Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may remember that I am a big fan of Nimo Patel from Empty Hands Music. Nimo has recently offered another music video to the world. This one is called Beautiful. The email message from Empty Hands Music introducing the new video stated:
We have officially released our latest music video called “Beautiful“, a song and video sharing a message of letting go of our technology once in a while, to see the beauty that is constantly surrounding us. If you enjoy it, do share with your friends and family.
The introduction on the YouTube page gave even more information:
Ellie Walton and Nimo release another Empty Hands Music Video, this time featuring Nimo in collaboration with soul singer Jason Joseph. The message of the song is simple: that beauty exists every where we go. We just have to open our hearts and eyes, to actually see it moment to moment.
You can download the album that contains these songs and more- for free- at the Empty Hands site but I decided to put the links to some of my previous Nimo posts below. The first one includes introductory information as well as one of the songs he sang when I first heard him sing.
The Challenge for Growth Prompt that started on February 2 was to say something to a child that you wish someone had said to you when you were young. I practice a developmental form of psychotherapy that derives from Transactional Analysis. It uses a model that says that inside of us we have a parent part, an adult part and a child part. There are subdivisions of these parts as well.
As clients heal from their childhood traumas and learn to parent their inner children in healthy ways, I have plenty of opportunity to talk to their child parts. As a result, I say many things that I wish had been said to me.
There are six stages of development and each one has its own developmental tasks. For example the first stage is called the Being stage. It lasts from 0 to 6 months of life. Two of the tasks children are supposed to learn during the Being stage are that they are loved and wanted and that their needs are important. If those tasks aren’t learned, it may leave a developmental gap that could last throughout life.
Pamela Levin and Jean I. Clarke both created sets of developmentally based affirmations. Pamela’s series offers five affirmations for each stage and Jean’s has seven or eight. Jean includes a “Love” affirmation for each stage. If you look below, you will see the developmental tasks, the age ranges, and the Love affirmations. A child needs to begin hearing the affirmation when the developmental stage starts and continue hearing it forever. For example, we need to hear that we are loved and cared for from the beginning of our lives until the end.
Being (0-6 months) I love and care for you willingly.
Doing (6-18 months) I love you when you are active and when you are quiet.
Thinking (18 months to 3 years) You can become separate from me and I will continue to love you.
Identity and Power (3 -6 years) I love who you are.
Structure (6-12 years) I love you even when we differ; I love growing with you.
Identity, Sexuality and Separation (13- 18 years) My love is always with you. I trust you to ask for my support.
Interdependence (Adult) You are lovable at every age.
Consider saying the age appropriate Love affirmations to children that you know… and to the “children” that live within you!
To learn more about the stages of development, the developmental affirmations, and how to fill in developmental gaps read:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a long history of overdoing. At one point in my life, I was holding three jobs at the same time. When I have become involved with organizations, I have often done more than is reasonable for one person to do. My overdoing has led to serious illnesses that have been breaking points, where slowing down became a necessity rather than a choice. I believe it was this pattern of overdoing that led to me to having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for five or more years in the mid to late eighties, and to the high blood pressure I am dealing with today.
To some degree, the types of overdoing I am referring to were caused by a pattern of rescuing. In his Drama Triangle construct, Stephen Karpman describes the Rescuer in this way:
“The rescuer’s line is ‘Let me help you.’ A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he/she doesn’t go to the rescue. Yet his/her rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When he/she focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also very pivotal, because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.”
Jean Illsley Clarke once taught me five questions to ask myself when I think I might be rescuing.
Was I asked to do what I am doing?
Do I want to do it?
Am I doing more than my share?
Do others appreciate me for what I am doing? (Rescuers are often not appreciated.)
Am I doing something for someone that they can do for themselves?
Answering yes to one of those questions does not mean that I am rescuing, but if yes is the answer to many of them, the chances are that I am. So shifting my pattern of rescuing was an important part of my healing journey.
From a therapy perspective, focusing on self-care by stopping rescuing makes sense. Even though I valued being in service, it was still my job to keep myself healthy. When I began to look at self-care and selflessness from a spiritual perspective though, I started to have doubts. There are many who have forsaken their health, their comforts and sometimes even their lives, to live a life of service. They have shown us what is possible for one person to accomplish in a life time. They have been, or will be, a source of inspiration long after they are gone from this world.
To me, Amma, my spiritual teacher and mentor, is one of those people. Her form of blessing is through a hug. Amma has hugged more than 34,000,000 people in her lifetime. She needs almost no food or sleep. If she is not giving darshan (hugs) she is serving humanity in some other way, including her massive network of humanitarian projects known as Embracing the World. Her life is a model of selflessness.
When I thought about people present and the past who have inspired others through their selflessness, the following individuals came to mind. All have taught the importance of serving humanity.
John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Matthew 25:35-40: ”For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
“Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service.”
As I pondered the importance of self-care versus selflessness, I could rationalize that I am not Amma, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, St. Francis or Mother Theresa and therefore could not expect myself to serve at that level.
My thoughts on this topic took another turn, though, in the late 90’s when I read a book, A Promise is a Promise, by Wayne Dyer. It was an account of a teenager who in 1970 asked her mother to promise that she would never leave her. Soon thereafter the 17 year old slipped into a diabetic coma, one she never came out of. The mother kept her word and, with help, cared for her daughter until she herself died 25 years later. (A Promise is a Promise was written while the mother was still alive.) Then others cared for the daughter until she died on November 21, 2012, forty-two years after she became comatose.
Reading that book had a profound impact on me. I still remember Dr. Dyer saying that walking into their home felt like being in the holiest of temples.
When I first started reading A Promise is a Promise, I made the judgment that the mother was not taking care of herself appropriately. But as I continued to read, my attitude began to change. Her actions seemed like unconditional love, perhaps the highest form of spiritual practice. While I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I now see that her actions actually conformed to the guiding questions I had learned from Jean Clarke:
The mother had been asked and had agreed to what she was doing
She wanted to do it
Even though she devoted her life to caring for her daughter, she had help.
Her daughter would have undoubtedly appreciated her efforts
She was clearly doing something for her daughter that the girl could not do for herself
Reading about a “regular” person who was so selfless, presented me with another dilemma. When I lived a life of uncontrolled doing, even if when it was in the spirit of service, I became sick to the point I couldn’t function. How do I know when to focus on self-care and when to make service the priority?
I continue to ponder that question to this day. I believe for me it has to be about balance. I must practice good self-care by nourishing my body, mind and soul and at the same time make sure that I am not over-committing or over-stressing myself. I must also continue to watch out for my tendency to rescue. I can be in service to others and still do my best to keep myself healthy.
She sat on the floor in the corner of the darkened room. Her knees were curled against her chest and tears were streaming down her cheeks.
She had been in psychotherapy for some time and she had made significant changes in her life, but she felt as if she was living in-between two worlds and didn’t belong in either. She couldn’t go back to her old life because therapy had opened her eyes to reality; returning to a state of denial was not possible. Her prior coping skills didn’t work anymore, but her new skills weren’t solid. She felt awkward and clumsy as she tried out new ways of being in the world.
She was even more disturbed by the emptiness she still felt in her heart. Her therapists, group members and friends had given her so much love, yet she still felt empty. It was as if her heart was a bucket that had a hole in the bottom. Whatever came in, flowed out within hours. She wondered what was wrong with her.
As she sobbed in frustration, she had no way of knowing that only a week later she would sense that the hole had sealed over. It didn’t stay sealed, but since it had clearly happened, she would begin to have hope that the sense of emptiness would end.
As the days and weeks continued to pass by, the hole would become securely sealed and her heart would begin to fill. Never again would she experience that overwhelming sense of emptiness.
The change you seek may be just around the corner.
Among the most important of the tools I use in my psychotherapy practice are self-care contracts. They were developed over the years by several generations of therapists, starting with Jacqui Schiff (1971). The therapists use them both in their personal lives and with their clients. The contracts are: Continue reading “Struggles with Conflict”→