by Emily Suzuki, MA, LAC
It’s only a matter of time, until each of us encounters moments in life that arrive with the experience of emotional, physical or spiritual pain. It’s daunting but true. Pain is a reality that we often avoid when things are good, and maybe even continue to avoid when things are hard.
The truth of pain can be difficult to accept. Pain is an experience we instinctively move away from. Our brains are wired to protect and seek safety. But pain is a fact of life, it’s a necessary part of the human condition.
However, suffering is something entirely different from pain. Buddhists point out that suffering is created in the space between what the reality of the situation is, and some imagined reality that we wish were the case instead. Though it is still real, and also very much a part of being human, we have agency around how we relate to suffering.
In a state of distress, we often ruminate on should’s and projections, rather than looking squarely at the truth of the situation in front of us. We pine over, long for and can weave together elaborate stories of what we want to be, or wished would be, but in doing so, we suffer because we haven’t fully accepted what really is.
Radical acceptance is the practice of meeting reality directly where it is. Without resistance or bargaining we open ourselves fully to the hard truths of the situation before us. It’s not a thing that happens once, but a practice that must be repeated over and over again. As things change, circumstances change, so must our acceptance of situations be continuous and evolving.
When we meet painful experiences with radical acceptance, we are moving from an embodied practice of compassion. Holding pain in mind, body and spirit is such a radically loving thing to do, that it can reduce the suffering we create, and soften the pain we feel.
Radical acceptance is much like the act of holding a small baby. The way a mother might hold her child, with a full heart for the good and the hard, and a love that is unconditional and all encompassing. Turning towards pain and suffering in radical acceptance, we can imagine that maternal love and compassion, and hold ourselves and others in that care.
Radical acceptance is a skill that when practiced can offer great relief from the pressure and discomfort of suffering. We may not always understand, want or approve of what it is we find ourselves faced with accepting, and that’s ok. Radical acceptance is the opposite of resistance or reactivity and can actually hold space for both the reality of what’s happening and the uncomfortable feelings that arise in light of it. It doesn’t mean we love it, like it, or get it, it simply means, we accept it. This radical practice is both simple and complex. Embodying acceptance in this way, gets directly to the core and essence of what is, and is a powerful skill to ease times of pain.
To learn more about radical acceptance check out this video from Kristine Aguilar, one of the clinicians in the practice. Read more about the clinicians in Ewing, New Jersey at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling. Call to schedule an appointment.
by Taryn Chase, LPC, LCADC
Shelter in Place Day 84...
2016 hours. That’s how long it has been since the state shut down all “non essential” business in the state of New jersey. Since March 21st, we have been confined to our homes and only allowed to access essential business such as the grocery store and the liquor store. Even now as I write this, we can only access these places while masked and keeping a distance between us. When you struggle with using alcohol or other substances, this takes on a whole new meaning. I have been working with people who have experienced negative consequences from their use for going on 8 years and one of the first things we talk about is building a sober support network and changing their peoples, places and things that they surround themselves with.
When this first began, I recall people hoarding and bulk shopping for items such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and alcohol. Since mid-march we have been bombarded with social media posts and TV ads encouraging “wake and bake”, “its 5’oclock somewhere”, “breakfast beer”, “day drinking” and other messages normalizing behaviors that for many would only be considered acceptable while on vacation and having no responsibilities. While there are many of us working from home for the last 2 months, we often find ourselves with extra time on our hands and feeling like we can be less formal and strict about certain boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now more than ever we need to focus more on setting boundaries for ourselves and maintaining that separation form home and work.
We no longer have the luxury of being able to go and connect with our support network as before. While we live in a digital age of connectivity and being able to talk with people halfway around the world, we struggle to connect with those who are close to us and feel more alone than ever. When struggling with problematic substance related behaviors, this is a barrier to getting help and getting clean. For so many the in person meetings with sponsors and weekly/daily meetings were their only supports and helped them to feel a sense of belonging and allowed for greater accountability.
Despite this need for physical distancing, we can create meaningful connections and networks for support over the internet. Most if not all the local mutual support and self help meetings have moved their meetings online and, from those who have gone to them, they have been a great way to ensure that they stay connected in their journey and recovery until they are able to meet in person again for that fellowship.
Therapy is a great tool in conjunction with meetings to help get perspective regarding the underlying events and feelings that impact and influence our use. It can be hard to talk about these feelings because of the guilt and shame and stigma that is associated with addiction and problematic use. When we are not used to talking about feelings or mental health it can feel foreign to reach out for help. We have a number of compassionate therapists who specialize in treatment of addiction. Read more about them here.
One of the skills we can use to combat these feelings is Tapping. This is a physical grounding technique that one can pair with positive self talk to help reduce these feelings. See this video for more details. Learn more about Mindful and Multicultural Counseling's approach to addiction treatment.
Just know that you are not alone. There is no shame in asking for help to heal.
Feel free to reach out to us and let us get you connected with one of our therapists to help you on your journey.
If you or some one you know is struggling with addiction, please call 18442762777 to speak with a care coordinator and get connected with a treatment provider close to you.
If you are looking for online meetings please visit www.helpaameetingfinder.org/online or virtual.na.org
Who do you want to be during COVID-19? Are you living your best life? Are you ready to reach out for help. Call us. We are located in Ewing, NJ and now doing telehealth (online) sessions.
by Marissa Mangual, LPC
Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Typically we see lots of images about "summer body" which can stir up feelings of shame or inadequacy especially after all these weeks of being in quarantine. I think about how we each have a different relationship to food. Some of us eat enough to nourish ourselves. Some of us have shame around food that we learned from our families, friends, media. Some of us have strict rules around what we can eat and when we can eat. Some of us use food to comfort ourselves when we are feeling sad, bored, lonely, angry, anxious. Some of us think we will feel better when we reach a certain size or body shape and have learned extreme ways to try and achieve that. We each can have periods where we eat too much or too little. Stress, isolation, lack of control, not feeling worthy can lead to disordered eating. Eating disorders are ultimately not about food but about our relationship to our feelings, the people around us, and willingness to be flexible and not always in control. Living through a pandemic can make us more vulnerable.
Another impact from quarantine is the disruption of effective coping skills. Some people developed coping skills that mainly involved socialization and not isolating. Some skills and distractions may have been going to bookstores, hanging out with friends and family, enjoying nature or hiking, seeing a movie, or perhaps going to a coffee shop. These are common and helpful coping skills for many. Those in early recovery may also be working on exposure by going into restaurants and ordering new foods. It can be challenging to adapt and learn unfamiliar coping skills when the ones that worked are temporarily unavailable. In turn, this may increase uncertainty and feeling out of control. However, you can still do this! There are resources available online and tips to help.
Many people with eating disorders also struggle with co-occurring disorders including substance use, depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or mood disorders. When someone attempts to manage ED behaviors they may have urges to use substances or engage in other harmful or ineffective behaviors as well. Trying to cope with various urges and uncomfortable emotions during social distancing could magnify symptoms of anxiety and depression. In turn, these symptoms could increase ED behaviors or lead to relapse. What is wonderful is most people’s access to technology and the various platforms for video chats. There are ways to stay connected and receive support and therapy through Telehealth (online) services. Thankfully, even insurance companies are making accommodations for providers and members to make it more accessible and easier at this time. Additionally, multiple support groups have become available online if you do not have a support network around you.
I have noticed an insurmountable amount of posts on instagram and social media about weight gain during quarantine. I feel that some people speak of this anxiety as if it is equal to the fear of infection itself. There has been an incredible amount of commentary and messages about “eating healthy” and “being more productive” to stay fit during this time. It is okay to have feelings about weight gain, feelings are always valid, but society as a whole puts incredible pressure and indirect shame for being stationary and putting on pounds for enjoying foods and eating more than one may typically eat. Most of these messages are under the veil of a joke. Shame and guilt can be driving forces to an eating disorder. For me, I have to limit and block some accounts to avoid seeing and internalizing these messages. I also spread awareness and follow accounts from ED dietitians, therapists, and other like-minded individuals. I suggest taking time away from social media or diet-culture accounts if you find it it influences you more negatively during this time.
As we continue to social distance and stay safe, I want to also remind everyone that it is OKAY not be okay right now. The world is experiencing a collective trauma that no one could have psychologically and emotionally prepared for. With that said, it does not mean you lack complete control. You may cope differently, experience more sadness and anxiety than usual, and struggle to stick to a regular meal plan. However, human beings are innately resilient and capable of adapting to even the most unpredictable circumstances.
Reach out for support
Be kind to yourself.
You can get through this.
We are here for you and your family. Learn more about how to contact us here and read more about eating disorders.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.