Who belongs in BreakFree?

BreakFree is for…

– Any women who struggle to believe they are good enough, worthy, beautiful…

– Any women who don’t feel they belong.

– Any women who struggle to believe they deserve the same love and caring they pour into others.

– Any women who can’t seem to stay connected with their loved ones, or to keep relationship dramas out of their lives.

– Any women who work themselves to exhaustion taking care of everybody’s needs but their own.

The truth is, at some point in our lives, every woman finds it hard to stay in a healthy place of self-compassion, good boundaries and loving connection. BreakFree is about helping women of all ages develop the skills and tools to understand what’s happening and take steps to change things right away.

This entry was posted on January 10, 2016.

So what, exactly, is empathy?

We hear a lot about empathy these days — how important it is to healthy relationships, how animals demonstrate it just as much as humans, how it works better than lecturing or punishment to create behavioral change.

So what, exactly, IS empathy?

Merriam-Webster describes it as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.”

Psychology Today calls empathy “the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.”

Arthur Ciaramicoli, who wrote the landmark book The Power of Empathy, takes it a step further, defining empathy as someone’s “ability to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another.” (emphasis mine)

When Lena begins weeping at the mention of her mother, our first thought might be that she must be grieving her mother’s death, and we may offer sympathy for her loss – or hurry to change the subject. Empathy helps us to check our assumptions, get closer, ask questions, and find out what’s really going on. Lena might be weeping with joy, because her mother’s cancer has just gone into remission. Or she might be weeping with relief, because her mother is coming to visit for the first time since Lena’s divorce.

Empathy is the moment when we focus on another being and strive to genuinely understand his or her experiences and perspectives, ideally managing to create a real connection. If our empathy is strong, that connection of understanding can help us to respond in a way that actually reflects the other person’s reality.

Of course, this is no easy task! We humans have a whole bunch of preconceived notions, judgments, and fears that tend to get in the way of connecting with the other’s truth. (Perhaps that’s why we love our companion animals so much – they seem to instinctively “read” our inner reality and respond without their own interpretations getting in the way.) When we do manage to clear all that junk aside and be willing to open deeply in sharing, we can experience the blissful, brief “oneness” of connection with another being.

It’s blissful because, even if we’re connecting around an experience of profound pain, we’re being lifted out of our essentially solitary reality and remembering that we are not, in fact, alone in the universe.

This entry was posted on December 27, 2015.

“Thank you” vs. “I’m sorry”

Image courtesy Sean McGrath / Creative Commons -https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcgraths

Image courtesy Sean McGrath / Creative Commons -https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcgraths

I recently read a wonderful article that encouraged thanking people for their support rather than apologizing for our imagined failures. And I’ve been using it constantly.

“Thank you for listening to me,” rather than “I’m sorry for blathering all over you.”

“Thank you for supporting me this semester,” rather than “I’m sorry for being so distracted by school.”

“Thank you for helping me get through this,” rather than “I’m so sorry for bothering you.”

I love the not-so-subtle shifts in relationship that this practice creates! Instead of creating a situation where people are trying to make each other feel better (major boundary failures!), we’re creating a mutually empowering circle of appreciation!

Now, this doesn’t mean there’s no need for sincere apologies at times…but I think we (women especially) are conditioned to be ashamed when we aren’t 100 percent perfect, when we have needs, when we are “too much.” Noticing those moments when we’re punishing ourselves for existing is super important. That way we can shift our energy and celebrate the awesome circles we’ve created to support each other, instead!

This entry was posted on December 16, 2015.