Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nancy van Dyken on Dealing with Everyday Narcissism

Nancy van Dyken talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine and Ours.

“It’s important that we be honest and direct, but we do so with kindness and graciousness.” ~Nancy van Dyken

Nancy is a licensed psychologist and licensed independent clinical social worker who has been practicing for nearly 35 years now. She specializes in working in relationship issues, specifically abusive dynamics. She wrote Everyday Narcissism for just about everybody, as the concerns within affect everyone. She began talking about narcissism in relationship with co-dependency, and as time went on, she discovered the patterns of everyday narcissism as she investigated the matter; and as she didn’t want to keep teaching the same thing over and over again to her clients, she decided to write the book.

Narcissism, according to Nancy, is a spectrum. The “personality disorder” type of narcissism is on one end and describes people who are self-centered, need to be right, and don’t accept disagreement. “Everyday narcissism” is on the other end of the spectrum, with people being pleasers, doing things to be liked and are fearful of rejection.

The five core beliefs that Nancy notes we have been taught from a very young age - beliefs that drive emotions, thoughts and behavior throughout one’s life are:
  1. I am responsible for, and have the power to control, how other people feel and behave.
  2. It’s your responsibility to take care of how I feel and how I behave.
  3. Your needs are more important than mine.
  4. Rules are more important than I am.
  5. I’ve got to follow all these myths, or I’m not likeable.
Nancy notes that these five beliefs are reinforced daily, and these are so intrusive that we aren’t even aware of their influence these lies have in our lives. These lies are what Nancy refers to as “hazy trauma,” being akin to continuous paper cuts that are inflicted upon a person over time, rather than the kind of major trauma inflicted by such things as sexual abuse. Nancy gave two examples of a subject named “Nancy” who is influenced, while still a child, by some of these myths, which resulted in role reversal, where the child “Nancy” becomes the parent in the social role. She points out the phrase, “I’m so disappointed in you,” when told to a child, being an example of shaming, which plays to everyday narcissism.

Nancy notes that all parents are doing the best they can, and that they are merely passing on the methods they learned and experienced. She notes that narcissism is created from being injured, and how one relates to narcissism - be it following these five beliefs or recognizing this and healing from them - will determine whether or not its effect on one’s life is negative or positive. Nancy also gave some examples about how situations were dealt with in a manner different from how these would be dealt in a way that encourages everyday narcissism - one about a math teacher who had read her book, and another about an example in her own life when she spoke with her own daughter.

Nancy points out that teaching children these five myths, or lies, teaches these children not to respect themselves. As a concrete example, she notes that these five myths drive home to women and girls that their body doesn’t belong to them, which is why they don’t speak up about being sexually harassed. Nancy also gave the example of abusive relationships where the second myth is used to justify the abuse, and she notes that, when these myths and lies are given up, freedom and joy are acquired. She notes that accepting these myths will most likely be best addressed by reading her book, but she believes that narcissism is a state of wounding, rather than it making people awful.

Nancy notes that people have learned not to trust themselves by buying into the five myths, and that we must trust our own inner wisdom to tell us what does and doesn’t work for us. She also wants people to know that they are likeable and loveable as they are, and don’t need to please everyone.

Purchase from Amazon: Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine and Ours by Nancy van Dyken

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Monique Darling and the 11 Basic Rules of the Cuddle Party (Beyond Cuddle Party)

Monique Darling talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Beyond Cuddle Party: How Pajamas, Human Connection and 11 Rules Can Change Your Life.


“When they hear your ‘no,’ then they actually start trusting your ‘yes.’” ~Monique Darling

Monique grew up in a Mormon family and culture and didn’t fit in any of the “boxes” that those around her fit into. She eventually went over to Los Angeles to help out on conventions for TV shows, and as the designated sober person she was asked to create a safe space for people to cuddle in during these conventions. She then came up with her own version of a cuddle party, as she didn’t know what a cuddle party was at the time, after which she got involved in the world of cuddle parties. She then got involved in her first cuddle party a short time later, where the facilitator asked if she could hug Monique; and it was only some time later when Monique realized that she had been asked to be touched, or hugged, in her life.

It was really only after attending two hundred such cuddle parties that Monique truly began unpacking the experience and what it meant to her. Before attending cuddle parties, Monique was outwardly successful, with all the trappings of apparent success, such as the children and the dogs, but she felt there was no room for herself, for even though she worked to perfect her model of being a “good girl” she felt more and more “like a fraud.” After eleven years of involvement in cuddle parties, Monique notes that she now has the option to figure out what she truly wants and who she truly is.

Monique has become a cuddle party facilitator, and she notes that cuddle parties create the space for people to re-contextualize rejection, noting that a lot of people don’t want to say “no” because they don’t want to disappoint others. Cuddle parties are essentially a boundaries and touching workshop, with the emphasis on it being a non-sexual environment, and introduces people to being touched outside a sexual context or environment. Removing sex from the context creates a space that enables people to figure out what kind of touch they like and to figure out what it is that they really want where touch is concerned.

Monique gave an example of a woman who had been in an abusive marriage and who had been abused sexually who attended a cuddle party. She was aloof at first, but as the party progressed she began to open up more, and by the end of the cuddle party she lay in the center of the room and had everyone present touch her with their pinkies, which made her sob, as she realized that touch didn’t have to be abusive in nature.

Beyond Cuddle Party is for anyone who wants to expand themselves in asking for things they want and saying “no” to the things they don’t want. Monique wrote the book out over a two-year period after being asked, several times, by people how to do a cuddle party, and in response to their requests Monique realized she could write a book out. For her, the experience was one where it seemed that what she wrote wasn’t coming from herself, but that she was, rather, a conduit for what was being written.

Beyond Cuddle Party goes into great depth of the eleven (11) rules of a cuddle party which, according to Monique, are:

  1. Clothing stays on the whole time.
  2. No one has to cuddle at a cuddle party, ever. This creates a space where things don’t have to happen.
  3. You must ask and get a verbal “yes” before touching anyone. This enables people to reclaim their own voice.
  4. If you are a “yes,” say “yes,” and if you are a “no,” say “no.” This enables people to verbalize what they really want to ask for.
  5. If you are a “maybe,” say “no.” This enables people to stop doing anything because they “have” to do it.
  6. Changing one’s mind is encouraged. This enables people to figure out where they want to be at the moment.
  7. Please stick to inter-relationship boundaries and agreements already made. This is applicable to married people who attend a cuddle party without their partner, for example.
  8. “Come and get me, ‘cause I’m the lifeguard on duty.” This applies to people who want to seek assistance from the cuddle party facilitator, and they can ask for help at any time during the party.
  9. Tears and laughter are welcome.
  10. Keep the others’ privacy and confidentiality around cuddle parties.
  11. Keep the area clean. No one wants to “cuddle in a puddle.”

The rules in a cuddle party can also apply outside a cuddle party, and Monique gave the example of her presently asking other people for permission to touch them at times. She also doesn’t feel offended when others say “no,” as she understands that this is due to others’ taking care of themselves. Monique also remarked that these rules enable people to reclaim their bodies as their own. She also notes that, based on her experience, cuddle parties produce the same “magic,” regardless of culture.

Monique points out that one is in a relationship with oneself, first and foremost, and that the more one finds ways to get to know and honor oneself, the greater the life one can lead. She notes that people being “selfless” is an erroneous concept, as doing so will drain oneself. Monique notes that, by knowing what one wants in each moment, one can relate with the world at large better than if one were “selfless.” She notes that, the more one focuses on oneself, one loves and takes care of oneself, and this enables others to be who they are in the world as well as to have permission to be that.

Purchase from Amazon: Beyond Cuddle Party: How Pajamas, Human Connection and 11 Rules Can Change Your Life by Monique Darling

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Becky Thompson on Teaching with Tenderness Toward an Embodied Practice

Becky Thompson talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Teaching with Tenderness: Towards an Embodied Practice.

“We need to be able to breathe with each other.” ~Becky Thompson

Becky is a poet, activist, yoga teacher, mother and grandmother as well as a professor in sociological theory in various universities for several years. As a teacher, Becky is familiar with what is presently going on in classrooms today, and she brought her academic discipline to bear on the topic of tenderness, which she defines as a capacity of humans learning and being with each other - a capacity which she remarks is being undermined by social inequality, such as racism. Becky remarked that she was in Greece when the first refugees from Syria and Afghanistan arrived, and she remarked that some of the first refugees she met were students no different from those she had dealt with in the United States, save in their experience of fleeing. Becky has returned six times to work with the refugees and the experience has enabled her to gain a deeper understanding into what tenderness is all about.

Becky notes that tenderness requires one to have an open mind which can embrace complexity, community and paradox, where rituals of inclusion are done along with habits that encourage deep listening and where memory is an antidote to alienation. Tenderness, in her opinion, is something that encourages people to realize that there is something more than oneself and where people are engaged on a deeper level. She also remarks that people need to be able to tap into the feeling at times of stressful disagreement, and notes that, at present, any kind of disagreement produces a sentiment where violence is likely to happen.

Becky wrote Teaching with Tenderness for students and teachers, and while she starts by talking about tenderness in the classroom, she goes beyond that by speaking about what it means to practice tenderness throughout one’s life. She mentioned a story of her fellow teacher who wondered about the kind of support available for teachers who could get worn out--support which is widely given at present, and where the stress teachers face is concerned, Becky gave the example of her own mother, who was a teacher, and she didn’t have time to go to lunch or have a bathroom break between classes several times. She also noted that teachers also sometimes pay for classroom improvements from their own pocket and that the teachers in college are under a great deal of stress to ensure that their students are able to apply their skills immediately after graduation.

Becky remarked that people “left their bodies” during highly stressful events in their lives and that rituals are needed to enable people to reconnect and re-enter their bodies. Becky noted that slowing-down learning is necessary as an embodied practice, where the body and spirit and intellect are all related and interconnected with each other, as being embodied is a psychological, emotional, spiritual and political practice. She gave, as an example of the kind of compartmentalization that is present in the educational system, the attacks of 9/11, when the teachers didn’t speak about the event as if it was (“business as usual,” outside the confines of the classroom), despite that several of the students were affected by the attacks. Becky also noted that there is a lot of dissociation going on, presently, amongst members of the government in the United States, which is an example of compartmentalization, and notes that this also goes on in other countries, from the stories told to her by the refugees she works with. She also noted that people she spoke to in Bali couldn’t recall a time when there had been a murder and had never seen a gun, which indicates that it is possible to live in a place where the fear of violence isn’t present.

Becky’s vision for an education where tenderness is integrated is one where students feel energized and involved with the subject matter they are investigating, noting that her yoga practice helps, since yoga enables people to become present to, and within, their bodies. She gave an example of giving her students around twenty minutes to relax, and after the students woke up from that rest, the ensuing conversation was the most vibrant one she had experienced. Becky would like to see contemplative practices be integrated into education to help students engage and become productive and points out that she doesn’t compromise the rigor where her own teaching is concerned.

To others, Becky would ask about when they felt most alive, confident and available to learn and what enabled this, so that they can teach others to reproduce these in their own lives.

Purchase from Amazon: Teaching with Tenderness: Towards an Embodied Practice by Becky Thompson

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Resmaa Menakem on Racialized Trauma as the Subject of His Book, My Grandmother's Hands

Resmaa Menakem talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

 “Trauma is a protective measure, not a defective measure.” ~Resmaa Menakem

Resmaa was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and as he lived in a diverse neighborhood he didn’t encounter racism and violence until the 7th grade, when he got bused to a school that was then integrating kids from various races. He got through college and became involved with social justice matters with his friend, now-Congressman Keith Ellison, and after getting his Master’s in Social Work got involved with victims of addiction and violence. He then went over to Afghanistan, helping with contractors who were in war zones and who were thus getting traumatized by the conditions they were working under. Resmaa wasn’t aware, until he returned to the United States, that he was likewise getting traumatized, until he spent around a year after getting back from Afghanistan doing all the things that traumatized people did, such as pushing others away and getting depressed himself, as well as wanting to get back.

Resmaa got the title of his book from a conversation he had with his grandmother, while he was a child, where he learned why his grandmother’s hands and feet were as big as they were - and these were big from picking cotton since the age of four. It was then that Resmaa first got a glimpse of how hard life was for one of his predecessors, and it was years later, after he learned of the shooting of Tamir Rice, that he put all of what he learned about the effects of trauma on the body into My Grandmother’s Hands.

Resmaa points out that trauma is a protective measure, designed to protect someone from perceived or real overwhelm, and he remarked that trauma affects the body’s limbic, or animal, system, which means that trauma couldn’t just be talked away, in the regular psychological, cognitive-based treatment. The limbic aspect of the trauma is so intense it goes beyond cognitive treatment and ability, and those suffering from such deep trauma usually can’t articulate it, as they only have a sense of what that trauma is.

Resmaa also notes that research is presently coming out on how trauma inflicted on past generations affects the descendants of those upon whom the trauma affects by learning, when a child learns how an adult moves and reacts to the trauma that had happened to that adult, and Resmaa adds that some generations of Jews who are descended from Holocaust survivors experienced the same kind of conditions as those who had experienced the Holocaust. He also noted that such trauma can also be triggered through storytelling, like a child reacting to an intense story told to him by one of his elders.

Resmaa also noted a new idea called epigentics, which is based on the idea that the environment affects the gene expression of what gets turned on and off which aids in survival, and that such expressions are carried on in future generations. He brought up the example of the “cherry blossom experiment,” when it was noted that the offspring of mice who were exposed to trauma, mice who associated and reacted to the trauma of a painful electrical shock with the scent of cherry blossoms, would react the same way that their parents did, even if they hadn’t experienced the electric shock themselves, as a protective measure, even though the offspring never came into contact with their traumatized parent. Resmaa notes that this idea is presently coming under increasing investigation by scientists today, and this opens up the possibility that trauma is protective in nature, and not a defect in the person himself.

To those who are experiencing generational trauma, Resmaa says that what they are experiencing is protective, not defective in nature, and that, when that person is ready, he should find someone to help him get through it. Resmaa also points out that telling someone that there is nothing wrong with him helps out greatly, and that getting to the incident, be it generational, or personal, where the trauma originated helps create healing.

Purchase from Amazon: My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem