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This image is respectfully taken from Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations for Rabbit Makes a Monkey of Lion, by Verna Aardema

It dawned on me just recently that many of us are probably in a kind of withdrawal process right now.

While we may not have considered ourselves to have an addiction to our outer world lives, to others, to going to work, to being able to move without restriction, it is safe to say that the change of circumstances we are currently adapting to has indeed withdrawn portions of our previous life from us, things we used to rely upon.

We can’t underestimate the ego personality’s great capacity to form habitual dependencies, especially on outer world things that seemed to be telling us who we are and what our value was. …


This is Part 3 of a series on Distress Tolerance. Part 1| Part 2

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This drawing is from The Mitten, adapted & illustrated by Jan Brett.

We can think of the emotional body as sitting between the physical body and the mental body. The limbic system, which is the emotional body’s command center in the brain, is nested above the brain stem (main command center for the physical body), and below the cerebral cortex (command center for the mental body). This is a massive oversimplification, but works as a rough map/metaphor/model.

I share some bottom up tools in my first post on body-based tools and some top down tools in my second post on thought-based tools. Working with the emotional body tends to involve a little bit of both, and has its own quality, which is about feeling (not the body’s felt sense, nor complex cognitions such as “I feel you have done the wrong thing here” but rather the pure quality of emotion itself). …


This is Part 2 of a series on Distress Tolerance. Part 1| Part 3

The following tools are variations of cognitive therapy and other thought-work exercises. These are useful when you want to feel better by way of noticing and amending the scripts, contents, sequences, stories and wordings of the mind.

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Image lovingly lifted from Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations for Rabbit Makes a Monkey of Lion, by Verna Aardema

Why this works: the brain works like a radio, picking up messages from the particular mental radio station you’re tuned into. As Anne Lamott says, if you’re tuned in to KFKT (pronounce K-f-worded, of course), then that’s the broadcast you’ll hear. …


This is Part 1 of a series on Distress Tolerance. Part 2 | Part 3

Many of us are being pressed & stretched to the growing edge limits of our ability to tolerate distress right now. Feeling to help us recall and share our many inner resources for getting through challenging passages.

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Image reverently lifted from Island: a story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin

The most basic resource that each of us has on their side is our own physiology, the living container we are each inhabiting. Nature endowed us with a distress-processor.

The parasympathetic nervous system, whose job is to transform and release the energies of “over-activation” (aka sweaty palms, racing heart, constricted chest, tunnel vision response we sometimes call the fight-flight reaction that so many of us are struggling to tolerate at the moment), is our closest friend here. …


I wrote the following article while working at Villa Kali Ma, a holistic residential treatment facility for women.

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Most of us who work in addictions treatment have had the deeply unsettling experience of looking into the eyes of someone who is completely, totally certain that they will never drink or use again — only to hear within less than a year that this person has been overtaken by their disease again.

Those of us with addiction in our families know it in an even more intimate way — the curious, exasperating, and crushing way that the disease returns to claim someone we love, even after hard work, copious tears, and sincere intentions have been committed by all. …


Sometimes the creation process feels like whacking through a brambly mountain gorge in a giant sweater. There are so many places to get snagged and unraveled, set back and bewildered. I usually have to unhook myself a few times to be able to keep going.

I like the bushwhacking metaphor because I think most creative work is more like trampling a path through wilderness than it is like skipping in your keds down a comfortably wide, well worn road.

When I ponder the whole manifestation cycle from initial spark to full blown delivery of the creative work (or life change), I see a few distinct moments of muddle that are worth unpacking. …


Let me be mega clear: I hate planning. I am not the type of war room strategist I am picturing right now as I write this — tasseled uniform, gravelly voice, jabbing my finger at a map of the world marked with thumb tacks and string.

No, I’m not that guy. But I have my reasons to talk about planning. I love creative action, especially when it spills over naturally from excitement. I also value inaction: dreaming, resting, imagining, musing, sleeping abnormally long hours and “meandering in my mind”, aka spacing out.

But the bridge between the inspiration my spacing out often gives me and the creative action required for a more considered, bigger project or life change is troublesome. …


When I first heard someone use Non-Violent Communication, I snickered out loud. I just remember a frizzly woman shouting, “Kacey! When you yell, it gets in the way of my need for peace and quiet. Would you be willing to stop making that unholy racket?”, to which a four year old girl in a sequined lavender tutu screeched “NOOOOO!” at the top of her tiny lungs.

It was on the street in downtown Berkeley in 1999. I was a frankly miserable college student with a habitual stance of smirking at anything that threatened to resonate with my squishy insides and give me away as not being anything like the person I was pretending to be. So the only impression this NVC phrasing made on me was of it being something to avoid. (I have since learned that that phrasing was a bit of a misapplication — for a more sophisticated take on using NVC with children, see NVC founder Marshall Rosenberg’s thoughts on Raising Children Compassionately.) …


This is a game you can play with teams to explore the vagaries of psychological safety in work settings. It corresponds to the foundational level of the Lencioni Pyramid of High Performing Teams.

Playing this game with a group tends to elicit recognition of how easily team trust can be weakened, and also forces people to think creatively about trust-building actions they can take on the daily in any given setting. Playing silly games together is inherently relationship-building so worth a jag anyway.

As a reminder, this is not for the adorable-kitten-poster-virtue of trust in and of itself, not that that there’s anything wrong with that, but because of the crucial role psychological safety has in high performance. Any team hoping to get to intergalactic reaches of achievement will need to invest in a foundation of mutual trust. …


For teams in which people collaborate on more or less equal footing, and in which authority is shared, the ability to speak openly with one other when someone is letting the group down is ultra relevant.

In the old model, problems were addressed by the leadership through administering some kind of punishment. In any team which is at least partly self-organizing, which most software teams are, however, it’s better for the team if people enforce each other/themselves.

From the perspective of the product owner or manager, this is the case for a couple of reasons:

a) If you allow yourself to become the sole, unilateral enforcer, the team behaves like teenagers, with you increasingly cast as “dad/mom/school principal” enforcing rules the team thinks they never agreed…

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holly mae haddock

//*creative conscious collective* \\ ((((((((hollymaehaddock.com)))))))))

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