Call the Witch by Its True Name

My favorite fairy tale when I was a child was Rumpelstiltskin, the story of a girl who makes a bargain with an imp-like creature in exchange for saving her life from being executed by the king. First she gives the imp a necklace, then a ring, then promises her firstborn child. But when her child arrives, she begs the imp to let her keep it. He says he will if she can guess his name. In deep distress, she wanders into the forest and stumbles upon the creature, who is hopping around the fire singing, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll go to the king’s house, nobody knows my name, I’m called ‘Rumpelstiltskin.'” When the imp arrives at the kingdom to claim the baby, the girl (now married to the king), says, “Your name is Rumpelstiltskin.” The imp is enraged, but the deal is broken and he has no choice but to … Click here to continue reading...

Feelings Are Messy

As humans in an uncertain world, we seek certainty in a variety of ways. We ask questions that are fundamentally unanswerable. We ruminate and obsess on a single thought (otherwise known as intrusive thoughts). We Google and text and seek reassurance in a variety of increasingly technologically oriented ways. When I see someone falling into these common mental habits, the first question I encourage them to ask themselves is, “What are these thoughts/actions protecting me from feeling?”

We’re so identified with spending thousands of hours in the realm of thought that oftentimes this question doesn’t make any sense. What do you mean “protecting” me from feeling? What I mean is that somewhere along the road of growing up, somewhere between the innately healthy relationship that babies have to their emotional life and the disconnected relationship that most adults have, we learned that one way to manage the messy, amorphous, … Click here to continue reading...

Grief Neutralizes Thought

We are addicted to our stories. The thoughts come in and take us away on their magic carpet promise of arriving in a land of certainty, where the vulnerability and pain of life can’t touch us. We learn early to climb aboard this carpet because, as young people, we usually don’t know how to manage the big feelings of life. Big feelings coursing through a little body are only manageable when that body is being held in the arms of a loving, solid caregiver who can transmit the message, “You’re okay. It’s okay. I’ve got you. It’s a big feeling but it won’t hurt you. Let it come. Be loud. I’m here.” Most of us, sadly, receive a vastly different message, often from day one.

We become so adept at climbing aboard the magic carpet of thoughts and stories that it becomes a habit, a neural-pattern in your brain that … Click here to continue reading...

Ode to Women

On my way to yoga this morning, I noticed my heart aching with a familiar combination of sadness and indignation. It didn’t take many breaths to uncover the source: Mother’s Day. A national holiday to honor mothers created by a woman named Anna Jarvis in 1908, and later denounced by her as she felt increasingly disgusted by its commercialization. She actually spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar.

There are many spokes to the wheel of my sadness:

1. While I know that mothers deserve to be honored (more on that in a minute), I also know how deeply painful this day is for: the millions of women who longed to be a mother and their childbearing time has passed; women who are in their 40s, single, and longing to meet a partner with whom they can have a child; women who … Click here to continue reading...

No Escape Hatch From Life

We are not taught to meet life on life’s terms. Left to ourselves, we have this nifty little defense mechanism called an ego that will shift and move and invent and convince in order to remove us from meeting life square in the eye. All of the ego’s intrusive thoughts and fear-based schemes are, in fact, finely crafted and often convincing escape hatches designed to remove us from touching the raw places that define being human: our loneliness, pain, fear, uncertainty, and transcendence.

I work with pregnant women who have the thought “I don’t care about this new life.” I work with people in loving relationships who are dragged down the rabbit hole of anxiety by the thought, “I don’t love him/her.” I work with new mothers who become terrified by the thought directed toward their baby, “I hate you.” Because we’re not taught how to work with our thoughts … Click here to continue reading...