Growing Through Grief

Emily Dickinson once said “Unable are the loved to die.  For love is immortality”

I recently watched a documentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I watched the process of how the scripture was read to the person who had just died for 49 days after death (at which time, the Tibetan Buddhists believe that the soul reincarnates). The kindly read scriptures are intended to help the deceased navigate through the afterlife and attain a favorable reincarnation. The date of the cremation is carefully chosen using astrological charts (again to help the deceased gain a favorable reincarnation) and the box that carries the person’s remains were humbly but cheerfully decorated not unlike a birthday gift. Friends and family were there to witness the cremation and to release their attachment to the deceased, so that the soul could be free to move on. After all this, the ashes were taken to a remote area and left to the elements. There was no marker or headstone. The ashes would soon be swept away by the snowy Himalayan winds.

The locals were asked if they were scared of death. They answered “No” that it was just a natural part of life. They seemed to embrace the fact that being alive means that there is no true resting place, that we are all travelers stopping off here for a while. There were tears, but not bitter tears. The thing that struck me most was their willingness to appreciate life, love and letting go.

Whether or not you believe in reincarnation is not the purpose of this article. I want to write about how human beings love and keep loving when they have lost someone precious to them.

The first thing that struck me was the loving act of reading something to help the one who has died for 49 days. Whether or not you believe that people live on after they have passed, I reckon the act of doing something so selfless in honor of the one you love would soothe your own heart and prevent bitterness. If the person who has died can hear you, what a comfort and a joy to be sent off in such a heartfelt way.

Prayer and special attention to trying to help the loved one into a favorable and new life also speaks to this affect but also helps the ones who are left behind to focus on wishing the departed good things and letting them go, even though it’s hard.

The loved ones were there to witness the body turn back to dust. It is their chance to say their final goodbyes. Perhaps the fire symbolizes release, cleansing and transforming. I have to say I got a lump in my throat when I saw the small pile of ashes on the mountain top. The possessions of the deceased were auctioned off to the community by the monks. It seemed like a reminder to all to remain humble, that the only thing we are left with when we die is the love we shared and the spirit we fly off with.

If only we went through such rituals when we lost the ones we loved here in this country, perhaps we could all grow into better people through our grief. Perhaps we could appreciate our lives a little more and learn to love each other with an open hand.

Most of you have probably heard of the 7 Stages of Grief by Kubler Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) so I am not going to go into detail about them though you can find a great deal of information about it on the web. For me, I have found that big losses such as these are a little like dropping a large rock into a glassy lake. The grief comes in rather large waves at first, but over the years the waves get a little smaller. The sun comes out again, and the ripples become even smaller, but the sweet pain of that love is still there to give you courage and remind you to take great care of your time here on earth.

If you have recently lost someone, why not grieve like the pros?
1.) Take time each day to read something inspiring to help your loved one journey on for a period of time.
2.) Say prayers each day for their safe arrival, wherever they have gone.
3.) Create a ritual to set them free with your blessing. Maybe you could write your goodbyes on a piece of paper, fold it into a paper boat and send it down the river.
4.) Take some time and think about what you can do with the incredible love that they left behind. Some of the greatest art, poetry, music and social endeavors have been created as a result of tragedy and loss.

Gather people around you and listen to their stories. You will find that we are all on a road to the same place, we all have pain and we are all just doing the best that we can as travelers on a mysterious and winding road.

Grieving Well; Hypnosis For Healthy Grief After Loss Due To Death Of A Loved One, Bereavement – Anna Thompson

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Fair Fighting, Self-Righteousness and the Big Picture

I recently had a most heated spat over a very small misunderstanding. After some personal reflection, I began to analyze what seemed to happen during the interchange. To me, it appeared that we were both assuming we knew what the other person’s motivations were, and reacting on our assumptions. As we are both very stubborn in our less savory moments, we just rolled with our own stories about what we thought was true. We both failed at listening to the other person, neither of us wanted to give up our own side of the story, and we brought up all sorts of irrelevant information to complicate and ad fuel to the fire. We fervently psychoanalyzed the darkest parts of the other and told the other person how the other person thought and felt and how wrong that was. No matter how the other protested our projections and assumptions, we held steadfast to what we “knew” the other person was thinking and feeling as if our lives depended on it. It was a battle of the wills, and there would be no survivors.

Mostly we just made each other feel crazy, bulldozed and misunderstood. After laboring over the over weaning list of topics for hours we were still arguing about who was more at fault. I, of course refused until my dying day, to accept any more than 50% of the problem. “Not 51%, not 50.0001%, not one nano-percent over 50%!!!” I said, to which I got absolutely nowhere and ended up giving myself a time out. Dr. Phil would have been appalled.

“Real mature” I say to myself as I sit here thinking about how stupid it all sounds. I know better, and I know how to fight fair, but sometimes I get lazy and let my childish stubbornness take over. I will fight to the bitter end to defend what I think is right, and so will the other person. Unfortunately, most of the time we are both a little bit off, which makes the whole ordeal wretchedly pointless.

And yet, I don’t feel mad here with a few miles and minutes between us. We don’t see the situation the same way, we have different points of view and that is okay. We may never see eye to eye on this one, but maybe we aren’t supposed to. We have different brains, different pasts, and witnessed the argument from different angles. The problem isn’t that we don’t agree on what happened. The problem is that we cannot accept two views at the same time as both true. We turn it into “It’s either this or that, black or white, good or bad, your fault or mine”.

Now let’s think about some other global disagreements and wars. Most of us pick sides and decide who is the “good” and who is the “bad” side (in this country, patriotism has come to mean siding with the government’s decisions without question), but is it really that simple? What if the “bad” side has a good point? What if the “good” side is off base? I guess that would mean that we are still responsible for holding ourselves, our government and our country in check-that there is no hero party who can save us. It would mean that we have to look at ourselves and look at where we are going wrong instead of waiting for everyone else to behave to our expectations.

I think about countries that our country has gone to war with. I think about the devastation of the soldiers that go and die or are wounded. I think about the soldiers who die on the other side, who think that they are just as right as we think that we are. Somehow it starts with a belief that your side is 100% right, ignites with aggressive behavior, that aggression feeds more aggression and rage and so the cycle continues. Two sides both wanting to be heroes, two sides growing to hate each other through each other’s actions.

It’s really, really sad and has a ring of familiarity with even our most ordinary disagreements. Yes, something that the other side is doing is likely off-putting to you. The thing is, how could the other side just as fervently fight for their side if there wasn’t a problem that needed to be fixed on YOUR side? I am not saying that it is not necessary to stick up for your side, but I am saying it’s worth looking into the other side of the story before you start fighting.

Think about political parties that we are always going back and forth between. We choose who the “good” party is based on a select few political agendas and turn the opposing party into the enemy based on a few of their political agendas or personal problems. The problem is that all individuals, political parties, religions and countries have their own blind spots. Whenever humans are involved, there is a margin of error as interpretations of individual, spiritual and world events vary widely from person to person. Without allowing all of the sides to complete the picture, how can we as a society or as individuals truly grow? How will anything worthwhile ever get done?

There are things that humans do that are entirely uncalled for, but looking a little deeper into their lives, the story broadens. The person yelling in the fast food line may have had a series of frustrations dump on them for the past week. The guy who walked out of the grocery store trying to steal a cartful of groceries may have a hungry family, can’t afford food and is too proud to visit the food bank. Even the molester in the next town was likely molested themselves and was subconsciously programmed to act out the abuse. Yes, what they are doing is wrong, and yet their story exists. It is part of the big picture, no matter how much we would like to reject them. Part of growing is understanding your own story line and knowing that your story line (as the other guy’s story line) is limited to your own experiences and interpretations.

Am I really that lofty to believe that I do not judge anyone? Ha! I find myself tooting my own horn just like anybody else (obviously from the above sample). But ultimately, I do feel a calling that I need to listen more and respect the stories of others that are seemingly not compatible with my own. If I disagree on every fundamental level about the very core of what another person stands for, part of my growing into a better person is respecting them as a part of a bigger picture that I have yet to understand.

As Lao Tzu said “See the turmoil of beings, but contemplate their return”. It would be nice if we could all bury the hatchet and focus on something more interesting, like how magnificently beautiful a caterpillar is as it stretches itself across a leaf, or how the clouds are always reshaping themselves against a backdrop of ever changing light. But for now, in contrast to my poor former example, here are some rules for fighting fair…

Fighting Fair

1. Don’t talk while hungry, sick or tired.

2. When stating your case, speak plainly about your own experience.

a.) Focus on what happened from your perspective with the attitude that you may be wrong,

b.) Tell the other person what the situation or comment seems to mean to you, again with the attitude that you may be wrong,

c.) Ask for clarification.

3. Stop condescending, mocking, patronizing or talking down to the other person. Stop playing the victim.

4. Don’t ignore, dissociate, invalidate, or undermine the other person’s feelings, even if you don’t understand them. Just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean that they don’t have good reason for their feelings.

5. Be respectful and kind, no matter how out of line the other person is acting. Take a time out if necessary and give the other person an idea of when you will be back.

6. Both parties apologize for their part of the problem.

7. Repeat back what the other person said in a respectful manner after listening carefully. Allow the other person to clarify, if necessary, so you get it right from their perspective.

8. If one or more parties is not following the rules, a time out will be called until both parties review the rules, clarify what they want and are calm enough to discuss the matter respectfully.

9. If you would like to, you can fill out a complaint form before returning to the argument. Answer these 5 questions to clarify the situation and what you need to resolve it. a) What happened from my perspective? b) What does the situation mean to me? c) Other possible explanations besides my interpretation? d) What can I own up to and/or change? e) What am I specifically hoping to get out of this conversation? (ie validation, a certain boundary, an apology etc).

There it is from one faulty human to another. If anyone has any other great fair fighting rules, feel free to comment. Peace 🙂

Guided Self-Hypnosis For Anger Management, Rage and Temper Control – Anna Thompson

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Overcome Commitment Phobia

Ever since I can remember, I have had this preoccupation with freedom. I saw myself with no possessions covered in dirt in Africa somewhere, or traveling somewhere far away with nothing but a bag and a little bit of food. While other people wanted nice cars and homes, I wanted to see the world. I was never much for settling down and found myself wanting to move on after being anywhere for too long. I sabotaged relationships that I knew could go somewhere and gravitated towards relationships that I knew would fail. Knowing I was stuck somewhere or with someone felt like death by suffocation to me and I found myself doing a lot of running away or getting the other person to do it for me.

In retrospect, I know that when I was young, I saw some unhappiness which I came to associate with family and settling down. I remember promising myself that I would never let that happen to me-that I would never settle down to become an unhappy person. The promises that children make to themselves are very powerful-the small seeds that become very large manifestations later in life. Every time I drove in the car, I would imagine myself flying outside the window. I would be an astronaut, a missionary, a bum or a wandering minstrel-anything but stuck. When I closed my eyes, the fantasy was the same. I was always running as far as I could away from everything and everyone. No ties, nothing but freedom.

It is difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced commitment phobia how intense the fear reaction becomes at times, or how fantastic the fantasy of escape can feel. I would go on a date, but when the relationship progressed, the person literally began to look repulsively ugly to me. One very handsome person I dated smiled just like a toothy dinosaur. Another one was so repulsive I could barely stand being in the same room. All I could think about was “Where’s the nearest exit?” It felt a bit like someone was putting a pillow over my face, cutting off my air supply and crushing my chest. If I stayed at a job too long, people got to know me, or had hope of advancement to a higher position, I would begin to look for another job in another city. It was like the world started turning in the wrong direction, kind of that woozy feeling I got the only time I gave blood, just before I took a nose dive and fainted. On the other hand, I easily committed myself to relationships that were wrong for me and would inevitably end as they never triggered my fear of permanence.

The truth is, the journey to overcome commitment phobia is not an easy one. Because the decision is often so deeply embedded in the subconscious, understanding needs to happen on an emotional level as well as an intellectual level. Trauma tends to be encoded differently in our minds than different kinds of memories. Like a bubble, the mind/body/emotion memory tends to remain disconnected until it is triggered by something that reminds us of the trauma. The memory comes back vividly and powerfully, sometimes only with the body or emotions. We may not remember the trauma explicitly (being able to recall the memory) but we often remember the trauma implicitly (with our bodies and emotions). Luckily, there are therapeutic techniques that can effectively help to resolve these pockets of traumatic memories.

Here are a couple approaches to overcoming commitment phobia…

1.) I have found hypnotherapy as an excellent source to help identify the source of the fear and fantasy as a coping mechanism. This is a great resource for people who are having a hard time identifying where things went wrong and/or want the quickest results. Other therapies that I have found to be effective in resolving phobias and trauma are EMDR and Lifespan Integration.

2.) You can also try this self-help approach…
a.) First you need to identify whether overcoming this fear is worth it to you. Deciding to do this means facing your fears head on-it’s certainly not the wimp’s way out. It also means letting go of your fantasy of a perfect person, a perfect place or a perfect situation. It is very difficult to come back to the ground after a beautiful dream. One reason you may want to consider overcoming this fear is that dabbling with hearts and varying situations is often hollow, stressful, lonely and hurtful to others (and especially to you). People with commitment phobia, just like everyone else, long for a deep connection. Because of this, they are always looking for love or stability only to run away from it at full speed.
b.) Write down the word “commitment” and place a series of dashes around the word connecting to words that you associate with commitment. It may be “boredom” or “suffocation” or “danger”…whatever comes to mind, don’t judge it, just keep writing until you have written out every word or phrase that comes to your mind. This is called free association.
c.) Once you have all of the words written out, circle the one/ones that have the strongest emotion attached to them. See if you can’t identify the word or phrase that describes your feelings about commitment the most powerfully. You have just identified your true fears about what commitment means.
d.) Decide to accept yourself exactly as you are and understand that your feelings are not “crazy”, they come from a wounded place. Focus on one of the phrases for a while undisturbed until the feelings come to you. When you feel the feelings of the repulsion, fear or disgust while thinking of that fear, see if a memory comes to you. Hold the memory and the feeling in your mind’s eye (if it is not too traumatic to deal with in which case you may do better working with a professional) and see if you made a decision at that point in your life. See if the older you has a better decision to offer the younger you, one that may serve you better. Open your eyes and write out the situation, and your new decision.
e.) Focus on the other words or phrases, one at a time using the process above until you begin to feel less and less fearful and repulsed by the idea of commitment. Please note, the more deeply relaxed you are during this exercise and the more you stay focused on the task at hand, the more you will benefit from this exercise. Remember to approach yourself with kindness and full acceptance, as this is your gateway to growth.
f.) Do some research on what types of healthy mates to look for. You may not be ready for a relationship, but at least you can know what kind of people you really SHOULD avoid. Be honest with the people that you date about what your intentions are and don’t let attraction alone guide you to your next mate.
g.) Do some research on setting healthy boundaries especially if you are afraid of being taken over or suffocated.
h.) Let yourself feel revulsion, disgust or fear without reacting to it. It will fade if you don’t give it power. I have found that it comes in waves after a landmark in a relationship or after certain accomplishments. If I embrace the feeling without letting it impact my behavior, the feeling goes away until I reach a new summit. Growth is uncomfortable, facing your fears is uncomfortable.
i.) Remember that love is a choice, not a feeling-therefore you do have the power to behave lovingly, despite your fears. It is best if you can find someone with whom you can be honest about your fears, who can accept you, listen to you, and hold you accountable. Most importantly, make the decision to love yourself unconditionally, no matter how many mistakes you have made, how ashamed you may be, or in how many ways you fall short of perfection.

I have found that the process is a little bit like growing up. It’s about looking at the monsters in the closet and telling them to take a hike. It’s about learning how to protect and nurture yourself, while learning to honor the feelings of others. It’s a journey to a remarkable and lovely summit of true love and dedication to life.

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Face Your Fears

I have been afraid of mirrors since I was a little kid-especially in the dark. I have run by them and turned on the light, ready to dodge any ghoul that may jump out. The truth is, when I was about 6 years old, some kids at my school turned off the light in the restroom not knowing I was there. They wanted to play “Bloody Mary” where apparently some ghostly character jumps out and grabs you from the mirror. Nothing ever happened, but I was terrified, and have hated dark mirrors ever since.

I often meet with people who are terrified of feeling or facing something that happened to them. Perhaps they separated from themselves when something bad happened in order to avoid the full impact of the experience. Unfortunately, that experience seems to come back, perhaps in dreams, situations that seem to come up over and over again, or unexplained feelings in the body. The truth is, most of us are still putting the covers over our heads afraid of the monster under the bed.

Some people create their own fear by thinking about all of the terrible things that might happen to them. They may reinforce this worry by watching programs that show all of the horrible things that have been happening lately. They become consumed by the fear they themselves have created and the fears lock them into anxiety disorders, closed-mindedness, isolation and despair.

Unfortunately, people who are locked in fear cannot grow.

So what would happen if you turned around and faced the monsters you have been running from all of these years? Perhaps you are afraid to feel your feelings over something, perhaps you are afraid to really open up and love, afraid of death, perhaps you are afraid of spiders-whatever it is-the monster (your feelings, spiders, death, the risk of loving) most likely isn’t as awful as you have made it out to be.

I came across a theory the other day that the world/universe is filled with certain archetypes-the hero, the victim, the villain, the lost (to name a few) to which we all have certain traits. That being said, we all have the capacity to be loving and self-sacrificing and also to be terribly cruel. Ironically, we as humans tend to reject in others what we are afraid to face in ourselves. For example, if you identify with the archetype of the victim and are terrified of the villain, perhaps you are afraid of facing your own rage.

One of the jobs of shamans throughout history was to help people to express these seemingly conflicting sides of themselves so that they did not project their own unidentified and repressed feelings onto others.

So I decided to try an experiment on myself to test this theory. During my meditation, I decided to face my fear of mirrors and that no matter what I imagined, I would not look away or be intimidated by it. I pictured a dark mirror and waited until my fearful subconscious brought the image I had always been afraid of to my mind’s eye. I looked at it and acknowledged my strength, saying to it “I am not afraid, you cannot harm me”.

I then decided to imagine myself being “Bloody Mary” in the mirror. I looked out at a scared little girl and tried to spook her-realizing that I was feeding on her fear. In “being” Bloody Mary I realized that as dark and cut off I was, it was the only way I knew to exist.

It was then it came to me all of the times I have sat in miserably solid traffic and imagined being a big robot Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping around squishing cars like bugs. That in those moments, in my self-absorbed frustration, I think about things that-in reality- would be devastating to other human beings who are just as important as me.

The next time I walked by a dark mirror, I felt peace.

I do not recommend that you do this at home unless you can start with a managable or smallish fear. I also believe that it is worth mentioning that there is a difference between logical fears, illogical fears and fears based on serious trauma. Logical fears are related to situations or people that are very highly likely to harm you (going into a shark tank with no protection or walking up to someone who has a weapon pointed at you). When the fear is logical, that is your bodys way of telling you to avoid that person or situation. After warning you so that you can protect yourself, fear is no longer needed. If you are merely scared because something reminds you of a time when you were in danger, but you are not actually in danger, then your fear is illogical and worth facing. It would probably be better to work on serious trauma with someone who is well trained in that area. To put it simply, the more traumatic the memory, the more you need to build up resources around you in order to face the fear which is something a professional can help you do.

On the other hand, if you really want to try it out, go into this exercise with the attitude that you refuse to be afraid of whatever the “monster” says or does. You might want to first make a list of all of the things that you have ever done that were strong or couragous and really get grounded in your own strength. Now, imagine yourself being the monster that you are afraid of. Then write out why you (as the monster) do what you do and why you are who you are. You may find that “you” feel anger, rage, passion, cruelty but gain understanding about the monster and maybe partly in yourself. Understand that these are all aspects of being human. At our worst we all have these tendencies but the important thing to remember is, it doesn’t define who we are. As humans, we are all a contradiction, a paradox and we choose which parts of ourselves that we give power. Remember to congratulate yourself for your courage in facing your fear.

Lao Tzu said once “Center your country (or yourself) in the Tao (a word to describe God/Divine) and evil will have no power. Not that it isn’t there, but you’ll be able to step out of its way. Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself”.

You have the capacity to let your fear help you without letting it be the boss of you. In transcending your fears you have the ability grow beyond the darker parts of the human experience into someone who can be a positive force in this world.

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Codependency Part 2: Boundaries

Edwin Louis Cole once said “Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures”. In order to be healthy and happy and live harmoniously with each other, it is imperative that we learn to teach each other how to treat us.

Picture a man who has spent his entire life waiting to meet someone who will never upset him or let him down. He imagines that somehow the other person should know what he needs to be happy. He knows that the person will know how to not upset him. Time after time he gets hurt and finds himself becoming more and more disillusioned with the human race.

Picture a woman who has spent her life with high walls up all around her. She has decided that in order to never be hurt, she will always keep herself distant from them. She is lonely, but doesn’t know how else to avoid getting hurt.

Now imagine a person who fluctuates between being totally vulnerable (letting everyone in and not setting boundaries) and then becoming completely closed (once disillusioned about the human race as a whole). After being lonely and closed for a while, this person opens back up again, only to get hurt-only to find themselves victimized and jaded again after giving the best of themselves. They might ask themselves “When is it my turn?”

Difficulties setting boundaries is a very basic part of codependency. This article will discuss where this develops and how to start setting healthy boundaries.

There are certain conditions that impair children’s ability to set boundaries. If children’s thoughts are disregarded as unimportant, when children learn that it is bad to have certain feelings, and when the parents never take responsibility for their mistakes and apologize and when parents do not discipline in a healthy way (by either not punishing or over punishing their children).

In psychological terms, families range from enmeshed (meaning no boundaries at all) to rigid (uncompromising, overly strict rules). Often, parents in codependent families can be overly strict about minor/insignificant issues and laissez-faire about very important issues. As you can imagine, this can be very confusing to a child.

Enmeshed (too close, no rules, chaotic)——Normal (separate and connected, common sense rules, behavior is modified in a non-shameful way)—–Rigid (distant, rigid, overly strict and uncompromising).

Children from enmeshed families grow up with no boundaries at all (little or no concept of personal space). They do not have a sense of other people being abusive or intrusive towards them. They also do not have a sense of when they are being abusive or intrusive towards others.

Children of rigid families build walls instead of healthy boundaries. In order to avoid being hurt, they either isolate themselves, become silent, or use intimidation to keep people away.

Most people of codependent families have a combination of both. They tend to fluctuate between extreme vulnerability to extreme self-protection. Wanting the connection, but also not wanting to get hurt (as they do when they do not set boundaries in a healthy way).

As learning how to set boundaries is an extremely important part of overcoming codependence, it is important to start really focusing on yourself and beginning to notice what’s going on in your mind, body and emotions. You will not heal from focusing on fixing other people (that is merely invading their space, as they are responsible for fixing themselves). It is time to focus on yourself.

Do you know what you need, you just don’t want to have to fight for it? If so, read my article on Mastering Negotiation Skills and see if you can’t moderately start communicating with others in a healthy way.

Do you have a hard time knowing what your reality is? If so, you may try to begin to get in touch with your true self through meditation, journaling or some other form of creative expression. Let yourself sit in a comfortable place. As you breathe in, focus all of your attention on your breath. As you breathe out, focus all of your attention on your heartbeat. As thoughts come in, just let them go.

You may imagine the sky filled with stars. Each star is a thought. See if you can’t blot out the stars one by one until you see nothing but sky. When stars pop up again, just blot them out again. Let your thoughts slow until all is quiet and you are just being in your own skin.

Notice any sensations in your body, observing them without judging them. Notice any feeling that you have and where it is. Ask this part of your body, if it could speak, what would it say? Ask this part of you what it needs in order to heal. You may open your eyes and write out everything that comes to you. You could draw a picture of the impression that you get.

If you are one of those people who have put walls up to protect yourself from everyone, perhaps there is a better way to stay safe -and- get some connection with the world. Sit down when you have a moment alone and write out everything you are afraid of and everything you are angry about when it comes to love, being vulnerable and such. Acknowledge and thank these feelings and thoughts as your mind and body’s way of trying to keep you safe. Now ask yourself if there is another side of the story. Perhaps evidence that maybe there is something good about letting yourself open up to others who are safe to be open to. Nobody is perfect, including you, and to be part of the world is to be disappointed and hurt sometimes. I guess you have to ask yourself what’s more important-to experience the pain and joy of truly living, or experience the pain of isolation and disconnection. Again, read my article Master Negotiation Skills and learn how to protect yourself and be connected at the same time.

Here are some things to remember…

1)      You have a right to physical space from others. No one has the right to invade your sexual space without your permission.

2)      You have the right to refuse to follow other people’s thoughts, advice, likes and dislikes.

3)      You have a right to choose which line you are unwilling to let people cross with you. You can choose what your deal breakers are.

4)      You have the right to be your true self and choose situations where you feel like you can be yourself.

5)      You have the right to end relationships or situations that impede your ability to be yourself.

6)      You have the right to be treated with respect.

7)      You have the right to think and feel the way you do.

8)      You have the right and responsibility to take good care of yourself.

You do NOT have the right to…

1)      Invade other people’s personal space without their permission (unless you are giving them CPR or the Heimlich maneuver)

2)      Fix other people or assume responsibility for their happiness.

3)      Treat others with disrespect.

4)      Tell other people how to think and feel.

5)      Decide another person’s beliefs, career, sexual orientation, or life choices.

The more you can focus on getting in touch with and naming your own thought and feelings, the easier it will be to communicate what you need with others in a healthy and effective way. Remember, this article is meant to be a guide for people who want to try to help themselves. If you feel like you are in over your head and would like to do something about it, it is worth it to work on this issue with a qualified therapist.

Break Free From Codependence; Hypnosis For Overcoming Codependence, Establishing Boundaries, And Having Healthy Relationships – Anna Thompson

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Codependency: Part 1

Are you attracted to bad boys/girls, lost souls, or people who can rescue you? Do you tend to find yourself in bad relationships over and over again? The term “codependency” has generally been linked with people who tend to get themselves into abusive relationships, or relationships that are affected by substance abuse. However, this sophisticated (and subconsciously learned) way of viewing the world, the self and relationships is much more widespread than you may realize.

Here are just a few symptoms of codependency. Ask yourself if you…

  1. Caretake or enable others?
  2. Need to be needed?
  3. Need someone to save you?
  4. Blame other people for your behavior?
  5. Tend to find people to rescue you?
  6. Have a constant need for approval?
  7. Feel responsible for other people’s thoughts, feelings, choices and well-being?
  8. Feel strongly compelled to solve other people’s problems?
  9. Feel pity, guilt or anxiety when other people have problems
  10. Anticipate other people’s needs?
  11. Feel safer when you are giving?
  12. Need a crisis in your life or you feel bored?
  13. Always attracting needy people?
  14. Grew up with a family member who was constantly sick, unhealthy or out of control?
  15. Feel the need to control those around you with guilt, advice-giving, domination or other forms of manipulation?
  16. Feel controlled by others?
  17. Feel a lot of guilt, shame and obligation?
  18. Feel like a victim?
  19. A caretaker in the bedroom?
  20. Feel like it’s always your fault?
  21. Feel like it’s always everyone else’s fault?
  22. Feel entitled to be rescued or taken care of by others?
  23. Try to be “needed” to avoid being abandoned?
  24. Ignore, justify or repress your problems?
  25. Lie to yourself to stay confused and wonder why you feel like you are going crazy?
  26. Try to prove that you are good enough?
  27. Stay in relationships that don’t work?
  28. Look for love from people who are incapable of loving you the way you need them to?
  29. Blame, manipulate, beg or offer unwarranted advice?
  30. Have a hard time saying no?
  31. Have a hard time asserting yourself or being clear about what you want?
  32. Become cynical or passive-aggressive when you don’t get what you want?
  33. Tolerate way too much from others? –or-Tend to be totally rigid?
  34. Have a hard time trusting yourself or others?
  35. Have a lot of built up anger that you are carrying around?
  36. Find it difficult to get close to people?
  37. Feel like a martyr?

If some of these symptoms sound familiar, it would probably be worth your while to learn more about codependency and do something about it. Codependency can wreak havoc on your relationships, impair your success in the work place, cause depression, violence, neglect, substance abuse problems and other mental illness. Worst of all, unless you deal with your codependent issues, you will likely pass them onto your children.

Despite the relatively widespread symptoms and complicated nature of codependency, the Karpman Drama Triangle describes the three basic roles that people play in codependent systems fairly simply.

Imagine yourself standing in a black box with three holes you can look through. One hole is labeled “victim”, so everyone you see out of that hole is a victim. One hole is labeled “persecutor”, so everyone you see out of that hole is a bad guy or an attacker. The last hole is labeled “rescuer”, so everyone you see out that hole is a savior of some kind. Now imagine that everyone in your family is also standing in a similar black box, and can only see you as a victim, persecutor or rescuer.

a)     Setting boundaries is perceived as persecuting.

b)    Taking care of the self is categorized as persecuting or selfishness.

c)     People with problems are perceived as victims. Rescuers flock to perceived victims, even if they don’t need rescuing.

Imagine that every bit of information you receive from other people must pass through one of these “holes”, or it just doesn’t get in. How would you reach out to the world if the only way you could do it was by being a victim, a rescuer or a persecutor? Would you create situations where you needed to be rescued? Seek out people who needed to be rescued? Find ways to act out? That is often the dilemma otherwise healthy children are faced with when trying to relate with their dysfunctional families.

It is difficult to transition out of codependency for three main reasons. First, a person who is codependent likely comes from a codependent family and has attracted codependent relationships. Often, efforts to move outside of the codependent mindset are sabotaged and undermined by the people you think love you the most. A system established will fight to maintain itself and it’s lonely starting over.

Secondly, some of the beliefs (perhaps believing that you truly are a victim, a bad person, or that you must rescue others in order to be loved) are deeply subconsciously embedded. That doesn’t mean that you cannot identify these beliefs and do something about it, but it means that you must become aware and work actively towards change. I have found that hypnotherapy is an excellent tool for people who want to move past some of their old programming.

The third reason it is difficult to change is that many people are terrified of how they are going to conduct their relationships, get their needs met, or make decisions. A rescuer would have to perhaps face the fear of being abandoned if he/she doesn’t keep rescuing. A victim might have to face the fear of making his/her own mistakes or forego the sympathy of the rescuer. The persecutor may have to find new, strange ways of setting boundaries and getting his/her needs met other than intimidation and manipulation.

This series on codependency will cover where codependency comes from, how it manifests itself and how to overcome it. In the meantime, if you would like to begin working on your own codependency issues here is your homework for the this week…

Make a genogram of your family. When you have your family listed on the genogram, begin to label each family member with the role they tended to take on (including yourself!). Just begin to notice in your everyday thoughts and interactions how you tend to take on certain roles. You might begin to write these down in a journal. The more you can identify the rescuer, victim and persecutor, the easier it will be to let go of the roles.

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What is Love?

M. Scott Peck (author of “The Road Less Travelled”) once said “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth…Love is as love does. Love is an act of will–namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love”.

We use the word love in many different contexts-from what type of hot drink we prefer, what movies we enjoy, places we like to visit, to mates we enjoy being around. We say “I love this, I love that, I love him/her”. Songs on the radio mix the word love with the idea of attraction towards a mate who promises to fulfill all of our needs. We can even believe that we are “loving” our children when we are enforcing our religion, dreams and ambitions upon them. My question to you is, do you really love who you think you love? Ask yourself these questions…

Would you love this person if he or she didn’t turn out to be the person you wanted him or her to be?

Would you love this person if he or she didn’t meet all of your needs?

Would you love this person if he/she didn’t belong to you?

Would you love this person if your feelings for him/her faded?

Could you accept this person as he/she is if he/she looked at life an entirely different way than you?

Would you love this person if he/she lost his/her looks, riches, status…?

Do your actions prove your love?

Though many of us have been led to believe that love is a feeling, a sense of ownership, or a belief of sameness, it simply is not so.

Love is a choice. Choosing to honor the separateness and the goodness in each other is love. Choosing to act with love to your partner, your children, your neighbor, the world is true love. Many people believe that by enforcing their beliefs and dreams onto their children, that they are loving them. In reality, is that nothing more than striving for immortality by trying to duplicate themselves? Some people believe that once their feelings for their spouse have faded, that they do not love their spouse anymore and should therefore divorce. Marriage is a decision to act with love. It is impossible to feel loving all the time, especially if you are merely focused on what you can get from the other person.

Love is an action that is chosen from moment to moment. We can choose to encourage others, appreciate the best in them, honor their strengths-and in doing so we are loving them. Choosing to criticize, belittle, condescend or otherwise seek to change the ones we supposedly love is not love. I have experienced professions of undying love from people whose actions show only cruelty and selfishness. If you know someone like that, know that even though they may believe they love you, and promise you the moon and the stars, unless their actions prove it, they don’t.

True love is courageous. There is no room for feeding fear and jealousy in true love. True love chooses to see and accept what is, unconditionally. To love wholeheartedly and unabashedly with an open hand. Yes, the price of love is almost certain loss. Embrace it, pain is part of being alive, and love makes life interesting.

You do not own your partner, your children or your friends. You do own your attitude and your actions. That means developing self-discipline and being mindful of your thoughts and motivations. It means releasing your control over others and taking control of yourself.

If you would like to be the kind of person who can truly love others, you must first start with loving yourself. Many people believe that because they do not have loving feelings towards themselves, that means that they cannot love themselves. However, since love is a choice and an action, you can choose to start right now. If you loved yourself, how would you treat yourself? Perhaps you would discipline your thoughts to focus on your strengths, practice forgiveness for your mistakes, eat well, hold yourself accountable to follow your dreams. Perhaps you would begin to act with integrity in areas you have formerly compromised yourself. Perhaps you would take a little extra time getting ready in the morning, or take time to appreciate the sunrise. Choose to love yourself, and the more you do, the more you will easily and truly love others.

As Lao Tzu says in the Tao te Ching, “See the world as yourself, have faith in the way things are, love the world as yourself, then you can care for all things”.

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Be The Boss of Your Moods!

Bill Watterson once said “I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood”. Sometimes it feels strangely good to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, scowl at the dog and frown all the way to work. I guess feeling sad, depressed, grouchy or otherwise out of sorts can remind us that we are alive. The less wonderful moments can also make the bright days look even brighter. But what happens when moods overtake your life and start running the show? Friends and family may start getting burned out, your work may suffer, not to mention it’s hard enough to hang around yourself sometimes.

In this article, I will be addressing several aspects of a person’s life that impact moods and then showing you how to create your own treatment plan. There is a good reason why you are feeling this way, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about it.

Though my job is to work with thoughts and beliefs that get in the way to you achieving your optimum level of mental health, I would be lying if I said that depression is merely a psychological disorder. Imagine your body/mind/spirit as somewhat of an ecosystem where every part is vital to the overall health of your being. Mood swings, depression, bipolar or other disorders are all a result of imbalances in your overall system. The imbalance may be physically generated, it may be generated by your thoughts or beliefs, the result of stress, or it may be the result of your environment.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

I will first be addressing the physical aspect of your moods. I have done a lot of my own research in this topic, but do not claim to be an expert. I encourage you to consult a qualified doctor (I have found that naturopaths seek to find the cause of symptoms, while standard regular doctors simply manage symptoms). As your brain is part of your body, it needs optimum fuel and oxygen to work properly. If you can imagine your body as a car, imagine how your car would run if you put substandard fuel in it (eating poorly), smother the air supply to the engine (by not getting enough aerobic exercise), or driving it non-stop in stop-and-go traffic (not keeping your stress level in check). Would you expect your car to run well if one of it’s major parts was broken (health issues)? Unfortunately, much of the food that you see in the supermarket and advertised on television is simply not good fuel. Imagine going to the store and trying to find something without simple sugar in it (that includes corn syrup and fructose).

Excessive sugar intake (the typical U.S. diet) is associated with cancer, early aging, mood problems (as it destabilizes your blood sugar), to name a few. In addition, many people are actually allergic to very common foods such as corn, wheat and milk. For myself, I found that my mood improved considerably and my skin cleared up after cutting wheat and milk from my diet (3 years later, my doctor complimented my bone density. He told me that green vegetables are actually a better source of calcium than milk). Are you drowning your system with preservatives, hormones, stimulants, allergens, alcohol and sugar? No wonder you feel dragged down all the time! Try eating 75% fruits and vegetable and make sure you eat proteins and complex carbohydrates primarily with the rest of the 25% (check out the alkaline diet). Yes, you can splurge sometimes, but keep in mind that you are trying to keep the impact of low-grade foods to a minimum.

Anyone who struggles with moods (or ADHD for that matter) should be exercising at least 45 minutes at a time, 4 times per week if their physical condition permits it. Yes, it may feel like a hassle and there are probably at least 10 other things that you would rather do. Think of it this way, once you exercise, those 10 other things will be more fun, because you will have endorphins running through your body (your body’s way of thanking you for taking good care of it). Many people in the Pacific Northwest have serious Vitamin D3 deficiencies (associated with depression, low metabolism, fatigue, low immune functioning etc). This can easily be supplemented next time you stop by the grocery store.

You may have some kind of medical illness or chronic pain, which can significantly impact your moods. Where possible, get those things checked out by a thorough doctor (do not settle for doctors who write off your concerns unless of course you have issues with hypochondriasis). For people suffering with chronic pain, it is important to do everything possible to fix the problem, not just to manage the pain. If you have exhausted all of your resources, you may try hypnosis which has been known to be an effective, drug-free pain reliever for many people.

One thing that I’ve found with people who use substances to deal with their problems is that it can cause serious depression, mood swings, psychotic disorders and anxiety in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, the occasional night out on the town and the rare drowning your sorrows is probably not going to have a serious impact. However, if your way of coping is to numb yourself out or alter your awareness by chemical means, over time, all of those built up feelings that you never dealt with will get pretty big-not to mention you never grew through the experience or fixed the real problem. If you have a history of chronic drug dependence (I find that people who were addicted to methamphetamines or heroine (also oxycontin and other opiates) have the worst time getting their “happy” feelings back)) you have altered your brain’s ability to produce and/or assimilate endorphins. If this pertains to you, know that it will take time, healing and taking extra good care of your body to operate normally.

ENVIRONMENT

Another important aspect of mental health is your environment. Do you live, play or work with someone who is toxic and/or draining to be around? They may put you down, dump all of their problems on you, manipulate you, emanate negativity, or otherwise drain your energy. If so, understand that being around unhealthy people can impact your health without you even realizing it. If you find that you are tired or low every time you are in a certain place or around a certain person, try limiting or eliminating contact with that person or place. Part of your environment also includes the shows that you watch on television and the types of books that you read. Do they paint a dark picture of the human race or celebrate cruelty or low behavior? Look at what you are exposing yourself to on a day-to-day basis. You may need to make some changes to reduce the negativity you are exposing yourself to.

How far do you commute to work? Is it stop-and-go traffic? Do you believe in the mission of your work? Do you have anything to look forward to or to work towards that you can feel excited about? Are you constantly given more work than you can handle? Again, it has become the standard in the United States to just accept a long, stressful commute, to work a soulless job and to trade material wealth for your own health and happiness. It may be the standard in this country, however I believe that the stress load on the average American citizen is the cause of much of our health/mental health and societal breakdown. Do some research on the causes and symptoms of burnout and see if it applies to you.

TRAUMA

Another factor is trauma. Some people who have been exposed to events or chains of events that were overwhelming can burn out their adrenal system. If you have been through something catastrophic or otherwise extremely overwhelming and have found that since then you were never quite the same, try seeing a naturopath about possible adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal Exhaustion can cause chronic fatigue, mood swings, feelings of being overwhelmed, panic attacks, lethargy, depression and a host of other health problems. It would also be worthwhile to consult a healer of some kind to resolve the trauma. This topic will be discussed in more detail in future articles.

If you eat properly, exercise regularly and do not have any medical issues, it may be worth looking into whether your thoughts are contributing to your moods. From thinking negatively, beliefs we may have carried around for years, to worrying too much, thoughts are powerfully related to our emotions.

THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS

I see three messages that are common to the culture of the United States that I believe are contributing to mood disorders, namely perfectionism, addiction to comfort and the idea of “normal”. On television, we are constantly being given messages that in order to be a good parent, good spouse, worthwhile human being, or in order to belong, we must purchase this or that product. We are also given the message that in order to be like everyone else or to fit in, we must be able to afford a certain lifestyle. As a result, we are given subtle messages that until we reach these standards, we are not good enough.

Perfectionism and Shame-Based Manipulation: Of course,there will always be more products to buy. There will always be one more thing that you need to do in order to measure up to everyone else. Basically, standard marketing strategies establish a need by establishing a condition upon your self-worth, inclusion or happiness. Once the “If….(I have this, lose this much weight, have this degree), then…(I will be good enough, my parents will be proud, I’ll be part of the gang, I’ll be a good parent) is a part of your way of looking at the world, you can be manipulated easily to buy what they are selling you. Parents often manipulate their children into doing what they want in a similar way (“If you do everything that I say and don’t ask questions, then you are a good kid. If you ever say no or question my authority, then you are a bad kid”). This is called “Shame-based parenting”. Ask yourself if you have ever experienced shame-based advertising, shame-based parenting or even a shame-based work environment. You may be surprised how often you are exposed to it.

How does shame-based manipulation by parents, advertisers and other authority figures affect your psyche? Basically, it robs you of your sense of self-worth and replaces it with a pseudo (condition-based) worth. It tells you that just as soon as you jump through their hoops, you will be good enough, when in reality your worth as a human being had nothing to do with those things. If you are alive you have worth. What happens when people realize that they will never reach the so-called summit, or that the summit is as empty as the journey? Often they fall into hopelessness and despair, saying to themselves things like “What’s the point? I’ll never make anything of myself. I’m worthless, no good, a loser”. Putting conditions on your sense of self-worth is at the heart of perfectionism-a useless and endless journey.

Procrastination is often the result of the perfectionism. Some people have such impossibly high standards for themselves that they are terrified of making a move at all. When they fail to accomplish these goals as a result of their perfectionism, they generate depression-producing thoughts such as “I knew I’d never make anything of myself, I’m lazy, I’m a loser, I can’t…etc”.

In order to cope with this sense of worthlessness, some people create grand and unattainable goals in order to somehow make up for their lack of “measuring up”. They might feel high at the prospect of finally being worthy when they achieve that goal (as hopeful thoughts create happy feelings). Unfortunately, feelings based on fleeting or inaccurate thoughts are bound to fail. As the person watches themselves falling short of another unattainable goal, they often fall into despair. I believe that this type of belief can contribute to the development of Bipolar Disorder. If you are allowing yourself to accept someone else’s conditions for your own self-worth, you have allowed yourself to be controlled by them.

Addiction to Comfort: Do you remember Pleasure Island, in the story “Pinocchio”? The boys all willingly went to an island where they were given everything for free. They were given beer to drink, cigars to smoke, and free reign to vandalize or please themselves the way they wished. As time went by, they all began to turn into common arses. At that point, they were placed into carts and sold as slaves. We are often given the message that life should be convenient and easy-that riches should come easily. How many quick fixes do you see around you every day? From losing 20lbs in 2 weeks, to taking miracle pills, to the winning the lottery, we are given a message that we shouldn’t have to feel pain or work hard for what we want. What kind of situation does this create (see my article “Pain is Good For You”). It creates a lot of unhappy slaves who have sold their true potential for a pseudo life (avoiding pain and expecting results without effort). If a person believes “I shouldn’t feel pain. I should be rich, thin, successful and shouldn’t have to work hard for it”, it would be pretty discouraging to live in the real world wouldn’t it? That person may fall into self-pity if life doesn’t effortlessly hand them what they are told to expect. Self-pitying thoughts can send someone into a depression or angry episode.

If this applies to you, I encourage you to embrace your pain instead of avoiding it. Shift your focus away from what you take from the world, and focus on what you can give. I believe that this “It’s all about me-anything goes” attitude is the true cause for our country’s current economic and social woes. I also believe that if we could focus our attention back on helping each other, we would have the best chance of getting out of this mess not to mention improve our level of true happiness.

The Illusion of Normal and Belonging: We are a tribal species, which means most of us want to belong to the pack and most of us want to fit in somewhere. In the old days, people were literally in tribes and had much stronger family ties. The need for belonging remains, but the social structure has broken to a point where people are not getting adequate connection with others. Advertisers and companies have used this need to further their agendas over the years. “Join our team!” they subtly say, and people in their lack of social connection can trade what they need (close connections) for pseudo-connections (associations with work, products etc). Unfortunately, you can’t trick your true self into being happy with a false tribe. You need connections to be happy. Pretty much everybody does.

CONNECTION BETWEEN THOUGHTS, BELIEFS AND ACTIONS

In order to demystify feelings, I will briefly go over the process your mind/body goes through when you are faced with a situation that impacts your emotions.

It starts with a situation, which includes what actually happened. As you encounter the situation, you interpret the situation to mean something. That interpretation causes your emotion, and from that emotion, you have an impulse to act a certain way.

SITUATION—INTERPRETATION—EMOTION—BEHAVIOR

For example, say I am driving down the street and someone cuts me off in the road (situation). I can interpret this situation in a number of ways, which will produce a number of different emotions. For example, if I interpret this situation to mean that person is a total jerk, I will likely feel angry and want to tailgate, swear and honk at him/her. If I think to myself maybe that person is having a bad day, I will likely feel more compassion and give them room. If I interpret the situation to mean that everyone cuts me off because I’m a loser, than I am probably going to reinforce my depression and want to do something self-destructive.

Emotions are primarily caused by our interpretations of events but as you can see, interpretations are highly subjective. Therefore, one of the best things you can do to help yourself keep your emotions in check is by keeping your interpretations in check. Remember, there is always another way to look at a situation. Gather the facts and look for alternatives. People all have “lenses” that they use to see the world, which are based on their upbringing, experiences and personality. True freedom lies in beginning to become aware of those lenses and see them clearly. This is where therapists often come in handy, but you can also get some good feedback from honest family and friends about where your hang-ups are.

PLAN

After reading this article, you can likely identify some areas that you could change to get yourself back on track. Here is a step-by-step guide to create your own treatment plan.
1.) Grab a piece of paper and separate it into two columns, one saying “I can” and one saying “I have”
2.) Think about the things that you have identified could use work, and list only the things you CAN change in the “I can” column.
3.) Write a list of everything you have going for you right now and everything you are grateful for.
4.) Circle the most important areas of your life that you can actively work on changing right now.
5.) Make a plan and stick to it for one month, then note how you feel at the end of the month. Make a schedule and stick to it every day, remembering to reward yourself for doing a great job.
6.) For pesky negative thoughts, you may try this simple behavioral plan. Do wall sits or pushups every time you think negatively, self-critically or otherwise unhelpfully. Remember to affirm your new decision frequently (ie “I am already good enough”).

SUMMARY

In summary, there is a lot of information to take into account when learning to be the boss of your moods. Don’t think you have to do it all. Each aspect that you identify and actively work on can really make a difference. Nobody follows all these guidelines all the time, but the more you do, the happier and healthier you will become. What do you have to lose?

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About Death

I saw a documentary about a polar bear a few days ago. He was the father polar bear and he swam miles and miles out to sea to try to hunt for food for the mother bear and the baby bear. I watched, captivated as his powerful arms swayed circles through the icy sea. He looked like a king, dignified, unshakable, strong. After swimming for days, after losing half his body weight, he swam upon land and attempted with the last of his strength to hunt a walrus. He failed as he was just too tired and was unable to try any longer. The camera followed him as he carved a place in the snow and laid himself down for the last time. He never complained about his fate, he just gently put his head down and closed his eyes. If only we as humans could be so brave.

Every autumn, the leaves turn red, yellow and orange and fall from the trees. Just six months ago they were newly budded and sprang out of the tree. As things turn cold, plants and animals die and make room for the new to be reborn in the spring.

And as the precious time of those we love come to an end, other precious times begin. Each ending makes way for a new beginning just as a naked branch makes room for a brand new bud in the spring. But that is not much comfort being left here on earth while the ones we love pass on. Life is beautiful, love is beautiful-but no one ever said it would be easy. No one ever said there would be no pain.

Why do the people that we love so much always seem to die too soon?

I don’t think that there is ever a great time to say goodbye to the ones we love the most. I will say, however, if you have unfinished business, finish it.

-One way is to take some time alone in the quiet and close your eyes. Let your thoughts be at peace and bring your loved one to your mind’s eye. Let the image become more vivid as you relax. Tell them what you need to tell them. Tell them goodbye. Tell them you’re sorry (if you need to) and ask for forgiveness. Tell them whatever it is you wished you could say until you’ve said it all. When you are finished, listen. I believe that your loved ones can hear you.

-Ask yourself what you can do to honor this love. It may be following a dream you always talked about, or showing kindness to those you meet. It may simply be loving yourself unconditionally, the way he/she did.

-Remember, each moment that you have is a gift. The relatively short time you have with the ones that you love is a treasure worth more than gold. Be grateful for the time you DID have.

Death is a gift in an ugly package. It reminds us to live our lives to the fullest, to take nothing for granted. It reminds us to pay attention to the people we love and to be compassionate to others. It gives us room to embrace the new. It is our teacher and our fate, but as Einstein said “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed”. Perhaps it is merely the start of another great adventure.

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Stop Being a Victim

Are you being persecuted, punished, neglected or otherwise used over and over again? Do you tend to end up in relationships where you are abused or find that people are constantly trying to push you around?

It is difficult to get to the heart of the victim mentality without a brief explanation about codependency. Karpman’s Triangle defines 3 roles in Codependency, namely, the victim, persecutor and the rescuer. Often, dysfunctional families have members who take on one or more of these roles. For example, the mom may be the victim (constantly getting yelled at by the dad, who may be the persecutor). The mom then goes to the child and tells him/her all of her woes. The child, in turn “rescues” the mom by trying to comfort her (which robs the child of his/her childhood). People with codependency issues often can switch from one role to another (“What are you, stupid? (persecutor), all I ever do is work to feed you (rescuer) and this is the thanks I get? (victim)”. As a child grows up in a family system, they tend to take on one or more of these roles in order to survive in the dysfunctional family system.

There are unspoken rules in these codependent families, some of them being…
-It’s not okay to disagree,
-It’s not okay to say no,
-You must never be selfish,
-You must be perfect, and good and strong,
-Do as I say, not as I do,
-Don’t tell the family secrets,
-Don’t make waves,
-Only certain member(s) of the family are allowed to express anger,
-Other family members are designated for “scapegoating” or projecting all the blame, ridicule or rejection onto.

Unfortunately, though these family rules may have helped you survive in your own family, they probably are ruining your chances of survival in the big world out there. Why? Because people NEED to say no sometimes, they NEED to be selfish at times, they NEED to speak their truth, they NEED to express their anger in a healthy way, NOBODY is all bad, NOBODY deserves to be disrespected, NO grownup is 100% helpless, and people NEED to tell their secrets in order to heal. The healthier you are, the more you advocate and respect yourself, the better the world will treat you. The less healthy you are, the less you love and respect yourself, the more you will attract perpetrators. I’m not sure why, but walking around with unhealthy beliefs is a little like swimming in a shark tank with an open wound.

You may also have some reasons that being a victim works for you. Perhaps being a victim helps get you attention from people who come along to rescue you. Maybe that is the only way you know of to get love. If this is true for you, ask yourself if this false version of “love” is really satisfying to you. These roles are only roles, and actually take you away from the real thing.

Perhaps it is easier to be a victim. If you are a victim, you don’t have to admit mistakes because you never made any decisions. If you are a victim, you never have to say no, have uncomfortable conversations, always have the best excuse for being late, not paying the bills, and you are still always the good guy, right? Have you ever heard of the term “tyranny of the weak”? It is possible to be very aggressive while being guised as being very helpless.

If any of the belief systems apply to you, I encourage you to take a frank and honest account of the belief systems and behaviors that you have been using up till this point. The truth will set you free. Excuses will only keep you stuck.

If you are ready to make a change, follow these 10 steps…

1.) Stop blaming everybody else. Remind yourself that the people that hurt you are not all-powerful. Remind yourself that you are not all-helpless.

2.) Take a good hard look at the rules you have been living by, and decide which ones aren’t working for you anymore. Write down your new decision and carry it in your pocket for 21 days. Every time you say something self-defeating or self-depreciating, do a wall sit for a minute or something equally as unenjoyable (and non-harmful). Then as you stand up, tell yourself your new decision (ie “Everyone NEEDS to be selfish sometimes” or “Everyone has the right and the responsibility to say “No””). Your body will literally retrain your brain to think more constructively after you do this a handful of times.

3.) Stand up straight and look people in the eye. Go into each social situation telling yourself “I’m a respectable person and deserve to be treated as such”.

4.) Focus on what you CAN change in your life. Let go of what you cannot change (including other people). Tell yourself “I take full responsibility for my thoughts, feelings and actions”.

5.) Build alliances with healthy people around you. Healthy people will treat you with dignity and respect whether or not you agree with them, will try to understand if you are upset with them, will set boundaries with you, will allow you to set boundaries with them, and will honor you whenever you say “no”. Bullies, in general, are afraid to target people who have connections.

6.) Do not give fearful thoughts room to grow. Protect yourself where it’s necessary and leave it at that.

7.) Practice gratitude and spend time thinking about the goodness others have shown you. Think about the goodness you can offer to others.

8.) Learn what healthy boundaries are and start to take action in a skillful way by learning how to negotiate (See my article on Mastering Negotiation Skills). This is often the most difficult part, and can feel as scary as walking off a cliff. Do it anyway. The more you practice, the easier it will get. The more you do it, the more you will weed out people you don’t need in your life, and the more you will attract people you want in your life. You may also find that people you used to have issues with all of a sudden are treating you better.

9.) Visualize what kind of life you want for yourself. Then make a plan to get you there. Don’t give your power to procrastination, just get going.

10.) Remember, you may have been a victim of a bad situation at some point in your life, but NO ONE can force you have the attitude of a victim.

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