Skills Teaching

For various reasons, I’ve been doing a lot of research on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) lately. If you’re not familiar with it, that’s okay. There’s a lot of concepts within it that many people will already be familiar with if they’ve any experience with mindful meditation or really any sort of therapy that deals with emotions. 

While I see how productive so many of these tactics could be in aiding comfort to an upsetting situation. It’s hard to imagine remembering all that. I feel like if I could remember all those steps in the moment, then I should have no trouble disconnecting from the emotions. I guess that’s kind of the whole point. 

There’s a lot of times when I get upset or emotional and it feels like a lot to deal with. We’re human, we all have those moments. Whether you actually are diagnosed with something or just wish for a little bit more control I think it’s important to take a look.

While psychology is a very regulated field and individuals shouldn’t just randomly play around with diagnosis or other things that could create lasting damage. I think the skills and tactics we’ve developed through psychological research and study should absolutely be utilized. The whole point is to improve and learning skills to help you with that is wonderful. 

I feel like there is a real need for individuals who are both knowledgeable and personable to bridge that gap between the field of clinical psychology and the practice of daily living. There is so much guidance out there that we could benefit from, but many people are so intimidated by psychology that it sits in books, studies, reports, and never reaches the people it was intended to help. 

We need more skills-teaching as a society. Not everyone needs an hour or so on a couch a week. Out of those who do or want that, even they can’t all afford or find the means to make it happen. Psychology is not a hard subject to teach in common sense terms, yet outside of a select few individuals we generally ignore it. 

I know that SOMEONE is going to bring up pop psych and self-help books. It’s a start, but how many have you read that just keep telling you the same thing without actually helping you or showing you how to achieve it. Lecturing vs. application. We need to do better. 




We’ve been reading Trinh T. Minh-ha in my Global Feminism class (thank you Professor Tweed!) and inspiration struck. I wouldn’t ever dare compare my own writing to hers, but I wanted to give credit to the inspiration and driving force behind these words.  Also, this was written in a time when I had very seriously considered giving up on writing and am ever so glad that I found the courage to get past that (thank you Kelly Mcgonigal!)

*hasn’t been edited

I come to this space with no apologies. It is not my own, but a borrowed corner that has been overlooked. Empty and isolated, it is a good space for practice – half exposed, half guarded. Four sides of a space that allows me to dip my toes into the world of bodies and thoughts without having to submerge or commit.

I do not speak so that others may listen. Yet, I am mindful that these words – if observed – will resonate. I am still playing pretend with this life of mine. Still unraveling the pieces and gluing them back together in a way that is better suited to my needs.

Needs and wants. Two sides to the same coin. One a powerful driving force that can allow us to transcend our own desires and surpass all expectation. The other side a paradox of confusion and complexity that craves to be sated. But which is which? How do you know, when the situation is staring you down or breathing on your neck. Hurry, it cries, make your decision known. Time is not on your side, my darling.

When my grandmother passed away last year, they spoke of things like a legacy of love and family. While true, it was not enough. She wasn’t a cookie baking, storytelling, craft fixated being. She was a cookie stealing, story creating, crafty person that impacted all she touched.

I see more, though. I see a girl left behind with an imagination fed on books, a heart of hope that can always find it’s way with a song, a temperament that, while always compassionate and forgiving, is fiercely protective and wickedly quick witted and an independence that borders on strength and leadership (no matter how much she resists).

This girl is me, but she is also my grandmother. Lost in the 1940s, my mind is full of passion in the struggle. We shall unite. We shall overcome. We shall spread hope. *side note* We might also take a moment to pause this action and burst into song and dance just to put a smile on your face.

This girl inside me, not the woman I am by daylight, can fly so high off of creative juices that there is not a situation she cannot face and learn from. There is not a puzzle she cannot work out of. She knows the rules, but she also knows their secret. This puzzle, story, world is hers – and changing the rules is always fair play.

Change your thoughts and the illusion of perspective crashes down and you are left alone. Alone, wrapped up in the words you use to tell yourself who you are.

Words have power. They are magic. A special sort of alchemy that we will never fully understand. They are the very essence of what keep you and I from being one. Our bodies are machines – the same needs to keep each one running. That does not create us.

We are forged through experiences created and responded to with thoughts – words. Even the passions and emotions we claim as our own are created and instilled within us by the experiences we live.

We are but words forever talking, thinking, being. We can be played with, organized, manipulated, conjugated, scratched out, misspelled, written over, and even erased. Or – we can call out to the universe and claim our words, name ourselves as something else, something other and become.

I am here. I matter. Because despite what you tell yourself, you DO matter. Your words don’t just create you. We create each other. A world without that creation of literary perfection and all of it is beauty perfected by its/our own imperfections, would cease to matter. Cease to exist. Machines, working in conjunction, filling needs.

So I am here, taking up this space and making no apologies (any longer). Writing is my superpower, I have come to understand. I must use it. “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”*

The scene is always changing, but my words continue to forge a path that I must follow. They have saved my life and my sanity, but more importantly, they are constantly keeping me alive.  I am my words. The same words that are now a part of you.

As you pick up the pen, place your fingers to the keys, or part your lips to whisper, “I matter. I have substance,” the words pass from me to you. Even if the only thing you did was scan your eyes across the letters, you comprehended and the thought transcended – words. There is no escaping from this chain reaction, so be mindful of your words. Be mindful of how you give yourself to others. As others have said before me- be kind in your thoughts, for you are always listening.

*H. G. Wells

Song Fic: Dreaming With A Broken Heart – John Mayer

I’m not usually a big fan of posting my original work online, although you can find heaps of fanfiction floating around. I wrote this tonight just on the spur of emotions and decided to post it. It’s purely fictional, though there is some crossover from my own emotions. My point of view is real, but the other side of things is fiction. The lyrics obviously are not mine and no copyright infringement intended. I just wanted you to see where the emotions were coming from. This isn’t edited so I’m sure it’s chock full of grammar and spelling errors. Sorry, but it’s late and I’m a little worn out now. 


When you’re dreaming with a broken heart 
The waking up is the hardest part 
You roll outta bed and down on your knees 
And for a moment you can hardly breathe 
Wondering, “Was she really here? 
Is she standing in my room?” 
No she’s not, ’cause she’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone…. 

I woke up from a strangely peaceful sleep. I hadn’t slept well in weeks and the last few nights had been wonderful. The dreams were still there, pointless and flashes of moments that I couldn’t tie together, but I felt rested. The last dream came back to me slowly, in the same way my body tingled to the state of relaxation somewhere between sleep and alertness. It had been about her and the one thought I wouldn’t allow myself to entertain during the day.

Warmth and safety wrapped up in the arms of her. Unrealistic didn’t begin to describe it. Heart-wrenching did. I grabbed the extra pillow next to me that I slept with and curled around it. Hugging the cushion close, as though it were the only thing keeping me grounded, I tried to find that safety again. It was painful before I even had a chance to fail. I knew that kind of safety was not something so easily attainable.

I would have to learn to trust someone first, and more importantly, trust them with myself. I wasn’t ready to face that just yet. Maybe that was why I slept so poorly. Even in my dreams I refused to allow myself the very solace that I’d craved. I couldn’t tell her, but the only reason I’d been sleeping much at all was because I was medicating on the side. I had done it before, doctor approved, but this time I was toeing the line between sleep-aid and something else.

Hugging the pillow tighter I buried my face against it and tried to let out the emotions I kept bottled up so tightly. There had been a time when I couldn’t go a day without crying multiple times. Now I cried hardly ever. The tears that I had once clung to as salvation I’d learned to tuck deep inside for the comfort of others. I had exhausted their help and I didn’t know how to go back to needing it.

None of it mattered really. It was all in the past – a past I was trying very hard to let go of. I sat up in bed and shoved my hair back away from my face. Letting out a heavy sigh, I stared at the empty room before me. It was filled with nothing but the ghosts of memories that hadn’t happened. I could pretend there was something real all I wanted to in the daytime, but the ghosts at night reminded me it was all a lie.

Plastering a smile upon my face, I reminded myself that this was the change I wanted. Living was dependent on leaving old patterns behind. I had survived for years, but they were unhealthy years and the damage left behind felt shattering. No trust, no connections, no company, and not even the self-respect to care to fix myself.

It was a few small influences that had pushed me towards change. Influences that despite all my fighting forced me to believe that I was worth seeking happiness. I was loveable. People wanted to be nice to me if I’d only just let them. People cared. I should care. Maybe I was starting to, but she wasn’t. She couldn’t care. My survival and growth depended on her not to care.

That thought was enough to allow the one tear I’d built up to escape down my cheek. I left it where it trailed, wearing it just as publically as the scars on my arms. Battle wounds were not a new stigma for me to face. It was the inside scars I was afraid to show. Talking in circles I could lead her through a lifetime of troubles, but even when she voiced my own hurts and fears I couldn’t open up. The safest person to let in I pushed away the hardest.

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart 
The giving up is the hardest part 
She takes you in with her crying eyes 
Then all at once you have to say goodbye 
Wondering, “Could you stay my love? 
Will you wake up by my side?” 
No she can’t, ’cause she’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone…. 

Each week, one hour. That’s all the time I’ve got. Time to influence, time to guide, time to impact, time to give hope. It’s not enough and it’s too much all wrapped up in one. There are some that don’t care, they spend the hour planning their weekend or what they’ll make for dinner. This is a job to them. For me it’s more.

I try to distance myself. I know all the tips and tricks to separate my emotions from theirs, but every once in a while someone walks through the door and you know you won’t be able to shut them out. Conflict of interests some would say, but for me it’s the chance to do the most good. It’s not easy to take on the pain of another, but someone did it for me once. It was the most human I had ever felt. I needed to pass that on.

An hour drunk on another’s emotions isn’t just draining. It makes you question everything you thought you knew. The lines between compassion and cruelty blur before your eyes as this broken thing in front of you begs to be fixed. She just needs a lifeline, but I cannot be it. I listen. I watch. I feel. I show nothing, but a pleasant support and calm guidance. I know she wants more – needs more, but this is all I can offer right now.

We spend twenty minutes playing a game of push and pull. She gives me shards of details and I draw the stories from her lips as though she was just waiting for the net only I can give her. The net that lets her know she’s as safe as she can feel here. Acceptance. Safety. Affection. Humanity. Tenderness. Love. I can’t bend to those needs.

Everyone knows that the emotions on the happy end of the spectrum are contagious: laughter, joy, relief. What they don’t know – what you don’t learn in school – is that the darker emotions can be just as enveloping. They warn you with words, but nothing can prepare you for that moment.

The moment when she bares a small part of her soul to me, looks up with tearful eyes, and silently pleads for acceptance. Even then she can’t tell me the rest. She can’t show me the pain or the fear. I can only assume that they make her feel as helpless as I do in that moment. I feel that a girl like that could save me.

You become numb to the emotions and learn to recognize the patterns. Doling out advice as simply as if you were handing out phone numbers or glasses of water. It all blurs and becomes the same. She doesn’t allow that. In her own quiet way she demands you to hear her, see her, understand her. She wants to much to show me, but she’s holding back.

Despite that she’s learning to depend on me less. Each week she grows a little stronger. With that strength comes anger. I know part of it is directed at our situation. It’s still healthy though, she’s playing house. Experimenting with her anger on me before she allows herself to show it to the world around her. She needs me less each time, but to be honest I think I need her more.

She has a need inside her so deep that I don’t even think she knows what it is. She begs for it to be filled, but is lost and alone. She’s sought  answers in dangerous ways, reckless ways, harmful ways. Now she looks to me. Just a shy half-glance of a deep need for approval and then it was gone. Too afraid to ask because she knows I can’t and she doesn’t want me to feel the pressure.

Piling the guilt back into her bottle of emotions she shuts down. Each week, near the end I lose her. I ask if she’s okay and automatically she lies. I stare at her, begging her to tell me the truth, but she stares back. Her eyes tell me she’ll be okay, her tears remind me that I’m not. I’m not okay with my own pain and I’m not okay with the fact that I can’t carry hers.

Boundaries. I pushed them for her benefit, but now she’s using them to protect me. I find myself wanting to keep her longer, especially when she confesses to trying to push me away emotionally. Maybe it’s better this way. Just because we’re both broken doesn’t mean we’d fit together.

Now do I have to fall asleep with roses in my hand? 
Do I have to fall asleep with roses in my hand? 
Do I have to fall asleep with roses in my hand? 
Do I have to fall asleep with roses in my, roses in my hand? 
would you get them if I did? 

No you won’t, ’cause you’re gone, gone, gone, gone, gone…. 

“You okay?” she asked me. The concern was evident in her eyes, but her voice was warm and calm.

I nodded with a smile. “Yeah,” I said, shrugging, “I’m fine.”  I just bared my soul to you and want more than anything to drown in the comfort and understanding you would offer, but those people aren’t us. We talk and we listen.

Not looking away or saying a word she continued to stare at me knowing I was lying. More than that, she knew that I knew she was lying and was pleading with me to be honest. I couldn’t. “I’ll see you next week then, we can pick back up then.” It was an offering of hope, a reminder that I wasn’t alone.

She handed me the appointment card and I tried to offer her a smile. “Thank you,” I said, taking the card and shoving it into my bag. I rose to my feet and shouldered the bag, brushing back the hair out of my face.

“Here’s your highlighter back,” I said, offering her the fluorescent stick. As usual she thanked me with cheer and commented on the amounts of stolen pens and markers she lost throughout the week. Somehow, it all felt very sad and I wished I had kept it. Not because I needed a token of her, but because in a strange way it felt like I was rejecting some sort of peace offering, like the drinks I never took or the fan I was always fine with.

It didn’t matter now because it was time to go. Leaving the office she offered one last plea for me to have a good week and I offered back the same. I hurried out of the office and headed home to sleep, the tears would have no trouble coming now.

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart 
The waking up is the hardest part 

She was gone and I was left with a few minutes before my next appointment. I slumped down in my chair and thought about the past hour. I wasn’t making notes or plans for the future. I was just lost in thought and lost in her. The same emptiness that had filled me as a young girl came flooding back and I dropped my head to my desk to cry. There had to be another way. I had lived through this once and my sister had saved me. When all I wanted to do was help people, why was it that I couldn’t save this one.

A part of me knew I could, but the price was out of reach to us both. Nothing more than a dream that we both had to wake up from. Heart’s broken are never fully mended, but when they recognize something of themselves in another, they cry out and try to offer comfort. If only our minds could quiet enough to let them mend the wounds, we might all be a more caring people.

Sitting up I wiped my eyes and smiled brightly at the reflection on my laptop. It would do for now. I rose to my feet, down the hall, and called in the next patient. Life kept moving, even if we weren’t ready.


Any comments are welcome as long as they’re constructive 😉