The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

Reflections on Juneteenth 2020 and the Evolution of Consciousness

Evolution of Consciousness

“One discovers the light in the darkness, that is what darkness is for.”  
James Arthur Baldwin, novelist

I have felt crushed and overloaded by the recent events of our times, but still feel peaceful and hopeful that we are having a wonderful new beginning.  History teaches me that the Dark ages are followed by the Renaissance, Saul becomes Paul, the heroin addicted sex worker becomes an addiction counselor, on and on. This is the emergence of consciousness, over and over here at Earth School.

The Program is designed to move us forward until we realize and accept our Oneness with each other and the Universe.  But what a long journey it is…probably many lifetimes of learning are achieved before we totally get it.

During the crisis, the saying goes,  “When one door closes, another one opens, but it is hell in the hallway.”  I’m the one who tells my clients “…It doesn’t have to be hell in the Hallway.  You can choose to create a different kind of experience during ambiguous times.”  Yes, I do believe that is still true. Yet during these past few months the Hallway has been brutal. Each day, it is a struggle to stay focused on solutions and find some joy, despite the chaos around us.

This pandemic chaos and  racism crisis also remind me of the Chinese word for crisis, which is made of two symbols, Danger and Opportunity.  In each crisis, we are totally at risk, and yet the opportunity for a new and improved consciousness is here.  That’s the good news. Again, it’s part of the Program for the evolution of our consciousness.

As much as I want to discuss ways to live in ambiguity with peace, even joy, today I feel the need to be quiet.  I am sitting with the grief, and processing the harsh reality of the racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of tribal cognitive distortion that are still infecting our world in tandem with COVID-19.

Here are two resources which have been particularly soothing, uplifting and informative recently:

“Bleed the Same,” with Toby Mac and Kirk Franklin.
This song captures exactly what I am feeling, and what needs to be said now.
No other words say it so perfectly.

⭐ Tim Ferriss’  interview Coach George Raveling, 82,  “This Unique Moment in Time, How to Practice Self-Leadership, Navigating Difficult Conversations and much more” .

In the throes of feeling this intense outpouring of emotion after George Floyd was murdered, and under the suffocating history of  racism,  I appreciate hearing how this wise black man frames this moment.  This wide ranging interview will give you an intimate view of Raveling’s extraordinary journey from being born in the basement of a segregated hospital,  to becoming a world class coach, and how he navigated his life in this ocean of racism all these years.

At one point, Raveling says “We are both the problem and the solution.”  Yes, I love that dialectical view for each of us. We are ALL accountable for this situation. We need to step up and take a stand to create a world worth living in, with “Equality and justice for all.”  Simple, but not easy.

So I invite you to listen to “Bleed the Same,” and Raveling’s interview.  I think your heart and mind will be moved to a new level of awareness, acceptance and then action. 

YES, you can be an agent of transformation, and turn this Hellish Hallway experience into a magnificent corridor for the evolution of consciousness!

Onward and Upward❤

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.

 

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Pandemic Retreat Tip 4 – Allowing time for Daily Grief Work

avoiding-5-stages-grief-visibility-program

Our culture has difficulty sitting still with feelings.  There is too often an attempt to keep busy and ignore the discomfort of our negative feelings. It has been my experience that many otherwise healthy people want to bypass their phases of grief and jump into positive thinking, avoiding those dark and mysterious pathways of  emotion.

Now we are faced with micro and macro levels of Ambiguous Loss and Grief.   Ambiguous Loss is when you lose someone but not all the way.  For example, you could lose a loved one to illness, such as Alzheimers Disease, Alcoholism, Cancer, Food Addiction/Anorexia. Your loved one might be lost at sea or on a mountain.

Ambiguous Loss is most painful when you live with someone who is “here but not here.”  If your loved one watches multiple hours of Netflix, or video games, and you miss them, you are experiencing Ambiguous Loss.  If your loved one is slowly deteriorating from any illness or addiction, and you are watching them slowly disappear, you are experiencing Ambiguous Loss. When you break up a relationship, divorce, move away, you experience Ambiguous Loss, “here but not here.”

Today we have the Ambiguous Loss of our culture and daily routines. By not seeing the people, places and things that make up our life, we develop anticipatory anxiety of what will come next.  The anxiety then quickly morphs into Anticipatory Grief.

What is Anticipatory Grief?

I defer to Scott Berinato who unpacks our micro and macro Anticipatory Grief so usefully in his recent article in the Harvard Business Review (23 March 2020).  Berinato interviews David Kessler, who is one of our leading grief experts, and explores Kessler’s overview of our current pandemic existence. Learn more here: That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.  

You may  think you are lonely, or exhausted, or anxious. That may be true. But I would agree with Berinato and Kessler in that you probably have unexpressed grief (and rage), which is clogging up your inner world.

It’s exhausting to repress grief and “act as if” you are perfectly fine. Yet we are called upon to buckle up and deal with life on life’s terms, so there is no binary solution here. We are asked to grieve our current losses and future losses PLUS carry on and live our lives.  So how is this possible?   By scheduling some Grief Work time into your calendar. Allowing time to release and let go will enhance your life as you release the inner pressure. Give yourself permission to unravel a bit.

Tears are the language of grief. Something I frequently suggest to my clients is  “Make some time to do your Grief Work.  Let it flow out of you.”  Most people resist this process and just hope by keeping super busy (or medicated or numbed with screen time) they can bypass the Grief Work.  Nay, nay, it must be done.  Cry now or cry later, but crying will help release those grief-balls that are jamming you up.

CS Lewis grief (2)

When we begin to honestly defrost our grief with each other and then seek solutions for our dilemmas, we start to feel a little better.  I am a fan of the stoic philosophy, but just focusing on solutions and keeping a stiff upper lip all the time is not helpful — something within shuts down and can go numb inside from repressing all that emotion.

Perhaps one of the silver linings from the Corona virus is that now, in this time of profound herd vulnerability, we will be more authentic with ourselves and each other?  Simple, but not easy. This is a practice that takes as long as it takes, perhaps lifetimes.

I have come to believe that your vulnerability is your superpower.  When you are brave enough to be vulnerable, you release, let go and successfully move on.  This is part of the multidimensional journey to wholeness and deep fulfillment💙

References:

Berinato, S. (23 March 2020). Harvard Business Review. That discomfort you are feeling is grief. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

Wessan, L. (05 JAN 2019). On the “Myth of Closure,” Ambiguous Loss and Complicated Grief.  Retrieved from https://mirthmaven.blog/2019/01/05/on-the-myth-of-closure-ambiguous-loss-and-complicated-grief/

Helpful Scripture for increased bravery and courage for your Grief Work:
Psalms 23,  31:9, 46:10, 126:5
Deuteronomy 31:6
Ecclesiastes 1:18
Proverbs 14:13

 

 

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.

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From Borderline to Balance: Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (DBT-PTSD)

When I first became interested in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy methods and curriculum (DBT), one of my mentors said, “Lisa, I strongly advise you NOT to get involved with this work. If you offer DBT Skills, you will attract the WORST clients!  They will all be severely agitating with Borderline, Bipolar or severe mood disorders, it will be a nightmare for you!”

I heard what she said, and I did respect her opinion, but there was something so powerfully intriguing about the evidence-based science behind DBT, and the fact that so many people were getting well from it – who had been considered “treatment resistant” prior to their DBT exposure.

I do like a challenge, however, and I was not afraid of this high risk population. Something inside me told me to continue…against the advise of this mentor, and others practitioners I knew.

So fast forward to today, six years post-DBT training, sharing the DBT curriculum with teens (14-17) and adults (18+) in my office in Westford, MA for several years now.  I have had the privilege  of witnessing dozens of my DBT clients, in both individual and group therapy, go through this cognitive re-structuring process, shed their false beliefs, deconstruct their traumas, grieve and move on to have healthy, happy, contented lives.

In the process, I have learned that approximately 70% of my clients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) suffer from severe co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),  related to traumas that occurred during childhood. These traumas were not processed or expressed at the time,  and they caused a corruption of the client’s personality, mental and social skills.

These unresolved traumas, when treated, often bring upon a rebirth process, and the client is no longer exhibiting the Borderline symptoms.  Therefore, I humbly submit that it would serve everyone if BPD could be renamed Intense Trauma Syndrome (ITS).

Here is why:

  1. The term Borderline is heavily stigmatized in my guild.  “Borderline” sounds as if someone is on the edge of a cliff about to jump, perhaps on the verge of…suicide? Murder? Something worse?  Witness my mentor’s advice above, plus,  each week I receive calls from clients who tell me “No one will work with me because I am Borderline.”  This is frustrating and heartbreaking to me.  Why is this heavily traumatized group eschewed because of their condition? Where should they go?  How will they get well?   If BPD was re-labeled as Intense Trauma Syndrome, I think they would be helped by more therapists!  But this requires more than a branding campaign…
  2. Borderline clients often exhibit highly dissociative symptomatology, chronic suicidality, and ongoing non-suicidal self-injury.  This is also a big turn-off to my guild.  Many of my colleagues will NOT work with suicidal clients.  Why?  Too much liability, too many collateral calls, too much danger. Moreover,  my clients feel as if they are tacitly shamed by the mental health profession for being Borderline.   Yet I have found that this population, when they are truly sick and tired of being sick and tired, pick up these DBT Skills and other therapeutic interventions, and start their healing process.  They do agree to a Safety Plan and stick with it. They learn, grow, and become healthier and successful members of society.   They do recover!
  3. When I tell my Borderline clients they have Intense Trauma Syndrome, and request that they stop describing themselves as Borderline, they start to feel so much better about their emotional challenges.  Many Borderline clients have described severe shame and self-hate due to their diagnosis. They feel hopeless and bereft of a cure. Receiving the Borderline diagnosis can make them feel worse! Here’s the H.O.P.E.  for Borderline clients,  Hold On, Pain Ends.

Solution Focused Therapy

My DBT Skills groups cover the entire curriculum in one year (42 weeks), which includes the strengthening of the commitment to wellness and psychoeducation, DBT skills training, skills-assisted exposure, with radical acceptance of the past trauma and its effects on their lives.

Four leaf DBT

Finally, we explore the promotion of self-compassion and efforts to prepare for returning to everyday life, to build a life worth living. When a client has graduated from their Intense Trauma Syndrome to the more normative anxiety, career, dating, relationship challenges they are on their way to be fulfilled and satisfied with their lives.

The Intense Trauma Syndrome causes people to become quite polarized in their thinking. They often see the world in black and white, all or nothing, right or wrong, good or evil terms.  There is not much wiggle room for the vast spectrum of imperfection that exists in all of us!  One of the earliest cognitive shifts we work on is the ability to hold OPPOSITE VIEWS in their minds without having a meltdown.

For example, I teach them that it is perfectly all right to love someone, but also hate them at times. It is fine to be in a room of friends or family, and yet feel very lonely.  It is not a serious problem to want to go out, and want to stay home.

Prior to learning DBT skills, these opposing thoughts would cause a lot of stress for them, and cause them to feel as if they were having a meltdown.  To help them decompress from their polarized inner self-hating dialogue, I have learned to reduce their stress by saying, “You are not having a breakdown, you are having a breakthrough!”  This often helps them to reframe the intensity of their emotions into a more helpful view.

Borderline1

What they need to learn is to go within and ask, “What do I need now?”  or “How can I make this better?”   Instead of saying “What’s wrong with me? Why am I like this?   I hate this!  I feel crazy! I can’t take it, I want to die!”

I teach my clients to stop asking WHY questions, but to ask HOW questions instead.  When we ask WHY, “Why am I like this?  Why don’t I enjoy parties?  Why am I so annoying to people? Why is this person ignoring me?  Why do people dislike me? “Why am I still single?” they are on a slippery slope into anxiety and depression and possible self-harm.

When they learn to ask HOW questions, they start to change, “How can I make this better?”  “How can I be useful?”  “How can I learn to stay calm when I am triggered?”  The HOW questions lead to discovery, growth, healing and empowerment.

In Conclusion

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a powerful healing modality.  From my experience, those clients suffering with BPD are particularly helped by this cognitive restructuring process, since typical pharmacological and talk therapy interventions do not help them very much.  From my perspective, DBT really feels like a new software program is slowly downloaded into their minds and replaces their previously corrupted and faulty software that was hurting them.
Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved

 

 

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Some Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation Resources for a More Peaceful Holiday Season

Hi,

I hope this message finds you well.

During the holidays, especially Thanksgiving-Christmas/Hanukah/Kawanzza-New Year’s-Valentines Day, aka The Red Zone, there are many more opportunities to feeling the pain of Compare and Despair, neglect, arguments,  loss, grief and a boatload of intense feelings.

You may also be forced to spend time with a relative you despise, or be tempted to eat food or drinks that make you feel sick. Being triggered all over the place your impulse issues may be whispering in your ear, “Drink me, eat me, buy me, smoke me, shop me, gamble me, escape into video games/Netflix” on and on.

Everyone goes through this, but some of us feel it a lot more deeply.

To that end,  I want to offer you a few resources from my MirthMaven archives to help you get through The Red Zone.  May you find some wonderful skills and tools here to get through those midnight blues, or whenever the intense feelings feel like too much:

  1. Extra Tools for Letting Go  (Wessan, November 2018, 25 min). You may enjoy this useful and entertaining video of ways to quickly let go of harsh feelings.
  2. The Red Zone – Chock full of tips and techniques for help with this holiday season.
  3. Compare and Despair – added insight for social media distress, feeling left out, unloved, unwanted.

As always, let’s remember that “Feelings are not Facts,” and to practice being a good observer as the storm passes through you. “This too shall pass” and “Never Give Up” have helped to carry me through some tough times in the past.  

At the very least, remember to use the “Take 5” breathwork method: breathe in to the count of five, hold for five seconds, and release to the count of five.   Repeat for at least six rounds of Take 5 breaths, to get re-centered and regain some inner calm. 

May you have  a more  peaceful holiday season,

thanksgiving2

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer travels…from New Lebanon, NY to North Adams, MA

My sister and I have enjoyed many wonderful forays into the Berkshires. This summer we visited North Adams and Williamstown, MA.  There are many buried treasures here, including  MassMoca, The Birdsong Gallery (for whimsical clothes), dinner at Grazie, and other fun spots…

Favorite piece at MassMoca by Kapoor.

Visiting dear friend Alex Fisher in New Lebanon, NY (next to Williamstown,MA).

Admiring Amy’s new eyeglasses💕


Loved to visit MASS MOCA!

Seen in New Lebanon NY during morning hike near Shaker Village and Museum.
Loved this tasty vegan burger, thanks Alex & David💕

So refreshing to visit friends and family in the Berkshires this past weekend💕

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Many kinds of freedom to celebrate on Independence Day

I am excited about my independence…

Lisa Wessan, Chelmsford, MA

Freedom from the bondage of Food, Fat and Fear!

Freedom from the Three Cs:  Complaining, Condemning and Criticizing of myself and others.

Freedom from needing approval from family, friends, colleagues, clients.

Freedom from depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and all negative thinking.

Freedom from FOMO! (Fear of Missing Out).

Freedom from the stress of being Here but wanting to be There!

DBT Independent and need help

Freedom from all or nothing, black and white, dualistic thinking.  Dialectic thinking is a cure for recovering perfectionists, and a lot of OCD, obsessive compulsive, harsh thinking as well.

Freedom from Compare and Despair.

Freedom from jealousy, envy, lust, longing and cravings.

The only thing I do crave, however, is MORE FREEDOM!

I love feeling useful and peaceful, which is foundational for a life worth living. I also want to feel light and relaxed more of the time.

I want to feel “Serenity in the Storm,” as it is written:

“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”  (unknown author)

Is my life perfect today?  Hell no!  Far from it!  I need to change SO MANY THINGS – I will spare you the burden of listing my ongoing pain, aggravation, losses, frustrations and deep sadnesses – but the good news is that these things are not dominating my consciousness.

I am not a victim anymore. It is no longer possible. I am 100% accountable for my life.  I blame no one for my difficult situations and expect no one to save me.

Yes, it’s true, with the help of G-d, Wise Mind, Higher Power, and my Army of Angels, I am the one who I have been waiting for! This is totally a G-d Job…turning my defeats into victories, and my scars into stars.  I have finally become bulletproof to the bullies, harsh people, fear and rage around me and within me. As it is written:

“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 11-13)

🌀With the deep healing powers embedded in psychospiritual treatments anything is possible! 🌀

Yes, I’m excited to share this today – my New Normal – after decades of battling with depression, eating disorders, severe mood swings and more.

If you are still struggling, please hear me when I say HAVE HOPE, things will get better if you don’t give up.

HOPE HOLD ON PAIN ENDS

Learn and practice your transformative behavioral and spiritual skills (DBT or whatever) knowing that you are making progress and that “This Too Shall Pass.”

If I can heal and be well, it can happen for anyone.  I am just another Bozo on the Bus, hastening slowly towards Wholeness and Oneness.

May you have a healthy, peaceful and relaxing fourth of July!

Never give up! 

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

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DBT Skills Groups for Teens and Adults forming for July 2019 in Westford, MA

dbt-skills

Since the shocking suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last June, people have been becoming more acutely aware of how vulnerable we all are to thoughts of self-harm.  Knowing that all the success, cash and prizes, fame and celebrity connections do not make a person happy can be mind bending for many people.

In my guild, we deal with self-harm and suicidal ideation regularly and know how catastrophic it can be for families and loved ones to process and cope with a loved ones’ tendency to self-harm.  Plus, we each have our own dark thoughts and need to learn to be able to observe, defrost and release those negative thoughts in order to function here at Earth School.

No one is exempt from this learning curve!  This is why I am confident that ultimately solution focused, evidence based Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills (DBT) and Mindfulness will be taught in all elementary schools as part of the required educational curriculum.  More than most cognitive restructuring methods, DBT has one of the highest rates of success (Linehan, 2016).

To that end…here are the new dates for Summer 2019 for my adolescent and adult DBT Skills Groups. (At this time, there is one spot is still open in the adult group, and  two spots are open in the adolescent group. The Open Enrollment Period ends August 14th, so if you or someone you know would like to join us, just contact me at your earliest convenience).

Adolescents (age 14-17, with rare exceptions): 

WEDNESDAYS, 4:15 – 5:45 PM
July 17, 24, 31
August 7, 14, 21, 28
September 4, 11, 18, 25
October 2, 16, 23

Adults: (age 18 +)

WEDNESDAYS,  7:30 – 9:00 PM
July 24, 31
August 7, 14, 21, 28
September 4, 11, 18, 25
October 2, 16, 23, 30

(we skip Yom Kippur)

If you are new to this work, here are some useful links:

  1. Five Steps to Enrolling in a DBT group.
  2. DBT Fees and Refund Policy
  3. Insurance and How to Use your Out of Network Benefits
  4. About DBT in general. What is dialectical thinking?
  5. Recent article on getting beyond binary and dualistic thinking.
  6. What do you cover in the Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness module?
  7. Main DBT Page at www.lisawessan.com
  8. Accolades and Testimonials for Lisa Wessan

(For learning DBT Skills from a remote location, or if you are compromised due to health issues, I also use video chat sessions  to share this work).

Let’s turn your defeats into victories, and your scars into stars…Yes, DBT can help you shift from being IMPOSSIBLE to I’M POSSIBLE!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

 Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On the “Myth of Closure,” Ambiguous Loss and Complicated Grief

“Everyone experiences ambiguous loss if only from breaking up with someone, or having aging parents or kids leaving home. As we learn from the people who must cope with the more catastrophic situations of ambiguous loss, we learn how to tolerate the ambiguity in our more common losses in everyday life.” 

– Pauline Boss, Ph.D.

In my immediate family, several of my nearest and dearest have battled with cancer over the years…both of my paternal grandparents, may they rest in peace,  my dear first cousin Stephanie (may she live to be a super centenarian) and my delightful and fierce Aunt Yvette (known as “Auntie”), who is currently receiving hospice care.  It has been a long and grueling journey with cancer for all my loved ones.

Sometimes I struggle with feeling powerless, and living so far away from my family in Sarasota, FL. When they lived in New York, it was so much easier to visit. Sadly,  I can’t make frequent visits to Sarasota. The only “power” I do have is to send intentional healing and loving energy to my Auntie and family…and to practice radical acceptance so that I will function with some measure of inner peace here in my world.

For a while, my Auntie was in and out of the nursing home while she battled her cancer and other complications from treatment. Her life was severely compromised by her illness.  As harsh as this has been is for her, since April 2015,  I have also been witnessing how Auntie’s dying process is affecting everyone around her.

My cousins are fraught with anxiety and grief. Others are a hot mess, watching Auntie dying so slowly, not being able to process their feelings and find some relief.  Some people get trapped in the “Blame Game,” and are always looking to find ways to defocus their pain by pointing at others (that’s a separate article, on the Blame Game, worth exploring soon).

We are all coping with the ambiguity of Auntie being here, yet not here.  She is no longer resembling her true self as we knew her.  Sometimes she is delirious, sometimes she is too weak to talk. As her body deteriorates, she is no longer living the full and robust life she once enjoyed.

ambiguous loss1

This pain we are all experiencing has a name…it is called Ambiguous Loss.  “Ambiguous loss is a loss that occurs without closure or understanding. This kind of loss leaves a person searching for answers, and thus complicates and delays the process of grieving, and often results in unresolved grief.” (Wikipedia)

There are a variety of types of ambiguous loss.  One type is when people go missing and the body is never found.  For example, a person does not return from a sailing trip, or from a hiking excursion, or war, or they are kidnapped.  Their loved ones still feel a lack of closure because the body was not found.   “Maybe they will return…” lingers in the mind.

After 9/11,  all of us in NYC were processing personal and professional ambiguous loss for all of our New Yorkers who were lost in the pile of bodies that were never recovered.

Another kind of ambiguous loss is when people experience a new emotional boundary that hurts.  This happens when people get divorced, or when someone ignores you, stops talking to you, shuts you out of their life.  Any kind of break-up creates ambiguous loss, because the person is still here, yet not here. They are alive, but dead to you.   This is considered more painful loss than when someone actually dies.

ambiguous loss3

Medical illness and addictions cause ambiguous loss.

Ambiguous loss also occurs when a loved one has Altzheimers or dementia, and they no longer recognize social connections. Similarly, when someone is very ill, such as my Auntie, we have ambiguous loss because the illness is transforming our loved one into someone other than the person we always knew. We are mourning the living remnants of our loved one…so excruciating and bitter.

When someone is living with an addiction, this too causes their personal relations to deteriorate and they are not fully present for their loved ones. Again, they are here but not here.

I have a friend who had a beautiful daughter in Cambridge, MA,  who chose to be homeless.  Her daughter was an alcoholic.  My friend tried all methods of intervention and help. Nothing worked. My friend suffered with ambiguous loss for so many years. Her daughter was a pianist, absolutely lovely.   She died a few years ago,  at 35, and it was one of the most heart wrenching tragedies I experienced.  My friend is still recovering from this painful loss.

Learning to live a good life with ambiguous loss

I recently listened to a wonderful and insightful podcast interview with ambiguous loss pioneer Pauline Boss, Ph.D., who originally coined the term “ambiguous loss.”   Krista Tippett hosts Dr. Boss on her podcast, On Being.  You can listen here:

The Myth of Closure [UNEDITED VERSION, 1.5 hours]

The Myth of Closure [EDITED VERSION, 1 hour]

I prefer the unedited versions of Tippett’s interviews, because there are sometimes fascinating nuances that are deleted to make the long form interview fit into an hour. But I’m sure whichever one you listen to will be rewarding!

One of the ideas I took away from Dr. Boss’ talk was that we will never have complete closure from our ambiguous losses, or from our complicated grief.  What we can do is become  more adept at processing our negative feelings and difficult thoughts. Dr. Boss has some wonderful suggestions on the process.

Cognitive restructuring, which can be learned, is a big part of the solution.  Dr. Boss’ stories and explanations are very helpful in deconstructing the different kinds of ambiguous loss that we all have in our lives.

Even though I learned about ambiguous loss and complicated grief in graduate school, it seems I keep deepening my learning about it more every year, from clients who are struggling with painful divorce, adult children with addictions, my Auntie’s battle with cancer, and for all the ongoing loss of freedoms in the world that never seems to subside.

Fun fact: Ambiguous loss is clearly part of our psychospiritual journey — for it forces us to grow and move to new levels of compassion and acceptance of things we cannot control.  “Lack of power, that is our dilemma,” says Alcoholics Anonymous  (Bill W., 1976).  Yes, in our culture, we seek to control, cure, fix and manage everyone and everything as much as possible. We don’t like messy endings.

Yet what I have come to know, is that true mastery of life is being able to live in ambiguity with peace, even joy.  My life is far from perfect…yet I am more often feeling positive, grateful,  uplifted, inspired and anticipating good interventions that will transform it.

If we can learn to live in that “not knowing” place and be peaceful — that is a vast improvement on “hating ambiguity” and perhaps yelling at G-d or the Universe, or twisting into knots over why bad things do happen to good people…again, very messy, so annoying.

The truth is, when it comes to matters of love, there is no closure. As they say at the Grief Toolbox,  “Closure is not part of the grieving process, nor is it necessary for healing. A connection formed in love can’t be closed.”  Dr. Boss confirmed this with her years of research on ambiguous loss, leading to her forthcoming book on “The Myth of Closure.”

ambigousloss5

As Dr. Boss discussed in the interview, our Western culture wants neatly packaged endings and for everyone to move on as quickly as possible.   There is plenty of shaming that goes on, as in “Aren’t you over that yet?”

Sadly, our culture does not tolerate ambiguous loss very well at all.  It requires more Eastern, dialectical thinking.  To be able to say non-binary statements such as “She is alive, but also dead,”  “He is not here, but he is possibly still alive,”  or “She looks like Auntie, but this is not Auntie anymore,” requires a leap from dualistic thinking to a more dialectical thinking which allows us to embrace opposite beliefs without sinking into a deep depression or disruptive anxiety vortex.

Solution Focused Suggestions

For today, I invite you to learn more about ambiguous loss, and start to apply these non-dualistic, non-binary, dialectical thinking ideas to your situation.

  • Listen to the podcast above, and learn some skills to help process your ambiguous grief.
  • Perhaps find a good therapist who can help you learn to cope better with your struggles.  Good news: coping skills can be learned!
  • Learn to laugh at the absurdities, paradoxes and incongruities of life (Gavin, 2010; Wessan, 2013).
  • Practice your Distress Tolerance skills …join a Dialectical Behavior Therapy group.  You may then find it easier to work through the painful moments, and allow yourself to live in ambiguity with, dare I say it, some joy!

 

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

References

Gavin, J. (03 Sept 2010). Laughing with the Joys and Troubles of Life Leads to Growth. The Chelmsford Patch. Found at https://mirthmaven.blog/2010/09/16/lisa-wessan-interviewed-in-the-chelmsfor/

Pauline Ross, Ph.D. https://www.ambiguousloss.com/

W., Bill. (1976). Alcoholics Anonymous : the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism. New York:Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Fourth edition, Chapter 4, We Agnostics. P. 45. 

Wessan, L. (2013).  Using Humor and Laughter in Therapy. Focus Journal. National Association of Social Workers.  Vol. 40, No. 4. 3,11.

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.
www.LisaWessan.com

 

 

 

 

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More PRESENCE, less presents…the Mindful holiday season

 

Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store. – Dr. Seuss

Christmas isn’t a season, it’s a feeling. – Edna Ferber

For it is in giving that we receive. – Francis of Assisi

May you practice connecting with more Presence during these holidays, and have less of a need for presents…and I hope you and your loved ones have a healthy, joyful holiday season and New Year!

No matter what, each day is a new beginning…

Onward and Upward,

With warm blessings and love,

Lisa Wessan

 

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Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018. All rights reserved.
www.LisaWessan.com

 

 

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Thoughts for the Season

Thank You Gratitude

There is a crack in everything,

that’s how the light gets in.


~ Leonard Cohen

 

There’s a lot to be grateful for this season, and I’m grateful for the never ending Light that goes to any length to reach us…

I appreciate this verse from Leonard Cohen, that when you are having a breakdown , aka cracking up,  you are actually have a breakthrough.  Those cracks allow us to grow, learn and transform.

No cracks, no wisdom.  It’s all part of the mysterious dialectical personal growth process we engage in as living beings.  We are not aiming for perfection, but we are aiming for wholeness.

I hope this message finds you in good health, moving towards wholeness, having more breakthroughs than breakdowns!

 

Happy, healthy, spirit of Thanksgiving and holiday season,

 

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

You might enjoy one of my recent articles…

 

Wessan, L. (2018). Walk and Talk Therapy: Moving Towards Wholeness.  Social Work Voice. 16-17.

Wessan, L. (2018). When you are Addicted to Drama…

Wessan, L. (2018). Holiday Blues? Pause and Take a Mental Laxative (Forgiveness 101).

 

New Groups Starting…

UP  Next in Westford, MA:

Open Enrollment Period for Adult DBT Skills Group ends 1/3/19. This next semester we cover Mindfulness and Interpersonal Effectiveness.  Learn more HERE. 

DBT Skills Group for Teens starts 1/8/19. 

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2018. All rights reserved.
www.LisaWessan.com

 

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