Monthly Archives: June 2013

Responsibility or Blame??

When I talk about the professional philosophy I want to portray to my clients, one of the words that pops up is “responsibility”. I believe we each need to take personal responsibility for our lives, and I encourage that in all my clients.

Some people get it pretty early and become active in confronting their issues – acknowledging and accepting the reality of what is in their lives. They move on to feel better relatively quickly.

Others take a little longer, and I can usually tell if that is going to be the case during the first session. How? They are more comfortable with “blame” than with “responsibility”. They blame others for their problems, or they blame themselves and continually beat themselves up emotionally, staying caught up in the intellectual violence of their story and how they got to my office in the first place.

Blame is defined as “the action of assigning responsibility for a fault”. The use of the word “fault” implies the negativity of blaming, whether it be the blaming of someone else or of the Self.

Responsibility is “the state of being accountable for something; the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization”. Another definition given: “a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of . . .”

Responsibility starts with the willingness to experience your Self as the cause. Responsibility is not a burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt. As implied in the above definition of blame, all of these include judgments and evaluations of good and bad, right and wrong or better and worse. They are not responsibility.

Responsibility starts with the ability to deal with a situation from and with the point of view, whether at the moment realized or not, that you are the source of what you are, what you do, and what you have. This point of view can even extend to include what is done to you – from the perspective that we put ourselves into situations or around people that will take advantange of us. (I understand that this can be viewed as a controversial topic, and won’t go too far into this aspect of it. Certainly I’m not saying that victims of abuse (for example) are responsible for their own abuse and the perpetrator has no responsibility. What I am saying is that we develop patterns from early childhood that draw us to specific situations and people that can eventually be unhealthy for us. In order to break these patterns, we must recognize this and work to understand what within us needs to change).

So again, responsibility is a context of seeing my Self as the source of my attitude, feelings, behavior and life. If I am the source, then I have at least some control over how these turn out. I can be responsible for myself. I cannot be responsible for others. That’s another whole blog! 🙂

So a Loved One Has Just Come Out . . .

I was asked to write an article for the LikeMe Lighthouse Newsletter.  Since I’m so long-winded, I’m sure they will have to edit it down, so I thought I’d share this here as well.

My experiences with family members who are grappling with how they feel about a loved one coming out has been just as varied as the individual people themselves. I’ve witnessed every possible emotion – embarrassment, anger, hurt, fearfulness (especially if their religious beliefs inform their view of the LGBTQ community) and everything in between.  Many are just shocked or in denial. And, yes, there are many families who simply say, “we have always loved you and that isn’t going to change now.”

For the LGBTQ person, my advice is always to remember that your family has a process to go through, just as you have – and you’ve likely already been in yours for a while before you decided to come out to them. Often, they already suspected, but in many cases, it’s like someone just pulled the rug out from under them.  If you want them to honor your growth, then you must also respect theirs – and the time and effort it takes.

For friends and family members, here are a few things to think about when someone you care about has just come out to you:

Take a breath!  Take time to think before you react.  Once you’ve thought about it, it may not be as big of a deal as you originally thought. Getting some distance from the initial shock of new information is always helpful in sorting things out.

Educate yourself: If the news is very new and unexpected, don’t get advice from a lot of people. They may have no real understanding of the process, and their feedback may be based on unfounded biases. You’ll only get more confused. However, if you can find a professional therapist (try http://www.lgbtguild.com/ for a local LGBTQ affirming therapist) and/or a friend or co-worker who you know as an open-minded and compassionate individual or who has had a similar experience this would be helpful.  Remember though, that their opinions are just that – their opinions, based on their own experiences.  Be sure that when you do communicate with your loved one that your response is coming from YOU.

In addition to talking to someone, there are a number of books, videos, movies, websites, etc. that have information on this topic.  The LikeMe Lighthouse has a library full of these.  Again, just be sure you have a diverse collection from which to choose.  Be as open-minded as you can be as you approach this.
The most wonderful source of both support and information is PFLAG.  Find a local group close to you and call the number listed, or better yet, attend a meeting!  You won’t be sorry!

Acknowledge your emotions:  You’re likely to feel flooded by a variety of emotions. Before talking to your LGBTQ loved one, write out everything you’re feeling.  This is not
for anyone else to read or hear.  The purpose is just to get out what’s inside you.  It won’t necessarily resolve anything initially, but getting it outside your head will be a huge start to doing away with the intellectual violence that all of us have going on inside our heads.

Talk with your loved one:  Face the issue honestly.  What we resist persists. If you ignore confronting the situation, the person will still be gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. (and don’t try to convince him he’s not – that part is not your business). But your anxiety and the discomfort between you will get stronger. It might not be fun to have an open, honest dialogue, but that will lead to more understanding and a bond you may never have had before.  Reassure him that you love him and want to support him, but be honest about your emotions.  It’s OK to be where you are now. Being angry, upset or confused doesn’t negate the love you have for someone.

Remember she is the same person she always was:   This is no different than if you found out she had a mole on her back that you didn’t know was there.  It’s probably always been there, and just because you know it’s there now, it certainly doesn’t change who she is, or whether you love her.

Finally, If someone has just come out to you, take it as the huge compliment it is.  It means that person respects and/or loves you and wants you to be a part of his/her journey.  As human beings, this is one of the primary purposes we’re here – to connect with and love each other.

All Work and No Play . . .

I’ve just had to re-learn a lesson I talk to others about all day every day!  Balance is one of the most important concepts for all of us to grasp!

I confess, I’m a workaholic.  Especially now that I work completely from home, it’s that much easier to get stuck in my office.  There’s always SO much more that needs to get done.

But, over the years, I’ve learned about balance – a simple word that can save our lives sometimes.  I’ve done well to incorporate balance into my life at different times, but then I slip back into being that “human doing” that is obsessed with accomplishing things.  When I get in this mode, even my precious granddaughter, who I love more than life, can “catch it” when she tries to get my attention.  All work and no play can make Patti a real bitch some times! 

So I have (once again) reminded myself that getting things done are sometimes necessary, but not the most important thing in the world.  I’ve said this before: I honestly don’t believe that anyone will meet me on the other side with a big clipboard, and say, “Whoops!  On June 16, 2013, you didn’t get all those spots out of your carpet!”

But what I do believe is that when I get there, I will have to review my life to determine if I managed to learn all the real lessons of love that I set out to learn this time around.

I don’t beat myself up when I catch myself being less than loving because I think my work is more important.  I just remind myself as compassionately as I can, that I am a work in progress, and that I need to get back on the track to balance.

Here’s a passage from Melody Beattie’s book THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO on Balance (March 28):

Seek balance.

Balance emotions with reason.

Combine detachment with doing our part.

Balance giving with receiving.

Alternate work with play, business with personal activities.

Balance tending to our spiritual needs with tending to our other needs.

Juggle responsibilities to others with caring about ourselves.

Whenever possible, let’s be good to others, but be good to ourselves too.

Some of us have to make up for lost time.

Today, I will strive for balance.

Strength

This is a repost from 2010.  It’s one of my favorite meditation readings from Melody Beattie’s book THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO.  I hope it’s as helpful to you as it has always been to me:

We don’t always have to be strong to be strong.  Sometimes our strength is expressed in being vulnerable.  Sometimes we need to fall apart to regroup and stay on track.

We all have days when we cannot push any harder, cannot hold back self-doubt, cannot  stop focusing on fear, cannot be strong.

There are days when we cannot focus on being responsible.  Occasionally, we don’t want to get out of our pajamas.  Sometimes, we cry in front of people.  We expose our tiredness, irritability or anger.

Those days are okay.  They are just okay.

Part of taking care of ourselves means we give ourselves permission to “fall apart” when we need to.  We do not have to be perpetual towers of strength.  We are strong.  We have proven that.  Our strength will continue if we allow ourselves the courage to feel scared, weak, and vulnerable when we need to experience those feelings.

THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO/Melody Beattie

Storing Energy

Below is a quote from Elizabeth Lesser in her book, BROKEN OPEN. In this section she is talking about grief, and how we do ourselves and our loved ones a disservice by trying to move on too quickly after the death of a loved one. Our society encourages this “quick fix” mentality of grief just like it does for other problems – take a pill, take a week off to get your affairs in order, and throw yourself back into work. This is one of the main reasons we have so many people with anxiety disorders and depression. We don’t allow the time and space to experience our feelings all the way through to the other side. (Gospel According to Patti)

What Elizabeth is saying goes for ANY loss. We need to learn to allow all the feelings to come and to sit with them. No one likes this. And sometimes it feels as if we’ll never be able to get past it, but she explains very well how it can work:

“To have a store of energy accumulated is to have a store of power in back of one. We live with our psychic energy in modern times much as we do with our money – mortgaged to the next decade.

Most modern people are exhausted nearly all the time and never catch up to an equilibrium of energy, let alone have a store of energy behind them. With no energy in store, one cannot meet any new opportunity.
Keeping the gap open after the death of a loved one (or any loss) is a way of storing valuable energy.”

Once we’ve allowed that energy to be stored, we can then move on.

She goes on to say something I’ve always told clients. I don’t like the concept of “closure”. It sounds so final, and to me, it means that the loss we just experienced is “done” and no longer has any meaning. When we grieve someone or something in our lives, we are honoring them/it. We’re never “over” loss. It’s difficult and it’s messy. But we can get through it and integrate the lessons it’s taught us into our lives and come out stronger – and with more energy!