard
  • “We don’t know what life will bring, so it is what we bring to life that matters.” – Patricia Campbell Carlson
  • “In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment.” -Maxine Hong Kingston
  • “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” – Maya Angelou

So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that has some meaning for me. I hope your month has been graced with compassion and reflection and that you might take a moment of pause to connect with what inspires you and nourishes your soul.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to find moments of full-heartedness, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445