What is your attachment style?

Ever wonder why you are the way you are? ME TOO. ALL THE TIME. And now thanks to covid, I have even more time to ruminate on my personality. 

Also thanks to covid, I now have a fresh supply of anxiety. Knowing more about psychology helps me manage my anxiety. 

Now I can be like, “that’s just my story pattern. I don’t actually need to fret.”

What is a story pattern? Thanks for asking! (I knew you would :))

To understand that, first we need to talk about attachment styles. Everyone falls into one of these three categories:

  • Secure Attachment
  • Anxious Attachment
  • Avoidant Attachment

If your parents were predictable with their love, encouraging, and validated your emotions, you’re one of the lucky ones who has a secure attachment style! You most likely believe the world is a safe place and you’re not afraid to take risks in love or life, since you came equipped with a secure foundation.

If your parents were unpredictable, hot and cold with their emotions, you may have an anxious attachment style. Since you never knew how the people you loved were going to react, you may be a little anxious. In relationships, it shows up as neediness. The anxious partner frequently looks for reassurance, since they learned early on that feelings can change rapidly. When reassurance isn’t given, anxious attachers can get demanding/angry in their desperation to know their partner won’t unexpectedly leave them.

If you ever got the vibe growing up that it’s not okay to talk about emotions and that emotions are a weakness, you may be an avoidant attacher. Avoiders may have trouble giving comfort to others or understand why they are ‘so emotional’. They have trouble being vulnerable and try to stuff their emotions down. Their challenge is to see that emotions are a normal part of life and not something to be ashamed of.

Ok, now I’m going to take things up a notch. If you ever wonder why you fight with anyone, it’s probably because they are pushing the button on your “story pattern”

In life, we may have had some struggles or traumas. Maybe your parents divorced, maybe they always blamed you for things, maybe you were bullied at school. These struggles can form ‘patterns’.

For example, if your parents weren’t attentive, you can repeat the story of “lonely child” if your friends don’t want to hang out (it repeats, hence it is a pattern).

Realizing that the enemy is the pattern, not your friends, is the tricky part. Naming your pattern and recognizing when it pops up is the key!

Once you recognize your pattern, you can swoop in with some loving self-compassion. “It was so hard when I was lonely as a child. Just because my friends are busy this weekend doesn’t mean they are abandoning me.”

Trust Yourself

My previous boss said I let everything knock me over. She was right. I had so little faith in myself and my abilities that any hiccup sent me flying off my mountain. She said I had all the skills, all the knowledge, and I was really good at my job- I only needed to trust in myself.

When you are compassionate with yourself, you will also begin to trust yourself more, because you know you can handle whatever comes your way. Bad things will always happen, but being able to soothe yourself in these situations will keep you pushing forward and trying new things. You know you’ll catch yourself when you fall.

For a long time, I didn’t draw. If I created anything less than perfect, it would damage my ego and identity as an artist, therefore it was easier to not create. Sounds silly, I know. Many of us do something similar in order to avoid ‘failure’ and damage to our identity. Perhaps you procrastinate, because if you never accomplish anything then no one can blame you for doing a bad job. Our fear of failure, of not living up to expectations, of not being perfect all prevent us from doing something truly great.

How it would feel to turn something in on time, knowing you did your best? Anything less than your best is still a way of hiding and protecting yourself; let self compassion can be your new armor. If anyone is displeased with your best effort, you can use self compassion to comfort yourself. “This is really hard. It hurts to hear criticism, but I know I did my best so I’m proud of myself.”

Benefits of Self Compassion

I am usually quite hard on myself. I half-jokingly refer to myself as a “nervous pervous” for no reason other than it rhymes and it’s a cute way to say I am heckin’ anxious. 

Last year, I thought I was doing better. I was being nicer to myself. Then a giant sledgehammer called COVID goofed up my hard-earned equilibrium. Though I didn’t know it last year, I realize now that what I was starting to do is called self compassion.

During this time of stress and loneliness, self compassion is vital.

Whenever I am worried about something like “omg, is society collapsing?” I comfort myself by saying, “It is normal to worry about your health and safety during this stressful time. Even if this time is tumultuous and the future is uncertain, mankind has lived for thousands of years. We will make it through, even if we can’t determine what the future holds.”

Though I don’t always remember to do this, it does prevent me from having a straight up panic attack on a day to day basis.

As I mentioned in my Cats + Mental Health series, treat yourself like you would a kitten, because no one can be mean to a kitten. And you shouldn’t be mean to yourself either!

In Western culture, we like to punish ourselves in order to ‘motivate’ ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you read Kristen Neff’s book, you can see all the studies she did that prove that people who are self compassionate are actually MORE effective at accomplishing their goals, because they aren’t afraid to fail. They aren’t going to punish themselves if and when they fail, so they don’t need to be afraid. They realize everyone fails sometimes, and failure is not connected to self worth. What better reason do you need to be nice to yourself?

After years of ‘punishing’ and ‘motivating’ yourself, it can be hard to believe that you are allowed to be nice to yourself. It can feel selfish. But again, would you say such mean things to your best friend? To a child? To a kitten? I hope not! 

Even if you believe it’s selfish, hear me out: whether you punish yourself or are nice to yourself, the end result is the same. Your actions will be the same. So would you rather feel anxious or compassionate?

If it’s too hard to ‘talk to yourself’ at first, imagine your best friend saying kind words to you when you need them. Your friend believes you are worthy of kindness, and it’s true.

And if you are more motivated by being compassionate to others, here’s another twist: if you are nice to yourself, you will be nicer to others.

I used to be critical of myself, therefore I was critical of others. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, or why it was happening. I tried so hard not to ‘slip up’. Any failure of mine reflected directly on my self worth, so failure had to be avoided at all costs. Whenever I saw someone else ‘slipping up’, I would be quick to judge, because I judged myself so harshly. “How dare they get away with failing! I try so hard not to fail lest someone point out my shortcomings, so no one else is allowed to mess up without being berated!” was essentially my thought process. I would be so angry that no one came down on them as hard as I came down on myself. When you accept yourself and are kind to yourself, you will do the same to others.

Next time you ‘fail’, remember that all humans make mistakes, and you’re okay. Imagine a family member or friend saying exactly what you need to hear in that moment. Be gentle with yourself, you are worthy.

Find Novelty During Quarantine

Wow, has it been 6 months already?? How are we all doing?

The only thing keeping me going right now is novelty- in order to not go crazy during quarantine, I have to keep finding new things to do, eat, watch, etc. No matter how trivially new, it still counts! For example, this week I tried a new brand of sparkling water. It was really exciting.

Does anyone else have stages of quarantine resemble mine?

March: OMG!! What is happening? The world is ending!!

April: I thought last month was boring?? This month is REALLY boring. Time to do some crafts that I’ve put off.

May: Wow, still going! Maybe I’ll start hiking all the state parks I’ve never been to.

June: Yay, it’s summer! Now I can do socially distant picnics outside, and the virus will dissipate!

July: Okay, so I’ve been everywhere within 2 hours of the Twin Cities. I’ve done so many socially distant picnics that I’ve run out of kebab recipes. Time to catch up on some reading!

August: Oh no. Winter is coming. I’ve exhausted everything I’ve wanted to do. Time to get a Hulu subscription.

September: ???

We’re all in the same boat, so I don’t have much insight to give, but hopefully I can offer some inspiration.

What to do when you’ve exhausted all quarantine activities:

  1. Play nostalgic video games (Phoenix Wright)
  2. Watch lots of anime (Sergeant Frog, One Punch Man)
  3. Watch nostalgic movies (Twilight, Harry Potter)
  4. Read nostalgic books (Twilight, Harry Potter)
  5. Read new books (Midnight Sun)
  6. Learn all those new skills you’ve been putting off (Graphic Design)
  7. Bake recipes from the Great British Baking Show
  8. Pick an international cookbook and make international dishes
  9. Buy yourself different brands of fancy chocolate truffles
  10. Buy 10 different kinds of tea to try

Every month I hit a metaphorical wall, and every month I manage to pass through it. It takes some creativity, grit, and making even the smallest things interesting. Even if it is as simple as buying a different flavor of La Croix., treat yourself to something new. Check out as many DVDs as you can from the library. And go down the YouTube rabbit hole and learn new things!

The Last 5 Months

It is important to not give in to despair during quarantine. Even so, this week I’m don’t feel like writing a blog post today because sad. Instead, I thought I would share pictures starting from my last day of pre-covid life to now. In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to the last 5 months, this is it! Lots of nature, baking, cooking, and playing video games.

Why You Should Have Compassion for Yourself

What Self Compassion is Not

What do you think of when you hear ‘self compassion’? Do you think of a narcissist? Someone who thinks they can do no wrong?

A narcissist fails to acknowledge their shortcomings because if they do, they lose their ‘shield’. They think by not acknowledging their mistakes or shortcomings, no one will ever be able to hurt them.

Even if you’re not a narcissist, it is still difficult to admit our mistakes in our culture. In the USA, we walk a tightrope of being confident while not being boastful. Don’t you dare show any signs of weakness, but also don’t you dare think you’re perfect. No wonder people feel they need a shield to protect themselves!

None of us are perfect. Some of us are just better at ruses. However, if you have compassion for yourself and your shortcomings, you don’t need a ruse.

Measuring Self Worth

Have you felt bad about not accomplishing enough during quarantine?

Covid hasn’t left us with many ways to keep up the illusion of striving for more and being perfect. Meaning: we don’t feel very good about ourselves right now. How do we measure our self worth if our previous methods of feeling like enough have been stripped away? Do we write a novel? Learn a new language? How do we maximize quarantine?

Am I doing enough? Am I enough?

Asking ‘am I enough?’ is an irrelevant question.

You Are Enough

You will always be enough, whether you decide to learn a new language or binge watch Netflix for 5 months. Have some compassion for yourself!

Instead of saying “I should be more productive. I’m lazy and a terrible person for watching Netflix yet again” try, “this is a really hard time for everyone right now and I’m doing what I can to cope.”

You may be thinking, “yeah, well is watching Netflix for 5 months straight healthy? Shouldn’t I be more productive anyway?” 

You’re not going to feel better by judging yourself. So again, that’s an irrelevant question. Try being compassionate with yourself (not to be confused with feeling sorry for yourself).

That takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?

Maybe by taking some of the pressure off yourself, you’ll feel like learning something new. But maybe not. It doesn’t matter. 

This is an important time to be nice to yourself. Even when quarantine is over, if you want to keep watching Netflix, that’s also fine. If that’s what you want to do, you were probably going to do it anyway, so why willingly increase your suffering?

Stop judging yourself. There’s no right or wrong way to spend this time.

What Happiness Means

Yep, there are lots of things to be upset about right now. 

I worry about how selfish our culture has seemingly become. I feel frustrated because there is no end in sight for COVID. 

Despite all that, I’m still happy. I have to be, because it’s my flotation device. I can’t give up on protecting my happiness, or the world will be too overwhelming.

Last year when I first started working on my happiness, I felt guilty and like I didn’t have the right to be happy. Then I realized, the state of the world would remain the same whether I felt happy or sad; I decided I would rather be happy.

Being happy doesn’t mean I condone the current situation. It doesn’t mean that I am happy about everything going on in the world. It means I try to find meaning in my life everyday, and to hang on to hope. I can be happy on the day to day while still being anxious about the world. We are allowed to feel more than one thing simultaneously.

I give you permission to be happy and to keep pushing for more change. Happiness isn’t complacency; it’s choosing joy now, because the world will never be perfect, so you might as well enjoy the ride while you’re on it.

You can look at this time as an opportunity to grow without distractions and test your resolve, or you can look at it as a miserable time of unfairness and think of all the ways in which you’ve been ‘robbed’.

And if you do feel like this is a miserable time and the world is unfair, acknowledge that. We can’t hide from our true feelings, even if we would prefer not to have these ‘bad’ feelings. 

Instead of judging your feelings or pushing them down, try sitting with them and accepting them like you would a baby and/or kitten. Just like a real baby or baby cat, your emotions don’t know any better, and all they really need is kindness. Telling them they’re bad won’t make them go away.

There are some emotions we would rather not feel (like sadness, anger), so it is difficult to sit with them. Most of us want to try to avoid pain, which is why we stuff sadness and anger into a box. However, whether they burst out of the box in one big explosion or dangerously seep out over time, they will always escape the box, and you’ll have to feel your feelings regardless. 

Might as well do it as soon as possible, because (Pain x Resistance) = Suffering.

The more you resist your emotions, the more pain you’ll feel in the end.

But this is a post about being happy, so how does allowing yourself to feel sad fit in??

Maybe a better way of saying ‘happiness’ is ‘acceptance.’ 

I know sometimes I’ll still be sad. That doesn’t make me ‘lesser’ or any less ‘happy’, because my overall state of being is happiness/acceptance. 

If I have a drawer full of socks, the drawer itself is ‘happiness’. The socks in it are emotions like joy, sadness, anger, etc. I would rather keep all my socks in a happy drawer as opposed to a sad drawer, because I need to use that drawer everyday, and it just makes things a little more pleasant.

I encourage you to not judge your emotions this week. You are allowed to feel them. In fact, you HAVE to feel them. Sit with them gently, be kind to yourself, and don’t forget to be happy.

Embrace Your Anxiety (like a kitten)

Does anyone else feel like driving and going into stores is super overwhelming since Covid started? Is it just me?

Usually I do drive through or order pick up for my groceries, but you can’t get every single item you need that way. So sometimes I need to go into the store to get a specific ingredient. And holy heck is it stressful!

I was an anxious person before I forcibly became a hermit due to Covid, and now everyday activities are giving me anxiety. Just thinking about all my new anxiety is giving me anxiety, AHH.

So today I’m going to tout what has long been touted to me: mindfulness. I know, UGH. It sounds SO BORING and pretentious.

If I pretend it’s not called mindfulness, it’s a lot more appealing. To me it means: name that emotion and why it’s appearing. It sounds really silly, but it’s easy and it works for me.

Exhibit A: Going into Target.

Mindless Deidre: AHH SO MANY PEOPLE WITHIN MY 6 FOOT BUBBLE

Mindful Deidre thinks:

I am stressed out because there are many people here while a global pandemic is happening. It’s normal to feel stressed out when there are many people within your bubble during a pandemic.

While it doesn’t change the situation, I feel a lot better about it because I’m validating my own feelings and allowing them to be felt. Though we desperately try, we can’t escape our emotions.

As I explained in my previous post, just because you ignore a kitten that is climbing your curtains doesn’t mean there isn’t a kitten still climbing your curtains. 

We may ask, “why is the kitten scaling my drapery? That’s not very nice.” 

Obviously it’s not an ideal situation, just like feeling anxious isn’t my preferred state of being. But kittens don’t care. Kittens just want to be acknowledged, and so do your emotions. Mindfulness can help with that.

Embrace Your Emotions Like a Kitten

Another Friday, another kitten analogy, here we go!

(this one might make more sense with a puppy, so I’ll let you choose which baby animal you want to imagine for this analogy. I’m still going to use kittens though because I’m on a roll)

What happens if you ignore a kitten (or puppy)?

Does it entertain itself and leave you be? Does it sleep peacefully?

Haha, nope! If you ignore a kitten (or puppy), it will climb your curtains, tear up your tissue box, and find other mischievous ways to make its presence known. It will meow (or bark) “PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

What happens if you pat the kitten on the head, and halfheartedly dangle a toy in front of it?

The kitten will be appeased, for now. It may nap for a bit, before it decides to eat some string and turn your sock into a toy.

What happens if you fully engage with the kitten? You focus only on playing with the kitten, uninterrupted, for 15 minutes. You run the kitten up and down your apartment, wearing it out, and then shower it with kisses and snuggles.

The kitten will be satisfied, and will leave you in peace for the rest of the day.

The kitten is an analogy for your emotions. No matter how much you push them down, they’ll still seep out and destroy things in the process. You can’t just make the kitten disappear, because the kitten is part of your family. You can’t choose to love the kitten only when it’s convenient for you, just as you can’t expect to only feel happiness all of the time.

So then, how do we deal with our rascally kitten/emotions that are desperately crying out to be heard?

You fully engage with them, just like you would fully engage with a kitten to make it take a nap and stop knocking things off your desk.

As it is when playing with a kitten, sometimes it can be painful. You may get some claws in your leg while the kitten climbs you like a tree, and you may get some playful bites on your hand. The pain is the hard part. To fully engage with your emotions requires some degree of pain, which is why we are so reluctant to pay attention to them.

The kitten won’t be satisfied until you do engage with it. And just as you would unconditionally love and accept a real kitten, you should unconditionally accept your emotions too. Occasional poops on the floor and scratched up furniture is part of the trade off to get purry cuddles from a lovable kitten, just as sadness and anger are part of the package that comes with happiness

Sadness and anger can be a gift.They are a warning bell that lets us know when something is wrong and when changes need to be made. Even if it hurts to listen to the warning bell, we shouldn’t neglect it because it brings us pain. These important emotions are trying to protect us from more pain in the future.

I hope picturing your emotions as a lovable kitten will help you embrace them, and give you the courage to listen to warning bells and face your problems head on.

Treat Yourself Like a Cat: Part Two

I’m continuing on the path of cats & mental health. You feel me?

As I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel over and over for things to do during quarantine, I rediscovered a show recommended to me when I first started fostering cats.

Despite its intimidating name, Jackson Galaxy’s show “My Cat From Hell” is anything but.

Jackson Galaxy shows you how to work with your cat to change its ‘hellish’ behavior. Desperate cat owners (or guardians as they are referred to in the show) seek help for things ranging from scratched up furniture, ‘unprovoked’ attacks, and overzealous territory marking (AKA peeing everywhere).

In the opening credits of the show, he states “there’s never been a cat I can’t help.”

That is wonderful news, and not just because it means the cat won’t have to go to the shelter; it means no cat is broken. The environment needs to change, not the cat.

I believe the same applies to us humans. No one is broken. Only their situation or environment. It’s much easier to change your situation than it is to change your personality.

The cat guardians in the show are often surprised by Jackson’s approach, thinking he was going to say, “you’re right! Your cat is completely crazy!” and maybe do some intensive cat training. Instead, he encourages them to see things from the cat’s point of view. How is the cat feeling? Is it scared because cars go by every night? Is it bored because no one has time to play with it?

Oftentimes after he asks these questions, the reason for the cat’s bad behavior becomes clear: the cat is bored, scared, and/or lonely. The cat is acting out because it’s crying for help.

The cat isn’t broken, the environment is. And while results aren’t instantaneous, the solution is usually relatively simple. Add more shelves so the cat can look out the window. Buy more toys to keep the cat engaged. The key is to be patient and to realize there’s no quick fix for anything.

Whenever I feel anxious, it helps me to think of my brain as a scared cat in a hectic environment. What would Jackson do? For starters, he wouldn’t yell at the cat and say “stop being anxious! You’re stupid for being stressed out!”

He would approach the cat with an open-mind, coo at the cat, pet it, and play with it.

He wouldn’t try to change the cat’s personality; he would assess why the cat is feeling the way its feeling, and work to improve the cat’s environment.

He approaches every cat with calm, acceptance, and love, and you should do the same for yourself. If your current situation is bad, remember you’re not broken; maybe its just your situation.