Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

You might be wondering what I mean with ”making yourself small”? What I’m referring to, is the popular habit of not paying attention to or denying our needs.

Especially women are still in large part dealing with the impact of their social cultural conditioning of the caretaking role and what that is supposed to look like.

Many of us grew up learning that being a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter or a good friend means putting your own needs last.

For many, it means assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of those “in your care” such as partners, children, family and friends. It goes without saying that when dealing with children this “responsibility” is very real in the case of an infant and it changes as they grow older.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to feel “responsible” for the wellbeing of someone else.

It involves a number of activities such as mindreading, being an expert about what is good for others, worrying, rescuing, and saying yes when you actually want to say no… just to name a few. In popular psychology we also refer to this kind of behavior as codependency.

The results can range anywhere from feeling unappreciated, frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed to feeling proud of a job well done.

Whenever you choose to put yourself last, no matter how good your intentions, you make yourself small. You give up your power. You can literally feel this “being small” in your body.

I invite you to try the following the next time you do something that you think you should do. Check in with your body. Do you feel expanded, open and full of energy? Or do you feel contracted, collapsed and somewhat tense?

The only way to know the difference between a genuine act of caring and a self-imposed act of caring is in your body.

This kind of stress… physical and emotional is often alleviated with a popular remedy: food.
The problem with trying to fix the state of mind rather than changing the behavior is that while you’re making yourself small, you end up becoming bigger. You gain weight. You start Yo-yo dieting.
You add another layer of stress to your life.

Here are some steps to making positive life changes in the area of self-imposed caring:

  • If you have an internal voice in your head telling you that it is your job to take care of others…because if you don’t do it… it won’t get done…or they will be angry or disappointed…
    This voice is not your friend. It is an outdated echo of the past.
  • To help you counter the voice that is telling you it is your job to make sure others are happy, memorize this mantra:
    “When I make the wellbeing of others my responsibility, when I try to change how they feel, no matter how positive my intention, it’s invasive and cripples them. This behavior undermines those I try to “fix” as well as myself.”
  • In the beginning you might be plagued with feelings of guilt or anxiety. This mantra will help:
    “I am not selfish when I think of myself or act in my own behalf. I have a right to my own body voice, my own body, to know what I think and want and to speak up and ask for it.”
  • Breathe. When you notice yourself looking for food to change how you feel, stop and breathe. Take 3 breaths into your belly and connect with what you are really wanting or needing in this moment.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will take a look at how to share your needs and make requests to get your needs met with others.

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