Step 8 How to Stop Your Mind from Racing: Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19


 

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Step 8: Learned self-forgiveness and made amends to our inner child.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

A racing mind can make you feel like junk. It robs you of your self-efficacy by interfering with your abilities—not only to think helpful thoughts, but also to make positive changes in your life, in the lives of those you care about, and in the lives of those you may be serving if you’re any type of essential worker. 

God doesn’t make junk …

Author Unknown

Because I’m a mental health care professional, I’ve signed up to offer free mental health services to health care workers in New York City. But I, like others, haven’t received calls. The reason offered by experts who deliver trauma treatment to frontline workers is that people are afraid to stop, fearing that they will crash if they do. Why? Because they can’t turn off their minds, which are racing. They can’t forgive themselves for not “being enough” to stop the horror they fear, the horror they see. They can’t stop their minds from racing, and they can’t forgive themselves for only being human.

Self-Defeating in More Ways than One

Mind racing is a type of obsessive thinking that makes us miserable, makes us doubt ourselves, and can make us feel crazy. It tells us we have to consider every option: If this, then that; If that, then … 

This obsessive thinking happens at warp speed, all the time, all with no off button. The result is that many sufferers cannot turn off their minds during their day or when they’re trying to rest and sleep.

There are many causes of this repetitive, obsessive thought pattern that is a symptom of anxiety and trauma. But in life today, where almost everyone is being affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, anxiety has become a norm, a common response felt even by those who don’t have a previous history of anxiety. 

The reason for this anxiety-driven mind racing is enormous uncertainty. If you are anxious, you have lots of company. 

More than Anxiety

But all this internal energy doesn’t produce a positive result. Instead, we pay an enormous price for mind racing, becoming not only anxious, but also watchful, dreading what will next transpire and potentially harm those we care about. In this way, mind racing also makes us responsible for others in a way that sets us up for failure as we take on too much responsibility or something over which we have almost no control. 

Codependency

Codependency is a type of learned helplessness where our energy is consumed by the needs of another while we simultaneously lose sight of what we need to do to keep ourselves going. Mind racing is a byproduct of codependency, which intensifies our need to do something. 

What mind racing results in is feeling worthless, feeling like junk; and to compensate for this we try to connect to others by being responsible for them. But the more we try to be responsible for another, the less successful we can actually be. Mind racing not only puts us in the center of the lives we interact with, but also makes us responsible by pressuring us to see, to anticipate, to fix all that we see—or fear—happening. 

Less Intimacy

Mind racing actually creates the opposite of the intimacy we want to create; rather, it creates a distance between ourselves and others. By filling us with the needs of others and making their well-being dependent upon our actions, we take away from ourselves. 

Less Self-Acceptance

Mind racing interferes with our acceptance of ourselves because it puts us in the center of situations where we eventually feel out of control. Further, it takes away our ability to rectify this by draining the energy we need to separate and gain some perspective—all under the guise of caring for another. 

We may tell ourselves “But it’s my job.” But despite their most dedicated efforts, even doctors on the front line cannot always produce the results they desperately want. The mind racing that results is not helpful to the doctor or to their patient.

Most of us are not doctors, but we do have people in our lives who we are desperately trying to keep safe. Diverting the self-care and attention we need to someone else who may not even want this gift of our intense involvement (or appreciate the sacrifice we are making) can make us feel incompetent, worthless, or even like a victim. This is, of course, magnified if we are, or were, quarantined with this person.

What to do? Here is the paradox. If your mind is racing, you need that to stop, but it not as easy as saying no because your mind is an agile beast that will go on to another dark thought. As someone shared with me, “It’s like taking a trip that you always know will lead to the same awful place, but you do it anyway, like you can’t stop.”

Self-Parenting

If your mind is racing, the struggle to stop your runaway thoughts often feels impossible. The result is often the conclusion that I’m worthless because I can’t [fill in the blank]. As a result, you feel overwhelmed, and you resort to the defenses you had a child, in effect putting your inner child in charge of life (Step 4). 

But you can make amends to your inner child by putting your adult in charge of how you deal with the stress that confronts you on a daily basis. 

Self-parenting is about learning to do self-care. Begin now by trying some rescue techniques.

Rescue Techniques

One of the keys to stopping mind racing is to give your mind something else to think about. The following are four possibilities to get you started.

Immediate Rescues: 

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Saying the Serenity Prayer is a common destressing technique used by those in any of the recovery programs. It is not unusual for those who are in pain to say it repeatedly. I offer it to those of you not in recovery as a proven technique to break through unhelpful thoughts.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is frequently spoken about but can seem esoteric for many. Mindfulness is actually quite simple. It is placing your attention within your body. For example, as you wash your hands for the suggested twenty seconds, your attention could be on the feel of the bubbles sliding across your skin, the warmth of the water, the gentle friction you feel as you slide your hands against each other. Twenty seconds of relaxation—and freedom from mind racing—while those possible COVID-19 viruses slide down the drain; a double win!

Grounding Yourself

My grandmother was an immigrant who, despite speaking little English, was able to communicate with those English speakers who surrounded her. Not surprisingly, one of the ways she so effectively communicated was to understand what to do to help others who were overcome with emotion. 

I remember that she would pull out her little package of smelling salts, break open an ampule, and quickly put it under the nose of someone who was overcome with emotion. I saw this most frequently at funerals (which at that time were days long), but I also witnessed her power during other heartbreaking moments when family members were overcome with grief, terror, panic, even rage. It was almost magical to see someone suddenly emerge from whatever horrid place they had just descended into. What my grandmother didn’t know was that she was inspiring me to learn to take care of myself and others by introducing me to a very basic technique of caring for those who are in a traumatic recall. 

You don’t have to source smelling salts to use this technique. I am sure you have other strong scents in your home right now that can help pull you back into the present when your anxiety, fear, even rage take you back to a scary place. 

Planned Rescues for Creating Intimacy

Though they take some planning on your part, planned rescues are a good investment of your time and energy, and they can even be fun because they invite you to do some things that feel outlandish and can prove to be productive, as you’ll see. 

Silently Zooming Away 

Being quarantined at home can have a disquieting effect on our brains, and those of us prone to worry tend to worry more because of the often-intense quiet and fewer distractions. Add in the lack the comfort we derive from being with other humans, and bingo—our minds start to race. So why not schedule a silent Zoom meeting with coworkers, family, and even friends?

Sound crazy? I promise you that it’s no crazier than other things that living with COVID-19 has forced us to do. 

Try the following:

  • Coworkers: Schedule a time where you will work together in silence; plan a debriefing for a later time. Silently Zooming is a way to help get you back on track with projects that have been looming by creating a discrete time to do the work through accountability as you Zoom with others who are similarly challenged.
  • Friends
    • Use the time to read. This is great jumpstart for book clubs that are struggling with how to meet, as mine is. 
  • Or use the time to write. I’m working on a murder mystery and have found it difficult during this pandemic, but scheduling a quiet time with others on Zoom, I realized, can give both my writing group and me the time to do what we regularly did, which was to use time together to write first, critique later. 
  • Or use the time for recovery work. Quiet Zoom time can also afford you an opportunity to do personal step recovery work with others in your program.
  • Family:
  • Have dinner with your family on zoom. Create a shared menu, set the time, set the table. Eat, speak, enjoy.

Exercises for Today

  • Set up that silent Zoom call.
  • Think about setting up a physical medicine chest. 
    • Make an inventory of what you have in your home now that has a strong odor:
      • orange or lemon peels
      • coffee grounds
      • heavily scented lotion
      • cinnamon sticks
      • cloves

I recommend staying away from household cleaning products with strong smells because a very little of these goes a very long way, and some can even be toxic. 

The next time you find your mind racing, you will be able to:

  • take a small whiff from one of the scents in your personal medicine cabinet,
  • then take a deep breath, 
  • ease the tension from whatever part in your body you are feeling it, and
  • repeat as needed.

Make a note in your journal about how this works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the eighth of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. More tips will be available in my new ebook (to be published later this summer), and are available on my blog, The Powerful Woman.net, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com.

Step 6- Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19: Overcoming Perfectionism by Becoming Perfectly Imperfect

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Step 6: Became ready to change by giving up the demand to be perfect 

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

When you read that we’re going to tackle your perfectionism, do you hear a voice say, WOWSA, I’ve been waiting for this? Or is there a tiny groan bubbling up that you fear may get caught in your throat and choke you?

The Promise of Perfectionism

Our social isolation is causing us to spend lots of time in our own heads. Even if we are isolating with family, being distracted by work, being humbled by trying to homeschool our kids at the same time, our minds are often our only escape. Unfortunately, what we’re finding here is not pretty. One of the most common and least helpful of these beliefs is the need to be perfect.

In writing about this step, I confronted my own need for perfectionism as an inner Ghost from Crises Past reared her head. What is interesting is that when I worked on perfectionism for my first book on self-parenting, this was my favorite step. Perfectionism! I rejoiced. Yes, I wasn’t paying attention to how much of an issue this continued to be—until now, that is. In revisiting my early work as I reconceived these steps and adjusted the message for our current global crisis, I found myself struggling again with the demand to be perfect—not only for myself, but also for you, my readers. 

We are all receiving numerous messages about how to perfectly isolate socially, how to perfectly work at home while homeschooling our children, how to perfectly stay connected to children we cannot hold and to loved ones we cannot kiss. Our demand to be perfect is again incapacitating our need to be human, just as it did for many of us as children. 

Perfectionism: The Golden Ring

Perfectionism is the ultimate golden ring. We feel if we can just be perfect, all of our problems will be solved, including the stress brought on by COVID-19. All problems. One answer. Sound crazy? So is our belief that we can be perfect.

Believing in perfection borders on the type of magical thinking found in young children, where they either believe they are to blame for everything that happens around them, or that they have superhuman powers and can tame dragons. 

In adult women, perfectionism sounds like this: If only I were thin enough, I’d be beautiful, which I’ve labeled as a toxic girly thought in my books. Then he’d be happy to be quarantined with me alone for six to twelve weeks is another. In men, this desire for perfectionism can come out as berating yourself for being frightened when you hear of a coworker becoming ill, as screaming at yourself to Man up, and stop being a baby when you find tears welling in your eyes as you binge on Netflix. Meanwhile, if you’re a parent, you’re juggling to keep all the balls of your life from hitting the ground—keeping your children housed and fed and educated, staying positively connected to your partner, who is having their own struggles, all without sweating, without showing too much stress, all while staying optimistic. 

Why are we doing this to ourselves? 

Perfectionism = Self-Protection

Perfectionism is driven by feeling the need to control everything to protect those you love. If you grew up in a home with numerous problems, your magical thinking probably made you both the cause of the problem (you walked in front of the TV, causing your father to yell at your mother), and the only solution (you, and only you, were to take perfect care of your mother so that she couldn’t be hurt). 

Perfectionism and control may have become part of your identify, how your inner child understood the world. But you’re not a child now. While you can literally hold this part of you (Step 5), you do not need to have your inner child make the adult decisions facing you today.

Being Perfectly Imperfect

How about allowing yourself to acknowledge how complex life is now, redefining in the process what perfectionism really means. What if perfectionism means learning how to accept and care for yourself? What if a gift you can give to those you are quarantined with—your partner, children, those you Facetime and Zoom with—is modeling this heightened awareness of self-care? What if it became acceptable to use this time to grow your own resilience, using your discomfort to gain new skills? What if you stopped trying to live according to some artificial standard? What would happen if you embraced being perfectly imperfect?

Begin with Your Personal Safety Plan 

Why introduce a safety plan now? Because if you are going to challenge this important central organizing principle, then you need to know that you can both change and be safe. 

I always recommend that a safety plan should begin with noticing and recording in writing which parts of your body speak to you when you are tense and are alerting you to take certain actions. I’ll guide you in fleshing this out in the following steps, providing self-care strategies you’ll want to consider, but for now let’s begin by doing a body scan. 

Ask yourself where you are feeling tense right now.

  • Is there tension in your head? Neck?
  • Is your chest tight? 
  • Are your hands clammy? 
  • Is your stomach tight or queasy? 
  • Are your legs bouncing?
  • Are you suddenly sweating, or cold? 

There are many ways our bodies speaks to us; the trick is to listen, because if you listen to your body, your body won’t need to keep trying to get your attention, which is what causes you to react and do or say things you can’t take back. 

Exercise for Today

Begin your own Personal Safety Plan by writing out your body scan. Do this daily. It’s quick and should take less than a minute.

  • Settle yourself: in a chair, while standing as you’re cooking, as you gaze at the computer, while you are trying to figure out how to help your child do the new math.
  • Close your eyes, gently, as you take one deep breath in to the count of four.
  • Notice where you are holding tension.
  • Breathe out to the count of seven.
  • Take another deep breath, sending this intentional breath to the area of your body that is tense.  
  • Hold for a count of three.
  • Breathe out to the count of seven
  • Notice how you feel.
  • Repeat if necessary. 

Make a note in your journal about how this works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the sixth of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. More tips will be available in my soon-to-be-published ebook, and are available on my blog, The Powerful Woman.net, and in my current books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com.

Step 5: Letting Go of Shame – Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19

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Step 5: Learned to share our self-parenting challenges with others without self-recrimination or shame.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Shame is a burn that eats you from the inside. Shame makes you feel helpless while it devours you. For many, shame is an old feeling, a feeling brought into the present by their feelings and responses to COVID-19. 

The Yellow Rubber Glove

I’m the clinical facilitator of a therapeutic improv group for veterans who have both addiction and PTSD, and who live in a long-term residential treatment facility where I consult. In this age of COVID-19 we are conducting our improv group via Zoom, which provides my vets with a window into my home where they met my new dog, a five-year-old rescue. 

Last week she decided to make an appearance during our pre-group chat. She jumped up on her hind legs and began to tap my chest with her slender paws, kissing my face. I beamed, scratched her behind her ears, she panted. Love. My vets smiled but were curious. They have a house therapy dog and some even have their own personal therapy dogs. They knew I didn’t have a dog, until now. 

“Is she new?” they asked, almost in unison. 

“Yes” I answered, “part of my self-care,” offering that she was no substitute for my being with them in person; they laughed. 

“Her coming to me this morning was a major step as she had avoided me most of yesterday, I added. The vets on the call were quiet, all eyes on me. 

Now that I really had their attention, I decided to use this moment to reinforce some of the clinical work we had been doing. I shared that she had a medical condition that needed care. The day before, as I was about to treat her, she literally freaked out. I wondered if her panic was due to seeing a yellow rubber glove and associating this glove with my touching the painful  part of her body she was protecting. Her eyes fixed on this glove; she froze, then ran. 

“I think seeing the yellow rubber glove was a trauma trigger for her.” I added, “But I’m not sure, just like when you are triggered, you’re not always sure what it was that prompted the fear you felt.” 

Shame Is Re-traumatizing

Our past does intrude upon the present, whether it was yesterday or thirty years ago. During times of intense stress, which currently we are all experiencing, it is important to remind yourself that part of what you are feeling, thinking, even experiencing, now, can be the result of past experiences, yes, just like for my dog. Our brains are all wired to detect threats and to immediately react to protect ourselves whether the threat has just occurred and is in front of us or is part of our past brought into the present by our inner alarm signaling danger.  

Everyone in this, our new normal, is making real life-and-death decisions due to COVID-19, providing a ripe environment to re-experience old wounds. So, if you grew up in a home where you felt little support and concluded you had to go it alone, your compulsive self-reliance (Step 3) is now being pushed into high gear, triggering memories of the past where you fought against being overwhelmed. Socially isolating may be re-traumatizing you now in the present by triggering the feelings of panic you had as a child when perhaps you had to hide to be safe.

What fuels your re-traumatization is the use of old coping mechanisms, such as again blaming yourself, calling yourself weak, seeing yourself as somehow deficient, calling yourself stupid, just as you did as a child. The result is feeling shame. Shame is self-blame and self-punishment. Shame is being the problem instead of dealing with it. These feelings of shame are much more challenging than what my dog was experiencing, which was fear and avoidance. 

Don’t you deserve better?

Healing Moments

As painful as it is to relive old traumas, doing so represents an opening to grow. 

In these painful moments when the past is felt in the present, there is an opportunity to have a healing moment. Yes, in pain there can be a gift. 

You can use these moments where your inner child is speaking to you, sharing with you what life was like for you then, to understand and release yourself from part of the pain of your past.  Instead of feeling ashamed for the child who you were, you can grow in compassion for your adult self. So if you wet the bed as a child, realize that this may have been less frightening than getting out of bed to go to the bathroom and facing what was happening in your family during the middle of the night; that decision makes wetting the bed a smart choice. If you ate to soothe the panic you felt, realize that this may have been a better choice than asking for comfort from a parent who couldn’t give it.

Rather than berating yourself for being a child when you were a child, you can use these moments of remembrance to examine how you protected yourself then. Using this lens, you can notice how you are currently protecting yourself, asking yourself what is working, what is not working, (Step 4), and freeing yourself from the burden of shame so you can build new ways to take care of yourself today. 

Exercise for Today 

You can begin by recognizing your need for reassurance, and giving yourself hope and self-love, now, instead of feeling shameful for being needy! 

First, begin by parsing out your feelings. Tell yourself: that was then, this is now. This will decrease the intensity of what you are feeling now by focusing your emotions on what is in the present, instead of layering it with what emotional memories pulled up from the past.

Next, do one of my favorite things to do in painful moments like this: give yourself a one-armed hug while you tell yourself It will be OK. I love to do this because it is private, it’s just me and me, and it’s normal; everyone touches themselves, except now for our faces (which I’m still working on learning). And simple action works because it is comforting and reassuring. 

If you want to really do self-care, also say That was then, this is now. Now I am an adult who can take care of myself. (By the way, this works well to do in public, not that we’re in public much, but at some point, we all will be.) 

When you are alone, you can also enhance this process of reducing your shame by grabbing a pillow, hugging it, naming this pain of the past, allowing yourself to have this as a past memory. But don’t stop there. Use this remembrance as a springboard to be sweet to yourself as you reassure yourself that yes, this happened, and you survived it, by taking care of yourself, even though you were a child. Giving yourself recognition for your accomplishments helps to reduce your shame! 

Make a note in your journal about how this works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. And, I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the fifth of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. More tips are available on my blog, The Powerful Woman.net, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com.

Step 3: Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19 We Can Learn to Reach Out

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Step 3: Learned to let go of compulsive self-reliance by reaching out to our higher parent.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

For some of us, the messages of the COVID-19 precautions are reinforcing a painful message from our childhood that you must do it all by yourself. Compulsive self-reliance—feeling that you must be self-sufficient no matter the cost, and trusting only yourself—may be rearing its head, again in this time of world crisis.

Compulsive Self-Reliance

As you hear the directives to socially distance, wear a mask, not leave your home, part of you may be saying, I’m good, I’ve prepared my whole life for this. I can handle this. There’s truth in this. You may know well how to function in a crisis—how to shut down your emotions, stop needing, become a group of only one, focus on enduring, and achieve some measure of safety. This is a skill you have, one that you can’t—and shouldn’t—deny. You know you are a survivor. Good. 

But self-reliance tells only part of who you are. You are also a human and a member of a species that yearns for connection. And as skilled as you may be in handling a crisis, sustaining yourself alone in a crisis is another issue. So who can you turn to now that you are isolated? You can begin by reconnecting to your higher parent.

Reaching Out to Your Higher Parent 

Your higher parent is that force beyond you that can give you comfort. Think of your higher parent as your personal spiritual first responder. This may be nature, as in Mother Nature, or perhaps you follow an organized religion and a belief in Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed. Perhaps your higher parent is the energy you feel in your recovery group. Connecting with your higher parent can help you not just get through this period, but also find ways of being okay with the circumstances in which you find yourself. 

Giving Your Suffering Meaning 

I remember being a young girl growing up in New York City, surprised by the random dandelions I would find growing in cement cracks in dark alleyways. They may have grown crooked, but they reached for the light, and they grew as yellow and perky as those that grew in the parks. Just like those dandelions, you can grow and thrive despite your own challenging circumstances. You don’t have to just endure. 

By not just gritting through this and facing it alone, but by reflecting on the positive meaning this can have for you, you can grow now, just as you have done in the past during other very difficult periods. 

One way to do this is to open yourself to learning the spiritual lessons contained in this, yet another painful experience in your life; and by doing so you give your suffering meaning. What can you learn from the isolation, the break in routine, the loneliness, from being cut off from what was productive and meaningful in your life? How can you give meaning to this pain that is real, and to which you may not see an end? 

Hard Pain, Soft Pain

There are two types of pain:

Hard pain, the pain of resistance, the pain we feel when we fight our truth. This is the pain of fear. Hard pain builds a wall around us, making us bitter. We express hard pain through anger.

Soft pain is the pain of healing. This is the pain of mourning and acceptance. Soft pain frees us from the sorrow of our past so we can move forward to face the challenges of today. Soft pain releases our energy and our love. Some Native American groups feel that the highest form of prayer is to shed tears, which we do in accepting and expressing our soft pain. 

Exercise for Today:

  • You are in pain. Decide how you want to handle it. Do you want to soften your pain? What can you begin now to do this? Would reaching out to your higher parent help? 
  • Give your suffering meaning. What positive takeaways from your pain can you make now? 

Add this practice to your gratitude list.

Make a note in your journal about what works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the third of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. I invite you to subscribe to receive updates to this blog—look for future series where I apply my existing work to dealing with the specifics of COVID-19 for those involved in or interested in aspects of recovery—a parenting series based on The Lowdown on Families Who Get High, then one for those dealing with trauma based on Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, followed by (of course) more on resiliency and girly thoughts. 

More tips are available on my blog, The Powerful Woman.net, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com.

Step 2: Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19 We Are Never Really Alone

Step 2: Found hope in the belief that recovery is possible through faith and an acceptance of the fact that we are never really alone. 

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Spring, the season celebrated in early religions as a time of renewal and fertility has arrived. More recently, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is viewed as a time of spiritual connection. We have entered what is the holiest of times for the Judeo-Christian religions, a time for reflection on past struggles and for looking ahead to the challenges that await us. On this, the eve of both Passover (when we celebrate the liberation of the Jews from slavery) and Holy Thursday (celebrating the last time Jesus was with his disciples), we commemorate the importance of unity and fellowship in times of hardship. 

As we collectively struggle with COVID-19, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Whether you are living by yourself in a studio apartment in Manhattan or feeling isolated and alienated living with your partner and children in Kansas, or living in a sober house in Florida, there is community available to you with others in recovery and with others in your faith practice. There is also connection through you to the divine, however you understand and celebrate this concept, through what we have named in The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children as your higher parent

The second step in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) makes the importance of a connection to your spiritual side clear: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Here, AA is stating clearly the need for the cultivation of a spiritual belief as key to mental health. During the COVID-19 crisis, reminding ourselves of our human need for a spiritual connection is important not only to survive this stress but also to find a way of thriving in the face of the challenges our fear poses.  

Sometimes people are confused by the idea that there is just one face to the divine. As we look around this world, we see that the divine actually has many faces. As we look, we see not just Jesus, Yahweh, and Mohammed, but also the faces of the many Hindu gods, from Kali to Ganesh, the numerous aspects of the Buddha, and in the beliefs of the Navajo people in the Changing Woman, the Holy Being. 

Others feel the divine through their connection to nature: feeling surrounded by the air, being immersed in water or snow, witnessing the life force through seeing trees budding and the tender shoots of flowers emerging through the snow, hearing bird songs, seeing evidence of bears leaving their dens. Whatever your belief system is, it is important to cultivate this part of yourself so you feel supported, particularly in this time of struggle. So you know you are not alone. 

Exercise for Today: 

Make a commitment to participate in at least one spiritual practice a day. This can take just a few moments or can be something more engrossing. What is important is that you not forget to nurture this part of who you are that reinforces your connectedness to something beyond your mortal being.

Whether you choose to

  • say a prayer,
  • talk to your higher parent,
  • read a religious text,
  • go for a walk and be in nature, or
  • meditate,

know that you are not alone in your struggle to confront and grow through the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Add this practice to your gratitude list.

Make a note in your journal about what works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the second of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. I invite you to subscribe to receive updates to this blog—look for future series where I apply my existing work to dealing with the specifics of COVID-19 for those involved in or interested in aspects of recovery—a parenting series based on The Lowdown on Families Who Get High, then one for those dealing with trauma based on Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, followed by (of course) more on resiliency and girly thoughts. 

May the force be with you!

More tips are available on my blog, The Powerful Woman.net, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com.

Step 1: Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19 Admitted Our Powerlessness to Change Our Past

Step 1: Admitted our powerlessness to change our past—that our lives had become unmanageable and became willing to surrender to our love and not to our fear

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Like many of you, I keep pondering the question How did we get here? While this is a question best settled by elections, it does little to guide how I need to care for my family and myself day-to-day.

To try to settle myself, I took my rescue dog of two weeks, a female of indeterminate breed and age, for a solitary walk. We ambled through the mist, up and down hills that surround a nearby lake in this rural community in which I live, a place of few people and few resources that is usually quiet. Now it is full of the tension felt in many rural communities: so many businesses owned by those I know are shuttered; neighbors are terrified about the health of those they love who live in other areas already being hard hit by the virus; we all watch the virus creep toward us, ready to leap. As I listened to the birds calling, feeling the coolness of the air and smiling at my dog’s lurching at chipmunks, I was again searching within myself for how to manage this crisis of COVID-19. 

My mind was elsewhere. Not in the present, but in the past. It was then I realized an essential truth: I cannot change my past, decisions I’ve made in my own life, what I wish my country had done—is doing—differently, but I can take some control of my present. But how?

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

I recalled my book on selfparenting, which Publishers Weekly judged as one of the ten best books about recovery, written thirty-two years ago and is still in print. I thought, I will begin using it today, for myself. It may seem strange to you that I walk around conscious of a process I created that governs how I live. But, like you, I am only present to some parts of who I am at any one time. For me, today, this is a time to begin be present to all of the various parts within myself, to self-parent each of them in earnest. I wish to encourage you to do the same. 

Those of us in recovery are blessed to have a program that works to give our suffering meaning: The 12 Steps. My first book on self-parenting uses these steps to help heal the part of you that is wounded in times of crisis—your inner child, your vulnerable, young self

It was inspired by the then burgeoning children of alcoholics movements. As a nation, we were just beginning to confront how we deal with the impact of addiction. Today we are facing another crisis with COVID-19 and how we deal with its impact. It occurred to me that it may be the same process. 

Let Go

The message in the first step is to let go. As I reflected on this step on Palm Sunday, which is usually a time of joy, as I looked forward to the eve of Passover, a celebration of redemption, I realized that I need to create joy in my life. And I could do this by letting go of the past and focusing on the present by being grateful for the gifts in the present, yes, just as Jesus did on Palm Sunday, even though he knew what was coming. Joy was possible for him. Why not then for us as well? 

How can you help your inner child today? Try helping him or her focus on what is wonderful that is right in front of you. Use the adult voice within you to become curious about what is working. Access the voice of your higher parent, that part of each of us that is connected to the divine, to reassure you that you are not alone.

Exercise for Today

Come into the present. Instead of worrying, instead of berating yourself by shoulding on yourself for what you wish you had done, think about what is working, however small. Do this by creating a daily gratitude list. Look for what is going well in your life, however routine or insignificant those things might seem. 

A friend of mine shared that she was grateful she had an old, rarely used dishwasher that uses too much energy, but which she realized could help disinfect her dishes. 

I am grateful that I rescued a dog who is now my constant companion as I do telepsych and who encourages me to get out and walk early in the morning. 

And I am grateful for my husband and his team who are continuing to provide inpatient and outpatient services to those still suffering due to the opioid epidemic. https://www.stjoestreatment.org   

Join Us, Please

So, what about you? Make a list of things you are grateful for. Journal this—on your phone, computer, in a random notebook—but memorialize it. 

And if you’d like, please share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the first of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. I invite you to subscribe to receive updates to this blog—look for future series where I apply my existing work to dealing with the specifics of COVID-19 for those involved in or interested in aspects of recovery—a parenting series based on The Lowdown on Families Who Get High, then one for those dealing with trauma based on Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, followed by (of course) more on resiliency and girly thoughts. 

Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at www.patriciaogorman.com