Category Archives: coaching

Raw vs. polished: on emotions

This past Saturday I woke up very early in the morning again (2am), brain churning again. On Friday I had a coaching session and apparently my subconscious had been at work. I woke up restless and tossing around thoughts in my head about something that had gotten me riled up during my call.

I got up and tried writing in my journal for a while, getting it all out and spilling it onto the paper so I could stop the brain chatter. Then I tried reading for a while, since the writing just seemed to “stir” myself up more. After a couple hours I tried to come back to bed. But sleep wouldn’t come, and after half an hour I rose again.

I felt like I wanted to crawl outside my skin. I thought about going somewhere for coffee (it was now 5a.m.) and realized that I was trying to escape myself, some deep feeling inside. So I pulled out my journal again, and surprised myself when a torrent of grief, sadness and shame came tumbling out. I held myself as I cried, and I allowed myself to write and capture what was coming out at that moment.

I cried for almost an hour, and emptied the thoughts that were in my mind, grieving mostly for that 7-year-old girl inside me, who learned to eat her emotions instead of feeling them. I allowed myself to feel great compassion for her intentions, which were just to make others happy and not to “hurt others’ feelings.” I allowed myself to feel compassion and grief for my parents, who had both lost one parent that year to cancer.

After that outburst, which scared my husband a little (I reassured him I just had to let out some grief, I would be okay), my mind calmed and my immediate thought was: what is in the fridge that would make me feel better. Then I laughed at myself: ah, I see! That is indeed the pattern isn’t it? Food is comfort, food is there when I have nobody to compassionately witness the pain. But I did not eat anything this time. I’d made myself a cup of coffee during the grief-storm, because having a hot beverage can be comforting.

I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, relieved that this feeling of wanting to exit myself was now gone. When I woke up I wrote a post about “feeling your feelings” rather than eating them. The words poured out into a nearly 1300 word post. But reading it, I felt a sense of that raw pain that needs to settle a bit. I was not ready to post, even after the next day when I edited.

Feeling uncomfortable emotions is difficult. Whether grief, sadness, anger, loss, betrayal, disappointment, they are sometimes hard to process. There is a visceral and deep expression in your body when these feelings come up. Resisting these feelings leads to anxiety, depression and other kinds of problems. Numbing the emotions with food,  alcohol or drugs can lead to weight gain, addiction, and many other problems.

But some of us were not taught as children that it is okay to feel those feelings, to let them move through us and complete themselves. Emotions are like physical vibrations in the body. They are not permanent, they tend to arrive and leave in waves. They can altered by our thinking, and many a person has tried “think happy thoughts” to push those emotions away.

Some of us were told (by a well-meaning adult): “don’t cry, honey” and given ice cream to soothe us. Or when the adults around us were not comfortable expressing their own feelings, as some generations were NOT encouraged to do, it can seem like a foreign world to allow yourself to do this.

But it can also open up a wellspring of joy within you, when you realize that emotions are neither good nor bad. They just ARE, they exist. They are part of being human, part of living a full and rich life. Some of them will be positive, and some will be negative. It is that difference that creates the contrast. If we were happy all the time, how would we KNOW we were happy?

So this post is to encourage you to explore your emotions, and allow them to come up, even the negative ones, as they come up. Don’t reach for the chocolate or the ice cream or the glass of wine. Just name them, feel them, and allow them to pass through you. They will not destroy you, and you can endure them. Numbing them out and staying “asleep” to your inner experience is what a majority of people do in our culture.

Being aware takes effort, patience, and great compassion, but it rewards you when you truly begin to know yourself. Believe me, it is totally worth it. You are worth knowing.


Cosmic jokes

Have you ever had a realization about something in your life that was so obvious that you cannot believe you did not see it before?

This happened to me as I was preparing my coaching homework for this week. We had uncovered my “martyr” tendency in my last session 2 weeks ago. I was asked to pay attention to those times when the martyr’s voice came up, and what the voice sounds like. As it turns out, it was a combination of parental voices.

You know those voices?

They are the ones that you usually realize, maybe expressions your parents used to use, or things they used to say. I think parents of young children start to realize they have internalized the parental voice in their patterns and unconscious responses to their children. Some people who are really aware (and have perhaps been to therapy) realize this and say: oh goodness! I’m turning into my Dad! (or Mom).

When I considered where my Catholic-seeming inappropriate guilt came from, considering I was not raised Catholic, I realized that my name is Cristy. That means: follower of Christ. Oh dear. I was named after the ultimate martyr of the Catholic and Christian faith. Also named after my Mom who has a variation of that name.

cosmic joke

Okay, I get the joke now!    Photo credit link

Oh sheesh.


Oh well. I come by the martyr complex honestly. My parents named me after all. I didn’t choose the name. I only chose to retain the behavior. To protect to privacy of the innocent, I leave it at that for now.

What is in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? 

For me, as a feminist woman and someone who did not change my name in my first marriage or in my second (and final) recent marriage, I never even considered changing my name. I don’t like the tradition of treating a woman as an “owned” object – first belonging to her father and then belonging to her husband, with the label stuck on for each occasion.

Pardon me while I get out this little airplane barf bag…

Hopefully most women of my generation are past that kind of thing, right?

No offense if you didn’t like your name, and your husband’s name was more unique so you changed it. If you are a Smith or a Jones, perhaps changing the name was a good idea. I won’t judge. It’s your choice these days, after all. I have fantasized about having a name that is a symbol. I love it that Prince became “the artist formerly known as…” That is true innovation.

I want a symbol! What is a symbol for mexi-minnesotana? I’m gonna copyright it… any of you graphic artist out there want to design something for me? Maybe I’ll start a contest. I have been thinking about how to brand my site, but I digress.

My Mexican last name has become more a part of my professional trademark in the past decade. I work for a division of the company that serves patients in Latin America. Even though my pale Swedish ancestor skin hides part of my heritage, when people see my last name, they become aware of the possible Latina origin. When they hear my Spanish, they are usually confused. Good accent. Questionable grammar. Where the heck are you from?

In any case, it was a big light bulb going on to realize I don’t need “crucify myself” or taken on a savior/rescuer role my whole life. I may need to adopt a different name or at least a different voice from Mary the Martyr. She has good intentions, but I need to evolve her behavior for a bit.

The cosmic joke has not been lost on me. Now that I am aware of it, at least I can reign the martyr complex in a little more deliberately.

Happy Friday, peeps! Hope my U.S. friends have adjusted to the time change by now, and all of you, have a fabulous weekend! 



North Star navigation

Happy Tuesday, peeps. It is dark as I’m writing, and I am getting through the DST transition, even though it is not typically my best week of the year. At least I am being kind to myself and others. That goes a long way.

In only 24 days I will head to Arizona for a weekend event with two favorite authors, Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert. In honor of that event, I downloaded the audible version of Finding Your North Star, by Martha Beck to give it a re-listen. Years ago I read the book (many times, and annotated it) and then later gave it to a friend who was in a place of transition.

martha beck

Martha Beck’s Finding Your North Star found me during  transition 15 years ago.

Martha’s wisdom is amazing, and since I am in another place of transition in my life, the audio provides just the right level of humor and perspective to help guide me in this next journey. I am working with a coach from the Handel Group, and that homework has been helpful as well.

Martha makes a distinction between the “essential self” and the “social self” in terms of helping us know our core interests and desires. I remember at that time it was a huge discovery for me, the fact that we have these different parts of ourselves that work together in our lives. When we ignore the essential self (aka our soul) in favor of doing only what the social self wants (more ego-driven, people-pleasing), we end up unhappy and unfulfilled.

On the other hand, when we use the faculties of the social self, like pushing ourselves sometimes when we are in a difficult place, in order to achieve the dreams of our essential self, we can create the lives we want. I think there are actually a lot of “selves” that exist within us, and Handel method refers to them as “character traits” that we can identify and then evolve.

A couple of weeks ago, I identified a trait I will refer to as “Mary the Martyr” as a voice talking in my head. She’s the one who tells me I should be grateful for what I have, that it’s greedy to want more. She’s the one who sacrifices for everyone and does not value her own wants and needs. I thought I had rooted her out of my life years ago, but she made an appearance when I worked on the dreaming exercise. Effectively she blocked my dreaming process for a bit.

Her voice sounds a bit like family members (parents perhaps) and she was pretty certain about what she was telling me. It was funny when I actually named her, and began to recognize how she asserts her influence in many areas of my life.  There are certain qualities I like about her: generosity toward her loved ones, a desire to protect the people she cares about, and a sense of independence. She never wants a hand-out and believes she should work hard, but she also has difficulty receiving.

When navigating toward our North Stars, our true purpose in life, it can be difficult when these familial or societally-programmed voices start interfering with the journey. But in recognizing those as not our essential selves, but rather the social selves we evolved to keep us “in a tribe” then we are able to see whether these serve us. It can be a little painful to wake up to this realization, and know that we have been putting dreams on hold.

slaying dragon

When slaying a dragon, recruit some help! (photo credit link).

Sometimes we must find different tribes that support our new journeys. But this is possible, and we must create this support for ourselves. It can take the form of authors on our shelves or people we admire. We do not even need to know all of these “virtual” supporters in person. The web makes this process much easier than it used to be. But the internet sometimes induces other problems, like the tendency for comparison, which is not always healthy.

In any case, navigating toward our North Stars is a scary and exhilarating process. It makes sense to get as much support as we can muster. There is a Hero’s Journey part of the process, and while we may be okay with slaying a few dragons by ourselves, having a posse can make the journey a lot more fun and interesting.