JENNIFER BALLERINI

Therapist Blog

Resilience in Winter: Allowing Emotional Hibernation

hibernation

I just read this lovely article by AEDP therapist Eileen Russell and wanted to share it with you. Some quotes that really struck me:

“I think of resilience as comprising processes that human beings use on behalf of the self to both survive adversity and also to thrive in favorable conditions. To my mind, resilience is not about being “strong” in the sense of being unaffected by what life throws at us. Increasingly I think it is truly about flexibility. How do we stretch into spaciousness and opportunity when it presents itself for our growth and expansion and also know when and how to contract and save energy when conditions are truly inhospitable?”

“So, can human beings contract without shutting down completely? Can we find ways to surrender to the withdrawal that happens under experiences of chronic stress without turning against ourselves or each other? If we let go of the unrealistic expectation that we could be feeling so much better if only we (fill in the blank), might we experience this mid-winter period of our lives as slightly more bearable and circumscribed? Can we develop some gentleness toward our failure to “overcome” our circumstances?"

“It is true that none of us can go to sleep for the winter. But perhaps metaphorically it is helpful to imagine that nature may have endowed people with capacities to take in less and to put out less when it is necessary for our psychic survival. If we think of this state as a kind of psychological hibernation we might be less inclined to pathologize it or to fight it as if we could actually create the stimulation and possibilities that are available to us under other circumstances. If there is a season for everything, perhaps this time invites us to rest and let go of our need to turn reality into what it is not. If we allow for a certain psychological hibernation now, we might trust ourselves to welcome “spring” when it comes. Because it will come.”

Bloom


Bloom from Emily Johnstone on Vimeo.



Just a sweet little animated story about the power of kindness and connection, especially when we're feeling low and alone. Such a beautiful reminder about how we all have inside us the capacity to grow and to bloom.

From Trauma to Transformation



I wanted to share the story of this dog's journey with you guys. It moved me to tears this morning to watch this dog's amazing transformation from knowing only abuse and violence to finally experiencing love and safety. This is such a perfect encapsulation of the growth work we so often do in therapy—we come in, protecting ourselves in ways that made sense given all we've ever known, like Phoenix's barking and snapping. It understandably takes time, courage, and consistency for those defenses to feel safe relaxing into a new experience. But then, once those defenses can relax into a safe experience, there's the pleasure of (and confusion about or fear of) something new. The relief of setting aside the burden of those defenses and the aloneness that comes with that. We move in and out of the new experience, and then, with support, we settle into peaceful transformation. Just wow.

…and also, because I'm a dog mom and can't help myself, "Who's a good boy?!?"

On Resilience

Resilience

Just a quick share before the weekend, a lovely article by a fellow AEDP therapist: Human Beings Are Resilient. Let Us Trust Ourselves and Each Other. Wishing you all a healthy, fun, and restorative weekend. ❤️

Nothing That Feels Bad...

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Invincible Summer

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We Are Less Scared Together

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The Greatest Love of All?

As an attachment-oriented psychologist, I've always understood and valued the importance of having safe and close relationships with cherished other people. Over the past few years, I've also come to understand the importance of the relationship we have with our selves. Every day I watch in awe as my clients find a voice inside them that is courageous, compassionate, and centered — clear about who they are and what they need, and capable of providing comfort to young parts of them that never got the care they needed. It moves me so much. Perhaps it's because I've experienced what a difference finding that voice has made in my own personal growth and relationships.

In any case, I'm not sure if Whitney Houston was totally right that loving yourself is the greatest love of all, but, you know, she's definitely on to something! And in a less power-ballad-y, more eloquent way, that's what this beautiful poem is about. I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you experience the joy of connecting with yourself in a loving way.


Love After Love
by Derek Walcott


The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each with a smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Trusting the Pull of Emotions

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My colleague, the awesome EFT therapist and supervisor Jennifer Olden, just shared this the other day, and I'd like to share it with you:

"My best friend is a kayaker and she shared that one of the dangers of kayaking is it’s possible to get caught in an eddy and be dragged underwater and drown.  Your best shot a survival is to not fight it. You have to let the river pull you to the bottom, relax all your limbs. At the bottom of the river, the current reverses and you will be propelled back to the top.  It’s beyond counter-intuitive to relax in the face of death… Focusing on the deepest grief, the greatest fear, and the most harrowing moments are the currents pulling us down; trusting the biology of emotion means that we know we will be propelled back up."  

I just love how Jen puts that. Almost all of us are learning to not fight the current of emotion, but to trust that there's an important biologically-driven process at work when our feelings show up. So many of us get caught in fighting the eddy, avoiding the currents trying to take you where you need to go to heal—and, honestly, who wouldn't want to avoid those currents when the eddy feels so dark and deep and dangerous?!

While we all feel the urge to avoid, it's so important that we understand that we must instead lean into the very thing that's scaring us. AEDP therapist Ron Frederick talks often in his wonderful book Living Like You Mean It about the importance of letting the wave of emotion hit you, trusting that it will move through you and take you where you need to go to feel better. When we feel our feelings all the way through, there's a sense of release and completion. So, the next time you find yourself getting pulled down by the eddy of emotion, try leaning into it, trusting it to take you where you need to go.

Know Struggle, Know Growth

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"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters." — Frederick Douglass, 1857

I LOVE this quote. At a global level, it reassures me that the things that feel so tumultuous and threatening in our world right now are normal processes, that next season's crops come after first plowing up the ground, that pain comes before birth. It shifts me from feeling afraid and threatened to feeling more hopeful—and even curious about what growth might be on the way.

I thought of this quote recently when an awful, roaring wave of anxiety disturbed my calm ocean within. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that my seemingly unwelcome anxiety was actually the start of a beautiful process of healing something deep within me. As I healed that part of me, I felt empowered and, yes, free.

This quote reminds me to just let my feelings come, to stay open, curious, and connected (to myself and my loved ones) and trust that struggle within me is actually a harbinger of growth and change. It invites me to remember that my distress is the first sign of a process working within me toward greater healing, happiness, and wholeness. It reassures me that if I stay with my distress and trust it, relief is on the other side of that wave, because "nothing that feels bad is ever the last step."

And so I invite you to sit with this quote and notice what you feel inside as you read it. Think of how often great pain, anger, or fear has come before a place of growth, healing, understanding, relief, joy, or freedom. I wonder how it would be for you, right now, to welcome something inside you that feels hard, confusing, or scary, knowing that all you're feeling is the start of things being much, much better for you.

The Price of Invulnerability

Another great video from Dr. Brene Brown reviews the costs of avoiding vulnerability. When we're afraid to be vulnerable:

  • "Joy becomes foreboding—something good happens and we become compelled to beat vulnerability to the punch."
  • "Disappointment becomes a lifestyle…it's easier to live disappointed than to feel disappointed."

And, of course, we numb out. But as Brene reminds us, "you cannot selectively numb emotion." Numbing our pain and fear also means numbing the joy, love, safety, happiness, pride, and closeness that we could be feeling…and without that, we lose all the good things that can help us hang on through the hard times, all the things that make life meaningful.