A lifetime’s work not a season…how can we prevent future burnout…and step out of the rescuer role!

We are here to do a life’s work, not a season. Do not burn out now. You are needed for the long haul. It is time that we deeply honor these cycles and stop expecting things and ourselves to be always on‘. Rebecca Campbell, Rise Sister Rise

This quote deeply resonated with me in January this year and yet somehow, during September, I was feeling deeply burnt-out….despite all of my self-care strategies!  And I was feeling a little ashamed as it was this time last year that I was feeling so run down too! (Mindful Healing Blog November 2016)

How many times does it take to learn and to change…?

Have you been in this position too?

Is there a re-occurring pattern in your life of burn-out?

I love how in A Path with Heart, Jack Kornfield says ‘Every spiritual life has a succession of difficulties and each of those is a place to discover wisdom, love, patience, balance, awakening, and compassion…and although we make one mistake after another…each is an opportunity to learn…’

So it seems mine is to learn the same lesson over and over to conserve my energy – to remember I am here for a lifetime’s work – and not just a season!   I guess it is peeling off another layer of the ‘onion’, losing a layer of defensiveness and being in the world that was entrenched so long ago and no longer serves… It’s never easy to undo years of patterning and yet it can still feel so frustrating when caught in a spiral of learning!

So I wanted to share with you – what worked for me on the road to recovering my strength, energy and passion for the work that I do… just to see if any resonates with you?  I’d also love to hear any strategies that have worked for you?

I initially returned to all of my self-care strategies; back into healthy eating, walking in nature, meditating (and allowing for this to become an afternoon nap if needed), journaling, lots of loving kindness (really feeling loving kindness and gentleness towards myself as Christopher Germer suggests in the Mindful Path to Self Compassion), reducing expectations, letting some non-urgent jobs go, sessions with my coach, booking in to see my naturopath and getting back on track with some great supplements and seeing my acupuncturist….

ALL of these strategies helped & I highly recommend them…but there was something else there, something deeper that I had to work with….it was as if it was incubating, waiting until the right moment to reveal itself…and I found it really hard to be patient!

Then one day something clicked….like any insight or revelation it’s hard to describe how it happened – one minute I wasn’t conscious of it – the next minute I was! And also like any insight all the readings & many of the conversations I had been having were leading me to that moment – it’s just that at that point I FELT the insight in my heart and body…it was no longer just an intellectual idea/ concept!

My insight was the extent to which I have been over-functioning, striving to people-please and seeking approval from everyone, the amount to which I had been putting myself in the role of rescuer, and the one who is responsible for everyone else’s well-being…   And then it clicked how strongly this was linked to the Drama Triangle (Thank you to Kareen for introducing me to this concept!).

For a great 5 minute intro on the drama triangle – check out this 5-minute video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_XSeUYa0-8

Or this diagram from https://targetteal.com/en/blog/office-drama-understand-whats-behind-it/

Drama Triangle

It turns out I have been way out there on the RESCUER corner this year…no wonder I was feeling burnt out!  I’d known this was my tendency for awhile now…but this revelation was like discovering it on a whole new heart and body level!!!

This diagram below from David Emerald http://powerofted.com/     suggests how it is possible to flip the drama triangle and instead of being the rescuer, become the coach!!

From Drama Triangle to Empowerment Dynamic 2

And here I am a coach!!!  But I realised that on a subtle level I had been feeling responsible for my clients’ well-being, trying to rescue, feeling very responsible for all aspects of my business – and I had definitely been rescuing and feeling overly responsible for my kids who were now all teenagers – and other family members / friends / colleagues…

Suddenly I didn’t want to be a rescuer / ‘over-function-er’ anymore….I wanted to, as Brene Brown said, ‘stand my sacred ground’- I wanted to be in the centre of the triangle, BEING, not shrinking or puffing up….just BEING…allowing others to live their lives…and being present to it all but not taking on too much responsibility for others’ well-being!

Like with any good insights I then found that all podcasts or books that I read referred to the drama triangle in some way!  Tara Brach from Radical Self-Acceptance & Brene Brown in Rising Strong gave great descriptions of how we can:

  • Push away, be aggressive or judgemental: Persecutor
  • Numb or avoid or go into denial: Victim
  • Conform, please, strive to make it better: Rescuer

And both of them write about how the ‘rescuer role’ is highly praised and appreciated in our society…it’s a hard role to step out of!

Do any of these roles (above) ring true for you? Which one do you go to under stress?  Do any relationships trigger you to go into one of these roles?  Can you relate to over-functioning, rescuing and being overly-responsible?

So what can we do instead?  Here’s a description of the Empowerment Dynamic by David Emerald – and the alternative roles we can take on! From Victim to Creator, From Rescuer to Coach, From Persecutor to Challenger.

The Empowerment Dynamic Triangle

Image: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/10/how-you-can-ditch-the-victim-mentality-and-become-empowered/ (see the above link for an awesome article on shifting from victim to creator role!)

I’m particularly interested in finding ways to stay centered in the middle of the triangle only moving into coach, creator or challenger role as we need to, with awareness, without slipping into our more comfortable roles when under stress of victim, persecutor or rescuer?

I think mindfulness & loving awareness helps us to stay centered…and that is definitely a life-long practice!!!

Somehow realizing this insight on a heart and body level has helped….and made me see how sometimes we need years of mindfulness practice and teachings for life-changing insights to happen?  We just need to be patient!?

After this insight, I was really lucky to have two weeks of school holidays – to allow it to bubble and percolate away into my consciousness!   The time off meant I could step out of my usual roles and spend more time resting and reflecting….This gave me space to very consciously notice when I slipped into rescuer (or victim and persecutor toles) or ‘over-functioning’ and consciously breathe and step back, when I could, into a ‘being centered’ position of BEING.

I have a feeling that this could be a life-long journey/practice but I am very grateful to have got to this insight – more unraveling and unfolding…more finding my true nature and letting go of patterns that no longer serve.

Being on holidays was also a refreshing chance to get out of routine – try NEW things – tyre tubing down a river, camping somewhere new, trying outrigger canoeing, rearranging furniture in the house…all ways to step out of old stale roles and see each family member anew and create space for something new to happen in my life….and refresh and recharge my energy levels.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the drama triangle and any roles you have played or stepped out of!  And also what do you do when you are feeling burnt out?  How do you sustain your energy so you are here for a lifetime’s work and not just a season?

Big Hugs, Sara x 🙂

What I love about having teenagers…..what I miss about not having little kids anymore…

How we spend our days

I’m keen to process this new stage of parenting that I am in – where all my children are now teenagers… to relish the stage that I am in…to relish the little ordinary moments that happen on a daily basis that it is easy to take for granted!

I’m also keen to share the positives of having teenagers for all those parents who are feeling daunted by the process and to share the great bits about having young kids that I miss so if you are in that stage of parenting you can relish it too!

What I love about having teenagers…..

  • They sleep-in! This is glorious on weekends and in school holidays – to wake up when you want to wake up and to even have the house to yourself for an hour or two!!
  • Their sense of humour, the laughs…
  • The interesting new music…feeling up with the times again when I know who that singer is!
  • The movies and tv shows you can enjoy together…
  • Their exuberance, energy and pursuit of their passion/s – it’s exciting to be around
  • The way teens find their place in the world by questioning every belief you have ever had – I find this really difficult/ irksome but it has certainly made sure that I analyse all my beliefs and the evidence I hold for it – at times I have been persuaded to even change my beliefs…a little!
  • Hearing your own words come back at you (‘that’s a bit judgemental Mum’) and being frustrated yet also in awe that your years of teaching has worked!!!
  • As they get busier with their own lives you have permission to get busier with yours – with pursuing your passions & interests…you have more time!
  • They can cook!
  • The spontaneous dancing just because the music is good…
  • The creative things you have to think of to make doing something with you sound exciting!!
  • Being pushed out of your comfort zone to do something scary adn risky with them!
  • Their confidence in telling you exactly how they feel about you – and feeling hurt yet also feeling in awe that they can express their emotions like you never could!
  • They can get themselves to school & back…you have a little more freedom!
  • It’s actually quite fun embarrassing your teenager – like dancing down the shooping aisle and watching your teenager cringe with embarrassment!!
  • They are very helpful with all technology!!!
  • Somehow if you ignore their bedrooms the house stays cleaner – less toys!

Of course it’s not all rosy – I think we have had arguments in our house about sleeping in on a school morning, inappropriate humour, clash of tastes in music and movies, too much energy, constant debates, addiction to screens, feeling criticised as a parent, as well as a meal of two minute noodles not classifying as a meal, not to mention our food bill…..but it is great to reflect on how all of these points above have brought in immense positives into our house too!

What I miss about not having little kids anymore…

  • The warm welcome as you walk in the door – smiles, hugs, kisses
  • The willingness to go on an ‘adventure’ – you can sell almost any outing as an adventure!!
  • The soaking up your beliefs, your way of doing things without too much questioning…yet!
  • The simple fun that can be had in simple everyday activities…no need to try too hard to get a laugh!
  • The going to bed early (if you are lucky!) – and time in the evenings to chill without kids…
  • The ‘I love you Mum’….the tenderhearted affection going both ways…
  • Hide and seek, chasey and sandcastles
  • The being able to share a bathroom – no locked doors or privacy being number 1 concern!
  • Your kids are your biggest fans!
  • Cuddles and reading stories and reconnection before bed
  • You can keep up with them walking, running, riding, swimming…
  • You can also pretend to lose in board games / card games and your ego stays intact!
  • The quick recovery from a meltdown….the warm smiles quickly afterwards…
  • The ability to pick up a small child and take them with you even if they are reluctant to come!!
  • The ability to use a hug to calm you and calm them….
  • The look that says you are the best Mum in the world….no doubt about it!
  • The ability to keep them in your care….safe and well and to choose what you want to do for holidays!
  • The ability to schedule your weekend to suit you and your schedule…

Of course having little kids isn’t all rosy either – I am amazed even though it isn’t long ago that when I get all nostalgic for the younger years I only remember the rosy moments….I forget the sleepless nights, 5 am starts, the multiple tantrums on any given day, the constant monitoring for safety and never finishing a sentence let alone a conversation, the inability to find 5 minutes to myself, the constant teaching of a rule (e.g. don’t throw food) and the constant meltdown as the food was thrown…

It was thinking nostalgically about when my kids were little that made me realise at some point in the future I will think back nostalgically to when my kids were teenagers – a reminder to appreciate what is here and now….and to realise that the tough stuff comes with the good stuff…..and it’s the good stuff I want to acknowledge as it is happening and remember it!!

As Tim Urban said ‘the joy you find on 100’s of forgettable Wednesdays’ – is the joy that counts!  This is what leads us to feel we are living  a happy life – it’s the simple small daily events that often we take for granted until they are no longer there… Brene Brown talks of families who have experienced trauma and she siad it is always the little everyday moments that they miss most and feel most grateful for?

So I’m wondering what is it about parenting your kids right now, at their age & stage that you love and appreciate? 🙂  Can writing a list like the one above help you to feel more grateful for those everyday ‘forgettable’ moments that add up to living a happy life?