Coping Challenges: When People Avoid You because…

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Life is awkward on the best of days. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding oneself in unknown situations. Other times there is something going on, and people who care avoid you for their own reasons. Or you avoid them. No one communicates. Or everyone communicates without really saying anything aka addressing the cause(s).

That ends up with: confusion, hurt feelings, breaking of relationships, etc.

In my case, I learned a long time ago that people are transient guests in my life. The more they learn about me, the less they want to be around me. On rare occasions, I do meet people and build long term relationships outside of professional ones.

But I can count on 1 hand the number of true friends and loved ones that I interact with more than 3x a month – whether by phone, email, or in person – who have earned my complete trust and respect.

More often than not, people read this blog out of general interest and then start avoiding me in real life. Or they make friends with people who dislike me for some reason and start avoiding me in favor of the “new” people. Or have some other reason to “ghost” me as younger people say these days.

That used to hurt a lot. I didn’t understand what about me made people react this way.

Then I realized the problem was not with me, but with the other people.

You see, something about them made interacting with me uncomfortable. Instead of acknowledging this and working with me to figure out a solution, they denied anything was wrong and avoided me or blamed me instead.

How did I figure this out?

Not on my own. Over the course of my recovery, in counseling sessions and self-improvement workshops, this lesson has been reinforced many times.

I am who I am. I change constantly because life is change. Most of the time I am willing to compromise and work with people. Other times, I flat out refuse to change in order to conform or fit in with cultural norms or peer pressure. But I always try to be respectful and accepting of people as they are even if they don’t return that courtesy.

And because I practice unconditional love and acceptance for all beings, I can accept and forgive people who act and react to life with avoidance, denial, blane, or rejection.

They are who they are and coping with life as best they can. When it happens, no hard feelings.

People come and people go. Feeling hurt or blaming myself only triggers shame and guilt for something that is not my responsibility. I asked questions. I tried to make it right. Did my best. Now it’s over and done with.

I wish those people well and move on.

Other people have told me that attitude is harsh and mean. Maybe it’s true. But trying to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore…how is that healthy, good, or (insert your word here)?

My only goal is to live my life full of unconditional love and acceptance. For me, that brings out the best qualities in life: joy, fun, prosperity, safety, resilience, strength

And allows me to weather the worst life sends my way.

I hope maybe this story will inspire you, my guests, to reflect on how you can take control of your choices by changing your attitude and intention towards yourself, life, and others.

It’s not easy. It’s a continuous work-in-progress, a life-long endeavor. But it can truly change your relationships for the better like it did (and coninues to do) mine.

Thanks for reading.

Environmental Self Protection IMAGINATION + COPING STRATEGIES = SAFE SPACES Physical safe place(s) - physical locations in and out of home Mental safe space(s) - meditation, visualization, mindfulness Spiritual safe space(s) - aka altars or holy places or nature Home decorating with feng shui & energy clearing practices

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 5 – Environmental

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

What is a Safe Space? Is it the same as a Safe Place?

A safe space is any environment where you or I or anyone feels physically, emotionally, spiritually safe. Ideally we’d feel safe in all 3 areas. Personally, I am for 2 out of 3 at any given time.

Safe spaces integrate and utilize the coping strategies and techniques from the other types of self protection discussed in this series to create a safe, protected environment. aka safe space

Safe Places tend to be physical environments and can be safe spaces. BUT not all Safe Spaces are safe places.

  • Some safe spaces are physical spaces like houses, bedrooms, “home”, libraries, movie theaters, work, holy places, religious or spiritual buildings, hospitals.
  • Some safe spaces are visualizations that people can reach through dreams (day dreaming, sleep dreaming, meditation, dissociation, hypnosis)
  • Some safe spaces are a combination of physical and sensory areas that help people connect with a higher power, nature, or (your noun here)
  • Some safe spaces are sensory grounding objects people wear or carry with them as they go about their lives.

You (and I) never know what your safe space will be until you experiment and create one.

How many safe spaces can I have/make/use?

As many as you feel comfortable having

As many as your imagination can come up with

As many as you need or want

How many do you have/use?

I have a lot. One for each alter personality. At least one (maybe two) general spaces we all use together. Three for spiritual work. And five physical spaces not counting parks and green spaces where I live.

So 88 + 2 + 3 + 5 = 98 safe spaces approximately.

Most of those safe spaces are not physical. But they can become physical with help from physical protection techniques, i.e. touch stones & sensory grounding tools. I build my environmental protection using a combination of sensory grounding tools, emotional protection shields and spiritual invisible armor.

My favorite kinds of environmental self protection are the safe spaces limited only by my imagination because I can take them with me wherever I go.

Please be mindful of meeting your basic needs while creating safe spaces. All of this is part of self care and can be used no matter your budget or lifestyle.

Please do not limit yourself to only self protection coping strategies when you create your environmental self protection. Use whatever feels right to you.

What do Safe Spaces look like?

Environmental Self Protection equals safe spaces
Some safe spaces I’ve visited or only re-created in a visualization

So I am being vulnerable with this collage. Two of the images are from my current apartment. One image is from a vacation I took many years ago before my name change and move. It’s the same place where I found the banner photo for this blog. The final image is a stock photo that represents one of my visualization safe spaces – a location in my mind where all parts of me can get together and “hang out” so to speak. It’s much sharper than the faded memory of visiting Niagara Falls back in high school.

As you can tell, my apartment is colorful using many shades of earth tones to feel safe, calm and soothing.

Water: the smell, sound, look and (sometimes feel) always brings a smile to my face and peace to my mind. A bath cleanses my physical and energetic/emotoinal self by washing away dirt and negative energy. Flavored water (infusions) nourish my body, look pretty, smell and taste delicious.

Earth: Plants at home. Plants and parks all around my neighborhood and throughout the city. They remind me of joy, life, rebirth and laughter. All my plants are budding or having babies. It’s wonderful to watch and be part of the growing cycle. Or mourn when a plant ends its struggle to thrive and moves on to the next adventure (i.e. dies).

Either way, I’m connected to other living beings in a way that feels safe to me.

Fire: Sunlight in my apartment. Candles. Aromatherapy diffusers heating water to spread scents through the air in my apartment. Cooking food for nourishment. Cleaning and laundry. Fire reminds me to take care of my basic needs, so I can thrive and help others too.

Air/Wind: Wind reminds me to bend and be flexible. Nothing is ever exactly what it appears to be through my physical senses. Pause, reflect, use intuition and logic to make choices instead of reacting without thinking. Change the smell of my environment to remove triggers or bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered.

Pulling it all together

Environmental self protection is all about creating safe spaces wherever we happen to be.

Safe spaces, like all the other coping strategies and techniques I discuss, are multi-dimensional and unique to each individual.

I can give guidelines like in this post and others, but no one can create your safe space except you. And once you create it, no one can take it away from you unless you let them take it away.

That is a lesson I learned the hard way. And am still learning today. Kind of like the concept of “home” and “perfect living spaces”. Because, in spite of making my apartment as comfy and safe feeling as possible, I still (in the very back of my mind, buried in the subconscious) live in that childhood cage. The more internal stress I feel, the more my apartment looks like a mess and a reflection of that cage.

And when I worked in an office, my desk used to reflect the cage too. It got me into trouble (i.e. a target for harassment and backstabbing comments) from people who didn’t like me at work. They never talked to me directly, but they would point, whisper, stare, and talk to people who cared about me. Then those people would say something to me out of real concern. But still triggering and painful.

It wasn’t until I learned how to combine these different aspects of self care and self protection that I learned how to cope with experiences like that in more positive ways. Music, diffusers, crystal grids, other kinds of sound healing, and feng shui helped me create physical safe spaces and apply similar concepts in creating “magic bags” of sensory grounding tools to take with me wherever I go.

Maybe these ideas will help you create your own version of environmental self protection. Maybe it won’t. But I hope they inspire you to play and have fun with coping strategies and self care.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: School of Hard Knocks – and what it taught me about knowledge

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Hey All,

All of us in the AlterXpressions system (i or we) decided to share some more about our personal story as a follow up to last week’s post.

A winding path through trees...destination unknown
Destination unknown

First because our journey to where we are now has been filled with directional changes.

Second because many guests have been asking about how we got to where we are now.

Finally, because all of us are here to emphasize that this place is about sharing knowledge and resources – not telling people what to do or how to live their lives.

Being smart doesn’t get a person anywhere unless the individual knows how to use and apply those smarts. Same with education and experience.

It takes courage, resilience, compassion, love, acceptance and an open mind to pick up the pieces of life after trauma and figure out how to live again. We mean how to have the

  • Courage to believe in, love, and accept ourselves as we are in that moment knowing we are different and will never be who we were again
  • Resilience to learn how to roll with the changes that life throws at us as we learn our new “normal”
  • Compassion for ourselves and the people around us as mistakes happen, hurt triggers all kinds of emotions and sensations, and we fall
    • Because everyone falls, makes mistakes, hurts self/others, and gets hurt
  • Open mind to ask for/accept help, learn the tools we need to be who we want to be, and thrive as our authentic selves – happy, loving, loved, safe, – in alignment with our personal values

All parts of me agree to share this with you, so please don’t be surprised by shifts in language or writing style. We tend to interrupt, talk over, or repeat each other writing like this.

College did not exactly prepare me for “real world” work. But it did give me insight into how much I didn’t know about life and people because of how I was raised. The classes and instructors provided lots of book learning, but living on campus taught me about hope and made “happy ever after” seem possible. It was a break from the reality of my other life – almost like a bubble – until my past caught up with me there too.

7 geese in a meadow. One is not like the others...pairs of 2x2x2...then one?
One of these geese is not like the others. Two by two by two…

That”s when I realized college life didn’t fit me in the same way high school didn’t fit because my life experience taught me to value different life goals/career objectives. I was in survival mode and didn’t realize it.

Graduate school taught me that I wasn’t meant to spend my life in a rigid classroom. It also gave me the opportunity to explore skills that I disregarded as useless in high school or college. It also highlighted areas where I was completely lacking in knowledge and experience. Like interpersonal communication and time management; saying “no” and setting boundaries.

University buildings, a parking lot, food trucks...typical academic setting
Typical academic setting

Still, graduate school helped me find a temporary job that turned into a 13-year long career with the same company and allowed me to start this website/blog. I learned foundational skills in architecture and design from graduate school. Combined that knowledge with my writing and organizational skills to land a job helping a project manager create deliverables for a client.

My hard work, eagerness to learn and apply knowledge, and commitment to meeting deadlines caught the attention of other managers and people in the department. They mentored me and taught me more than I can ever express. In that organization, I got to be myself. Acceptance and respect was based on my actions and reactions instead of rumors and assumptions.

My past didn’t matter to them when they learned about it. Instead of firing me or suspending me, they offered support and helped me find ways to keep working no matter how bad my symptoms got. As long as I was honest with them, they worked with me to create flexible schedules and go through the red tape so I got to keep my benefits and job.

Now, thirteen years later, I have job security and a role that allows me to continue doing what I started while also taking on new challenges that help my team and enjoy work again.

EPIPHANY

College education and graduate school classes gave me the foundation skills to understand the work I do, but the school of hard knocks provided me the important life lessons that helped me earn credibility, respect, and acceptance.

Without both parts of that equation, I would not be as valuable or useful in my day job or here on the blog.

Finally, I acknowledge that I am lucky and blessed to have found an organization that accepts me, values me, and allows me to continue on the winding path that is my career with them.

As always, thanks for reading.

Coping Challenge: What is fun? What is play?

This is a reflective post…

quotation-erich-fromm-creativity-requires-the-courage-to-let-go-of-certainties-10-33-76

And so it begins…

As part of my recovery and spiritual work, I’m working with all of my parts to learn how to play and have fun. It’s part of bringing joy and happiness back into all parts of my life.

Not all the time, mind, but often enough to balance out the sad or down times and give everyone one more reason to wake up in the morning excited to start the day.

Coping strategies involving fun….

Part of self care is doing things I enjoy.

Part of self soothing is working with feelings/sensations, objects, ideas, etc. that bring comfort or peace.

Part of grounding is bringing back or recalling good memories, pleasurable moments, or fun acuities/times.

Way back when…

IMG_0715Whenever someone used to ask me: “What makes you feel (good/happy/joyful/peaceful)?” My answer was: “I don’t know.” and I felt embarrassed every  time I answered that question.

Whenever people ask me: “What do you do for fun?” or “What are your hobbies?”…I distracted with a different question. Or mentioned typical stuff that seemed hobby-like – cooking, reading – and then turned the conversation to something else.

Most often, though, I would get a panicked look on my face and become really quiet. So quiet the other person thought something was wrong with me and chose to not spend time with me anymore.

These days…

I’ve found that joy scares me. The emotions and sensations feel uncomfortable in my body. I am never sure how to act, react, not act, or not react when the sensations move through me.

But I have started finding joy, peace, and happiness in all phases of my life. The best part, though, is that all parts of me are finding and experiencing these emotions and sensations too as they grow and change.

But fun, fun still eludes me. I am never sure if what I feel is fun or not. Play is the same way. I don’t know what play is. Not sure I ever truly experienced it as a child. Or if I did, the memories are locked in one of the amnesia vaults for now.

IMG_0736Right now, my plants bring a lot of joy. They are all different shapes, sizes, and shades of green. Some flower, but most don’t. My succulents (right) live on the sunniest window sill.

But what surprises me most is that each of my plants has its own personality They communicate with each other and with me in “plant speak”. Sometimes I burst out laughing just “listening” to their observations.

Working with crystals brings joy and feels good overall. Studying aromatherapy brings excitement, anticipation, joy, and anxiety. The whole school aspect brings out triggers and sometimes feels overwhelming, so I’m a bit stalled on my aromatherapy studies. But the crystals, I try to visit my favorite store at least once a month to play with the crystals there and photograph my designs. Here are a few of my latest creations:

Maybe the crystal work is “play” and “fun”?

Final Questions….

So what does “fun” mean to you? And how do you bring play into your life if you don’t already make time to play?

Thanks for reading

Resources: Quiet Revolution Newsletter Discusses NeuroDiversity

Okay, so what is neurodiversity, and why would you put it here?

In my words:  An individual’s brain is thinking, responding, feeling, acting, or functioning differently than the cultural norm.  Examples from the article: ADHD, HSP (highly sensitive person), Asperger’s syndrome.

I put it here because trauma survivors and people with mental illness think, act, feel, and react differently than the rest of society.  Some of the difference is biochemical and part of DNA.  Other parts of the difference come from developmental and physiological changes based on experience.  The rest are learned behaviors in the form of coping techniques/strategies and survival skills.

The last group can sometimes be changed or removed or adapted to current circumstances, but the first two not so much.  This article celebrates differences and promotes acceptance, so it belongs here.

Article Information

You can find the whole article here.  FYI, this article is an essay on the Quiet Revolution website.  While one goal is to empower introverts, another is to find ways for introverts and extraverts to live and work harmoniously.  So please don’t think the website is not for you if you are an ambivert or extravert.

A few interesting quotes from the article linked above:

About Depression

“Unfortunately, it took me a long time to find a workaround, so in the meantime came undiagnosed, debilitating depression and anxiety for years, which often accompanies those who unknowingly mask neuroatypicalities while trying to cope and survive. I can’t say what triggered the depression exactly, but it felt like a slow, creeping fog that thickened more intensely over the years. Finding the right therapist and a helpful medication finally made the skies clear,” – Jenara Nerenberg

About Neurodiversity

“Now, I’m 33, and they’re calling these neuroatypicalities ADHD or HSP (Highly Sensitive Personality) or even Asperger’s. Shows such as Invisibilia give us the language of Synesthesia and Empaths. And I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all somewhere along this continuum, this spectrum of personalities, with diverse traits. This is the beauty of what we call neurodiversity.” – Jenara Nerenberg

Being authentic self

“Re-joining the jungle like Mr. Tiger means embracing the beauty of my inner nature and sharing that with others. And I’ve found that others who observe me start to feel and act the same, freed up by letting go of some of our cultural conditioning.” – Jenara Nerenberg

Thanks for reading.