Will the Real Introvert Please Stand Up?

Posted by on Aug 25, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

For a period of time in our relationship, my friend and I experienced an ongoing miscommunication when I described myself as an introvert. The first clue I had that we were not on the same page was her reticence. I would refer to myself as an introvert, and she would just listen, saying nothing. Then, one day, she laughed a little and gently said, “Yeah, go ahead and keep telling yourself that!” When I asked what she meant, the truth came out: in her eyes, there was no way I could be an introvert. She knows I speak to large groups, have close friends, and can talk at length on a variety of subjects. This was incongruous with everything she had learned introverts were. In her mind, these were people who kept to themselves, had difficulty making friends, and liked to be very, very quiet. I, too, had held those beliefs until a trusted colleague and fellow introvert shared a different definition with me several years ago. She explained that being an introvert means that a person energetically refuels by spending time on his or her own. Conversely, extroverts find that they get energy from spending time around lots of people. Introverts may or may not be quiet. They are fully capable of creating deep, meaningful relationships with others. In fact, introverts often love to engage in long and lively conversations with their close friends. Having that information rocked my world. This made sense to me and clarified for me why, after attending the same party, some of my friends are ready to head off to another party while I am ready for a long nap. It took me a while, though, to realize that my wise friend had never heard this definition either, and despite my explanations and examples, it was her daughter–also an introvert–who finally explained it to my friend in way that she could relate. This new understanding of what being an introvert meant rocked my friend’s world as well. She recognized that she, too, is a classic introvert. She is also one of the most social and outgoing people I know. Yet, when she is done with an event, she needs a significant amount of quiet time to refuel her jets. She loves going for quiet walks and spending time on her own. “This makes so much sense,” she said. “For most of my life, I thought there was something wrong with me because I’d get so tired and worn out after being around lots of people. Now I realize I’m an introvert. Understanding how I operate helps me honor my need for down time, especially after big social events.” Until we find a new...

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Meditation: Easier Than You Think

Posted by on Aug 18, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I awaken to the quiet alarm of my sports watch on the night stand. With eyes still half-closed, I sit up in bed, propping my pillows behind my lower back for support. I light the match and hold the big beeswax candle at an angle where the flame meets the wick. I have been doing this routine without event for years now, yet as I extinguish the match I still extend a brief prayer of gratitude that, in my sleepy state, the flame has made it safely to the candle yet again. Then I begin. I close my eyes and inhale. Many mornings, I sit there simply breathing in and out before I remember that my intention is meditation. On those mornings, my mind roams freely about, jumping from topic to topic, leaping and falling like a newborn fawn in a field of tall grass. At some point, before my louder alarm clock sounds, I remember why I am sitting upright, with a candle burning, and my eyes closed. These are the minutes I invest in myself before anyone in the house knows I am awake. I am meditating. Clients often tell me they are open to the idea of meditating and are willing to try something known to reduce anxiety while increasing the ability to focus and feel present in different situations. Clients also tell me that they are not sure how to meditate or that they have tried meditating before and felt unsuccessful. There are books, classes, and numerous online resources I can recommend to those who want to learn more about meditation. Yet I often reference my own personal practice first because of its simplicity. 1) I meditate at the same time every day, rain or shine, tired or not. I light my candle before my feet touch the floor and often meditate even before making a trip to the bathroom if I think there is a chance I will bump into family members along the way. 2) I consider myself to be ‘successful’ at meditating if I show up. I understand that the purpose of meditation is to quiet one’s mind and to refocus the brain each time a thought enters. Yet, if I sit up, light my candle, and sit still for five minutes, I count this as meditation. If my mind leaps all over the place the entire time, I note this, and still feel comfortable in saying that I have meditated that morning. 3) I use visualization. The person who first taught me about meditation suggested I focus on my breath, counting each inhalation and exhalation. I needed a visual to work with though, so I modified the suggestion a little. As...

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Unsafe or Just Uncharted Territory: How Do You Know the Difference?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 0 comments

In last week’s blog, I shared the radical request I made of my daughter. Today’s posting is the second part of that conversation. “Can you tell the difference between the two?” I asked my daughter. “Can you feel the difference between when a situation or person is not safe and when your brain or body perceives a situation as threatening because it is different, new, or undefined?” “Yes, definitely,” she answered right away. “In the first situation, it’s a real person or something that is actually happening. In the second situation it is something that is…” She paused. “Hypothetical?” I offered. “And because you don’t really know what is involved, it feels scary?” “Exactly.” In some ways, my daughter’s finely tuned alarm system is a blessing. She is well-connected to her intuition, and can read people and situations well. We share this trait, and discuss what it feels like to navigate our environments, listening to our intuition. While others often need to wait until something tangible or provable happens, we know the moment we meet a person or enter a situation if it feels unsafe and we know to keep our distance or get the heck out. Being able to read when a person or situation is not safe is a gift I want my daughters to nurture and embrace, not minimize or ignore. Yet, I have also seen my daughter respond in fear or defensiveness to irrational perceptions that are not based in reality. The gifted occupational therapist (OT) that worked with our family for several years explained to us that sometimes, after we have a negative experience with something, our brain creates pathways that anticipate and fear having additional negative experiences in a variety of new, generalized situations. For example, when my daughter was much younger, she had very real, negative experiences wearing different textures of fabric and styles of clothing. Her sensory system, at that time, was not able to cope with how zippers, elastic, tags, or tight-fitting clothing felt on her body. The OT helped us understand that when my daughter looked a new piece of clothing, her brain reacted from a fearful and defensive place based on all of her previous sensory experiences. Over time, and with great patience, they worked together to improve my daughter’s physiological ability to integrate different sensory information. They also worked extensively to identify “fear vs. reality” in new situations. When the “No Way!” response came up for an article of clothing, they developed ways for my daughter to stay in the conversation long enough to identify what, specifically, her body was perceiving in that moment. Was this sweater we are looking at now (not all the ones your...

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The Radical Request I Made of My Daughter

Posted by on Aug 4, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 1 comment

I clicked on the link of Susan Werner’s YouTube video, “Hazy Winter,” and went back to cooking my fish. I listened to the piano introduction, intrigued when the deep voice of a cello entered and the tempo changed. “Time, time, time,” Susan began to sing. I put down the spatula to take a closer look at the screen. This was Susan Werner? How had I never heard this woman’s voice before? If her voice were a food, it would be chocolate mousse. Sweet, rich, firm, decadent. I emailed my response to the invitation I received. “Yes, yes, yes,” I typed. “I look forward to going to this concert with you! Grateful that it is only a few weeks away!” I looked at my daughter. An hour ago, I had shared an offer someone had made for her benefit and growth. She had shaken her head and politely told me no before knowing any of the details. “Sweets, I want to make a radical request of you. Are you up for that?” “Uh, sure, I guess,” she said, with a half-smile that let me know it was okay to continue. “Here’s the deal. I don’t mind, when you are talking with me, if you answer, “No way!” before you know what I’m talking about. Okay, maybe I mind a little, but it’s okay. I know your body has a finely tuned, really sensitive alarm system. It works overtime to keep you safe. When you say, “No way!” before you know much about a situation, I know it’s your brain and body working really hard to keep you safe. My radical request isn’t about that. “My radical request is about when you leave these four walls, or the comfort of our car, and are hanging out with people who are not your dad or me. When you are in those situations and you are presented with new information that makes your brain say, ‘NO WAY!’ I would like to request that what actually comes out of your mouth is, ‘Hmmm….let me think about that.'” She was still in the conversation, taking in everything. “You know that song I just played? When I first received the invitation to go hear that woman sing in a few weeks, my own safety system sent up several versions of ‘No way’: ‘The tickets are expensive; I’ve never heard of this woman before; I don’t know if I’m free that night; Do I know and like the other people who are going?’ Yet, because I know how my alarm system works, I just answered, ‘Let me check my schedule and think about that.’ “Now that I’ve heard the YouTube clip, my whole perspective has changed. The...

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