‘Letting go’ does not mean ‘doing nothing’

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Photo: borchee/Getty Images

At dinner on New Year’s Eve, a small group of friends and I reflected on the past decade and discussed what we hoped to see come to fruition in 2020. It was less about resolutions (personally, I hate resolutions—they set us up to fail), and more about intentions or areas to focus on. When it was my turn, a conversation I had with a client earlier that day came to mind.

My client and I discussed how this next year, after all of her inner work in 2019 around finding her voice, she needed to now shift to focus on releasing or letting go. This led to a conversation about how she needed to find a balance between action and surrender. In yoga philosophy, the terminology for this balance is sthira and sukha. …


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Andrew Galarza

Pain is Inevitable. Suffering is not.

I have a tendency of thinking about things in a very logical way, somewhat detached, rolling it around in my mind examining it from every angle. Recently, however, grief has shown up in such a present and personal way that it has challenged my seeming ability to keep a distance and compartmentalize feelings, and has caused me to feel into it in ways I haven’t yet experienced.

In the last couple of months, multiple clients have found their way to me who are struggling with huge losses in their lives. In therapy, we have a saying that the clients we need, find us. As I was in the midst of considering why grieving clients have been surfacing, my godmother passed away after a lifelong battle with type 1 diabetes, and then shortly after, my boyfriend’s father passed. I began realizing while looking it square in the face, that I was unsure of my relationship to grief, in myself, and also in how I sit with clients, family, and friends experiencing it. …


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Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

How the Silent Treatment Destroys Relationships

The feelings of anger, frustration, betrayal, and annoyance washed over me. Followed by an intense desire to push him away, throw up my hands, and say “fuck it and fuck you.”

This is not a feeling most of us want to associate with our intimate partners. And yet, 3-months into what seemingly was the best relationship I had been in in my life I felt this very familiar cluster of emotions and sensations wash over me like hot molten lava. My long practiced and perfected skill at pushing people away and shutting them out came rushing forward, overcoming any skills learned as an adult in therapy. …


I’m a therapist who recently had one of the most challenging years of my life — it changed me for the better

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Photo: JR Korpa/Unsplash

In psychology and the world of self-betterment, we always talk about “resiliency” as a barometer for mental health. Resiliency has always been something I talked about with my own therapist and with my clients but, until a recent challenging experience in my own life, I didn’t truly understand it in a deeply felt way. In reflecting on that recent experience, however, I had a profound moment of realization — recognizing just how far I have come on my personal journey toward building resiliency.

I wrote my thesis on the theory of trauma as initiation. That’s a topic for another piece altogether, but the short version of the theory goes something like this: Initiations are big, life-altering, internal or external changes that usher us from one stage of life to another. Things like changing career paths, breaking off a toxic relationship, or a mid-life crisis are all types of initiations. Spirituality and rituals used to be a platform for humans to experience and make sense of these initiations, but in our modern world, we have, in many ways, lost our connection to the spirit and the numinous (the unknown and mysterious). During a time of initiation, these sometimes painful and abrupt periods of change, we are no longer who we were and are not quite yet who we will become. …


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Niklas Hamann for Unsplash

There’s a Difference Between Ego and Intuition.

Recently I’ve begun adding weight lifting into my workout routine. I’ve been a yogini and a lover of Pilates for many years, but being a woman means that as I get older my bones are slowly and inevitably turning to dust. Lifting weight can actually help strengthen them from within, so I decided what the hell. Also, my boyfriend is a Crossfitter who knows his shit, so it helps. I’m now around a lot of Crossfitters with huge muscles that can lift 3x my body weight but probably can’t touch their toes. …


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Breaking the Chains of our Unconscious Patterns

Cycles and patterns have been on my mind lately. Cycles of behavior, of thought, of emotions, the dances we do with ourselves and with others. The idea that unless we are intimately familiar with our inner selves we are destined to repeat the same cycles over and over again. And even when we are familiar, sometimes we still repeat them, because we haven’t truly learned what they feel like in order to recognize them and then choose a different behavior.

Many of our patterns are engrained from our upbringing. Many are adopted for survival. Many of the cycles, if not identified, worked through, and monitored can show up as unhealthy behavior like codependency, being controlling, living in a victim mentality, etc. …


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Photo by Frank Flores on Unsplash

Why Expressing Your Emotions is Crucial for Self-Growth

In yoga asana (the physical practice of yoga), the pose begins when you want to leave it. It’s when we can notice that resistance (and sometimes muscle scorching discomfort), take an inhale, and then exhale more deeply into the pose that the real transformational work happens. I believe the same can be said for life, relationships, career, and in general our overall personal and spiritual growth.

Can we notice the moment where we tense up and want to flee, take a breath, and then lean in or get even more present? Can we have the difficult conversations regardless of what we think the outcome will be? …


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Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

After a recent weekend in my hometown spending time with family and friends, I realized how many questions and conversations I’m having around the idea of therapy these days. People asking for very specific advice or telling me, in great detail, something they’re currently struggling with, people asking general questions about therapy and about therapists. Having recently graduated from my Master’s program, people are obviously curious about what I learned, but they are also curious about why something like my personal therapy was so soul altering that I changed my entire life to pursue it as a career myself.

Living my day to day in places like New York City and Los Angeles where topics like spirituality or veganism are a daily occurrence and the idea of inner work and therapy is accepted mostly as the norm, I forget sometimes how many people still find the concept of therapy curious or even odd. …


And, no, it’s not bubble baths or spa treatments.

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Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

The older I get the more important the word “no” becomes to me. It’s not a word that has been widely used in my adult vocabulary, maybe not used much since I was a toddler actually (side note: my first words were actually “want more” which if you know me is incredibly fitting). In general, I am a “yes man.” I say yes to everything and every one. I have struggled with being a people pleaser and caretaker my entire life. And, to be clear, our work-self and our personal- self can be different. As a former Advertising Producer, saying “no” was a huge part of my job, and one I was very good at. But saying “no” to those I love? …


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Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

In any new romantic relationship, there is an excitement in the new. Learning someone’s story, experiencing things fresh through their eyes, shared interests, exploration of the physical. But time and again I hear people asking “how do I know if it’s love?” And, most recently someone asked, “what does knowing actually feel like?”

Professor of Psychology, Barbara Fredrickson, has studied and written on the idea and feeling of “love.” Reading some of her work made me reflect on my own experiences with love as well as my clients’.

Many of us have experienced that young passionate form of love. You know, the one where you physically hurt when you’re apart. Where you hang on every word they say. When hours spent together feels like minutes. Where you can’t keep your hands off of each other. For many, this type of love is encountered when relatively young, before experience turns into baggage and walls. It’s when you love wholly, arms and heart wide open. For some, this love turns into their forever partner. In my experience (both personal and clinical), this is rare, but for a lucky few they are able to fan those flames for a lifetime. …

About

Vanessa Bennett

Psychotherapist, Mindfulness + Codependency Coach. Cohost of the Cheaper Than Therapy Podcast. IG:vanessasbennett

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