March 2022

Neuroplasticity, boundaries, and the body

In a multiple-slide post on my Instagram feed, I talked about neuroplasticity, the science of change (and, um, how things can stay the same) in a 10-frame post. But that doesn’t lend itself well to this format, so here’s the text for you. Neuroplasticity refers to the role of the brain and nervous system (which includes the autonomic + enteric nervous systems) in helping create change. In this post, I’d like to apply that very cool science to the art + practice of setting good interpersonal + intrapersonal boundaries. Emerging research suggests that we can target a behavior we’d like to strengthen (or extinguish) by focusing not just on the practice itself, but on the prelude and postlude that precede and follow it. This helps recruit our attentional centers to pay attention. It supercharges our motivational system. And it deepens the relationship we have with the behavior we want to …

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Empathic Differentiation Practice

This practice, the Empathic Differentiation Exercise, is the icing on the cake of boundary practices. It’s particularly useful for empaths and highly-sensitive people. It is most effective when you’ve just had an experience of emotional contagion—when you’ve been “infected” by someone else’s emotions and can’t figure out how you feel or what your needs are (a common happening for empaths, as I can attest). This practice depends on doing regular Embodied Check-Ins (directly below) so you know the topography of your own emotions: where they show up in your body, the range of “forms” they can take, and how intense or invasive they feel. Then, when you’ve had a potentially contagious encounter with someone, do the Embodied Check-In.   You already know what it feels like when your own emotions are present in your body, and where they are present. (This isn’t to say that what’s really yours always presents …

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On Russia’s Genocide of the Ukrainian People

When my mother was just 7 years old, Hitler began World War II by invading Poland, aided by the Russians. Soviet forces came in the middle of the night, took her family from their home, and placed them on cattle cars in a long train to Siberia. They took hundreds of thousands of people; many died of cold and illness on the way, and still more in Siberia. My mother and her family spent two years as prisoners of war in a Soviet internment camp. The Russian soldiers were brutal. I am the eldest of three. My entire life, I’ve had a visceral, irrational, mystifying, embarrassing fear of running out of food despite always having enough to eat. During Covid, we skyped with my aunt, who is 90. She too was the eldest of three, with my Mom and a younger sister. She told us the fear of going hungry made …

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