Category Archives: cultivating stillness

the drawback of being a “top feeder”

Underwater-Photography-by-Kurt-Arrigo

Underwater-Photography-by-Kurt-Arrigo

 

I’m trying to break this crazy habit.

Each morning, before I even open my eyes, during that time where you’ve just broken into consciousness, where you hear the birds outside, the air-conditioner kick on, the sticky feeling of humidity on your skin, I instinctively begin to think of what I need to do for everyone else.  The list goes something like this as my eyes scan the room, sizing up the day. Usually before I tend to any of my needs; food, water, time to wake up, I’m devising a list of what to do for my dogs, husband, friends, daughter.  Now while that doesn’t seem too extraordinary in itself, many parents do this, I can do it to a fault.

As a trauma survivor/mild BPD/ultra-sensitive person, my need for connection supersedes any worldy need such as food or rest.  My extreme neediness to connect is based on survival.  As a child, trauma and neglect can be so life threatening that the sooner we connect to someone who can help care for us the better.  And this is where it gets tricky.

By serving others, as in doing favors for them, being available to chat/pray/cook/etc. when they are having a rough day or one of my worst habits of over-mothering my animals, I get that much needed connection.  And as my therapist-extraordinare Cathy says, I become a “top feeder”.

A “top feeder” is her self-coined word to illustrate a person who is SO functional in receiving cues from other people’s needs, that their existence is the opposite of the less empathic, less motivated, parasitic by nature “bottom feeder”.  Uck, you know those nasty catfish that lay on the bottom of the river, who eat any garbage that sinks to the bottom, who don’t bother with trying to find a better food source?  Yep, that’s a bottom feeder.  And for the sake of this conversation, I’m grateful that my therapist feels that I’m on the other end of the spectrum here.

Here’s what we do.  We are so naturally tuned into our worlds and all its nuances that we essentially “know” what family/animals/friends/plants need.  That makes us a kick-ass person to be around.  We’ve developed this finely tuned, sensitive radar built on extreme hypervigilence that we often can’t turn off.  We are masters at intuiting information and messages.  It’s like stuck on being the eternal and forever cheerleader.  Still rooting everyone on, celebrating all their accomplishments, looking for ways to promote and lift up EVERYONE else in our lives.  To a fault. Until it makes us sick.  Until we crash really, really hard.

And that brings me back to my opening statement.  I’m trying to break this crazy habit now that I’m aware of it.  Thank you Cathy for nailing me on this.

Again, it comes back to balance.  Be that cool intuitive friend but feed yourself breakfast first.  Yes, mother that poor rescue dog but remember to shower.  Cook a healthy meal for your family and friends but remember to make yourself a plate, sit down and eat it.  Understand and help people in your world with…. their health problems/oppressive bosses/poverty/animal cruelty issues/the environment/addictions/homelessness/social injustices but make sure you’re rested first.  And ultimately and most importantly, come to grips with this fact as soon as you possibly can: others WILL NOT necessarily respond as well as we do.  You will probably be the best friend or partner that you know unless you are friends with other sensitive people.  It’s a very bleak and discouraging fact that often results in an intense feeling of loneliness and isolation.  BUT knowing and ultimately accepting this truth can bring a lot of peace to a situation that can be repeatedly heart wrenching.  

Most likely, we won’t receive the kind of nurturing that we give out unless we give it to ourselves.  It doesn’t mean we can’t have it, it just means we need to look to ourselves for the biggest part of our care and recognize with compassion the limitations of others.  While it isn’t ideal, Cathy states, acceptance will ultimately bring more peace. And I believe she is spot on.

I’m creating the persona of a more balanced, “middle feeder” kind of gal.  Rested, zen, creative.  One that takes naps on most days. One that enjoys taking the much deserved time to write.  After all, I can’t imagine being an old, worn out cheerleader at 57 years of age.  What a hysterical image. Besides looking really funny in my faded skirt, the image doesn’t fit me anymore.  I’ve long since given up gyrations where I put myself last and others first. 

I’m laying these pom-pons down.

 

 

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go only as fast as your slowest part feels safe to go…

Nov 14 revised Go Only Cover_Reduced

 

I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.  It’s ordered and on its way.

The full title is  Go Only as Fast as Your Slowest Part Feels Safe To Go: Tales to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion For Our Exhausted Selves written by Robyn L. Posin Ph.D.  If I hadn’t had the enormous good fortune to have crossed paths with Robyn before I knew of her book, the title alone would have been enough to have grabbed my attention. My soul seeks out and especially loves words like this.  Safe. Compassion. Gentleness.

You see, I’m a slow person in the ways that most of our world deems important to be fast.  I drive slowly, like an elderly couple on a Sunday afternoon, I’m the one who is leading the parade down Main Street, holding up traffic and keeping folks from their ever-present tendency to rush.  Yes, I get honked at a lot and am okay with that.   I like the feeling of peace that travels with me now instead of the gut tightening experience of rushing from one destination to another.

My movements are slower now also as I’ve come to realize that my serenity lies within me.  No longer am I chasing the carrot dangling in front of me, going ninety miles an hour inside, always reaching, grasping for the unattainable that is out there, somewhere out there, just slightly out of my reach.  I now know and try to practice a mindful lifestyle based on the innate wisdom that resides within.

But it hasn’t always been like this.  It wasn’t until my body broke that I fell into bed and took stock of my life.  Perhaps through lack of any other choice, I acquiesed to the cruel fact that I had fractured and splintered, used and abused, pushed and prodded myself almost to death.  I quit my job, dropped out of life, accepted the AMA’s diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Immune Dysfunction and slept for an entire year.  Summer, fall, winter, spring.  When I went to bed, my daughter was a high school freshman.  By the time I began to come out of my physical fog, she had nearly completed high school.

But this conversation isn’t about my poor choices or the ramifications of traumatized children or even the physical effects of abuse.  This is about a woman, who is a part of a movement, that exists to open our eyes to the possibility of acceptance and compassion in relationship to ourselves.  It is about physical slowing and emotional stillness.  It is about granting ourselves permission to honor the parts of our psyches that are smaller, littler, slower or feeling unsafe.  And taking that recognition to a level of loving acceptance.

Even though I haven’t read her book, I’m certain the gentleness of her words will blow me away.  I’ve found that to be true when I’ve visited Robyn’s website, For the Little Ones Inside.  Her writing and art struck a chord and I felt the immediate desire to slow down, let go, relax my body, relax my soul.  My exhausted self needed her. We exchanged a few e-mails, she’s on my blogrool and I’m on hers.  Perhaps I just needed to know that beliefs such as hers really exist.  That we can, in fact, lovingly accept our smallest parts and don’t have to hide or push them away. That it’s okay to be confused, unsure, distracted, cautious.  That it’s okay to just be.

 

Suggested Link:  Words, images and tales created by Robin Posin, Ph.D. at Compassionate Ink 


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