Monthly Archives: October 2014

Responsibility or Blame?

I believe we each need to take personal responsibility for our lives, and this often becomes a topic in sessions.

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. This keeps them entrenched in the problem, and unless they get out of that, the problem wins – nothing changes.

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 also starts with the ability to deal with a situation from the point of view, whether conscious 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 advantage of us – or around others who will respect and honor 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 cannot be responsible for others, but I can be responsible for who I am and for my response to others.


Looking at the Big Picture

A couple of questions I ask clients the first or second time we meet is: What do you believe spiritually? and How do you practice that?

Probably 90% of the responses are about whether or not the client attends church – which is not at all what I’m asking. I don’t care what their belief is, but I have repeatedly seen that those who are really successful at making a change in their lives and finding a sense of peace within themselves, are those who have some concept of their spirituality, and continue or begin to practice that. It’s a huge resource because it gives us a sense of direction and meaning in our lives.

Many of us turn to our faith when things get difficult. How that looks is different for each of us, and that’s the way it needs to be. Spirituality is not a cookie-cutter fix, as some would have us believe. There are many paths to the same door.

My belief is that religion tells us what to believe. It gives us a set a rules to follow, which allows for a sense of comfort for some. But spirituality informs our sense of connection with something greater than our humanity; and also something that is within each of us. It’s a personal relationship that we each define for ourselves. (That doesn’t mean we can’t have both. I was one of the lucky ones. The religion I was taught as a child aligned with the sense of spirituality I have developed over the years. That doesn’t happen for everyone).

So, as a therapist, one of the things I love to do, is to help others explore their own sense of who they are and who they strive to become. In my mind, this is a spiritual journey, but it may not look like one would expect. There was an advertisement for the US Army a few years ago that said “Be all that you can be.” That’s how I approach it with clients. I want them to explore their own set of values and beliefs in order to determine which they want to expand, and which may need to be tossed. It may align with their religious beliefs, or it may just be a bond with nature – or animals – or a particular kind of music. . . The possibilities are endless.

Having a bag full of spiritual tools can make life simpler. But becoming more spiritual does not necessarily mean our lives become easier. The more spiritual we become, the more wonderful our lives can become. But along with a more exceptional life comes more extraordinary challenges. I’ve learned to appreciate – and even sometimes to be grateful for those obstacles. They’re not something to dread. They are our assignments in this school of life. We’re being asked to learn skills – like endurance, self reliance, unconditional love or patience, etc.

Living our spirituality means that we’re not facing these times alone. We have support. We can become more conscious and in the moment, which slows things down, and we learn that instead of reacting from emotion, we can choose to respond with love. In short, we develop strength and personal power.

I’ve developed a way of thinking about the situation at hand that helps me look at the whole picture. I imagine how it must look from God/the Universe/Source’s perspective. All the minutia that feels so overwhelming to me is just a drop in the bucket – and from that perspective, it’s probably much easier to see the path I’ve taken and the direction that is leading me. (Consider looking at an ant farm. As humans, we can see exactly where the tiny creatures have been and where they are heading. But to them it must feel like we do as we’re driving around a strange city. We have no idea where we’re going or how our destination will look).

So as we polish the skills our lessons teach us, we move closer to the Divine. However, our purpose here on earth is not to reach a destination, but to experience the excursion. The goal is not perfection – it’s practice.

The Gospel According to Patti on Emotions

I’m fond of sharing my opinion on things like this with my clients. I call them the “Gospel According to Patti”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek way of stating my opinion – based primarily on my experience personally and with many clients over the years. It sometimes (but not necessarily always) is also based on some research or common knowledge among the behavioral health field or on something I’ve read that resonated with me. I don’t take credit for being original with any of these concepts. I do own them as beliefs and usually on implementing them into my own life. (Finally, and this is important – I am not trying to say I know more than anyone about these topics – again, just stating my opinion).

One of those GAP’s (Gospel According to Patti) has to do with how many of us tend to deal with our emotions.

Most of us are grateful for our 5 senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. They help us navigate the external world – to appreciate the beauty in front of us – and sometimes warn us of possible danger.

But when it comes to our emotions, especially the “negative ones”, we tend to avoid them. (I will go on record here to state that there is no such thing as a “negative emotion”. They are all just a part of being a human – a very essential part of us. As such, they are all functional in the same way. Not good or bad, they just are).

But the purpose of emotions is the same as our 5 senses. They help us navigate our internal world. Sometimes they emphasize the beauty of being alive, and sometimes they warn us that there’s something going on we need to put our energy and attention towards.

As humans, we pride ourselves on being superior to other animals – because we have the capacity to rationalize and reason through things. But sometimes it can be a hindrance. Animals in the wild deal with traumas all the time. They come into contact with their predators, go into the appropriate state for their situation (flight, fright, freeze), and if they survive, they shake it off and move on. In other words, they faced it, dealt with it, and let it go.

But as humans, we attempt to protect ourselves and our loved ones from experiencing negative events and emotions. In this process of avoidance, we actually make it worse.

There are no detours. The only way to the other side of fear, sadness, shame, embarrassment, etc – is right through it. Face it, deal with it, and let it go.

Debbie Ford said that hiding a part of yourself is like trying to hold a volley ball under water. It’s impossible to do forever and it eventually comes to the surface.

I’ve seen big strong men turn into mush when they had to deal with emotions they had been trying to “hold under”. I’ve also seen many people become extremely depressed, angry, addicted, overweight, dysfunctional and even suicidal because they were holding a part of themselves at bay.

I believe we are supposed to feel all emotions. The “good” ones feel so much better when we’ve experienced the ones that make us feel more vulnerable. And there’s a lesson in all of them. They are our great teachers!

5 Lessons I Learned About Life By Investigating The Afterlife

Over the past few years, I have told many clients that I’ve learned so much more about how I want to live my life here and now from my study of the Afterlife. This is a blog written by Bob Olson, author of the book, ANSWERS ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE, and host of Afterlife From what I’ve learned over the past 10 years or so, I agree with almost everything I’ve read from him or heard him say.   Today is Father’s Day – and, although my own father is on the other side, I feel closer to him than I did while he was still here in physical form.  So I defer to Bob for my weekly blog. Enjoy.

I began investigating the afterlife after the passing of my father in 1997. Because I was skeptical about life after death and had little spiritual foundation or understanding of it (despite my Catholic upbringing), I became curious about what happened to my father after his passing. So I decided to use my skills as a private investigator (my career at that time) to investigate the afterlife.

My father’s passing was the beginning of a 15-year journey that would teach me as much about life as it would death. To be clear, I’m an investigator — not a psychic, medium, or channeler. I’m also not a scientist. I’m an investigator who draws conclusions based on an examination of the evidence using logic, reason, and pragmatism. I begin my investigations without bias or expectation and draw conclusions only after gathering and examining the available evidence. In other words, I look at the evidence first and draw my conclusions second.

In the last 15 years I’ve had the honor of interviewing thousands of people in this field, some very well known such as James Van Praagh, Anita Moorjani, Dr. Brian Weiss, Dr. Eben Alexander, and others of whom you’ve likely never heard. And while I can say without a doubt that I started in this business as a skeptic, I have now seen and learned too much to say I’m still one.

Here are the 5 most important lessons I’ve learned about life by investigating the afterlife:

1. Challenges In Life Are Expected
So many folks believe that something has gone wrong in their life when they experience disappointment, tragedy, suffering, loss, or pain. But no one promised us only positive experiences in our human lives. We learn just as much, if not more, from our challenging experiences as we do our more pleasant ones.

According to my experiences with mediums, our souls choose a human life in order to have experiences that we’re unable to have in the spirit world. Because there is no death, fear, illness, or hatred in the afterlife, our souls choose a physical life to know these experiences and, thereby, more deeply understand the love, joy, and inner peace that we know as spiritual beings. Consequently, we learn from the dichotomy of experiencing the opposite sides of what we know in the spirit world.

2. It’s How We Respond To What Happens To Us That Matters
People who have had near-death experiences teach us that experience is what happens to us, but it is our free will that gives us the choice of how to respond to what happens to us. Take any experience that most people would consider negative, and we can find someone who reacted to that experience as a victim and someone who reacted to that experience by making the best of it. The latter inspires us, of course, but even more these stories exemplify the power of free will and the human spirit.

3. Our Actions Create A Ripple Effect
Near-death experiences and life-between-lives regressions teach us that upon our return home to the spirit world, we as spirits experience what’s called a “life review.” What’s most amazing about this life review process is that we get to know and feel the physical, emotional and psychological impact we had on people in response to things we said and did in our lifetime. This insight inspires us to be better human beings. Knowing that our behavior in life has a ripple effect that potentially touches the lives of countless people is encouraging to be more mindful of how we behave and interact with others.

4. Forgiveness Is For Our Benefit
By studying after-death communications, mediumship, and channeling, we learn that forgiveness is actually less about letting the other person off the hook than it is relieving ourselves of suffering. When we carry the weight of blaming someone with contempt, it is actually our burden to carry. But when we release them of that blame and contempt (while maintaining healthy boundaries), we release ourselves of holding that negative energy inside us, which raises our overall vibration of love.

5. There Is An Evolution To Our Truth & Knowing
We all have our own truth. This is not to say that there isn’t a single truth–one universal truth–but being human, we can only know truth from our own individual filters. Our brain functions, past experiences, beliefs, and education all filter our present experiences in a manner that affects our interpretation of each experience and, therefore, our ultimate knowing. That doesn’t make one person right and another person wrong, of course; it makes your knowing and my knowing both perfect, even if they are miles apart. This also means that your truth today might change tomorrow if you have new experiences that add to your knowing. It doesn’t make yesterday’s knowing wrong; it merely adds a new layer to it, a layer that deepens your understanding at the knowing level.

My investigation of the afterlife has given me a greater chance for making the best of what happens in life rather than falling into victim-hood. Even in my daily life, I live with less fear and greater inner peace when faced with challenges. My understanding of why bad things are allowed to happen to innocent people–children included–helps me to focus my compassion on their suffering rather than get paralyzed by blame, fear, and judgment. And it is this understanding that I wish for you and others.

In the end, rather than take my word (or anyone else’s) regarding life or death, I encourage you to become your own afterlife investigator, gather your own evidence, and then draw your own conclusions. After all, this is your life experience. I merely share my own to help you recognize the possibilities.