Self-Compassion: An Antidote for Shame

 

Shame: it is one of the most painful human emotions but we have an antidote:
self-compassion.

Introducing Self-Compassion to Shame

Self-compassion neutralizes the idea that you are a “bad person” and normalizes the experience of setbacks and disappointments encountered in life. It allows you to balance out the lights and shadows in your life and restores you to a more peaceful and compassionate understanding of yourself.

Self-compassion is a more generous, empathic, and respectful way to dialogue with yourself. “Beating yourself up” and keeping secrets is a common way to respond to shame but is typically counterproductive and it tends to burden and isolate us further.

To dislodge shame, a concerted effort is needed, one that moves us forward into healthier and more helpful ways of thinking about ourselves. Consider trying a few of the practices below to quiet the inner critic and access your innate value, potential, and goodness—the beauty of every human being. If it is possible, engage with trusted friends or a counsellor to obtain support for this new way of dialoguing about yourself.

Practicing Self-Compassion

  • Learn to Process as You Go. Notice and process distress (not engaging in denial or dissociation practices).
  • Mindfully Accept All Emotions. Be aware of and accept painful thoughts and feelings; allow them to ebb and flow (not minimizing or maximizing difficulties).
  • Engage in Learning, Not Judgment. Learn from your experience (not overly critical of your situation or behaviour).
  • Be Empathic To Distress. Understand the source of your distress and do what is necessary or helpful to alleviate it (not remaining in the painful story).
  • Offer Kindness to Harshness. Offer understanding, generosity, and kindness in the face of failure or setbacks (not harsh judgment or undue criticism).
  • See Yourself in Your Shared Humanity. View your experiences as part of being human (not believing that it is unique or worthy of isolation practices).
  • Stay Deeply Connected. Offer warmth and emotional connection to others (not punishing or freezing yourself out of relationships).
  • Convey Security. Express your capability for weathering strong emotions (not devaluing your own efforts and abilities).
  • Understand your body’s threat system and brain functions under stress.
  • Plan strategies to cope with and avoid external triggers or threats.
  • Mindfully and compassionately accept emotions and the sensory information associated with memories.
  • Reframe the story with self-compassion and empathy and include other parts of the overall narrative. Your friends and family can help with this.
  • Increase your sense of safety or comfort by making changes to your physical or psychological environment.
  • Practice meditations and visualizations to decrease stress and threat system activation.
  • Increase social support and self-esteem by joining others in talking and working through shame narratives.
  • Increase genuine concern for your own well-being and let others care for you when they offer.

I sincerely hope these practices of self-compassion will assist you in deconstructing shame in your life and constructing a more hopeful and happier future.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

Why Do People Talk About Others Behind Their Backs?

A Question In My AMA (Ask Me Anything) Inbox:

Why do people talk about others behind their backs and not to their face?

Answer: I canvassed about 35 people to get a bit of perspective on this. Here is what people said about the good, the bad, and the ugly reasons people had for talking behind a person’s back (TBPB).

The Good: TBPB is often not about intentionally hurting or diminishing others. People may be trying to…

  • Process their feelings with a trusted friend
  • Seek a resolution or a new perspective, including a positive one
  • Sort out how to have a future, follow-up conversation
  • Identify their own vulnerabilities, motivation, and role
  • Elicit some encouragement
  • Prevent the loss of a friendship or compromising it
  • Clarify what has been said or done and the various ideas possible
  • Avoid a future conflict or misunderstanding
  • Stop the spreading of rumours
  • Vent annoyances or frustrations that they can’t talk about directly

The Bad: But TBPB can be about hurting others if a person wants to…

  • Feel powerful or exert control that is less public (witnessed)
  • Be spiteful, spread rumours, or share secrets to ‘get back’ at others
  • Divulge their experience, even if it degrades or vilifies the other person
  • Indulge their own insecurities by:
    • Encouraging “negative” sharing or gossip
    • Joining into negativity to secure a place in the ‘inner circle’
    • Complaining about others to feel better about themselves
    • Ensuring others know and appreciate their ‘victim’ status
    • Creating divisions and forcing others to take sides

The Ugly: But TBPB might be more about one (or both) of you who…

  • Is fiercely protecting their own position and is ‘deaf to difference’.
  • Won’t have a conversation unless they win and you lose
  • Doesn’t want to hear about how or why change might be good or necessary
  • Prefers passive aggression to actual aggression toward you

Know Your Role

The difficulty with TBPB is to recognize ourselves in the ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ side of it. We believe we are right or we have a right to say what we want when we want. And we are complex beings with mixed motives and paradoxical mindsets. However, a quick way to dig into this is to ask yourself what you will gain and lose by having these discussions. Basically, what’s the end game, or the goal, for all this talking?

Share, But Maybe Not Everything

Not everything that can be said should be said.

A wise woman once said this to me a couple of decades ago and I have tried to live out this wisdom ever since, with varying degrees of success. But—I find that I am most likely to engage in TBPB when I am feeling insecure or powerless and need to establish a sense of control. When I am settled, secure, and safe within my own life context, I find that I listen more and speak less. I don’t think this is a co-incidence or a one-off experience and maybe this tendency resonates for you as well.

Try This Experiment

Speak less (or not at all) about a person who has wronged you when everything in you wants to share all the juicy details. See if any anxiousness or distress comes up for you, any sense of entitlement, or even a desire to hurt or even a score. Then dig in and discern what might be going on with you (besides that the fact that there is this intolerable person who is making your life miserable). Then, deal with that before you dish it out.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

Abortion: Difficulty with Death (Part 3 of 3)

For those who would find the topic of abortion too difficult to engage with, please refrain from reading further. As well, you might find it helpful to speak to a health professional or a friend.

The topic of abortion is often discussed within the context of political, theological, or ideological belief systems but for the purposes of this discussion I would like to position it within the framework of the human experience, grief, and loss.

Regardless of the reasons for or against abortions, many people will, nevertheless, experience deep grief and loss as a result of one. This may occur around the time of the abortion or many years later, and the person, their partner, and/or friends and family members may all experience significant loss.

While this is not everyone’s experience or understanding of an abortion, in counselling, we always begin where the client is situated. We talk about grief if they are experiencing it. We talk about conflicting feelings and emotions if they have them. We talk about how to identify and integrate the ideas and expectations about abortions within relevant contexts and possibilities if that’s helpful. And for some people, we talk how to grieve when you can’t discuss it with your family, partner or faith community.

As stated before, this is a complex subject fraught with big emotions and posturing so the first step in counselling is to offer non-judgemental, no-agenda, empathic witness and compassionate presence. Listening, with the intent to hear and understand, is often the biggest gift we can offer. Often, a client will say that this is the first time they have ever told anyone about the abortion; they have had additional pain by keeping it a secret.

Generally, there has been, or the fear is that there will be, harsh judgment, moralizing, and shaming. They may be experiencing any number of emotions (e.g., shame, regret, fear, relief) that have manifested in anxious or depressive symptoms, relationship difficulties, or problematic ways of living. Listening, therefore, is an important first step in the process of healing.

After a time of supportive listening, the next step might be to enter into grief work. For this, we generally turn to the ethics of re-membering, that is, bringing the loved one back into (or beginning to bring a loved one into) an ongoing relationship. Some re-membering conversations about the loss might include the following questions:

  • How did this decision protect your marriage/other children/other situations?
  • What values, hopes, dreams did you hold about your child?

We then will move into co-creating practices, rituals, and remembrance ceremonies for the loss, if this seems helpful, and learn how to integrate the loss into the present and the future.

If this sounds difficult, confusing, and painful—it is! Grief work is very hard and it usually takes longer than we would have ever imagined. However, joining together with someone—who is for you and with you—to work through any kind of suffering will, ultimately, lessen the pain and bring health and healing.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic or if reading this post has awakened some grief for you.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

Suicide: Difficulty with Death (Part 2 of 3)

The subject of death is a sensitive subject to write about in a public forum and I believe there is therapeutic value in discussing difficult topics. However, if you are currently suffering or grieving about a loved one’s suicide, use caution in reading this post and please seek professional counsel if needed. If you are experiencing grief or trauma, there are links to resources in the post, google suicide prevention, or phone 911.

Death is rarely welcome in our lives and our Western culture typically has great difficulty knowing how to respond to it. While other cultures have specific rituals and periods devoted to grief (e.g., sitting in shiva for seven days), Canadians, if they are fortunate, will receive three bereavement days off of work. More often than not, the message is: quickly get back to work or back to your “normal” life.

The navigation of grief and loss can be even more confusing and difficult if the death was a result of suicide. There are many beliefs about suicide, that it is a ‘sin’ or a ‘cop-out’ or a betrayal of trust or a friendship. There can be additional trauma for loved ones who “find” the person who suicided or who “didn’t see the signs” and now feel heartbroken about their actions or lack of action.

One of the ways we talk about death in counselling is to ask questions about the relationship the client has with the person that died, such as:

  • What kind of person was s/he?
  • What was s/he good at and bad at?
  • What stories do you have about her or him?
  • How do you want this relationship to continue?

We talk about the person’s beliefs and values about suicide, which typically include the ongoing influences of culture, faith, and family norms and rules. We talk about creating or maintaining grieving and memorial practices and rituals. We talk about strong emotions, including anger, shame, horror, resentment, and frustration and we talk about how to speak about the suicide (or not) with others, including one’s children, friends, or co-workers.

In counselling, yes, we talk—but we also might sit in silence, weep, look at photos, or engage in creative exercises. We give importance to the process of grieving over time, giving as much time and freedom to grief work as is needed. Most importantly, we bear witness to human suffering and offer simple presence, empathic listening, and compassionate alongside-ness.

Important: If you or someone you know is talking about suicide or is at risk to themselves or others, talk about it with a health professional. Call 911 or seek mental health assistance right away (see below for helpful links). Don’t go it alone and don’t wait.

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

 

SAFER (1-604-675-398): https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/mental-health-and-suicide-services-2/

Suicide Information by province in Canada: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

Suicide Information by state in USA: http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/USA

 

Miscarriages and Stillborn Babies: Difficulty with Death (Part 1 of 3)

Death is rarely welcome in our lives and our Western culture typically has great difficulty knowing how to respond to it. We likely haven’t had any good models in our lives about how to grieve. Those around us don’t know what to say or do because there are so few rituals to engage in and we are so reluctant to intrude in the “privacy” of others.

The death of child is especially tragic and heart wrenching and losing a child through miscarriage or a stillbirth can be difficult to grieve for a lot of reasons. These deaths are often never talked about, are swept aside by loved ones, or rarely mentioned after a short period of time.

Well-meaning people will sometimes inadvertently discount the death: “You can have more children“; or, “You have two healthy children already.” These types of comments suggest that the child never lived, were never given “person” status, or that their lives didn’t matter. The message is: move on; this event (life) wasn’t that important.

One of the ways I talk about death in counselling is to ask questions about the relationship the client has with the person that died. For parents, I will ask questions about their non-living child in the same way I would ask about any living child.

We begin with the stories of the pregnancy and continue to the experience of the present and hopes for the future relationship. By re-membering (that is, making the child a member of the family again—or a member for the first time), we are creating space for a rich relationship to grow and continue between parents, children, and families. Here are a few questions we might discuss in a counselling session.

Remembering the Beginnings

  • What are some moments of remembering and connection in your experiences of being pregnant?
  • What might the child say about your love for him/her while in utero?

Re-Membering the child: The Current Relationship to Your Child

  • What kinds of practices or conversations do you do to continue your relationship with your child (e.g., special celebrations, traditions)?
  • How are you refusing or resisting other people’s messages or discourses to “let go” or “move on”? What might your child say about you and your position?

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this topic or if reading this post has awakened some grief for you.

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

My deepest thanks to Lorraine Hedtke & Helena Grau Kristensen (2016) for their work in this area and the understanding they have provided. Adapted 2017, by Second Story Counselling. Lorraine Hedtke & Helena Grau Kristensen (2016). TC13 Workshop: Still Alive.

Sleeping with Parasomnias

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder; it affects 30% of North Americans and can cause a many difficulties beyond persistent exhaustion, like weight gain or an increase in accidents.

But there are a lot of other types of sleep problems called parasomnias just as debilitating as insomnia (and, no, I’m not talking about the arrival of an infant in your home). Parasomnias are grouped into a category of abnormal behaviours or physiological events associated with sleep, sleep stages, or sleep-wake transitions. Here is a brief description of some of the more common iterations that you or a friend might have experienced.

Nightmare Disorder: repeated occurrence of frightening dreams, which typically focus on imminent physical danger or personal failure.

  • Occur during REM sleep later in the night and happen frequently
  • Most people will have difficulty falling back asleep after this type of dream
  • Generally cause significant subjective distress due to the detailed recall of frightening images and story lines
  • Are strongly correlated [i.e., have a relationship] with depressive and anxious symptoms and are more common in children and women

Sleep Terror Disorder: these are nightmares or scary dreams characterized by abrupt awakenings that begin with a panicky scream or cry and include incoherent vocalizations.

  • Typically occur within the first third of a sleep cycle.
  • Are accompanied by intense fear and difficultly in awakening
  • There is an inability or great difficulty in being comforted by a co-sleeper
  • The episode is not remembered in the morning
  • Associated with psychopathology in adults (e.g., PTSD)
  • Highly correlated with a family history of sleep terrors or sleep walking
  • More common in male children but are equally common in male and female adults

Sleepwalking and Sleeptalking Disorder: repeated episodes of motor behaviour or talking during sleep

  • Occur in the first third of night
  • The person, although seemingly awake, is unresponsive to others but can often talk and do simple tasks well
  • There is some confusion and difficulty re-orienting to the waking state, which will take several minutes to a half hour to occur
  • Psychosocial stressors, fever, alcohol, and sedative use can increase sleepwalking
  • Sleepwalking can occasionally lead to violent episodes, sleep-eating, and sleep-sex in adults
  • Quite common for children: 10-30% will have at least one episode
  • The peak occurrence of sleepwalking is at age 12 and a positive family history of it increases the odds for other family members
  • For adults: 1-7% will experience at least one occurrence in their lifetime

Parasomnia NOS (Not Otherwise Specified):

REM sleep behaviour disorder: motor activity of a violent nature

  • Occurs during REM sleep later in the sleep cycle
  • Characterized by total dream recall
  • People who have been violent in their sleep will remember it as a dream

Sleep paralysis: inability to perform voluntary movement during period between sleeping and waking.

  • Being fully awake but unable to move your body can be an intensely fearful and anxiety-provoking experience
  • Terrifying images and hallucinations can accompany the ‘paralysis’
  • Can last for a few minutes to a half hour, and sometimes even longer
  • It is thought that this occurs when your REM sleep has finished but the mechanism that ‘paralyzes your body’ during REM sleep (so you don’t live out your dreams) does not shut off appropriately during the first while of awakening
  • Very common in adults; between 20-60% of people have experienced this
  • Anxiousness and depressive symptoms may increase the risk, as does shift-work and alcohol use.

If you have experienced one or more of these sleep disrupters, I would recommend that you speak to a doctor and arrange for a sleep test. It will reveal a lot about your overall sleep architecture, sleep problems, and will provide some strategies for reducing anything that’s interrupting restful sleep on a regular basis. As well, many parasomnias are correlated with other psychological factors like depressive and anxious symptoms or even childhood trauma. So, it is important to check it out with a health professional.

Good sleep for you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

A Grief Re-Membered

This is a simple practice of remembrance of a person you have lost–whether by death or by absence.  It re-members the person within your circle of important people, effectively bringing them back into the relationship you have with him or her to the present tense; it does not relegate the relationship to the past, forgotten as our culture seems to dictate.  This is because we typically carry the remembrance of them with us and their influence is in some way subtle or powerful, but is not erased.

Our loved ones do not vanish out of our consciousness after they stop breathing or interacting with us; they continue to speak to us and inform our present–sometimes in surprising ways.  If you are missing someone, this is one way to honour and re-member the relationship with your loved one as perpetual and life-giving to your present experience.

First, we can say “Thank you”.

Think about the person and the positive qualities and influence they held in your life. If you could sit with them right now, what could you thank them for? What do you appreciate most about them? How was the world positively changed by them being in it?

  • For who you are (what I know and love about you)
  • For the light you bring into this world and my heart
  • For the influence you had and are still having on me
  • For the influence you bring into our family and others
  • For the role you have…

Next, we can say “I Love You”.

Think about how the person is loved (was loved) and how you could express your love to them (writing, singing, creating). What is it about them that you especially appreciate or enjoy? What do you especially miss?

  • I love this about you
  • I love you because…
  • Others love this about you
  • You bring love into the world by…
  • I miss this about you…

Peace to you and your household in 2017,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC
www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
Twitter: @gottasecond

In Opposition to Individualism and NeoLiberalism

The following is a poem that speaks against the premises and promises of our culture that we are better off going it alone, doing our own thing, sucking it up and moving on. It is about how these beliefs and practices serve to isolate us, steal our joy, and forfeit our connection and belonging to each other.

More than all that though, I hope this poem reflects my belief that every person embodies a divine spark and is a glorious creation. That people are worthy of a dignified working out of their beauty and promise. That deep, sustaining love and community is what we all need and long for.

Bantam Branch

Look at you, bantam branch!

Adrift in a barren sky, reflecting cold paleness from the moon.

Mirages brush up and bump against your bruises…

the languid sun that warmed your soul,

the life-course of trees that rooted in your chest,

the arms once wide open to the bright, clear sky,

signs and wonders and so much manna,

That you feasted upon, reaped upon, heaped upon, hoped upon

desires…and were desired,

lovers…and were loved,

babes in your arms, awakened.

They wailed for you in the dark distance.

 

Look at you, bantam branch!

Untethered to the twitching and tweaking of piety and prose.

Yearning to be a painting others would admire,

to detach and attach to your own encumbrances

to seed and harvest in unspoiled freedom

to leave the gloom of the glen when the night-season fell.

And so you did.

You gasped and grasped at love and light

in all its splendid and twisted arrangements,

And an image was crafted and drafted,

a singular line etched into a deep canvas,

a form and a frame generated, but it became

a still life that someone birthed and hung on their wall.

They didn’t know it was you.

You didn’t know it wasn’t you.

 

Look at you, bantam branch!

You are glorious!

Did no one tell you? Have you not heard?

Unfurl the stiff pleats of disappointment & doubt.

Sweep off the damp despair clinging to your vestments.

Lay down worry-creased bundles of certainty and sanctity.

Be embraced in the plush folds of mercy and grace.

Receive tender kisses from belief and belonging.

Let beauty splash into your cold, dry eyes and ears.

Let beginnings dazzle your night-vision.

This is the uncommon ground of your being and your glad inheritance.
Be grafted into this glorious mystery:

It is the oil flowing down your beard that commands the blessing.

© 2017 Shari van Spronsen

Peace to you and your household,

Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC
www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
@gottasecond

January 2017: Bulking Up On The Positive

The beginning of a new year often precipitates more philosophical and poetic wonderings and wanderings for me. One thing I have been reflecting on a lot is about how 2016 is a “Thank God that’s over!” kind of year. There was a lot of bad news and most of us felt the shock of it washing over us again and again.

Uncertainty & Instability

I particularly noticed the ever-present uncertainty many people experienced in 2016, whether because of political posturing, wars and rumours of wars, racism and ageism, the loss of cultural icons and artists, or the effects of widespread economic instability. Unfortunately, there was ample news of death, doom, and destruction.

Isolation & Cynicism

Added to above problems were the isolation that social media and screens kindled (surprising) and the mushrooming messes neo-liberalism continued to propagate (not surprising). As well, there was intense frustration and cynicism about age-old structures, problems, and ideas that plagued and exhausted our communities—whether local or global.

Why We Notice Bad News

According to neuroscience, it is more common for us to notice the unusual, unpleasant, or worrying events around us. It’s called the negativity bias and it’s an evolutionary function to keep us alive. Problems and fears (real or perceived) strengthen the threat system in our brains and bodies (i.e., they supercharge the fight, flight, or freeze response).

Worry and fear activates the body’s threat system and preoccupation in either of these states can further increase our awareness of all that is troubling and wrong with the world. However, if our brains stay in threat mode for too long, there is an increase in the possibility of becoming depressed or anxious (or chronically cynical and angry). All those stress hormones floating around in our system are not good news over the long haul.

Stability & Security

Conversely, our brains typically pay much less attention to all that is going right. But, our brains will deactivate the threat response when we feel safe and stabile (psychologically and physically). If things are going well with us, the limbic system resets and the brain is able to focus again on other functions, such as creative thinking, analysis, and reasoning. We are also able to experience feel-good emotions, peacefulness, belonging and contentment being some of these.

Brain ‘Slacktivism’

What about the concept of a “no slacktivism” rule of life this year? Not just in our external domains but also for our brains. What if we were to actively combat that which seeks to destroy and divide our communities and families but also that which seeks to destroy and divide our happiness and hope? Not wearing rose-coloured glasses but also not wearing grey-coloured glasses either.

The Problem of Good

A question: what holds your attention and what do you think about on a regular basis? Turns out, that’s pretty important information if you want to maintain some of your optimism and hope.

Richard Rohr writes: ‘We have spent centuries of philosophy trying to solve “the problem of evil”…but how do we account for so much gratuitous and sheer goodness in this world?’

How do we create, or enjoy more hope, health, and goodness?

How do we notice that which will delight, beautify, and love deeply?

How do we believe again that there are people and things worth celebrating?

Pare Down or Bulk Up?

To begin this season of my life, I am planning to notice more of what is working well, what is possible, and what will bring people together.   I’m going to notice who or what influences me most and what gets the majority of my attention in the average day. Maybe a deeper exploration of my true self is required or maybe ditching the constant navel-gazing would serve me better. As well, I’m thinking about the possibility of paring down or bulking up a habit, rhythm or ritual of life.

Ditching the Dark Side

One thing I feel certain about: I don’t imagine that looking for goodness, hope, peace, beauty, justice, truth will be an easy process, especially because those aren’t the themes relentlessly bloating my social media feeds or the news.   It’s probably not going to be a natural process either—especially as I remember again how our brains are wired. But I’m going to try to adopt a beginner’s mind in all this and lay my weariness and wariness down in favour of a more balanced vista.

Four Point Plan

This is the basic pattern I will try to follow in 2017:

  • Disengage from the unyielding barrage of ideas that seeks to grab attention but offers neither an informed opinion nor a viable solution.
  • Focus more on whatever supports healing and hope in the world around me.
  • Engage in calming rituals (e.g., Tai Chi, walking meditation, contemplation, yoga) to encourage different ways of thinking, noticing, and believing.
  • Focus on what is going well while moving toward changing what isn’t going well.

Maybe you’d like to join me in this?  Feel free to contact me with your ideas or comments.

Peace to you and your household in 2017,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC
W: www.secondstorycounselling.com
E: shari@secondstorycounselling.com
T: @gottasecond

December 2016: Liminal Space

Liminal space is when you are standing with one foot on a dock and one foot in a rowboat. The slightest wave or wind will topple you into the water. You are feeling unstable, uncertain, and disoriented. You want to get out of this precarious position, but how? Should you step back on the dock or step out onto the boat?

Liminal Space is a threshold.
While transitional periods are probably not new to most people, liminal space is less common and has a different feel about it. It’s like being untethered and stuck at the same time, restless, anxious, and uncomfortable yet, paradoxically, immobilized and lethargic. The way forward is ambiguous; the way back, unnavigable.

And like the threshold of anything, it is, by nature, transitional and dislocating. It’s the demarcation line between where you are and where you will be next; it’s the in-betwixt or in-between place that nobody wants to be in for very long because it’s neither here nor there. And yet it seems all-consuming.

What puts us in the liminal space?
That depends a lot on the person and the particular contexts they live within. Some examples: a relationship has ended or gotten very stale; an identity or purpose is ghosting on you; the status quo is deeply unsatisfying and unsettling; a career is going nowhere; or, you may be transitioning into or out of something without a clear sense of how or why.

What moves us out of liminal space?
This is also difficult to determine but here are a few questions to consider.

  • Change. Do you need to stop or change something significant (e.g., a practice, tradition, job, relationship)? Do you need to start doing something, even if it’s difficult or scary?
  • Healing. Are there unresolved regrets, disappointments, failures, or grief to be worked through? Why is your health being compromised? Who is most invested in you staying put or moving on and why?
  • Explore the territory you are in now. How did you get here and who is here with you? What do you love and hate most about being where you are now in life? Where do you want to be one or five years from now?
  • Explore meaning and purpose. Are your core values and beliefs being integrated into your life or are you living someone else’s life? What is preventing you from being the best version of yourself?

What resources do you have?

  • Who could mentor or counsel you about what is possible—whether that is a business decision, lifestyle or relationship change, or a move in location? Who in your community of care could speak wisely and truthfully to you about your current situation?
  • What is the most interesting and thought provoking area of the world around you right now? How could you stretch your current knowledges and experiences? What would happen to your beliefs about yourself and the world if you adopted a beginner’s mindset or an unjaded standpoint?
  • How have other people journeyed through liminal spaces? How could you position yourself differently in the current narrative of your life? How could you engage your non-cognitive skills in an exploration of the current territory?

Liminal Space is not a great place to hang out.
To be frank, it usually sucks. It requires radical self-examination and tough reflection; it demands more time than anyone would ever want to spend, and it probably creates some mental anguish. However, it might also propel us toward a new alignment with our self and the world. And it holds the promise of meaningful and authentic growth, freedom, and expression.

Sometimes it’s worth it to rock the boat for a while and appreciate what shakes out of your pockets.

Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC, CCC

www.secondstorycounselling.com
shari@secondstorycounselling.com
T: @gottasecond

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How To Get Here

169 E12 Ave
Vancouver, BC
V5T 2G8

Transit & Parking: There is pay parking around the building but, if you want to park for free, there is a big lot at Centrepoint Mall between 13 Ave & 14 Ave near the IGA.

The #3 bus stops right before 12 Ave, the #99 stops on West Broadway (9th Ave) and Main and there are bike lockups on the street.