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Why HSPs Need SUDs

A number of years ago I took a volunteer job with a community service agency that I thought would be great fun. At the same time that I showed up, so did a woman my daughter’s age. When the director of the agency introduced me to Carolyn and told her that I was a neuroscientist, I immediately noticed her eyes grow wide. Pupils in the eye dilating can mean any number of things, and it’s happened to me often enough upon people finding out what I study that I don’t lend too much significance to it. Any interest a person might show I don’t take personally. dilated_pupils_by_korneraMostly I expect it’s interest in what they might find out that can help them live their lives with increased happiness, satisfaction and well-being. Instinctively, on some level many of us know that neuropsychiatrist Bruce Perry is right: “We’re all fundamentally in the brain change business.”

Over several months Carolyn and I got to spend increasing amounts of time together working for the agency. As people will do, we shared bits of our personal history with each other. It was no surprise to me when one day Carolyn identified herself as “an intuitive,” nor when she self-identified as an HSP – a Highly Sensitive Person.

Healing Searching for a Happening

When, later on she felt safe enough to confide in me that she was also had a history of incest and rape, I wasn’t surprised either. What I was surprised by, was how genuinely happy Carolyn mostly seemed to be. By day. But HSPs are often highly sensitive for good reason – usually an amplified need to detect and assess threats in the world around them.

By night, things for Carolyn were much different – not so joyous and light. She frequently suffered nightmares and insomnia and had trouble with environmental toxins and a wide variety of foods that she was allergic to. She also had difficulty sustaining relationships of any duration. When I asked her once what strategies she used for repairing relationship ruptures, you can probably guess her answer: “None.” Essentially, once she had a disagreement with someone, she wrote them off for good. Needless to say, loneliness was a recurring theme in Carolyn’s life.

Safeguarding Safety

Learning all this about Carolyn, and knowing what I know about trauma and the brain, I began to consider how I might help her after she specifically asked me to. In an attempt to come up with something that might be useful when the inevitable rupture of our friendship showed up, I thought it might help to introduce her to SUDs.

I first learned of the SUDs (Subjective Units of Distress) Scale when I worked with people as a grief counselor. Essentially it’s a way for caregivers to find out how much subjective pain people immersed in the end-of-life trajectory are in. We ask them to give us a numerical rating of their pain on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10. We can agree ahead of time what number will necessitate receiving more medication.

For people who’ve suffered trauma that may have been accompanied by “speechless terror,” a SUDs scale of 1-5 is a better fit, since it only requires holding up one hand. With Carolyn I explained that anytime I say or do something that disturbed her, all she had to do was hold up one hand and show me five fingers. Whenever I see that I will either stop talking, lower my voice and/or move away from her. Then, as her distress begins to subside, she can show four fingers, then three or any other indicator she’s able to in order to regain control and successfully emotionally regulate herself.

An Unqualified Unsuccess

I wish I could say that the use of SUDs was an unqualified success. It wasn’t. The first time Carolyn had need to use it with me in response to what I thought was an innocuous comment, I wasn’t near her. I made it in an email. Email is a terrible medium to try to address and resolve emotional issues. a_hand_drawing_a_hand____by_eduardosouza-d1uciwxAll the many cues we unconsciously take from face-to-face interactions are missing – body language, facial expression, voice tone, etc. What often happens is email can trigger a traumatic memory and flood our system with stress hormones, which the brain then associates with the sender, overlaying past trauma onto the present – all outside our conscious awareness. After she received my email (explaining how the brain stores trauma from the past and overlays it onto the present!) Carolyn immediately refused to have any further contact with me.

Needless to say I was sad and confused by what had happened, and deeply disappointed that our experiment didn’t turn out anything like I had expected or intended. Since then though, I have had opportunities to introduce and used SUDs with other HSPs quite successfully. The single thing I changed was that I introduced it with several low arousal experimental practice sessions immediately afterward and included suggestions about what to do when you’re triggered by an email: send back a picture of The HAND! And do your best to stay in some kind of contact. That is afterall, how brain cells work best.

So, after many decades neuroscientists have finally gotten around to constructing a “femunculus,” the female version of a model that shows the amount of cortical network the brain devotes to various body parts. Until 2011 all we had was the male homunculus to marvel at …

homunculus

What’s quite striking (not in this representation, but in the femunculus) is it offers up a possible explanation for why any number of people in my circle seem to own more than a small number of shoes. A great many more.

These Boots Were Made For More Than Walking

I genuinely appreciate a good pair of shoes. About once a year I splurge when an email arrives from Skechers announcing a 30% off sale and buy myself a new pair, usually a lightweight, slip-on loafer. I wear them for everything from hiking to logging to landscaping. For dress occasions, I have a pair of Josef Siebel shoes that my sister bought me for my birthday about 10 years ago. And that’s pretty much it for me sadly when it comes to shoes.

Other people (who shall go nameless) whom I know, have as many pairs of shoes as there are days in the year. And every month the number keeps growing. What in the world could be driving such behavior? I think the femunculus may provide an answer: Zapposthesia!

Zapposthesians of the World, Unite!

In some subset of the human race – especially among those artistically inclined – a well-documented condition is known as synesthesia (8 times more women than men in the UK report having it, for some reason).

UW brain scientist, Eric Chudler, over at Neuroscience for Kids, has this to say about synesthesia:

Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means “joined perception.”

Synesthesia can involve any of the senses. The most common form, colored letters and numbers, occurs when someone always sees a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet or number. For example, a synesthete (a person with synesthesia) might see the word “plane” as red or the number “4” as purple. There are also synesthetes who hear sounds in response to smell, who smell in response to touch, or who feel something in response to sight. Just about any combination of the senses is possible. There are some people who possess synesthesia involving three or even more senses, but this is extremely rare.

Synesthetic perceptions are specific to each person. Different people with synesthesia almost always disagree on their perceptions. In other words, if one synesthete thinks that the letter “Q” is colored blue, another synesthete might see “Q” as orange.

Some scientists believe that synesthesia results from “crossed-wiring” in the brain. They hypothesize that in synesthetes, neurons and synapses that are “supposed” to be contained within one sensory system cross to another sensory system. It is unclear why this might happen but some researchers believe that these crossed connections are present in everyone at birth, and only later are the connections refined. Adult synesthetes may have simply retained these crossed connections from childhood.

So, what might all this have to do with Zapposthesia, which I’m defining as … orgasmic shoe-buying? Well, what do you notice when you look closely at the femunculus below?

Femunculus Jpeg

It turns out that all the female sexual organs are located right next to the brain wiring for … the feet! Much of the way synesthesia gets its wires crossed is with brain structures in close proximity. Wires are much easier to cross when they don’t have to travel long distances (In fairness, the penis too is wired close to the feet in men as well).

How do we truly know what’s driving the shoe-buying in your life? Only a photopleysmograph knows for sure!

On another note, for a look at the latest Enchanted Loom featuring Jill Bolte Taylor, click HERE.

Once, a number of years ago, I remember sitting in a couples therapist’s office, driven by what seemed like 10000 traumatic memories surfacing in my psyche and my primary relationship simultaneously. I managed to compress them all into one single complaint: “She treats the dog better than she treats me.” While the therapist looked directly into my eyes, she actually spoke for my partner’s benefit: “Be kind to Mark,” she said, “And he will deliver you the world.”

200269666-001Not surprisingly, that directive brought me to tears, not only for its kindness and its clarity, but also for the essential truth it cut to. The therapist seemed to see through all the confusion and hurt directly into my truest true heart – a genuine desire to be an agent of healing presence, service and kindness – in that relationship and in the world.

If only being present, kind and healing were that easy.

In My Defenselessness Kindness Lies

Most of us (who don’t carry around the genetic neurophysiology for psychopathy) I believe possess true hearts just like mine. Those hearts unfortunately get buried under this, that or another Adverse Childhood Experience – none of us escapes childhood unscathed. Later, as adults, few of us wake up one morning and proclaim: “Today feels like a great day to be distant, wounding and unkind!” So, most likely something else must be at work.

In many cases when traumatic reenactments are surfacing for one person in a relationship, closely connected traumas which dovetail perfectly are also being triggered for the other person simultaneously. While my own brain’s transference and projection operations were working hard to paint my partner as my mean and critical abandoning father (transference and projection care little about pesky things like gender continuity), her brain was busy surfacing me as her angry, distant and disengaged mother. Heinz Kohut, the founder of Self-Psychology is famous for his observation that “the mark of a good relationship is when only one person goes crazy at a time.”

If only scheduling insanity to take convenient turns were that easy.

Tension Is as Tension Does

One thing I notice is that I mostly walk through the world with a degree of low-level brain and body tension, a kind of defensive tightness designed to protect me from some sort of impending unkind sneak attack lurking over the horizon. It’s something I need to be continuously on the lookout and at the ready for.

kindness-IIAs a consequence my brain and body are often surprised when instead, kindness towards me from others shows up. More often than not it cuts through that tension and takes me completely unawares. A big part of the reason every couple of years I post an invitation to donate to the research I do for this blog is because of the way it makes my brain and body feel. When a notification from Paypal shows up in my Inbox, how I read it is: “Someone wants to be kind to you!” I experience a palpable release of tension in my muscles and a shot of pleasure neurotransmitters in my brain. I can exhale. I am reminded that there are people in the world with demonstrable capacity to be kind and an intentional desire to promote safety and well-being. My kind of people. Not only that, but I take great joy in knowing the research that shows their kindness profoundly benefits their own brains and bodies!

Knowing what I know about how the senses take in energy and information and how the brain creatively constructs and compiles the inner sensory world I experience, you would think I’d be much better at touching, tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing kindness than I am – that (in words Gandhi never spoke) I would be able to BE the change I want to see in the world.

If only giving and receiving kindness were that easy (not to mention quoting historical figures accurately).

Can’t We All Just Get Along Little Doggies?

There are nearly 8 billion other human beings on the planet, and all of us to one degree or another are busy co-creating our own sensory experience of the world. One day, I fully anticipate, a critical mass of human beings will wake up and find kindness no longer feels surprising in the least. It will simply be the direction the human race has ultimately run. Feel free to quote me on that. Accurately.

Below is a collection of unintended consequences that frequently show up in the wake of abandonment and neglect. Each one of the topic headings below is a hyperlink that will take you to the relevant research. The good news is that once we understand the implications, we can begin the work of creative restoration …

Lack of Modeling

When a parent abandons the family one of the main things that goes missing is the energy that person expended to operate inside and outside the home. They can no longer serve us as models – good or bad – for how to make sense of our nescient, unfolding nature. They also take with them any creative capacity, earning potential and/or the promise of a safe and manageable future. Two parents increase the odds of feeling cared-for and protected by competent adults. Anxiety and uncertainty often rule daily life when one checks out. And as this brain study reveals, anxiety and uncertainty literally unravel our brain’s neural network.

Diminished Novel Life Experience

The hippocampus in each of our brain’s temporal lobes is constantly appraising our environment for novelty. When it finds it, feel-good hormones get triggered. But when only one parent is left to do all the heavy lifting necessary for sustaining a household, novel experiences often are required to take a back seat to the urgency of meeting basic survival needs. Novelty, so critical for growing new brain cells and expanding existing neural networks, ends up getting literally lost in the shuffle.

Impaired Thinking Ability

Molly's scarf unraveledThe brain is a network formed in much the same way a knitted or crocheted scarf is. It works best when strong connections can easily move energy and information about. When there are tears in the fabric (the neural network), it can’t readily perform its proper function. Thinking ability is one of the functions that a brain with holes (lacunae) in it begins to have difficulty with, often without us ever realizing it, or ever knowing what to do about it!

Increased Stress and Poverty

When one of the parents leaves the family, we’re 4 times more likely to be poor, in contrast to families with both parents in the home. With poverty comes all kinds of additional stressors that lead to things like the inability to manage Executive Functions (see below), weak connections to friends and family and a serious lack of social skills.

Little Reliable Guidance

The Golden Rule of Social Neuroscience identifies that the more positive, kind, competent, caring people we have around us, the better our life will be overall. Losing a parent removes a significant source of the reliable guidance upon which the Golden Rule rests. And the older we get, the increasingly difficult time we have finding such people to help us.

Reduced Resilience

Resilience is the ability to adapt and overcome risk and adversity, such as being raised in a one-parent family.

Being resilient doesn’t mean living a life free from stress and pain. Resilience means we’re able to work through the difficult emotions and effects of stress and painful events. But without the parental resources in the home to help with that, many of us never learn how.

Resilience can develop as we get older and gain better thinking and self-awareness and more knowledge. It can also come from supportive relationships with parents, peers and others, as well as cultural beliefs and traditions that help us cope with the inevitable bumps in life. Fortunately, resilience can be learned and developed across the lifespan. And that’s a good thing.

Compromised Executive Functioning

Here is a list of the so-called Executive Functions:

  • Planning and Prioritizing
  • Time Management
  • Organization of thinking and environment
  • Working Memory
  • Metacognition
  • Response Inhibition
  • Easy Self-Regulation of Emotions
  • Task Initiating
  • Flexibility of Thinking or Behavior
  • Goal-Directed Persistence
  • Sustaining Attention
  • Disengaging Attention
  • The Ability to Regulate Information Processing Speed

How many of these abilities do you struggle with?

Degraded Impulse Control

Impulse Control can be defined as the inability to resist an impulsive act or behavior that may be harmful to yourself or other people, places or things. Impulsive acts are mostly not premeditated or considered in advance. They are usually acts which a person has little or no control over. There are six area where poor impulse control mostly shows up Trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling), Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Pathological Gambling, Kleptomania, Pyromania, and Not Otherwise Specified. Not Otherwise Specified covers all kinds of difficulties where we struggle to exert consistent self-control. Think eating, drinking, sex, exercising, over-talking – anything that runs the risk of becoming addictive or beyond our ability to easily control.

Increased Vulnerability to Drugs or Alcohol Abuse

drugs_by_outofworkNationally, drugs and alcohol abuse costs the country over half a trillion dollars annually. And that’s not even taking into account what we know it does to the brain – significantly reduces the brain’s ability to regulate and readily process energy and information – or what it does to future, unborn generations.

There’s one primary reason we use drugs or alcohol (and that includes tobacco) – in order to feel better. What we mostly want to feel better about is how stress hormones, constantly flooding the brain and body, make us feel. The unfortunate thing is drugs, tobacco and alcohol work, and they work quite well … in the short run. It’s the unintended consequences of the long run that turn out to be the much greater problem.

No Positive Answer to The Big Brain Question

The brain living in those of us who have been abandoned and neglected in life, by the very nature of abandonment and neglect, fails to have this fundamental question answered positively. We often spend much of the remainder of our days unconsciously looking to recover and reclaim what has been lost to us. Usually, without us ever realizing it, much of our drive and life’s motivation is to find people who might finally have the strength of heart, ways and means to answer The Big Brain Question – “Are you there for me?” – unfailingly in the affirmative.

Because this early wound is so deep and so global, our compulsion to try to heal it turns out to be so profound that we will often unconsciously devise rigorous tests for the people around us, to see if they can stand the pressure and come out the other side still by our side. More than a few good relationships have crashed and burned in the aftermath of these kinds of challenges. To be successful in skillfully passing such tests, researcher Andrew Boyd points out … we have to commit ourselves to the wrong person, but not just any wrong person. They must be the right wrong person. Turns out the right wrong person is not so easy to find for those of us with complex early abandonment and neglect histories.

For suggestions about how to address and resolve some of these dynamics, click HERE.

Will you help by taking this One Question Survey?

For most of this year the readership, engagement and public commentary on the blog has been steadily declining. While it’s probably to be expected after 7+ years, it’s my belief that whatever use and value readers used to get from my research and writing, they no longer get. So, that suggests I need to either change things up in ways that actually do provide use and value for the time and energy people spend reading what I write each week, or I need to consider moving on and devoting my own time and energy to something that will provide better benefit.

Changing Things Up

change_by_rantlWith that in mind, here are my current plans for changing things up going forward.

1. It’s become clear that I’m not going to be able to read and review books for The Enchanted Loom AND do the research and writing for the blog every week. My own time and energy constraints necessitate that I do one or the other.

2. Nevertheless, I choose both.

3. Starting this week, The Enchanted Loom, a graphic review of neuroscience books that have profoundly influenced how I think about the brain and how its function can be radically set right, will be the focus on alternating Sundays.

4. Every other week will be a blog post based upon recent evidence-based neuroscience that will be framed by me asking one primary question: How can this information make people’s lives better? This will not only give me some part of an extra week for researching and editing, but the opportunity to go into subjects to much greater depth.

Going Forward

So those are the changes I’m putting in place beginning this morning. They will take us through to the end of the year, when, depending upon how things look then, I’ll consider making further changes.

So, with this bit of clarification, here’s a link to my review of Tara Swart’s, Kitty Chisholm’s and Paul Brown’s outstanding exploration of Neuroscience for Leadership.

Finally, you can help by taking this One Question Survey.

“A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.” – Jonathan Swift

Here are 3 changes plus a bonus that will almost certainly affect your money brain in good ways…

Make more friends.

Every spiritual economics book I’ve ever read counsels that the greatest riches come from the close connections we obtain in community. It’s magical when we find our tribe (and if you believe Dunbar’s Number your tribe will have 150 members in it, plus or minus). Healthy communities become rich in many ways. An exemplary example in my mind is represented in the research by social and biological scientists that resulted in the description of Authoritative Communities entitled, Hardwired to Connect (Note: I would actually change that title to – Live-Wired to Connect, since it more accurately reflects what goes on in our brains).

Here are ten characteristics of Authoritative Communities as identified by the Commission on Children at Risk. Notice how many of them mirror the workings of a healthy brain:

a community hand image

An Authoritative Community 1) is a social institution that includes children and youth; 2) it treats children as ends in themselves; 3) it is warm and nurturing; 4) it establishes clear boundaries and limits; 5) it is defined and guided at least partly by non-specialists; 6) it is multi-generational; 7) it has a long term focus; 8) it encourages spiritual and religious development; 9) it reflects and transmits a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person; 10) it is philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor.

Make a few enemies.

The old shibboleth, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” actually turns out to have some relevance to neuroeconomics. If we posit that growth shows up in the brain as FACES – the acronym UCLA neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel offers for a super-healthy brain – such an organ would be Flexible, Adaptable, Coherent, Energized and Stable. Basically, able to meet the world in the moment wide awake but not hyperaroused, especially when it comes to money. Only our brains can’t grow and become integrated like that unless we practice. Enemies offer us just the practice opportunities our brain needs.

Enemies can become the fruit we get to put in our spiritual and economic juicer in order to practice creatively growing and integrating our brain’s (and heart’s) neural networks. They are the people who can trigger us and catapult us over the hyperarousal hump. We probably don’t have to go out of our way to deliberately make enemies like that, though. In any community of 150 people our brains are quite capable of accessing and transferring traumatic memories which will morph more than a few of them into pulp fiction – static stories our brain loves to make up about people and set them in the concrete so necessary for us to keep doing our work. We probably want to keep their numbers to a manageable minimum, though.

Offer the world more value.

None of us receives even a dime but that other people give it to us. And there are two primary reasons people give other people money: 1. They receive something of value in exchange; or 2. They love … often, us (refer back to No. 1 just mentioned). That’s it.

A Money LoveIf we have a job and receive a paycheck, then our boss is giving us money for the value she places on the time and energy we devote to making the business successful. If we work for ourselves, then people only pay us for goods or services that they receive in exchange. In order to receive more money, find creative ways to increase the real and perceived value of the goods or services you provide.

Additionally, consider spending increasing amounts of time with … people who truly love.

Turn yourself into a master CAO

Everything that’s challenging with each of the above guidelines is challenging primarily for one reason: one way or another they transmit an electrochemical signal that semi-automatically tells our adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones. Among a number of distressing physiological actions, stress hormones tighten the muscles in the body, usually in response to one thing: the scary stories/thoughts our left hemisphere constantly makes up about people, places and things. Continually walking through the world with a tight jaw and tensioned abs doesn’t really feel all that great.

One way to address this surreptitious stress hormone situation is to begin practices that will allow you to become a master CAO – Chief Adrenal Officer (This is where those enemies above come in). CAOs are constantly experimenting with ways to gain conscious mastery over what actions their adrenal medulla and adrenal cortex take throughout any day.

So, there you go. Take on any or all of these directives and be amazed at what happens to your “net worth,” guaranteed.

For those of you who might want to play around with further changing your brain, click HERE to explore my one-of-a-kind, month-long exploration into … Money Relationships and the Brain.

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” ~ Steve Martin

I’ve made a LOT of mistakes with money over the years. I wish I could say I learned something valuable from each of them, but I can’t. I’ve made some of the same mistakes over and over again. It’s by examining the mistakes I’ve made repeatedly that I’ve probably learned the most. One small example: Stop borrowing big money to spend on non-appreciating assets.

The Gift of Gelt

In my early 20s I was fortunate enough to start a lucrative business with a friend. We provided custom manufactured airplane parts to the U.S. Navy and Air Force. At that time, the military had little concern with costs – they needed the things we supplied and they needed them NOW. There was a war to win.

Well, NOW was expensive. And extremely profitable. By age 24 I owned a house, a new Triumph motorcycle, a fancy sports car and I was partners in a fishing boat and a private plane. We also owned our own manufacturing building and all the machinery in it.

a should mustBy age 27 it was all gone and I had opted out for what I was intending to be a much simpler, back-to-the-land lifestyle. I’d hit the crossroads between Should and Must. In retrospect, what that move was really intended to do was find a way to manage the stress hormones constantly flooding my brain and body by my adrenal glands. At bottom, moving back to the land was an attempt by me to become my own CAO – Chief Adrenal Officer. When there was no one being the boss of me, there would be no one stressing my neurobiology. Or so I thought. I somehow managed to leave myself and my own story-generating brain out of that equation.

Living the Bliss Life

But for a handful of years it worked wonderfully. I lived in a small college town in upstate New York (New Paltz). I built houses in the Spring, Summer and Fall, and began pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in psychology during the winter months. I put a down payment on a 25 acre woodlot with the intention to one day hand-build my own house on it, perhaps a log cabin hewn from the very trees growing on the land.

But gradually, the failure to mindfully attend to my mind-stories and sufficiently manage the stress hormones continually being thrown off by my adrenals sent my life into a scramble and all of those plans down the poop chute. The problem was compounded by the fact that I knew so little about my own biology. I didn’t know what adrenal glands even were, let alone the importance of learning to manage their output. The dots between biology, brain and well-being only got consciously connected for me in my late 50s!

Shadow Play

Nevertheless, they did get connected unconsciously in my 20s, 30s and 40s. And money definitely played a precipitous part in the neurobiological mix. Either too much or too little money has a funny way of highjacking the adrenal glands (No one ever told me that there’s a Goldilocks Zone of Annual Income. It turns out to currently be around $75,000 for most households).

Those unconscious connections mostly showed up in my 20s, 30s and 40s in me mirroring the larger world with its boom and bust cycles. There’s a reason many wisdom teachings advocate for a Middle Path. As Canadian palliative care physician, Gabor Maté points out in his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, boom and bust cycles take a huge toll on the health of the body and brain. And unskillful adrenal management lives at the root of it.

Gradually, I began to wake up to what money stresses were doing to my body and brain. Also to the need for making changes that would more effectively manage the money regularly flowing through my life. To address that adrenal-management need, I’ve developed a host of flexible, personal contemplative practices. From formal sitting mindfulness practice, to breathing practices, to “hot tub practice,” to deep relaxation practice, to puppy-cuddle practice, to Golden Rule of Neuroscience practice – whatever actually works for me personally to reduce the levels of stress hormones cascading through body and brain on any day, I happily place into service.

Lucky Stones

lucky-stonesJohn Kabat-Zinn points out that “even a stone can be a teacher.” As a calming, “transitional object,” much like a cell phone or a child’s teddy bear, stones can also be effective totems I can place into service to help me become a skillful CAO. Mine happen to be four stones that I carry around in a little felt pouch. We used to give them as parting gifts to the children leaving our grief counseling program when they were done. Three of the stones are shiny and polished. They represent the healing work already done. The fourth is rough and dull, symbolizing the work remaining. My fourth stone is really rough and pretty dull. It’s also substantially larger than the pretty polished stones. Go figure.

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