It has been way too long since I wrote a blog post. Everything is getting a freshening and a careful re-positioning. New content is coming and it will be aimed at helping readers learn about themselves and grow. It will also be a place to share my own journey in the hopes it helps someone else. But, it is not all about me. You are invited to share your thoughts and experiences too. There is an old, but pithy saying that all boats rise with the tide. And, friends, the tide is rising. To a new year, new decade, new experiences! Let’s move on with a 2021 Reboot. Here is a link to one of my favorite blog posts.
The Unwelcome Change – Grief
Little did I know when I wrote my last blog post on February 27th that change of the serious, unwelcome kind was coming our way. However unwelcome, unplanned and uninvited, it did arrive with the unexpected illness and death of my boyfriend’s mother, Amy.
An illness, which looked manageable, turned into an early morning phone call, the rush into Mass General to be greeted by a kind Argentinian doctor bearing terrible news. 48 hours later, this news led to difficult decisions and, ultimately, Amy’s passing. Change is now upon us. My partner in crime for over 31 years, is now without his nuclear family – his dad gone long ago at 48, his only sister back in 2008 at 43, and now his mom. His life has changed again, forever. My heart breaks for him. Still, he is stoic and, frankly, this worries me – a lot. Men are given such a narrow range of acceptable emotion by society that one can hardly blame them for doing what no one has taught them or allowed them to do and that is express all of their emotions. I believe this is one of the reasons men die sooner than woman and I find it unacceptable.
For my gentle readers who are men, please tell me what you most wished for during the times you experienced grief? How can we, the women who love you, be there for you?
For my readers who are women, what has been your experience with this? How can we best support each other during these times of unwelcome, unwanted change and loss?
Family Systems, Indoctrination and YOU.
Many theories of psychology such as Family Systems Theory and Family Constellations Theory hold that the family system is the most important organizational system in our lives. I think most of us would agree with that, theories aside. The family system is responsible for our early and most impressionable years of indoctrination. Indoctrination might seem like a strong word, but I think it is accurate.
Indoctrination is the process of forcibly inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology (see doctrine) by coercion. Wikipedia
So, it is indoctrination that I will use to emphasize the strength of impact of our early learning.
What we learn as babies and toddlers is pre-verbal for most and is what I will call implicit learning – though there is certain to be controversy in that regard, since the definition of implicit is somewhat up for debate. I am using it to mean how we learn without words, but with feelings. We learn how people feel about us and we internalize that internal emotional temperature – an emotional set point of sorts. We are little sponges soaking in the emotions of those around us and getting a fundamental read on life and how we are perceived. Are we good? Are we bad? Are we loved? Are we hated?
These pre-verbal messages are stored deep in our sub-conscious. By the time we are 8 or 9, we know our place in the world, who we are, how much we are worth and how loved we are. As we move on in life, we recreate the world of our childhood. What I mean by that is we recreate the emotional temperature. If we felt loved and wanted and valued, we find a future that matches this – it is a future resonant with our deeply inculcated beliefs. If we do not feel valued, suffer from physical or emotional abandonment and are undervalued, we will recreate that world too. And, we will create it over and over again. As a client recently said “I just keep pressing the repeat button.”
Are you repeating patterns over and over again? Do you feel helpless and frustrated to change this? As a coach, I see this everyday; As a human being, I experience it myself. This is not place for judgement, but compassion.
Please join in this conversation. I would love to hear your story.
The Toxic Tempest of Solo Worry
Do you worry alone? Or do you share your worry with others? Does it matter? Apparently it does. I recently heard Ned Hallowell speak about this topic and, as he described the pitfalls of solo worry, it gave me a bit of a personal epiphany I want to share. Hallowell, an MD, is a leading authority on ADD and ADHD and he is the Director of the Hallowell Centers in NYC and Sudbury, Massachusetts. With eleven books to his credit, including Driven to Distraction (1994) and Delivered from Distraction (2005) Hallowell certainly knows his way around the distracted mind. However, it was advice he gave on the topic of worry that piqued my curiosity. “Never worry alone.” Hallowell warned. Since this is the opposite of what i do – I always worry alone – it really grabbed my attention.
Hallowell went on to add that when we worry alone, worry becomes toxic, we omit the facts, withdraw and isolate ourselves. Worrying alone is what I do. In fact, I go to great measures to pretend that everything is going be alright even when I really believe it is not. I fake it. I pretend. I spend money I don’t have. When I worry in silence, I slap a smile on it, maybe I become a bit sullen or snippy at times, but I do not trouble others with my worry. What’s your worry strategy? Can you relate to my terribly toxic strategy of independent struggle or do you have worry support in place?
Hallowell went on to say that those of us who worry alone miss out on the problem solving aspect of having a worry partner. I would like to add, that when we worry alone, we fail to process the dilemma, the pain, the heartbreak, the fear, and thus may become stuck in the trauma of it. Additionally, we abstain from the compassion others might provide us when we need it most. I can absolutely attest to solo worry’s toxic powers, but until I heard Ned Hallowell speak, I simply hadn’t put it all together.
Worrying alone is dangerous, bad for your mental health and can lead to a host of bad things. Get a therapist, get a worry partner, get a coach, get someone, but don’t go it alone. The toxic tempest of solo worry is to be avoided at all cost lest this psychological storm wreak havoc in your life. Don’t worry. At least not alone.
She Let Go…..
She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,
without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a
book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyse whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
The author of this poem is Rev. Safire Rose.
“Don’t fake it ’til you make it, fake it until you become it.” Amy Cuddy
At times, most of us try to read another person’s body language. However, we often don’t pay much attention to our own. According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, your body language may be the difference between success and failure.
We know that our body language affects how others see us, but we have probably not really considered that our body language may affect way we see ourselves.
In this interesting TED Talk, Social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses “power posing”. Power posing is using your physiology – standing in a posture of confidence – even when we don’t feel confident. “Power Posing” has powerful effects on hormones such as testosterone and cortisol. Holding these power poses actually creates increases in testosterone and lowers cortisol levels in the brain. Could these minor tweaks in your physiology change your life? Check out Professor Cuddy’s TED talk and see what she thinks. Then see what a few tweaks can do for you.
The Rhythm of Life.
November has arrived in New England and with it some cool, damp days. Mother nature has showered us with an orange confetti of leaves. The winds of November have blown soft this year. Soon this colorful landscape will give way to the monochromatic season of winter. Like black and white photography, winter has a way of revealing hidden beauty, structure and form. Blessed are we who witness the change of seasons for we take nothing for granted and can easily measure the passage of time. Water flows in streams over granite boulders and pushes aside snow and ice, bare trees claw the sky and animal tracks make visible their presence in the snow.
Winter strips life down to essentials; natures party clothes are put away. The warmth will return predictably, when the calendar turns and one season folds seamlessly into another. For now, the season of rest and reflection is upon us. What will you do with this time? Will you hide inside and wait it out, pine away for summer, or sustain your spirit with a few weeks of vacation in a warmer place? You could use this time as nature intended – a time to reflect, rest and re-energize.
Consider examining your emotional inheritance. Ask yourself which of your beliefs were handed down to you and then decide if you wish to keep them. It requires self-inquiry, it is hard, it is worth it.
Louise Hay, the best selling author of, “You Can Heal Your Life” says we are all victims of victims. We unwittingly enter into a chain of pain passed down through generations and repeat those unconscious patterns until someone is aware enough, strong enough, brave enough to shatter them for good.
Become aware of your “Chain of Pain.” What did you inherit? How will you change it? Is it your pain or the pain of your ancestors you feel?
In times of fear, have you ever found yourself losing interest in your goals and chasing new ones? Some people think they have ADD or shiny ball syndrome, always chasing the next new thing, never sticking with one course of action but, instead, chasing every new dream that comes along? Do you not stick up for yourself, but divert your anger into something trivial or more socially acceptable instead? These are but a few of the ways you can avoid the hard stuff, the stuff you may believe, you just can’t handle.
Have you ever found that you cannot settle into one vision, one goal or one thing? Instead you keep losing interest, repeating patterns and running all over the place in a seemingly chaotic fashion?
Perhaps author, speaker and research professor Brené Brown (Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection etc.) can shed some light on your behavior. Brown introduces us to the idea of “serpentining” as a protection strategy we use to avoid vulnerability. Borrowing from the 70’s movie, “The Inlaws”, Brown describes a scene in which one of the characters tries to dodge flying bullets by moving in a serpentine fashion – zigging and zagging rather than moving in a straight line in order to avoid being an easy target.
As a protective strategy “serpentining” can be exhausting because, in the end, more energy is expended “serpentining” than facing the fear head on. It may be helpful to examine your own places of resistance and invulnerability and notice where you find yourself doing the serpentine shuffle. If you are truly dodging bullets, “serpentining” may have its place, but when facing up to challenges in our life, it is a protective strategy that requires closer examination
For a visual example and a bit of levity, you can view the ‘serpentining” clip from The InLaws here:
Some people are wired to be “good” people. They focus on doing the right thing at every critical juncture even if it means (and it often does) they get the short end of the stick. They were raised to believe that good things come to good people and that they must do the righteous thing, the moral thing even if it is the wrong thing for them. They habitually put themselves last and have an idea that someone, someone is watching them and keeping score. Maybe this is true, maybe it is not. The “goodist” is the anti-thesis of the narcissist – though both may be excessively focused on themselves.
The “goodist” excels at being modest and self-effacing and taking care of others needs before their own. They do not back out on promises or commitments even when they are trapped in an abusive situation. They think it is too rude to say “no”. Once the “goodist” realizes that they always seem to come up short, they become angry, Or at least their subconscious does, in true “goodist” form, they do not necessarily recognize this anger. Instead, it is often transmuted into depression or converted into aches and pains which are far more acceptable than admitting the terrible rage that is brewing in the subconscious mind. Rather than allow themselves to be angry at all, the “goodist’s” anger is not acknowledged, but suppressed.
The “goodist” patiently waits for their slice of pie to find it is all gone and the greedy claimed second and third pieces for themselves. Thus their anger is a natural consequence of their continual self-sacrifice. The “goodist” excuses and rationalizes other people’s bad behavior, they are compelled to take the higher, lonelier road rather than …say…get angry. At some point they believe, they will get their due. But all they get is crap. The “goodist” puts themselves last and, not surprisingly, so does everyone else.
For more information about the health consequences of being a “goodist”, I urge you to read:
The Divided Mind by Dr. John Sarno
Heal your mind, heal your life.
“Expecting the world to be fair to you because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.
The Exponential Potential of Shame.
Shame, is a topic almost no one wants to speak about – they are simply too ashamed. First, we are ashamed of something. Then we feel shame for being ashamed. It is the exponential factor of this most wretched of emotions. It is an isolating and miserable experience.
The distinction between shame and guilt is this: We feel guilty for things we have done; We feel shame for what we are. Shame is pervasive and all encompassing. It demoralizes and humiliates us to a barely breathing raw pulp. Shame is merciless as it tears at the very fabric of our being. Shame is a place we dwell and pray that no one ever notices us again. Shame results in a desire to be and stay invisible, unnoticed and unworthy of being noticed.
Have you ever fallen down? Has it caused you so much shame that every decision you make subsequent to the fall is shame-based and thus contaminated? Have you felt the G forces that suck you into a vortex of debilitating, life-ruining, downward-spiraling shame? Each layer of the spiral seems to etch deeply into your soul creating what feels like permanent threads of hopelessness. Shame sucks.
We all experience shame, but most of the time we are too ashamed to admit that we are ashamed. Worse yet, the shame of being ashamed is a double whammy. Thus, we encounter the exponential potential of shame that makes it toxic to human beings.
Many people feel no shame; others feel shame for those people. It is an odd thing that when we feel ashamed we often turn to blaming someone or something else. It relieves us of the burden of shame by projecting it onto others. They are two sides of the same coin – shame and blame.
If we are blaming, we are trying to shift our shame. I call it “shame shifting.” We relieve ourselves of a highly negative emotion by denying and disassociating it from ourselves and by placing it on someone else. When we blame others, our finger of blame points outward; four fingers of shame point back at us.
Highly sensitive people are the most vulnerable to this shift. Someone does them wrong and then energetically shifts the shame on to them through blame. It is easy to do, HSPs are empaths and, by definition, are emotional sponges. They often carry the burden of others people’s shame and guilt along with their own. They are emotional pack mules.
I have gotten lost and I am ashamed of it. I tried to pivot my career and became lost in a whirlwind of fears that arise when you step out on your own. A tempest of survival fears – the very basic, hard-wired fears of the human organism. I stood on the diving board too long, made too many excuses, and chased too many shiny balls because I was afraid. I knew what I wanted, but wondered if I might be wrong. if I might not be good enough. Such is the power of shame; it cripples self-trust and induces self-doubt, which in turn reinforces shame. In short, things did not go as planned, but went, as I feared – funny how that works. At least I have learned a lot.
Shame researchers Jane Middleton-Moz and Brene Brown have both delved into the subject of shame deeply. If you would like to read more about shame, please check out there great work on the subject.
What is your experience with shame? Where does it cause you the most harm? There is an antidote.
To discuss shame without shame, simply reply here.