Give Yourself Permission To Imagine More Love In Your Life

If you are uncomfortable today because you’ve been hurt, you aren’t alone. Often times, the day-to-day steps that led to you feeling hurt in your relationship were subtle enough that maybe you didn’t even notice them. Now, you wonder how to re-ignite the passion in your marriage. You want to let go of the pain of the past that keeps you from fully embracing love today. You know you deserve more, but something inside of you or something about him keeps  you from truly achieving the happiness you always wanted. The answer lies in turning your joyful GPS system back on.

Today I’d like to get you thinking about that process and how to start believing again. It starts with looking at what happened as that ended up with you letting go of what you know you want and deserve. Let me begin with an example.

If you read this post, you know that my tiny 7 year old daughter believed she could ride rodeo bulls.

To be honest, I knew that belief would pass since I was quite steeped in the the practical, sensible, day-to-day duties of “real life.” I was mired in the details of what we should have for dinner, when I would get the laundry done, how much homework my kids needed to do on a given day, whether I will get to work on time, and (most stressful) how to appease a difficult spouse. I did not have time for dreams that distracted me from the practicalities of surviving on a daily basis. Maybe you understand this struggle because it’s the life you’re living right now?

Finding the answers to how to get your dreams back can be so difficult because other things take priority. But here’s the question: When will you decide to take the steps toward living a life is that is more than daily drudgery? How can you begin to dream again and create a life that is more in line with what you imagined it to be? How can you get the love you know you deserve?

Turn your Joyful GPS back on

Turn your Joyful GPS back on

It starts with rekindling feelings. Your motivation must come from feeling good, happy, optimistic and excited. How do you do that when you are feeling stuck?

Like this. Think about your childhood dreams. What did you imagine romance would look like?

When you give yourself absolute permission to dream wildly, it will be that much easier for you to find the path to your true happiness. Even if your happiness takes two. One person can influence a relationship toward growth, revitalization and mutual happiness. I’ve seen it many times.

First you have to set your intention in the right direction. Think about the GPS system in your car. To get somewhere, you need to first input your destination. Then, you follow the directions and end up where you wanted to go. What if you make a wrong turn? Simple. You go back, figure out where the mistake happened, strategize next steps and begin the course correction. Fortunately, your GPS system guides you along the way to correct your course.

Directing your life toward the love you deserve is the same process. What you need is to turn on your joyful GPS system.

Ask yourself these question: What are my relationship dreams? How much of my dream is reality today? When did I stop believing in the love I imagined?

Do this. Get a journal. Go back to your childhood. Write down your childhood fantasies. Remember.

Once upon a time, I believed that my dolls were really alive. They knew me. They understood the words I said to them. They interacted with me, albeit silently. And I was the best mother in the world! I took the time to love, to nurture, to play.

My childhood dreams also included me as a prima ballerina. I believed I had the grace and talent to be the most famous ballerina in the universe! I went to see the Nutcracker Suite with my family and knew it was my destiny to be Clara.

Allow yourself the joy of connecting with your dreams

Allow your joyful GPS to reconnect you to the energy of your dreams

I saw Camelot in a live theater production and dreamed of my Sir Lancelot.

All of these things were in my future. I knew my life could follow the feelings of peace, confidence and love I felt as “the best mother in the world,” the feelings of grace, beauty and talent I felt as a “prima ballerina,” and the love, joy and companionship I felt imagining my life as Gwenevere. In spite of my childhood dreams, I eventually learned the “realities:” that prima ballerinas aren’t 6-feet tall, that Camelot is just a land someone made up, and that I would face the heartache of infertility.

Did realities like these cause me to stop dreaming? Does it have to happen that way? Couldn’t I have held on to those dreams and still pursued them tenaciously? Maybe I could have been the first 6-foot tall prima ballerina. Maybe Camelot could have been created in my own life. Maybe infertility blocked my path to biological parenthood, but I needn’t stop my dreams of being a mother.

Here’s what I know. Holding on to the feelings has led me to these realities:

  • I’ve found the love of my life and share a delightfully happy, healthy marriage
  • I’m embracing the role of “grandma” to my step-daughter’s new baby
  • I’m living with grace and beauty as I navigate life’s ups and downs

What is important is this: Your dreams are your GPS. Your GPS will remind you of the peace, confidence and love you need to believed in before the wrong turns led to where you are sitting today.

They can and will guide you to where you truly want to be. Reawaken those joyful hopes and your path toward improving your current situation comes within reach because you believe that this is possible. Once you believe, taking the concrete steps toward change become much, much easier.

Ready to awaken your joyful GPS system that leads you back to the love you deserve? Work with Tamara to grab the healthy love you truly deserve. Click “schedule” below to see available times for your free 30 minute consultation.


For more of Tamara’s work, please visit Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

Tamara’s Sister – Journey of Self-Love

Today I want to do something special and teach a little lesson about self love. I’d like to do that by introducing you to my beautiful sister!

She’s always been beautiful. Now, she’s taking the courage to make her inner beauty shine through.

Le learns self-love

Beautiful Le Before and After

As you can see, she’s been working VERY HARD. And peeling all of those layers off of yourself takes MORE than diet and exercise. She left a pretty unhealthy marriage (of 20 years) in February of 2012 and came back to California. Since she came back, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with her at a heart level and supporting her growth process.

She and I blog about her healing journey. Today, I would love to share an incredible breakthrough she just made as she continues to heal at deeper levels. This week’s Thoughtful Thursday post is going to feature my response – because the response outlines part of my own healing and my suggestions for how she can “go there” too. Enjoy!


Dear Sister,
I have come to the realization that I have spent most of my life trying to be what other people wanted. My mom, my siblings, my partners. Always trying to be what I thought they wanted so that they would love me. That is no one’s fault but my own.
Some good has come of it though. Because of it I love people where they are, for who they are. But the time has come for me to find myself again. I want that smart, sassy, I can do anything and no one is going to stop me, I ain’t afraid of anyone or anything girl back again.
Self love begins when you reclaim your inner child

My Beautiful Sister at age 3

I really need to find myself. Who am I? What do I love in this life?
Yes I love working out and eating healthy, but my motivation to do those things was to attract a man. I can attract men the way I am but I’m still not happy with my body. I’m uncomfortable in my skin. I’ve gained 50 pounds and I hate the way I look and feel. That has nothing to do with anyone else. That is genuinely how I feel. My body is not right, right now and I have to take it back. Not to attract men, not because mom tells me I need to, but because I love myself enough to care for my body in a way that says I love you!
It is no one’s responsibility but my own that I have spent the majority of my life trying to be something I’m not so that others will love me. Reality is that people will either love you or they won’t no matter who or what you are. People will either love ME or they won’t no matter who I choose to be. I have no control over other people and how they feel about me. All I can do is be me. The me that is authentically who I am. It feels like I don’t know who that is, but honestly I do.  I outlined it above. The problem is that I don’t stay her when I feel like she isn’t right for other people. When I feel like she will hurt, offend or make others angry. When someone, anyone, tells me she isn’t good enough or right. Yes people really do that!
self love doesn't allow you to walk on eggshells
I need to have my feet firmly cemented in who I am so that I don’t change for anyone or anything unless I decide I want to be different. But I don’t want to be different! I want to be her!
There are very few people in my life that I can be just who I am with. You, my sister, are one of those people. You are safe. But I need to learn to be me even when I don’t feel safe. Until I do, I do not think I will be truly happy. And I will certainly not be ready to let a man into my life.
I hate being alone. That’s part of it too. I’m still discovering what it is I need for myself and what I don’t need. A man is a definite don’t need. Sure I want one. I miss having one. But what good has it done me? Yes I have had blessings and lessons learned through the men I have had in my life. But I have never had a fullness of joy in those relationships because I was constantly trying to be someone I was not. I cannot allow myself to do that again and expect to have a happy, whole, full love life. It is my season to take the time to find that beautiful vibrant 3 year old living deep inside me. Yep 3, really! That is when I left to be someone else. My quest is to get her back!
Self Love lets her play

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

You can read more of Le’s journey at

Thoughtful Thursday: Is Mindfulness Really That Important?

From time to time it is important for you to know why I use the strategies I use while supporting you on your healing journey at Today I would like to give you the back story as it relates to my work here and why I consider mindfulness a key to self-healing.

At the age of 23, I married a man who terrified me. Up until that point in my life, I had always said I wanted to serve a mission for my church when I turned 21. Since I was a young child, I had talked about and looked forward to that mission. It was to be a 18-month journey to an unknown part of the world where I would teach the brand of the gospel espoused by the Mormon Church.

Sitting alone in my bedroom around the time I was 20, I realized that the reason I wanted to go on a mission was that I was fearful of men. To my logic, I had decided that I could avoid getting married by choosing a mission instead. The thought that I could just – do neither one – didn’t even occur to me. (This thinking was a product of being raised in a religious culture where marrying young and having children is the preferred path for women. The second acceptable alternative was going on a mission.)

My young marriage was absent a mindfulness practice

I married young without being mindful of what I was doing

If I was going on a mission simply because I was afraid of men, did it make sense for me to continue with the plan for the mission? As a Mormon young adult, my logic said no. Looking back, I shake my head at my black-and-white thinking, though because the next “logical” conclusion I drew was: “If I am afraid of men, I had better confront that fear by getting married instead of going on a mission.”

The time that passed between the day I made the decision to get married until the day I married the man who terrified me, was almost exactly two years. During that time, I remained oblivious to the point behind my friends’ jabs at my drive to get married for the sake of getting married. I remained unconscious of the depth of my fears and I remained disconnected from myself. I remained fully absorbed in the impersonal edicts imposed by my church without reference to the potential negative impact that my actions would have on my well being or on my future.

Over the next two decades, I slowly woke up. That waking up process could not have happened without developing a mindful practice. My decision to practice mindfulness which, ultimately led to my deepest healing, began one morning when I was home alone after I had been married a year or two.

I noticed something about my behavior that really bothered me. I observed that I could not tolerate silence. Each time I found myself alone I would turn on the television or the radio. We had two televisions in our home and I was so driven by an unconscious desire to avoid my inner noise that I had to keep both televisions on. All. The. Time. That way, whether I was upstairs or downstairs, I could avoid silence wherever I was in the house. Getting ready for my day was always prolonged by the need to hear what was coming “next” after commercial breaks. It was “junk” T.V., but I paid attention to it like my life depended on it! I even arrived late at work because I couldn’t silence the television. In my car, I used the radio. I listened to talk radio and things that didn’t really interest me, just to keep the noise on the outside of me louder than the noise within me.

As soon as I noticed this pattern, my behavior troubled me. I was also curious. Why did I need the television and radio noise to be okay?

So, I turned them off.

Thus began my healing journey using mindfulness as my primary tool. No one had taught me about mindfulness. I just wanted to understand myself and my behaviors. So I started watching . . . .

What I noticed was that I had a tremendous amount of pain. My thoughts were negative. I was constantly fearful. New situations felt so much like painful past situations that I was flooded with a constant barrage of discomfort from inside my body.

As I continued to watch what was going on inside of me, I started paying attention to what bothered me in my marriage and in my relationships outside of my marriage. I started paying attention to how I behaved toward myself. I watched myself with compassion and curiosity, as much as I knew how. I understood that if I wanted to do better, I had to understand my own inner world.

Yes, it was scary. But the alternative was scarier. I was in an unhappy marriage that I regretted as soon as I came home from the honeymoon. I was making myself bleed on a regular basis. I was overeating. I battled anxiety and depression.

I did not understand how much my life would change when I started the journey by turning the television off, but I did know that I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be happy.

Self-healing requires mindfulness

Self-healing requires mindfulness

And so the work of reclaiming my life and healing myself began. Bit by bit, I observed my inner workings. I developed self-healing solutions that seemed to help with the problems I uncovered. I started to inspect the connections between my current behaviors and hurts from my past. I started to ask myself about the logic of those behaviors in real time. I started shifting my attention toward what I believed was an organic potential for healing.

I continued this way until I got stuck. My marriage was emotionally abusive and my process of self-healing could only go so far within that relationship. After about 11 years of doing my work by myself, I finally sought out a therapist. My complaint: “I hate the way I treat myself.” I could not seem to get under my baseline terrible self-esteem. The real work of extracting myself from my marriage and from ideas and philosophies imposed on me by others began but didn’t end in that therapist’s office. This therapist helped me unlock ideas that I didn’t even know were troublesome. It was if I was fighting inside a paper bag without realizing that I needed to punch my way out of it!

I worked with that therapist for about a year. At the end of my work, I felt better. I had left my abusive marriage. I was ready for the next steps. I never got stuck with not knowing how to proceed in my growth again. My growth process continued.

I continued the practice of noticing when I felt unhappy or when my life wasn’t moving in the right direction. I continued to mindfully watch what was happening inside of me. I continued to listen to the answers that came from inside. I continued to trust my body’s natural ability to heal my mind based on my process of focusing and taking nurturing steps.

I used that process to continue until I accomplished these things:

  • Yes, I married again – and the marriage was abusive – spiritually, mentally and physically. But my process helped me end that marriage within 6 years instead of taking 14 years (like my first marriage). The ending of that marriage also led to my awareness that I needed to take the next step and
  • I left the Mormon church – which had been the cause of so many self-limiting beliefs for me.
  • I replaced self-harm with self-nurturing behaviors.
  • I have learned to replace caustic internal noise with healing, self-soothing, self-empowering internal dialogue.
  • I reduced my weight by about 50 pounds and have disconnected myself from emotional eating patterns.
  • I married a man who is safe and nurturing. I participate in a relationship where interdependence replaces coercion, control and self-denial. I maintain my independence within the boundaries of this healthy relationship. We support each others’ dreams and personal growth. We provide each other freedom and connection.
  • I have moved to a new community, developed new friends and surrounded myself with people who support positive living.
  • I have advanced in my (day job) career into a management position beyond what I would have believed I could have. I support my staff with compassion and kindness. They are thriving and doing amazing work.
  • I have worked through self-limiting beliefs that would stop me from living up to my full potential.

All of this began with the decision to turn off the television and be mindful in my focus on my internal world. This is a process that has taken me almost 3 decades for me to master. During the last 2 decades, my personal growth process has been enhanced by my training and experience as a mental health therapist. It has taken me a lot of time to develop and perfect the strategies I teach.

I share the process with you because I know it works and I want to save you time. 🙂 Begin with mindful practices I share with you on this blog. Take in the information I give you. Trust your body to help you heal your mind and soul. You got this!

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

Black Lives Matter – One White Woman’s Response

Last week I woke up early in the morning to work on this project and as I did a quick scroll through my Face Book feeds, I discovered posts about

Philando Castile

Philando Castile

Alton Sterling

Alton Sterling

Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Video documentation showing the killings of these two black men caused a response in me at once familiar and horrifyingly eye-opening. I am a white woman who has studied African American Studies in college. I learned about racism in school and have attempted to root any racist attitudes from my own soul. But I was not prepared for what I saw. It brought up old emotions for me. If I might indulge, please allow me to explain . . .

On September 11, 2001, I was minding my own business at home, making my bed when I got a phone call. The person on the other side told me to turn the television on. I turned it on and in disbelief, watched the live feed of the second tower falling. Soon, coverage began of other flights crashing.

This one is the most significant for me.

Racism attacks the Pentagon

The attack that took my aunt from me. This image is forever in my head.

Racism attacks the pentagon

My aunt’s office the next day.

The  attacks on America on 9/11 were personal to me because I lost my favorite aunt that day. I had lived with her and her husband, Floyd, in Germany for 5 months while they worked and I looked after their four children. My aunt Rhonda was directly hit by the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She was completely evaporated. Fragments of her office mates were found. She vanished. (I just discovered this post and I’m grateful to have stories that I find from time to time that keep Rhonda’s memory alive.)

When I saw those images blazed across the television screen of the wreckage at the Pentagon, I intuitively knew she was gone. My grief began just minutes later when a family member confirmed that no one had seen her. They were still looking.

For days, weeks and years after the attack my grief and trauma lingered. I was angry. I felt fear. For a while I believed that since the terrorists found my aunt, they could be flying any random plane from the sky and directly hit me. I felt anxiety about doing business with anyone who appeared to be from the Middle East. I thought everyone wanted to hurt me because they had killed her.

Over time, I was able to identify patterns of thinking that helped me to heal. I realized that the attack on my aunt became personal to me, even though it was not. Over time, I concluded that it wasn’t personal. The terrorists might have wanted to instill fear in me, but they don’t know me personally. They weren’t attacking me. It was an accident that my aunt was at work that day. It was dumb luck that the attackers just happened to annihilate her with the nose of a jet plane. With time, I was able to settle into the reality that it is unlikely that I will be personally attacked or have the loss of someone I love based on another terrorist attack.

But there were more “complications” of my healing process. Within less than a year, people here on the West Coast (none of whom had suffered a loss on 9/11) thought it wasn’t “too soon” to begin telling 9/11 jokes. These jokes fueled my anger and prolonged my grief. Never is too soon to make jokes about public tragedies.

The terrorist attacks shook me out of my naive “bliss”: believing the world is basically a safe, happy place.

Recent events continue to change my views of the world.

The killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling brought all of the feelings related to my aunt’s death back for me. And more.

Unlike my experience with the loss of my aunt, black people are not able to soothe themselves with knowledge that they can separate from the trauma. I will not likely interact with another terrorist again. They cannot hope for the same in our current circumstance.

I wonder what it would feel like to know there were terrorists living next door to me? I try to imagine what it would be like to know that terrorists were given legal authority to stop me, question me, attack me. I wonder what it would have been like to hear, after investigation, that the annihilation of my aunt with the nose of a plane was “justifiable force”?

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to know that my loved ones face the world daily with the reality that this could happen to them. It fills my soul with grief and pain for my sisters who have husbands and children with dark skin. That their skin color is enough to make them a target. It’s terrifying.

Philando and Alton were killed by police. Their families will have to deal with police throughout the rest of their lives. Police live and work in their communities. How can families and communities heal with the living reality that their lives could change with the twitch of a finger? How can they heal when the only difference between a respectful, appropriate police officer who serves and protects and a terrorist is the unseen attitudes in a stranger’s heart?

What about those inevitable jokes that will come because the always do? People who tell racist jokes don’t think they are hurting anyone. Believe me, those cause deep injury and widen the divide that should be narrowed with love and understanding. If you are not a person of color, please understand that hurtful, ignorant words have the power to hurt beyond what you can comprehend based on the color of your skin.

I must confess that I’m fairly naive about life, in general. I’m even more aware of my naivete about racism in America today.

I am safe from terrorism, but black families live with the daily reality that they could walk into a terrifying experience based on their skin color. Every. single. day.

I cannot fathom the pain. Living daily with the dangers related to this kind of potential loss requires a strength and courage that I’m not sure I could gather. I hate that black families have to.

I stay curled in fear for the people I care for. I have been relatively silent. For me, the gravity of the situation and the weight of awareness that there is such real hatred being acted out in violence against people because of the color of their skin still has me shocked. I feel the weight of history and am overwhelmed that there has been far, far too little change. It sits with me like a weight on my chest. I am overwhelmed and, yes, fearful. I can’t imagine the fear I would feel about going outside or allowing my men and children to do so.

The shootings are causing a reality shift. Some will ignore and move on as if nothing happened. Some will immediately activate. Some, like me, need time to absorb the shock and process a new reality. To my black friends, sisters and brothers: I know the reality has existed your whole life. I’ve known that on an intellectual level for a long time.

This is different.

It is settling into my body in new sensations of grief, disbelief and pain. New sensations that require me to sit with them. Yes, in silence. But not inactive. It’s an internal shift required before activation can take place. In my silence, my question in my head has been: “What can I do?” This unveiling of your reality via the killings of Philando and Alton is unsettling and disturbing. And shocking.

My prayer is for change. I hope to join hands in love to do what I can to be part of the solution although, I don’t know how to do that yet.

Yesterday I spoke with someone I care for at work about her participation in a meeting of Black Lives Matter over the weekend. I shared my concern. I expressed my interest in hearing the strategic planning and potential solutions. She shared her disappointment with me that it was “only a march.” No strategic plan. Simply a gathering. She was hoping for more than that. So, in fact, was I.

I know that we have to start somewhere. I think moving to Black Owned Banks is a fantastic beginning. I think we need so much more. Conversations make change. I am just one white woman. But I am willing to keep talking. Racist systems of belief infused within a social structure that keeps harming people over and over again is not okay. We must make change.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 –

Turning A Corner & Walking a Fine Line

Although my last post published just a few days ago, it has been a year since that post was written. At the time of this writing, it has been a year since I left my blog and podcast in search of deeper healing for myself. By the time this publishes, it will have been a year and a half.

I have learned a lot in that time. It is in the act of re-building this blog and podcast that my former self held up a mirror for me today. Now I can see what happened. This vision comes into focus even clearer because a physical cause for many of my symptoms has been discovered and corrected.

I can see that in search of my own healing and in an effort to authenticate my victim experience through creative expression, my victim/helpless emotions amplified themselves to the point that I could no longer see how I could continue this work. I had gone so far down the rabbit hole that I couldn’t see light.

I was wrong. I needed time and space to get correct perspective.

self reflection

With a new perspective (based on the relief of physical symptoms that have troubled me for a lifetime) I understand a few things differently.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned after a year’s hiatus and a heart procedure:

– The appropriate time for digging deeply into difficult feelings is when those feelings lead to behaviors that don’t serve you well in your life. Many therapists dig into old trauma with clients thinking that telling the story and getting the emotions out will lead to relief. While that can offer the temporary solution of “unloading a burden,” dwelling on those emotions can swallow a person whole. Why not just wait for the body to tell you when it is time to uncover the mystery of the feelings behind actions or words that aren’t what you wish they would be?

– Just because uncomfortable feelings reveal themselves, there is no injunction to do anything with or about them. Know they’re there. Don’t ignore. But a feeling isn’t a commandment. Not everything we feel has to be expressed. Again. Expression for the mere sake of expression can lead to overwhelm: like a sea of ocean waves that are exhausting and serve little purpose besides sucking life out of the person who chooses to swim in water that is too deep.

Saying this, I had written two “performance pieces” that I’ll post in written form here. They expressed deep, poignant emotions that moved the audience. And brought the observation that I was “still a victim.” I thought the woman who told me “when you stop being a victim” had missed the point. But, maybe not. Shortly after that observation I shut down my blog. And quit the work. I believed it was too Spiritually draining. Even though I felt a soul calling that has nagged at me – even over the past year – while I tried to make sense of things.

While allowing myself to “delve deeply” for the sake of connecting with my blog followers and other survivors of trauma I also created an emotional tidal wave that I believed I could only escape through quitting.

The problem wasn’t the work. The problem was that I lost sight of the delicate balance between experiencing feelings and moderating them so that they don’t take over my life. Honest mistake. Makes me ever more empathetic for anyone who sits with a therapist that believes that expression of feelings is a panacea.  Interestingly, the others I’m working with (at the 2bsisters blog) shared the same experience: burn-out from too much focus on describing the victim experience.

self reflection human

It has its place. But, after D.V. there is a time when it is appropriate to turn the corner. Once you are safe and know you are capable of staying safe and healthy, the focus on feelings should be more casual – a background process informing your decisions in the here-and-now. Staying in the feelings too long empowers the victim experience to direct your life as a silent puppeteer.

The healing process requires balance between paying attention to and dealing with the feelings and healthy distraction using activities that move your toward a stronger healthier you.

In this episode Tamara Bess LMFT discusses when delving into feelings is a useful practice and when it isn’t. She describes becoming overwhelmed by feelings leading up to the close of the podcast a year ago and the new direction toward self-empowerment for this and future episodes.

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit For a listing of podcast episodes, please visit Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

Does Happiness Come From Within?

Healing and becoming strong from the inside out can be an overwhelming task. Simply defining what that means and why it is important is daunting. Then comes acknowledging and processing the different aspects of being empowered from the inside out. One aspect is happiness. Steve Rose does an excellent job of identifying happiness and raising the possibility that it’s focus may not be what it should be. If we were to adjust our perspective on it, move the focus away from it being a destination and more of companion or by product of a journey, would we be happier with being happy?

This concept brings up an interesting consideration for those who look for someone or something to make them happy. When we are looking for someone to fill a void that we feel we can not personally fill, we become vulnerable to someone else’s agenda to fill that place. If happiness were a byproduct of enjoying the journey of a mission or purpose, would it be easier to recognize if one were off course? If we no longer feel happy, perhaps we need to rethink our destination or the path we are taking to get there? Would that make it easier to recognize if one were in an unhealthy relationship?

This is a well written piece on pondering if happiness is better served from the inside out.

Finding Purpose


With Eastern philosophy currently on trend in the Western personal-development genre, gurus have been popping up everywhere, preaching the idea that happiness comes from within. This perceptual change is usually achieved through detachment from ego and the material world of possessions through meditation or present-centered breathing practices. This ultimately leads to a state of non-striving whereby the practitioner finds happiness by no longer seeking happiness.

Personally, I’ve found many benefits in inner-based practices, particularly those of Eckhart Tolle. Although working on our inner-life can free us from the forms of striving that prevent happiness, we are still stuck with a problem: all forms of striving can’t disappear. If this were the case, our societies would immediately collapse and idleness would ensue. And who really wants to give up all forms of striving? I personally love striving to write better, think of better ideas, lift more at the gym, and become…

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Self-Care, Long-Term PTSD and Empowered Thinking

*Note: Shortly after writing this post, I took a year off from my blog and podcast to focus on improving my emotional, spiritual and physical health. During that time, I had a health-related breakthrough that allows me to return to this work. It is my spiritual journey and my life path and I’m glad to be back. This post remains, without an associated podcast episode, because the process is as important as the end result.


What is victim mentality and how is that different from empowered thinking?

Since the beginning of my participation with the Sisters as a featured guest blogger, they have shared with me that they would like the blog to focus on empowered thinking and how to shift from the “victim mentality.”

A few weeks ago, I participated in a gathering of women and shared some of my writings. They were writings that gave voice to my inner child who had suffered abuse and offered witness to valuable survival strategies that I celebrated as I recognized my own strength and empowerment. At the end of the evening, a woman who offers “healing services” said something to me about when I am “no longer a victim.”

history of victory

“I am not a victim. No matter what I have been through, I’m still here. I have a history of victory.” Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!

Now, let me digress a bit.

For me, having a history of victory involves rooting out deeper and deeper patterns of trauma out of my body. When I discover that something affects me in a negative way, I bring a determination to understand what is happening to me so that I can heal it. My goal is ever unfolding, deeper, longer lasting experiences of joyful living.

For me and for others who experienced abuse from childhood into adulthood and up to the point where escape and healing could begin, tracks get laid deeply in the brain that undermine the search for joy. For me, those tracks in the brain were established and reinforced for 43 years!

For the last 5, I have been on a quest to untangle them and to relieve myself of:

  • Ongoing anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Worrying about what others will think of me
  • Pleasing others to the extent that I hurt myself in the process
  • Not saying what I need
  • Not taking care of myself on the “little things”
  • Aches and pains that I feared were related to chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
  • Fear

Typically, to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there has to be a discrete event or series of events that lead to flashbacks, avoidance, etc. related to that event. But what if there were so many events over a lifetime that life becomes the trigger?

pensiveThis is when empowered mentality is about digging in. In order to heal it is essential to understand what is causing the symptoms of fear, worry, panic or self-doubt. Positive self-statements aren’t enough. What is required is a correct understanding of the cause and specifically applied corrective, self-supportive beliefs as replacements. This is hard work. And the more trauma a person has experienced, the longer the process of unraveling the trauma beliefs and self-limiting behaviors. Sometimes, that isn’t enough.

Which brings me to the question of self-care. What is it? Do you answer that question by responding with things like “time to myself” or “exercise” or trying to find life balance? How about a harder list?


Self-Care isn’t always easy

What if, in the process of listening deeply to yourself you discover that taking a bubble bath or getting enough sleep or deep breathing exercises aren’t enough?

I have recently discovered that as wonderful as my tools for healing are, they aren’t enough for me. I have a brain that has responded to trauma by acclimating. My brain would have me look at my entire life through a trauma lens. I have found my answer. With this answer, layered over my tools, I am finding greater enjoyment, relaxation and happiness than I have ever experienced before. For me, this requires empowering myself to do whatever I need to do to heal without judgement. With self-love and acceptance.

Giving myself permission to heal at deeper and deeper levels is empowerment.

After taking a 1-year hiatus from this podcast, Tamara has new perspectives about the work, what led her to stop and where her answers were found that led back to this work. In this episode, Tamara describes the journey. It is a transparent process that will illuminate the growth process and help her listeners see that we all have room to grow. Never give up. Life is a process. Growth is the process we participate in to bring our life more value.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2015 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited. Tamara’s current project in her work of raising awareness and advocacy for victims of domestic violence can be found here:

Support: You’re A Single Parent Not A Mutant Failure

“You didn’t fail. The relationship failed.” The group therapist looked earnestly at a room of somewhat bewildered women.

Huffington Post does a 55 photographic essay on what it means to be a single parent

Huffington Post does a 55 photographic essay on what it means to be a single parent

If one has children, one of the greatest fears is a failed relationship. The idea of being a single parent and baring the full responsibility of not only caring for one’s self, which is daunting enough in our current economy, but clothing, feeding, and sheltering dependent children as well…is daunting. The idea of having to do that without the support of a partner in many cases, is paralyzing. Add to that lack of a family or social support system and it can feel terrifyingly paralyzing. Lack of support is often the defining factor between a good experience or a bad experience as a single parent.

slide_397656_4891638_freeI was about to say, “Nobody grows up saying I want to be a single parent…” Then I stopped myself. True, the majority of the time people find themselves a single parent due to being widowed or making the choice to exit an incompatible, therefore unhealthy, relationship. That said, just like there are those who have elected to never have children, there are those who are perfectly happy with the idea of being a single parent from the jump. Here is why…

According to The Better Health Channel, clinical studies reveal some of the positive effects of single parenting are:

  • A child from a single-parent home who is loved and supported has no more problems than a child from a two-parent home.
  • Whether or not the child uses their free time constructively (for example, reading or playing sports) depends on discipline, family routine and quality time between parent and child – not whether the child has one or two parents living in the house.
  • The child is typically mature and responsible.
  • The parent is typically self-reliant and confident.
  • The relationship between parent and child is close.
  • Single fathers are more likely to use positive parenting techniques than married fathers.
  • Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles than two-parent families.
  • Single parents tend to rely on positive problem-solving strategies rather than punishment or discipline when faced with difficult child behaviours.

While I am not one of the brave forward thinking single parents pioneering the option by initial choice, I have found great joy, freedom, and fulfillment in single parenting:

  • My bed, my choice. I sleep on what seems to be three inches of a king size bed each night. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would have never guessed that I would enjoy the closeness I share with my kids as I do sleeping with them at night. They feel safe, loved, and nurtured in spite of missing time with me during working hours. I have just as many stories of elbows and knees in my face, a horizontal sleeping five year old, and blanket steeling as my married friends. Also, it’s a fantastic reason to give myself permission to decline asking anyone “back to my place”.
  • My house. My rules. While yes, there are rules that are mutually respected between the two homes, my house, my rules. I do not have to concern myself with going into round 10 of the same argument about the same petty disagreement on parenting style. I don’t have to worry about the “man of the house” being too hard on the kids for any reason let alone when it’s not warranted. Conversely, I don’t have to concern myself on permissiveness that makes it difficult to parent. I do not parent the girls on their dad’s parenting time. Their dad does not parent the girls on my parenting time undermining my authority. The only exception is in light of a major infraction.
  • My mini staycation. I was raised in an extremely family oriented religion. Mothers had their role and fathers had their role. The family unit did not include a clause for single parenting. In my mind, until my children turned 18, I am their mother 24/7. Personal time is for the weak. That was my mythology. Thank goodness that got trashed. Now, every other week I get a break. I am not a scrambling crazy person to make it to their events because I have time to pace myself to get there. I actually have time to decompress, take a long bath, read a book, and feel like a human adult again…dare I say a woman. I actually have time to shave my legs. By the time I start to really miss my girls because enough time has gone by I have forgotten about their bickering…they’re back. Perfect timing.
  • I have a social life. It’s not grand mind you but, again, a perk to “time off” is being able to meet and bond with friends. I have time to pursue personal interests, which makes me a more complete person. My friends and I are able to hold adult conversations, unedited, that don’t always revolve around our children. The rotation actually has an opportunity to orbit around our musings. As a complete person I am able to be a better role model of an independent adult for my children.
  • I don’t need a relationship to be happy. Again, I get to set the example that adult happiness does not revolve around searching out and finding your soul mate. It has more to do with searching out and finding one’s self. If I choose to share that with someone on a committed long-term basis, it is only because I want to. It isn’t because I feel I need someone to make my “fairytale” complete. Relationships are not supposed to be about co-dependence. They are about supporting each others independence through life.
  • Independence. I make the bacon, fry it up, and serve it. If the leg of the table needs tightening, I tighten it. If the light fixture needs to be installed (God forbid the lightbulb be changed), I install it. Better still, I teach my children right along side me. Last time I got a flat, I waited for no one, changed it myself. I am not saying that I wouldn’t let someone help out if they offered but, I am not helpless either. Nor are my children and their strong self-esteem and boundaries reflect it.
  • On good terms. My children do not feel compelled to “choose sides”. Their father and I are not obligated to make an incompatible relationship…compatible. I get to enjoy him for the attributes that attracted me to him to begin with. He is funny, down to earth, good natured, loves dogs, and genuinely loves his kids. Right about the time I start to witness the reasons that I would walk past him in the hallway gritting my teeth…wouldn’t you know the event is over. Everybody wins. My children do not have to live with the silent treatment as we try to get along for their sake. Instead, they get to see two grown adults enjoy each others company, in a mature way, in spite of their differences. The kids get to feel loved from both parents.

slide_397656_4892338_freeOur society is not as supportive of parenting, let alone single parenting, as it should be. Agreed. But, as the needs of society are changing so is the support system. If you are in an unhealthy relationship, trying to make it work out of fear of being a single parent, reconsider your fear. There can be many more rewards than you realize only because you haven’t taken the opportunity to explore the alternative. As difficult and challenging as single parenting can be, I am happier than I have ever been in my history of relationships.


Live your life. Don’t just survive it.











Better Health Channel:

Huffington Post:

Samakow, Jessica. “55 Personal Photos That Capture Both The Challenges And The Joy Of Single Motherhood.” The Huffington Post., 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <;.

Turning My Sensuality On

The average person often has difficulty embracing their sexuality on a regular basis. Add to that a traumatic experience and it is twice as hard. But, it is a necessary part of empowerment and self-esteem. For one reason or another, and often supported by religions and social beliefs, we deny ourselves an essential part of personal power. Here is one way to dial back in…re-connect.

Stories From the Belly

Lately, I’ve been feeling disconnected from my own sensuality and needing a way to plug back into that part of myself. I figured what better way to re-spark that inner connection than to take a sensual movement class.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend that I was going because I needed this experience to be just for me. We’ve been living together for a few months now, and while I love him truly, madly, and deeply, I suspect that being with him is the reason that I’ve shut down my connection to my sensuality.

Growing up, I’d internalized the idea that it’s okay to feel sensual and sexual in my body whenever I feel like as long as I’m not in an exclusive relationship. But now that I am in one, those aspects of myself are only “supposed” to be expressed and enjoyed when I’m with my significant other.

I believe that…

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Revelations: Find The Beauty In Who You Are!

If you let someone else define your beauty and self worth, they will. Be brave, don’t just stand in your beauty, acknowledge, and proudly own it.

One of the defining characteristics of victim thinking is looking for self-definition and self-worth from the outside in. One would think that this thinking is relegated only to victims of domestic violence and abuse but, that is just a myth. The truth is, anyone who seeks acknowledgement from outside sources in an effort to define and confirm who they are, is guilty of and aspect of victim thinking. This leaves an individual extremely vulnerable to emotional and psychological manipulation and exploitation.

Not defined by society as beautiful

Not defined by society as beautiful

I love Rick Guidotti’s exploration of what has been socially rejected as beautiful. The rejection of being albino is not a trend, it is something that has persisted for centuries and has been cross cultural. What started out as a whim for the photographer, turned into a mission of discovery and an active stance for the beauty of a person.

The repercussions of being rejected by a society are so deep and profound that it is life changing. Imagine what it would be like to be poked fun at for having a misunderstood characteristic your entire life. One of our most basic needs is love and acceptance. One would think that we would get plenty of that from birth from our parents but, that is not always the case. One can never know why, but parents, who are supposed to love unconditionally, can reject their young on one level or another. Sometimes it just a poor communication that is interpreted as rejection. Either way, rejection takes its toll.

It leaves a person searching and asking why they are not valued. It leaves a person looking for someone to give them value where they feel they have none. Unfortunately, this is the vulnerability. This is where anyone can step in and tell you what your value is and all of the hoops you must jump through to achieve it. This can be a lifetime cycle and endless search with no attainability. Or…

Walked into the photo shoot insecure...walked out proud

Walked into the photo shoot insecure…walked out proud

Like many of the albinos who sat for the photo shoot, one can look within themselves to find their inner beauty and shine on against all odds. Beauty is subjective. We have a specific name for the study of what is beautiful. Aesthetics. Even a light exploration of this philosophical topic reveals that for centuries, all that can be concluded about beauty is a social definition vs an individual preference. Sometimes they overlap.

With such a broad definition and debate, it would be folly to give the power of self-definition to anyone but ourselves. My challenge to anyone who watches TV, looks at magazines, delves into movies, and looks to others to define whether or not they are beautiful is to stop. Read, look, observe, and have the courage to get introspective about what resonates with your personal definition of beauty. Define what you find beautiful about yourself and give it your voice. Stand for it and protect it from those who would wish to make you feel less than. I guarantee it is a worth while adventure.

~ Shannon

Live your life. Don’t just survive it.

For more information on Rick Guidotti’s project: