Whole Person, Whole Life Wellness has moved

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The Hour of the Wolf and Late Night Vices

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Do you spend your late evening hours eating, drinking, watching more TV than you’d like, wasting hours on the computer….?  What’s your vice in the late night hours?  The hour of the wolf, some have called it.  This is usually a reference to the time of the night when all the “noise” or action of the day is done and we’re left with our thoughts, anxieties, disappointments……basically, what is there to be noticed in us if we’re not distracting from it.

According to Wikipedia, the 1968 horror movie called Hour of the Wolf stated the following as their tagline:  “The Hour of the Wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful…”

That’s quite a grim statement.  But let’s not forget it’s for a horror movie.  But what we can take from this is the depth and intensity we expect our inner experiences to have.  So much so that without even thinking about it, we’re taking part in some kind of avoidance behavior.  Many spend their days being quite productive, interactive, engaged, etc.  But when the tasks of the day are done and one is left to just “be” with oneself in an unstructered, non-task-oriented way, one can feel lost.  And many choose to take up this unstructured time with some sort of a behavior that they usually regret.  Whether it’s not good for them or it’s keeping them from using their time in a more meaningful way, it’s almost always keeping them from being tuned in to their own experience.

What could you be noticing in yourself if you stopped distracting.  Even for just a small portion of the time.  Chances are what you’d find wouldn’t be anything close to the intensity or fear the horror movie ad speaks of.  More likely, it will be an unfamiliar experience to you.  Allowing yourself to stay tuned in, becoming mindful of what you’re noticing, without judgement, can be a rich experience.  It may be totally new to you and unsettling in that it feels so unknown to you.  You may not even know what to do with yourself when you are feeling and noticing these new, unfamiliar things.  But it’s the most rewarding path to knowing yourself more deeply, discovering yourself and your potential.

Try it.  Write about it, draw about it, talk with someone about it.  And then have a wonderful, peaceful, deep sleep.

Good night.

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Paris Attacks, Emotional Trauma and Being Seen and Known

The week following the Paris attacks when an apartment building was searched for the suspects from the attack, NPR interviewed two of the surviving tenants from the apartment building. This young man and woman gave their amazing account of how they thought they were about to die, how they called and texted their loved ones with their messages of love (what they thought was their final words to their loved ones), and how they ultimately survived.

As they discussed the impact this experience had on them, the young man and woman both felt an amazing bond with each other. Both of them sharing in this life threatening trauma left them frozen and unable to fit back into the rhythm of their everyday life. The young man said, “I don’t want to see anybody or do anything. I only want to be with her because she knows.”

She knows. This small sentence said so much. We do have a sense of how important it is to be really seen and known, for sure. But when your world as you know it comes crashing down around you and you don’t feel like you are you anymore, who can really see and know you then? Who could possibly understand why you feel frozen and how nothing will ever be the same?

Psychoanalyst and philosopher Robert Stolorow has coined the term “Relational Home” to capture the experience of finding that place where you are truly known and understood. Your emotional trauma and that experience of being forever changed is welcomed. Imagine open minds and hearts ready to be with someone who is hurting, rather than platitudes that miss the experience entirely.

Difficult emotional experience can be small or huge and everything in between. And all emotions are woven into the tapestry of human existence. All forms of emotion need space to exist, to be welcomed, to be recognized, allowing us to be fully known.

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image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being with someone when things are good is wonderful and easy (unless you happen to be suffering at the time.) However, being with someone when they are suffering can feel harder. But being a welcoming relational home for someone can be the best gift you can give. Because to truly know someone and be known, in all the realness of who we all are, is where healing and surviving truly lives.

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Finding the balance? Or going with the flow?

ImageAfter starting my blogging experience with all the furvor of New Year new beginnings, I have slipped from my weekly posting schedule.  For the last 7 weeks I’ve been teaching a class at my psychoanalytic institute and have been immersed in the fabulous experience of intellectual stimulation.  Through preparing the course and participating in some high level discussions with the candidates in the class, I have felt a vitality that doesn’t get met in other capacities of my life.  (In a future post I wil say more about the topic itself — The Role of Bodily Experience in Psychoanalysis).

I have many roles I juggle and I love them all — mother, wife, psychotherapist/psychoanalyst, supervisor, teacher………and more.  And each of these roles has myriad activities I love to do.

Each of these things gives me great pleasure but at times they all come together in such a way that I have too much on my plate.  I am used to helping others navigate the “too muchness” of how our lives shape up these days.  And I have often talked about having “balance” in life — not letting one thing take up all the space. 

But how possible and realistic is “balance?”  Can all the important things have a place in our lives all the time?  Can we limit our passions to leave room for other passions?  Can we feel emotionally torn between our various roles?  

I have started to consider abandoning the ideal of “balance” for a more realistic “going with the flow” approach.  This requires trust in self and faith that we will be able to navigate life as it comes.  It requires an awareness of our selves and an attunement to our self experience to know how we’re doing and what we need.  It requires an ability to say “no” to some things or changing course from time to time.   It also requires a good sense of what fulfillment means to each of us rather than a catch all goal of happiness.  (Another future post will be abandoning the ideal of “happiness.”) 

How do your passions stack up in your life?  Are you feeling pulled in too many directions?  Have you lost yourself in all the “doings?”  Imagine going with the flow and trusting yourself to know what you need as you move along your life journey.

So, I will post to my blog when I feel enough space for the writing to emerge.  It may be weekly or totally sporadic.  But, for sure it will feel more authentic to me.

 

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Mac ‘n Cheese, Comfort Food, and Oxytocin

ImageOn a recent rainy day I took my workout inside to the local gym.  As I was dutifully (and boringly) trudging along on the treadmill, I looked up at the TV screen and saw a shot of a fork lifting out a bite of ooey, gooey, mac and cheese.  Now I tuned in more intentionally.  After all, on a grey and rainy day that shot of the mac and cheese made my morning.  The show was an episode of “The Chew,” a daytime cooking show that I wouldn’t typically be watching.  But, hey, I was a captive audience.  

What struck me was the attraction of the warm and creamy texture of this delectable food.  It made me think about how often mac and cheese serves the function of a comfort food.  The kind that will be soothing, calming, nurturing, and just all around feel good.  I also started thinking about the need this type of food meets for anyone indulging for emotional reasons.  Like those times when distress, anger, sadness, anxiety, etc. lead someone to the ice cream, pizza, mac and cheese, and “you fill in your favorite here.”  

I recall a connection made with comfort food and mother’s milk.  That sweet, warm, creamy food that is often someone’s first food.  Yet, more than just first food, the experience of drinking mother’s milk comes in very nurturing, bonding, loving moments.  That mother/child bonding is forged partly through the hormone Oxytocin.  This hormone is also what brings people together with warm feelings of connection and love.  

In checking this out I found a some research on the levels of Oxytocin and eating disorders.  But one that caught my eye in particular was how chimpanzees show higher levels of Oxytocin when sharing their food than when they are grooming (which is an important social behavior for them).  So, sharing their meal with other chimpanzees provided more social bonding.  This has also been written about for humans.  When we come together with others over a meal it impacts our appetite and we eat less.

What does this mean for emotional eating?  I’m always one to support intuitive eating and, if you are truly craving something, to listen to that and allow yourself to eat it.  However, if this craving becomes an allowance for binging, perhaps some focus on the feelings needing soothing are in order.  And, since we know a desire for a nurturing, loving experience is likely being sought to soothe that intense feeling, perhaps an effort to connect with others will better meet these longings.  

A phone call with a friend, a hug?  What can you think of for the next time you’re in that spot?

© 2014 Sona DeLurgio

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Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw…….Or Eating Disorder?

ImageDon’t let this title worry you. Most people follow these eating styles for totally appropriate reasons, such as health, environmental reasons, animal welfare concerns, religious beliefs, etc. Others because they simply don’t like meat.

But what about those who take these eating philosophies to their extreme as a way to have more rigid rules to help them justify their preference for food restriction? We see this in mostly teenagers but adults, too, who may be in the early stages of an eating disorder.

Often someone who is predisposed to an eating disorder will begin experimenting with vegetarianism. They cut out meat. This may then move into eliminating dairy and eggs. After a while he or she may decide that no animal products should be consumed and calls himself/herself a vegan. As this lifestyle becomes the norm, he or she may further restrict their eating and move into the raw food diet. If this person’s eating is closely observed, one would find that these eating philosophies are not being followed in a healthy manner, but as a charade for their food restriction. This charade is even masking the eating disorder tendencies from the very person practicing it!

Another type of eating disorder is making the news these days — Orthorexia. This disorder is about excessive focus on eating healthy foods. What?! Aren’t we all trying to be healthier? Isn’t there more information about using our food to build our health? Well, in looking at those who have a tendency toward eating disorders, this new movement toward healthy food can then turn into an obsession and become as rigid as any of the eating philosophies above.

So, if you, your daughter, son, or your loved one moves into increasingly rigid eating styles, take a closer look. Observe the patterns. Don’t preach to or shame. Rather, ask for a step back. Some space to really look and see what might be going on. And what that person truly needs. Usually someone to know they are not feeling O.K. with themselves and a chance to talk about it. Be ready, though, for those who are not wanting any intrusion into their eating styles. If someone resists your observations, just be available for when they may be ready to receive some support.

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Babies are Everywhere! The insidious nature of infertility.

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You’re out running a routine errand when you see one pregnant woman walking with a toddler in a stroller and a pre-schooler walking alongside. You turn the corner and there’s a pregnant woman sitting at a sidewalk café talking with her friend who is holding her own baby. You meet your friend for lunch who tells you that your mutual friend just found out she’s expecting, after just starting to try. Your mother calls to let you know that your cousin will be delivering soon so there will be a baby shower to attend.

How could this be fair, you think? You’ve been trying to conceive for what seems to be a lifetime and still no baby. Everywhere you turn it seems everyone is either expecting a baby or has one, or two, or three!

You’ve tried to have other things to focus on in your life but the baby thing seems to be what keeps cropping up. Your relationship has become much about baby making, and each month brings anticipation and hope, then loss and let down. People tell you to relax, take a vacation, don’t try to focus on it. But, no matter how much you convince yourself you’re relaxing and not thinking about it, your most fertile time is still in the back of your mind and your lovemaking becomes baby making again.

Infertility is a crisis and a trauma. It hits on physical, psychological and relational levels. With it come powerful emotions and self-evaluations. One may feel loss of control over their lives, poor self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, loss, sadness, depression, and resignation. Eventually infertility can affect how one views the world, themselves and their relationships. Marriages become stressed. Envy plagues friendships. Guilt leads to isolation.

Someone dealing with infertility may find themselves avoiding certain social situations or friendships to defend against feelings of envy and loss when others are pregnant or have babies. A couple may find themselves ill fitting in their circle of friends while others begin families and the focus becomes child-centered activities. Support groups can be helpful, or add to the sense of hopelessness as more news of infertility abounds.

Recognizing the all-encompassing experience of infertility can help those suffering feel a little more grounded. Our culture has rituals for loss of a loved one and the need to grieve is recognized, accepted, and allowed. There are no rituals for the loss of a longed for child. Others will often give platitudes in response to any talk of difficulty conceiving. This can end up feeling emptier and more isolating than keeping the crisis to yourself.

Confiding in those who are close to you, educating them about the kind of support you need from them in a very specific manner, and reaching out to these support people can be very helpful. Additionally, spouses must stay open with each other through the experience of infertility. Don’t fear revealing the intense emotions, it will bring you closer rather than drive you apart.

You can navigate this time of crisis when you recognize the depths of the impact, keep talking about what you’re feeling with trusted others and be loving with yourself.

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