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


 

Photo by Tonik on Unsplash

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 7 How Not to Take COVID-19 Personally: A Lesson in Humility Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19

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Step 7: Learned to embrace our uniqueness and connectedness to others in the spirit of love and humility.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Humility is such a strange concept, one we don’t hear about very often and probably think about even less. During this time of polarized politics and rapidly changing expectations of what life will hold for each of us, it may even feel unsafe to think about humility. But humility can be the foundation of the changes that are required of all of us as we face what to do next in this world health crisis, because like it or not, we are all in this together.

If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.

Mother Teresa

Humility is the acceptance of reality. We demonstrate humility not just when we win an individual award and acknowledge the effort of the team behind us, but also when life slaps us upside the head and we realize It’s not just about me.

Humility can help us put our lives in perspective. Such simple adjustments in how we look at life around us can take the pressure off. When we accept that we can’t have that elective surgery we were hoping for, we can understand that the needs of others are greater than our own and that we can survive. We can realize we are not alone in being fearful of riding public transportation. Humility is also the feeling of empathy when we look at our refrigerator trying to figure out dinner as we wish that our favorite restaurant hadn’t closed, and then remember our favorite waiter who is now out of a job, and our heart aches for him. 

Humility is not humiliation. Humility is not the belittling that we may have experienced as a child. This process doesn’t involve shaming (Step 6). Humility does not focus us on what we are not, our defects, our vulnerabilities. It is the opposite. Humility can focus us on what and who we are, accepting our strengths, skills, and insights, traits we began to articulate in Step 4. Humility is seeing ourselves within the context of our lives. Humility frees us to be ourselves.

Humility helps us to not take things personally. “It’s nothing personal” is a common phrase, but here the it is COVID-19, which is impacting you personally. So what can you do? This is where humility comes in. Humility helps you focus on something truly important: how connected you are to others who are also struggling. You are not alone. There’s comfort in this. Take it—you need comfort and deserve to be soothed during this time of stress. Feeling supported by fellow sufferers is part of this.

Humility provides a window into our place in this life. By offering an acceptance of ourselves and our needs, and by anchoring ourselves from within instead of fueling the railing against our fate by screaming and gnashing our teeth, humility can help change our focus. Humility offers us a perspective of genuine gratitude for what we do have, for what we have done. We can begin by seeing the heroism in many of the small gestures we and others have displayed during this pandemic.

Your Hero Within: Humility in Action

Above all, be the heroine in your own life … 

Nora Ephron

“I never thought I would be a hero, I just wanted to help others.” Statements like this are being heard around the world as those in the front lines are being asked to push themselves to their physical, emotional, and even spiritual limits to help contain the coronavirus. Nurses, ER physicians, cleaning staff, dietary staff; the staff handing out sanitized carts where I buy groceries; the farmer at our new Farmers Park-It Market who delivers groceries to my car, are all finding creative ways to offer more as they see the suffering around them.

I found a powerful example of this locally. The local drug and alcohol rehab where I consult gave all salaried employees a $100 thank-you check to acknowledge their work with the neediest, those affected by the opioid epidemic during this coronavirus pandemic. A dietary worker I know received this thank-you check and took her $100, bought fabric, and organized women she knew to make masks for resident, and staff at the facility where she worked. When the CEO thanked her, she thanked him for recognizing her role in their system of care, inspiring her to be part of a larger solution. “I just wanted to give back.” 

Understanding What YOU Give

As you are still quarantined? Or are you beginning to phase back to your place of work? As you do this, be cognizant of what you are doing to support yourself and to support those around you. No, this isn’t about being grandiose; it’s about being honest about your impact on others during this time of intense worldwide stress. 

Are you feeling freer to give a smile, or just chat with your roommate or spouse? Is the time you are spending with your children helping you to see them in a new light as you wonder at their gifts and curiosity? Are you more connected to those you care about who you can’t see in person but can speak to through some type of technology? 

Are you more connected to yourself? Humility is also about appreciating yourself and the growth you have made during this time of very real struggle. 

Within the AA framework, Step 7 is about committing to a new way of approaching and living your life. COVID-19 is demanding that we make changes just to survive. Ask yourself if you are using this crisis to positively enhance your sense of yourself. More about this in our next step, Step 8. 

Exercise for Today

On a piece of paper or in your journal, record your answers to the following questions.

  • How are you not taking COVID-19 personally? 
  • How has this crisis put into perspective what is important to you?
  • How has acceptance of the changes COVID-19 brought helped you make decisions that are helping you?
    • What you are doing to keep those you love safe? 
    • Notice what you are doing to keep yourself safe. Are you following distance guidelines, wearing a mask, and gloves when needed? Have you decided not to visit a loved one?
    • Are you more aware of what you need? 
    • What would be important for you to do even if no one noticed or thanked you?
  • Ask yourself where you are being heroic today. What have you given to yourself? To others? What are the small gestures you do that make a big difference in your life and in the life of others?

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 seventh 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 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 4: Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19 Accepting How We Learned to Protect Ourselves and Build on This

Photo by Adrian Pelletier on Unsplash

By

Patricia A O’Gorman, PhD

Step 4: Made an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses

 and accepted the impact our childhood has had on us as adults.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Survivorship is important to consider during times of crisis, particularly a crisis like the one in which we find ourselves today, which is fraught with challenges on so many levels. This type of crisis not only stirs up past wounds but also intensifies unresolved childhood and adult issues.

Protecting Ourselves

Overcoming the feeling of powerlessness, encouraging ourselves to reach out, and challenging our belief that we must do this alone are all part of this process of self-parenting. Today your task is to use this crisis to make peace with the old ways you have used to protect yourself and to move on—to learn new ways to care for yourself, and by example share them with those who surround you. I invite you to expand your understanding of your self-care by considering with compassion your strengths and weakness—not only for the person you are today, but also for the child you were. 

Our need to protect ourselves is normal. We all need to defend ourselves against what we see as threats. As you think back over your life, I’m sure you realize that not all the ways you protected yourself worked equally well. When you were a child, you made sense of the world as a child does. As you have grown, some of those familiar ways of protecting yourself have developed, and some haven’t aged particularly well. In contrast, other ways of taking care of yourself are sources of light and joy you can still feel even in this somber time. These you’ll want to consider building upon.

Dark Side and Light Side Defenses

To help you reflect on this, consider calling these two types of defenses dark side and light side. 

Our dark side defenses keep us stuck in the pain of the past. These are thoughts and behaviors that are familiar because they define our best past efforts to keep ourselves safe, even if they were not particularly effective. They’re frequently expensive—emotionally, physically, and financially—because they use our resources in less than efficient ways, consuming and misdirecting our energies. We may be tempted to use them when we anticipate an old pain of childhood about to rear its wounding head, or when we’re facing uncertainty with its accompanying terror. We may even invite them in to create a familiar type of perceived attack because we know how to fight this battle, and we do these things in an effort to keep us safe from confronting something new. 

One example is that many couples are having familiar arguments about one party taking advantage of another by not doing routine household tasks, or avoiding a discussion of how to prepare their finances in the event that one of them becomes very ill and dies. We know these are dark side defenses because after using them we feel depleted, alone, and more frightened.

Our light side defenses help us grow, explore possibilities in the midst of chaos, and to be curious, open. We recognize these behaviors as positive because we feel good and positive after we deploy them. One example is our healthcare workers who push themselves to go to work, trying not to pay attention to their fear and their long hours, missing their children and focusing instead on how they are fulfilling their life’s purpose. Another may be a parent sitting down with their child on Zoom, laughing together as they try to figure out how it works so their child can participate in school. By enjoying the challenge together instead of feeling pulled to vacuum or finish a work report, they avoid becoming angry with their child who needs help.

Exercise for Today

On a piece of paper or in your journal, create three columns and label them 

  • My Defense, 
  • How It Protects Me, and 
  • What It Costs Me   

Fill each column using an example of your dark side defense and one of your light side defense. Your page will look something like this:

Dark Side DefenseHow It Protects MeWhat It Costs Me

Blaming myself for being alone because I’m fat

Gives me the illusion of control

It costs me my power and motivation by overwhelming me, making me feel responsible for things beyond my control like the safety precautions for COVID-19 
Light Side DefenseHow It Protects MeWhat It Costs Me

Telling myself I’m worth the trouble to keep physically separate as I figure out how to stay socially connected

Keeps me safe from COVID-19

A little loneliness, but I know I’m safe; I’m not taking everything personally

Make a daily commitment to list a dark side and a light side defense in your journal. Use this time of major disruption in your life to consider the messages you are sending yourself that you can change.  

Welcoming the Real You

Challenge yourself to crack the door open to your light side defenses to reveal the real you—a combination of your past challenges and what they have taught you, your current beliefs, struggles, and solutions, and your future hopes and plans. Your real self is not static. Be curious about what you are doing right—your light side defense; add the ways you keep yourself safe to your gratitude list. Be prepared to have a fuller inner life even with all of the restrictions COVID-19 is creating. 

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 fourth 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 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