JENNIFER BALLERINI

Therapist Blog

What You Practice Grows Stronger



One of my clients sent me this great TED talk from Dr. Shauna Shapiro on mindfulness. Dr. Shapiro shares a lovely bit of wisdom she received while struggling as a younger woman: What you practice grows stronger. The implication, of course, is that it is up to us to decide which parts of our selves we want to feed — the anxious, judgmental, avoidant, reactive parts or the compassionate, present, calm, and centered ones.

On that note, she explains that the key to growth and change is not just paying attention, but HOW we pay attention. So many of us can be hard on ourselves, often thinking that if we are tough on ourselves, we can will ourselves to change. However, unkind, judgmental attention that triggers shame literally leaves our brains incapable of growing and learning. (This echoes the evidence-based work on mindful self-compassion espoused by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer — and taught locally by Dr. Luana Coloma Cook & Dr. Sean Cook.)

So, enjoy this TED talk, and I hope you'll be inspired to be a little kinder to yourself today…and every day.

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.

How Easy I Am to Crush



One of my clients shared this amazing spoken word performance by Jae Nichelle. I so hope you'll take just 3 minutes to listen to it. She talks so beautifully and powerfully about her struggles with her anxious, critical inner voice.

This really demonstrates how strategies we initially use to protect ourselves end up creating challenges for us, becoming oppressive and dangerous themselves. Her anxiety is trying to protect her from embarrassment or rejection, and yet the poet shares with us the terrible cost of all that anxiety.

And because parts of us feel we still need that protection — "how easy I am to crush" she tells herself — we often can't let go of the old strategies, no matter how hard we try. "I have been fighting her for control of our house for years…[but] she's the longest relationship I've ever had…the only relationship I can count on."

Meeting problematic parts with empathy and understanding (and often the help of a caring therapist) is, in my experience, the only way to get those parts of us to consider new strategies and to move from a "boxing match" to a caring relationship with all the parts of you.