Wherever I Go, There She Is

My dog, Dali, is a steady presence to all my different ways of being.

If I’m sad, Dali is licking my tears.

If I’m angry, Dali follows me from room-to-room.

If I’m anxious, Dali sits patiently as I pace.

If I’m depressed and lay down, Dali lays down with me.

She is confident and courageous and calm and if she could talk, I imagine she would say, “It doesn’t matter how you are.  I am here.  I’m not going anywhere.  You can count on me.”

I’ve learned from Dali what it means to be present to all my different parts.  Through this experience, I’m better able to do that for myself.

Dali is closing in on 15 years of age and she is declining.  I am afraid that I am not going to learn fast enough all that Dali has to teach me.  But I am present and compassionate to that fear and in that way, and many other ways, Dali’s legend will live on.

 

 

(Professional Website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

Healing from a Broken Heart

 

I have written about connection and attachment and love, but what about when that romantic bond is broken.  What about heartbreak?

I thought I’d share with you my take away from the TED Talk, How to fix a broken heart, by Guy Winch, shared below.

Whoever came up with the term “heartbreak” was right on.  Heartbreak is painful like a heart that is broken.

Heartbreak is an injury.  It is complex and psychological in nature.  It can cause insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and immune system dysfunction.

When we are recovering from a heartbreak, our brain tries to make the pain go away by figuring out what happened, what went wrong:  as if it is a math problem with a solution that will provide a soothing balm to our wound.

But indulging in that craving is actually a way of feeding our love addiction when we can’t get the real thing.

Brain studies show that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that are activated when addicts go through withdrawal from cocaine or opioids.

We get a hit by thinking of all the good times, hoping our romantic interest will come back to us, trying to figure out why the breakup happened, and/or idealizing our ex or the relationship.  To beat the fix, we need to:

  1. accept the reason they gave us, or make up one of our own
  2. refrain from looking our ex up on social media or contacting him/her
  3. keep a list of all the things that were wrong with the relationship and why that person was not the one for us

In addition, we need to rebuild our lives and get back to who we are, what we’re about.  We need to make efforts to fill in the missing links of our social lives and invest in activities that interest us.  We need to leave ourselves open to connection by learning about ourselves in relationship.

Recovery from a breakup is an arm wrestle we win in a multitude of ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

Understanding

Dali and I are a lot alike.  We both have difficulty feeling comfortable with others of our own species.  When Dali sees another dog, if she’s the least bit afraid, she barks hysterically.   When I see another person, I don’t bark hysterically, but I’m not comfortable in groups of people and can get a bit aggressive out of my fear.

Dali is unreachable when she gets in this zone.  There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to reassure her.  Out of my helplessness, I have gotten very frustrated with her.  Then I feel bad and apologize to her.  I do believe she knows what “I’m sorry” means because I’ve said it so often to her.

One day, I was talking to a dog trainer about Dali and he explained that Dali was probably bullied when she was very young, before she came to live with us.  Her vulnerability grew from the original antagonizers to other dogs.  She was also bullied after she came to live with us.  Early on, I took her to a dog park.  She was so incredibly fast.  Other dogs would chase her.  One dog started to pick on her and got a group of other dogs to join in.  It was scary for me, so I can only imagine how scary it was for her.  That was the last time we went to the dog park.

Now I have more understanding and empathy for Dali.  I remain calm when she gets triggered and launches into her I-must-tell-the-world-there-is-a-threat-until-I-know-everyone-has-heard-me barking campaign.  With my new empathic response, sometimes I notice that she has a quicker recovery time, sometimes not, but I know I’m not adding to her distress and lack of safety by getting angry with her. 

As my empathy grew for Dali, my compassion grew for myself.  Now when I’m with groups of people and feeling uncomfortable, I am better able to calm myself down.  I talk to myself the way I would talk to Dali, soothingly.  I remind myself how much sense it makes that I get afraid and that I’m not alone in this feeling.  I don’t love groups, but since I’ve learned to exercise self-compassion from being compassionate with Dali, I’ve had more experiences that feel alright rather than shaming. 

A wonderful organization that helps at-risk children heal from trauma uses the idea of self-compassion by learning compassion for animals is The Gentle Barn.  Children, who may not be able to relate to care givers, can identify with the vulnerability of animals and heal some of their own emotional pain by interacting with a pig, cow, chicken, or goat.  This nontraditional form of therapy includes telling the children the stories of individual animals who are survivors of abusive situations and how each animal has learned to love and trust again.  The youths leave with a sense of hope that change is within their reach.   

Here is an inspiring and informative video about The Gentle Barn and the healing that is possible when we recognize how we are all interconnected:

http://www.byutv.org/watch/2494c327-dc7e-412f-9f1a-962b42bd6a5a/turning-point-the-gentle-barn

If you’d like to share, I would welcome to chance to read about how the human-animal bond has helped you heal.

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)