Monthly Archives: January 2018

Obsessive Thoughts and Compulsive Behaviors

Confession time:  I’ve found myself recently getting back into some compulsive behaviors as a way to cope. My way of doing this is to constantly “manage” things and try to fix them so I can get past my frustration. Depending on how deeply I get caught up in this behavior, I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture, and forget to stay in the moment. I become obsessed with the future and try to control it.

I know and share with others that we need to allow ourselves to feel things as they arise. But I, like everybody else I’ve ever met, have certain ways I’ve historically coped before I understood and implemented this tool, and at times of stress we tend to slip back into old behaviors, even if we’ve learned better.  I tend to go into denial and stay compulsively busy in order to not allow the feelings in. Some people worry incessantly, drink or eat too much, use sex, exercise, gambling or work to escape their feelings.

The purpose of obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors is to avoid what we’re feeling inside – which is usually some level of fear.  So we get hyper-focused on something on the outside. Obsessions are like a downward spiral. The longer we stay in them, the more difficult it is to stop. (For me, it feels like it’s just sucking me down against my will). And the more we repeat the obsessive thought, the more ingrained it becomes. This seems to give it a life of it’s own – and makes it much more difficult for us to stop the obsessiveness.  Then we go right into compulsive behavior, which is an attempt to control something, because we feel out of control inside. (As I said, it’s a way to avoid the fear we’re feeling, but we kid ourselves into thinking that controlling SOMETHING will help).

It takes a deliberate act to stop it. We need to make an effort to move away from obsessiveness. This usually means getting OUT of our heads and into some other part of our lives – physical activity, expressing emotions appropriately, communicating with others, distracting ourselves visually or with some other sense.

It can feel impossible to break an obsessive pattern, but it’s not. Like any other skill, it takes practice, and the more you do it, the more natural it becomes.  First, I encourage not judging our obsessions, but becoming conscious enough to be able to witness them with awareness, curiosity and self-compassion.  This way the old beliefs upon which the obsession is based can eventually become more clear.  Only when we recognize irrational beliefs for what they are, can we begin to change them.

Why is it important to change them?  Because we behave according to what we believe about ourselves and the world and people around us.  If we think about it, much of the marketing in our culture is based on fear:  We buy health insurance, auto insurance, renters or homeowners insurance – the word insurance gives us the sense of a “guarantee” that even if the worst happens, we’ll be covered.  But even in selling us clothing, makeup, guns or cars, the advertisements are aimed at our fear that if we DON’T buy their product, we won’t be safe, cool, attractive, or at least “OK”.

If obsessive thoughts are really interfering in your life, I suggest finding a good therapist. But if you’re like me, and they just pop up when you’re off your game a little, or when something out of the ordinary happens to throw things out of balance, I encourage slowing down your mind, changing your focus, and reconnecting with your emotions. If you’re someone who meditates regularly or are even open to it, I highly recommend it.

Here are some other activities that might help (notice many of these are getting out of your head and into your body):

1) Physical exercise. Helps if this is something fun for you – dancing, tennis, running or whatever you enjoy.

2) Belly Breathing. Breathe deep into your abdomen. If you can, breathe in through your nose. As you let the breath out, let it out through your mouth. Notice that each time you breathe in you have to work at it – you have to contract your muscles and draw the breath in. But when you exhale, all you have to do is – just let go. (There are other variations on this, but this is a good start).  Just get used to that feeling of “just letting go”.

3) Progressive muscle relaxation. There are different ways to do this, but one of the simplest is to start at your head and tighten each muscle, then relax it. Take a breath and notice for a few seconds/minutes how it feels to be relaxed in that part of your body. Then go to your neck, your shoulders, arms, and all the way down your body. Finally feel your entire body sink into your bed or chair and imagine what it would feel like to have no bones – to just be limp. Sit with that as long as you can. Some people also imagine a warm, bright light shining down into their body from the top of their head and feel it “melting” down through each part of their body, head to toes.

4) Talk to someone you trust – and preferably someone who understands the issue you’re dealing with and can be compassionate and willing to listen. You don’t need advice, you just need to express what you’re feeling. OR just contact someone you enjoy visiting with and talk about a completely different subject to get your mind off your obsession.

5) Find an alternative (more positive) obsession. Work a crossword puzzle, or find craft or hobby – like gardening, repairing things, etc.  I don’t typically recommend “switching addictions,” but as long as it’s a healthy activity that helps take your mind off your thoughts, that’s the key. Balance is always important here. Don’t let the new obsession take you away from other important areas of your life, like family time, etc.

6) Other distractions: Reading or listening to calming music can be helpful. One of my favorite things to do after a stressful day is to watch Ellen or a stupid sitcom, or comedy so I can just laugh & release the negative energy. I also listen to spiritual or uplifting/inspiring podcasts or audio books daily, while I’m exercising.

7) Practice healthy rituals. Positive affirmations (example: “I’m free of stress” or “I can handle this”), prayer, meditation and yoga are free and can be uplifting.

Finally, and for long-term success, work on staying fully conscious on a consistent basis. This means to stay in the moment. Our past doesn’t dictate our present, it only informs it. The future is not here yet, and worrying will not change it. As long as we stay in the now, we can make the choice to do or be different.


Obsession is a way of organizing our lives so that we never have to deal with the hard part. -Geneen Roth


Our values are those things that carry the most significance for us. As such, it would follow that what we verbalize as most valuable is where we put our energy and actions. However, that’s not always the case.  We sometimes just give lip service to what we think are our values – like family, spiritual beliefs, honesty, etc.  But if our behaviors don’t match our words, then we really need to examine why that is.

Our values come from our core. Those using only lip service (chatter) about their values are often applying a thinly-veiled veneer that covers a center of greed and a *me first* attitude. Sometimes it feels as if the moral compass in our culture is pointing south. It’s not my intention to negatively judge these people. My spiritual studies have taught me that they are simply operating at a lower energetic frequency. (Our level of frequency is not good or bad, it’s just lower or higher in varying degrees as we each evolve). That said, I do have concerns that they are hindering the betterment of civilization as a whole.

But I’m convinced the majority of us sincerely want and work to become better people, hence raising our energetic level. Lately, I’ve taken notice of how the character of a person can tell us a lot about whether they are someone who has a core value system that can benefit their own life (and all whose lives they touch), or whether they are simply using chatter to create an outer perception of strength; which ultimately leads to the decline of society as a whole. ONE PERSON’S ENERGY MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN THE ENERGY OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

Frankly, even though this has been the case since the beginning of time, I’m still astonished to see so much abuse of power by those in the most powerful positions. Their actions and words seem to give permission to others to espouse similar views that (even if they thought it previously), used to be socially unacceptable to verbalize; using the phrase “politically correct” to put down those of us who want to encompass unity and equality in our speech and lives. I admit, at least maybe they’re being honest about their beliefs. But our thoughts are energy, and as such, they influence our attitudes, emotions, and actions. Speaking those thoughts out loud strengthens attitudes of disdain towards others who are different from them; which in turn often fosters action in a similar vein. Violence (verbal or physical) is the crutch of the emotionally crippled.

So, I started researching what really constitutes a character of integrity. As I’m sure most of you do, I had my own ideas, but I didn’t want to get stuck on just my own experiences and concepts. First, I looked up antonyms for integrity in the thesaurus: corruption, disgrace, dishonest, dishonor, incompleteness. When I looked for definitions and characteristics, I found (which, of course, is no surprise), that Integrity has to have a solid foundation of ethics, but that it also encompasses other characteristics.

In the past, I have shared this quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer about not getting stuck in our past:

. . . I use the metaphor of a boat going down the river. When you’re standing at the back of the boat, looking at the water as you’re going along at forty knots, what you see there is the wake. The wake is the trail that’s left behind. You can ask the question, “What’s making the boat go forward?” It can’t be the wake. The wake can’t drive the boat. It’s just the trail left behind. It can’t make the boat go forward, any more than the trail that you’ve left behind in your life is responsible for where you’re going now in your life. . .

Interestingly, in his book INTEGRITY, Dr. Henry Cloud describes a process he uses to assess character.  He calls it The Wake.  Again, it’s a metaphor about sitting in a boat and watching its wake.  While the wake obviously doesn’t drive the boat, you can tell a lot about the boat as you look at the wake.  For instance, if the wake’s in a straight line, you get a feeling that the boat is steadily on course, and the captain isn’t sleeping at the wheel.  It also feels that the engine or a shaft is not out of whack.  If it’s smooth and flat, you know something about the speed of the boat; and if it’s steep, you can tell something about its drag. But, if the wake is wavering, you begin to wonder.

Here’s the point he’s making. As a person goes through life, (s)he leaves a wake behind, and there is much to be learned from that history. The character of that person is what leaves the wake.  That’s what (s)he and others can point to that gives us a sense of the contribution the person has made and is continuing to make to the larger society.

So what are the qualities we might want in order to keep our wake steady? Here are some questions we can each ask ourselves to get started:

1) Am I able to establish trust? In other words, if I expect others to trust me, do my past behaviors confirm that I am trustworthy in my words and actions?

2) Am I oriented toward the truth? Am I willing to listen to all sides of an issue without prejudice (as much as is humanly possible) and come to a conclusion that encompasses a rational reality?

3) Am I focused on getting a specific result? Rather than arbitrarily going about my day, do I have a purposeful focus of my eventual destination (recognizing that I may never reach that destination, but the journey is what is important)?

4) Do I embrace the negative as it arises, instead of avoiding it, or allowing it to get me down and slowing or stopping any progress?

5) Am I continually trying to become a better person? Do I have a sense of who/what I want to become? And what am I doing NOW toward that end?

6) Do I focus on letting go of human selfishness and self-centeredness and live in a reality that embraces the greater good of all involved? Allowing for the good of all inevitably improves my own life, even if I have to give up my original belief of what is “right.”

Integrity is a quality of adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character and honesty.  It’s the state of being whole and undivided; the condition of being unified; internal consistency or lack of corruption. Some of the roots of the word include: intact, integrate and integral. In human terms, it’s wholeness and effectiveness as a person – running on all cylinders.

It’s not about strength so much as it’s about courage. It’s not about how we appear to others, but who we REALLY are. Rather than stretching for our highest goals, it’s about digging for our deepest treasure from within.

The purpose of the veneer I mentioned earlier is to make something look like what it’s not; to conceal what is really underneath. So when we boast about our characteristics or talk about what we’re going to do without follow-up, we’re causing more harm than good. (In fact, if we feel the need to boast at all, it’s a red flag that we’re trying to be something we are not).

The true worth of our core values becomes visible through our actions. A strong core is what helps us weather the storms of daily life. We’re all exposed to the same storms from time to time, but how we respond to them is what shows our strength of character. We each have the tools available to us, but we have to use them. Just carrying an umbrella won’t protect us from the rain. We need to open that umbrella or put on our boots so we can wade through the floods to higher land. And sometimes we have to be aware enough to be able to change course and avoid the storm altogether.

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that if they don’t feel “whole” or “intact”  or strong enough that means they’ll never measure up to this character trait.  It may feel like a tall order, but none of us starts out there.  We grow into it. That’s where courage enters into the picture.  Courage is only courage when there’s risk involved. That’s the point of recognizing when we’ve made a mistake, own it, and making the effort to do it differently next time.

If I want you to remember anything from this blog, it’s that we each have a contribution to make to this world. It’s up to each of us how our own wake will look and, in turn, how we can help enrich the environment for all of us.

“We are all energetically connected and affected by each other. Each of us has an impact that far exceeds our current understanding. It’s a wonderful opportunity and a great responsibility to be conscious of that influence. . . . Each of us is a seed that has been planted within our world’s current vibration. When we raise our own frequencies by the growth produced by our life challenges, we raise the world’s frequency from within – like a single drop of dye added to a glass of water, each person alters the entire hue .  . .”                   -Robert Schwartz

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr

With all the division, hate and violence permeating our world these days, it’s hard not to feel fear and intimidation.  Martin Luther King, Jr aid “The only way to convert an enemy into a friend is through love.”

Dr. Wayne Dyer used to talk a lot about those we’re told to hate.  Here’s how he used to spell it out:

Throughout our history, there has been a long list of those we’ve been conditioned to hate. The British, French, Spanish, Germans, Japanese, Russians, Communists, Northern Koreans, Vietnamese, Iranians, Taliban, and both northerners and southerners in our own country are some of the people we’ve been encouraged at various times to call enemies and to hate. The list is long, and as time passes, those we were assigned to hate we later were told should be removed from our hate list. The enemy is obviously hatred itself . . .

Love heals all.  It doesn’t negate the horror or the pain that we had to navigate to get there.  That’s just the journey we all have to tread. It’s necessary to go through that, in order to get to the other side. Our trip will take it’s detours – but that’s just part of the design.  It gives us time to develop the emotional muscles to endure the reality, and when we are ready, the reality appears.  The timing is not ours; it is divine order.  But when we find the love and the ability to let go and experience the freedom, we can bask in the love that gave birth to each of us.

I hope you will take a few minutes this week to examine the path you’ve been on. Things have been so divided lately, that I’m guessing all of us has someone in our lives that we just don’t understand.  They’re SO different.  Don’t run from that and retreat to the comfort of your own tribe.  Seek them out; talk to them. Ask questions about why they are the way they are, or did something they did.  Share something from your life.  Talk about your beliefs – and why you believe that way.  I’ll bet you’ll find you have more in common with each other, than is different.

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr

Bozos on the Bus

I’ve posted this blog several times, but it’s been a while. It’s one of my favorite concepts because I see this over and over in my office.  People come in thinking that whatever they need to share with me is the most horrific thing I’ve ever heard.  One of the reasons I love what I do is because I have an opportunity that many of you apparently don’t have.  I hear these stories, and I am reassured that I’m not the only weird, crazy person in the world!

It helps us to put it into perspective when we can realize that we’re ALL on that same bus!

I’ve been re-listening to the audiobook BROKEN OPEN by Elizabeth Lesser, and it blows me away. I read (listen to) a LOT of audiobooks – mostly spiritual and some “self-help”. I love doing this because they lift my day and inspire my work. But for some reason, this particular book  really hits me where I live. No new concepts – but a unique way of explaining things I try to help others understand.

Here’s an example: Elizabeth speaks of Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney) who was the MC for Woodstock and has spent the rest of his life inspiring others through humor.

One of his one liners is how we are all “Bozos on the Bus” – in other words, we are all vulnerable, human, have problems and occasionally make huge mistakes. Direct quote from the book:
“We should welcome our defects as part of the standard human operating system. Every single person on this bus we called earth hurts. It’s when we have shame about our failings that hurt turns into suffering.”

When we’re engulfed in our shame, we assume there’s another bus. One whose passengers are all thin, healthy, happy, have fulfilling jobs and are from loving, functional families. These passengers never do mean or stupid things, get all the great jobs, and generally just manage their lives appropriately – living happily ever after.

“But we are on the bus that says BOZO on the front, and we worry that we may be the only passenger on board. This is the illusion that so many of us labor under- that we’re all alone in our weirdness and our uncertainty; that we may be the most lost person on the highway. Of course we don’t always feel like this. Sometimes a wave of self-forgiveness washes over us, and suddenly we’re connected to our fellow humans; suddenly we belong.

It is wonderful to take your place on the bus with the other bozos. It may be the first step to enlightenment to understand with all of your brain cells that the other bus – that sleek bus with the cool people who know where they are going – is also filled with bozos – bozos in drag; bozos with a secret. When we see clearly that every single human being, regardless of fame or fortune or age or brains or beauty, shares the same ordinary foibles, a strange thing happens. We begin to cheer up, to loosen up, and we become as buoyant as those people we imagined on the other bus. As we rumble along the potholed road, lost as ever, through the valleys and over the hills, we find ourselves among friends. We sit back, and enjoy the ride.”