Resourcing: What Does That Even Mean?

Resourcing. This is a word I knew very little about until a few years ago. It was about the time I started to listen to dharma talks from Tara Brach, a Buddhist psychologist, who would often reference these things called “resources”. I just went along with it, not giving it a lot of thought. But the term kept coming up in a lot of her talks, and I was pretty much in the dark. She would say things like, if it gets to be too much, this is a good time to resource. It’s a little embarrassing to think about it now, but if you don’t know, you don’t know, and I definitely did not know.

As I listened to more and more of her talks and the elusive term kept popping up, I began to grasp a hold of what she was referring to. In case you are where I stood, resourcing means, finding something in the moment that will bring you a sense of calm or ease during a difficult wave of emotion or stressful situations. Think of resourcing as a way to self sooth. When times are difficult or stressful, and you just need to get outside and feel the cool breeze, this is resourcing and is also something I was definitely not taught.

Of course, in my family, we drank our resources. Or felt them at the expense of someone else’s well being. This was definitely no bueno and isn’t really a resource at all. One has the potential to lead to substance abuse issues and the other leaves both people feeling as though there has been a giant hole torn through them, empty. And it was all we knew. It would be easy to blame my caregivers for these unhealthy lessons, but what it comes down to is, they didn’t know any better themselves.

If all you’ve ever known of love and acceptance growing up was conditional, when it comes time to teach the next generation how to feel love and belonging, what do you think the lessons are going to be? You have to do some serious work in order to reverse the old lessons of unhealthy and self destructive attitudes towards being in relationship with one another. I don’t blame my caregivers for what I’ve endured. But one thing is for sure, I’m not going to pass it on to the next generation.

Luckily, there are people out there helping others to break these old unhealthy cycles! And one of the most helpful methods for me breaking the cycle is resourcing. Again, I had no idea what a resource was, so I was starting from scratch. That’s not entirely true. I knew I liked some things, which I still turn to, but a lot of what I had known as ways to self-sooth were unhealthy habits handed down to me from my caretakers. So first, I had to sort out the ones which were truly helpful, from those I was doing as habit taught to me by my caregivers.

Some of what I was doing to make myself feel better, eating fatty foods, drinking too much coffee and alcohol to name a few, I was doing because I wanted to feel a sense of connection with those I felt isolated from. Sure, the food tasted good at the time, but I was also sluggish and overweight because of it. And I was substituting unhealthy eating habits for the lack of relationship with one of my caregivers. Who also has an unhealthy relationship to food. The same with coffee and alcohol. I was really trying to feel some sort of connection to the people I loved by doing what they showed me they valued and loved. But it was only a substitute.

Sure you can bond over cooking a meal together. But when the food is what you are left with, instead of the relationship with whom you are trying to create a tighter bond with in the first place, something is a miss. The same with drinking coffee and alcohol. It’s nice to catch up over a latte or a beer, but when your drinking caffeine to speed past the uncomfortable feelings that sometimes come with connecting, or drinking alcohol to numb the dis-ease of unresolved emotions, then we’re not really connecting. And these patterns can persist for a very long time. I know this from personal experience, my own and others close-in in my life.

So if staying loyal to the resource and not the relationship becomes the focus, then we’re really left with a bunch of empty objects or rituals that aren’t fulfilling. For me it was dim sum. I love dim sum. Going into China town when I was a child on Sunday mornings to eat loads of dumplings was something I looked forward to. Through the years, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for dim sum, but the relationship has definitely changed.

I still enjoy dumplings, but it was mostly the memories of going into the city. Being surrounded by throngs of people, the bustle of a busy dumpling house, the carts weaving their ways through the crowds and the smells and sauces… These were the memories that forged my love of dim sum. Going on my own still brings up these feelings, but without someone to share these experiences with, it feels lonelier.

And it took some time to figure out that it was the connection, and not the dumplings or the time and place. The same goes for our relationship to ourselves. If we use things that numb or speed past our experience of our emotions, then we are not really attuning to ourselves in a meaningful way. Instead of having two or three cups of coffee, we drink seven lattes all day long (as I once did) to speed past what we are currently in the moment with.

So how do we begin to repair these relationships, with ourselves, others and the items we are using to alter how we relate to these things and people? For me it started with slowing down, literally, and seeing what it is that I had been doing to run from the relationships I was avoiding.

One of the big ones I was using was drinking caffeine to exces. I have vivid memories of driving around with one of my caregivers, who would always have, what felt like dozens of mugs under the driver’s side seat. Rolling and clinking together as we made our way from destination to destination. My caregiver had drank so much coffee during the day that they were wound up and constantly go, go, going. It was exhausting watching them, let alone following them around all day while they ran “errands”.

And as soon as I was old enough to strike out on my own, and run my own “errands”, I started drinking coffee. This started when I was fourteen, and probably didn’t stop until my early thirties. I had been pushing past so many emotions and feelings for so long, that when I finally slowed down to feel them, I was levelled by them. It was not pretty. I remember spending nights holding myself against the fear and anxiety, wondering if I would always feel this weight.

As a reaction to this flood of emotion, I stopped drinking caffeine completely. This was okay for a while, but I still felt as though I was running from something. Like caffeine was a drug that was to be avoided at any cost. And I was done living my life in fear, especially from something that was not all that scary.

So instead of running from caffeine, I turned it into a resource. My caffeine intake now has some much needed boundaries around it. Instead of the seven double to quad-shot mochas a day, I now have two to three cups of green or black tea in the mornings. Jasmine green is one of my favorites, but there are so many great teas to try, I’m surprised I ever limited myself to only one type of coffee.

And I still drink coffee on occasion. But I usually save it for those mornings that are just too much to handle without an extra kickstart. The difference now is, I’m using it sparingly and with care. I have a caffeine chart on my phone that has the amounts of caffeine in milligrams for each type of beverage I consume. This comes in handy for knowing what my intake is for the day so I don’t go overboard. Also the moments are more enjoyable when they’re happening slow enough to comprehend. I’m not trying to just get through the day as I had used to do. Which also left me feeling pretty wound up by the time the evening came around.

This is when I would usually start drink. I was drinking a lot in the evenings, and am surprised that I didn’t develop a drinking problem. I would drink six or seven mixed drinks and beer a night. I was constantly buzzed throughout the evenings, and this was every day! I started shortly after I stopped my caffeine consumption for the day and switched over to alcohol to help me unwind from the stress of the day, but also the amount of caffeine that was streaming through my body. And sometimes I’d mix the two. Energy drinks and vodka were popular around the time I was at the height of my drinking caffeine and alcohol. This was a strange combo, and one that was definitely not sustainable.

I always had a drink in my hand as a way to manage my emotional state. I was seeking constant control of what I was experiencing. And on some days, when the coffee, energy drinks and alcohol weren’t enough, I would take ADD medication or anti anxiety meds to really speed things up or slow them down. This was not a sustainable way to live and am lucky to be alive with the ways I was mixing medications with alcohol and caffeine. No bueno.

I remember watching Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”, when I was a teenager and thinking, “you know, my family is kinda living this way, maybe that’s what they want from me.” Also no bueno. There was never any adult role model around to show me otherwise, and when they were around, they’d drink like they were rockstars. Lana Del Ray’s lyric, “I’m living life like Jim Morrison” hit really close to home, or rather was a good description of my home life. This seemed like a natural fit, so it’s what I aspired to. I burned a lot of bridges and missed out on a lot of opportunities because of the ways I chose to live. When I finally stopped living this way, I was completely clueless and I had no idea what to do.

And this was where I was left. By my caregivers mostly. I had friends, but we were all in the same boat. We had all been kicked out of some club or another and had banded together against what seemed like an insurmountable task. Starting out and living our lives with absolutely zero direction and advice on what to do next, or how to make the most out of our lives. And all at 19. This was a scary time, but also one filled with excitement. We were out on our own, living our lives the best way we knew how and doing it without any resources.

Of course, we didn’t even know what a resource was. And it wasn’t until my early thirties that I began to understand what they were, and how to find out what they mean to me, and then foster them so they would be there when I needed them. This took a lot of digging and practice to find out what works and what doesn’t. And it’s not over. Resources, for me, are something that are constantly changing, evolving.

Now that I’ve shared with you the ways I developed my old, unhealthy resources, next week I’ll share some of the resources I’ve developed over the years, how they’ve evolved and how I’m make them a priority in my life now. Resourcing isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Check back next week for some self-care love. I know I can use some after rehashing the past! And I’d love to hear any comments on what you’ve experienced or need resourcing around too, don’t feel like you are alone in this. And as always, peace, and thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “… you’ll feel better…” by Anne Ruthmann is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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