“There is nothing that harshness does, that loving firmness doesn’t do better.” –Terry Real

Despite my best intentions to be loving and kind, when I get scared, hurt, or activated, my reactions tend to become more forceful.

I raise my voice.
I get more intense.
I speak with more emphasis and vehemence.

Some part of me believes that I need to do these things to “break through” to someone else, to penetrate their denial, to dismantle their defenses. I feel a desire to break down their walls.

Unfortunately, these harsh and forceful strategies simply create more hurt, more distrust, and more disconnection. They entrench our conflicts, increase our pain, and lead to increased distance…

Can venting ever be “productive”?
Is it ok sometimes to just “wallow” in our feelings?

Yes, of course.

As many of you who’ve worked with me for a while already know: I believe that there is a time and a place for everything. Everything fits somewhere, sometime, somehow.

We can relate to wallowing and venting with compassion, consciousness, and clear intentions, recognizing them as temporary aspects of a developmental journey, or we can find ourselves stuck in unconscious, repeating patterns that ultimately do more harm than good.

What makes the difference?

First, let’s recognize and name some of the negative…

My daughter graduates from high school in six weeks.

Even as I type this sentence, I find myself pausing to let that sink in fully.

Conflicted feelings flood my awareness: sadness, delight, loss, excitement, fear, and deep, deep love. It’s a complicated moment for me.

Looking Back

Like many parents, I found myself reliving my own childhood memories as she grew up.

I wanted to change the shame, blame, and domination-based parenting practices that I found painful as a child so that she didn’t have to suffer in those ways, and I also wanted to bring forward the creative, empathic, and relational…

Our very existence is relational.
What we do to each other, we are doing to ourselves.
Everyone we meet and whatever we experience is mirroring something back to ourselves, about ourselves.

In the same vein, every relational dynamic is co-created. One of the most frequently asked questions that comes up in the therapy and coaching work I do each week is some version of this question:

“Who’s fault is this? Who was to blame for the conflict we had? Who started the fight and who therefore needs to fix it? Is this my work or their work to do?”


Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

— Maya Angelou

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

— Anaïs Nin

As I sit down this week to write about courage, I find myself reflecting on the places in me that seem to be infused with fear and ambivalence.

Like the conversation I know I need to have but am afraid to initiate.
Like those things I need to say, but the words just get stuck in my throat. …

“It is the ability to choose which makes us human.” –Madeleine L’Engle

I used to experience life like a puppet on a string: controlled by elusive, invisible ties to external circumstances and input.

For example, if someone — especially an authority figure in my life — criticized something that I did, I’d descend into shame and defensiveness. Or if someone paid me a compliment, my mood would instantly lift and I’d be walking on air for a while.

Hear some praise? Yay! I’d feel good.
Hear some criticism? UGH. I’d feel bad.

My feelings, my mood, my internal state were…

Photo by Yerlin Matu on Unsplash

One of the places I’m most likely to stall out in my own personal growth and development is where I get disabled by self-judgments.

I have a pretty harsh inner critic.
She has high standards, very little patience, and a scornful tone of voice.

I can’t believe you just did that — what’s wrong with you?…
You have no integrity; you’re such a hypocrite…
That wasn’t just a mistake, that was a colossal mistake and you’ll never recover…
You see, I always knew you were an imposter and a fake…

The moment she takes over, I get flooded with shame…

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Last week, we explored some core commitments that I return to regularly in my search for a more empowered and openhearted life.

This week, let’s take a deeper dive into the first one: consciousness.

Defining Consciousness

I am using the word “consciousness” to refer to the quality or state of being aware, especially being aware of the things arising inside of ourselves.

When I’m talking about becoming more conscious, I’m referring to cultivating a present-moment awareness of the various sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, needs, motivations, feelings, and patterns that are present within.

This kind of awareness helps us make contact with experiences…

Have you slowed down to wonder recently about what truly motivates your life?

Deep down, when you get in touch with your deepest motivations, do you know what they are?

I often find myself in conversations with people who are motivated to avoid pain, avoid suffering, avoid hurting someone’s feelings, avoid being judged, avoid rocking the boat. You see the theme, right?

And I know that internal place all too well myself. It’s where I self-silence and camouflage myself to be more palatable to others, where I avoid conflicts by keeping quiet, where I maintain the illusion of peace and…

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Our emotions bring us a tremendous amount of passion and power.

They give us invaluable information about our underlying universal human needs and are a source of vitality, aliveness, and connection for ourselves and others. Embracing the fullest range of our emotional experiences on a moment-to-moment basis — without numbing out or acting out — is energizing and enlivening.

However, many of us grew up in cultures in which we were taught not to trust our emotions or our emotional experiences. We were taught to see emotions as problematic — especially the unpleasant ones. Some of us were taught that…

Yvette Erasmus PsyD

Writer, speaker, psychologist, and consultant offering practical tools and insights for conscious, compassionate, courageous living. Based in Minneapolis, MN.

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