A Healthy Stepmother . . . soothes about self-soothing. (Self-Soothing series #8)

They say you teach what you need to learn. Well, maybe it’s true. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, we’re in the  middle of the stepfamily stew and it’s taken me a bit to get my perspective back so I can keep on with our series on self-soothing.

As I worked with my own soothing strategies, it occurred to me that it’s so easy to think we’re not doing good or good enough. And that always makes me think of “what is good enough?”

Because of all my pondering on good enough, I created this self-soothing graphic for you and me. The picture below depicts self-soothing as a process, one that you can live on at any point on the continuum and still be self-soothing, except for the freak-out place.

As you read, just notice that at any stage there is something you can do that brings you closer into contact with yourself. Whether it’s just noticing your state or actually doing things that bring change, any step is useful for you.

This is a steady state of upset. Or, it might be it’s your reaction when things go wrong. To be in freak-out is to be in constant arguments and that sick-to-your-stomach pit you get when you lose yourself in the process of a stepfamily. This stage is usually accompanied by guilt and remorse when the freak-out is over and lots of judging of your self as a not-good person.


This is the heart-pounding, jaw clenching state of being that you can’t help but notice. In the middle of the freak-out, we’re unlikely to care what happens next, we feel threatened for whatever reason and we react. It’s in the noticing place that we can step back and be the observer of our reactions. It’s here that we notice that we’d like to do this reaction thing differently and if we do, we’ll feel better. Maybe we can even feel good about being able to notice.

Can Do:
This is the stop and wait part of the process of self-soothing. Or, stop and scan. Stop and breathe. Stop and leave. The stop is the important piece. Stop and let go of the problem. Take a break. Interrupt the spiral down to the freak-out. Stop. Yes, that is important.

Quickly Chooses:
At this stage, you’re adept at interrupting the process and you can quickly identify what is upsetting you and what you need to do to calm. But, it’s still hard to go through all the stages so you get good at grabbing the easiest strategies you’ve practiced. Grab whatever you can and you actively use it. You breathe and walk. You take a nap. You make sure you get lots of rest and eat healthily.

Making the Change:
Here you’re getting even more accustomed to taking tiny breaks and interrupting your usual reactions, all so you can shape them into soothing and not experience the wear-and-tear of the freak-out. Have you noticed how exhausting it is to freak-out? At this stage of the game, you have at least three strategies for soothing that feel good and allow you to keep your sense of self and your bearings.

75% Calm:
Here you have many strategies, you use them when you can and need to and you feel more comfortable popping in and out of what works for you. You feel less guilty when you have a freak-out moment and that’s the main difference between a freak-out moment on this end and one on the other end. You are not riddled by guilt. You can acknowledge your choices and be comfortable, knowing that if you have a freak-out moment, you will not collapse or fall apart. Getting to this stage on the continuum of self-soothing does not mean you’ll never freak out. In fact, no stage of this process is about complete non-freak-out or complete calm.

 . . .

So, the good news? No need to strive for 100%. Who cares. No one else is measuring your performance on this scale. There is also no need for 75% calm every day either. Not possible. Not desirable. Thank goodness, since I realized I’m at the Making the Change and Quickly Choosing stages with occasional nose dives to Noticing as the best I can muster. And now, I’m sharing that out loud with you and feeling good about that.

Good enough? Sure, you’re doing good enough. Wherever you are on the continuum is good enough. And, notice that you’re never in the same place from one day to the next. And that’s normal, too! It’s a process. A self-soothing, freak-out interrupting process.

2 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . soothes about self-soothing. (Self-Soothing series #8)

  1. What great observations and descriptions of the different stages of being able to self soothe! I like your graphic, too. It’s good to hear we don’t have to be at 100%! That didn’t really occur to me, and it is a comforting thought.

    • Not being 100% at anything is a great idea, isn’t it? And, I’m glad I thought of it too. I don’t think I started out that way, but it’s occurred to me lately to back away from the all or nothing. Just do some of it. Some of the time. Not all of it, all of the time. 😉

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