Serpentine.

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 StrongDaring 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:

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The Goodist

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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

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.

 

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.

 The Avoider

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.

The Pleaser

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.

The Controller

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.

 The Achiever

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.

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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

 

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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?

Je Suis Charlie.

The madness erupting in Europe this week serves as a reminder that we are always at risk when we express ourselves.  Freedom of the press often ensures some highly unsavory activities are permissible.  Granted, there are times when I am sure our forefathers did not intend for the freedom to mean some of the things it does today.  Nevertheless, it is an absolute in a free society.  Some people push the envelop just to provoke a response.  However, the response should never include murder – this is not justifiable.  We will either be a civilized world or we will be a world of lunatics and, frankly, I choose the former.  I hope you do too.

What are cartoons?  They are symbolic scribbling on paper that tell stories or serve as satire or to vent our political angst.  Satirists have long pushed the dialogue in ways that make some people laugh and other people wince or squirm.  Targets are social issues, politics, religion, the economy and the government.

Around the first century B.C. Roman satirist Juvenal took aim at people and institutions mocking them in parodies that made them look incompetent and absurd.  Juvenalian satire is, by its nature, pessimistic and ironic.  It conveys a sense of moral outrage and deemphasizes humor.   It can be, due to it’s nature, extremely polarizing and may be funny, annoying and at times maddening.  Yes, it can make you mad – actually it is suppose to at times.  You may even consider it blasphemy.  But provoke you to murder?  Never.

Let us all mark these tragic deaths in France this week with sorrow and condolences followed by a renewed commitment to free speech lest our way of life be overtaken by extremists.