Monthly Archives: April 2017

Confession

A lot of people have told me that they have been helped by some of my blogs.  I’m grateful for that – I write them for that very purpose – and because what’s rattling around in my head needs to come out.

But I have to confess that sometimes I feel like a fraud.  Typically, the things I write about are issues I’ve dealt with myself, and the techniques to make those better have been worked through and integrated into my life to the point where they are “no-brainers” for me.  I’ve worked on them so long that I can barely remember not having those skills.

But some things I write about are still issues I’m focusing on myself.  Usually I’ve studied my life, attitudes and behaviors around the issues, and I’ve worked with the skills that help a great deal, but the answer for me is still not totally integrated into my life and body.  In 12 Step language, I’ve learned to “talk the talk”, but I’m not quite able to “walk the walk.”

Like all of you, I have moments of weakness.  Moments (OK, hours – and even sometimes days) when I am a total bitch.  I don’t even like myself during these times, but I just continue to do or say the things I do, being conscious that I will regret them shortly after they hit their target.

Those are the times I feel like a fraud.  How dare I assume I can help anybody else, when I don’t have my own sh*t together?

But over the years I’ve realized that it’s precisely BECAUSE I still have those moments/hours/days of “bitchness” that I can help others.  I’m no better than anyone else, most of all my clients and readers. I learn so much more from my clients than they could possibly gain from me.

So in moments of more clarity and rationality, I can remember one of my favorite quotes from Melody Beattie:  You don’t always have to be strong to be strong.  Our strengths come of acknowledging our vulnerabilities, giving into them sometimes – even falling apart if we need to; and then sharing them at appropriate times, and with people we trust.  That’s what connects us as humans.  We are all attracted to strength, but we identify with vulnerability.  The fact that we share these experiences is part of where the strength originates – we are all stronger together than we are individually.  So I think we may need to re-evaluate our relationship with “strength” and perhaps adjust our perception of how it presents itself in our lives.

Our culture kind of sets us up for shying away from acknowledging our problems because for so long we have celebrated the strong individual.  So many people I’ve worked with actually feel fear and shame when they think someone will find out they messed something up.  My experience and belief has led me to understand that this often starts from childhood – maybe from a harsh parent or teacher, or just messages we’ve historically (and consistently) received from TV and media, some churches and other groups.  We’re often not allowed to make mistakes. Some are even told (or receive covert messages) that they ARE a mistake.  The fear and shame those people feel, mixed with the ignorance of an adult or a society that demands perfection can and often does result in hate.  We have all witnessed what can happen around the world and in our own backyards when hate drives a person or group of people.

But we can each contribute to a healthier society, by understanding that (from the perspective of whatever power that created us) we are all perfect just as we are.  That doesn’t mean we can’t learn and grow, but being OK with ourselves as we are, along with a little compassion for ourselves leads us to be more compassionate with others. This goes a long way in making everyone’s environment happier and safer. One way to do this: as adults, we can help a child understand that, while maybe something they did caused a less-than-desired outcome – that doesn’t mean they are bad or wrong as a human. Or maybe we can just show compassion to a friend who is upset with themselves over a silly mistake. Then we can encourage that child or friend to understand how to correct or at least change the way they do things in the future. Rather than having an adult “fix” things for them when they’ve made a mistake, kids need to understand at an early age that our strengths are built by apologizing and making changes in our attitudes and behaviors. But it’s never too late to learn this. It’s not easy, but rather than avoiding hardships, we can face them head-on and appreciate them, because they help us build the resilience we will need for the next go-round.  And there will be a next time.

I hope you will join me in allowing yourself to be who you are – flawed and perfect simultaneously.  That’s what makes life beautiful in the long run.

 

Expectations vs Trust

I saw an article this week that talked about whether a broken heart is really just broken expectations. I don’t believe we have the right to expect anything from anyone. Some people have difficulty with that concept – especially in intimate relationships. They get confused with the difference between expectations and trust.

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or will be the case in the future or a belief that someone will or should do something. If we apply that to any relationship, it sets us up for failure. Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

In another blog I wrote about spiritual partnerships, I quoted Henry Grayson from his book MINDFUL LOVING, as he described how expectations play a part in our intimate relationships:

Grayson talks about the concept of specialness. The problem comes when we *need* the other person’s love for our own purposes:

When we appoint someone as ‘special,’ which we tend to think of as a good or positive notion or action, we set into motion a chain of potential outcomes that create unrealistic expectations and inevitable disappointments. . . . Ironically, as soon as we think of someone as special and try to convince that person of their specialness, we begin to think we have a right to demand things from them.

In the moment that we appoint someone as special we instantly connect to a childhood yearning or an unfulfilled desire. Or we expect that person to complete us . . . The special person, therefore, becomes for us the person who will finally love us enough, care for us enough, listen to us enough, and be our soul mate.

Not only do we idealize the other person, but we also become disappointed and angry when the person doesn’t live up to our expectations.

Trust, on the other hand, is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. In a healthy relationship, trust is built slowly, which gives us evidence of past trustworthiness.  A pattern is developed over time that shows one that the other is trustworthy – or not. Those who trust too much, too soon are either confusing trust with expectations, or they are afraid to let the relationship take its normal course. Either way, they find themselves in a lot of pain they could probably avoid if they could learn to be patient and allow the relationship to evolve.

When trust is broken, it can be rebuilt, but it takes long-term, consistent effort – sometimes extreme effort – to prove trustworthiness again. Once that process has begun, and the other side begins to see convincing evidence, (s)he must eventually begin to trust again – a little at a time. (What I usually tell clients is that it’s like getting used to hot water – you put your toe in first, and once it feels OK, you can go in as deep as your ankle, etc). It probably won’t be completely without backslides, and both parties must be diligent in rebuilding the trust.  They also need to understand that when that process has gone on long enough, the relationship will not be the same as it once was – but it is often better, depending on whether both parties are willing to let go of the emotional entanglement of the issue that broke the trust in the first place. (Notice I didn’t say forget it, just let go of the pain each experienced).

Some, who have been hurt previously, decide they are not going to trust at all; and just shut down in order to protect themselves from more pain.  The problem with this is that we can’t just shut down the pain.  When we shut down any emotion, we shut them ALL down.  Then we might be “safe” from hurting, but we aren’t really living a life of any kind of fulfillment.

So how do we avoid these pitfalls?  The logical answer is that we don’t.  Trial and error is a part of why we date several people before we determine who or what we want (and what we don’t want) in a relationship.  As human beings, it’s really difficult for us to not have expectations of another. There are some things that cannot be accomplished without experiences – usually those to the contrary of what we expect or hope for.

So this takes us back to building trust – slowly. If someone breaks our trust once, we can learn from that and work through the emotions, examine our expectations and whether they need to change in some way. If it happens again – or several times, at some point, we have to determine if we are better without that person in our lives.

Another skill that helps is learning about not being too attached to any specific outcome. The practice of staying in the moment in relationships is just as important as it is in the rest of our lives. As humans we all change, and evolve individually.  So why would we expect the other person in a relationship not to do so.  In fact, when I talk about spiritual partnerships, what I explain is this: It’s not being in love with the person we think the other can or should be, or trying to make them become something else (because we just KNOW they have so much potential). It’s about each partner being there for the other – to help him/her grow into the best person (s)he can be. As long as each does this with the pure intent to help the other grow, the relationship should flourish.

That takes lots of trust, and very few expectations. Love the people you love for what they are – not for what you think they can become.

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An individual remains an individual throughout life and beyond life on earth. Spiritual partnership is not bondage, but freedom. (In a spiritual partnership, the individuals) share with each other without demanding. Neither has any rights – but they have the privilege of giving. Love is an opportunity to give – to provide – to be there.

-Anthony Demelo

 

 

 

I Am Never Upset for the Reason I Think

For years I’ve talked about our need to take personal responsibility for our lives, and to not blame others or our environment for how we feel or behave.  Reality is not always what we can see, smell or touch. We create our own environment by how we look at the world around us.

Below are some excerpts from a chapter in a little book published in the 70s, titled LOVE IS LETTING GO OF FEAR by Gerald G. Jampolsky, MD. I hear a lot about the fear people are feeling  these days – from clients, friends and others I just know from social media. Regardless of when they were written, the message of these excerpts are very appropriate now:

Most of us have a belief system based on experiences from the past and on perceptions from the physical senses. . . . Because our physical senses appear to relay information from the outside world to our brain, we may believe that our state of mind is controlled entirely by the feedback we receive. This belief contributes to a sense of ourselves as separate entities who are largely isolated and feel alone in an uncaring and fragmented world. This can leave us with the impression that the world we see causes us to feel upset, depressed, anxious and fearful. Such a belief system presumes that the outside world is the cause and we are the effect.

What would happen if we believed that what we see is determined by the thoughts in our mind? . . . that our thoughts are the cause and what we see is the effect. It would then make no sense to blame the world or those in it for the miseries and pain we experience. . .it would be possible then to consider perception as “a mirror and not a fact.”
It may be helpful to question our need to attempt to control the external world. We can, instead, consistently control our inner world by choosing what thoughts we want to have. . . Peace of mind begins with our own thoughts and extends outward.

We all have the power to direct our minds to replace the feelings of being upset, depressed and fearful with the feeling of inner peace. I am tempted to believe that I am upset because of what other people do or because of circumstances and events which seem beyond my control. . . When I recognize that I always have the choice between being fearful or experiencing Love by extending Love to others I need no longer be upset for any reason.

(The author goes on to give a personal example, where he explains that he had had chronic back pain for years, which greatly restricted his activities).

I thought I was upset because of the pain and the distress caused by it. Then one day there seemed to be a small voice inside which said that, even though I had an organic back syndrome, I was causing my own pain. It became clear to me that my back condition became worse when I was under emotional stress, particularly when I was fearful and holding a grievance against someone I was not upset for the reason I thought. As I learned to let go of my grievances through the practice of forgiveness, my pain disappeard. I now have no limitations on my activities. I thought I had been upset because of back pain. I found however, I was upset because of unhealed personal relationships. I had let myself believe that the body controls the mind, rather the realizing that the mind controls the body.

It is from our peace of mind (cause) that a peaceful perception of the world arises (effect).

I hope you are creating a peaceful Easter holiday.

The Other Side of Grief

We recently lost a family member to cancer.  While we all know we’re eventually going to go through the process of putting our lives back together after the death of someone we have loved, when the time actually comes, it can feel like we never REALLY believed it would happen to us.

As I have contemplated this new loss and have begun to process how it affects my own life, but more importantly, those who were closer to our loved one, I decided to pull out one of my favorite books about grief.  It helps me make sense of things.

I’m constantly reading books and listening to audiobooks and podcasts that help me understand life and the processes we all experience.  The most profound realization I’ve had as I’ve been so focused in the past several years with learning about what happens to us once we shed our bodies and leave this realm, is that by studying this, I have learned SO MUCH MORE about how I want to live my life here and now – more than I have ever learned from any psychology or counseling class I ever took!

So here are a few quotes on grief and life after our life here on earth from a small book called THE OTHER SIDE OF GRIEF, by Ara Parisien.  I was fortunate to see Ara work in person at the Afterlife Awareness Conference in St. Louis.  She is a medium, with a very kind demeanor.  I’ve read a lot of books on grief and bereavement, taken several courses and worked with many clients in the midst of grief, as well as having dealt with my own losses. Ara’s book is only 117 pages, and while much of it is not new material, it’s packed with enlightenment and a very real comprehension for what people experience when they grieve and what happens once we’ve left this life.  Her perspective is both from personal experiences and from the many connections she has helped others make over the years.

Here is just a short excerpt from her book:  (Not all are direct quotes, as I’ve edited here & there to fit this briefer format).

Grief is the most growth-producing experience we have as humans. . .Spirit have shown me that it isn’t the grieving of a loved one that causes the anguish but more of a shutting down of the love center which is what births and perpetuates the pain.  What is really occurring is that from the moment a terminal diagnosis was made or the moment your loved one passes. . . you actually experience an expansion on a vibrational level.  (Later) you recall it felt like time virtually stopped.  You felt a rush of adrenalin that virtually exploded through every pore of your body and paralyzed your mind.  This is the trademark of intense expansion.  But what is this expansion all about?  It is a tangible moment in time when the person you ‘were’ becomes a person that has expanded into a newer version of itself.  There is a cognitive dissonance at this time because nothing seems to fit the usual parameters of who you were. . .

The expectation of the soul is that you catch up to the new version of yourself because that is what the catalytic experience demands. Instead we flounder in the pain and anguish of the catalyst itself, not focusing on the Eternal Gift that has been provided.  It sounds cold and callous but it is innately true.  This does not mean your love is minimized in any way.  It simply means that shutting down the heart center keeps you at arm’s length from the love that you are and at the same time it keeps you from the Eternal Gift . . . Growth.

Grief is resistance. Love is non-resistance.  Resistance causes pain.  Love allows us to remember we are always connected with All There Is, at all times.

When one is ready to move into non-resistance, some may call this surrendering, that is where one grows in leaps and bounds.  Eternal Gifts are recognized and joy is the result.

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Again, I strongly recommend this book regardless of when you experienced your loss.  We’ve all  felt that sense of aloneness.  This book resonates with me.  It’s more than just information.  It allowed me to experience a shift – which is what growth is all about.

Namaste

The Least of These . . .

Although some of my recent blogs here have been responses to our current 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.

So I’m afraid I’m 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 (and now appears to not be important at all to some in our administration), has pulled me back to the level of trying to make sense of something that makes no sense.

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.

Although I grew up in a very sheltered environment, where I saw little to no diversity; as an adult, I’ve been fortunate to have been allowed the opportunity to vicariously experience institutional bias through friends and clients.  Often the bias is very obvious, but the most damaging is the covert – those things buried in bureaucracy – such as the implied belief that those on some form of financial or medical assistance are “less-than” the rest of us who pay for our own way.  I have worked with addicts, mentally ill, homeless, single moms, prison inmates, parolees, gay, lesbian, straight, transgender, black, white, Hispanic, Japanese, Indian, Native American, and the disabled. Sure, there are always those few who work the system.  But my experience with all of the above, as I looked into their eyes and heard their stories, was that I eventually saw myself.  As I said at the outset of this blog, all they want is what we want – the ability to continue their lives in the best way they can as free and equal citizens.

So while I was listening to all the ranting and raving for that 17 day period about the new “healthcare bill”, I kept remembering one client I had seen a few years ago when I was offering 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 own 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