Monthly Archives: October 2015

Shitty First Drafts and Self Succeeding Beliefs

I’ve heard that each human has 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day.  I haven’t been able to confirm the number, but I know I have LOTS of thoughts running through my head.  Regardless of the accuracy of the number of thoughts, the point I want to make here is that most of the thoughts we each have are the same thoughts we had yesterday – and probably very similar to the ones we’ll have again tomorrow.  And a large percentage of those are negative.

We tend to be storytellers.  Brene Brown says we’re hard-wired to tell ourselves stories.  When something happens, or someone says or does something, we immediately make up a story about what it meant, and often that story in our head leads us to believe it was not good.  Brown steals a phrase from Ann Lamott to describe these thoughts: Shitty First Drafts.

If we listen to that SFD without questioning or editing it, we are likely to react impulsively, and the war is on.  Many of those 60,000 or so thoughts running around in our heads are self-defeating beliefs.  I call that intellectual violence.  Some examples are: I’m not good enough; I never do anything right; That person is out to get me, etc. Whatever the self-defeating thoughts are, they cause us a lot of pain.

The only way to move on from the SFD is to confront it and question it.  Then, if we look for alternative ways to look at the situation before we react, we can usually prevent the chaos from ensuing.  Once we catch ourselves, then we can insert some more positive possibilities, such as:  Maybe I misunderstood what she meant to say, so I should check it out.  Or: That person’s opinion of me is not my reality.  My own opinion is more important than someone who doesn’t even really know me.

Then we can choose how to respond (do I need to stand up for myself and my actions, apologize, or assertively express how I feel about the situation?), or I can choose to not respond yet – or at all.  Whatever we decide, if we  can insert a more positive possibility of the truth, we’re less likely to let the SFD take over.

I have a few positive drafts that I run through my head on a consistent basis as a kind of insurance against that Shitty First Draft.  If I practice telling myself these, I’m more likely to jump from the SFD more quickly.  Here are a few examples:

-I accept that it is my responsibility to take the necessary steps and to seek the help I require to solve my problems.

-I choose to understand and accept my limitations, and I realize that only I can manage my actions.

-I choose to develop the courage to be imperfect instead of going through life hiding my mistakes and weaknesses.  I am a human in the process of growth.

-I choose to find humor in life.

-I accept that I am responsible for finding happiness and peace of mind.

-I choose to express my thoughts and feelings honestly and assertively when others violate my rights, instead of holding the hurt and anger inside.

-I will accept honest feedback from others, and will strive to respond to criticism with rational thinking and peace of mind.

Remember the thoughts we feed are the ones that gain weight, and ultimately the ones that become the basis for our belief about ourselves.

Strength

In the past several weeks, I’ve been inundated with new clients who have just recently lost loved ones and others who are dealing with very difficult issues.  While I fully understand that I can’t “make someone feel better,” I confess that when my schedule gets so full with people who are hurting so much, I begin to struggle with whether I am capable of saying the right things to help them all.  I know that the reality is that WHAT we say seldom helps.  What helps most is that we sit with the person in pain and allow them to feel what they need to feel.  Sometimes it helps to share a little about similar feelings we’ve had so they understand that we get it.  But, because everyone grieves differently and every grief is different, we can’t really completely get it.  Grief has a way of breaking us open and leaving us feeling more vulnerable than ever before.  This is most difficult for those of us who tend to be the givers of the world.

I’m working on a blog about giving and receiving help, but it sometimes takes me several weeks for a blog to germinate, make sense and to actually say what I really want to say.  So in the mean time, I’m re-posting one of my favorite readings about the misconception most of us hold that we should always be strong. When we’re in the midst of a loss, or when we become overwhelmed with life for any reason, we tend to berate ourselves for being “weak”. As the reading says, we aren’t weak, and all we can do is enough.  In fact, I found myself quoting part of this reading to a client just the other day.  I needed to read it again, and I hope it helps you as well.

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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

The Least of These . . .

Although some of my recent blogs here have been more about our social issues, I have tried to also keep the focus on our individual reactions to what we find ourselves immersed in daily, and trying to make sense of it at the individual, average citizen level.  All most of us want is to be enabled to continue our lives as citizens of a free country with justice for each of us.

However, in the past few weeks, I’ve tried to keep the focus more on our mental health.  After all that’s why I’m here.

So I apologize for going off on another little tangent.  I promise to bring it back to the individual – but as with many of you, the Healthcare issue that was so important for 17 days has pulled me back to the level of trying to make sense of something that makes no sense, at least on the surface.

I’m not going to go into my thoughts politically.  Most of you probably already have a good idea what they are, and again, that is not the purpose here.  My intent is to bring it down to how it affects each of us.  Regardless of what some of our representatives apparently believe, we all NEED healthcare, and most of us want the ability to pay for it. I sincerely hope they (our employees) eventually come around to finding a way to adult through making that work for as many of us as possible.

But while I was listening to all the ranting and raving for that 17 day period, I kept remembering one client I had seen a few years ago when I was doing some pro bono therapy at the LikeMe Lighthouse in downtown KC.  I’m sharing a blog I wrote at the time only to help anyone who might not fully understand why this issue is SO important to many people you’ll never meet; and why it is incumbent upon those of us who have a little more to be there for those who can’t help themselves at the moment.

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The other day a new client came in who has liver disease. He had 1 tooth, reeked of alcohol, and reported that he had no friends – that people seemed to be “intimidated” by him. He had a very negative outlook on life, and I found myself thinking – “What’s the use? How can I help someone like him? He doesn’t seem to want to help himself!”

Yet, there he was. Sitting in my office asking for help. He has no clue at this point what that might entail, but neither do most of us at the beginning stages of change. I realized I was judging him without really knowing what he had come from. So I listened and I sent him loving thoughts.

I’m not a Christian Counselor, and I never quote the Bible. But I have to admit that a verse from Matthew came to mind as I listened to him spell out his problems:
“. . . whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

As we talked, I discovered a man who had once excelled in a sport at the national level and successfully owned his own business for years. Yes, he has a lot of negative core beliefs, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have at least a few! And he’s engulfed in a system of social security and healthcare that seems to make it most difficult for those who need help the most. My experience of just trying to get a child on Medicaid several years ago was enough to drive me to drink! And I had connections that many of these people don’t.

So as I sat there I had to ask myself: Who am I to be judge and jury? I have to practice what I preach. I believe we all come from the the same spirit and are just different parts of the whole (like individual leaves on a tree). So if I disrespect him, I disrespect part of myself.

I also believe the reason we are here on earth is to be of service to others as we each learn the lessons we need in order to become closer to enlightenment. So in retrospect, it’s clear to me this man was a messenger for me – and I received the message. Even though he’s coming to me for help, he’s probably already given me more than I could ever give him.

No one has ever become poor by giving.                                                     -The Diary of Anne Frank

Community

In honor of National Coming Out Day (Oct 11), I’m reposting part of a blog I posted in 2012, right before the grand opening of the LikeMe Lighthouse (LGBT Community Center in downtown KC).   Please don’t skip over this one if  you think it doesn’t apply to you.  We’re ALL closeted in one way or another.  And the solution for it is connection – with other like-minded, caring humans; with a higher self/power; with deceased loved ones  who are acutely missed.  Isolation is one of the most dangerous behaviors to our souls.  And once we allow ourselves to become isolated, it’s more and more difficult to pull ourselves out of it.

So here is the edited blog.  Most was taken from an article written by our long-time friend, and the founder of the Lighthouse, Chely Wright:

Last week I posted a blog about the impending grand opening of the LikeMe Lighthouse here in Kansas City that I’ve been blessed to be involved in to a small degree. As I write this we are coming to the end of the amazing three-day weekend event. When I tried to gather my thoughts about how to write about it, I kept coming back to the feeling I got when I met a young transgender man in the process of becoming who he really is. He said to me, “this is the most ‘out’ I’ve ever been. The atmosphere here is so welcoming and comfortable”.

THAT is what the Lighthouse is about! Our hope is that it provides that home for people who have never felt at home before. So rather than write a blog myself, I’m going to use the words of our founder, Chely Wright. Following is an article she wrote that was published in The Huffington Post. It says it all. (Love you Chely).

The LikeMe Lighthouse: A New Beacon of Hope for Kansas City’s LGBT Residents

.   .   .

Community.

I want to talk about what that word means to me in this context and why, in my opinion, it’s so important that Kansas City and other towns like it have a brick-and-mortar LGBT center.

It wasn’t until I came out, in May 2010, that I found my community. I moved from Kansas to Tennessee in 1989 to chase my country music dreams and went on to live in Nashville for nearly 20 years prior to my move to New York City in 2008. I put a lot of thought into relocating my life, locking the doors of my beautiful home in Tennessee and driving with a U-Haul trailer behind my SUV with just enough furniture for a small apartment in Manhattan. My reasons for taking such a drastic step were many: I needed to finish writing my memoir; I wanted to further steel myself for my impending, very public coming out process; and most of all, I was in search of my community. Almost immediately following my coming out to the world, I began to understand what importance community could hold in a person’s life. I was still relatively new to NYC, but I was making friends — real friends — with whom I could be honest, and I was easily appreciating that there were other people in the world “LikeMe.” I was becoming closer to people at a much quicker pace than during my time in Tennessee. I’m not saying that my friends in Nashville were the cause of my stunted relationships with people — they weren’t — and I’m not suggesting that I only want to be friends with people who are just like me — no, that’s not it at all. My point is that I was not truly connecting with my friends and flourishing in Nashville because I was deep in the closet; I was closed-off and isolated.

. . .

Community.

Human beings are not designed to be alone. None of God’s creatures are. I could cite some interesting statistic about the lifespan and physical and emotional health of lab rats that are isolated, and the data would be dismal. Well, I guess that all depends on how you feel about rats and their entitlement to happiness, but you get the point. It’s unnatural to be separated from the pack.

Think about it. When a kid in school has misbehaved and is sent out into the hallway, it’s not because the hallway is such a horrible place. The purpose is to create distance between the child and the other students. That’s the punishment.

Another way to illustrate how powerful the tool of isolation can be is to put it in these terms: what do our prison systems do to effectively administer the worst possible punishment to an inmate who’s negatively acted out? That’s right: solitary confinement. Isolation is the punishment.

Community is the cure.

It is my deepest hope that the LikeMe Lighthouse will stand tall, illuminating hope in every direction for all who have a need, whether it’s one of the many great, local LGBT advocacy groups already in existence wanting to hold its monthly meeting there, or the not-quite-out 19-year-old from a small town like the one I grew up in, Wellsville, Kan., or maybe, hopefully, the parents of the 14-year-old who sat his folks down the night before and nervously said, “Mom, Dad… I think I might be gay. There’s this place called the LikeMe Lighthouse on Main Street, and they’ve got a library with books for parents of gay kids.”

Community.

Again, while this article is about those in the LGBT community, we are all much more alike than we are different.  We all come from the same energy – an energy that is LOVE.  And when we leave this earth, that’s where we’ll return.  What we want most in this life is to feel free to be ourselves, even if we aren’t sure what that is yet. That freedom is often found in our connection with others who have been where we have been.  Most of my LGBT friends have taken huge risks in their lives, just to live their truth.  I think that’s why I have so much respect for them. (Another group I’ve known intimately are those in the 12 Step recovery programs and most of them have taken that same leap of faith – to shed the protective layer that covers up their true selves) .  Risk involves vulnerability.  The bigger the risk, the more frightening the vulnerability.  But when we find the community that is ours, we are home.  And nothing is more beautiful  than being home – and free.

The Duck Story

There are several themes that seem to repeat themselves with the clients I see.  One of them is how we humans can keep our pain alive by rerunning our past in our heads.

I use different analogies to explain how we don’t have to do this.  One of these is the Duck Story.

Have you ever seen 2 ducks fighting?  After a time, they separate, flap their wings vigorously for a few minutes – and then they’re both peaceful.  They don’t have a human mind that continues the story (of what the other duck did or said to me and how I’m never going to get close to that duck – or any other duck for that matter – again!  That way I won’t ever have to feel this kind of pain).

No, the ducks just go on peacefully and meet each moment and situation as it arises.

Keeping the story going – thinking/repeating in our heads (what I call intellectual violence), is what causes the suffering.  The body doesn’t know the difference between the actual event – or the memories/thoughts about the event – or a similar situation that FEELS like the original.  So it reacts the same way when it senses those feelings of pain/shame/vulnerability.  This is when we know we’ve been traumatized.  If it’s strong enough, it doesn’t even have to be completely conscious for us to react to something or someone that reminds us of a painful experience.

Sometimes, we’ve held onto something so long, or it’s so ingrained into our system that we need professional help – like a therapist who practices a method such as EMDR (see my website for a short explanation of it) or some other form of trauma therapy.

But the lesson on how to prevent this with future events is to truly live in the moment, like the ducks.  Put it out of your mind, forget the details, in order to get past the emotional hold.  Make the choice to not let it take hold of you and run your life.

Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is a choice.