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.
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.
4 Types of Survival Patterns
Okay, I am cheating a bit with this post, but because it hits home on so many levels for many of us, I thought it was important to post. Read the content that follows and see if you can identify your survival pattern, your go to safe strategy. Except, there is a trick to it – these patterns don’t actually work long-term and may make your anxiety worse.
In case your wondering, I am the AVOIDER. I have used the others on occasion too.
The following content is a direct quote from Dr. Friedemann Schaub, M.D. author of The Fear and Anxiety Solution a book I highly recommend. I have spoken before to Dr. Schaub and he is a very kind and humble man. His work is worth checking out at http://www.cellularwisdom.com
“When was the last time that fear and anxiety made you feel vulnerable, unsafe and out of control? Being anxious can feel so intense and overwhelming, that all you want is to suppress or get rid of it. But how do you that? Chances are that neither your parents nor your teachers in school showed you how to deal with anxiety. And like most of us, you had to figure out on your own, how to respond to being anxious or insecure. The problem is that you may have become so good in managing your anxiety, that you don’t even realize that you’re just surviving every day, rather than finding joy and purpose in your life.
There are 4 major survival patterns, through which most people try to consciously and subconsciously control their fears and anxieties. If you are finding yourself using one or several of these survival patterns on a daily basis, you know you have an anxiety problem.
If you are an avoider, you are probably very sensitive to criticism, rejection and failure. You try to escape potential hurt through making yourself smaller or even invisible. You hide in a small and controllable comfort zone and preemptively loath and criticize yourself, before anyone else can do this to you. Outside of your refuge, you vigilantly scan your surroundings for any signs of judgment or danger. As an avoider you deny yourself any sense of empowerment, because in your mind feeling confident and positive only increases the risk of getting hurt.
As a pleaser you believe that your best chances to avoid painful rejection or abandonment, is to make sure that everyone is “ok” with you. You may be the care-taker, who feels overly responsible for others; the chameleon, who is able to fit in everywhere; or the jokester, who tries to win people over through being the life of the party. In pleasing mode you try to manage your anxiety by not being alone, which is why your sense of safety and worthiness depends on the approval of others.
If you have the constant need to control every aspect
of your life, you may not realize that all you are doing is to manage your fear of being powerlessness. You may even take on the role of being the authority and strictly enforce your ideas and rules through anger, threats and punishment, just to avoid feeling exposed and unsafe. By controlling others through instilling a sense of insecurity and powerlessness, you feel more empowered and secure. However, underneath this dominating behavior often reside profound feelings of inferiority, vulnerability and pain, which stem from traumas and confusion from your childhood.
Are you known as a go-getter, who always exceeds everyone’s expectations? Do you continue to strive for the next achievement, never taking the time to enjoy the one you just reached? Or maybe you call yourself a perfectionist, who can’t accept mediocrity. As an (“over-“) achiever, failure and second-place aren’t an option, because your identity and worthiness are defined by your successes. However, although this form of drive and competitiveness may have got you far, deep inside it is still the deep-seated fear of not being good enough, which keeps you running and striving.
All of these survival patterns have one thing in common: they don’t lead to a true sense of inner peace and happiness. As you become more and more dependent on these strategies to cope with your anxiety and insecurity, you drain your energy and power, which only increases the likelihood of feeling stressed and anxious. Because no matter how many people you have avoided or kept successfully at arm’s length; and no matter how many you have “wowed,” made happy or controlled – in the end you may still end up feeling powerless, because you have been defining yourself through circumstances and people around you, and thus making them more important than yourself.”
See yourself here? What style do you lean on to manage your fears? Come on, it can’t only be me 🙂
Sweet Spring Dreams.
As the weather here in New England prepares to shift seasons, it reminds us that change is a constant in life. Even beneath the deepest blankets of snow and a frigid February – the coldest and snowiest on record with cruel winds and thick ice – spring was quietly preparing its return. In late January, the sun took on a warm glow, hinting at its return to the northern hemisphere. It is now early March and spring is shouting from the rooftops, melting the heavy snow winter deposited there. As we leave behind our hibernation and begin shedding layers of clothing, our bodies began to shift and we move with joy in our step, our souls reach outward and we seek connection, visibility and sunshine again.
As in nature, many of us experience our personal winters, turned inward and shut away from the outside, cold, frozen and seemingly dead. We trudge through these bitter days consumed by the misunderstanding that this is a permanent state; we lose faith. Winter brings withdrawal and a turn inward; it can also bring scarcity and loss. During the darkness of the winter season, it can seem as if everything we loved and dreamed of has slipped away. In some cases, our career sputters, we lose loved ones and jobs, our focus and perspective shift to a focus of loss and depression. The juicy goals we had no longer tug at our heart or seem hopelessly out of reach. We may also sense our values are shifting. We find ourselves in a survival fight caught up in the maelstrom of our lives. Winter always requires surrender; storms can lock you inside for days, in darkness, reminding you of what you take for granted.
Your personal winter is a difficult time, but it does not last either – it cannot last. During this time, change is already underway. At the darkest hour, in the frozen land of loss, the shift occurs and although it remains unseen for a while, the movement is toward rebirth – the sun is coming and your spring is on its way.
Nature provides us with clues everywhere that everything cycles and spring always comes again. Spring will come even when it appears that all is dead and gone. Rejuvenation, rebirth and resurrection are all clues that no matter how bitter, barren and frozen winter looks. Once again, glorious, sexy, fertile spring is on its way, faithfully. – Diane
Dreams can come true – at the dentist.
Today, while I was at the dentist for my coronation – a grand way of saying that I was getting a permanent crown cemented – a wonderful conversation took place between me, the dental hygienist and the dentist. The hygienist, who I will refer to as “Shakira” for reasons that will follow, was feeling a little down this morning as we began to chat.
Shakira was suffering from some mid-winter blues and a bit of homesickness for the warmer climate of her native Columbia. One of the things she misses the most, Shakira told me was dancing – specifically Salsa dancing with a little merengue and belly-dancing thrown in for good measure. She was, she said, thinking of teaching it. In spite of not having professional training, she considered herself quite good at it and loved the fun of the lively dance and the warm colorful memories it provided for her.
I noticed how excited she got sharing her desire to teach Salsa dancing pointing out that she had support from her boyfriend. Capitalizing on her excitement, I made a few suggestions about how she could accomplish this in her spare time. She could have fun, I said, teaching Gringos how to Salsa and free up their trapped energies, stiff hips, and aching bodies that often held puritanical notions about suggestive movement – even when just in fun. Dancing is a great way to change your mood and elevate your spirits. However great dancing is, most of us have forgotten anything approaching good dance moves. Long gone are the childhood ballet lessons that blossomed into tap then jazz only to be left behind by the 6th grade when shame and self-consciousness delivered the death knell.
Dancing forces coordination between the mind and the body in a way that allows for expression while strengthening seldom used neural pathways. Dancing inevitably leads to happiness when one frees oneself to tap into a natural rhythm long repressed. It is the joy of a child running while trailing a ribbon, the translation of a steady beat into matching movements, it is the feel of music flowing into the body and back out again. It is alignment with something that tugs at our spiritual nature. It is the gestalt of a thousand disconnected notes creating a blissful harmony while igniting the cells in our body in a matching harmony. I supported Shakira’s vision and we played with suggestions of how to accomplish her goal.
In between fitting iterations of my crown, I pushed the conversation along enrolling Dr. K into the conversation. Dr. K is my South Korean born dentist and I decided to find out what his secret dream was. Dr. K who told us of his early desire to be in sports – he wanted to be a runner. However, his parents quashed the notion as absurd. Running, they told him, would not put food on the table. Instead like many parents who had faced wars and direct threats to survival, they saw a profession, or as he put it a “license”, to be the holy grail for future success. Thus sometime after that conversation he came the US and pursued dentistry, became a husband and a father or 3 young sons. Dr. K confessed that his secret dream – if he didn’t have to work – was to travel the world.
After the fitting of my crown was complete and we headed to the front desk, Shakira asked for my business card – she was very excited and happy that she could talk about her dream today. I assured her that her dream could become reality with a little work. As I drove home, I imagined ways Dr. K could achieve his dream while holding down his dental business. I wondered if I should send him a note with the many ideas that popped up on the drive home. Helping others imagine possibilities and supporting them through the process, is a big part of what I do.
So how about you? What dreams would you like to bring to life?