JENNIFER BALLERINI

Therapist Blog

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.

It Is Okay

It is okay (a poem of validation for the year 2020) 
by Cleo Wade


It is okay to leave this year behind
It is okay if you haven’t found a silver lining since February
It is okay if all of that spiritual or emotional work you were planning to do on yourself never ended up happening
It is okay if you didn’t read a single book all the way through or you read a book every day because fiction felt safer than real life
It is okay if you didn’t become an expert chef and your banana bread never came out quite right
It is okay if you gained the weight you promised yourself you’d lose
It is okay if you watched too much tv and your kids watched too much tv too
It is okay if you cried more than you laughed, but I hope you got a few laughs in at some point along the way
It is okay if you felt overwhelmed by grief, loss, sadness, confusion, and fatigue – we all felt some version of these and if you are reading this right now,
you made it through.
It is okay to close your eyes and say to yourself,
I am a strong, resilient, badass.
It is okay if, after you said that, you opened your eyes and still felt worried
I worry too.
It is okay to stop everything for five minutes, put on your favorite song, and dance with your family or by your damn self.
It is okay to find joy in the midst of darkness
It is okay, to sit down and just
breathe.
It’s okay if you didn’t realize how much you actually liked spending the holidays in your hometown until you couldn’t do it
It is okay if the added roles, responsibilities, and jobs have felt crushing
It is okay if you couldn’t do it all.
None of us can.

It is okay if you had to cut back on spending and teach your kids that life is not about what you have but who you are with.
It is okay if on the surface everything seems fine but deep down, your heart is broken and the pain is bone deep.
It is okay to ask for help even if you don’t think you deserve it.
It is okay to rest.
It is okay to admit that this was the worst year of your life or miraculously ended up being the best
And it is okay if
you are not okay at all
and what you really need to hear is…

It will be okay.
somehow, someway, someday.
It will be okay.

Ode to Joy

Hope Is Like the Sun...

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We Could Never Learn to Be Brave and Patient...

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Over the Rainbow

Invincible Summer

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Illness Becomes Wellness

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Look for the Helpers

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Lockdown

LOCKDOWN
by Fr. Richard Hendrick


Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

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.

In Praise of Vulnerability

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I came across this quote today and I wanted to share it. We have for so long been told sharing our vulnerability with others is a sign of weakness, but many of us would prefer to do just about anything than share something really vulnerable. One of my firefighter clients once told me he'd literally rather go into a burning building than tell his partner how scared he feels inside when they fight!

Being vulnerable is not only a sign of being brave and authentic, but it's also a necessary part of creating real intimacy and security. Vulnerability fuels connection. Sharing something real and tender is a big part of how we build and sustain close bonds. As those of you in EFT therapy know, we get out of the negative cycle by sharing our vulnerable feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and fear rather than hiding them behind protective walls of criticism or defensiveness.

This principle works in any close relationship. If I share something vulnerable with you, and you respond with care and understanding, I decide that you can be safe for me, which makes me more likely to open up to you in the future. "Wow — he was really kind and listened to me. I felt good sharing that with him. Maybe I can tell him more!" I learn that my sharing this part of me with you doesn't make you reject me, which helps change how I view myself. "You know the real me — even this part of me I'm not so sure about — and you still seem to like me? Maybe I'm OK after all…" Also, my sharing invites you to share something personal about yourself with me. "Wow! She really shared something vulnerable with me — maybe I can open up about this thing I've been worried about, too!" All of this creates an atmosphere of safety, acceptance, and closeness between us, a positive feedback loop where the more you share, the more I share, and we keep feeling safer and closer.

Widening the Scope of Love

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Happy MLK day! In the spirit of honoring this American hero, I'd like to encourage you all today to do two things:

One, to take a moment to reflect and be grateful for the many privileges and protections we enjoy today thanks to the moral clarity, eloquence, and courage of our human rights heroes. We talk a lot in therapy about practicing gratitude — research tells us it's one of the best ways to improve our felt sense of well-being and reduce depression and anxiety — and as Americans, we have much to be grateful for. The right to free speech, freedom of religion, representative government, ending slavery and segregation, extending voting rights to women, same-sex marriage, etc. These freedoms are a precious inheritance, a gift that, as with Dr. King, often came at the cost of human lives. Let's take a moment to thank the many men and women who labored and sacrificed for us to enjoy these freedoms today.

Two, take a moment to reflect on how we can continue Dr. King's work and leave an even more just and kind world behind for our children and grandchildren. In EFT, we talk so much about attachment and security. And as our love and safety grows within our couple bond, we naturally find ourselves wanting to widen the scope of our love — thinking of ways to repair with family members, grow closer with friends, and nurture our world as a whole. As we continue on our journey toward equality and civil rights in this beautiful, diverse, raucous nation of ours, please think today about what we can do for our fellow citizens so that, in this American family, we all feel safe, accepted, and know we are not alone. In our country, as in our relationships, let's work toward "a more perfect union." With all our many differences, let's strive to hold each other tight.

And with all that said, I'd like to share with you this beautiful video on this couple's journey together. Enjoy!

Love

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LOVE is a sculpture by Alexandr Milov that was displayed at the Burning Man festival. According to Milov, "It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. The figures of the protagonists are made in the form of big metal cages, where their inner selves are held captivate. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children start to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives."

This is one of my all-time favorite images. It captures our innate, inborn (literally "wired-in" in this image) longing for connection and depicts the cages our defenses can represent. It's also a perfect encapsulation of what we strive to do in therapy: help the vulnerable parts of us make direct and clear contact with a safe and loving other rather than turning away in pain.