see your truth, know your truth, live your truth: acceptance & letting go

@ Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton, MA ~ Photo by Sofia Reddy ~ To me this statue symbolizes the introspective work we must do to understand and live our truth. The plants sprouting from the head symbolize the growth we experience when we seek to understand and accept our own reality.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”  – J.K. Rowling


I was doing the warrior pose in yoga class when our teacher uttered the words “see the truth, know the truth.” I found myself then silently uttering the phrase “and live your truth.” This was several years ago at the beautiful grounds of the Yoga at the Ashram in Millis, MA. I was going through an existential crisis at the time and felt overwhelmed by several stressful chain of events including my husband’s illness and job loss coupled with the responsibilities of a demanding job and raising a young child. I was at a loss and yoga practice helped me to feel grounded, stable and strong. I went to some Kundalini yoga classes too, which involve a lot of coordinated body movements and intensive breath work. It was so cleansing and renewing. It was an amazing experience and I feel grateful to the teachers who showed me how to safely work through all my past and present adversities.

J.K. Rowling‘s quote really resonated with me because she speaks to the most important steps of the healing and recovery process – understanding and acceptance. Recovery is a lifetime endeavor and we are always (in my opinion) healing from various types of losses, stressful experiences or maybe even traumatic events. One does not need to have a mental health diagnosis to benefit from healing from various difficult and painful life experiences. This is part of our shared journey as human beings living on this beautiful planet.

One of the important lessons in all my years of therapy (both as a therapist and as a client) is the practice of acceptance and letting go. Marsha Linehan who created the dialectical behavior therapy program for clients experiencing difficulty with emotion regulation teaches what’s called “radical acceptance.” There is also a book by Tara Brach, meditation teacher and Buddhist Psychologist, entitled “Radical Acceptance” that speaks poignantly to this concept. It’s about accepting this moment, this reality, just as it is, without harsh judgment towards self, other or the experience. It involves breathing and letting go, over and over and over again. It involves self-forgiveness and forgiveness of anyone who you have experienced as hurting you in any way, whether covertly or overtly. It involves being present in mind, body and soul and allowing every single feeling you are experiencing to safely run its course without fighting, resisting, denying, avoiding or blaming.

I love how Brené Brown, social worker, researcher and story teller, explains the function that blaming serves -“it’s a way to discharge unwanted negative emotion.” Blaming is a waste of time because it only takes you further from your truth and it is a way to distract from our own inner experiences. It also just fuels feelings of powerlessness because we can not change others, only ourselves. When we turn the focus inward then the difficult work of acceptance and letting go can begin. As Dr. Brené Brown says truth is never comfortable but it’s not a weakness. We can only grow from allowing ourselves to experience vulnerability, safely.

Guided self-reflection:

Take a moment now to say these words out loud at your own pace: With each breath in I breathe in acceptance and with each breath out I let go. I let go of what’s no longer needed. I let go of resentment, anger and blame. I let go of unrealistic expectations. I let go of the need to control others and focus on my self-care. I let go of what’s no longer serving me in the best, healthiest way possible. I let go, let go, let go.

With each breath in I breathe in love and acceptance. I breathe in forgiveness and hope. I breathe in encouragement and strength. I feel worthy and I belong. I breathe and sit. I sit silently and breathe. I accept myself – all of myself – just as I am in this very precious moment.

Today’s Practice:

Try practicing the mantra above for 20 minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Play soothing music in the background or just allow silence. Put on a timer if it helps. Feel free to use your own words as they come to you. Repeat calming and soothing phrases that help you feel empowered and strong. Even if at first you are not sure you believe them, keep repeating them while breathing out any doubt, negativity, or false guilt. Let it all go. Life is happening in this very moment, and the only way to move forward is to let go, one breath at a time.

May your practice go well. May you access your inner strength and courage to live your truth.


Self-care strategy #22: Letting go of a painful past through self-forgiveness

A visit to Castle in the Clouds, NH * Photo by Sofia Reddy

This post is dedicated to adults who survived adverse childhood experiences.

According to the Sidran Institute, 70% of US adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives, and 20% go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While not everyone who experiences trauma will go on to develop PTSD, having such experiences can impact one’s life in other ways. One major impact of having experienced trauma is the misconception that the victim is to blame. It is especially the case with survivors of childhood abuse & neglect or other forms of interpersonal violence. Children are often most vulnerable to this self-view since they believe everything that happens is a reflection of something flawed within themselves or something they did to “deserve” it. Perhaps they were outright told as much. Adults who experienced childhood trauma are at increased risk of carrying this internal belief with them throughout their lives, unless they are able to work with a trusted therapist to challenge these false beliefs about themselves.

Trusting others can be difficult when one has survived painful experiences as a child. Reconnecting with someone who might have been a perpetrator of abuse (i.e. family member) or connecting with others who remind the trauma survivor of his/her abuser can also be challenging. Painful past experiences can leave one feeling confused, upset, angry, and sad. Often it’s possible to feel all of these feelings at the same time, which can be overwhelming. Ultimately, when these feelings are ignored or denied, one’s ability to form close and meaningful connections with healthy others is compromised. This can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and despair. We are social beings who are meant to live in community with others. Feeling disconnected and disenfranchised can leave one vulnerable to depression.

1 important step in the healing process is to first recognize that there might have been a painful past experience with a significant person: it could have been a parent, mentor, authority figure, sibling or a close friend.

2nd, we can learn to let go of a painful past through self-forgiveness. Often when the topic of forgiveness comes up, we think about it in terms of giving that gift to the perpetrator. However, in this case, I think it’s important we start the process of forgiving ourselves first. The abuse cycle continues as long as we believe that “we deserve it.” It’s hard to let go of this intense energy when we might be harboring underlying resentment towards ourselves (often we don’t even recognize we are doing that). Forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone what happened or that we continue to accept abusive behavior from another. Forgiveness means that we are finally starting to recognize how loving ourselves unconditionally means saying no to behavior that comprises our ability to do so.

3rd, we must find a trusted other (a therapist or objective confidante) to share our painful story with who can provide unconditional love and acceptance. Through the sharing of our story, it becomes possible to overcome false beliefs that the abuse or trauma was somehow our fault. By no longer bearing the burden of this experience alone, we can start the healing process. As I often tell my clients, we don’t heal in isolation. We need others who are nurturing and supportive to help guide us to a life that is worth living.

Self-forgiveness can’t happen until we recognize the pain within us and take steps towards healing through healthy relationship with another. We need to feel safe again. We need to feel that we belong and that we are worth loving. We need to love ourselves first. We need to let go of the past, one day at a time. We need to stop hurting ourselves and be kind and compassionate, instead. We need to trust ourselves and know that we can make healthy choices. Life is short. We can’t afford to live the rest of our lives in pain and isolation, grieving a past that we cannot change. We all deserve joy and happiness. It is our birthright.

We have the power to change our lives, in the present, one step at a time.

Thank you to all who have inspired and encouraged me along the way. Your presence, support, love and acceptance have guided me to become the person I am today.

I am forever grateful.



Self-care strategy #20: Don’t be duped by deceivers (aka manipulators). Reclaim your power!

Seeing through manipulation is the 1st step to empowerment

Dealing with covert-aggressive personalities is like getting whiplash. Often, you really don’t know what’s hit you until long after the damage is done. If you’ve been involved in some way with one of these smooth operators, you know how charming and disarming they can be. They are masters of deception and seduction. They’ll show you what you want to see and tell you what you want to hear.”
-Dr. Simon

It happens too often. You start dating someone or becoming friendly with an acquaintance you met at an event or through mutual friends or family, or maybe even in church, and then weeks, months, even years later that person’s true deceitful practices begin to manifest. I’ve seen this happen to people (personally and in my therapy practice – heck it’s happened to me) too many times. Often, these trusting individuals meet these deceivers (aka manipulators) in places you’d think would attract only those with the upmost integrity.  It’s an extremely challenging situation if you have become so entangled with a deceiver that it feels nearly impossible to get out.

Who are deceivers? Deceivers are simply people who only care about doing what they need to do to meet their own needs, often at the expense of someone else’s. They are not interested in an equal power relationship. Rather, they are seeking something from others without interest in reciprocating. They are very good at making others think they have their interest at heart. That’s why it’s easy to get duped, even if you are a highly intelligent person. Usually, deceivers are very good at lying. Perhaps they are so good at it, they’ve convinced themselves it’s true (it’s called rationalization). They come up with “good reasons” for doing what they do. Think of the blaming the victim mentality often materialized in the form of the following rationalization, “well she asked for it…did you see the way she was dressed?”

The potential for danger in relationship with a deceiver depends on the level of intimacy in the relationship and the toxicity level of the deceiver as illustrated in the following diagram:


Attachments to Toxic People are Dangerous

As shown in the above diagram, the higher the intimacy level or attachment in the relationship (this can include platonic attachments) and the higher the level of toxic behavior by the deceiver, the greater the risk of danger.

How do you know you are at the hands of a deceiver? Once you’ve identified that you’re dealing with a manipulator, how do you get out if you’re already entangled?

First, follow these 3 steps on identifying a deceiver, and then read on for strategies to get out.

1st step: Identify warning signs that you might be at the hands of a potential deceiver (aka manipulator). Usually the sooner you recognize these warning signs the better off you are.

Warning signs include:

  • Thoughts such as “this person seems too nice” or “this relationship feels too good to be true.” It probably is.
  • Past or current behavior indicators such as a history of unreliability, untreated addiction or substance abuse, history of involvement in abusive relationships (emotional, physical, sexual, verbal), history of unhealthy entanglements, flightiness, or lack of commitment and follow through.
  • They lie. Enough said.
  • Their words don’t match their behavior. Watch their behavior, not their words!
  • They talk negatively about others behind their backs. What are they saying about you behind your back?
  • They are problem makers, instead of problem solvers, and often go around creating drama or instigating fights or conflicts for no good reason.
  • They currently have or have had legal issues.
  • In the case of romantic attachments, they are not done with one relationship, and are anxious to jump into a new one. I would ask, “why?”
  • The power in the relationship is not balanced. For example, you are giving more than you are receiving (whether financially, emotionally, physically or spiritually). You may start to feel resentful. You wonder if you are repeating a past pattern of attaching to certain types of people that never seems to work out for you.

2nd step: Pay attention to these warnings. DON’T IGNORE THEM. Many people ignore their own internal compass, which is very good at detecting liars, cheaters, users and deceivers. Listen to your intuition! It’s probably right.

3rd step: Do something about it. It’s never too late, no matter how far into it you are. You can get out of an unhealthy situation before it becomes worse. Believe me, it can become worse, and then it becomes even harder to get out (and often at a higher price). Protect yourself and others from harm.

Here’s how:

  1. Reality-test your concerns by discussing them with a trusted, credible source, such as a friend or family member who has good judgment. Let them know you are interested in hearing their feedback or opinion on the matter.
  2. Listen to their feedback. Spend some time pondering it over in your mind.
  3. Consider the fact that if more than one trusted source is giving you the same type of information; perhaps you need to take it seriously.
  4. Decide if you want to continue this relationship, but consider some possible negative long-term consequences of doing so.
    1. If you decide to continue, think about why it is you’re choosing to continue even though your wise mind (and friends) might be saying otherwise.
    2. Are you trying to fill a need through this attachment?
    3. Do you really believe and trust this person? What’s your evidence to support this trust?
    4. Consider discussing the answers to these questions with a therapist or another trusted mentor.
    5. If you decide that you are ready to end this relationship, come up with a quick and safe exit plan. Decide when you will end this friendship or romantic rendezvous, or toxic long-term marriage, and how.
    6. You don’t need to do this alone*, and I don’t recommend doing so. Enlist the help of friends, family and professionals (therapist, pastor, attorney, etc.)
      1. *In the case of deceivers who might be toxic enough to cause imminent harm to you or your loves ones, it is imperative you have a safety plan in place. If this person has a history of violence enlist the help of police and other professionals who can help you put one in place. You might want to consider putting a restraining order in place.

Remember, your life is in your hands. If you have children, protect them from further harm by recognizing unhealthy attachments and getting out of them as quickly and safely as possible. You will meet healthy people who deserve your commitment. Take care of yourself first.  Don’t be duped!

Recommended reading on dealing with manipulative people:

Disclaimer: the advice on this site is not meant to be used in lieu of professional therapy or counseling. If you are in a dangerous relationship, seek the services of the police or a therapist who specializes in family therapy. They are trained to work with issues of domestic violence. In case of an emergency always call 911.

For further support or assistance if you feel unsafe in your relatioship contact the Domestic Violence Hotline (

CALL 24/7/365

1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/hard of hearing)

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