Integrative Truth

Lara Maurino, LCSW

Are You On A Fun Schedule?

A fun schedule is a predetermined outline of how and when fun will occur.  If this sounds counterintuitive to you, it’s because it is.  Yet, for many of us, schedules and time frames dictate and interfere with our flow.  We may think, I should be married with children by this age, I should be “successful” by this age, I should complete school by this time, etc. It’s a very linear way of thinking and being.  If we want to experience expansion in our lives, living on a linear plane greatly limits the playing field.

At any given moment, there are two forces at play: our will and a greater will.  You can define a greater will as nature, chance, God, the universe, or anything else.  The reality of life is that we are not in control at all times.  Trust me, I’ve tried.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you are on a fun schedule:

1.  Is my idea/outline for how things should go interfering in my relationships?

2.  Do my ideas/outlines for my life sometimes sabotage my motivation, spirit, or what it is that I truly desire?

3.  When things aren’t going according to my plan, do I become angry, frustrated, or disappointed? 

4.  Does my body feel tight and rigid around my planning?

5.  Do I experience fear around things not going according to plan?

Since learning through the scenic route (also known as the hard way) that sometimes my little brain cannot always know what is for my highest good at all times, I’ve become a fan of going with the flow.  As a Type A in recovery, this is something I must remind myself of on a daily basis.  When we become aware that perhaps we are trying to rigidly adhere to a fun schedule, there are a few things we can do come back into alignment with the other force at play. 

1.  Ask yourself, Is it possible that I don’t know everything?  (hint: the answer is YES)

2.  Breath.  This is obvious, but important.  When we become rigid in our thinking or in our bodies, we contract.  This limits flow, potential and fun.

3.  Ask yourself, Is my schedule a collaboration or a dictatorship?  A collaboration means you take into account the energies of others, including nature/chance/luck/God/universe.  A dictatorship is when you try to force your will. 

4.  Is the tension I am bringing to this schedule/plan feel good for me?  Sometimes we certainly can force things to happen on our timeline, but does it actually feel fun or good this way?  If not, what’s the point? 

Remember your successes.  All of us have examples of times when we thought we knew when something was supposed to happen, only to realize sometime later that something greater was in store for us.  It’s certainly ok to want what you want.  But the more flexible you are about the conditions surrounding your desires, the more likely you are to actually enjoy the journey of pursuing them.

Sometimes I think the best therapy is, in fact, a cookie. 

How To Accept the “Unacceptable”

Suffering comes from not accepting what is being presented.  We suffer when we cannot accept ourselves, when we cannot accept our partner, when we cannot accept the parent we were given or a situation we are experiencing.  More often than not, the reason we do not accept certain things is that they are painful to us.  Many of us have had events in our lives that are extremely painful such as deaths, breakups, abuse, abandonment, bad parenting, etc.

Let’s say your partner suddenly left you for another person.  Let’s also say this isn’t the first time this has happened in your life.  Maybe your dad abandoned the family and your last two relationships had similar endings.  This may very likely cause you to feel that you aren’t worth it, that you are not lovable, or that everybody leaves you.  To experience the grief or feelings of unworthiness that stem from this is extremely painful.  It is much easier to judge those who have done you wrong than to deal with the uncomfortable feelings these people have triggered in you (I’m not worth it, I’m “abandonable,” I’m not lovable, etc.).  Your “story” becomes “People are always abandoning me.”  Your “story” is how someone has done you wrong, how certain things always happen to you, how bad your parents were, etc.  So how can we stop suffering?  How can we accept the unacceptable? 

Let the “unacceptable” (person/loss/situation/etc.) be your teacher.  It has come in to your life to help you heal.  Often when we have a repetition of similar types of experiences or people in our lives, it is the universe’s way of giving us continuous opportunities to learn.  Being broken up with can expose the story you’ve been telling yourself (such as “everybody leaves me”) and encourage you to have a deeper look at yourself. 

Allow your feelings to pass through.  You have every right to them, but be conscious that they do not become your constant companion.  If grief, hurt, betrayal, shame arise, allow the feelings to pass without judgment.  There is a difference between feeling our feelings and wallowing in them.  Emotions are simply energy in motion.  They are neutral.  Judgment of our feelings are what make them “good” or “bad.”  This judgment can create contraction within us (energetically and physically) that keeps them in the body and lasting longer than necessary.

Ask yourself, do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?  This question puts the choice in your hands to continue along the path of judgment or to consciously choose to transcend it.  Being right means you get to hold on to your “story.” Being happy means having the courage to transcend your judgments, see the events of your life as neutral and put your ego on the back burner.  In surrendering the judgments of something or someone as acceptable or not acceptable, the suffering dissolves and brings you back to your center, a place of peace.

Remember, acceptance does not mean that you like, condone, or agree with something.  Whether we accept something difficult or not, it will exist.  This is not within our control.  What is in our control is how we choose to experience its existence.

Does Perfectionism Interfere In Your Relationship?

The other day, I left the laundry in the living room and came back to find it folded by my husband.  There is no other way to describe this gesture other than “awesome.”  Then I saw the towels.  There is my definition of folded towels and then there is his definition of folded.  In my definition, the corners meet, they stack evenly, and they fit into the basket where we keep them.  In his version, they resemble layers of a flaky French pastry where the symmetry of the folds detract from the artistry of the final work.

While I certainly appreciated the gesture, the chaos of the folds left me frustrated and I felt myself contract.  Who starts folding a towel the long way?!  There was a part of me that wanted to explain to my husband how his version of folding towels doesn’t make sense aesthetically or physically if they can’t fit into their storage space.  Instead, I held my tongue because I am fully aware that my perfectionism was the issue here, not his towel folding skills.  (I also know that nothing detracts from fun and sexiness in a relationship than nagging.) 

Perfectionism is a defense mechanism to vulnerability.  For many of us, keeping order greatly contributes to a sense of calm and security.  When things are out of order, we can feel out of control.  We can use a tremendous amount of energy to make sure everything is “under control” so that we can feel at ease.  The issue with this is that life is messy and chaotic sometimes.  There is always new dust landing, laundry piling up, a dog shedding, or some other kind of environmental disorder.  There is also emotional disorder when we may feel uncertain, powerless, scared, anxious, or not good enough.  

The idea of perfectionism becomes, if I can make sure everything around me is held to a specific, high standard, I can feel safe.  While perfectionism can lead to high achievements in some areas of life, relationships are not one of them.  Since vulnerability is a key ingredient to intimacy, anything that thwarts it will become an obstacle to a relationship.  If perfectionism has weaseled its way into your relationship, ask yourself a few questions to regain your perspective of what is really important to you.

1.  Is this “lack of perfection” truly detrimental to my well-being? 

2.  Is this “lack of perfection” worth chiseling away at the sweetness of my relationship?

3.  Can I let go of not having something to my standards without harboring resentment (hint: chances are you can, but it may be that you won’t)

4.  Can I share what I am feeling without it coming out as a criticism of my partner?

OR

5.  Can I simply let this issue go and deal with whatever feelings it may have triggered in me rather than making it an issue with my partner?

When I checked in with myself over the towel situation, I knew the gesture of taking care of the laundry far outweighed what the laundry looked like.  There was no need for discussion.  I also took pleasure in the little challenge of stepping outside of my comfort zone.  It is just outside our comfort zones that we are most open.  For the past few days, I’ve looked at my husband’s artistry overflowing from the towel basket in the closet.  Rather than feeling anxious about the disorder, I find humor in it and feel a surge of love that I have a guy that helps with domestic drudgery.

How Ignoring Your Heart Creates Disconnection

One day, in my searching, wandering, experimental years (also known as my twenties), I was walking home and I started to feel a profound longing.  I was literally just a few feet from my apartment, but I felt as though I could have been on a desert island.  The only way I can describe this ache I felt is “homesick.”  It was a mélange of feelings- lost, sad, alone and a sprinkle of having no purpose.  None of these things were true on the outside- I knew where I was, I knew where I was going (I was in school) and I knew what I wanted to do with my life. 

In later years, I learned to recognize this homesick feeling as a disconnection from myself.  The feeling stemmed from months of not listening to my inner guidance.  Disconnection with oneself is so painful.  It’s like losing your best friend, a parent and your lover all in one.  Sometimes our minds have such specific ideas of who we should be and how we should be achieving it that we don’t listen to what our hearts are patiently waiting to show us.  It is through our hearts that we have a relationship with ourselves, not the mind. 

How is it that we can disconnect from something that is within us?  Working long hours, one too many glasses of wine, ignoring the gentle pleas for rest or alone time all contribute to disconnection.  Everyday life can be a distraction in and of itself with traffic to navigate, errands to run, bills to pay, calls to return.  Like any relationship, the one with yourself takes nurturance and attention.  It requires consciousness and prioritizing.

Taking time to reconnect with yourself fosters intimacy, inspiration, better self-care, inner guidance and clarity.  Having a healthy, in-tune relationship with yourself also promotes physical and emotional wellness.  When your body, heart and mind are in alignment, you are less likely to be prone to habits that do not serve this relationship.  An added bonus is that once you know how to treat yourself well in this relationship, you are a lot more likely to choose a partner who treats you just as well.

Anonymous asked: Hi there, I have recently broken up with someone but it's still giving me a great deal of anxiety and now I get the feeling him and a friend of mine are speaking, she has been ignoring me, but I do know when I was with him she used to message him and now they are both always online at the same time, and this is really getting to me and I do not know how to deal with it or if I should confront him? Thank you.

Hi there,
Thanks for your question. I think you have a few options. But first, I’d like to clarify what you mean by “confront.” The word confront (to me) has a certain aggression to it. It sounds as though you are wondering whether you should point blank ask this person what he’s up to with your friend. If he feels judged or attacked, or if he senses that you can’t handle the truth of the answer, you may not get the truth.

Instead, why not try sharing the truth of how you feel? Are you scared? Feeling insecure? Hurt? Whatever you are feeling, keep it about yourself, not the other person. (For example, “I feel you are seeing my friend” is not actually a feeing about you).

Lastly, whatever he responds, trust yourself first and foremost, not just his response. Learning to distinguish what your instincts are telling you vs. what your fears or insecurities are leading you to believe is a great skill. It may take some time to develop this. Now is a great time to start. Only you know will know the difference.

I hope this is helpful!

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Depression

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A few years ago I was traveling in Vietnam.  In one of the towns I passed through, there was a caged bear.  There was no sign near it explaining why it was there, no greenery, no warmth, no other animals, and no indication of anything remotely humanitarian going on.  It was not a zoo and there was nothing amusing about his presence.  The bear had some foam around its mouth and there was no food in the cage.  There was only a dish of water, which he stepped in to get close to me as I approached him.

As the bear met me at the bars, the look in his eyes was one of the most desperate I’ve ever witnessed.  He was making noises that sounded like cries.  I photographed him wanting to know where I could get more information about him or how to get help.  I never found answers.  This image has haunted me for years.  To know that there is a beautiful creature needlessly suffering pains me to no end.

Some suffering is visible to everyone.  Some is visible to only a few.  And some is invisible.  In that Vietnamese town, I’m not sure how many passers-by saw the pain this creature was experiencing, though I’m sure many people see him every day.  This got me thinking about the suicide of Robin Williams.  For many who suffer with depression, the pain is seldom visible.  What goes on within that person’s heart and mind, however, is much like the anguish of this bear:  feelings of isolation from others, disconnection, and hopelessness.  It’s a very powerless feeling for the person experiencing these feelings and for the people who love them.  Each of us either knows these feelings personally or currently has someone in our lives who is experiencing depression, whether we know it or not. 

In honor of someone you know, Robin Williams, or simply to practice compassion, see where you may be able to give a little love to someone whether you are aware of their pain or not.  It’s unlikely to garner as much attention as the ice bucket challenge, but if we all do our part, it can effect change both big and small.

What’s in a name?

I found myself asking this question recently as it came time to fill out a marriage license.  I always thought I would change my last name when I married.  Then I went online to fill out the application.  I felt a visceral resistance and observed my whole body tighten.  It took me a few days to process what I was feeling, but I slowly started to understand.

I always feel sheepish admitting this, but the greatest thing I wanted for my life was a husband and a family.  I graduated college and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted love and family.  It seemed like every move I made somehow had romance on the agenda- even if it was just the dream of it.  With each failed relationship, I devoured books on therapy and spirituality not yet realizing that my passion and desire was paving the way for my career and a relationship with myself.

By the time I reconnected with my now fiancé (alas, he was there all along), I still wanted a relationship and family, but the desire no longer existed so I could feel complete as a person.  I had spent years crying, kicking, and clawing my way to being comfortable as myself.  To marry then change my name suddenly felt antiquated and unnecessary.  And maybe it is.  But I knew it was important to my fiancé. 

He made clear that he wanted me to be happy first and foremost, but I also understood his reasons for wanting to share his name.  Call it being in love or call it being old fashioned, but I really wanted to make him happy and a part of me did want to share his name.  Yet, that resistance in my body would not let me type any other name but my own on the marriage application.  I felt so conflicted.

I needed to understand my own reasons for wanting to keep my name.  It wasn’t a feminist desire so much as a humanist desire.  I am who I am, I worked hard to be who I am, and that I turned my personal journey into a therapy practice that bears my name is very important to me.  Then I started to wonder, am I still who I am without my name?  The desire to keep my name was now conflicting with my desire to practice surrendering the attachment to it.

When we are attached to things, the thought of losing them can create fear, anger, grief, or contraction.  As I felt into letting go of my name, all these emotions came up.  Was a part of me dying?  Why should I have to change my name?  Why doesn’t he change his name?  I still want to be Italian!  I don’t want a new email with numbers!  As I let myself feel all these feelings, the contraction started to pass (this took several days).  And the truth was, nobody was forcing me to do anything.  My fiancé had left it in my hands and was at peace with whatever I decided. 

Whatever I decided, I knew it had to feel expansive and peaceful.  The emotions and thoughts that surfaced regarding keeping my name were ultimately based on the fear that on some level, I may no longer exist.  I would be someone’s wife, and all I had worked for in my 35 years prior would be for naught.  While these thoughts surfaced in my mind, they felt so untrue in my body.  They felt contracting.

What unfolded is that my desire for what feels expansive trumped everything.  What felt authentic and right for me was giving in to love, not fear.  The decision whether or not to change my name became about something greater than the issue of the name.  It was about remembering that who I am is eternal and choosing love over fear will always be the most expansive choice I can make.  Whether I change my name, my hair, my career or anything that does not truly define me, I will still be me.  As I learned my first year of high school when I met my future husband, “that which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”  So today, we went to the City Clerk’s office and I applied for a marriage license with my fiancé’s last name.  When I walked out, I was the same person that had walked in- me.

Sounds like my mantra…

awarness:

I want

good health

inner peace and happiness

to help others

to have joyful fun and easy relationships

to have great sex

simplicity.