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The Lie of Black and White

The Lie of Black and White

One therapy modality I use most is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapeutic method shows the link between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. One of the central tenets of CBT is that our brains all make “cognitive errors.” Basically, this means that we think things that are flawed and untrue. These common thinking errors can be grouped into several categories. For example, emotional reasoning errors, errors in which we jump to conclusions, and black and white thinking to name a few. When we think in black in white, we engage in “all or nothing” thinking. We think something is all good or all bad. We think that something is either all right or all wrong. This way of thinking leaves no room for middle ground or a helpful and realistic “gray” area. Much of our experiences exist in the middle rather than the extremes.

One major lie that I see black and white thinking tell is that there is a “right choice” that is easy and peaceful and that there is a “wrong choice” that is riddled with difficulty, problems, and anxiety. This black and white trap keeps us from making healthy and informed decisions. The truth is no matter your choice, you are going to face difficulty, stress, and hardship. On one hand, this can feel disheartening. On the other hand, it is extremely freeing to accept the fact that there is no problem-free choice. Our charge, then, is to choose the path and the anxiety and the problems that we’re willing to take on and that fits with our values and goals.

I am a marriage and family therapist and I constantly think of how things apply to relationships, couples, and families. When learning about couples, we often talk about the idea that when we choose a partner, we choose with them a collection of problems that we are willing to deal with and accept throughout our lives. Many of the difficulties in our relationships won’t ever be resolved, you just deal with them because the good parts of your relationship are worth dealing with the difficulty. This is the concept of choosing your anxiety applied. You can’t actually find a perfect partner, but you can find a partner that you love with problems you’re willing to accept.

Let me give an example of what this looks like in eating recovery. One of the most common things I hear clients say keeps them from recovering is anxiety. You might worry about what your life and your body will look like if you have a healthy relationship with food and leave the eating disorder behind. Without the perceived sense of control eating disorders give you, you may be nervous that those feelings will be replaced with anxiety—and the truth is, they might be! However, in this scenario, black and white thinking would probably say that recovery brings anxiety while staying the same doesn’t bring anxiety. This just isn’t the case. The fact of the matter is that continuing to live life with eating concerns also has its anxieties—the anxiety of being found out, decreased ability to regulate emotions, and distress around mealtimes. If you can no longer avoid anxiety and difficulty altogether, the goal is then to choose the path that—although problem-filled—fits with your values and your long-term, healthy goals. You can’t always choose whether or not to have anxiety or difficulty, but you can choose what difficulties and anxieties you’re willing to take on in pursuit of long-term health and happiness.

This is just one example of the way black and white thinking may keep you stuck and one solution for pushing those thoughts more towards the middle. What other black and white thinking traps do you notice yourself fall into in your recovery journey? What are ways you can expand your thinking to include a more realistic view of the world?

 

Intuitive Eating Basics: Movement – Feel the Difference

Intuitive Eating Basics: Movement – Feel the Difference

 

When you think about exercise, what immediate reactions do you have to the concept? Does it bring to mind peaceful jogs through a park, or punitive drill sergeant style fitness coaches at the gym? Do you remember the joy of a zumba class with friends, or the distressed feeling that you are always working against the clock to get all of your steps for the day in? 

As we begin to examine your relationship to movement, I’d like to invite you to slow down and consider the honest answer to some of these questions: 

Do I feel my worth rise and fall depending on how much or how little I exercise? 

Do I feel the need to “earn” my nutrition through exercise? 

Do I find myself obsessionally thinking about my step count or workout stats? 

As you think about your relationship with movement, you likely see some themes begin to emerge. They may be marked by obsession, punishment, or ignoring your body’s signals; or they may be balanced, nurturing, and restorative practices. You may even notice times in your life where you have fallen more into one category than the other, depending on choice and circumstance. 

Intuitive eating principle number nine is “Movement- feel the difference”. Evelyn Tribole shares with us: 

“Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.”

As you reframe your relationship with your body through intuitive eating principles, we look at not only what nutritional care you are providing your body, but also what activities and movements you use your body to perform.  

While striving to ensure that your exercise falls within intuitive bounds, here are a few things to consider: 

Focus on how movement feels in your body. Do you enjoy it? What would make the experience more enjoyable?  

Don’t move with the primary goal of weight loss. Move to enjoy moving. Mindfully observe your exercise. 

Explore movement as self-care. Few things feel as good as a yoga class at the end of a stressful day, or a boxing class after a frustrating day. How can you incorporate movement into your routines of self care? 

Adequately nourish your body before, during, and after movement. Eat and drink in ways that are restorative to yourself.  

Enjoying movement is a wonderful way to connect more deeply with your body and grow an appreciation for what she does for you.  

 

Seasons of Life

Seasons of Life

As I am growing and changing, I continue to learn one lesson over and over, which is that life is made up of many seasons. I’m not talking about the spring, summer, fall, winter kind of seasons, I’m speaking about the many changes we experience as humans living in this world.

Let me give you an example to help demonstrate what I mean. I have a one-year-old son and during his first year of life I did not just experience the four seasons that come with changing weather, but many more seasons as well. Some seasons lasted a few months, some a few weeks, some even just a day or two. Some of these seasons have included: 

“Aw look at my sweet newborn that needs to eat every five minutes.”

“Holy sh*t I’m a mom! There’s no way that I can do this!”

“I’m totally getting the hang of this! Only waking up once a night!”  

“Oh no, here comes a tooth and none of us are sleeping” and it goes on and on.

With each “season” that has passed with my baby, there have been things that I was sad to see go and others I was glad to be seeing the taillights of. You can look at each passing season and appreciate some parts and be happy to let others pass you by.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW)

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and the theme really fits both eating recovery and life in general. See the Change, Be the Change. Learn more about NEDAW here.

See the Change

Maybe you are in a season of recovery where you are doing very well in treatment and eating disorder behaviors are hardly showing up. Maybe it is a constant struggle to get through an hour without behaviors showing up. Or perhaps you are just gaining the courage to start treatment. Regardless of where you are in eating recovery today, each season matters and can help you move forward. With each up and down of your current season, can you look for the tiniest bit of good in and let the rest pass you by?  

Be the Change

In a world where it seems like so much is out of your control, you can own and take charge of your recovery. That does not mean things will go perfectly swell, but it does mean that you can take the next step in this season of recovery, whether it’s to be honest in therapy, follow your meal plan, or learning to be gentle with yourself. 

 

The Longer Journey

The Longer Journey

Remember the sayings, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “anything worth doing, is worth doing well?” I know I, personally, haven’t heard these quotes in years…maybe even as far back as my prepubescent days.

More and more I feel surrounded by a culture that values big progress and instant solutions. The belief that radical transformation happens quickly taunts us in self-help books, podcasts, new medications, testimonials, and even therapeutic interventions. Hell, I want to try Ketamine too and see if a life-transforming “trip” awaits me.

We all love dramatic transformation. Why else did Eat Pray Love top the best seller market for years? If only we all had the luxury of abandoning our careers, families, and daily lives to go find ourselves in exotic, international locations.

But most of us have daily lives that claim us and it is within them that we do our work.

There is nothing sexy or glamorous about the changes that take place slowly, over years.

In fact, sometimes the glacial pace of hard change can feel demoralizing and depressing. Even writing about this topic feels lackluster.

One of the very first things I learned in graduate school came from my professor who was teaching us Psychotherapy Foundations. She said, “A lot of people think therapy is exciting and dramatic. People who have never been to therapy think only about the juicy secrets and trauma revealed in our confidential spaces. But the truth is: therapy is long, hard work.”

I have worked in settings that required short-term therapy models. I witnessed people change in limited time-frames. I don’t want to negate that work can happen in those spaces.

But, now I work in a place where I have the luxury of seeing clients long-term and the transformation I witness is so different. Instead of only journeying with clients for a short chapter of their life, I get to journey for a few chapters, maybe even an entire volume of their life series.

I have learned that beauty and sacredness are in the messy, painful, middle chapters. The courage required beyond big life choices.  The courage to simply get up and face another day. The courage to hope. The courage to believe that change is even possible.

I have one client that I’ve been privileged to know for 11 years. Her demons have been big and her progress hard fought. Over the years I’ve known her, there haven’t been grandiose turning points or mind-blowing insights. There have been shifts, and pivots and advances, and retreats, and breaking points and coping and medication changes, and Boost, and loneliness, and dreams and hundreds of dollars spent on scales she will throw away a month later, and fear, and vulnerability, and bravery. While there was no singular transformation, the person she is today is unrecognizable to who I met 11 years ago. She has changed herself and her life in profound ways, slowly, over time. Even though her work isn’t done, she continues to show up. She continues to work.  

The journeys of each of my clients almost exactly mirror the one I just described. Recovery from an eating disorder is long hard work. There aren’t short cuts or easy fixes. One hurdle is passed, only to be confronted with another. Progress often doesn’t feel like progress and what feels good is likely self-sabotage. The work is messy, and brave, and long.

This isn’t just unique to people working to overcome eating disorders. What about the messy, long work that confronts each of us in our lives? While crises or trials propel big growth and movement; the long, hard, lonely work, devoid of drama and fanfare, is just as transformative, if not more so. I know I struggle to value these slower and messier parts of myself and my experience. I know I can even sometimes feel shame about what feels like a lack of progress or honest confrontation around overt avoidance. Simultaneously, the work I witness from my clients reminds me to be compassionate and brave. It also reminds me to be grateful for the messy, boring, hard chapters that are part of my larger, beautiful, rewarding life.

3 Ways Your Values can Aid in Your Recovery

3 Ways Your Values can Aid in Your Recovery

 

Can you easily identify your top 3-5 values? If you asked me this a few years ago, I don’t know that I would have a good answer for you. However, today, my values are often in the forefront of my mind and I use them to help direct my life and decision-making. Knowing my values—not my parents’, not my community’s, not my culture’s, but mine—has changed my life. It has allowed me to be more understanding and self-compassionate, more constructively introspective, and more calm in the face of disagreements. I want to share three ways that understanding your values can aid in your recovery and why you should identify them if you do not know them already.

1. Peace

Have you ever compared yourself to someone because they just seemed to act or think differently than you? What if instead of assuming that they were doing it right and you were doing it wrong, you recognized that you may just value different things? Growing up my sister was always described as a “peacemaker.” She was able to be calm and bring harmony to conflict. I…did not always do this very well. I used to always think that I wasn’t as good as my sister because I wasn’t as much of a peacemaker. As I learned more about my values and how they direct my life, I realized that I really value fairness and self-respect. I was not always a “peacemaker” because I was trying to figure out how we could make things fair and I wanted to demonstrate self-respect by standing up for myself. When we look at this situation in this way, we understand that both self-respect and harmony are worthy and needed values, they just show up differently.

In eating recovery, understanding your values allows you to have peace when other people think or act differently than you. When others engage in behavior that you do not understand or that may even be triggering to you, you can recognize that they are coming from a different set of values. Neither of you needs to be better than the other, you are both just trying to live a life in-line with the things you care about. Recognizing this feels much more peaceful than trying to compare or stratify your values against someone else’s. Your job is to stay true to your own values—values that should line up with healthy patterns of recovery.

2. Motivation

My husband and I started out as close friends. When I began to realize that we needed to have more frank conversations about our feelings for one another, I was nervous to bring it up. Much to my chagrin, one of my primary values is “wholeheartedness.” As I was journaling one night, I remember writing that if I really valued wholeheartedness and vulnerability, I needed to talk with him and let him know how I felt. I did so, and although it didn’t always go perfectly smoothly at first, I am so grateful I was able to lean into my values and allow them to give me motivation to make difficult choices. That value and that choice has had monumental payoffs for me.

Knowing your values can help you stay motivated in eating recovery. Do you value connection? Following your meal plan can be a way for you to be more present and connected with those around you. Do you value peace? Eating recovery is bumpy but the messy middle will lead to more peace on the other side. Do you value fun? It’s much easier to have fun when you are nourished and not anxious about someone’s unexpected plans. Knowing your values gives you motivation to keep on the difficult path of recovery and connects you to higher purpose. 

3. Flexible Structure

This is about the time of year where the failed “New Year’s Resolution” jokes start. I often see issues with New Year’s Resolutions because they are inflexible and unrealistic. Values can serve as guideposts for your life and decisions while leaving room for flexibility. There is only one way to “workout for one hour everyday following a specific routine,” while there are many ways to live more in line with your value of “connection.” You know the story of the three little bears? Values are like Baby Bear’s bed. Not too soft (structured), not too rigid or unyielding (flexible). Your values can give you goals and aspirations in recovery while providing lots of self-compassion and understanding along the way.

Are you ready to dive in? Take a look at the handout by Brene Brown in her “Dare to Lead” work. Take time to scan the handout and circle 20-30 values that really resonate or stand out to you. Remember: all of the values listed are worthy and incredible, you’re just picking the ones that jump out to you the most. These do not have to be values that you personify perfectly. These are values that you care about and hope to work towards. Next, narrow down your list to 10 values. To do this, you might look through and see if there are any values that are similar in meaning and pick the one that hits home the most. You may ask yourself, “is this something I value or something I think I ‘should’ value?” Next, narrow down your list to just 5 values. You may look through the definitions of these values and see if that gives you more information or context. Which of these values actually guides your life and decisions? Finally, pick just three values that you really want to focus on.

Find Brené Brown’s PDF version of the listed values here

 

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

Intuitive Eating Basics: Respect Your Body

“Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. But mostly, respect your body so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. All bodies deserve dignity.” -Evelyn Tribole, Intuitive Eating 

Accepting genetic blueprints? Having realistic and kind expectations? YES- these are possible and attainable mindset goals when we shift toward the idea of BODY RESPECT.  

I had an experience this morning with my middle school daughters. Imagine them, 13 and 15, half asleep while I do my best to instill some religion into them before sending them off to the junior high school trenches. We were reading the creation story from the book of Genesis in the Bible- “and God saw that it was good” is a phrase used over and over again as God looked over His creations. I pointed this out to my half asleep teenaged girls- and asked them, “So if God calls the things that He makes ‘good’, what does this suggest about the way we should view God’s creations? Including… ourselves?” I honestly wasn’t expecting much beyond the typical half asleep nods I usually get- but suddenly, my 13 year old perked up, having made a personal connection to what we had been reading. 

“MOM!” she began, “like all my friends need to hear this. THEY ALL talk about how they think their bodies are so gross and they compare bodies all the time. Like can’t we all just look around and say, ‘IT WAS GOOD’!”  

I was kind of surprised at her passion. This really struck a nerve with her- all creations, all bodies- are good. All are worthy of care, respect, and dignity.  

How comfortable are you with acknowledging body diversity-  and calling it good

I believe that all bodies are good bodies. None of our bodies look the same- just like the earth, there is beautiful diversity. I can admire a sweeping mountain vista and not shame it for not being a serene tropical beach. They are both “good”.  

How to practice body respect 

This may be a radical thought to some- but shaming your body isn’t getting you very far. It’s not making you fit differently into your clothes, be more productive, or feel any happier. In fact, body shaming is probably doing the exact opposite: making you feel exhaustingly sluggish and miserable as you go about your everyday tasks.    

In therapy, I like to illustrate this principle by having clients imagine a sweet little baby girl, just learning to walk. Now, as that tiny child embarks on learning this novel skill of walking, imagine standing beside her. What words naturally come to mind when you think of speaking to her?  

“You dumb baby, you still can’t walk? Gosh, all the other babies are figuring this out so much faster than you. Some are even RUNNING, and you can’t figure out a few steps? What is wrong with you? Oh, there you go again. Falling over on yourself. Tripping over your own feet. You are never going to get this right. There is something seriously wrong with you.”  

Did that just make you feel a little sick to your stomach to read? Could you ever picture yourself saying that to a sweet little baby?  

If you were to speak to a baby like that, how far do you imagine she gets in life, how many new things is she willing to try (and sometimes fail at!)? When you stand next to her, constantly critical and harsh, does it set her up for success or failure? This illustration works so well because most of us could never imagine being that awful to a small, innocent child- yet we have no problem being that awful to ourselves. Part of learning to respect your body is taking the time to relearn ways of approaching and speaking to yourself. This isn’t about “letting yourself off the hook”- it’s about learning a new way to interact with yourself, a respectful one. Just like that baby, you will be far more set up for success in life when you shed the constant critical voice inside of you pointing out and emphasizing every misstep.   

Love VS Respect 

You don’t have to LOVE your body. But can you imagine getting to a place where you aren’t beating yourself up constantly? When you put the goal at “LOVE your body!” you are setting yourself up for failure with an unrealistic expectation. Can you set the dial to a more realistic setting of ‘RESPECT your body’?  

Let’s think about that word- respect- and why it may be the right foundation for a healthy relationship with your body. Dictionary.com tells us the definition of respect is: 

“esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability”

A sense of worth, a sense of excellence, a quality or ability- when applied to your body, do you see how this translates to a heck of a lot more than size or appearance? It encompasses being able to comfort a friend with a hug, wrap your arms around your grandmother in greeting and shared affection, appreciating your body for getting you through another long shift at work, and acknowledging her ability to renew and heal after a sickness. There is so much more to the idea of respecting your body than just loving the size or appearance of it!  

As you continue on in the work of healing your relationship with your body, I want you to envision what a respectful relationship with her would look like. Examine your expectations of yourself with fresh eyes.  And more than anything, give yourself permission to start seeing yourself as “good”.  Because you are- you are SO good.

 

The Story of “Too Much”

The Story of “Too Much”

Sit back and relax, because for this week’s blog, I have a story for you to read. Stick with me until the end of the post for the moral of the story!

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a marvelous talent for inventing machines. From the time she was old enough to pick up a hammer, she created contraptions that amazed everyone in her village. As the girl grew, her inventions became more and more magnificent. Her innovative mind was bursting with ideas for making her village a better place. At age 16, she created her finest invention yet: a complex pulley system that allowed the villagers to transport heavy loads of stone from the quarries, straight to their village building sites.

Word spread about the girl’s village, and the inventions that made it such an amazing place to live. More and more people began to move to the village. The villagers welcomed the newcomers, and the community grew. The girl felt proud of the prosperity brought about by her inventions. The pulleys she made ran day and night for months, bringing stone from the quarry to the village so the newcomers could build their homes.

One day, the girl hiked to the quarry to check on her pulley system. She saw that some of the ropes were fraying, and the pulleys were beginning to rust. She looked closer, and her stomach dropped as she saw just how thin the ropes were wearing from pulling so many loads of stone to the village.

The girl knew that if repairs weren’t made soon, the system would break down completely. She started to call to the quarry workers to stop the pulleys, but then stopped herself as she thought about the new arrivals to the village. The repairs could take days, or even weeks. How could she force the people to stop building when they had just arrived and were depending on the pulleys to supply them with stone for their homes?

She thought about asking the villagers for help, but realized that she was the only one who knew enough about the pulleys to fix them. She feared there wasn’t time to teach others how to make the repairs. Besides, what if a well-meaning villager were injured while trying to help, or accidentally made things worse? What if the villagers were upset with her for not making repairs sooner? With her stomach in knots, the girl collected her tools, and set to work on the pulleys.

Workers in the quarry waved cheerfully to the girl as she moved from pulley to pulley, hurriedly oiling and sanding the jagged rust that was wearing the ropes down. She flashed nervous smiles at the workers, not wanting them to worry about the state of her invention. 

All day, she rushed around, trying desperately to reinforce the frayed sections of rope with twine. Her fingers became raw from handling the rough ropes, and she was hungry and sunburned, but she couldn’t afford to stop. A worker noticed the girl’s frenzied work, and offered help, but the girl didn’t have a chance to answer before she heard a startled cry from across the quarry. A rope connected to a heavy cart had frayed under the strain of its load, and was now a few strands away from snapping completely.

*RECORD SCRATCH*

Are you still reading? I think you can probably tell this story is heading to a rough place. This is a tale of too much–too much strain, too much pressure, too much at stake.

Let’s do a quick check-in: how are you feeling toward the girl in the story? What do you wish for her? Do you relate to her? If we could rewrite this story and create a better situation, what might we change?

Many of the clients I work with are much like the girl–incredibly talented, capable, and driven to help those around them. Perfectionism and the fear of letting others down can create excruciating, constant pressure. Many of these clients struggle with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Like the girl in the story, many of them face barriers to asking for help and support from others, even when things begin to break down.

Here are a few thoughts that may have been useful to the girl in the story, and that may be useful to you when things feel like too much:

  1. If the load is wearing you down, that doesn’t mean you’re inherently defective. The pulleys in the story weren’t a bad invention, and the girl wasn’t to blame for their breakdown. They were just carrying too much. Saying “no” to things that will make your load too heavy lets you say “yes” to the important work you CAN do.
  2. Imperfect support is better than no support at all. Just like the villagers didn’t know the pulley system, maybe people in your life can’t fully understand your problems. Receiving help from others doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. Even if the support you’re getting doesn’t solve all your problems, letting others be there for you is an important part of managing overwhelming situations.
  3. Rest is essential, even when it’s inconvenient. The girl in the story felt like she couldn’t stop the pulleys to repair them because of how the delay would impact others. Then she felt like she couldn’t stop and take care of herself because she was trying so hard to help her village. Continuing to push herself and the system instead of allowing a pause had negative consequences. Stopping and taking time for rest and repair–whether that’s allowing your body to rest, or taking time away from responsibilities–can help you avoid breaking down.

What can you learn from our inventor girl’s experience? Consider one recommendation from the list that can be useful to you, whether you are repairing pulleys or taking on the challenges of eating recovery. 

From “Why?” to “What now?”

From “Why?” to “What now?”

We will call her “Kelsie.” I had the honor of working with Kelsie for several years as she worked toward recovery from a severe eating disorder. Kelsie had large, doe brown eyes, a beautiful smile, and a sharp mind. Her mind was so sharp and intellectual that anytime I’d ask her about her feelings, she’d inevitably respond with, “I think…”

When I met Kelsie a decade ago, she had been struggling with her eating disorder for more than half her life. She had very active, severe eating disorder behaviors and was simultaneously very high functioning. She was in a very competitive undergraduate program and by all outward appearances, was thriving. (Her profile is not unique to those struggling with eating disorders).

Kelsie was well-acquainted with inpatient settings. She even described repeated inpatient stays as welcome respites from her intense life and struggle to function with daily demands. It was a recurring pattern for her to discharge from inpatient and begin a slow, then fast march back into severe eating disorder behaviors. I watched her, repeatedly, decompensate. With each inpatient-outpatient cycle, Kelsie felt more hopeless and more entrenched in dark, suffocating shame.

For a long time, Kelsie kept ruminating on “Why” she had an eating disorder. She strongly hoped that if she could just understand why this was her experience, then somehow this would release her shame and help her take the right steps to overcome her struggle. While this absolutely feels like worthwhile insight to pursue and understand, it kept Kelsie stuck. Based on her own reflection of her life, family history, and trials, there was nothing that seemed to “justify” the degree to which she suffered.

She felt selfish and self-indulgent.

Her shame only continued to spiral as she compared herself to friends she met through her treatment journey. Their eating disorders were all “valid,” while hers was not. 

This shame cycle only perpetuated her need to understand the elusive “why” and she perseverated on this question with an OCD-like intensity for years. Kelsie never found a satisfactory answer and eventually our paths diverged.  Several years passed. 

When I saw Kelsie again, she had completely transformed. There was a lightness in her countenance that I had never witnessed. There was new and beautiful self-compassion, where once there was only shame.

She recounted a journey of intense humility and bravery as she submitted herself to the full treatment process and more. As a result of her willingness and dedication, Kelsie was finally, truly, living her life in meaningful and fulfilling ways. As I talked with her, I found she had relinquished her obsessive need to know “why” and had instead decided to focus on the “What now?” and “How?” that were in front of her.

While releasing “why?” was certainly not the only thing that gave Kelsie the momentum she really needed, it felt pivotal. Even transformational.

I think of Kelsie’s powerful journey and how there is a lesson in it for each of us.

It is so easy, and even tempting, to try to understand “why” we go through the things we do in this life. We are drawn to understanding and meaning. And confusion is an aversive experience. Perhaps we may have even found that if there is an identified “why” there can be some peace in that knowledge.

However, from personal experience, I find “whys” are extremely hard to come by. And sometimes the “whys” are deeply unsatisfying. The pursuit of “why,” like with Kelsie, can invite an emotional minefield that leads to paralyzing shame.

Even if you are lucky enough to find a satisfying why, does it truly help you take the next steps forward? When I think about the pursuit of “why?” I think about a deep look inside as well as in the past. Understanding yourself is valuable and can be helpful in knowing your strengths and vulnerabilities. However, one of the first things I learned in graduate school is that “insight is never enough; action is required.”

So, a more powerful question, especially in the recovery journey, is “What now?”

“What now?” invites you to look forward and upward. It invites you to action, growth and progress.

“What now?” is also easier to answer. All the clients I work with, when engaged in honest introspection, know what behaviors they can improve, and they know what fears they need to confront. It’s not easy, but this question illuminates a path forward.

A new year is here. My New Year wish is that each of us can release what no longer serves us and look forward, asking ourselves, “What now?” as we move into another cycle around the sun. While “What now?” can be scary, I hope it also excites you with the possibilities that await you.