The Flow (Yin and Yang) of Recovery

anxiety bfrb's eating disorder mental health ocd recovery self-compassion

This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast is all about Recovery!  I know, I know.  This topic can be controversial, especially when discussing recovery for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Anxiety Disorders, Eating Disorders, and Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB's).

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There are often big differences of opinion regarding what is considered “recovery” and achieving it depends largely on how you define recovery.

We talk all about recovery, and specifically what I like to call “The FLOW of Recovery," in this podcast episode.  It is immensely helpful for you to find your own Flow of Recovery, no matter how you define recovery, as this will help with the speed and ease of your recovery.  For those with OCD and Anxiety, I have seen the FLOW of recovery to be a large part of the process.

We recently had the incredible self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff on the podcast (Ep. 87), and she shared brilliant practice and research of Mindful Self-Compassion.  Kristin talked about the different components of self-compassion that can help us lead a better life, as well as how important it is to include self-compassion in our lives every day.  I’ve heard people refer to self-compassion as a practice for sissys.  Some people think that practicing self-compassion will make them lazy or a loser or fat or weak, which is a HUGE misconception.  I’ve even had many clients tell me that they are scared to practice, or even think about, practicing self-compassion because it could cause them to snap and become lazy and never get out of bed again.  This is very typical of anxiety, right? 

Kristin also addressed the Yin and Yang of self-compassion: the Yin being the soothing, tender and comforting parent energy (a mother gently comforting her crying child), while the Yang is the fierce and protective energy we need to care for ourselves (a mama bear that ferociously protects her cubs and herself from harm).  Listen to Ep. 87 to learn more!  Kristin believes that the Yin and Yang of self-compassion must be balanced.  We need both of them.

As we have discussed, a lot of us struggle with the fear of becoming too Yin.  Some of us are the opposite and are scared to access the Yang component of self-compassion.  This results in people avoiding getting their needs met.  These people avoid everything.  So, “The Flow of Recovery” involves both the Yin and Yang of self-compassion to help you FLOW.  What does this look like?  The Flow of Recovery involves moving from action to tenderness and rest.  It involves speeding up sometimes and, at other times, slowing down.  In the Flow of Recovery, you might move back and forth between the Yin and Yang rapidly.

This podcast episode is aimed at inspiring you to use both the Yin and YANG of self-compassion.  When I use the term “The Flow of Recovery,” I am talking about doing the hard things (YANG) and then slowing down to be gentle and kind (YIN).  You will use these tools time and time and time again.  You will get into a rhythm and find a flow where you are swinging back and forth and back and forth between hard things and gentleness, hard things and gentleness.

Examples of action could be: Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP), starting your journey in therapy, talking to a friend about your struggles, or setting a boundary with someone.  The rest is where you are gentle with yourself, get really quiet, and ask yourself “What do I need?”  Ask yourself if you can make sure that there is time for rest and time for you to hold space for the pain you feel, as well as the feelings and emotions you experience.  Then, make sure you find a way to give yourself what you need.

With ERP, people often want to skip the Yin part of it. They do not want to address the feelings.  However, the Yin part of ERP is where the healing happens.  The more you let the feelings be there, the more your brain and body see that you can handle them and hold space for them. 

The Flow of Recovery also includes the gentle swing of saying kind and tender things to yourself.  You speak to yourself almost as a coach and as you would to a good friend. You say, “I will get through this” and “I have my own back, unconditionally,” and “I can do hard things!”

To summarize this, the principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as contradictory and inseparable opposites.  This is the work you need in recovery and you need both of them!  If you spend too much time in the Yang work, you will burn out.  If you spend too much time in the Yin work, you will not move forward at a pace that will help you.

Check in with yourself and evaluate your Yin and Yang. Do both of them exist for you?  Do you need to find more of a balance between the two?  How can you add more Yin if you are consistently in a cycle of action and not taking care of yourself?  How can you add more Yang if you rely heavily on Yin?


About Kimberley Quinlan

Kimberley Quinlan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Eating Disorders, Panic Disorder and Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB’s).  Kimberley is highly trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with a heavy emphasis on Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), and has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for many years.  Kimberley has a special interest in the integration of mindfulness principles with CBT for OCD, Anxiety Disorders, and Eating Disorders.  Kimberley has experience treating adults, adolescents, and children, and tailors each program to suit the age and cognitive development of each client.  Kimberley has a private practice in Calabasas and Westlake Village. 

For more information, you can find Kimberley at the following: