Mind/Body/Spirit

Parenthood: a Continuing Journey

Wondering how to handle gas lighting and deflection via email from your adult child? Your adult child is living over 1,000 miles away. It is your impression that your offspring has a full time job in a profession for which additional licenses and certification remain goals towards which there is (you believe) an active investment of time, energy and money. Intellectually, you trust your adult child is self-sufficient. Emotionally, something tugs strongly at your heart. Perhaps it stems from the partial, convenient reframing of your concerns to avoid clear responses, often vague and delayed answers to email communication, casual but clear re-direction of answers that miss the point of your questions or comments?

Intuitively connected, you feel uneasy about the journey. Choices along questionable paths selected over the past 3 years have been somewhat frightening, from the perspective of a parent. Recognition that we each travel a sacred journey provides solace – at times. More often than not, you lean on the love you share with your significant other to maintain emotional sanity, and pray each night in hopes of neutralizing anxiety enough to fall into a somewhat restful slumber.

What’s going on?

After reaching out by phone, text, email and/or other social media venues, the final request is made: “Please don’t call me unless there is a death in the family. I need space. I’m going to therapy to try to heal from the traumatic childhood that you forced upon me.” 

As a caring, loving parent, you review where you went wrong, what you said or did over the past two decades, where you might have erred; perhaps you even seek therapy yourself to see where you failed. Though reassured by the therapist, family members with whom you shared over a decade of holidays, friends who know and love as well as your other children (siblings of) the accuser – you feel uneasy. Despite reassurance that the imagination of that adult child must be wild, your self-tormenting continues. When will you finally accept: “WE ALL TRAVEL A SACRED JOURNEY; OUR CHILDREN ARE SEEDS THAT FLOAT INTO OUR MEADOW OF LIFE”? You must learn to embrace that this piece of life’s journey is out of your control.

You begin to entertain the thought: maybe my child is a caterpillar and I’m a butterfly. Maybe this metamorphosis will just take time. Suddenly you think: but what if I’m a fish and my child is a tadpole, accidentally raised ‘as if’ . . . but destined to climb the bank to live a life of fresh air while I’m left here to swim and breathe water – which can’t sustain the life of a frog? Your imagination runs wild . . . until you take a deep breath – because that’s what the therapist taught you to do when you had runaway thoughts like these. You calm down, for the moment, until the next email.

Initially delighted your adult child is reaching out, you and family members who were once part of your nuclear family ‘inner circle’ become aware of the emotional distance maintained. In the present email, it occurs to you that effort is made, by your adult child, to triangle communication. Specifically, you are being asked to fulfill an odd request to secure and forward a gift (offered years ago to the adult child) from a member of the nuclear family who is currently shunned by this estranged adult child. If effect, you are being roped in by your adult child, to be a third party – a role identified (in the past) by this adult child as dysfunctional; behavior you have been working to dissolve. Instinctively, you want to help; however, the request that you become involved in forwarding a gift – promised to this adult child by a family member your adult child currently avoids, feels very wrong. Note: the second party with whom the adult child no longer communicates, but from whom the gift is desired, happens to love that adult child unconditionally – and also awaits appropriate responses to partially addressed, then totally ignored emails.

“What?” you wonder. “How can this be? My adult child used to take pride in never accepting a gift from anyone unless there was a shared positive vibration.” You wonder, “What’s going on?” So you draft an email response to inquire – mindful that you need to leave no room for the familiar deflection and gas lighting, mixed messages and contradictions of the most recent communication. You decide to try to remind your adult child of the true spirit from which dysfunctional communication seems to be distracting.

YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A GAS LIGHTING/ DEFLECTION SITUATION

Fully aware of the need to get your act together, you resolve to draft an email to facilitate healing – or at least try. Your first draft looks something like this:

Dear (Adult Child’s Name),

This email is very long. [This prepares the reader for what is yet to come]

  • Please understand my need to address all your points as thoroughly as I can. 
  • I will do my best to organize it and I completely understand if you can’t get to it right away because of your busy schedule. [This reflects consideration of your adult child’s priorities; specifically, there may be a full plate & you realize you are likely not on it]

First, I continue to

  • understand & respect your desire for time & space to find your own path
  • honor, as I always have, your healing journey. I remain here for you with love & respect, unconditionally. 

Now, I will address your email & respectfully request that you fully address mine (past, present & future). I would appreciate you bringing to my attention when/if I fail to do the same.    [The above clarifies your position; that is, you seek honest, clear communication]

In my last email, I asked a few questions. It seems to me I received only partial answers. (Perhaps this is just another example of how you & I each feel unheard by the other. If this is so, my offer stands: I will make time to speak with you & your choice of a well-educated, licensed, certified, impartial mental health professional as a third party to facilitate our communication & your healing). [This opens up lines of communication]

Your last email states you are comfortable to receive gifts from (name the person); however, I don’t really know what it fully means or represents since you did not specifically address the rest of what I wrote. I observed & asked:  [Prepares the reader you are about to seek clarification]

“There was a time you only accepted energy exchange (i.e. gifts) from people you felt emotionally safe with. Has that changed? If so, I must have missed that in a prior communication from you. This suggests to me that I am not hearing you clearly.”

I’m happy to hear that you are now interested to include (name the second party) to facilitate your healing journey. Since you stated, [then directly quote your adult child]:

“I’m comfortable receiving gifts from [quote the name used by the adult child] for different spiritual reasons”, and  ” . . . [name as used by the adult child] told me about a year ago that [she/he] was comfortable with me having some of  . . .”   

[Here you begin your response]: I am now finally comfortable to prioritize my own healing, which includes remaining out of any third party discussions when one or both people are seeking spiritual and/or emotional healing. 

Going forward: anything between you and [name the second party] remains between you and [name the second party]. Anything between you and me remains between you and me.   [This reassures the adult child you are interested in healing your relationship 1:1]

When disconnects are involved, particularly between people – when one or both struggle with healing, I find it helpful to maintain a 1:1 communication rule with the exception of involving an impartial, licensed, certified mental health professional as a third party to facilitate communication and healing.  [This restates your goal & sets healthy boundaries for communication]

As you may recall, remaining OUT of other people’s relationships has been a goal of mine for quite some time. I felt you ignored it in your initial request by asking me to become involved with [state name of person] and the gift you request. (Again, this may be misinterpretation/ inaccurate hearing on my part – which suggests we might benefit from inviting a qualified, impartial mental health provider to facilitate). [This seeks clarification, shows you accept & own responsibility, and offers guidelines for next steps]

My actions to honor your request: (Here you list whatever you did to honor that request – if you did anything at all).

I’m VERY interested in your thoughts about the points above. (This indicates your interest in sharing & understanding; opening communication. This counters the possible feelings of abandonment that your adult child might feel).

So, here is where it seems we have arrived:

(1) Ball is in your court to arrange any gift from (. . . name the second party with whom your adult child requested you become third party in communication) you are willing to accept/ she/he is willing to give

(2) Regarding the (name the gift items/ dollar amount, etc.) this is my last email. The topic is now between you and (name the second party).     [This sets a healthy boundary going forward]

(3) I remain eager to reestablish the love & respect you & I once mutually shared; I still and always will feel unconditional love for & acceptance of you & your true spirit. [Reassurance to counter any feeling of abandonment the adult child might use to distract from self-reflection]

(4) I love you & hope you stay true to your spirit (i.e. avoiding enablers, not permitting disrespect of self or others, not permitting others to take advantage of you; embracing wisdom & continuing to heal & grow, dissolving distractions so you can fully embrace your truth) [This clearly states your expectations; clarifies that ‘villain/victim/savior’ scenarios are not acceptable; encourages self-reflection rather than self-distraction]

As your parent I feel when you, my flesh & blood, truly deeply dissolve distractions. [State this only if it is true] I pray for the day you dissolve ALL distractions. I will know once you do not permit fear, shame, guilt and/or blame of self &/or others – past/ present/ future to distract from YOUR centered peace & joy. I will intuitively feel that growth in you -as you intuitively feel mine. You test me. That is okay. [Discuss this with your therapist before including it]

(If the following is true, include it. If not, leave it out) . . . As an empath you know where I am along my healing journey. Disrespect of self or others is not welcome; that in mind, you are invited to continue to test my growth whenever you wish. I am eager for the day, should the Universe grant this gift, you share with me the healthy coping & healing skills that help you to honestly embrace the centering peace & joy nourished by self-love & self-respect.

Self-love and respect are different from ‘entitlement’. The first nourishes inner-peace, maturity, ‘the next level’ joy and growth; the latter (entitlement) breeds envy, anger, resentment, bitterness, & seeks to blame. 

I wish you healing, all the gifts that healing brings, and all the beauty life has to offer.

Hugs, love and blessings,

(your position: mom/ dad/ aunt/ uncle . . . )

Once you send the email, take a deep breath, try to embrace the blessings you do have, recognize you are not alone, and consider making an appointment to discuss this entire encounter with your trusted mental health provider. Wishing you gratitude and joy. ~ Dr. Iankowitz

To read “My Adult Child Seems Lost – How Can I Help? (Part 1)” click here.

About the author: Dr. Nancy Iankowitz DNP, RN, FNP-BC is a family nurse practitioner, Host of Marcy’s World, the author of several books, director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC and founder of Universe’s Secretary.

Finding Your Joy (5 min read)

The human body is designed to self-heal minor physical wounds. While time may facilitate the body’s natural tendency, it may have an equally powerful influence on delaying healing when the wounds are invisible; intangible; emotional. Time may permit distraction, particularly when memory is tainted by pain. In that case, time may actually intensify wounds.

What distracts from emotional healing?

The illusions of fear, shame and guilt may be very potent energy deflectors. When any of these illusions are embraced without question, psychological pain may become deeper and more intense over time. These three illusions are what often serve to distract from emotional healing. When a decision is made to heal emotional trauma (intangible wounds), it is often a good idea to involve a trusted, respected, well trained mental health provider. One technique that may facilitate the wellness journey is EMDR. A mental health provider certified in this approach may be a valuable asset to your wellness team.

Internal dialogue may help heal emotional wounds. Time merely provides distance for the mind to gain perspective. Healing depends on the way in which one chooses to invest energy within the frame of time; that is, is energy invested in avoiding OR facilitating the healing process? Exploring this question is the first step along the self-reflective, healing journey. 

We intuitively recognize our own personal pain at a very early age. When a person makes a decision (consciously or subconsciously) to invest a great deal of energy in mastering techniques to avoid – rather than in skills to deal with, that ‘familiar’ pain, the journey through life is defined by choices and paths that often distract from heartfelt joy.

How can I know if I’m distracted from joy?

If the goal becomes: “Avoidance of pain at all cost” this may signal distraction – since ‘joy’ is often the price paid for a ‘pain-free’ life. This is not to say any person must be a masochist – seeking pain in order to feel joy. On the contrary. Learning how to effectively deal with emotional challenges begins the path along healing, wellness, balance and joy. Courage to honestly self-reflect marks important steps along this path – especially when healing from past trauma is necessary.

Joy is powerful. It calms the body, centers the spirit and balances pain. In fact, when challenged emotionally, upon tapping into courage to face a situation, one may lean on joy for perspective. For example, a courageous person who becomes nervous before a particular event (i.e. stepping outside of one’s comfort zone) may tap into the following coping skill: looking forward to a joyful interaction or event either before and/or following the emotionally challenging, frightening or even ‘painful’ experience. Many tap into this sophisticated coping skill – often without even realizing it was a sign of personal strength.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone may stir feelings of fear by triggering sub-conscious memories of past trauma. The reaction in the present moment might be out of proportion to the situation at hand; however, the reaction might indeed reflect what might have been a reasonable response to the past event at the time it happened. Or not. It depends on how accurate the memory – from the perspective of today’s moment, is. Has the memory been colored by fear, shame, or guilt? This and other self-reflective questions help the process of healing when explored in a therapeutic environment.

Back to ‘joy’. Joy eludes some; in general, those who are clouded by fear, guilt, shame and/or regret. Some people who are unhappy along their present journey, living with consequences of decisions made throughout their lifetime, may fail to appreciate the power available to them right in this moment – RIGHT NOW . . . to turn things around. Courage to self-reflect honestly, giving oneself permission to have transgressed, and accepting responsibility as well as earning one’s own trust by taking one step at a time to rectify past failures, can completely change one’s life. Dissolving illusions with courage is one of the healthiest decisions one can make.

I’m less miserable today than yesterday.

Is that ‘joy’?

Heartfelt joy is not measured on a scale of misery. Joy is, in truth, a centered experience; oneness with the Universe; an awareness of personal fulfillment and gratitude. Joy is a blessing often reserved for the courageous. It isn’t found in a bottle, liquid or pill. Rather, it is generated by internal processes unseen by the casual onlooker. It is a vibration from within. It is accompanied by feelings of comfort and balance.

We all experience moments, even days, wherein we feel ‘out- of- balance’.

There is a difference between (1) generally feeling joyful with the occasional ‘out-of-sorts/balance’ mood and (2) feeling generally depressed with the occasional lift. The former may suggest a well- balanced life, with ups and downs that keep us striving to reestablish our familiar comfort zone. However, the latter (example #2), suggests imbalance, as that person might strongly identify with (and be self-defined by) toxic feelings of misery, irritation, anxiety, and a perpetual experience of ‘feeling on edge’. When these are accepted as ‘familiar’ with the occasional glimmer of light (relief, as a deviation from the internally accepted ‘norm’) this does not represent a well-balanced, joyful, healthy mental state. Familiarity with misery, as in occasional experience with and/or empathy for those who exude it, is not the same as genuine comfort, balance or joy.

Illusions

Feeling ‘out-of-balance’. Imbalance has several disguises, as it prefers to remain undetected. If it becomes a constant companion over a few days, weeks, or longer, it might present as ‘familiar’ thus ‘acceptable’ in order to be embraced without question. (The key to dissolving it is to question it whenever it creeps up). If we avoid self-questioning, the toxic vibration of imbalance defines itself as ‘familiar’ as if it is ‘comfort’ or ‘joy’. This is an illusion. There is a difference between ‘reliable/ dependable’ and ‘familiar/predictable’. The former is always paired with safety and trust. The latter is not.

Sometimes, one feels emotionally out of sorts (or out-of-balance) in response to a keen awareness that there is a need to heal, accompanied by a sense of confusion regarding how exactly to accomplish the goal. Interestingly, although ‘painful’ this experience suggests that a possible breakthrough may be right around the corner. That awareness, by itself, often results from tremendous courage and insight.

Life’s path forks at that point. The person may decide to successfully avoid growth OR may decide to further explore the healthy ways of investing energy. When a decision is made to stop investing energy into negativity, one in the process of healing often decides to cut negative (or ‘toxic’) people out of the inner circle.

Then, another fork presents. It is a challenge. ‘Healthy’ and ‘toxic’ may become blurred. For example, if distracted by shame, fear, guilt, or past unresolved trauma, a person who wants to heal might erroneously label healthy people as ‘toxic’ – cutting out the very people who may facilitate the healing process. If this occurs, and healthy people are mislabeled (thus, avoided), the healing journey may be delayed – unless of course a well-trained mental health provider is brought onto the healing team.

If successful, that mental health provider may assist the patient to understand the difference between ‘toxic enablers‘ and ‘truly healthy positive-energy people’. The result: a healthy, positive-energy inner circle may be rebuilt and family harmony (i.e. spiritual family = friends; blood relatives may be involved as well) might be reestablished on a healthier note, facilitating mutual growth and fulfillment of personal (and perhaps even professional) potential for all.

How can one know if another person is ‘toxic’ or ‘healthy’?

In general, a person who honestly self-reflects, accepts responsibility for (and demonstrates desire and the ability to repair) transgressions, and seeks as well as offers clarification patiently with generosity of spirit, is more likely than not to be able to embrace joy, and may be considered ‘healthy’ and ‘balanced.’ Behavior that signals potential imbalance may include a tendency to deflectgaslightblame others, and/or otherwise refuse to accept responsibility for personal transgressions.

This is your life. Your journey. Your choice. I wish you blessings and Namaste for the time and energy you devoted to reading this article. Have a beautiful day! ~Dr. Iankowitz

The Mind, Body and Spirit Approach to Self-Care

Regarding ‘Self-Care’ there are three aspects: mind, body, and spirit (3 min. read)

“Self-care” of the mind includes but is not limited to

  • nourishing your own intellect by challenging yourself (i.e. learning new skills & games such as chess, crossword puzzles, Sudoku; recalling faces and names of actors while watching movies, etc.)
  • staying active mentally (i.e. socially; keeping up on world events/ sports/ news) 
  • staying present and strong intellectually so that your brain stays healthy (focusing on where you place keys, coffee mugs, etc.)

“Self-care” of the body includes exercising to maintain healthy lungs, heart, ligaments, muscles and tendons by stretching, doing cardiovascular work-outs, and maintaining appropriate body weight. 

It also includes 

  • taking care of your skin – protecting it from overexposure to the sun 
  • protecting your eyes by taking supplements, using lenses to protect from blue light
  • protecting hearing by limiting exposure to loud sounds (or wearing ear muffs to protect the delicate bones in the inner ear)
  • eating responsibly sourced and organic foods; avoiding GMOs and anything artificial, processed, modified etc.

“Self-care” of the spirit is about channeling joy, love, positive energy, and feeling gratitude for blessings you count every day. It is about making healthy promises to ourselves and those who matter to us, and keeping them.

It also includes but is not limited to reducing exposure to toxic energy. We do this by avoiding people who contaminate our space with gossip and/or who view life through a lens of negativity, selfishness, misery, and bitterness. 

If lucky enough to find “love” and a soulmate, self-care of the spirit also includes perpetual self-reflection, self-examination, and self-questioning with courage to honestly address missteps we discover. Here’s to healing along your sacred journey. ~Dr. Iankowitz

The Deep Dive For Love

A professional note by a colleague: “This article braves 5 major areas and addresses 6 essential questions. To fully understand how to appropriately utilize this article, it would take a person who is in the beginning or middle of this struggle a year of two visits a week with a skilled mental health professional. I consider this an epic article.”  ~ Dr. Daniel Cohen Ph.D., Life Member, APA.

Areas of focus

1) Struggle as a Gift

2) Leaning on Love

3) The Choices We Make

4) Courage & Distraction

5) Numbing

Essential Questions:

  1. Why would anyone avoid the struggle?
  2. What interferes with leaning on love?
  3. How can you know when you’re choosing toxicity over healing?
  4. Why would someone choose toxic behavior?
  5. How does one cultivate courage?
  6. How can you tell when you self-distract?

Ideally, love is shared between two people who see forever in each other’s eyes, and they grow old together, embracing challenges as they arise with courage, confidence, and mutual effort. Each empathizes with the other, drops whatever they are doing to mend any accidental offences, and prioritizes the other above all else.  Earning and sharing trust are at the forefront of their union and they travel life’s sacred journey, hand-in-hand, without making excuses for not showing up emotionally. But what if only one has self-expectation of showing up for the partner while the partner has no such self-expectation? What if only one shows up emotionally – and the other expects this one-sided deal will go on forever, without offering the same?

Make no mistake about it: love can be as frightening as it is rewarding. Those who dare to embark upon the true journey, walk a sacred path to touch eternity – as that is the spark in the eyes and hearts of those who embrace this rare and precious experience.

Each struggle is a gift – an opportunity to show how well you, as a team, can handle it. In any loving relationship, whether you’re together for 2 months, 2 years or 2 decades, ‘struggles’ emerge. In healthy relationships, sharing the burden strengthens your union. Avoiding struggles undercuts trust by giving the message(s): “We can’t do this together” and/or “I’m not here with you to deal with this. You’re on your own. I don’t’ care if it is fixed. You want it fixed? Do it yourself.” Why would anyone avoid the struggle? This is the key question to be answered in this article.

Every couple has struggles on some level. Financial are often among the first stressors for most starting out. Leaning on love not only eases all tension, including financial, but empowers the couple as a united front. That having been said, leaning on love – while easy and pleasurable for some, is almost impossible for others. The inability or unwillingness to lean on love complicates every struggle and ultimately gives the smallest of issues power to tear a couple apart – either by forcing the healthy partner to give up on the lonely, burdensome effort, or by defining to both that they truly have no interest in choosing “us” over self, or any other distraction. 

Keep in mind: all struggles are designed to build a foundation of trust.  All struggles provide an opportunity to strengthen internal trust and your bond as a couple. Avoidance is toxic, and poisons relationships – always.

When handled properly – with heartfelt, unconditional love as the main ingredient, struggles become part of a couple’s recipe for happiness. Without unconditional love, channeling of positive energy, a desire to earn trust, and a mutual decision to nourish devotion to defend against toxic interference, there is no success. Both partners must equally prioritize their union above everything else in order to be triumphant as a couple. This balanced path begins with vulnerability and a willingness to share and feed love freely so it can be leaned on in times of crisis.

What interferes with ‘leaning on love’? Unresolved childhood trauma is often a major culprit. Is it possible to dissolve that obstacle? Yes – but it takes enormous patience and honest effort. Both people need to be sincerely interested in rekindling passion (assuming they began with it). It takes commitment on both parts. Note: as a medical professional I assure you that the human body is designed to heal itself, and the human mind/ brain/ spirit craves inner-peace and calm. To illustrate those observations: the skin, when cut, seals itself off; broken bones heal from within; the brain produces neurotransmitters to self-calm (i.e. serotonin).

Recognition that everyone has experienced disappointment at some point in life is the first step along this healing path; the second step: awareness that, in addition to run-of-the-mill disappointment, some have survived devastating pain. With these two points to guide, it helps to repeat what was stated above: the mind craves healing and inner peace. To achieve healing, the mind forces unresolved issues to resurface throughout life’s journey, giving the traumatized spirit a chance to review – ideally, with perspective and emotional support, so balance can be achieved. Some craft defense-mechanisms which boil down to self-distraction – in spite of the true desire of the spirit to heal. This will be explored in a moment.

As issues and past trauma arise, the choices we make are either to deal with them head on, or to avoid resolving them, by self-distracting. Dealing with unresolved issues requires commitment and tremendous courage. Avoidance is easier – thus, chosen by most. How can you know what you’re choosing? There are hints.

Self-distraction may spiral into more self-distraction. A person with unresolved childhood trauma often enters the spiral by perpetually avoiding dealing with inevitable hurt, negligence, or even abuse that he/she inflicts on a loved one. This is commonly followed by a ‘self-excuse’ which might sound something like this: “Oh I see I caused you pain but I’ve been busy/ confused/ upset myself . . . (the list goes on) all day / week/ year. How could you expect me to step up and deal with what I inflicted on you?” Or it might sound like something that boils down to this: “It isn’t convenient to deal with this now.” The first few years of these excuses might earn ‘forgiveness’ by the one who was hurt, until either the abuse/ neglect stops and trust is finally earned, or growth on the part of the abused leads to separation from the painful relationship, as no more ‘slack’ can be cut.

There are more self-distracting techniques used by survivors of childhood trauma who, until resolved, abuse their partners. One is to self-praise one’s own efforts as ‘progress’ while ignoring the betrayed trust, as if these self-assigned ‘gold stars’ in any way mend the broken trust: “I am finally noticing how I inflict pain on you. That’s progress!” stated without recognition of the actual specific thing(s) done to disappoint or otherwise betray trust. Another: “But look how well I’m doing in so many other areas!” as if this recognition should somehow un-ring the bell of broken trust or spontaneously crazy-glue a shattered heart back together again.

Another cleverly toxic tactic: “I want you to continue to hold me accountable” suggesting the offending person is incapable of self-reflection in the moment. This puts the burden on the offended as it takes the offender off the hook – at least that is the way the offender sees it. With tremendous pride in the illusion of personal growth, the offender fails to earn trust or mend the broken heart of the offended, who continues to feel disappointed and pushed away. The offender feels remorse which is self-proclaimed as ‘payment enough’ for the offense.

Sadly, the offender might then deem the ‘offense’ not worthy of further consideration, time, effort etc., comparing it to a far worse heinous crime – therefore, the offended is ‘lucky’ to have not been the recipient of the more hideous offense. After all, it isn’t as bad as . . . whatever the offender can conjure.  Bottom line: feelings hurt are not mended by the offender – and though there is some remorse, the pattern continues.

The offender chooses a vicious cycle of toxic interactions and behavior over self-reflection and healing. Why? Even though logic shows this vicious cycle of avoidance on the part of the offender inflicts self-abuse, shame, guilt and more, this is the choice that is made. The offender actively chooses to avoid self-reflection which could heal all damaged relationships, simply because it is easier and requires no courage.

Self-reflection leads to awareness, embracing emotions, recognition, questions, an honest search for answers, and ultimately centered peace along with physical wellness.  You can see how much easier it is to choose avoidance – though, when laid out this way, you might notice the rewards of self-reflection are so much greater. Yet, courage is required and, as stated, most who have been traumatized in childhood choose self-distraction over courage until perspective is gained.

How can one actively cultivate courage? The answer begins with learning how to spot the many ways in which we tend to self-distract. To be clear, we all self-distract to a degree.  Healthy self-distraction permits us to calm ourselves so we can move to building courage. Problems arise when self-distraction is permitted to become the cowardly goal, rather than a tool to permit us to self-reflect.

It is necessary to understand how to identify ‘self-distraction that leads to self-reflection’ so that we can spot and dissolve the tendency to permit it to default to more self-distraction. The latter represents an unfortunate spiral feeding a perpetual cycle until one actively breaks the pattern. To learn how to cultivate courage, it helps to recognize that it actually grows on its own with the right nourishment. The logical question becomes: what nourishes courage?

 Every time you spot your own distractions, and view them honestly, you strengthen your own internal courage. Once you have the confidence to spot distractions and actively choose to look at them for what they are, you build self-trust which goes hand-in-hand with spiritual courage. If you’ve read this far, you are interested in learning simple truths about self-distraction, strength of spirit, and how you can spot distraction in yourself and others so that you can facilitate your own healing journey.

People often self-distract emotionally by investing energy into blocking thoughts. There are clear signals when this occurs, such as self-destructive behavior including but not limited to overindulgence (i.e. work, food, exercise, sex, gambling, shopping), or personal neglect (i.e. permitting the body to fall below or climb above target weight or muscle mass, unkempt nails, hair, skin, etc.). These are examples of how one chooses to put ‘dealing with emotions’ on the back-burner. When skilled at self-distraction, one can find ways to avoid addressing emotions altogether.

One adept at self-distracting actually redefines effort into ‘emotion’ as ‘the distraction’ rather than as an important step along the path to healing mind, body and spirit. What does this type of redefinition look like in real time? How can you tell if/when you do it?

Anyone who channels every ‘spare’ moment into devoting time to charities, hours upon hours of hobbies &/or projects that require so much precision and attention that ‘but of course’ no time for emotion would be permitted; work (excusing the investment as necessary to pay household bills – ignoring feeding of emotional relationships within the home); or any other ‘excuse’ to avoid dealing with hurt inflicted emotionally on a loved one who states, “That made me feel sad/ angry/ frustrated etc.) demonstrates this type of self-distracting avoidance – ultimately avoiding the essential  building of courage, spiritual strength, and trust with loved ones.

Self-distracting people often buy into the lie: emotion will distract from a good and effective outcome of ‘the project/ work/ donation effort’.  The defenses include but are not limited to: “After all, only a ‘good person’ would devote every spare moment to charity – right?” and “Only an ‘excellent bread-winner’ can make ends meet and/or support the lifestyle to which one has become accustomed (aka: doing it because of love of family and those supported).”  In truth: what the individual succeeds at doing, in real time, is defining ‘emotion’ as the distraction rather than the gateway to inner-peace.

A child raised in this type of spiritually starved environment is traumatized by toxic vibrations in that very ‘well-intentioned’ home (especially during the most emotionally vulnerable years – before the age of 9). Such exposure often results in an adolescent with either excellent numbing skills, or anger management issues.

Numbing might be accomplished by using external substances (i.e. mind-altering drugs, alcohol), revealed by behavior easily spotted by most casual onlookers, or by mastering the unfortunate skill of silencing the heart by internally numbing. A hint signaling this might be the case: people who master internal numbing present as cold, distant, emotionally unavailable individuals who might excel at intellectual pursuits, but who can’t give or receive satisfying, consistent love with another human. Words don’t match facial expression, empathy is clearly absent, and ‘logic’ remains the focus.

Another sad scenario would be a person who lashes out at others – seemingly unprovoked, with loud words, behavior, or disruptive actions including but not limited to throwing fits of rage in public places, picking fights etc. This path pushes people away as often as the ‘silent, numb’ approach. In either of these cases, until the childhood trauma is put into perspective through interventions which might include EMDR, EFT (tapping), and talk therapy with a well-educated relationship counselor, healing is unlikely, and a satisfying love relationship with another healthy human is nearly impossible.

People who have unresolved childhood trauma might do well if paired with another emotionally numb person, but only if both agree on emotional boundaries, and a parallel existence without desire to build or expectation of earning trust is acceptable to both. Unresolved trauma does not permit a mutually satisfying relationship with another healthy, balanced human unless extraordinary sacrifices are made by the healthy person – or, until the trauma is put into perspective.

To be very clear: casual by-standers and well-intentioned people are not equipped to help heal a person who struggles with unresolved childhood trauma, as it is an emotional emergency that requires professional help; a journey of extraordinary courage and spiritual strength. Healing is only possible for the traumatized survivor who has the right support, is more than just ‘willing and able’- one who is very highly motivated to do so.

This is your sacred journey. All steps taken and avoided are your personal choice.  I wish you spiritual courage, emotional healing, balance of mind, body and spirit, fulfillment, and positive energy.  ~ Dr. Iankowitz

COVID-19 Is Here to Stay

As we focus attention on the current “COVID-19” crisis, many emotions come into play. Though understandable, fear is easily quelled with just a bit of perspective. Armed with evidence-based scientific data, we are empowered.

To be clear, we live in concert with countless micro-organisms – in, on, and surrounding our bodies.  Our beautiful planet is filled with complexity. In wisdom, all creatures – including humans, adapt to survive and even thrive, along with bacteria, fungi, and viruses of all shapes and sizes. For example, you might be familiar with fungi, such as Candida albicans, which can cause tremendous issues for the mind, body and spirit. (Google for details). Though fungi and viruses are generally unpleasant, interventions we take to keep them in check often serve to strengthen our immune system.  

Now, to be thorough, here are a few words about bacteria. Some are good. Some are bad. They aren’t all dangerous – and some are important for a healthy body. We call the beneficial bacteria “probiotics” and embrace them as helpful and healing. Did you know we have many species of bacteria that work well as team-members in certain organ systems of the body, while they might wreak havoc if they relocate to other organ systems in the same body? An example of this would be Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium that is part of a healthy digestive system (though some members of this species may cause gut issues); however, if this bacterium gets into the urinary tract, a “urinary tract infection” results, for which one might take an antibiotic.

So where does the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 come into the discussion? Just as we humans have learned to live with fungi and bacteria, we have the ability to live with viruses, which are unique in that they are neither alive nor dead – rather. they represent ‘potential’ which is fulfilled only if conditions are right. This means that, without proper conditions, this virus can’t replicate. It can’t do damage.  The key is to create an environment that prevents it from damaging humans – and while challenging for some, it is truly easier to do than you might think.

First, we must prevent the virus from coming into contact with any ‘mucus membranes’ on the body. These are areas on the body that are moist from body secretions, such as eyes, inside the nose, inside the mouth, and so on. If the virus gets onto hands, the hands and fingers can put the virus into an eye (by rubbing) or into the nose or mouth – unless the virus is deactivated by soap and water or by 70% alcohol applied directly to it. The hands are main target areas for the virus, as the virus can enter the human body by fingers delivering it directly to any mucus membrane.

Second, it helps to understand other ways in which the virus can travel.  The virus can linger on surfaces such as paper, plastic, and metal – to name a few. It also travels through the air on droplets invisible to the naked eye. So, if a person happens to have this virus, but is not yet showing symptoms, the virus can reproduce in that person and spread itself to others as the person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. Masks worn by people help to prevent the virus from spreading from the one wearing the mask to others who are also wearing masks; however, there are additional precautions to take to prevent accidental infection of others.

It is essential to remember that, since the virus is so small, it is able to pass through regular masks. This means we need to step up our game by providing a greater distance between the infected (but not yet sick) people, and those with whom they speak. Particles of saliva within which the virus travels are generally able to propel up to 13’ from the one who speaks. This means that social distancing between two people – one of whom might be unknowingly infected, reduces chances of permitting the virus to spread to others.

Bottom line interventions: (1) keep your immune system up, (2) use soap and water to wash hands upon re-entry to your home (as well as prior to and after you prepare and eat food), (3) leave outside shoes at the door (wear only inside shoes to walk around your home), (4) designate a ‘dirty area’ for packages, bags etc. that you bring into your home (and wash your hands after handling those packages and the contents), (5) cover your nose and mouth with your mask (and look up how to properly put on and take off the mask for optimal safety). These are just five of the many interventions necessary to stay safe during this time.

            Follow the above interventions for yourself, your loved ones, and especially for vulnerable people (such as diabetics, anyone taking prescribed steroids, those with chronic lung, kidney or heart issues, people over the age of 65, and anyone living with an immune-system diagnosis), as they are more susceptible to contracting any of the over 14 mutations of this novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Viruses mutate to adapt just as we change our behavior to adapt to them.  It is possible that some day we might eradicate COVID-19; however, there will always be challenges to which we must adapt if we are to thrive on this planet in concert with all organisms and life forms. Make choices in evidence-based scientific wisdom, stay vigilant, get restful sleep during nighttime hours, and embrace the healing power of positive vibrations (music, color, light). 

About the author: Dr. Nancy Iankowitz DNP, RN, FNP-BC is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC, editor of scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, and author of several books.

Second Childhood – The Intangible Spirit

We live on this planet with flora, fauna, and organisms of all kinds. When history speaks of ‘plagues’ it represents imbalance. Currently in the middle of a frightening pandemic (COVID-19) we are keenly aware of the devastation an invisible micro-organism can unleash – so how can we regain balance and maintain our best health in the face of world-wide imbalance?

We begin to heal when we ask ourselves important questions that inspire observation. For example, have you noticed that there are some people who have insatiable curiosity about the world around them? This is the curiosity of a child, without the restrictions of having to ask an adult in the room for permission.

Those so blessed to live into their fifth decade and beyond are given an opportunity to embrace a ‘second childhood’ which, frankly, can be much better than the first. In the second childhood we have confidence, excitement at everything we have the power to venture out to experience, and a sense of independence. We marvel and wonder at miracles overlooked during our first childhood.

In the fifth decade of life we feel gratitude for the simple things; for the richness of each new day. Opportunity is our new companion. And though the COVID-19 pandemic does put limitations on activities and socializing in the way in which we’ve become familiar, even while safely at home, some people can’t quite embrace their second childhood – with or without the frightening pandemic. Why is that? Answer: their mind, body and/or spirit are imbalanced. They feel pain.

 When the human body lives long enough, it begins to show wear and tear (mind, body and spirit). As we focus on the ‘intangible spirit’, open-mindedness and curiosity come into focus.  We lean on familiarity – in people, places, and things, all of which bring comfort.

But what happens when what was once familiar appears the same, but behaves differently from what we thought we knew?

Reclaiming relationships falls under this category. We may notice that couples around us begin to grow apart – even after 20 or 30 years together.  Why might that be? As the body needs proper nourishment to maintain agility and efficiently functioning organ systems, so too do relationships require emotional nourishment to maintain vigor and mutual satisfaction.

Sometimes we change and grow apart from our partner; or, we wake up to realize that what we thought we had, never really existed at all. The COVID-19 crisis forces us to focus on spirituality to a greater degree. We may decide to ‘settle for’ rather than ‘strive to become’ or ‘to reclaim’ – a personal decision, and not to be taken lightly.

We ask ourselves if we’ve ever faulted younger couples for not giving their relationship a chance – so often hearing of break-ups within the first 10 years of life together. But who is the wiser person? The one who takes 30 years to wake up or out-grow dysfunction? Or the younger person who recognizes right off the bat that things won’t work out?  Neither is the wiser. The answer is: there is no single way to achieve happiness. Mutual satisfaction is a goal for most, though onlookers might not recognize the agreement. Mutual satisfaction is achieved in countless ways.

Not everyone wants to “work” on a relationship. For those couples, emotional ‘attachment’ is never an issue. Relating is less heavy, permitting those people to put energy into healing the world on different levels – whether it is an accountant or lawyer being available to clients over family, or a medical professional putting patients before home life. Not every couple strikes a balance that is meaningful to outsiders. The important thing is that each individual in the relationship finds enough personal satisfaction to channel healing energy to the earth. If part of a ‘couple’ then whatever is mutually agreed upon is ‘correct’ for the union.

Problems arise only if the spirit isn’t fed in the way in which it needs to be nourished. If spiritually starved, the distress inevitably renders the physical body incapacitated by the time the person reaches the fifth decade of life. An unsettled spirit expresses itself in the form of anxiety – which is often accompanied by heart palpitations, unchecked adrenaline, too much cortisol, and digestive issues, to mention a few.

The unsettled spirit impacts the physical body as deeply as would a tangible injury, such as a fall from a high ladder, or auto accident. The body responds to the unsettled spirit as it responds to the physical accidents: with inflammation. Inflammation is the first step to healing. It calls attention to ‘the injury’. What becomes confusing is when inflammation goes unaddressed.

If your car’s dashboard flashed an engine check light, you would go to a mechanic. You would certainly NOT cover the light with masking tape and then set out on a 3,000 mile road trip. And yet, that is exactly how most people treat inflammation of the joints and gastrointestinal system (the gut). These ‘flashing lights’ continue to interfere with comfort, as well as absorption of necessary healing nutrients. And yet, the masking tape often used to ‘cover the symptoms up’ come in the form of over-the-counter liquids and pills (or worse: pharmaceuticals prescribed to block pain) before the diagnosis of root cause is made. Of course, if the mechanic examines under the hood and determines the engine is fine, but the light is at fault, but no replacement is available, the mechanic might indeed say “ignore the light for a while” and that would be fine. So if the primary healthcare provider determines the cause and states a liquid or pill could handle the symptom without further harming the body, wonderful. However, self-treating or accepting treatment of a symptom before the root cause is determined is often devastating to brain chemistry.

To effectively calm inflammation of the joints and gut, it is most helpful to begin by eliminating processed foods and anything that has the following words on the package: modified, partially hydrogenated, white flour, sugar, corn syrup, and artificial. We need to add to our daily diet organically grown produce – can be fresh or frozen; humanely raised, fed and killed poultry (Google: ShopWithYourHeart for brands that offer this); eggs from humanely raised hens; grass-fed beef, and dairy products from humanely raised cows. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild caught Alaskan salmon and black cod provide important lubrication to joints and anti-inflammatory nutrition to the gut. Probiotics (to be discussed with your healthcare provider as there are categories of organisms that may be important to avoid, depending on your body), and responsible exposure to the sun’s rays (for Vitamin D3 that the body manufactures in response). Speak with your healthcare provider or dermatologist for recommendations here as your body might require sunblock on certain areas for optimal safety.

Then, we consider additional steps. While nutritional intervention is of great value, there is more that we can do to regain spiritual strength. Your body is your business and your brain is the CEO. It communicates through whispers and shouts. Learning the language of your brain facilitates a meaningful internal relationship between and among you and your mind, body and spirit. Pain calls attention to a need. It is a helpful flag requesting investigation as to root-cause.

In order to address flags of pain, it is often valuable to tap into resources such as a life coach, therapist, yoga and/or tai chi instructor, and more. These professionals should be licensed and certified to be certain they have the most appropriate techniques to facilitate healing of the spirit through emotional as well as postural intervention.

This is your life and sacred journey. While in your body, add positive energy to the conversation you have with it on a daily basis so that everything it has to say is something you want to hear. Here’s to your best health and balance. ~ Dr. Nancy Iankowitz

      About the author: Dr. Nancy Iankowitz DNP, RN, FNP-BC is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC (mission & vision: help you self-heal; no patient turned away based upon ability to pay), functional medicine provider, author of several books, and editor of medical and nursing articles in professional journals. www.driankowitz.com; driankowitz@yahoo.com.

Does It Distract or Inspire?

It isn’t necessary to be raised by hoarders to learn organization, survive agitated depression to learn compassion, live with a loved one who gaslights & deflects to master the art of seeking & offering clarification, or experience a restraining order from a mentally unwell young adult to know the pain of “only as happy as your most unhappy child” . . . but having traveled that path, I can attest to my awakening: it softens the heart and sharpens the mind to win the battle for one’s soul in the face of these, along life’s sacred journey.

Some view challenges as obstacles or distractions from balance & wellness; others embrace them as invitations to self-improvement. You are defined by what you do with opportunities along your journey rather than by the ‘opportunities’ themselves.

“Blessings are curses turned inside out. Credit the light for shadows of doubt.      Without the ‘source’ no ‘block’ can be. Behind each cloud the Sun shines free.”

© 2018 by Universe’s Secretary

How Your Hobby May Heal You

Your body is your business and your brain is the CEO. It communications through whispers and shouts.  When the whispers are ignored, ‘shouts’ come in the form of illness. One might ask, “So what’s a whisper and how can I pick up on it?”

Effective listening includes recognizing your own mood (the whisper) and catching it before it impacts major organ systems. Specifically, whispers that are ignored may impact the gut (i.e. constipation, diarrhea, gas), musculoskeletal system (i.e. backache, muscle tension), and so on. The good news is that tapping into what gives you joy provides cures.  Joy brings inner peace; inner peace facilitates balance and wellness. For some people, a hobby is their key to relaxation and/or joy. To read more about that click here.

Holiday Health & Wellness

 

Holidays represent different things to different people.  For most, a wide variety of emotions unfold. Some greet holiday time with eager excitement; others, with anxiety driven anticipation. Self-reflection may help reveal questions and answers that can lead to greater awareness, appropriate preparation, and a more joyful experience. There are many types of self-reflective questions that help identify and clarify our hopes, dreams, and goals; they may even help guide us so we can have greater control over the reality that follows.

Embarking upon a self-reflective journey may begin by including questions that help us identify strengths and weaknesses, so we can pair whatever gives us ‘stress’ with something that feeds our passion. One may begin by asking:

How do I feel about hosting vs being a guest? Why do I feel that way?

This may lead to clarification regarding self-perception of the tasks / pressures/ pleasures involved with each. For example, you might discover that hosting represents

  1. Sending out invitations
  2. Taking responsibility for all preparations including
    • food (and related preferences/ sensitivities),
    • baby-proofing the house (for guests who bring toddlers),
    • making sure the temperature and lighting around the table is appropriate for elderly guests and those with limited eyesight etc.

One or more of the above listed tasks may be your passion; alternatively, one or more may bring you stress. Being a guest may involve responding to invitations and may include choosing which to accept and which to graciously reject.

How do I feel about the guest list? Do I prefer to make it or be on someone else’s?

Concerns surrounding ‘social obligation’ are difficult for many. Once you clarify these, the next steps become easier. This leads to additional key questions such as:

Am I including people (or accepting an invitation) through social obligation?

. . . the answer to which facilitates clarification, making next steps more logical and somewhat easier.  Each question may help highlight one or more personal passions as well as ‘holiday associated energy blockers’  which may trigger a stress response (including anxiety).

Additional self-reflective questions may include:

Why am I uncomfortable around a particular friend or family member who seems to be easy going and/or the life of other gatherings I’ve attended? (Do I feel jealous or threatened?)

You may be shy and/or easily overpowered by that particular person’s energy. In this case, you might attend the gathering but remain physically apart from that person.  If, however, your distaste for a particular member of the family creates such tremendous anxiety that it keeps other family members from getting together and /or puts a strain on one or more family members who otherwise enjoy holiday time, a professional mental health provider might be able to assist by facilitating the healing necessary to turn holidays into a harmonious experience for all.

Whether or not you or someone you know is a role model for countless admirers, most people find it helpful to use this filter before speaking: “is it kind, necessary and true?” Using this filter may help when trying to decide whether or not to say something. The guide is: choose not to speak if the answer to any of these is “no”. This informal rule may help when in conversation with another – especially when that person is grieving the loss of a dearly adored relative, friend or family pet. For those experiencing loss, holiday time may intensify the grief.

Click here for additional ideas.

Since the “Holiday Season” is filled with so many mixed vibrations – both positive and negative, it helps to have a few handy tools to help keep balanced before, during and after. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to look forward to each gathering with comfort, confidence and the ability to bring wonderful, healing vibrations to the celebration? If you are interested in learning more about how to neutralize anxiety, dissolve guilt, and provide peace and comfort to guests with whom you come into contact, you might enjoy the presentation entitled “Family Healing . . . in time for the holidays” on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 from 7:00 – 8:00 PM at the Pawling Free Library. (Space is limited so call the library in advance)

Cooling Inflammation

Inflammation is a signal that involves pain, stiffness, and oftentimes weakness in the affected area. When we live with ‘chronic inflammation’ of any kind, it behooves us to recognize that this ‘signal’ is a symptom of a greater imbalance.  Taking anti-inflammatory pills ‘as the treatment’ is similar to using masking tape over your car’s ‘check engine light’  . . . which one might do if on the way to the mechanic – but certainly not when we are setting out on a road trip.

Life is the road trip.  Inflammation is the ‘check engine’ light. Your mind/ body/ spirit balance is ‘the engine.’

Functional medicine guides us to get to the source of the problem. When we have pain from inflammation, we ask questions such as:  “Is this a genetic predisposition over which I may have some degree of control through carefully chosen lifestyle choices? If so, which ones? What system is sending the signal? Is it muscular? Neurological?” . . . and so on. Once we are certain there is no life threatening emergency, we set out to reestablish ‘balance’ by listening to the unique communication offered by our body, and addressing each system respectfully, paying careful attention to the engine (mind/body/spirit balance).

Once we decide to implement lifestyle choices in our effort to regain control over physical comfort, the first step is often to become mindful of our present lifestyle and daily habits.  For example, we begin to notice how we sit, stand, and walk. While sitting, do we lean on our elbows?  How is our posture at the computer? Are we hunched over the keyboard? In the living room or den, do we often slouch into the couch? At the dinner table do we rest on our forearms and/or stoop down to the dinner plate?  During the day, while standing, do we lean forward, sideward, or in any way lean against the countertop or post beside which we might be standing? While walking, do we look ahead or down at our feet?  These and other questions begin our journey to healing the imbalance signaled by the inflammation.

The second step often includes keeping a daily journal of dietary habits. If this is beginning to sound overwhelming, you might be more interested in the conventional medical approach to your healthcare.  If, however, this is beginning to sound exciting – feeling as if you are being offered a roadmap towards your continuing adventure through life, read on.  There is much more to come. The journal would begin with what you feel before you eat, what food you choose, and how you feel during and after eating it. No changes need to be made to the foods you eat for two weeks. During that two week period, you observe how your energy, mood, joints, sleep pattern, bowel habits etc., all respond to your choices – and these are recorded by you over that same two weeks.

The third step is to evaluate your journal, answer your body’s signals, and follow the instructions your body continues to offer.  If you need assistance, then share your discoveries with your functional medicine practitioner so that together you can learn how to interpret your body’s unique communication, and craft a plan of action to facilitate the comfort you deserve.

A few resources you might find helpful: http://drhyman.com/blog/2015/07/24/10-strategies-to-reverse-autoimmune-disease/; https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/eating-anti-inflammatory-diet/