Women's Relationship Workshop Series Announced

Women's Relationship Workshop Series Announced

I’m excited to announce that I am starting a women’s workshop series. The first one will be this upcoming Saturday, March 23, 2019 from 2:30-5:30pm at S Factor Costa Mesa, California—a feminine movement studio in Orange County that empowers and uplifts women. I teach women to move from a victim narrative and teach them how to be happy and empowered in their love lives.

Women give so much to others, and then are surprised to find out that all that giving does not necessarily translate to happier relationships. In fact, they usually give even MORE in an attempt to fix things (honey, let’s read this book, go to this workshop, go to this counselor, look at my lingerie, etc.). This leads to resentment, anger, irritability, and depression. Come learn how being a little more “selfish” will actually make you a better wife, girlfriend, and date. Wouldn’t it be nice to free yourself from all the shoulds?

Deadline to register is noon on March 22nd. Go to www.brookebergman.com/store and click “add to cart” to reserve your spot!

Home is what Makes your Heart

Home is what Makes your Heart

And it’s all so complex isn’t it? This business of life and of loving. My prayer or thought or hope or however you conceptualize that abstract concept of our oneness is that you STOP today and ponder the wonder and the mystery of it all and allow yourself to fall in love with the beauty of your people—because they made you and continue to make you.

Preventing Eating Disorders in Young Girls

Preventing Eating Disorders in Young Girls

I don’t mean to scare you, but adolescent girls are not doing well these days. In the last five years, rates of depression, anxiety and eating disorders in this age group skyrocketed. It is a documented phenomenon and psychological researchers are doing their best to find the etiology. There are several hypotheses for why this is happening, chief among them is the way that adolescent girls use social media—i.e. for validation of their looks.

 

Before you condemn young girls for their vanity, understand that this is a perpetuation of a cultural problem that been in existence since at least the Industrial Revolution—namely, that the only purpose women and girls serve is to look pretty and make the house pretty. Although patriarchal norms have provided the foundation for this paradigm, it shifted into extremes in the late 1800’s when men went to work in the factories and women became the “angel of the home”—the place men came home to for rest. Men and women were no longer working side by side as they did during the agrarian period.

 

I live in Orange County, CA—where the wealthy still hold debutante balls for their 16 year old daughters. And where many of my young female clients share with me that their parents want them to marry well. Their parents are surprised to learn their daughters are struggling.

 

Working with eating disorders found me. Back in 2009 during the recession, I managed to find a paid position as a therapist—which was nothing short of a miracle at the time. But I had to be open to work that other therapists balked at: my job was to provide “meal support” to clients with severe eating disorders. To literally sit with them and eat.

 

Since then I have steadily worked with this particular diagnosis in various treatment settings and I have come to a few conclusions about how to prevent this diagnosis for those who are concerned. While we cannot change the culture, or bar them from smart phones, or hide them in a cave until their brain is finished developing, we can provide excellent insulation from the cultural weather by how we talk about food and our bodies at home. Here are a few tips:

 

1.     Moms: NEVER, I mean NEVER EVER EVER talk about dieting, wanting to lose weight, or in general talk negatively about your body in front of your daughter. They are LISTENING.

2.     Since you’re breaking the habit of talking about you not dieting, work on just not dieting or trying to lose weight.  There are loads of research on how diets, fasts, juices, cleanses and all of these things don’t actually work in the long run. Also, it turns out that slightly overweight people live the longest anyway. They live longer than skinny people. I’m not kidding.

3.     Have regular dinner time. I know it’s tough with everyone’s schedules, but try to prioritize meal time as a part of the family routine. It does not have to be fancy. We often sit down to a glamorous meal of macaroni and cheese and grocery store chicken. During dinner, try to connect about the day. Ask open-ended questions. Above all, do NOT FIGHT at the table. About anything. Do NOT bring up topics that you know are tense. For crying out loud, practice what you preach about patience and WAIT until AFTER dinner to bring up your kids’ D in algebra. Mealtime should be separate from big emotional issues.

4.     Talk to your daughter about her professional goals—what she wants to do when she grows up. Encourage her love of everything. Kids are born scientists, mathematicians, writers, artists, engineers and creators.

5.     Talk about how bodies and beauty are subjective. Talk about how beautiful she is when she is DOING something. When women and girls focus on being an object, their anxiety about their looks increases. But when they are the SUBJECT, their anxiety vanishes because they are experiencing their body doing something that makes them feel good—like playing sports, doing a science experiment, playing tag, painting.

6.     Have conversations about what they think about all this focus on the outside. Let them passionately tell you what they think. I love the energy of adolescence—if channeled properly, it can change the world.

7.     Lastly, model the behavior you want to see in your daughter. She is watching. Change the way you see your body. Change the relationship you have to food. Begin to value your body for what it can do and how it can hold and how it changes and how it is constantly adapting.

Healing from Betrayal

Healing from Betrayal

You are worthy.

An answer to a question recently posed to me: how do I heal from being betrayed and lied to?

There is nothing quite like the pain of being betrayed. Or lied to. I think that is the heartbreak itself. When we have been betrayed we learn that our person did not put us or the relationship first--something else was--in your case that something else was drugs. And speaking of that, one thing to know about people who struggle with using drugs is that lying and blaming others are a part of the disease. They know that what they are doing is wrong and don’t want to take accountability for that so they will do almost anything to avoid feeling responsible. I recommend finding a local Al-Anon group or start reading about co-dependence. People who struggle with feeling worthy of love will attract people with addictions or otherwise “unavailable” people because they themselves don’t feel worthy of more— it reinforces the story they already believe about themselves. I suggest that you begin to challenge the belief that you are worth any less.

There are micro-betrayals that lead to the macro-betrayals.

I think of betrayal more broadly than “cheating.” It’s any time we don’t present our fullest Self to our partner and to the relationship. It’s anytime we say we’re “fine” when we actually aren’t. It’s anytime we ignore the urge to initiate sex when we’re feeling sexy, it’s anytime we withhold our affection, or the truth of our love. “Cheating” is the final step in a series of micro-betrayals. Beyonce asks Jay-Z in one of her songs, “You said you were fine, but you lied.” And that is the hurt—he didn’t tell her he was struggling.

All of us in our heart of hearts want to hold our partner—that is the essence of attachment and the science of connection. But so many of us have been conditioned to share our need to be held in dysfunctional ways, OR we don’t even acknowledge the need in the first place.

How to Know Whether or Not to Break-Up

How to Know Whether or Not to Break-Up

Whew. Now that's a million dollar question. But I'm going to help you answer it because I'm going to guide you towards your inner wisdom--that thing called intuition--which, if you can be brave enough to listen, will help you separate the wheat from the chafe. 

First, I see a lot of people breaking up that don't need to break up. They are usually projecting all kinds of malarky from old relationships onto this new person and then breaking up with those ghosts. This is why you probably need therapy. Because you're breaking up with someone who isn't even real. You're likely delusional. Relational trauma will do that. It's an over-active fight/flight/freeze/fawn response. That's why getting calm is the number one relationship skill. 

I read a lot of articles and Instagram-quotes about moving on from people who don't treat you like a queen. If you need to be treated like a king or a queen in order to feel loved, your love tank probably has a hole in it that no human being can ever fill. So keep searching for those loyal subjects and move on from them when they act human or imperfect or have the gall to have needs.

But. Maybe you're on the other side of that equation. Maybe you're the partner who keeps on trying to make your partner feel special, loved and valued--and it's just. never. enough. They act insensitive, cheat on you, aren't available, and generally aren't interested in adult conversations about emotions. 

So how do you know when it's time to walk away and time to just hang in there and do your own work? I apologize, that's a bit of a trick question: because the answer is always in doing your own work FIRST. 

When you do your own work, you won't actually have to do anything except speak how you feel.

An awesome partner will welcome you speaking your emotional truth because they are interested in knowing more of you. They want to be intimate. But a partner who isn't interested in a relationship will be unable to tolerate you doing anything but agreeing with them and/or doing what they want. They will also be unable to tolerate that they might have failed you in some way. They don't know how to live in their humanity.

"Narcissists are very good at finding their 'victims' - the people who don't feel worthy enough of a healthy, happy relationship, and who will play second fiddle just for the sake of being in a relationship. When you've learned to truly love yourself, a narcissist simply cannot operate in your orbit. You will not be able to feed his or her need for adulation and acquiescence at all costs. And you will trust yourself to know when to walk away. That's why, for anyone struggling in a difficult relationship, the fastest path to answer the question, 'Should I stay or should I go?' is always to learn to love yourself. " --Gay Hendricks

That all being said, often, talking and talking and talking will actually drive a quality man away. When I say, "speak your truth," I mean open your posture and your heart space--and tell him what you ache for. Don't tell him what he's doing wrong, tell him how when he wraps his arms around you you feel like nothing in the world can harm you.  When I was in graduate school we had a saying: “speak the truth in love,” that comes from the book of Ephesians. Before you speak, always, as much as you can, ask yourself, “am I going to say this truth in the spirit of love and growth? Or fear and destruction?” The tone you use has the potential to either increase the conflict or help you grow closer together.

What makes great sex?

What makes great sex?

Today I'm talking about SEX. What makes it good? Great? Best you've ever had? 

We live in a culture that sells a lot of sex, but has zero clue about what makes it amazing.  Toys, youth, and all manner of circus acts are believed to increase sexual satisfaction--and yet--those who depend on Cosmo's "tips and tricks" for a better life in the bedroom will inevitably be thirsty for more and be chronically dissatisfied. Techniques, props, and positions are mechanical and ultimately make people feel used and objectified (i.e. not sexy). Cosmo's way is McDonald's (thanks @jimgaffigan for the cultural critique). 

The greatest sex of your life will require all of you to show up. 

Great sex is an issue of integrity. If you want it, you have to own and integrate your desires, your senses, your sexiness, your heart and then share it with your partner. You aren't allowed to blame your partner for not reading your mind.

There's a scene in National Lampoon's Vacation where Chevy Chase ends up naked in the pool with Christie Brinkley. Naturally, his wife is angry with him. But the real reason she's angry with him is because she wanted to be the one having fun with him. (Ultimately, her owning her desire to go skinny dipping too, saves the day and their marriage). 

The betrayal is so much more than sexual: it's that neither of them were honest and true with each other. 

If both people keep showing up in the fullness of their desires, the bliss will be never-ending and will only increase with time. If you allow it, sex can be the vehicle through which each of you continues to grow in all areas of your life. 

"Woman is Life"--Joseph Campbell

"Woman is Life"--Joseph Campbell

Heal yourself woman. Find your heart and dance towards your bliss. As you heal your feminine spirit, men around you will change: you will no longer have ANY tolerance for abuse, mis-treatment or boundary crossings--but the men who are craving a healthy relationship with the feminine will be drawn to you like honey. 

The Solution to Valentine's Day Woes: Becoming the Femme Vitale

The Solution to Valentine's Day Woes: Becoming the Femme Vitale

In all of nature, the female of the species requires her mate to compete for her, to work for her, to show off for her—and then she coolly chooses the male who most suits her fancy and her delight....

Betsy Prioleau, says,” [seductresses] strike terror into the insecure male heart…yet paradoxically seductresses are often the best thing to happen to a man. Contrary to fable, they’re usually femme vitales who put air in a man’s tank, conferring growth, creativity, happiness, and authentic masculinity” (Seductresses: Women Who Ravished the World and their Lost Art of Love, p. 2). When a man courageously faces his fears of engulfment and embraces the seductress, he will discover his own kingship, warrior, lover and sage within himself. 

Healing from Divorce: Recovering the Wild Woman

Healing from Divorce: Recovering the Wild Woman

Recovering the wild woman archetype is essential to healing from a painful divorce or break-up. But most have no idea who that figure is. She is hidden beneath the extremes of both the perfect good girl and the out of control bimbo. Neither way will heal you. But finding your wild nature will transform everything.

Is your man unavailable?

Is your man unavailable?

Last week, I shared with you ladies that the way to get what you want with your man is to change your approach—namely, to get down to the heart, your heart, and then share that instead of criticism. The male nervous system is sensitive to female fear because of our early years fighting lions in the wild.

 

 But I also shared that some men will ridicule, reject, or otherwise become hostile even when you share your heart. The only way to find out if he is able to respond in a healthy way is to put your heart out on the line—knowing that you are strong enough to handle however he responds.  Paradoxically, the woman who will have his heart forever is the one who knows she can walk away when her heart is not cherished or adored. 

 

But about walking away: most of the time that just means walking away for the moment.  Get yourself calm—self soothe—take a breather. Go for a walk.  Good people are not always able to respond kindly—walking away for good should never be a decision that is made when you are in the middle of a fight/flight reaction.  In another post I’ll share how to know when it’s over-over. Because there are definitely times when breaking up is simply a dramatic re-enactment of some earlier trauma that will inevitably repeat itself with the next person you meet. And other times when not breaking up is a re-enactment, too. Deep breaths my lovelies!

"To The Bone" Review

"To The Bone" Review

“To The Bone”   

 

There is nothing new about the depiction of mental illness through film or television.  “Mental illness” is a part of the human condition.  The history of any person’s individual struggle with mental illness is as varied and complex as our fingerprints.

 

Anorexia, a subset of eating disorders, is no exception.

 

The film “To The Bone” featuring Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves, depicts one young woman’s struggle with anorexia and one doctor’s unconventional approach to treatment.

 

First, let me play amateur film critic: I was disappointed in the lack of depth and artistry.  The content provides any writer or artist a rich palette of emotions, relationships, Self, and healing practices to draw from—but it fell flat for me—surface level. In many ways, the film felt anorexic—starved of deep feeling. I was hungry for more.

 

Other people’s critique of the film is that it re-enforces dangerous stereotypes of what an anorexic “looks like.” I concur.  There is a popular image of the bony, attractive, and sullen Caucasian female that most people imagine when they think of an “anorexic.” Most clients I have treated, even the ones who are entering into ketosis (when the kidneys begin failing) or brady-chardia (dangerously low heart rate), wouldn’t be recognizable by any of these outward measures. Sometimes, they are the “most attractive” person in the room. This is especially true here in Orange County, CA—where the practices of “eating clean” and exercise are part of the rituals of the new religious paradigm—the Religion of Thinness (Michelle Lelwica). I saw anex-client of mine the other day at a concert—she is stunning and does not appear “bony”—she often models for high fashion photography spreads.  Her struggle in therapy was her fear that if she began to eat what her body wanted, her body would likely change. She was in quite a catch-22 when it came to letting go of her eating disorder.  It’s never about food.

 

One thing the film gets right: it is very educational.  It demonstrates the basics of eating disorder behaviors—from rituals at the table, eating strange foods, exercise compulsion, and the absolute terror of eating.  Most family members that I have worked with are genuinely confused about what is going on and often overlook behaviors simply because they don’t know what to look for. They are lost.

 

The doctor’s approach to treatment was beneficial—he did not use the conventional “meal plan” approach. He gave patients total control over their food intake but gave consequences for not reaching weight goals. A critique I have of most eating disorder treatment centers is that they feel very controlling.  Unwittingly, most centers re-create a negative interaction between client and food by “punishing” certain behaviors and rewarding others—specifically at the table.  Most centers are not psycho-dynamically oriented; they do not see that their approach re-enforces the problematic schema in the patient’s mind.  Conversely, I have found that a warm, connected, attachment oriented approach to most ED clients is highly beneficial.  A calm, non-judgmental attitude does wonders for the highly anxious client.  When the treatment provider stops being anxious about the client’s eating disorder, the client can begin to get curious about their behaviors and sometimes symptoms abate spontaneously. The trouble is that this process happens on the clients’ timeline—not the therapists’ or the family’s. I have had many a family member terminate treatment or demand treatment to be different because it’s not “happening fast enough” so therefore, something must be wrong. But as we saw in the film, Ellen only got better when she decided to get better.  This is usually because at the heart of an eating disorder is the assertion that “my body is mine.”

 

I would have loved to have this theme explored more in the film—it was touched on briefly by Luke, when he asked Ellen if she was ever “touched wrong.” In my experience, even if a client was never sexually abused, most of my female clients have internalized the patriarchal attitude towards the feminine—which is to diminish its existence—to control it—to subdue it—to minimize its wildness—and, her sexuality.  The “mother/whore” complex is thriving. I see it everyday in my practice.

 

The history of Western civilization for the past two thousand years has been vicious towards the female body because of its association with sex, blood, and childbirth. It is connected to nature and Her ways and cannot be thwarted or controlled.  The female body changes with every week, every month, every year—it has many moods and seasons—and is constantly in flux. The female body has been maligned for its ever-changing ways. The body—both male and female—has been subject to Hellenistic dualism and has suffered the consequences of elevating the “mind” over the body.

 

Fortunately, thanks to science and an evolving theological landscape, Western thought is moving towards a synchrony of mind and body—those of us that study the body and mind are now saying it is more accurate to say we have a body/mind—because the neural networks that extend throughout the body, transmit messages to the brain. Most of our neurotransmitters are made in the gut—which is why when we are “emotional.” our ability to eat normally is impaired.

 

There was a scene that brought me to tears. The scene captured the complex and at times uncomfortable aspects of treatment: the scene where Ellen’s mother asks if she would like to be bottle fed. Initially, Ellen bristles—but then softens at her mother’s offering. Her mother cradles her twenty year old daughter like an infant and begins to feed her. And Ellen receives nourishment from her mother.  After this scene, Ellen decides to return to treatment. Although the movie depicted this important psychological move too swiftly for reality, it demonstrated a key principle: which is that we learn how to care for ourselves by the way others care for us.  Ellen decided to begin feeding herself after being fed. It really is that simple.

New Video on Boundaries!

New Video on Boundaries!

Check out my Facebook page for my newest video on boundaries! https://www.facebook.com/Brooke.Bergman111

Losing Jewelry and Becoming Beautiful

Losing Jewelry and Becoming Beautiful

I became more beautiful as I began to honor the truth of who I was. As I settled into the tenderness of my grief, the fierceness of my rage, the excitement of my hope, the audacity of my courage, and the preciousness of my love, my heart could more clearly be seen by those around me--and hearts--both yours and mine--are INHERENTLY beautiful and magnetic.

Divorce

Divorce

Spiritual Awakenings

#10—Nurture your Connections: How to have Positive Body Image (Continued)

#10—Nurture your Connections: How to have Positive Body Image (Continued)

“A healthy woman is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving. Yet, separation from the wildish nature causes a woman’s personality to become meager, thin, ghostly…we are not meant to be puny with frail hair and inability to leap up, inability to chase, to birth, to create life. When women’s lives are in stasis, ennui, it is always time for the wildish woman to emerge.”
 –Clarissa Pinkola Estes

If you hate your body, it is because you are disconnected from your natural state. You have forgotten (or never learned) how to connect in a way that is life-giving. Women who feel connected to their tribe do not consider the size of their dress to be a problem. It is only when she feels worried about being loved or cared for that she begins to think about these things. 

Embrace your natural role as a connector, a nurturer, and a lover. Nurture the people around you and your relationship with God. It is said that "God is Love." Turn your mind towards the great Lover. Marianne Williamson talks about love like this, "love is energy. It's not something we can perceive with our physical senses, but people can usually tell you when they feel it and when they don't...fear is to love as darkness is to light." (Return to Love, p. 21). When we meditate on love instead of fear, then we can move forward in loving those around us. Loving thoughts are the foundation on which healthy relationships and communities are built. Love is a balance of giving and receiving.

Love yourself. I am always surprised by how difficult this is for women. They will tell me, "it feels selfish." Unless you are nurturing your relationship with yourself, you will be giving to others from an empty well.  Become your own best lover. How can you teach someone else how to love you if you don't know how to love yourself? Drink in the beauty of your curves. Your creative power.  Your strength. Buy yourself flowers. Buy yourself silky lingerie. Go on the trip you've always wanted to go on. Speak kindly to yourself. 

Love your children. Love is not planning the perfect cupcakes for their birthday party because you are afraid you will be judged for not having perfect cupcakes. Just stop and look at them. Drink in the deliciousness of their sparkly eyes, marvel the transformation from pooping loaves of bread to fast, spunky, sassy creatures that make your head spin.  How often do they say, “watch me! Watch me!” It is so hard to “just” watch. We are constantly pulled into the how-to lists and to-do lists and all that is always undone. The wild wolf mama has no concern about appearances and does not use her children for her own ego. She is concerned about her children's survival when she is gone. 

Love your female friends--your sisters. Form deep bonds that are forged from the fires. Talk late into the night about anything and everything. Dance with them. Hug them. Text them simple emoticons that let them know you are thinking about them. Do not compete or compare with the beautiful feminine soul that calls you her friend.  Compliment each other without reserve. Delightedly exclaim how beautiful she is--even, and especially when she is falling apart. The wild woman knows she needs her sisters and never tears them down. 

Love your brothers. Don’t be afraid to accept them as friends and partners on this journey of life. They want to stand by you, protect you, and help you. For too long men and women have been adversaries. And it’s true—I know—we have all been hurt by mean men at some point in our lifetime as women. But shutting them out (as a gender) only perpetuates the problem. I’m not saying be nice to mean people. No. The wild woman always growls when her territory is being invaded or members of her pack are being threatened.  Re-new the idea of a deep friendship with men.

Love your lover. He* longs to be wild just like you.  Do not get in his way or try to tame him. Because of our fear, we have not honored their desire to protect, to serve and to fight for and with us.  We have pushed men away. Receive from him. Let him rove like you want to rove. Open your heart to him. Believe that he wants to love you. Reward him with your affections without fear. Feel the euphoria of his arms around you; surrender to the feelings. When you do, you will discover the heart of a warrior. 

If you do these things, you will feel the bliss of your life.  You will forget about the size of your jeans. Let love fill you up.

(Wolf art by Travis Parr--a top sheet for Icelantic Ski company. For more of his work please visit  www.parrstudios.net and www.icelanticskis.com).

*I speak from a heterosexual perspective, only because I am heterosexual and I am most comfortable speaking from that orientation; however, I believe these ideas can be interchangeable—namely, the issue of trying to “control” our mates. 

 

 

Grace

Grace

Free yourself from comparison with grace

Beauty, Pole Dancing, and Re-claiming the Feminine

Beauty, Pole Dancing, and Re-claiming the Feminine

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

 

Today I'm sharing one of the ways I have personally learned to love my body--a feminine movement practice that helps me tap into the ancient wisdom of the goddess. This movement has informed my strong statements in my previous blog post about loving your body as she is--if your body is meant to change, she will do so only when you begin to honor her and the story of your life. She does not respond well to attempts to control or shame her (this is why diets always fail). S factor is not *just* about pole dancing, it is about reclaiming the sacredness and the sovereignty of the feminine body. 

For the first of the year, S Factor has done a campaign titled, “Real Bodies of S”—showcasing all the different bodies that come to express themselves in the studio walls.  This campaign visually expresses what I want to convey—unconditional love of your body. We are inundated with images of photo-shopped, young, “perfect” bodies every day. The research about this effect on our self-esteem is stunning (when western media is introduced to cultures that were previously untouched, eating disorders and other serious body image problems develop in the girls).  We are told that to be active, beautiful, or sexy, we must look a certain way or be a certain size.  I have learned—through this movement practice and my work as a therapist—that your beauty comes from expressing your deepest truth, your real Self. When you step into the truth of who you are, you are captivating.

For more on what I had to say, read here: https://sfactor.com/blog/