Category Archives: Haven Newsletter

These are posts for my Haven Newsletter, an online live chat we do every so often on my blog with a different topic each time. To participate, just enter your name, email address, and state over there on the right and I’ll send you the newsletter. Thank you, and I look forward to chatting with you!

HAVEN Newsletter– November

The November HAVEN Newsletter went out today to email inboxes around the world. It’s so exciting how the internet has us connecting and sharing in the field of heart language. For those of you who would like to sign up to get HAVEN delivered to your email, click here. Sign up is in the left column.

Next month’s theme will be: Pilgrimage.

I’d like to share the heart of this month’s HAVEN with you here. Please share your stories in the comments section. That’s what it’s all about. My guest, the wise writer and therapist, Stephanie Baffone will be there to respond. The subject: HEAD NOISE. The stories we tell ourselves and how we learn which ones to believe…

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Filed under Haven Newsletter, Parelli Natural Horsemanship Blog Pieces

The Ultimate Thumbs Up.

Thumbs Up by Laura Munson

The other day I was driving my kids to music lessons after school. My son was wondering if his guitar was in the car and I told him “It’s in the back,” pointing over my shoulder with my thumb. We were laughing about something at the time, so I was smiling as I did it. At that moment, something caught my eye and I looked to my right to see an elderly man, standing with a rake over a colossal leaf pile, giving me the thumbs up and mouthing, “Thank you” with a hearty grin in his lips and apple cheeks. My kids saw the whole thing too and as we put the pieces together we simultaneously burst out into laughter. What was a mother’s directions to her son became a compliment to an old man raking leaves. It was one of life’s rare moments of total gift. A misunderstanding just might have made someone’s day. The intention was absolutely impure. Misguided. Misunderstood. And still some good was done in the world at 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon in a small Montana town in Fall.

And my kids and I started thinking, What if we went around just giving the thumbs up to random strangers all day? How would that make the world a better place? Would we have the guts? Could we climb so fully into the word “Unabashed?” We all decided we’d be too shy. It was too invasive. Who are we to deem someone else’s moment thumb’s up-worthy? What do we know? our inner voices hollered, preaching fear like our own personal televangalists, scoffing at us, bullying us, critiquing our every move.

It was my ten year old son who made a case for the thumbs up. “If it were me, I’d love it if someone gave me a random thumbs up.” Leave it to the very young to see past fear and to not yet be under the grips of inner destructive dialogue.

I was so accustomed to my inner verbal abuse that in order to face her, I had to name her. I call her My Evil Twin Sheila; she made her public debut in my book, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. We all have one and it helps to name it. For a while I thought I needed to make her die a violent death and cast her out to sea in a nailed down coffin. Lately I’ve learned that since I created her, and she’s highly immortal, it might be more productive to not be at war with her. To let her have her moment of chatter, but to smile at her, so afraid and so reactive, a scared little girl who thinks you have to fight to win. And in-so-doing, more and more, I love her into submission.

So I’ve been trying it, the public thumbs up. Why not? There’s no want of word exchange or even reaction. It’s just a simple gesture. Good job. Way to go. Excellent. It’s not just a social experiment on how we give and receive random acts of kindness, it’s about publicly declaring that which is right with the world. You’re taking a bike ride on a Sunday afternoon with your three year old? Thumbs up. You’re walking with your groceries instead of driving. Thumbs up. You’re sitting on a bench talking to a friend. Thumbs UP, man! You’re mowing the lawn in the rain with a smile on your face. You’re my freaking hero!

And it doesn’t have to stop there. We can give ourselves a thumbs up. We just finished folding three loads of laundry? We made homemade chicken stock? We took the time to do a puzzle with our kid? We invited the new guy at work out for lunch? Thumbs up.

Please enjoy the following lovely essay by the wonderful therapist, writer, and wise woman, Stephanie Baffone, who teaches us that we can practice giving ourselves a surprise thumbs up even when our internal dialogue wants to tell us that we’re fools. Let’s be fools, then, unabashed.

Take it, Stephanie:

I am the Ultimate by Stephanie Baffone

When I was in eighth grade, about fourteen years old, I fell in love. Not with some young, strapping, adolescent fresh-faced boy with peach fuzz perched over his top lip.
Not even with a human.
I fell hard and fast for a word. When said out loud, the sound of it made me pass out like a fainting goat. It had an air of pretense, which must have been some sort of psychological projection on my part because I was hardly a pretentious girl. Pretense made me feel inferior but this word, strung together with seven perfect letters relegated me to the likes of a Marcia Brady type-the Marcia who pined away for Davy Jones from the Monkees.
The word was ultimate and when I prefaced it with the, I decided we should declare our love publicly.
“I am The Ultimate,” became the signature phrase I used to announce my triumphant arrival into a room. Arms open wide, forming a big Y over my head, I made a grand entrance one afternoon afterschool when I greeted my Mom in the kitchen.
My Mom came from hearty Irish stock and as my Dad says was, “a real lady.” My father embraced his self-appointed role as God’s laughter lieutenant and gravitates to the spotlight. My Mom, in contrast, preferred to play the part of a spectator. She raised the five of us to embrace humility and while she found us entertaining she went to great lengths to be sure we knew our place.
She canned applesauce every fall from the apples she and my aunt picked at our local orchard and taught us about the birds and the bees without one euphemism. On winter Sunday afternoons, she curled up in the crushed orange velvet recliner in her bedroom and soaked in the sunny spot by the sliding glass door. After reciting her daily rosary, she wandered off into the worlds that lived inside the stack of books resting on her glass-top table.
That fall afternoon, she must have had enough of my shenanigans and found my love affair with the word ultimate no longer tolerable or appropriate.
Still dressed in my Catholic school uniform, I hiked up my skirt and with my white blouse inching up over my belly I hopped up on the countertop and reached for a glass.
“I am The Ultimate,” I repeated; poking around in the cabinet propped up on the laminate, marble countertop.
Just as I found my favorite glass, my Mom tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Steffi, stop saying that.” She lent me her hand to get down. “It’s not very becoming.”
My identical twin sister, sat at the kitchen table, munching on a snack and laughed.
“Mooom! Seriously?!” I slid down from the counter. “I don’t actually think I am the ultimate. I just think that word is funny. It cracks me up.”
“Steffi, I know that but it’s just not funny and it’s certainly not becoming,” she walked over to the stove.
An early exchange like this between a mother and a daughter is a therapist’s playground. Clients internalize experiences with their parental figures that go on to form introjections, defined as “the internalization of the parent figures and their values; leading to the formation of the superego.”
The superego is the place inside us where the critical, punitive voice of our psyches resides. This part of our psyche buddies up with criticism like macaroni does with cheese. Think Laura’s critical voice “Shelia,” as she named and outed in her book.
That short exchange with my Mom, formed a personal introject for me that’s become a real stage five clinger.
I loved my Mom. I knew she believed in me and as daughters go, I think she actually thought I was the ultimate. I harbor no ill feelings toward her for saddling me with this introject. Her lesson on humility that day was taught with a spirit of love and compassion. Bravado, even if only in jest, from her perspective, for her children-had no comedic value.
My mother’s intent aside, what I’ve noticed is that I have a tendency to qualify myself, especially when people encourage me to believe in myself. My knee-jerk reaction is to make a mad dash to my emotional closet and don that pesky reminder that I am NOT the ultimate.
In sharing this story with others over the years what I’ve discovered is how important it is for me (and them too) to let go of the tired, worn-out introjects whose main jobs are to self-sabotage. I’m learning to replace those tired introjects with mantras more psychologically productive.
Recently, I stumbled across a useful exercise for doing just that. “Defeating Your Inner Critic,” was originally posted at as help to writers struggling to conquer and quiet their critical voice. This exercise is very effective and is not only useful for quieting the writer’s critical voice but for quieting our critical voice across the board, regardless of what in particular it is yapping about. I use it personally and also professionally in my psychology practice.
If you too are struggling with an old belief that plagues you with self-doubt and tempers belief in yourself, try these exercises. You might just discover that you indeed, are the ultimate.

Stephanie Baffone, LPCMH, NCC is a licensed, board certified mental health therapist and writer in private practice with a specialty in grief and loss, couples counseling and issues related to infertility. Prior to going back into private practice, Stephanie worked as the coordinator of the children’s grief and loss program at the largest hospice in the state of Delaware where she had the distinct privilege of supporting and guiding children whose loved ones were dying from terminal illnesses.
Stephanie is a consultant to other agencies developing programs on grief and loss and is thrilled to be an expert columnist at on the very same issues.
In addition to wife of husband who loves her like you see in the movies she is “Mom” to two dogs and two goats and “Aunt Steph,” (by relation) to thirty-nine nieces and nephews. She is working on a memoir, Doris, Sophia and Me: A Memoir About A Mother Who Didn’t Live Long Enough and A Daughter Who Was Never Born.
Stephanie is a proud graduate of Villanova University, a member of The American Counseling Association, National Board of Certified Counselors, RESOLVE, The American Fertility Association and the American Academy of Bereavement. Stephanie has been featured and used as a trusted source in print, radio and television media including, The Huffington Post, Counseling Today, First for Women Magazine, Blog Talk Radio, CN8 and WHYY.
The consummate Italian hostess, she loves to host visitors at her blog (Amelie—can you hyperlink this?) To contact her, email her at


Filed under Haven Newsletter, My Posts

Phobia (Faux-bia?)

HAVEN Newsletter
September, 2010
Theme: Phobia
Guest: The fabulous therapist, dream analyzer, writer, blogger, and much more: La Belette Rouge

It is the Mission of HAVEN newsletter to provide a safe place to share. Please feel free to share your experiences with phobias and, if relevant, how you moved through them. Those who do will be eligible to win a free, signed copy of THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. This month we will forgo a live chat and focus on giving you a platform from which to express yourself and some room to breathe. I hope we all learn something. Yrs. Laura

Me and the Otis Company. By Laura Munson
I like to think of myself as a level-headed person. Calm in crisis. Rational in an argument. I can multi-task with fluidity and be proud of the results. I generally go into group problem-solving situations with instant leadership tendencies. I’m happy to sit in the Exit seat. The driver’s seat. Take the lead on the trail on foot or horse. So you might think this incongruent: I can’t stand elevators.

Sure, I spent the good part of an afternoon when I was five in an elevator in the John Hancock Building in Chicago, trying to find my way back to the apartment my family was occupying for the weekend. But it wasn’t like I was stuck, necessarily. I just couldn’t reach the right button. My older brother and sister and I had been to the pool, and on our way back, they exited the elevator, and before I knew it, the doors closed and I was being sucked back down a thin shaft in one of the tallest buildings in the world. I remember thinking, “Uh-oh. This is bad.” So I kept jumping up, and hitting the buttons I could hit, (including STOP ELEVATOR) waiting as the elevator doors opened and shut, opened and shut, opened and shut. I went back up as far as I could reach in fits and starts. And back down again, floor by floor for every failed jump and push. Finally, a teenaged girl entered at one of the stops, asked me if I needed help, I told her “yes, I do,” gave her the floor number, and after peeking under door after door, I finally recognized the emerald green rug, the glass and chrome table, an orange quilted chintz floral sofa, and pacing espadrilles and Gucci loafers. We knocked. My father opened the door, and there were my siblings, sitting on that chintz sofa, slumped over in the we’re in trouble pose. My mother stood, facing them, her face red. She looked up and said, “There you are,” and hugged me, thanking the girl. I remember feeling really badly that my siblings had gotten into trouble. I remember feeling like it was my fault that I hadn’t followed them faster out that elevator door. I remember crying and saying I was sorry.

Elevators never really bothered me though after that. They weren’t necessarily happy places, but I was oblivious to them. They took you places; great places. City places. They were simply transportation.
And then college hit. There was a small elevator in the English department that brought you, sardined with self-important future writer types, (wink) up the ten floors. I got in, one minute perfectly happy to be on my way to learning about Proust, and suddenly went cold, wet, pale and other more high-brow adjectives that one co-ed chose to point out. And I shouted, “Don’t let the doors close,” and pushed past them all, back into the foyer. Either I was allergic to English majors, or I was having a latent reaction to something from my past, because very suddenly, I was claustrophobic. And not just in elevators.

I’d never liked tight places. Had momentary distress on rollercoasters when those metal bars came over your head and locked you in to place. Really didn’t enjoy standing in back-to-back humanity on the spiral staircase in the Statue of Liberty with no way up and no way down unless I screamed “Emergency!” which as a pre-teen, I wasn’t about to do. Or chair lifts which stopped, high above any reasonable jumping-off place, and just swung there, who knew, indefinitely. I’d suffer through situations like that, laugh it off and say, “I was a breech baby. I have an innate sense that I am stuck and that I need to get out. ” But I’d never had it like it hit me that day in college. I must have tried three times to get into that elevator. But even when it opened up empty, I couldn’t get myself into that evil steel chamber. So for four years of college, I walked the ten floors. Said I liked the exercise.

When I spent a year in Italy, it didn’t help that my family lived on the 8th floor. But I wasn’t about to put myself into that cage. The stone steps that climbed around it were just fine by me. And when I delivered flowers from a delivery truck in Boston after college, I was happy to have the doorman call up to the recipient, and tell her that if she wanted her flowers, she’d have to come down and get them herself. I did everything I could to avoid taking crowded buses and subways. I started to become keenly aware of where Exit signs were and ensure that I had a bottle of water with me, because if I was trapped, Lord knows I’d need water. And maybe something minty, like Halls, or Altoids, and maybe some herbal calming pills, and later, maybe some hardcore pharmaceutical tranquilizer like: Lorazepam. Just in case. Ask me if I have a bottle of Lorazepam in my purse. Ask me how many I’ve taken. The answer might not impress you. Think: placebo.

I was ashamed. I’m still ashamed. And I ask myself: just in case of what? It’s not that I’m scared of small places. It’s that I’m scared of myself in small places. I’m scared of the story that I tell myself when I’m in them: that I can’t get out, and I need to get out because if I don’t there’s no fresh air, and I’m going to get hot, and it’ll be hard to breathe, and I’m going to feel faint, and my heart’s going to race, and I’m going to…to…what…die? No. I’m not going to die. So what’s the big deal? What is my problem? For shame.

One night in the early 90s, I was travelling from Chicago to Boston in a freak March snow storm that hit hard. There were 64 airplanes that sat on a runway two miles out from the gates at O’Hare. I was in one of those planes. Not a particularly large plane. They ran out of food and water. I, of course, had water, and truth told, I hoarded it. It was a blizzard and one of the planes, in turning back, had spun out and blocked the runway for the rest of us. We waited there for 12 hours. Over and over I thought, I’ll say I’m having a medical emergency, and they’ll have to let me off. But I instead talked to the people around me, met a charming girl from India who wrote down a bunch of recipes in my journal that I still have. Got to know an older businessman with kids my age who told me great stories about a trip they took to the Galapagos. Comforted an academic who was to be, that night, honored at an awards ceremony at Harvard. This was before cell phones and other glowing screens. People either slept, or read, or talked. When I walked out of that airplane, I felt like I had been cured of ever being claustrophobic again.

And then I moved to Montana. And after 17 years of living in Big Sky country, so open and free to roam in endless terrain, I’ve got it worse than ever. I’ve been to therapy for it. I know how to wrap my mind around it: I’m safe. I’m contained in my body. Nothing can imprison me if I don’t let it. We even took a long look at my breech birth. I know all the mental-ese, and devoutly try the spiritual-ese…and still, I duke it out internally when I’m in the small planes that fly in and out of our valley, and when I am faced with an elevator, I stand there and try, and try again, people looking at me strangely as the doors open and close, open and close…and then I turn around and ask for the stairs. I don’t care how many flights I have to walk up. Sometimes they don’t let me take the stairs. And I have no choice. So I push that button—I am the right height now for all the buttons—wait for the doors to pull open, take a deep breath, and cast myself out to the non-infinite non-sea of that little sturdy box that unfairly I have called fickle instead of faithful, carting people up and down all day long, year after year, with groceries, and heavy equipment, and briefcases full of important deal making moxie. I suspect that one day, I will be thankful for the ride. Old bones, and old lungs and old heart. And then I will know better than to think that there is such a thing as being stuck, or that there really ever is a good way out. Or that there really ever is a place where you are not free.

But for now, no. I’m not going up, but thank you for asking. I’m taking the stairs. And no, I’m not proud of it. Maybe freedom starts in giving yourself a break for who you are and what scares you. Especially when what scares you is not outside you. It’s just plain old you. That’s good news, right? It means there’s room for growth. I am dedicated to that growth.

To that end, let me introduce the wonderful therapist, dream analyzer, writer, blogger, and new friend, who online goes by Belette Rouge for purposes of privacy and whimsy.

A tale of two phobias
by La Belette Rouge
The story goes that I was three years old and happily playing out in the garden while my mother was in the house; she came out in the garden and discovered that I was playing with a snake. Not a garter snake, some overgrown earthworm, but a SNAKE. In my mother’s version of this tale, it was the size of an anaconda. My mother, having a long-standing terror of snakes, reacted in a completely calm and measured manner: she called the fire department, the police department and the Marines. Okay, maybe not the Marines, but there was a whole lot of hullaballoo, and I remember being lectured repeatedly that I must never play with snakes ever again.
It was not an anaconda or even a rattlesnake that my mother had reported to the 911 Operator. It was a Kingsnake. The firemen explained to my mother that this was a very good snake that would keep the bad snakes away. My mother didn’t care. She remained terrified of it and wanted it out of her garden, “NOW!” That day was the birth of my snake phobia.
After that snake incident, there were no other childhood run-ins with legless reptiles; that day was enough to turn my non-poisonous playmate into an enemy. At first I was just afraid of them, but as I got older I grew increasingly terrified. I couldn’t go into a pet store unless someone verified they weren’t selling any snakes. Before seeing a film I had to ask the theater if the movie was snake-free. When I moved to Las Vegas with my husband, I called the Chamber of Commerce to ask them how many people died of snake bites a year in the city. The woman who answered the phone had the nerve to laugh at my question and warned me that the casinos were a much bigger threat to its residents and visitors than its snakes.
I never considered getting treatment for my snake phobia as I was convinced that there is some wisdom in being afraid of creatures that could kill you. That said, since I had only had one rather harmless run-in with a snake, I did often wonder what my snake fear was really about.
I began my first Jungian analysis when I lived in the city where what happens there stays there. I hadn’t planned to tell my Jungian analyst about my snake fears, but she saw that they had been starring in my nightmares. When my analyst asked my associations to snakes, I replied, “If I see a snake I will die. Just its mere presence will kill me. It doesn’t even have to bite me. I will just die.” Even as I said it, I knew it sounded irrational and yet felt true. Happily, my analyst didn’t argue the point. “Tell me more about snakes,” she invited. “Snakes are creatures without legs. They are unpredictable. That’s what I don’t like about them. You never know which way they are going. That terrifies me.” My analyst surmised, “Snakes are symbolic of a fear that you inherited from your mother. They are symbols of your greatest fears. They are not actually your greatest fears—they are hers. And in your encounter with a snake you didn’t die. What died is your sense of the world being a safe place.”
In my Jungian work we never worked directly on my fears of snakes. My analyst never worked with my fear literally but always metaphorically and symbolically; working this way was much more appealing than attempting to get over my literal snake terror.
Just three months after I began my Jungian analysis, I went into a Vegas pet shop with snakes in a large aquarium right at the entry of the store. I found myself uncharacteristically fascinated by them. I didn’t walk up close to their glass container, but I stood at the door and stare at them. This was HUGE. Only a few months ago I would have darted for the car, filled with terror that somehow one of them had escaped and found its way into my Volvo sedan. Yet there I stood, watching them–I was amazed to hear myself thinking that I found them strangely beautiful.
Six months after that, my husband and I were hiking in Big Sur, and I meandered off from the main path and came upon four little snakes curled up in a nest. I calmly pointed them out to my husband, who was in disbelief. He knew of my terror firsthand, as on our first hike we had encountered a baby Kingsnake (and I had scaled him like a tree). It was shocking–I had seen snakes and wasn’t climbing up my husband or fleeing the scene.
The next night I had a dream (we Jungians are big on dreams). I was in my kitchen and there were lots of little snakes. Dozens of them. I was picking them up with my hands and putting them in small Ziploc bags. I didn’t need my analyst to tell me what the dream meant. My fears were now smaller. They could be handled. And they were contained.
That said, I still have no interest in visiting a reptile house at the zoo. And if I saw a large Kingsnake in my garden, I can’t promise you that I wouldn’t overreact. But I do feel sure that my snake phobia is more manageable, and that is good enough for me.
After a particularly horrible experience on the 405 freeway many years ago, I developed a fierce case of freeway phobia. This is not a good affliction when living in L.A., a place where every road leads to a freeway. After a few weeks of trying to take surface streets from the South Bay to Venice (a truly epic ordeal that added an extra hour to my already hour-long drive), I decided to see an EMDR therapist to help me get over my extreme fear of the 405. My reason for choosing to work with an EMDR therapist on this issue was that it didn’t feel like my freeway phobia was symbolic, but was literal. Unlike my snake fears, I was highly motivated to get over this fear, as I was feeling trapped, dependent and significantly inconvenienced by my inability to drive on a freeway.
I made an appointment with a well-regarded EMDR therapist who practiced two freeways away from me. Two times a week for a month, my husband drove me to her office. I would sit across from her and recall the initial experience that had begun the phobia. My therapist would ask me to rate my anxiety as I recalled the memory on a scale of one to ten, “one” being not anxious at all and “ten” being the most anxious I ever felt. “Ten,” I answered. Then she would ask me to close my eyes and stay with the memory and the feelings, as she alternately tapped my hands or had me listen to bilateral auditory tones on a headphone. After about 30 seconds, she would ask again, “How would you rate the anxiety now?” After the first set it would go down to about an eight. She would then ask me to share briefly anything that came up during that set, and would begin another set of tapping or bilateral tones as I focused on any thoughts, feelings, images, or memories that had been triggered.
In all honesty, at the time I was sure I was wasting my money, and that I would NEVER-EVER-EVER be able to drive again on a freeway. I imagined having to hire a driver and my life as a 30-something version of Driving Ms. Daisy. I kept going to the EMDR sessions even though I was full of doubt. Yet at each session my “Subjective Units of Distress” began to get lower and lower. I had started at “ten, being the most severe anxiety I had ever known” and was sure that I would die if I ever drove on the freeway again. But by the fourth week I was down to one. I was no longer terrified of driving. The memory of the initial trauma still existed in me; only now, when I thought of it, it felt like the emotional volume had been turned way down and I could no longer feel or hear all the negative cognitions that had once accompanied it.
When I got down to “one” as a subjective unit of distress, I decided to make a chart called “Freeway Successes.” Every time I went on the freeway, even if it was only getting on at one entrance and off the next, I would get a sticker for my accomplishment. I mostly used the kind of gold, red and green stars that teachers use to acknowledge work well done. And when I took a long trip, like L.A. to Santa Barbara, I would get an extra special sticker, a horse or a rainbow or the stickers they give to kids at Trader Joe’s for waiting patiently as their parents’ two-buck chuck, cheeses and gourmet goodies are bagged. With each sticker I would imagine the day when the chart would be full and I would have it professionally framed to hang on the wall. Now when I look at that chart, all these years later, I am reminded of how I was sure that I would never drive again and how I can now drive anywhere, anytime on any freeway. I am so grateful for this visual reminder that I can get over the most immobilizing fears–that fears can lie and how I can overcome them, star by star, sticker by sticker.

Phobia resources:
The Anxiety and Phobia Handbook
Therapy Directory

Belette is a writer and a lisenced Marriage and Family
Therapist/psychotherapist. She holds a Masters Degree from Pacifica
Graduate Institute in Counseling Psychology. She trained extensively
at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles. She is presently enrolled
in the Adult Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Training Program. Belette
has lectured on psychology at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest,
Illinois and The Jung Center of Evanston. She is presently in private
practice in Los Angeles, California, and works as a
Clinic Therapist at the Jung Center in Evanston.

Belette studied creative writing at UCLA and has published essays and
short stories. Her poetry was selected for an inclusion in a anthology
tribute to Charles Bukowski. She worked as an entertainment editor and
had a weekly column. Belette has maintained the successful and award
winning blog, La Belette Rouge, since 2007. Her blog was named one of
the top ten blogs for Francophiles and in the top 20 of psychology and
memoir blogs. Her writing will be featured in Jamie Cat Callan’s
forthcoming book “Bonjour, Happiness” and the soon to be released
“Forgotten Patient”.

Belette offers Dream Coaching by phone, Skype or email.

La Belette Rouge

Blogging since 2007


Filed under Haven Newsletter, My Posts

What's in a Name? La Belette Rouge knows…

The fabulous La Belette Rouge (therapist/writer) does it again in her blog post today which discusses, in her typically thoughtful way, how titles can influence our experience reading a book. She mentions my book’s title, which was not an easy one to land upon for me. I’m not a great namer of things. I’m the sort that calls you by your whole name until you give me permission to use your nick name even if everybody calls you Smitty. I love that she understood why my memoir is called THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. I love that it worked in her as she read along. How it challenged her not to make assumptions, take sides, impose stereotypes upon the material. While the title in and of itself may seem like an assumption, as if I profess to know what you think…it’s really a play upon social stereotypes or collectively unconscious “agreements” we make when we delve into a ceratin subject. So no, mine is not a marital rag. It’s not an angry lament. It’s not a victim-stanced tome. The title asks us to let down our hackles, and come along for a ride that might just surprise us. I love that she got it, and thought to write about it here.

LBR will be my guest this month at my HAVEN newsletter. The subject will be: Phobia.

If you’re not already signed up for HAVEN, click here and scroll down the left column for the newsletter sign up.

yrs. Laura


Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, Haven Newsletter, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

Mind the Gap

You can have Haven delivered monthly to your cyber door by going here. Sign up in the left margin.

August, 2010
THEME: Blindspots in our thinking and behavior.
GUEST: Rossell Weinstein of Indendit Coaching. See her powerful piece in Haven below
LIVE CHAT TRANSCRIPT: You can read the transcript here

Mind The Gap by Laura Munson

Have you ever been in a London subway? There are signs everywhere and audio notices, “Mind the Gap,” warning people to pay attention to the space between the subway train and the platform. It always strikes me that people need such an omnipotent reminder. Makes me wonder how many people really have met with trouble in that gap. Makes me wonder about awareness. Consciousness. The things we walk by, drive by, say and do that we’re really not aware of. In the guest post below, Rossell Weinstein, Personal Coach and dear friend, so spaciously describes it. It’s the blind-spot that so many of us have. I’m interested in gaining vision in that blind-spot.

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who always said, “The faults we see in others are usually the faults we don’t want to see inside ourselves. Especially the ones which really irk us. Why do you think we take them so seriously? Get so aggravated by them? I think it’s because they hold up a mirror to us and say, “See. This is who you are,” and we’d rather say, “No that’s who you are. That’s your disgustingness.”

Rossell’s “Gap,” which you can read below, got me thinking. I knew I had gaps but wasn’t quite sure I could put my finger on them. So I spent the last week really noticing when I get activated by other people’s “faults,” and then challenged myself to see myself in that mirror. I noticed all matters of little peeves. Cluttered house. People who give you advice as if you asked for it, and you didn’t. People who interrupt. People who act like they know everything. I’m guilty of all the above. But I knew the one to pay attention to, that came screaming in with “Oh, I’d NEVER be like that person” in this regard was about something I pride myself on not doing (that’s another one to watch: what you pride yourself on) and that was: ASSUMPTION.
This week one of my kids came home and was all in a tizzy because he swore that his friend was mad at him. How many times do I say to my children: “You only assume so and so is mad at you. Don’t make assumptions. They never serve you or the other person or the situation at hand.” How often do I ramble on about how much pain befalls a person because of their projections and presumptions brought on by fear– that tell us we can be better prepared for life’s triumphs and pitfalls if we walk into our moments armed? And guess what? It turned out that his friend wasn’t mad at all. He was coming down with the flu! Assumptions inspire craziness in me. He spent a whole fine summer day in the dumps about something that wasn’t even happening. And the family paid for it. I was gnashing my teeth over it, and I caught myself red-handed. And so I chose to use my mirror experiment and pay attention to how I make assumptions in my life. My lesson came in with fleet as they do, once we’re ready for them. But it wasn’t thanks to a person. It was thanks to a horse.

I like to go out in the woods alone riding in the early morning before it gets too hot. There’s a beautiful loop not far from where I live. This summer, each time, just at the half-way mark, my horse starts to balk; wants to turn home. I figure he’s being lazy. He wants to get back to his herd where he’s boss. He doesn’t want to trek up into the mountains. Every time, I urge him onward. He refuses. I ask him to “walk on” with my legs and sometimes with the light tap of a riding crop or the end of my reins on his rear. He side steps. I turn him in circles to make him work to she’ll cry uncle. I back him up when that doesn’t work. Horses don’t like to back up. I’m trying to show him that the easy choice is to go forward. He does a slight rear. Finally, head high, I get him to move through to the rest of our loop home. I was actually bragging about this to my friend who lives nearby the other day. She knows horses and she knows this neck of woods.

“Where is it exactly where he refuses to go on?”

I explained.

She rolled her eyes and leaned forward. “That’s where the bear den is! He’s trying to protect himself and you along with him.”

My heart wilted. I was asking him to walk through his fear and betray his instincts and his common sense. To obey my incomprehendable demands. And he was trusting me somehow to be a better judge of our safety. Some judge! Rather than even consider the possibilities of his position or reality or reality in general, I made him wrong, and myself right. I assumed. And I assumed wrongly. And that Wrongful assumption could have gotten us both into a real mess. I thank the bear for not having that be so. I thank my horse for putting up with me. For minding my “gap.”

The Gap by Rossell Weinstein
Have you ever been in a situation where a friend or loved one tells you that you’ve been acting a certain way, and you have no idea what they’re talking about? It might sound something like, ‘You talk to me like I’m….’, or ‘You sound like a ……’, or ‘You’ve been so ……. to me’. Or maybe the same thing keeps happening in your life over and over and you can’t figure out how to stop the cycle. These kinds of events all point to our blindspots, or what I like to call The Gap. The gap is the disconnect between how we think we are in the world and how we are actually showing up for others. And usually, we go about our days completely unaware that the gap exists. We are so comfortable with the gap that we have no clue that there is an expansive space between our perception of ourselves and how others perceive us. Just like water to the fish, or air to the bird – we simply exist with the gap.

What do you imagine happens when you become aware of that gap? What do you see possible for yourself when you find a way to close or bridge that gap?

I used to live my life like a victim, and I had absolutely no idea that I lived that way. Nothing worked for me. Relationships would fall apart and I couldn’t explain how or why. I had trouble pleasing my clients and delivering what they expected of me. I got caught speeding. My house caught on fire. It seemed like one disappointment after another would follow me around, like a dark cloud. I couldn’t shake it, nor could I see why these things continued to happen, until I got a glimpse of the gap.

It happened in a conversation with my coach, like a flash. I saw how I was carrying on in my life as though my only option was to suffer at the mercy of what happened around me, as though I had no control of what was happening in my life. I saw myself in various living rooms of my friends at the time, hunched over my knees with tears streaming down my cheeks. I saw the way I walked: head held slightly low, a small drag in my step, as though I carried a burden everywhere I went. Even the way I spoke reflected this suffering, as every comment that came out of my mouth disempowered myself in one way or another.

No wonder nothing worked! I shut down any possibility that showed up around me, and I had no idea that I was even doing that! I honestly thought that people believed, as I did, that I was doing the best I could with the cards I was dealt. I believed that I was doomed, and I resigned myself to others around me believing the same thing.

What I didn’t realize, what I discovered when I finally saw the gap, was that I was slowly driving people away from me. While I was busy believing that I was doomed, the people that cared about me the most got tired of waiting for me to pull out of it. They could see a bigger world for me. They could see my fulfilling potential. They could see my strength when I couldn’t see it. And the larger that gap grew, the less they wanted to be around me.

When I saw the gap that I had been living with, I quickly became disgusted by it. The truth is that my actions had been completely inconsistent with what I was really committed to having in my life, like fulfillment, and a healthy family. Seeing this gap had me act differently. I began paying attention to what it was like for others to be around me. I got intentional in leaving them with an experience that I felt good about. Slowly but surely, the gap got smaller. I learned what was possible for my self when I came from a place of being powerful, instead of a victim. And when that happened, I met the man who would become my husband. We’ve now been together over five years.

Seeing the gap can open up a world of possibility for ourselves. Sometimes we need someone else to point it out to us, but we can become grateful when they do – it only gives us a deeper access to ourselves and brings us closer to what we really want.


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The Art of Stopping

I am so thankful for all the people who stopped by on my first open forum. Tonight we talked about the Art of Stopping. We went from wondering why it is so hard to stop our busy lives and just receive what there is to observe in the mundane, to being committed to saying YES to life. You can view our chat on this blog at The Art of Stopping.

Thanks for inspiring me to go outside and stand there and behold, recieve, and say…YES.


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Announcing "Haven" Newsletter

Based on the amazing notes I get every day, I’ve been thrilled to see how people seem to really appreciate the raw honesty and vulnerability in my book. It inspires me because vulnerability is my most cherished character trait in a person. And if my writing can help people to not feel alone, then it’s all worthwhile being the main character. To that end, I’ll be doing a monthly newsletter, starting in July. I’ll choose a theme and write about it in the newsletter, and then send it to the subscribers to my website. Then, on the announced date, there will be a discussion here on my blog in which people can share about this theme with me there to share as well. Since I moderate the comments, I’ll be sure to keep it safe and constructive. If you’d like to participate, go to my website and sign up: The newsletter sign up is on every page but Home on the left margin. The newsletter will come to your email address and give all pertinent information re: time, theme etc. I look forward to what we can co-create on the page in heart and mind and honesty! yrs. Laura


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