Therapy as a Sacred Act

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay 

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Whatever is sacred to you can move you toward your truest self. It can open you to discover your truest purpose. Entering into a sacred space allows you to stop distracting yourself with the stuff of life, and center on what is important, and what is healing.

I’ve found this to also be true of psychotherapy. A course of therapy with a gifted clinician is an absolutely sacred act. It is intimate. It is soul-baring. It is getting to the raw marrow of your life and learning how it made you, and also what you may become. A good therapist helps you activate your own capacity to heal.

Before I go further into this, please know if you have suffered any abuse while in therapy or with a counselor of any kind, this article will obviously not speak to you. I wish you deep healing from any situation of that sort. I am honoring good therapy and therapists, and hoping that those thinking about going to therapy will be encouraged.

Entering into a sacred state is, to me, what we do when we start a journey into psychotherapy. We come into presence with another entity whose sole purpose is to receive us unconditionally, look at our wounds with compassion, offer tools and comfort for healing, and encourage us to see ourselves as worthy and capable. In many ways, therapy is teaching us to see ourselves as God sees us, and use that vision to effect change.

Therapy, to me, can be likened to a sacred act in these ways: it requires a safe space, trust, ritual, and surrender.

“The soul is the sacred space where my head and heart meet, where God lives.” ~  Brene Brown

A good therapist creates a safe and sacred space where the client feels able to be open and honest. Your stories are safe with your therapist. (They are only required to share information if they determine you are a danger to yourself of someone else.) Stepping into your therapist’s office should feel like stepping into a sanctuary, where you are accepted exactly as you are. This feeling takes time to build between client and healer, but once established, it becomes a space with its own energy and dynamic that exists only between the two of you. Perhaps like your own private relationship with God, this safe space is where you find relief and release.

This safe space is not established without trust. Trust, of course, takes time, and is built by your therapist truly listening, remembering from session to session what you’re working on, and also being clear with boundaries for both of you. There must be a solid foundation of trust for real therapeutic work to take place. One of the ways therapists build trust is with almost a sacred contract, that during your time together they will be reverently dedicated to you and your healing. Like a prayer, you can lay your burdens down and trust you will be supported in your struggle.

“Ritual cuts through and operates on everything besides the ‘head’ level.” ~ Aiden Kelly

Therapy also has a ritual aspect to it that rings of something sacred. The same time, each week, is set apart for the specific activity of healing the self. New things are brought and discussed and discovered, but the time, the space, the people are the same and that sameness also builds the trust and feelings of safety so crucial to the ability to be open and honest with your therapist. Keeping the routine, trying to keep the appointment at the same time and day each week is an important ritual. Ritual helps us relax into the unknown by providing solid ground to rely on.

“There is no greater agony that bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

Finally, surrender is crucial, both in therapy and in the realm of the sacred. We know when life brings us to our knees in total surrender, that is where we often find God. We surrender to the process life has in store for us and give our troubles over to be healed, our weary souls to be soothed. So it is in therapy. We surrender the hidden, the unspeakable, the ugliest memories, the darkness. We speak it out loud so it may be heard and healed. By giving it over, and giving it a voice, it becomes manageable. But not until we surrender it into capable hands. Surrender brings relief.

If you’ve worked with a good therapist, I’m sure this resonates with you. If you’ve been thinking about entering therapy, that’s a good sign that you should explore it. And if it helps you to think of it as a sacred act you can do for yourself, to bring yourself closer to a healed vision you’re holding onto, then enter that sanctuary and exhale. Breathe out what you’ve been holding and find healing.

Victoria McGee

1/28/23

3 Quotes for When We Lose Hope

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

The world is upside down. We struggle every day to make sense of the happenings in the world. We reach, gasping for breath, hungry for hope. We reach, but many days come away empty. We feel at the mercy of events that spiral out of control – because we truly do have no control. We have only ourselves, our faith, our God. So where is God anyway? As someone who has survived trauma, I know there are moments in life where God cannot be found.

When I reach for hope, I find I keep coming back to these three quotes for comfort. They are simple, profound, and reassuring. They remind me that almost everything we experience has happened before, but the human race survives, faith persists, and somehow we go on.

The first is from Martin Luther King, Jr:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The moral universe being that which is the ultimate compass of what is right and what is wrong. Bending toward justice reminds us that when pain and suffering is caused, the tilt in the moral compass must be righted at some point. The Universe will bring justice to the situation, perhaps not in our time or in a way we recognize, but it will. We can look back and see this at work in the past, and we must cling to this truth in the present.

The second is from Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic of the 14th Century. She wrote a passage I clung to when the pandemic started and still repeat it almost every day for comfort!

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well… For there is a Force of love in the Universe that holds us close and will never let us go.”

The force of Love moving through the Universe is whatever you call God. God does hold us close and never lets us go. But how shall things be well? That’s all relative, isn’t it? For some, it’s making enough this month to pay the bills; for a refugee, it’s a warm bed and a meal. For others, it’s winning one day in the battle of depression; for another, it’s surviving a night of shelling. For some, it’s being accepted by your family for who you are; for another, it’s being treated fairly and without prejudice. If you’ve survived trauma you know, there will eventually be days that all is well. They come, and will come again, in whatever form it takes. Have faith that God is holding us close.

The third quote is from author Jennifer Worth, who wrote “Call the Midwife.” As the Mother Superior counsels a young nurse who is distraught over something that happened and questioning God’s presence, she tells her this:

“God isn’t in the event. God is in the response to the event. In the love that is shown and the care that is given.”

This, for me, is perhaps the most comforting of all. Of course, God is not in events of human atrocity and cruelty. But look at the response. Look at the ICU nurses and doctors holding the hands of the dying during the pandemic, working tirelessly to save lives. Look at the Eastern European countries opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees without pause. Look at any disaster, and look at the response. There you find God. Hands-on God. Practical, tangible God!

Here is where we find hope. In each other.

These are my quotes that bring me peace of mind in troubled times. What are yours? Please share in the comments! The more we can ease each other’s hearts, minds, and souls, the better. These times can be exhausting – let’s hold each other up.

Sometimes the wall is the way

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“Though we can’t always see it at the time, if we look upon events with some perspective, we see things always happen for our best interests. We are always being guided in a way better than we know ourselves.” ~ Swami Satchidananda

When I was much younger, there was a popular quote going around: “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” My friends and I applied this with great ferocity to relationships at the time, and it actually does make sense. Often, the tighter we try to hold onto something or someone, the more we push them away. The simple truth is we can never open the door to new love or new opportunities if we are still beating our head against a wall.

Since I have some years to look back on, I can see now that unequivocally, the times I felt blocked or stuck in life had to happen for me to finally seek a new way. The wall I felt up against was providing me a chance to choose differently, reframe my thoughts, and find a new path. But sometimes it took me SO LONG to give it up! I would try to get around, through, under, over, paint a door, blast a window, massage that damn wall for far too long before giving up. Long after the Magic 8 Ball said “Outlook not so good!” And if I’d had to admit it to myself, my gut knew the truth. My gut knew I had to let go of whatever this dream was, or the next one could not begin.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Even so, it’s all part of the process right? All those attempts to make things work taught me a lot about myself and others. It always taught me what I was and was not willing to compromise. It taught me to begin to trust myself and my ability to make decisions. And it ultimately taught me not to fight the wall quite as long the next time. Because the wall is always showing me the way.

“Be grateful that certain things didn’t work out. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re being protected from or where you’re being guided to when you’re in the midst of chaos. That’s why you just have to trust that greater things are aligning for you. Let go gracefully.” ~ Idil Ahmed

In my life, I’ve seen this in work and in relationships. Years ago, feeling stuck as a school counselor I changed schools. Same job, different school, same wall. Plus, I felt really stuck because retirement was getting close and I had a pension and I’d paid into it and I thought I just had to stay there. But I lifted my eyes from the wall and threw myself on the mercy of the internet and other types of jobs. I ended up getting a job in Hawaii and moving and living there for four years, teaching speech and theatre, and was never happier with teaching than in my last years of it! My husband also benefited from this move and it enhanced our quality of life and relationship in untold ways! If I hadn’t been at the wall, I never would’ve found the way.

In relationships too, we often get to where we feel stuck. Feeling stuck and unhappy in my last marriage was a catalyst for my ex and I to get counseling, but ultimately decide to part.  I never would have had the opportunity to meet and marry my current husband of 20+ years if I had still been in a marriage that wasn’t right for me. My ex remarried and is also in a better fit for him. So again, the wall was the way for us to open to a better partner for each of us.  

“When suffering happens, it forces us to confront life in a different way than we normally do.” ~ Philip Yancey

Looking back at your life, notice those times when things just didn’t work out, no matter how hard you tried to make it work! Look at where you ended up after that. Maybe you’re not there yet, but can you see how the wall is providing the way by making you have to move on? Only in retrospect can we learn to trust this process. In looking back, I see that I never really gave up anything, except suffering. In giving up, I saw opportunities that I could not envision when I was  staring resentfully at the wall! Look up, turn around, give up, it’s ALL OK. A new path will appear. I promise.

“Learn to trust the journey, even when you do not understand it. Sometimes what you never wanted or expected turns out to be what you need.” ~ marcandangel

You Are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee

Oct. 26, 2021

FINDING THE BALANCE

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“Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender.” ~ Danielle Orner

I have lived a while, and I’m wise in many ways, but being human means I struggle with finding balance every single day. Being spiritual, living on the Earth in 2021, constantly barraged by media, social media, and bleak news in the midst of a global pandemic, balance often eludes me. And I see it in those around me, as well. We are, after all, in this together.

But I know that without balance, I will fall into depression. If I’m only turning toward the flash, the shock and awe, I miss the constant glow of the Divine. And that is where my saving grace abides!  So how do we find balance? How do we avoid the abyss?

So many of my friends have expressed in the past few years how difficult it’s been to stay informed, but not drink from the firehose. We’re concerned about so many issues right now, and as the world has become more accessible to individuals, it means we also know more. There is more to be concerned about, more to feel compassion for, more to make our hearts heavy. How do we fall asleep at night knowing what we know? Covid, Syria, climate change, school shootings, earthquakes, homelessness, floods, uprisings, unstable governments – I could fill this page. And of course, it’s important to stay informed, but it’s also important and appropriate sometimes to turn away.

I don’t mean completely turn away from pain and suffering, especially if you can help. What I mean is it’s crucial to turn your thoughts away sometimes so your heart can remember its essence, so your soul can recover and reboot. Think of the news or doom-scrolling as ice cream. You can only have so much before you start to feel sick.

“Do not wait for leaders: do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” ~ Mother Teresa

I had a day recently of feeling so angry. In our county, we had been doing better with Covid, but then the Delta variant showed up, the vaccine breakthrough cases were starting to be of concern, and we had to end and cancel several events and gatherings as our county reinstated a mask mandate. I was so angry that some people’s choices were impacting the quality of life for so many, and even causing illness and death. I was so very pissed off!

Anger is certainly warranted in many situations, and just because I call myself spiritual doesn’t mean I can’t get angry – anger is part of the human existence – but I also know that staying in a state of anger helps no one. I stumbled through the rest of that day, but the following morning my rested mind returned to the three things that help me find equilibrium again when I’ve turned toward the suffering in the world for too long with no counterbalance.

The first of these is gratitude. Yes, it’s been said before but it really is true and it really does work. Putting myself in an extreme state of gratitude helps me let go of bitterness, pettiness and even rage. When I think of the things I’m most grateful for (my home, my husband, my son, my sister-friends) I feel my heart and soul start to reset. I turn toward gratitude and breathe it in.

“If you go off into a far, far forest, and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you are connected with everything.” ~ Alan Watts

The second is nature. Spending any time in nature actually effects stress hormones, and helps us appreciate what is good in this world. Even if you don’t have a beautiful yard or outdoor area, just a local park or community garden can help you connect with the natural world and ground yourself. Sitting outside at night, spending time with the moon and the stars, realizing how small we are in the vastness of the universe is also healing. Play with your pets, nurture your plants, dig in some dirt, watch an ant colony at work – you will feel balance creeping in as you turn toward the miracles around you.

The third is to remember who you are as a spiritual being, a child of the Universe. My mantra the past few years has come from Ram Dass. “I am loving awareness.” When I am angry, frustrated, distraught with the world, chaotic within myself, this phrase brings me home. Sitting quietly, focusing on the breath and repeating this to myself, I remember my essence. I begin to feel filled with spirit rather than fear.

My job is not to fix the world, but to fix myself so I may better serve those around me. I cannot do that if I am out of balance. So some days I will turn away from the suffering and turn toward the love and grace of God, because I cannot be of help if I’m upset – I cannot pour from an empty vessel. Together, may we find balance moving forward. The world needs us to.

“If you restore balance in your own self, you will be contributing immensely to the healing of the world.” ~ Deepak Chopra

You Are Still Beloved

Victoria McGee 9/23/21

Holding Our Collective Breath

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“When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.” ~ Anonymous

I woke up very early the other day, too early for the time I’d gone to bed. As I tried to get myself back to sleep for a bit, I took a very, very deep inhale of breath. It shocked me how good (and foreign) it felt. I realized that in this era of global pandemic, I’ve basically been holding my breath. Many of us have.

But wait, I’ve been meditating, praying, doing some yoga, practicing good breathing. And I realized that’s the only time I’ve actually been breathing. The rest of the time, I’m in a state of fight or flight shallow breathing, which eventually feels almost like holding your breath. The chest grows tight, constricted, and the lungs just barely keep us going.

It’s understandable. We are all in a strange state. We are in limbo, yet hyper-vigilant at the same time. We don’t know how this will play out, we have little control, and we can’t plan for the future. We are in separate lifeboats just trying to figure out each day.

Our breath, thankfully, is part of the autonomic nervous system, bodily functions that happen without us thinking about it. However, our breath and heart rate reflect our state of mind, our emotions, and our fears. When we are scared, our heart rate quickens, and our breath becomes faster and more shallow. We are ready to run.

Only here, in our various states of quarantine, there’s nowhere to go.

Ironically, as we face this catastrophic Covid-19, as so many people are struggling to breathe and survive, it’s increasingly important to add a breathing practice to our daily routine. Here we are, in unprecedented times, wearing face masks when we do venture out, often feeling literally afraid to breathe! But breath is life, and it’s never been more important to breathe more deeply, to relax our nervous systems, and to live in the moment.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Of all our autonomic nervous system functions, the breath is the one we have the most conscious control over. It has a direct influence on the vagus nerve, a nerve that runs throughout the autonomic system. Slow exhalations cause this nerve to relax and bring us closer to a feeling of well-being.

Besides relaxation, the benefits of deep breathing include boosting the immune system, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, reduced depression, improvement in  diabetes, and the management of chronic pain. For me, it also provides a sense of control. I may not be able to control the outward situation, but I can control my response to it. With regular breath practice, I control the effect of the pandemic on my nervous system. I control how much fear I’m willing to experience. Deep breathing in conjunction with meditation or prayer is extremely healing and centering. Even just stopping for a moment, taking a deep breath, filling the lungs, and allowing a long, slow exhale, can re-center us quickly.

“One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

When fear and anxiety arise, I use this simple technique to help me stay in the moment.

Breathing in think, “In this moment I have ___________. (water, sun, music, air, etc.)

Breathing out think, “In this moment I need nothing.”

Repeat until you feel calmer. Regulating our breath helps us focus on the present moment, and focusing on the present moment keeps our minds from spiraling into worse-case scenarios.

Dr. Andrew Weil recommends deep breathing as part of any wellness program. Here is a link to three of his favorite exercises. https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/

The world is, indeed, holding its collective breath. Let us take some collective deep breaths, calming the vagus nerve of the planet. Breathe deeply, fill your lungs, hold for a moment, then exhale slowly, blowing out audibly your fear and anxiety. Take some calming breaths for those who cannot – those who we hold in deep compassion; those working on the front lines of this pandemic, those who are fighting for their lives, those who are suddenly unemployed, and those who have been thrown into unforeseen grief.

I pray that one day, we will all breathe easy again. In the meantime, breathe deeply.

“Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love: every moment of existence is a grace.”

~ Thomas Merton

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

4/7/20

Covid-19 and Collective Trauma

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The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect.” – Peter A. Levine

Lately, I’ve been conscious of trauma as it applies to society. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the world is currently in a state of collective trauma. Collective trauma refers to the psychological reactions to a traumatic event that can affect an entire society. For most of us, our daily way of life has drastically changed in the last few weeks. Freedoms and income have been reduced, and we are in a constant low-grade state of fear.

When a society experiences a collective trauma, such as 9/11, mass shootings, natural disasters, etc., our routines and relationships, those things that anchor us to our society are disrupted in such a way that it can leave us struggling to reclaim the purpose of our lives. In some ways, this can lead to a positive re-prioritizing of what is truly important. In other ways, it can leave us grasping for meaning and feeling hopeless.

For those of us already dealing with PTSD, this collective trauma can trigger other traumas to rise to the surface. We may find we are having trouble sleeping, nightmares, generalized anxiety, or hyper-vigilance may be rearing their heads again. Others may find they are having a surprisingly calm reaction to all this, as being in a trauma state is not strange to us, and we feel able to function in this state better than others.

Traumatic events can trigger past traumas, and who among us has not experienced some level of trauma? So we as a society have this huge collective trauma and our own historical traumas slamming us all at once. It’s a lot to deal with and process! And we’re confined either with partners, family, friends, or alone. Being alone can be most challenging as there is no distraction from your own thoughts.

If you’ve been feeling some of this, the dis-ease that has been engendered by this disease, there are practices you can undertake to ease the trauma response. We must regularly engage in self-care, find comfort in spiritual practice, stay connected to our tribe, and begin to reframe our relationship to historical trauma.

“Radical self-care is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives – friendship with our own hearts.” ~ Anne Lamott

Self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself right now. Stay centered and grounded as much as you can in whatever way works for you. Exercise, yoga, meditation, bubble baths, reading, and creative expression will connect you to your center. We cannot face this event coming from a place of scattered emotions and thoughts. Limit your news to a single check-in every day to keep from going down the black hole of information saturation. Go outside and find a place to connect to nature. None of these things cost money and can help you find some balance amidst the chaos.

If you have a spiritual practice, there is no better time to enhance and build upon it. Read, study, pray, and fill your soul with comfort, fill your mind with faith. Read the inspired words of those who have overcome darkness. Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, and Mother Teresa, for example, are inspiring in their ability to hold onto faith in the midst of great suffering. Turn to your spiritual practice at this time to help you hold onto your faith, and to get a glimpse of the big picture. The world has survived many traumas and will survive this one as well.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl

In these times, we must find a way to stay connected to our tribe. Facetime, Zoom, Marco Polo, social media and good old fashioned phone calls are our life-lines now. Resist the urge to isolate, to avoid the changes we’re all adjusting to, and reach out. Write letters, send cards, connect with people you’ve been meaning to re-connect with. You have time, and everyone needs to hear from the people they treasure.

Lastly, start to reframe your relationship to historical trauma. If we are here, we have survived trauma, personal, ancestral, historical, and collective. This means we are resilient and we have developed coping skills that not everyone has. We know how to self-calm, self-care, rise above, forgive, and even help others. Build on the resilience you’ve developed thus far! We are strong, flexible, wise souls and our energies are needed in this crisis.

               “We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong.                    The amount of effort is the same.” – Pema Chodron

We are in a state of collective trauma. So let us attempt to join in collective healing, first by taking good care of ourselves, then by contributing to healing the energy of the planet. We all need the energies of compassion, positivity, balance, and calm right now. Let’s practice this in our daily lives and see what healers we are.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

3/20/2020

Why We Sometimes Hold Onto Trauma

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“The sooner we heal our traumas, the sooner we liberate ourselves from the people who hurt us. By hating them, we hold onto them. We cannot heal.” – Vironika Tugaleva

As I have studied, learned and written about healing trauma, I find I’m guilty of assuming that if you have been through trauma, you must want to heal. I forget that some souls perhaps don’t want to look at it, deal with it, or get better; at least, not now. I forget it until I’m face to face with such a person and I realize they are still holding onto a trauma from long ago – sometimes decades ago.

I used to wonder “What are they getting out of it? What’s the payoff?” Which sounds cold when you’re talking about a trauma survivor. But this is the thought I jump to when I see someone not making progress years after trauma. In reality, it’s far more complicated than my question, and of course, the reasons are as individual as we are. So in digging a little deeper, I found the reasons for holding onto trauma fall into three large categories (with many sub-categories).

The thought processes are basically the following:

Moving past trauma lets the person who caused it off the hook.

Moving past trauma means I can no longer be let off the hook.

Moving past trauma means I will have figure out who I am if I’m not suffering.

These are not light issues, not light thoughts. They are huge and overwhelming and no wonder people are often reluctant to confront these feelings! Let’s dive deeper.

“Moving past trauma lets the person who caused it off the hook.” This thought is often accompanied by other, related thoughts. If I forgive, then they’ll think they didn’t really hurt me. If I move past this and become stronger and more resilient, they’ll think their actions had no effect on me. If I forgive them, I’m weak.

The reality check to this thinking is part logic, part spirit. Logically, we have no idea what another person thinks of us, even they treat us poorly it’s more about them than what they think about us. And when we second-guess others’ thoughts and motivations, we give them even more power over us, thereby remaining stuck in the past. Spiritually, forgiving and moving on is something we do for ourselves, not for them. The longer we hold onto anger and withhold forgiveness, the longer we are in a state of inertia that we perpetuate. We don’t let anyone off the hook by moving past trauma – we break the chains that are keeping us in a dark place, so we can begin to climb to the light.

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“Moving past trauma means I can no longer be let off the hook.” This second reason people might hold onto trauma is pretty insidious. Sadly, some of us find that in sharing our trauma we are seen as a victim, and people around us can start to let us off the hook. If we have certain unmet needs inside us, this can feel pretty good. It also gives us valid reasons for not fully dealing with people and situations in our life. We can start to use it as a way to avoid life, people, and in the worst cases, work and responsibility. I think all of us who have gone through trauma have been through phases of this. With therapy and hard work, we usually get past it.

The reality check to this thinking is realizing that again, you’re giving the trauma and whoever you associate with it, the power to keep you from fully engaging in life. Every time we use it as a way to avoid life, we empower the trauma, not ourselves. I’m not talking about the times we need to practice PTSD self-care and carve out safe, quiet time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know the difference between self-care and avoidance. And if we’ve really gone down a dark path and avoid work and responsibilities, it will undoubtedly cause people who care for us to have to pick up the slack or bail us out.  It’s so important to take an honest look at how our healing impacts others, usually our family. If we have avoided therapy, or are playing on being a victim, not a survivor, we are denying our full and beautiful light from coming forth. Our inner wells of strength and faith are deep, so turn this fear over to God so we can truly conquer trauma, and not live it again every day.

We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.” ~ Pema Chodron

Moving past trauma means I will have to figure out who I am if I’m not suffering.” This thought manifests as many different thoughts that allow the trauma to define you. I’m a person who was profoundly hurt. Trauma is my identity, therefore in my pain I feel safe. We naturally do identify with being a victim of trauma initially. This should fade and assume a back-burner position in a healthy identity as we heal.

If it doesn’t, as a therapist I once knew said, “It doesn’t feel good, but it feels familiar.” We know how to play that part, so we play it because it’s comfortable, it’s easier, and we’re tired. But the danger, the reality check in this thinking, is that you’re once again giving your power to the trauma, not the recovery. You’re living a role, an identity, that was forced on you, not one you’ve chosen for yourself. Your true spirit, your true nature is on that back-burner. Invite it to come forward, try to open yourself to what the Universe has for you next. When you put a foot on this path of letting that old identity go, new possibilities will unfold!

Healing trauma is rich, unrelenting, exhausting, and rewarding. There are so many modalities now to deal with PTSD – therapy, EMDR, tapping, and of course, I believe, taking God with you every step of the way can only enhance your experience and restore your faith more quickly. So who could you become as you move past trauma?

We can only know when we begin to climb out of the quicksand. Staying stuck can only pull us down into depression, health issues, addictions and more. Healing is the process of getting un-stuck, of creating movement, of creating energy to move, of letting go.

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

What Does God Think of You?

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“Be kinder than necessary. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Plato

This often-quoted statement from Plato is such a wonderful reminder to us to try to be kind, always. It’s so true – if you scratch the surface of anyone you meet, you will find wounds and hurts. Some of us have deep battle scars that make us lash out at others or not behave as our highest self.

So compassion is key. None of us truly know the history or inner workings of anyone else. Not even loved ones we have spent decades with. We might know them well, but we can’t know how their deepest scars might affect their daily life. Compassion is key. We may not understand why someone is behaving a certain way or made choices we find confusing or even hurtful. But if we can remember that they have inner wounds and battles that are causing them to make these choices, we can find compassion.

It is sometimes (often) challenging to find compassion for others, especially people we don’t truly know. Our own loved ones are easier to have empathy for, as we have a better understanding of their battles. So it’s curious that we often have trouble finding compassion for ourselves.

“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.” ~ Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou hit the nail on the head. If we can overcome how we think about ourselves, we can soar! Our own self-condemnation, judgment, and doubt often obscure our ability to love ourselves. If we can truly overcome how we think about ourselves, we can find a freedom and sense of security in the world.

I’ve done a lot of work in my life in the field of self-esteem. I’ve worked on it for myself and with countless students as a counselor. Low self-esteem is a core issue for many, many people, formed often in childhood, reinforced by life events, and carried around inside us like a little alien, ready to pop out and ruin our day at the slightest whim! And we know, deep down, that it IS an alien – it doesn’t belong. Because we are beings of Light, children of God, purveyors of Love! That is our truth, but our thoughts, our ego mind, block our true vision.

“I found that there is only one thing that heals every problem and that is: to know how to love yourself.” ~ Louise Hay

Learning to love yourself and be compassionate toward yourself, and your great lumbering, mistake-filled life, is an ongoing process. A life-long process! But something I have found helpful is to try to see myself as God sees me. I try to imagine what God must think of me.

This could be scary to contemplate but think of it this way. If God is the Beloved, the Divine Spark, the profound Love of the Universe, God cannot help but see me with compassion and understanding and forgiveness. God, in this sense, truly is a parental presence.

If you have children you know this well. No matter what your children do as they grow, even as adults, you see that they are still learning and most often doing the best they can. Even when they make mistakes we continue to love them and help them right their sail again. We have compassion for them so easily because our heart is full of so much love for them and it is constant.

So it is with God. God’s love is so all-encompassing that compassion, understanding, and forgiveness are the natural state of God’s relationship to us. And if God is IN us and we are, indeed, God, or OF God, then that profound love for ourselves is available at all times, if we but ask.

“If you saw you as God sees you, you would smile a lot.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

You have survived trauma in your life, you are healing, you are hurt, you make mistakes, you do things right, you seek help, you avoid help, you try to help others, you are sometimes selfish, you give too much love, you withhold love. You are human.

Now imagine this: God and all of your angels and guardians are amazed that you would choose to learn these lessons so profoundly and so deeply in this life. They are stunned by your courage. They wrap you in compassion nightly, hoping to heal you with enough light to carry you through the next day. God holds you constantly in the heart of Love, amazed at your determination to heal and give compassion to others. You are an astonishment!

So today, practice giving this compassion to yourself. Love yourself. Honor your growth. What does God think of you? God thinks you are a tender, growing soul, deserving of Good, fighting hard battles, and trying to grasp the extreme profundity of Love. Rest in that.

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” ~ Hafiz

You Are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

May 6, 2019

“You Are on the Fastest Route”

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“It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” ~ Dalai Lama

I have done a lot of driving lately with my car GPS turned on, helping me navigate and stay aware of what may lie ahead. Every time you head out on a new route, Siri politely assures you that, “You are on the fastest route.” In case we were thinking about a side street, or thinking we know better, Siri assures us it’s all under control. We can just sit back and drive.

Every time I hear that message I think of my spiritual life. There have been so many times in life when the lessons have come so fast and hard that I begged God for mercy, just a little breathing room, just a little time to REST. But I firmly believe this life is a large schoolyard where we are given lesson after lesson, as we are ready for them, in order to grow our souls. So I know that I am given what I can handle when I can handle it. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

“The challenges we face in life are always lessons that serve our soul’s growth.”    ~ Marianne Williamson

Lessons come at us in many forms. It can be a small, gentle reminder, or a painful trauma. I’ve observed the resulting growth is in direct proportion to the magnitude of the lesson. For example, if I’m having some kind of pity party, God will put in front of me someone who is much worse off – a reminder to be grateful and do what I can to help others. On the other hand, having survived a traumatic attack, the lessons contained in regaining my self, conquering crippling fear, gaining a deep understanding of forgiveness, and moving forward in life with courage and faith are lessons I could not have learned as quickly in any other way. My faith in this process is as much a part of me now as breathing.

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

I love this quote from Eckhart Tolle because it is so simple and straightforward and implies such trust in the unfolding of the Universe and our place in it! We are always on the fastest route if this is true. We cannot help but be in the right place at the right time.

Many times in the midst of an experience, especially something around loss, trauma or pain, we naturally don’t want to be there. We want it to end, to get better, or change in some way. This is a natural fight or flight response. It is only as we recover, as we heal and as we turn to God, that we can see the reasons things happened the way they did. The lessons are not apparent in the moment, only in reflection.

“Regardless of how hard, challenging, frightening, or difficult experiences may seem, everything is just as it needs to be in order for us to heal, grow and learn.”                      ~ Iyanla Vanzant

However much we may want to avoid the learning, or skip out on lessons, they are necessary for our growth. It’s only human to want to avoid pain – even Jesus asked that “this cup be taken from me.” But we know we must walk through the experience for a lesson to be fully realized and integrated.

We are on the fastest route – but how do we get through the moments of pain and challenge? Trust. It always comes down to Trust. Trust in the Strength of God to sustain you through life’s darkest hours. Trust that the path you are on is truly the fastest route to your enlightenment. Trust that God will send you people, places and pets that will serve to hold you up and heal you when needed. Trust in the mighty life force energy within you, trust that it is part of God, part of all the good in the Universe, and a force of Love.

“God never uses anyone greatly until he tests them deeply.” ~ A.W. Tozer

We must believe that a slower curriculum would not serve us, so let us try to trust every day that we are on the fastest route. And let’s buckle up – it has been and will continue to be a bumpy ride. Find good companions for the trip, and know God is behind the wheel.

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

March 7, 2019

CONSTANTLY TURNING TOWARD GOD

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“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I love this quote from Gandhi, reminding us to open the day in prayer, and close it in prayer as well. This is something to take to heart, as it can guide the time in between rising and bedtime. But what happens in between? If you’re like me, I wander far from the path, I forget to pray and turn my mind, heart and thoughts to God. I enter the realm of business and worry. You too?

I was struck by this thought a couple of months ago. That I need to be constantly turning toward God. And yet daily, I catch myself trying to figure out a problem, worrying about a family member or friend’s health, making plans for the future, having regrets about the past, busying my mind with everything except the Divine. And I believe my ego mind wants it this way. The more it keeps me in a trance of fixing, judging and doing, the less likely I am to turn to God.

“God is the water, and you are the faucet.” ~ Marianne Williamson

When we naturally and instantaneously turn to God is when something literally “brings us to our knees.” A sudden death, illness or trauma shakes us to the core and we automatically ask God to come in, to comfort us, to bring healing to the situation. And we feel God then don’t we? We feel the comfort, the envelopment of God’s love that helps us raise our heads again and move forward. It is truly beautiful, even in the midst of a horrible moment.

For survivors of trauma, you would think turning toward God and calling on God every moment of every day would be like breathing. We must have it or we die. But we are MASTERS of distraction! I noticed this in my life so clearly. When a trauma occurs, I fall to my knees, I bring God in, I pray without ceasing. But as days go by it becomes clear I can’t drop out of life (like I want to).  I have to continue with jobs and groceries and living, so I developed the marvelous coping skill of distraction. I dare say that in most of us, this skill is over-developed!

And we need to forgive ourselves for bending toward distraction. How else can we sleep at night, when our mind, left unchecked, will play reruns of our trauma on a loop? How else can we check out at the grocery store when a magazine headline has triggered us and we suddenly want to cry? How else can we make small talk when such shallow actions make us want to scream? We distract ourselves with activities, thoughts, plans and MAKE our minds think of something else. It’s a survival skill, but at what cost?

“Meditation goes in. Prayer goes out. But they both aim for the same place of union between you and the Divine.” ~ Lisa Jones

Hopefully, eventually, we learn to distract our minds with God again. We learn that these thoughts are not just a distraction, but they are a point of focus that can heal us. We learn that we can place ourselves in the light by simply turning toward God. Like all good habits, it takes practice and vigilance. But beyond that, it takes a deep knowing that this IS what will save you. God’s light. God’s love. God’s grace. Meditate on it and feel it within. Pray to God and send it out. Then rest in the knowledge that within and without are the same place. And that place is God.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” ~ Aristotle

We move forward in life, our little wounded selves rallying every day to see what can happen, what good we can do, what love we can share. We truly are so brave. Let us try every day to keep turning toward God. Constantly. For that is where we will find peace. That is where we will find light. Find a mantra, a verse, a quote, anything that will take you out of your busy monkey mind and bring you back to God. For a moment. And then another. And then another.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.” ~ Philippians 4:6

You are Still Beloved.

Victoria McGee

January 18, 2019