Imagine for a moment that you’re a mother – a relatively new one. You’re out trying to get some much-needed grocery shopping done, and your baby starts to cry. It is clear what this baby wants – milk. Comfort. Nurturing and nourishment.
Let’s get real: This baby wants a breast in their face NOW.
But you have other things to do! Stopping everything and feeding and comforting your child doesn’t fit with your need to finish filling up your cart. So, you try to buy yourself a few moments until you are in a position to feed. What do you do?
Grab a pacifier!
Stick that smartly-shaped piece of rubber in that baby’s face and – most of the time – the crying stops. The newborn is pacified, and you can get on with the tasks at hand. You know it won’t last forever, but it can give you a break from the demands being asked of you.
Now, go ahead and bring yourself back into your own body, your own story, your own life.
What if I told you you’re still using the pacifier,
but on yourself? What if I told you
that there is a part of you within,
hungry for a certain kind of
milk it rarely – if ever – gets?
Let’s return to the baby metaphor for a moment, for it will continue to serve us. Because, lying beneath it is a hidden Cultural Narrative that often goes unexamined: that babies shouldn’t always get what they want/need. That if they do, they become “spoiled.” I’d like to unpack that narrative for a moment by sharing a bit of my own story.
My journey of motherhood began very young; my first of three children was born less than two months before my twentieth birthday. And even though I hadn’t lived with my mother since I was twelve, she flew up to Portland from San Diego, CA to be with me during my first week back home from the hospital. During this week I got to learn a lot about what she thought was proper baby care (which gave me some insight into my own experience as a baby, but that’s another story).
As soon as I had a newborn in my arms, my mother instincts were strong. Breastfeeding was easy, we were both healthy, and I was loving being a new mom, despite its stress and difficulties. While my first kid didn’t cry much as a baby, I quickly learned which cries meant what, and found myself drawn to hold this beautiful being as often as possible and comfort every cry. My Mother quickly informed me that I was “spoiling” my child. My heart and every fiber of my being said otherwise.
Fast forward to today, and after 9 years of seeing clients, I’ll tell you that the trauma of not being picked up as a baby carries on long into adulthood. I won’t go too much into parenting here, but from a psychological perspective, a baby in its first year does not have the ability to delay gratification or understand that what it needs “is coming.” It only knows NOW, and if it has needs that aren’t being met, it can literally be experienced as death. Any concepts of a baby “manipulating” it’s caregivers is a projection of the watcher, for manipulation would require parts of the brain that won’t develop for years to come. Babies not only have biological and developmental needs, they have psychological and emotional ones as well. As I read somewhere recently, we don’t just give birth to digestive systems.
If you’re wanting to know more about a different approach to babies and children altogether, I highly recommend the book The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff. While I didn’t read it until my three children were well past their baby years, it validated a lot of my natural instincts that seemed in opposition to the culture of motherhood I was surrounded by.
But, back to current-day you – what do I mean when I suggest that you may still be using this technique of pacification on yourself?
Well, throughout your day you have dozens – if not hundreds or thousands – of opportunities to either listen to your inner needs and desires, or not. To meet them and validate them, or dismiss and belittle them. And, whether you’ve considered this or not, how you respond to those needs also depends on your buy-in to the pervasive Cultural Narrative about being spoiled. This narrative goes beyond babies and subtly implies that your needs or desires aren’t worthy of being met, or that you’ll become some sort of person unwanted by society if you do meet them on a regular basis.
This Narrative is not only a lie, it is dangerous.
So, let’s paint a different picture. New story: Imagine you’ve just got notice that a family member has had a terrible car accident, and you have a client session scheduled in 20 minutes. You have no idea what state the family member is in, and you’re trying to get yourself together enough to give this session the full attention it deserves. What do you say to yourself? What do you do?
More often than not, I hear people using the self-talk of “They’re going to be ok,” or “It’s going to be ok,” or “I’m going to be ok.” You may even use one of these as a mantra in a meditative state until you calm yourself enough to go into the session. If that works enough to get you through, you may even be convinced that this is a useful tool. You may start teaching it to others.
But, what if you just stuck a pacifier in your mouth, when what you really wanted was a breast?
Because, here’s the deal – there is nothing but NOW. The future hasn’t been created yet! You’re co-creating it with the Divine and Seven Billion+ other people as we speak!
So, while the idea of the future being “ok” may stopy our wailing for the moment, the nurturing and nourishment your mind and heart craves is left unmet. It may momentarily satisfy your ego, but you’re so much more than that!
What you really yearn for, in your heart-of-hearts, is that you, and this family member, and all involved, are okay now. Not in some made-up future in our heads that is totally out of our control, but in this moment and this moment and this one.
What if instead of telling yourself
you’re “going to be” ok,
you tell yourself
that you’re already ok NOW?
Don’t get me wrong, this requires some big faith, as well as bandwidth.
Let me expand on what I mean by that below.
In order to reach the place where you can hold the okayness of now, even when it is ugly or messy or feels horrible, there has to be Faith in something bigger than you. When I work with clients, I assure them that they don’t need to believe about Spirit in the same way that I do, yet it is important they have a belief system in something bigger than them so they can lean on it in challenging times. I help them to work with whatever they believe so that they can feel supported, connected, and worthy.
Personally, my Faith in a Universe that is Infinite and Intentional has carried me through some very challenging and heartbreaking experiences. Trusting that the Divine lives as everything, even the parts I’m not fond of, allows me to let go of my need to see things a certain way in order to be ok with them.
Whatever your faith is, if it doesn’t support you in tough times, it might be worth examining it more closely. It may be time to learn more about it, or explore new faith traditions to see which ones feels most expansive and aligned.
Bandwidth is a term I use with my clients to describe the necessary act of being able to hold both our humanness, and our Divinity, within our awareness. One of my mentors years ago called it “Living in the And.”
It is the ability to validate a current human experience of hardship, while simultaneously trusting that the Universe is always for you and never against you and that something bigger than this hardship is unfolding.
Why is bandwidth important?
Without bandwidth, it is easy to step into the toxic side of faith, which we see a lot of in spaces where healing is said to happen. Let’s briefly look at how Faith without Bandwidth shows up:
It shows up a Toxic Positivity – the inability or unwillingness to look at cultural or individual shadows out of fear we’re “giving them power,” when in reality the fear of looking at them empowers them to continue ruling our lives and the world from the darkness. Positive thinking can be very useful, but not as a tool to avoid looking at our whole selves.
-White leaders unwilling to admit their unconscious biases around race, who go on to harm black people and people of color through their biases they won’t admit, examine, or heal.
-Coaches & Healers & Leaders shutting down conversations around their own behavior because they “don’t allow negativity in their life.”
It shows up as Gaslighting and/or Spiritual Bypassing – the skipping over or dismissal of human pain in order to “affirm” a twisted version of a spiritual principle. Both do harm to the individual through denying their current experience and making the speaker’s viewpoint the only valid one.
Example of Gaslighting: Me in Highschool describing the abuse I was enduring, while my friends responded with, “No way, I’ve met your Grandmother and she is such a nice old lady!”
Example of Spiritual Bypassing: Me in Spiritual Community struggling with chronic illness while my fellow licensed Practitioners asked, “Well, what are you thinking to continue to attract this experience into your life?”
It shows up as Fragility and Centering – when the reaction to the pain being shared becomes more important than the person going through the pain. Fragility often shows up at the inability to remain present with another’s experience, and it is commonly followed by centering their own fragility above all else.
-A man being confronted with his unconscious biases toward women may move to talk about “feeling attacked” or begin to attack the one holding up a mirror rather than be willing to look at himself clearly. The conversation then becomes more about his hurt feelings than the woman who was harmed by his words in the first place.
-The exact above scenario but replace “man” with “white person” and “woman” with “person of color.”
Deep down in your being, there is a part of you that already knows that “everything is ok now,” even if your world isn’t appearing as so. And there is another part of you that has forgotten, and needs your help to remember.
In my work with Coaches & Healers who are managing their practice in the midst of person crisis, this tool becomes a life line. Whether they’re dealing with loss, tragedy, illness, divorce, or something else as heavy and out-of-their-control, being able to have faith that they are okay now – even when things look otherwise – can be the foundation of their sanity.
When I wouldn’t see my young children for months at a time while they were with a man I didn’t trust to raise them, having faith that they were “going to be okay” wasn’t good enough. I became the baby in the grocery store that spat out the pacifier and would only be satisfied with the breast. I had to continue to affirm that me and my children were okay now in order to get through.
Whatever you’re going through, you are ok RIGHT NOW. You are enough, you are worthy, and you are beautiful. Thank you for being you.
If you’re struggling to know this truth for yourself, you don’t have to find it alone. I’m passionate about holding safe space for service-providers who are experiencing challenging times, and it would be my honor to make sure your practice and your life aren’t just about surviving, but thriving, no matter how life is showing up.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to chat.