Saturday, July 30, 2022

Real Me in relationship

     I wrote a couple of months ago about the gift of "unmasking" in solitude. In fact, if there has been one major theme for this blog from its beginning until now, it has been all about learning to distinguish between Fantasy Me and Real Me. Solitude has been all about seeing myself more clearly, letting go of the drama of trying to be the person I wish I were, and embracing the person I really am.

    This week marks a new phase in my journey, that of unmasked friendship. My spiritual director has been visiting me here in Spain. He of all people (outside my immediate family) knows me as I really am. But our relationship until now has been more or less formal, vertical: I talk and he listens, and occasionally gives feedback. This visit has marked a definite change to a real, horizontal, friendship. I know that I can still count on him as confessor and mentor, but this week has also given me the opportunity for some concentrated practice in taking Real Me into relationship with another human being. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Stress relief

    I'm reading the book When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, by Gabor Maté. It's all about the ways that repressed emotional stress is a major contributing factor to many kinds of serious illness. The title refers especially to the coping strategy of avoiding confrontation, people-pleasing, taking care of other people at the cost of the self. We know that emotion happens in the brain, and affects the whole nervous system, which in turn affects a whole series of other systems. If we don't learn to properly regulate our nervous system -- including managing stressful emotions -- it can make us vulnerable to a whole lot of health problems. 

    People across the neurodiversity spectrum are especially vulnerable to stress. We tend to react more intensely, to slighter triggers, and to have a harder time calming back down. If self-regulation is harder for us than for neurotypical people, it's natural that we would also be more likely to develop coping strategies that are unhealthy in the long term. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

How to Love

     I'm writing this week to clarify, for myself, the kind of work that I am training to do as a life-coach or mentor for neurodiverse adults. The question I want to work through is how to avoid the trap of getting caught up in results. That is, if someone comes to me in any kind of distress, how do I avoid wanting to fix their problem, and getting discouraged when they don't take my (most wise, of course) advice? How do I remain always open and creative in helping them to find the answers within themselves, and patient enough to let healing and growth happen a step at a time? I know perfectly well that change can't be directed from outside oneself. If all we needed was to be told what to do, then Google would be all the counselor any of us would need. There is no new good advice under the sun, all the wise words have already been said before. So why are we all still so screwed up? 

Saturday, July 9, 2022


     Last week, I wrote about the value of making choices, as opposed to getting bogged down in FOMO. But making choices is hard! So today, I want to share some thoughts on how to choose. How to know what we even want, or what is the "right" choice in a given situation. 

    The "mind" handles a lot more than just rational thought. Our brain is an integral part of the whole nervous system, and cognition, emotion, intuition, and sensation are all in a continuous feedback loop within that system. It's the Myers-Briggs big four functions, the T-F (thinking vs. feeling) and N-S (intuition vs. sensing) dichotomies. We each have our own particular balance of relative strengths and weaknesses between those four functions. And besides our own innate preferences, our culture favors some functions over others. Thinking is given more prestige than feeling in my culture of origin (US), but feeling is appealed to relentlessly by marketers. Intuition is treated with suspicion, and yet concrete sensory experience is short-changed when our focus is always on a screen.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Demon's Name is FOMO

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;

And hermits are contented with their cells;

And students with their pensive citadels;

Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,

Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,

High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,

Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:

In truth the prison, into which we doom

Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,

In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound

Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;

Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)

Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,

Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

        --William Wordsworth

    Have you ever felt "the weight of too much liberty"? It's a paradox, but I suspect that in our modern culture, it's a really familiar one. Having lots of choices available is only a good thing if we are actually willing to make a choice. The trouble is that a choice is always between two options: "yes" to this means "no" to that. And unless the preference is very, very obvious, we are mostly so crazy unwilling to say "no" to anything that we never say "yes" either. It's ironic, isn't it? FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out, does not save us from missing out -- it causes us to miss out.