If you are anything like me, you have the desire to excel. Whether it’s yoga, cooking, your job, relationships or personal growth, it’s more fun to do things when we are good at them than it is to struggle along doing poorly and feeling inept. And once we find something we’re good at, it’s fun to get better and learn more, because success is satisfying! So for many of us high achievers the question becomes:
How do we get better and continue getting better at the things we love?
The answer may surprise you!
In order to get better at anything we must go back to the basics and not push ahead to the next level. If we truly wish to develop mastery at anything, we must repeatedly and consistently go back to the building blocks of whatever it is we are trying to master. No matter how much of an expert we become, and especially when we are expanding our skills and taking our knowledge and competence to the next, higher level, it is imperative for us to rewind and relay our foundation.
Because the higher and more glorious the tower, the stronger the foundation that’s required.
Take yoga, or any kind of physical pursuit. In order to progress to the advanced moves we must fully master the base moves. Why? Because the base moves provide the necessary strength, flexibility and skill to accommodate the next level. When we cheat or take shortcuts we may win in the short run, but we never master the skills necessary to sustain or move through to the next level.
In yoga, wheel pose (a backbend) is a pose that people sometimes wish to accomplish because it looks good. Never mind the spinal balancing qualities, the heart, throat and belly opening properties, many people simply want to do it because it looks impressive, which is fine, if it’s done properly.
Among other things, executing a safe backbend requires flexibility in the hip flexors, abdominals and shoulder girdle. It requires strength in the glutes, triceps, lats and shoulders. Meaning that one should become adept at doing a glute bridge before attempting the full backbend. And cobra. And up dog. And wheel pose with the head resting on the ground. And fish pose. The list goes on and on!
When people rush into a backbend, sure they may be able to whip one out, but the benefits of the pose are lost. They may end up overstraining a muscle or injuring a disc in their spine, meaning they will be shut out of all of yoga or other physical pursuits while they heal. Additionally, unless their wheel pose is strong and solid with a good foundation they cannot progress further in that pose because the integrity of the form is missing.
The same is true for any skill. We must first master the basics if we hope to excel.
No matter what you are seeking to accomplish in 2019, my challenge to you is to spend time going back to the basics before launching ahead. If it’s better relationships, go back and review and practice some basic communication skills. If cooking is your jam, consider mastering basic recipes and reconnect with simple flavor combinations. If you want to knit a sweater, begin with that first perfect stitch. The same is true for personal growth. Before getting too fancy or overly ambitions, take time to tune into your own heart and listen to the rhythm of your own soul.
Make this month your time to return to the basics. Check in on your mental, spiritual and physical foundations and make the necessary adjustments. Take down and rebuild what’s crumbling. Choose stronger materials this time around or change where you build your foundation in the first place. Give yourself permission to pause and check back in with the basics.
Begin again, knowing that the work you put in this time around will succeed because of the strength of your foundation!
*Click the TITLE above to download your FREE guide with Pretty Pictures, or read it in text below!*
ABCD- Take care of your health by following the ABCD’s. Every night before dinner – yes I do mean every night – whether you are going out or staying in:
A – Apple. Eat an apple. It doesn’t matter if you slice it, dice it or eat it whole. Remember the old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away? There’s a lot of truth to that, so start eating your daily apple!
B – Beverage. After eating your apple, drink a no-calorie beverage. As in, tea or water. You can flavor your water any way you’d like or you can drink it plain. Still or sparkling, just drink an 8 oz. beverage.
C – Clock. Watch the clock. Wait 15 minutes after eating your apple before you eat dinner. It takes 15 min. for the feeling of being full to register in the brain. Give yourself the chance to feel how full you already are, before you even start eating.
D – Dinner! Time to eat your dinner.
E – Exercise!
Exercise DAILY, no matter what. I don’t care how busy or sick or tired you are, you DO have 10 min. and that’s truly all it takes. (Six 10 minute Exercise videos-10 Minute Miracles will be posted on my YouTube Channel between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I post a full hour yoga every Monday and a full hour boot camp every Wednesday! @noexcues! https://www.youtube.com/loracheadlelifechoreographer)
F – Fiber
High fat Holiday food WILL happen. There’s no way to deny that. Plan ahead! Buy a bottle of Fiber Gummies, (some have prebiotics AND fiber, BONUS!) stash a few in a zip-loc and keep it in your purse. When you are at the party and they are passing around finger foods or desserts, eat a gummy and drink a full glass of water.
Please note, this is not an excuse to over-indulge! Some people are sensitive to fiber, so be sure to be careful and note how you feel when you have fiber. DO NOT abuse this, this is something to be used on an infrequent basis, it is NOT a daily excuse to pig out.
G – Groceries
Yes, you are extra busy, but skipping out on groceries is a big mistake. Why not make grocery shopping into a Zen-inducing experience? If you think of grocery shopping as a chore, it will be. If you think of it as an adventure, that’s exactly what it will become!
First, make sure you have time to enjoy your shopping adventure. Remember, this is self-care! Start by having a healthy snack or meal. You never, ever want to shop hungry!
Then, begin by shopping the produce section. Buy 5 things that are familiar to you and one thing that is not. You have a smart phone. Right there, in the produce section, Google a recipe. That way you can be prepared with all the ingredients you need to cook your new veggie or fruit.
Next, explore your staples. Pick two or three of the items that you buy often and see if there is a healthier alternative out there. If you always buy a pack of chips, great. Read the label on your regular brand as well as on a couple of other brands. Does one brand have less fat? More Fiber? More protein? Pick the healthiest alternative. Same with healthy foods. Not all yogurt is created equal! Read the labels, compare, learn and have some fun in the process.
Lastly, as you shop, think of ways you’d like to treat yourself. Many of us use food as a treat, and that creates some really terrible habits! As you explore the grocery, be on the lookout for non-food treats. Peruse the book and magazine section. Look at the bath and beauty section. Lavender Epsom salts are a low-cost treat for your bath. Are there any flowers or plants that catch your eye? Balloons, cards, pretty napkins, cute stickie-notes or pens make a nice treat too. Your job, every time you shop, is to find, and treat yourself, to something deliciously wonderful that is NOT something to eat!
H – Happy Thoughts s
This is so simple, yet so difficult. Choose happy thoughts. Yes, even if your in-laws are driving you crazy. Even if you despise work functions and holiday cheer. Choose to be happy. The holidays will get here whether you like it or not. Parties will be thrown, money will be spent, and people will pressure you to do or to be different than you are. You can fight the season, guaranteeing your misery, or you can flow with the season and at least be peaceful.
Choosing happy thoughts means making the best of what is. Your in laws are who they are and being irritated and disgusted won’t change them. Choose to think happy or at least neutral thoughts about them. You will spend more than you want to spend. Choose to focus on how happy the receivers of your gifts will feel. Focus on the positive; the thrill of giving, the joy of having a first-world budget in the first place. Whatever you hate, whatever irritates you, choose happy or neutral thoughts and feel the stress roll off of your back.
You are in control of your mind, it does not control you. Choose your thoughts wisely.
I – Increase your heart rate
Not only does increasing your heart rate burn more calories, allow you to take deeper breaths and think more clearly, but also keeps you warm! Whenever you are cold, don’t grab for a blanket or sweater. Do something physical instead! Focus on large muscles, like your legs and core, and in no time flat, you will be toasty warm.
Sun salutations, walking up several flights of stairs, even a few jumping jacks or squats will do it! Bonus points for burpies! My YouTube Channel, listed above under E will have videos of easy ways to increase your heart rate! Check it out!
J – Joint Circle
As simple as it is, joint circles are one of the easiest things we can to do to increase our comfort and prevent accidents and injuries. Each joint has bursa sacs nearby, that secrete fluid that is designed to lubricate the joint. Just like the Tin Man, lubricated joints feel better and move better. Before getting out of bed in the morning, take a few seconds to circle your joints! Ankle circles, wrist circles, knee, hip shoulder, elbow and even gently move your neck by looking left, right, up and down.
K – Know Your Limits
Yes, this applies to alcohol, but it also applies to everything else too. Sending out Christmas cards is not required. If you can’t handle one more thing, then don’t. It’s better to calmly back out in advance, than to attend an event, act grouchy, and end up embarrassed by your behavior. Making amends is always more difficult than preventing the situation in the first place.
L – Love Yourself
Following the over indulgent holiday season comes… New Year’s Resolutions! Oh boy! A built in excuse to beat ourselves up over how terrible and out of control we’ve been the past couple of months. This is NOT healthy OR effective.
If you were taking care of children or animals or anyone else that you loved, how would you treat them? This is exactly how you should treat yourself – with love! If you have been eating terribly, don’t punish yourself, declare that it’s all over now or punish yourself by going on some ridiculous diet. Nurture yourself! Read, take a bath, use sparkly lotion, buy flowers or a candle for your house, watch a movie, call a friend, journal, take a walk, sit in a coffee shop and people watch. Consider taking a day off and doing something you want to do, not something you need to do.
Silly as it sounds, in the summer I nurture myself with smoothies, and in the winter I nurture myself with soup! Both are easy ways to stay warm, healthy and nourished. Of course you can follow recipes if you’d like to, but I simply use broth, and then any and all left over veggies I have in my fridge. I even use canned or frozen veggies if that’s all that I’ve got. Add some pasta, rice or chopped up meats, stick in the crock pot and voila! Dinner is served.
M – Meditation
Umm-humm. Do this. I cannot say it enough. Meditate. Let’s get clear right now. Meditation changes everything, period. Also, meditation is not about having an empty mind! I teach meditation, and without fail, people come in and say, “I tried meditation, but I can’t empty my mind. I can’t stop thinking!” EXACTLY! If you stop thinking it means you are dead! Meditation is not about having an empty mind! It’s about managing your mind. Reach out if you need help or schedule a session with me and several of your friends or family members. What an awesome way to connect, ground and get centered for the holidays. We can meet in person or via Skype. It all works!
Feeling too busy for even that? Check out my guided meditation downloads. These are truly stunning, because they have custom music and were recorded on super-amazing equipment! http://www.pyramidfusion.com/shop
N + O= No
Yes. This. Just say no. Unless you are excited about something, you should probably not do it. Parties, decorations, foods, who should be invited or what you should say or wear or do. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. And remember, you do not need to explain why you are saying no!
P – Posture
This is so huge I can’t even emphasize it enough. We have terrible posture and it creates a myriad of physical, emotional and mental problems. Seriously. Our entire modern-day society reinforces bad posture and we are all paying the price.
Let’s start from the beginning. We are skeletons. Our bones are strung together by ligaments, tendons and muscles, which are soft tissues. The goal is to keep our bones stacked, as perfectly as possible in order to minimize stress, tension and pulling on our soft tissues. When we stick our head forward, we put an enormous amount of strain on our neck, shoulder and back muscles, ligaments and tendons. Then the rest of the body is forced to compensate for the misalignment of the head. Sway back is exacerbated, which messes up our hips. Which messes up our knees. Which messes up our feet. Our entire body is one giant kinetic chain, and everything impacts something else.
Here is an exercise to do several times a day that will help correct postural misalignments:
Think of yourself as a skeleton, without ligaments, tendons, muscles or bones. Like a giant Jenga game, how would you have to stack your bones in order to keep them from toppling over? Left to right, front to back, stack your bones from the bottom to the top, making whatever adjustments necessary to keep your bones in place.
No time to do that? Put your knees over your ankles, your hips over your knees, your shoulders over your hips and your ears over your shoulders. Crown of the head flat against the ceiling and jaw parallel to the floor. Ta-da!
Q – Quiet time
Seriously. Remember kindergarten? Quiet time helps us to relax, center and get grounded in ourselves and our day. TV is not quiet time. Listening to the radio is not quiet time. Talking on the phone or to friends is not quiet time. Quiet time IS quiet time!
Our brains have a limited capacity to process information. It has nothing to do with intelligence or strength, when our brains are full, they are full and they either need to dump out that which is not deemed important, or they simply quit processing any further incoming material.
Have you ever completely forgotten to do something? Have you ever sat there and listened to someone tell you something, and had no idea what they said to you five minutes later? Your brain was full.
The Holidays provide a lot of extra stimulation. In terms of visuals, decorations and lights are stimulating on the brain and processing those extra sites takes brain power. Auditorily, listening to Christmas music everywhere and extra laughter and discussion, being at more events, having family stay with you, everything adds up to more. More sites, more sounds, more smells, more parties, more luncheons more things to keep track of. And it leads to overload.
The only way to combat overload is to provide yourself with sensory deprivation. Which is silence. Ideally, you should spend at least three to five minutes a day in a totally quiet, softly lit space, just being.
TV, music, talking, reading, all the things we normally do to unwind merely add more stimulation to your already over-stimulated mind. Just. Stop.
R – Recipes
Have a couple of go-to recipes on hand for the next couple of months. By memorizing a few recipes, and always keeping those ingredients on hand, you will always be prepared for a meal. You will be much less likely to make bad choices or to default to eating out. Even if you eat them weekly, it’s only for the season!
I’m attaching my favorite Holiday Crockpot Clean Eating Plan to this email!
S – Snacks.
Prepare snacks on the weekend and carry them with you wherever you go. I ALWAYS have healthy granola-type bars stashed away in my glove box, purse and gym bag. Having snacks on hand means you can keep your energy up and your blood sugar stable. It also saves money because you don’t need to buy food on the go, and the snacks you pack are much healthier than any on-the-go options that are available from snack machines or fast-food restaurants.
T – Tupperware.
It sounds silly, but invest I a few pieces of Tupperware, or any other Tupperware-type of containers. Always keep a Tupperware in your car and/or your bag. Keep an empty Tupperware by your keys or your wallet, and whenever you leave the house, grab your Tupperware.
Why? Because every time you go out to eat, I want you to take half of your meal, and put it in your Tupperware. No matter what! Snap it up, and put it away. Voila! You have just created two healthy-sized potions and you have saved the planet by not using Styrofoam!
U – Undergarments.
Yes, I hope you giggled! I know we need to love ourselves exactly as we are, however, there’s no better motivation than seeing ourselves as we wish we were. Wearing Spanx, and other such undergarments, can give us the visual reminder of what we can and will look like when we drop weight and firm up. Additionally, they compress the stomach, reminding us not to overindulge!
That said, they do compress the stomach, intestines, liver, etc. which inhibits digestion and be very dangerous over time. I do not recommend tight lacing, waist shapers or wearing any type of corset or other compression garments overnight or for an extended period of time ever. Can the make the waist look smaller? Yes, but only because they weaken the core muscles! Trust me. Long term back pain and organ damage is not worth it! Do it the healthy way, with diet and exercise!
V – Vitamins.
Whether or not you routinely take vitamins, now is the time to invest in a good multi vitamin. Vitamins ensure that any nutritional deficiencies are being met and keep your energy, strength and immunities up.
Sugar, fat and alcohol deplete your system. Vitamins are not a cure-all, but they will at least help keep you going until you get back on track.
W – Water.
I am not kidding. Drink your water! Water wakes you up, keeps you full, helps you think faster and makes your skin and hair look better. It also keeps you from bloating. Over the holidays you will probably eat foods that you are not used to eating. Which means, that you may have a tendency to bloat. Drinking water helps with digestion, but it also keeps the bloating away, helping you to look your best in your Holiday dress!
Not sure how much to drink? Take your body weight, divide it by two. Drink that many ounces of water a day.
TIP: To make sure you are getting it right, find a water bottle or picture and measure. Once you know how much you need, it will be much easier to stay on track.
A Nalgene bottle is 32 oz. I weight 130 lbs. which means I need to drink 64 oz. of water, or two Nalgene bottles per day. Every morning I fill up my bottle and I take it with me wherever I go. I make sure that I’ve drunk one bottle by lunch time. Then I refill, and make sure I’m done with that bottle by the end of the day.
X – Xanax, or relieving Holiday anxiety without drugs.
Alternative 1. Rhodiola rosea is one of the best alternatives to Xanax. It’s a powerful adaptogen that helps the brain adapt to stress. Meaning that this supplement can lower (or heighten) the bodies level of cortisol depending on what you need.
Alternative 2. N-A-C (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine) is a powerful antioxidant amino acid and precursor to glutathione that can help sufferers of anxiety and ADHD. N-A-C lowers oxidative stress, detoxifies the liver and reduces anxiety symptoms.
Alternative 3. Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen that helps the brain adapt to chronic stress, and overcome anxiety symptoms. It has also been shown to produce hormone-balancing and anti-depressant benefits.
Natural Alternative 4. L-Theanine is found in green tea, and can instantly make you feel much more at ease. It helps with motivation, getting and staying focused, and with racing thoughts or monkey mind.
Alternative 5. PharmaGABA-250 is the only natural source of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) available, and, medical professionals agree that supplementing with GABA once or twice a day is an excellent way to naturally relax the brain.
Alternative 6. Magnesium is amazing for sleep, cardiovascular health, athletic performance, and of course – anxiety. It makes your brain feel a little bit soft, calm and comfortable. It’s a truly amazing natural mineral that just about anyone can benefit from. It’s also worth noting that magnesium deficiency is a major problem across the United States. So, you may want to take magnesium just for the sake of your general health.
Alternative 7. 5-HTP acts as a precursor to serotonin, and, serotonin is one of the most important brain chemicals, as it plays a major role in your mood and happiness level. Some studies have shown that having a serotonin deficiency may lead to problems related to anxiety and depression.
Alternative 8. Probiotics are useful to cleanse the gut and anxiety symptoms. The gut is linked to your mood and the emotions.
As with any supplement, always check with your doctor!
Y – Yoga!
Yoga means “yoke” and it’s designed to yoke together the mind and the body. Linking the breath with the movement provides for a moving meditation that will tone the body, quiet the mind and reduce stress.
Z – Zzzzzzzz!
Do your darnedest to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. When you are rested, you make better decisions, you have more natural energy and you are less likely to over-indulge in caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
Trouble sleeping? Melatonin works wonders, as does a hot bath with lavender salts or oils.
Like this guide? Join the Facebook Group, “FLAUNT! Flock” for more ways to SPARKLE this Holiday Season!
June 22, 2015.
That is the day that I died, and a new me came to be. It was the first whole day of summer after the solstice, so I suppose it was only fitting for me to have a new beginning, but it wasn’t exactly my choice. However, it was a long time coming, and I needed a push to finally make a change. My push came with the change in the seasons.
What happened that day? Something that I never thought I would experience, that’s for sure, but before I get to that, I have to back up and tell the whole story for it to all make sense.
About four months earlier, I met Jordan. Jordan was, on the surface, a very quirky guy: quiet, shy and reserved, but most saw that as a good balance to me and my personality, which was usually outspoken, talkative and upfront, so to some, we made a good pair for this reason, and for the most part I agreed. Jordan and I were together often, and in the public eye we had a happy relationship together, but the truth, as always, is more complicated. What no one knew about our relationship was that both of us were slowly dying, but in different ways.
My first impression of Jordan was not a good one, because he seemed too scatterbrained for me, yet I agreed to meet with him a second time after that. I will forever wonder how my life would have ended up had I not texted him back after our first date like I originally wanted to, because I know things would not be the same. The second time I saw him, our interactions went far better. He had graciously bought me a bottle of wine, so I invited him into my apartment to drink it with me. A few hours and glasses of wine later, I woke up with him asleep next to me, and I wondered why I had let that happen, and that was the beginning of my descent.
Letting someone sleep over at your place after a fun date is usually not a big deal, but in this case, it was the night in which I forever gave up my freedom to sleep normally in my apartment as I knew it. After our night together, Jordan stuck around for another night, and then another. Because our romance was new I thought nothing of it, but when he wouldn’t leave after several nights in a row I began to wonder why not. He then revealed to me that he was homeless and had been staying with various people before me, and because of where he and I suddenly went he assumed it was okay to stay in my apartment. I was shocked, but felt very sympathetic and tried to help him out in any way I could, and if letting him stay with me at least a few nights a week was what I could do, I would. After all, I actually had a place of my own with no roommates, so why not?
In the weeks that followed, I hoped that Jordan’s situation would improve, but my thoughts turned out to be just wishful thinking, because it continuously got worse. Not only was he homeless, but he also was without a job, and not even bothering to look for one. Because he was living with a disability he got a small amount of SSI each month, but not enough to survive off. Before I knew it, he was in my apartment more often than not, living in my space and eating my food without permission. Whenever I bluntly told him that I needed my space, or that my food was not for his consumption, he would always give me a sad remark like, “Oh okay, I guess I’ll just go sleep in my car tonight then,” or “Well I don’t know where my next meal will come from,” playing with my emotions to get me to cave in and let him do as he pleased. This went on for weeks, weeks that became months, as I wondered what to do about my life and our relationship, or what shards of it remained.
As a result of Jordan taking up my space, time and resources, my life began to crumble, and those that were around me saw it, despite my trying to hide it. My friends didn’t see me as often, and when they did, he was always with me, because he claimed he always needed someone to “take care of him,” in his inept condition. My boss would tell me at work that I was constantly making mistakes, and that the quality of my work had gone down, and looking back I’m amazed that I never got fired because I was so distracted all the time. Jordan had begun to consume every aspect of my life, and I wasn’t really getting anything in return. When I wanted to speak out about things that I cared about, he would often shut down my feelings, because he deemed his to be more important, due to his disability, financial situation, etc. My problems like my finances didn’t feel like they were entirely mine anymore, because he always had something to say about them, since after all, his life was “worse” than mine, so what right did I have to complain. This entire time I never had any nerve or sense to tell him that enough was enough, that he couldn’t and wouldn’t control me anymore, and that he wasn’t allowed to mooch off of me anymore. Instead, I let myself give in and wither away, completely oblivious to the self-destruction going on inside my and his own mind.
By the time June rolled around, I somehow still wanted to stay with Jordan, but did not know in what capacity, because he still wouldn’t look for a job, and his health appeared to be declining at an alarming rate. He often claimed that he wasn’t able to work due to his chronic pain, and by the second week in June he suddenly took his invasion of my apartment to a new level. He said his pain had gotten so severe that he had to rest every day, which basically meant he lay in bed and rarely got up. When I left to go to work in the morning, he stayed in bed, and when I came home, he was there where I left him. It all just stressed me out even more, having basically a human lump just taking up space and air with me, and somewhere along the line I started to wonder if letting him go wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But where would he go in his condition? That, if nothing else, was what always stopped me when I considered making him leave.
When I was getting ready for a meeting at work one morning, I almost didn’t leave because he seemed like he was in bad shape, more so than usual. He urged me to go, because it was an important meeting, so I reluctantly went and wondered about why he was so silent and wanting me to go. It wasn’t until I came home a couple of hours later that I knew.
When I opened the door, I saw him curled up on “our” mattress, surrounded by empty pill jars with a Costco-sized bottle of whiskey next to him, a glass half-drunk right beside it. He had kept a box of fentanyl patches in the closet, one of his medications for his chronic pain, but this time he had covered his chest with them, and was lying in bed half-conscious as a result of it. Naturally, when I saw this I snatched the one bottle with pills still in it from his bedside and frantically dialed 911. He still had enough energy to attempt to swat the phone from my hand, but he was unsuccessful.
In the moments between then and when the EMTs arrived, I looked at him and asked him angrily, “Jordan, is this really how you want it to end? IS IT?!” He looked back with his bloodshot eyes and whispered, “Yes,” before slipping into unconsciousness. Moments later an ambulance arrived and removed him from my apartment, and once they were gone, I sat down and let it all sink in.
As I looked around the apartment, where all the damage had been done, where my space had been invaded and my home wrecked, empty jars of pills everywhere, I snapped out of it. For the first time in months, I put my own health and life first and said, this is too much. He had been ruining my life for too long, so it was time to end things.
While he was in the hospital, I visited him more than I probably should have, but I was still figuring out what to do. I knew I couldn’t continue going about things the way they had been going, but what was the best alternative?
Two days after he was admitted into the hospital, he was released, and I came to pick him up in his car. When we were alone, I was finally ready to say it, and I felt proud about my decision as well. I told him that I was glad he was alive, but he would not be allowed back in the apartment. He stubbornly asked me why, as if he didn’t already know what he had done to me. I explained to him, gently, that he had been disturbing my life and my space for too long, and I needed to take my life back, but he refused to listen and begged me to let him stay, as he was apparently thinking that he would just return to the apartment and live in it while I worked and paid for it as if nothing had happened. I shook my head in disgust and said no, more firmly than ever, because I had seen the error of my ways and knew I couldn’t do it anymore.
When we arrived back at my apartment, which I was ready to claim as mine again, I handed him the key to his car and explained that I had taken his key to the apartment back, which he would get back once I felt he had earned it. I hugged him and told him that I would talk to him tomorrow, but at that moment he had to leave. He reluctantly did so, and I sighed with relief once he was gone and I was alone in my place, because I had finally taken initiative and claimed my space back. Of course, it didn’t last.
As promised, I tried contacting Jordan the next morning, but I got no response. I tried texting him several times and left a voicemail or two, but still nothing. At first I thought maybe he was angry with me for telling him to leave, so I thought I’d give him some space, but when an entire day had passed and still nothing, I began to worry. I filed a missing person report and put out a search for him, and tried to go about things as they were planned. But in the back of my mind, I knew something wasn’t right.
This is where we come back to June 22, 2015.
After still hearing nothing from Jordan or the police, I felt that I had to take matters into my own hands. I went out walking that night, in search of Jordan or his car. I hadn’t thought to look in my own neighborhood, because it almost made too much sense, but I would find out that it didn’t.
I hadn’t even walked two whole blocks up the road before I found it, in a line of cars just like any of them, but the windows were fogged. My heart stopped and I had to turn away, because I knew what I would see if I looked inside the windows. I ran home and called 911 again, and this time the police showed up, and I took them to the street where the car was parked. I handed them the key, they unlocked it, and a few minutes later they made it official: Jordan was dead, as a result of an overdose. This time he had succeeded.
Now, you might think that when I first got the confirmation that he was dead, that I was saddened by this whole turn of events, which I was, but that wasn’t the strongest emotion I felt at that very moment. When I announced to the world on my Facebook page that Jordan was gone, I did play it off as a tragedy, which it was, but because no one really knew what he had done to me, I suppressed my true feelings, which I now regret.
Because of the abuse that he made me suffer through in the months leading up to it, my first thought when it was confirmed he was dead was, in fact, relief. Relief because finally, I was free. Free from his manipulations and hold on my emotions, free of the guilt he had placed upon me for just wanting to simply live my life and not be held down by him anymore, free to live my life as I wanted to really live. But, of course, I held that all inside, because why would I dare to feel relieved when a person so close to me takes his own life? Someone who I made the world believe truly cared for me?
I did feel guilty, and maybe a bit heartless, that I felt that way, so I buried those feelings, but as I write this, I’m ready to comfortably say that burying my feelings did not help me cope at all. They, in fact, just ate away at my conscience, because for so long I romanticized our relationship as one made in heaven, only to be cut short by him and his inner demons, when in reality it was truly hell on Earth, one that I was luckily able to escape from, but at a heavy price.
Like any abusive relationship, this one was difficult for me to feel like I could get out of it, because I was letting my feelings take the reins and steer me down a destructive path. I write this to let everyone know that while yes, Jordan was suffering in his mind, he was not the only one suffering, because he threw his depression onto me. Although he never physically harmed me, his manipulation of my emotions via his depression is still abuse, a form of it that I feel is never taken seriously enough. I didn’t want those who knew me to know that he abused me, because they were saddened by the fact that he was gone above all else. Although suicide is never a way to deal with anything, I still feel relief when I think about the fact that he is gone, and believe that there is a special place in hell for those who abuse others the way he did; I hope that’s where he is now. At first my depression resulting from this was because I thought that I could have done more to save him, and why didn’t I, but when I asked myself honestly, I realized that was all a lie, perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to what the world was telling me I should feel. When I was being honest with myself, however, I realized that my depression was stemming from the fact that I let him manipulate me so much before he died.
When I think about it that way, I have to ask myself, am I a cruel person for being happy that he’s dead? Is it wrong of me to feel no mercy for him at all, because he didn’t open up about his depression to me very much? I’ve asked myself these questions so many times – why didn’t I leave him, why did I let it get to that, and why wasn’t I able to wake myself up until I actually saw him trying to kill himself? I will always feel guilty about it, for myself and not for him, but perhaps this is a lesson to project to anyone else who is going through it.
To anyone going through an abusive situation, I want to first say, stop blaming yourself, and don’t hate yourself for it. There is always a way out of it, and you are strong enough to rise above it, whether you believe it or not. I am writing this because I want to tell you that I hope you see yourself as deserving better, and can follow your gut when you know something isn’t right. Also, if you think that I don’t feel guilty all the time because I got out of my situation rather easily, you are also very wrong. The reason why I feel that I have to write this and honor my true feelings is because, as a survivor of domestic abuse who has emerged to talk about it, I want others going through a possibly less “escapable” situation to know that I am with you, because had Jordan survived and never tried to kill himself, I may have still been in that horrible relationship to this day, being treated unfairly yet never leaving it.
Since Jordan’s death I have indeed become more independent and willing to stick up for myself, but unfortunately in real life it has often translated into isolation and being overly defensive, even aggressive, as a result of feeling unable to trust others again. Jordan was the last person that I really let my guard down to, and I know that my social life has suffered as a result of being betrayed the way I was. I also have naturally not been able to fare well in a romantic relationship since then, and when I entered my next relationship with a much better man, I wasn’t able to be a good person to him because abuse had become so normal to me. Even though he always had the best intentions and never did anything to hurt me purposefully, I felt that I needed to yell at him and inflict pain whenever possible, just because I could. One of my ways to deal with being abused was to become an abuser myself, and to become such a horrible person I don’t know was by far the worst repercussion of it all. I never wanted to harm possibly the greatest person I’ve ever known, but now all I hope is that the man that I harmed later on can forgive me, though I understand if he can’t.
My life has never been the same since June 22, 2015, and every year on that day I sit and reflect on what changed in my mind that night. There are still many ways in which I will never be truly happy with myself and my decisions, but I also want to believe that somewhere in there, there is a sliver of hope, because I’m still here to talk about it. I also want to believe that everyone will come to appreciate honesty as opposed to prescribed feelings about suicide and abuse, because it doesn’t always happen the same way. I did feel like a lot of my emotions that I showed when talking about Jordan before were forced, because I didn’t want to confuse or scare anyone with the truth, but I’m no longer afraid to be honest with everyone. I just hope that my honesty goes a long way, and that it is appreciated just as much as my “sympathy” for Jordan was.
To those of you who can relate to my story, at any point in time, just know that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to release those negative emotions, or those that may not look as appropriate in the eyes of the world. Your feelings are yours, and you should never suppress them; however, don’t use your abuse as an excuse to be a horrible person to whoever tries to help you later on. I’m saying this to you and to myself, because that is the part I’m still learning, and hopefully one day I can find a happy medium in a relationship without abuse, from myself or my partner.
Though I no longer have any desire to talk about Jordan or reminisce about any times that I spent with him, I will say that there is one thing that I learned from him, and that is to share your feelings, which he never did. Just being honest with myself and my true feelings when looking back on this whole situation has made me feel like finally I can let it all go. Though it is impossible to completely forget June 22, 2015 and everything surrounding it, I’m hoping that in the years to come, I can go through this day and smile instead of cry, because while it was the day that my life as I knew it ended, it was also the day that I found the strength I always had but had forgotten about. I think we all have that kind of strength hidden in us, so have you found yours yet?
Maybe you are like me. Maybe you are an expert at certain things, because you have done them for a long time, and because you are passionate about them. But did you know that even experts need teachers, gurus or masters to inspire them and help them grow? No matter how good we are at things, we always need someone there to guide or mentor us, so we can continue to evolve.
Why? Because it’s easy for us as humans to get stuck in a rut, even without realizing that we are stuck!
And when we get stuck, our brains get stuck too, hardening into habits, beliefs and attitudes that may not serve us as the world around us continues to evolve.
You Can Teach and Old Dog New Tricks But Without Practice, It’s Hard! (Literally)
The human brain is very adaptable. In infancy and childhood the brain is very malleable, and learning and assimilating new information is easy to do. As we age, our brains become more fixed, and change becomes more difficult. But this does not mean that change is impossible! This simply means that we need to make more of an effort to seek out opportunities for learning, opportunities for growth and expansion, in order to keep our brains functioning at their prime.
The brain is like a computer. The connections (thoughts, patterns, beliefs, habits) we use often, are stronger than the connections we use infrequently. This is why habits that we’ve had for decades are much harder to break than habits we’ve only recently acquired. When we are young, very few habits and patterns and connections have been set. When we are in school, learning sports, music, language, our brains are constantly being re-wired, challenged and re-arranged. So, like play-dough, our brains are shaped and reshaped again.
Once we settle down in our lives, we truly do begin to settle. We leave school, we leave some of our childhood hobbies behind because we have work or family obligations, we become good at our job, our relationships become set, and so does our brain. Like play-dough left out for too long without being manipulated, our brains begin to harden and form. Which can be good. Until it isn’t.
Unlike our hardened brains, the world continues to evolve. Technology changes, rules change, relationships change, children grow, parents age, and jobs are lost. Suddenly, we realize that we too need to adapt. But when we try to learn, we realize how hard it is! And we get frustrated and we want to quit!
But instead of quitting, all we need to do is add water and stir!
How Having a Teacher, Guru or Master Helps Us Adapt
No, our brains aren’t really hardened. With a little water and a little mixing, we can once again make our brains as malleable as they were when we were young. Keeping our brains flexible allows us to learn, grow, change and adapt to our circumstances at any age. How do we do this? Through working with a teacher, guru or master. Working with others keeps us fresh, keeps our brains soft and moldable and keeps us in the habit of learning, so whenever we are called upon to adapt; we can.
Whether it’s a teacher, who can teach us something that we don’t know, a guru who can walk us along a path that they themselves have walked, or a master, who can push us to a different level of understanding or skill, continuing to learn throughout our whole lives is vitally important. Not only because it’s fun to learn and expand, but because it helps us in the long run. Working with others allows us to continue to challenge ourselves, it creates new connections in our brains, and it keeps us flexible and easily adaptable. Working with others is like sprinkling water on our paly-dough. Which is a smart thing to do.
Because the world continues to change. And we need to be able to change with it. Comfortably.
We like to think of ourselves as being strong and capable, and for the most part, we are! But because we live in a world that makes us believe we can make, or force, things to happen, we lose touch with the fact that the only thing we can control is ourselves. No matter how much the world tells us otherwise, we cannot make anyone else do what we want. And paradoxically, our true power lies in the absence of force; in the realization that although we cannot control anything, but that we still need to stay at the wheel. We still need to steer our own course for our own benefit.
We all have dreams, goals and desires, and it’s perfectly acceptable to go after our dreams, to fight for our goals, and to pursue our desires. Often times, our hard work and dedication pays off, and we achieve exactly what it is we desires. Psychologically it’s good for us to plan, prepare and have projects that we are working on.
The problem lies in the fact that we have been conditioned to think that we have control. That we will be rewarded, in kind, for our hard work and dedication. That if we pay our dues, we will be allowed in the club. That life is fair, and that we deserve things. Our thinking becomes black-and-white. Most of us believe that either;
1) We have complete control over our lives, and if things aren’t turning out the way we want, we simply have to buckle down, work hard, and force it to happen; or
2) That we have no control over our lives, we are at the mercy of God/family/friends/our job/our health/or financial situation/our living situation/the world, and that no matter how much we try, our ship will never come in.
While neither of these extremes are accurate, most of us lock into one extreme or the other. Then, over time, we look for evidence that supports this belief. And as we find this evidence, it supports our belief as to how the world works, and our belief gets stronger. Eventually, the belief is so strong, that it becomes our world view, and it shapes the course of our life.
Bully Syndrome– My Way or the Highway
If we believe that we have the ability to force our will, or desires, or dreams onto others, then we turn our attention, our true power, away from ourselves. When we shift our focus or our power away from our self, and focus it on others, we engage in a type of coercion. Even when the relationship is mutual, whenever we are trying to get someone else to do something for us, we turn over our power to that other person. We become imbalanced, because all of our energy goes towards how we can make others fill us up. Instead of filling ourselves up, instead of creating for ourselves, we seek to have others do the work for us, on our behalf.
While it may sound appealing to have others do the work for us, in reality, it weakens us. It moves our power outside of ourselves and places our responsibility for our self on others. We become reliant on them, and without realizing it, we have turned the wheel over to them. We can holler out directions, but they are the ones who are truly in charge. We are no longer driving our own lives, and we are relegated to being a back-seat driver in our own existence.
It’s not My Fault! Excuses, Victim-hood and Taking Your Hands OFF The Wheel
Similarly, when we believe that we have no control over anyone or anything, we hand our will away just as much as when we try to control others. The perpetual victim correctly sees that they have no control over others. However, instead of doing what they can to influence or change themselves, instead of at least trying to drive, they simply take their hands off the wheel. They don’t drive, nor do they seek out other competent drives to assist them. They careen along, being knocked about by every bump, twist or turn. And life does get bumpy for the perpetual victim!
Moreover, the perpetual victim seems not to notice when good things happen, but only notices the bad. They create a self-fulfilling, poor me, belief system, and subconsciously they use the power that they do have, to perpetuate their dejected reality. They literally steer themselves into the ditch! So, although the victim may actually be more powerful than the bully, in that they understand that they cannot control others, they use the power that they do have, to create more victim-hood!
Defensive Driving, and Balancing Our Power In Life
The key to creating a healthy, successful life, lies in bridging the gap between these two extremes. In understanding that we are in charge of driving our own lives, and that although we may use others to assist us, that we are the only ones who can steer our own course. We have to take responsibility for the fact that sometimes we crash, and as crazy as it sounds, sometimes we crash intentionally. Whether it’s fear of failure, fear of success or some other deep, subconscious reason, sometimes we intentionally crash our own lives. And that’s okay. As long as we have awareness about what it is we have done, and we take responsibility for our choices and our actions, we will learn from our mistakes. We can correct our course.
We are all the bully and we are all the victim. We are in charge of our own life. Take your own wheel, and be mindful about who you allow to drive for you. The road may be bumpy or smooth, but it’s not the road’s fault. Take the wheel when the going gets rough, and be mindful of where you are steering.
Everyone crashes. It’s what you learn from those crashes that counts.
Much of the rhetoric around the Superbowl consisted of football fans saying they “wanted the Eagles to win because they were tired of the Patriots winning.” OMG! How terrible is that?!?! In a culture that celebrates winning, and often times even encourages people to win at all costs, where does a statement like that come from, and psychologically, what does it mean? How can we want to win so badly, yet at the same time, condemn and despise those who do win routinely?
Even in our own lives, are we truly happy for our friends when they win a promotion or get a new car, or find a new love interest, or buy a new house? Are we honestly and completely thrilled for them, or are we a little bit envious too? What about when two of our friends really hit it off, leaving us in the dust? Jealous much?
At its core, jealousy and envy are nothing more than triggers, which have pointed out something within ourselves that we are trying not to acknowledge. But with a little bit of knowledge and understanding, we can tame the green-eyed monster and learn how to better ourselves thought the success of others.
The Difference Between Jealousy and Envy
Jealousy and envy are different! Jealousy involves three people and takes place when someone else is threatening to disrupt a situation between us and another person. Whether it’s a new hot-shot at work, coming in to woo our boss, another person flirting with our significant other or someone coming between us and our friends, jealousy involves some sort of triangulation.
Envy only involves two people. Envy is where something wonderful happens to someone else, and we have a hard time being happy for them. Either we want that thing to have happened to us instead, or we feel they didn’t deserve it, but we do! Envy is the experience of not being able to celebrate another’s good fortune because we have reverted to self, and to our desire to get what we want.
Jealousy Triggers and How to Overcome Them
We will not be provoked unless we feel threatened. Stop and re-read that sentence. We will not be provoked, unless we feel threatened in some way. Notice I didn’t say unless we are threatened. Actual threat doesn’t matter. What matters is our feeling of being threatened.
Which leads to the next questions; why do we feel threatened?
In the case of jealousy, it’s easy to put the blame on the third person, but really, the emotion is about us, not them. Whenever we perceive a third party as coming in and destabilizing our relationship, it means that we are afraid of change. It doesn’t matter if that change is good or bad, it only means that we will have to change, and to our subconscious mind, all change is perceived as a threat.
The best thing to do to manage jealousy is to first acknowledge that you are feeling jealous. Then, you can ask yourself who is making you jealous and why. Once you have the who and the why, ask yourself what you are going to do about it. Don’t lament the fact that change is on the horizon. Change is perpetually on the horizon! Instead, cycle through all the possible options you have, from the absurd to the rational, and begin figuring out what you are going to choose to do. Getting comfortable with your choice empowers you to lead the changes in your life, instead of getting swept up in a current of change.
For example, when a hot-shot comes in a work and threatens your position as a top producer, it means you will have to change. You can choose to learn from them, seek out other sources and to better yourself. Notice I did not say “beat them”. You may or may not beat them, and that’s not the point. The point is, you accept that change is inevitable and you embrace that change for yourself. You can choose to stay the same, to stay in your comfort zone, and learn how to come to terms with not being the top sales person. But the focus needs to stay on you and the fact that everything takes place in you, because of you, and not a result of the other person.
Done right, experiencing jealousy empowers you, because it allows you to take stock of, and to manage your life proactively!
Envy Triggers and How to Overcome Them
Whenever we see another person receive something that we want, it points out that which we find to be lacking in ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that is actually lacking in us or not, it’s our perception of lack that triggers us. It forces us to confront some sort of scarcity within us. Even if it’s just the perceived scarcity of something as elusive as good luck.
One of the best ways to manage envy, like jealousy, is to first acknowledge that the emotion is coming up. Then, ask yourself what you perceive to be missing from your own life? It doesn’t matter if it’s silly or not. Be honest with yourself. Next, ask yourself what you can do about it.
If you are envious of your best friend’s new relationship, even though you are happily married, what is that showing you? Could it be that date nights are lacking in your marriage? Could it be you are lacking a certain freshness and excitement that you wish you could recapture? Then make those changes! If you are envious that your best friend just had her first grandchild, and your kids claim they don’t want kids, what is that bringing up for you?
Although you can’t force other people to give you what you want, you can figure out the root cause of your desire for grandkids. Is it because you don’t feel you can retire unless there is a reason? Is it because you miss being with kids? Is it due to latent feelings of guilt that you weren’t a better parent, and you somehow made your children not want to parent? Is it simply the fact that you haven’t come to terms with your children’s decision, or perhaps you felt forced into having children? Whatever it is, once addressed, it allows you to make positive change in your life. It points out, that which is missing within, giving us the opportunity to acknowledge and address our own fears and needs.
Envy can also challenge us to acknowledge our own negative thinking habits, allowing us to become more positive people. For instance, in regards to the Superbowl, instead of negatively saying, “I want the Eagles to win because I’m sick of the Patriots winning.” flip it around to “I want the Eagles to win because they’ve never won before and I love sharing the love with teams who have never had that kind of an honor.”
Go deep within the feelings of both of those statements. They will be different!
What do they bring up for you, and what are you going to do about it?
Sh*t happens. Frequently! And the reason the phrase, “When it rains, it pours” exists, is because when bad stuff happens, it seems to happen all at the same time. And it stinks! But don’t despair! Even when the train goes waaaaay off the tracks, even when you think you will never get back on track, you can still recover, and even be happy in spite of (or maybe even because of) your bad luck.
All you need to do is step back, take a deep breath, and follow these four steps.
Step One: Find Gratitude Wherever You Can
This is not about being a Pollyanna or blindly quipping that “every cloud has a silver lining.” Finding gratitude is about noticing what’s good about your terrible situation and being grateful for those small blessings. Even when it seems callous or ridiculous to do so.
The day my grandma passed away was a terrible day, for obvious reasons. But, the timing of things was such that I was able to teach my workout class without a last minute scramble for a sub. The weather was wonderful, everyone was in town, and she passed away with quite a lot of dignity.
It was easy to overlook these small blessings, to focus on everything that was terrible and wrong with the situation, but that didn’t help. Finding gratitude did. Finding gratitude is a skill. The more you practice looking for it, the more things you will find to be grateful for. And the better, and luckier, you will feel.
Step Two: Put Your Situation in Perspective
Don’t you hate it when you are trying to tell your story, and the person you are talking to one-ups you and starts in telling you how their situation is much worse than yours? While that is one of the worst things another person can do to us, it’s an important thing to us to do for ourselves. We read the news. We watch TV. We know people who… and knowing these facts helps keep our own disaster in perspective.
Last week I experienced a major sewer-line disaster that will derail me financially for years. It has impacted my entire family and it has made for some uncomfortable and stressful situations. There are going to be serious and far-reaching consequences, but it will not impact my relationships. It will not diminish the joy I experience walking my dogs or reading my book. My finances will change, but I will still eat. I still have a home. In five years’ time, the impact will be gone.
Having perspective is similar to having gratitude, but it is more of an intellectual acknowledgement in one’s own head as to the proper scope of the disaster. Gratitude is more in the heart. Life moves on, no matter what, and having perspective means acknowledging this fact. Your life might not look how you planned, but still going to move ahead. Have perspective. See your situation intellectually and without attachment. Don’t allow yourself to miss what is, by focusing on what could have been.
Step Three: Realize What You Can Control and What You Can’t Control
You cannot control what happened to you, but you can control the result of your disaster and you can control your reaction. Ask yourself, “What can I do right now to make myself feel better?”
Right now I can make myself a cup of tea. Right now I can light a pretty candle, sit up tall, take a few breaths and smile. I can go upstairs, bush out my hair and put on some jewelry. Why? Because it will make me feel better. Nobody else is going to comfort us, so we might as well get busy making ourselves happy.
When things go wrong, it’s psychologically important to exert control over the things that we can. It keeps us out of victim mentality and it makes us feel more in control. Find what you can control and proactively choose your actions.
This extends to our actions with others as well. Take the lessons learned from your disaster and educate others through your loss. Your disaster has imbued you with wisdom. Spread the gift of this newfound wisdom to others. Some of the most beautiful things on earth have been the result of unspeakable disasters. You may have been handed some pretty sour lemons. What kind of lemonade are you going to make?
Step Four: Look for Deeper Meaning
What has your disaster taught you? Is this situation a metaphor for something else in your life? If everything happens for a reason, why did this happen to you? When I literally had sh*t burbling up from the sewer and filling my house, I started thinking about the metaphoric sh*t in my life. Was I was stuffing down too much sh*t? Did I need to clean out my sh*t? Did I need to deal with my sh*t? What was my deeper lesson here?
Whether my sewage explosion was truly a sign from the universe or not, in my mind, thinking about the deeper meaning of my disaster gives me control. I take myself out of victim mode and I regain control over my life. I see the steps I can take to reduce the amount of shi*t, both metaphoric and literal, that’s filling my life. I can be proactive, rather than reactive. And I feel better, knowing that I’m actually doing something to make things better.
Disasters happen. To all of us, all throughout our lives. Some are big, and some are small, but no matter what happens to you, you can recover. Not only that, you can thrive! All it takes is a little gratitude, a little perspective, knowing what you can and can’t control, acting instead of reacting, and looking for the deeper meaning.
In the words of Martin Luther King, “We Shall Overcome!” And overcome we shall!
Welcome to January! You know, that month where you realize that you did, in fact, gain too much weight over the holidays. And then, mid-month, when credit card statements come in the mail, you also realize that you spent way too money. And later on, near the end of the month, you realize that somehow, despite your best intentions, you have already blown your New Year’s Resolutions. In other words, by the end of the month, most of us feel some combination of being unhealthy, broke and depressed.
But don’t despair! No matter how bad you blew it over the holidays, (honestly!) you can still recover. All it takes is a little forgiveness, awareness, and wisdom. With these three simple steps, you can get back on track and have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018, no matter what transpired over the holidays!
The first, and most important place to start, is in your own heart and soul. We all make mistakes. Yes, you may have drank too much, sent an embarrassing text, lost a job, spent too much money, quit working out, yelled at your sister; whatever. The first step is learning how to forgive yourself. Learning to love yourself, unconditionally.
It doesn’t matter what you did. You did it. It happened, and you have to deal with it, and yourself. Forgiveness is not about absolving oneself from guilt. Nor is it about making excuses or laughing something off. It’s about digging deep, realizing the full extent of your mistake and owing what happened. It’s about understanding the full impact of your actions, the consequences to yourself, and those around you.
It’s about identifying the emotions around your actions, feeling your shame, embarrassment, guilt; and dealing with those emotions. When we allow ourselves to feel and acknowledge our emotions, they guide us towards right action. Whether that means making amends, moving on or getting help for ourselves. Understanding our actions on an emotional as well as a cognitive level allows us to fully process and release our actions. Instead of stuffing our feelings down, we learn from them, and we grow healthier and wiser in the process.
Truly forgiving oneself is not easy. Nor can it be accomplished overnight. Forgiveness is a process that, like grief, has many stages. Keep working on it! The past cannot be undone. Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. If they did what you did, would you forgive them? We tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Extend yourself the same courtesy.
Understand the Impact of Your Behavior on Others
Next, seek to understand your actions and the consequences of your actions. Not why you did what you did, but what you did Moving into the why’s tends to create blame. It doesn’t’ matter why you spent too much, reached out to your ex, yelled at your children, or got drunk. It only matters that you did.
What is the result of your behavior? What did it create in your life that wasn’t there before? What are the consequences? Not the potential consequences or the watered down consequences, but the actual consequences to yourself as well as to others? Make a list. Ask around. Be open to learning, to understanding the impact of your decisions.
Once again, put yourself in another person’s shoes. If someone had done this to you, what would you want them to do? Do that! Or quite simply, ask others what they would like you to do in order to make amends. Seek first to understand. Fix what you can fix. Let the rest go. It’s time to look forward, not back.
Rejoice in Choice
One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving ahead and creating positive changes in their lives is putting too much pressure on themselves. Dreaming big is wonderful but we need to be realistic too. Dreams are not accomplished overnight. Two steps forward, one step back is to be expected. Remember the age-old question – How do you eat an elephant? The answer is – One bite at a time!
Yes, you can get your finances back on track. You can lose the weight. You can be happy. But maybe not overnight. Every day we have multiple opportunities to choose. Choosing to make coffee at home instead of going out seems like a simple choice, but coupled with other small choices, it becomes monumental. Choose to smile, to hold doors open for others, to pack a healthy lunch. Choose to donate, swap or borrow instead of buy. Call your credit card company and ask to have your interest rate lowered. Read articles on managing debt. Take a walk. Go to the library and check out workout books or DVDs. Meditate. Pray. Choose kind words. Forgive others. Choose tolerance. Breathe in. Breathe out. Make every choice count.
Grant Yourself the Serenity to Accept the Things you Cannot Change, the Courage to Change the Things you Can, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference
Make a list of things you can control and all the things you can’t control. We can never truly control others, but we can always control ourselves. Yes, we may be fat, broke and miserable. Our life may indeed be filled with others who impact us negatively. We may be burdened by our own past actions. But we can’t control the past. We can only control ourselves in the future.
We can control each moment, each choice, exactly as it comes to us. Each moment. And the moment after that. And the moment after that. Our lives are lived one day at a time. Days are nothing but a collection of moments, a collection of choices. Choose wisely. Remain conscious. It’s the only way to change your life.
Forgive yourself. Witness and learn for your mistakes. Then choose again. The next moment is always there, presenting us with another opportunity to choose.
So what do you choose? Joy, happiness, prosperity and health are literally just a collection of moments away. Every moment is a choice, and every choice moves us towards our goal or away from it. Accept that which you cannot change, and have the courage to create a future that you can be proud of. Yes, we can all be healthy, happy and prosperous. It’s simply a matter of choice.
Just like eating the elephant, life isn’t lived all at once. Life is lived in a series of bite-sized moments. Choose each moment wisely.
Have you heard the idiom, “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back?” This illustrates the point that while we can take a lot, at some point, we all reach our breaking point. Whether that means losing our temper, getting sick or sliding into depression, none of us want to reach our breaking point. Just like the camel, many of us are burdened slowly, adapting to our ever-increasing load, until one day when a seemingly innocuous little straw is placed on our back, and we break for what seems an insignificant reason.
The parable of the frog in pot of boiling water illustrates a similar point. Put a frog in a pot of boiling water and it will panic and struggle to get out. Put a frog in a pot of tepid water, slowly turn up the heat, and the frog will sit quietly, allowing itself to be cooked alive.
Our Emotional Warning System
As self-preserving organisms, we are equipped with our own built-in guidance system that allows us to identify when we are being pushed to our breaking point. When we experience feelings of overwhelm, frustration, anxiety or stress, it’s our body’s way of letting us know that we are reaching our breaking point.Contrary to what we may believe, it is not normal to experience chronic states of stress, overwhelm, frustration and anxiety. These emotions are danger signals, and it’s crucial for us to be aware of what these emotions are signaling, and to take action before we reach our breaking point. Before we find ourselves with broken backs. Before we find ourselves having been boiled alive.
Negative or stressful emotions are danger signals, signaling us that we need to make a change. If we don’t, we suffer the consequences. Even if we don’t have a full-blown breakdown, the resulting consequences can be mental problems, emotional outbursts, relationship problems, anger issues, impaired job performance, the inability to connect with others, a decreased capacity to feel joy, chronic inflammation, diabetes, unexplained pain, weight gain or worsening feelings of hopelessness.
Breakdown of the Emotional Guidance System and the Resulting Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
When we treat these emotional warning signals for what they are-signals warning us that we need to make changes – and then we make those changes – we recover. Our bodies, minds and spirits heal and we return to a natural, normal state of calm alertness. But when we fail to respond to these warning signals, when we keep-on keeping-on, fighting down panic and pushing ahead, we force our bodies to adapt in unhealthy ways. Forcing our bodies, minds and spirits to live in state of chronic hyper-stimulation and anxiety short-circuit all of our natural survival mechanisms. Like any machine forced to run beyond its capabilities, we eventually break down.
By forcing our bodies to integrate negative and stressful emotions into our everyday lives, without respite, we adapt. We forget what it’s like to feel peaceful, calm and centered. We believe it’s normal to live in a state of heightened anxiety, to feel stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated, and this becomes our new normal. A new baseline is set and suddenly we think we are feeling good when we are truly feeling stressed. We have changed our brains to believe that stress and anxiety are normal states of being, making our emotional warning system ineffective. By being stoic and brave we train ourselves to allow more negativity and stress, until one day – often without warning – we reach our breaking point. Our back breaks or we realize that we have been boiled alive.
Decreasing Stress and Anxiety in Four Steps
Fortunately, we can reverse course on this phenomenon and return our stress and anxiety baseline to a healthy, normal level. All it takes is self-awareness, dedication and a commitment to living in a life of joy, peace and harmony.
Identify a time when you felt calm, peaceful and centered. When you were alert, contented and neutral. Not elated, just neutral. A time when you simply felt good.
Identify when you experience negative and stressful emotions. Don’t judge them or try to change them, just notice when you have them. Get a little notepad that you can carry with you. Keep it with your cell phone and every time you fiddle with your phone, write down how you feel mentally, physically and spiritually.
The notes might look something like this:
Irritated, pent-up, silent.
Frazzled, blob-like, vindictive.
Tired, sore, far-away.
Energetic, bouncy, filled with song.
Do not try to avoid having emotions, or deny what you are feeling, simply identify what you feel.
Once you are aware of what you are feeling, consciously feel those emotions. Spend up to a minute consciously feeling the emotion that you have identified. How does this emotion feel in your head, your heart and your body? What is it like to be that emotion?
After you have allowed your body, mind and spirit to experience these emotions, consciously return yourself to a place of neutrality. To a place of peace. Return to a neutral, natural, rational state of peace and then deal with whatever is causing your negative or stressful emotions, repeating the process of identifying and feeling any negative emotions that pop up in the process, and continuously and systematically returning yourself to a state of peace and neutrality.
We are the camel. We have to unburden ourselves every time we are burdened or risk running out of capacity and breaking. We are also the frog. We have to stay aware of our surroundings, of what is happening to us at all times, or we will be boiled alive without our knowledge. Our emotions and feelings are the tools that allow us to stay alert, aware, safe and happy. All capacity is finite. We are not weak, we are human and we have limits. Let’s learn to honor those limits before it’s too late.
For about three weeks now I’ve had a robin who throws himself at my foyer window. The foyer is two stories tall and the window is inaccessible from the ground floor. There are no window coverings. Every morning, and again in the afternoons, the bird sits in the tree outside the window and repeatedly throws himself against the glass.
At first we had no idea what he was doing, calling him our suicide bird, but then I learned that in mating season, birds are very territorial. He was seeing his reflection in the mirror as another bird, and he was simply trying to protect his territory.
If we turn both the upstairs hall light and the foyer light on, it sometimes dims his reflection enough so he quits, but not always. With a hypnotizing rhythm, he throws himself against the glass, returns to the branch, shakes himself off, and throws himself against the glass again. And again. Easily, for two hours every day.
I’m afraid he will hurt himself. I’m afraid that one day I’ll step out my front door and see his tiny bird body on the ground, neck broken. I go outside and talk to him, I go inside and jump around inside the window and try to scare him, but none of it does any good.
Then it dawned on me. Maybe this bird is here for me. Maybe this bird is here to teach me something that I’m not noticing in my own life.
Fighting Our Own Reflection
How many times have I fought something that wasn’t really there? How many times have I defended my territory against something that was an illusion? Could it be that there were times where I thought I was persevering, pushing ahead with strength and determination, while others were looking at me with pity, or even laughing at my folly?
Have others tried to get my attention, to let me know that I was fighting my own reflection, but I didn’t notice? Perhaps. I started thinking about the times where I’ve stood my ground, defended my territory.
It’s interesting, because as a female who wanted to please, and then as a mom, I have spent a lot of years learning how to stand up for myself. My instinct still is to take the short stick. I can handle it, I can make others happy, I don’t really care.
Whenever I open a loaf of bread, I dig out the two heels and I eat those first. Not because I like the heels, but because I know my family won’t eat the heels, and it’s easier to get the two heels out of the way first, so nobody else is stuck with the heels. Except me. Because I can take it. This is a fight I’d never take on. This is territory I would never defend. But what if I did?
The Choices I Willingly Make
If I didn’t eat the two heels, my family would keep them wrapped in the bread bag, stashed in the refrigerator forever, waiting until I ate them or threw them away. Which would drive me crazy. Seeing the uneaten heels of the bread would bring a multitude of bad thoughts to mind. Every time I’d open the refrigerator, I’d get irritated. If I said something, my family would probably say something simple, like, “Throw them out if you’re not going to eat them.”
But I don’t like wasting food, so I’d either have to eat them anyway or throw them away. But I couldn’t make someone else eat them. If I did nothing, eventually, my entire refrigerator would be stuffed with bread bags containing the two heels from each loaf. I’d be the one fighting myself, not liking anyone elses solutions, banging endlessly against my own reflection. Which is why I simple eat the two heels first. I avoid the whole scenario.
But bread is minor. What about the big things, where I feel strongly about defending my territory?
The Choices I Unwillingly Make
This last week, my husband did something that really upset me, yet he refused to apologize. I felt like I needed an apology, like the core of my being was wounded. Even though I know he made the mistake inadvertently, I still needed that apology. But he doesn’t apologize. Before we got married he told me that he doesn’t believe in apologizing. And he doesn’t. Nor will he. And I know that. But I still wanted it.
So now what? What happens when I feel like I need something, but I know I will not get what it is I want? Am I like the bird, constantly throwing myself against an immovable object? I must be, because I know I can’t win. Yet I still try. And I know that the only one who gets hurt in the process is me.
Fighting Others, or Fighting Myself
But I feel so strongly that I need to defend my core, my rights and my integrity that I keep fighting. To my own detriment, because what I’m really fighting is my own reflection, not my spouse.
I’m fighting my own history of putting myself last, of willingly taking the short end of stick, but I’m not fighting him. His behavior brings out my frustrations with me, and my inability to take what I need, to put myself first. I know where he stands, and I always have.
And so I finally see. There is no other bird there. It’s only just me.
I was in the lobby of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan when the secret of life was revealed to me. Contrary to what I’d been told, happiness, peace and prosperity did not come from living in the present. Happiness, peace and prosperity came from leaving the present moment, constantly shifting between the past and the future.
My chronic obsession with being present for everyone and everything in life had actually created a bigger issue, and as a consequence, I was even less present than I was before I became mindful. My over-presence resulted in a severe lack of presence.
Connecting to the Past and the Future
This sudden shift in perspective was due to a trompe d ‘oil (trick of the eye) mural on the Rockefeller Center ceiling by Jose Maria Sert, entitled Time. The key figure in this mural straddled a wide gulf with a heavy yoke over his neck. One foot on a pillar representing the past and one foot on a pillar representing the future, with the man perpetually balancing in the present.
The remarkable feature of this mural was that the man appeared to move as the viewer moved below him. When standing to the left of the man, he appeared to be looking to the future, his weight rooted firmly on his left leg, on the pillar representing the past. Moving towards the center, present point, his weight appeared to be evenly balanced on both pillars, poised between past and future. Moving to the right, the man began shifting his weight and his gaze, once again looking to the future and shifting his weight to his other leg, which, from this vantage point, was now in the past.
Walking back and forth under this mural two things became apparent. First, in order to stay perfectly balanced in the present moment, there can be no movement. Second, the crushing weight of the present moment was too heavy, even for this strong man, to hold up without the constant shifting of his weight. His movement was what gave him strength, flexibility and resiliency. He would not have survived rooted in the present.
The Fallacy that “Staying Present” Leads to Peace
This got me thinking about the push to live in the present moment, and how we might be taking that all wrong. Single-cell organisms live in the present moment. I’m pretty sure my dogs and cats spend quite a bit of time in the present moment. Babies and children spend much time in living in the present moment, but as they develop, they begin moving outside the present moment. The greater the level of intelligence, the greater the ability to move outside of the present moment, to reflect upon the past and to plan for the future. It is the ability to escape the ever-present present moment, that leads to happier, more productive and more peaceful lives. Not simply being present.
I once heard a former prisoner of war speak. Despite spending seven years in captivity, he was able to survive and eventually thrive, in part, based on his ability to continually shift between the past and the future in order to create a tolerable presence. I navigated natural childbirth based on my ability to shift between the past and the future, only touching down in the present moment momentarily.
Even in ordinary, everyday situations, my ability to continually shift forward and backwards over the present moment gives my life peace, meaning and continuity. Otherwise, like the amoeba, my life sometimes feels like nothing but a perpetual string of frustratingly disconnected present moments. My ability to escape the present, to continuously integrate the past and plan for the future, provides depth and richness, bringing me happiness, success and peace.
Attending my children’s school concerts, I move briefly into the future, mentally planning a quick store run in preparation for dinner. This makes my future more efficient and enjoyable. Flashing back to memories of my own high school concerts brings on a flood of warm memories, making my present more enjoyable and meaningful. I am present, listening to the music, watching my children, but I’m also teetering between past and future, using both to navigate and enrich my present.
Disconnecting from the Present Moment Preserves Sanity
For me, my problem is not my failure to stay present. The problem is my chronic obsession with being present for everyone everything in my life. My problem is my over presence.
Like most Americans, I am constantly bombarded with multiple texts, calls and people. With two children, four animals, a spouse, multiple friends and family members, as well as clients and coworkers, staying present is sometimes crushing. Staying present requires me to be in multiple places at once, which I cannot do. Nothing remains sacred. Life becomes a string of present moments where nothing gets accomplished, nothing is enjoyed and frustration and inefficiencies mount.
The crushing weight of being present for everything that life throws at me, in the exact moment that it happens, means I’m stuck standing still. Like the man in the painting, I get crushed by a burden that I cannot hold.
I stand there stoically and attentively, but no matter how present I am, I cannot answer incoming calls at the same time I am texting replies. I cannot check my Facebook messages at the same time I’m viewing a Snap Chat. I cannot listen to one child’s stories about the day and help the other one with homework. I cannot pet the dogs while feeding the cat.
In order to stay sane, happy and productive, I need to escape from the ever-present present moment. I need to move between the past and the future, constantly shifting between them in order to make the present do-able.
For me, the secret of perpetual peace and happiness does not lie in living in the present moment. The secret of perpetual peace and happiness lies in my ability to straddle both the past and the present, continually shifting my weight between the two. Like Time, staying locked in the present moment is too much for me to hold. I remember my past. I look forward to my future, and I bring both of them with me wherever I go, using them both to organize and enjoy my time in the ever-present present.
Waking Up From Everyday Brainwashing
Many people use hypnosis in order to overcome subconscious blocks and create positive change in their life. But sometimes, the faster, more efficient rout to change is learning how to becoming un-hypnotized, or dehypnotized in our everyday life. Learning how to wake, up, become conscious, and take steps to dehypnotize ourselves, is fast, easy and effective. And the resulting change can be profound!
We’ve probably all heard about subliminal messages, brainwashing, compulsion and mind control. To some degree, these phrases all describe what is simply; a hypnotic state. Contrary to popular belief, most of the everyday brainwashing that happening is not the result of some evil master-mind, potting to take over the world. Everyday brainwashing is simply the result of us living in a modern, busy, distracted and stressed-out society.
If you have a habit that you can’t seem to break, even though you really want to break it, you might not need therapy. Instead, you might need to learn how to dehypnotize yourself from your own brainwashing! You might simply need to wake up from a chronic state of hypnosis that has kept you locked into undesirable thoughts or behaviors.
How Brainwashing Works
Hypnosis is a natural state that we move into and out of about seven times a day. When we engage in any type of repetitive, or mindless activity, we tend to slip into a state of hypnosis. When we are confronted with too much stimulation, too rapid of speech, or too much conflicting information, we can also slip into a state of hypnosis. TV and radio advertising is specifically designed to induce a state of hypnosis. Religious services, bombastic political speech, repetitive exercises, mealtime and smoking breaks, also tend to put us into a state of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is not scary, evil mind control. Hypnosis is simply a state of increased suggestibility, where people are more likely to take action without critically analyzing that behavior. Although hypnosis cannot persuade us to do that which we would not otherwise do, it is highly effective in persuading us to do that which we normally would do. Hence, why it’s so easy to talk ourselves into continuing on with our own negative behaviors.
How Brainwashing Occurs
Think of everyday brainwashing like this. You are zoned out on the couch, watching TV, and a commercial for pizza comes on. The commercial has bright colors, close ups of a delicious looking pepperoni pizza, and a rapid-fire, extra-loud, announcer tells you all about the latest, act-fast deals. All the while, rhythmic music is coinciding with the rapidly changing visuals. That night, you decide to order pizza, even though you are trying to eat out less or lose five pounds.
As designed, the commercial put you into a state of hypnosis. It worked on the subconscious mind, and “suggested” that the pizza was really tasty, was a great price, and created an urgency to order it. Later in the day, when you ordered pizza, you were simply acting on the advertiser’s suggestions. You were not awake enough to critically think about the consequences of your decision, so you ordered a pizza, despite wanting to eat better and takeout less. This is what every day brainwashing looks like.
Failed Diets, Smoking and Being Stuck in Hypnosis
The same thing happens each and every time we sit down to eat a meal or smoke. Part of the reason that dieting and smoking-cessation is so difficult is because eating and smoking puts us into a state of hypnosis. We literally go out of our critical mind, and into a state of unconsciousness, almost every time we eat or smoke! We become lulled by the repetitive action of smoking, chewing, swallowing, using our utensils, cutting our food and timing when we take a drink. Our senses become overloaded with the sight, smell, taste and texture of our food or our cigarette, and bam, into a state of hypnosis we go!
Just like the pizza commercial example, we become highly suggestible to our own bad habits, and we eat, or smoke indiscriminately. Conscious thought is circumnavigated, and we are no longer aware of our sensations of fullness or our desire to get healthy or create positive change. Instead we eat whatever is in front of us or wander out for a smoke break, without critically analyzing what we are doing or why. Sometimes we are so out of it mentally, that later, we can’t even remember what we ate or how many cigarettes we had!
The solution is learning how to wake up. Learning how to dehypnotize ourselves and recognize when we are being brainwashed by our own bad habits.
How to Dehypnotize Yourself
There are several ways to go about learning how to wake up, remain conscious, or dehypnotize yourself. It’s easiest to begin with something that we do consistently, like eat meals, or smoke, so we have the opportunity to practice consistently.
Whenever we are confronted with behavior that we are trying to change, try counting yourself up, into a state of full, awakened consciousness. Begin by saying silently to yourself, or out loud if you are able, “Zero, one, two, three, four, five, eyes open, wide awake!” As you say it, do something physical that makes a sound, like clapping your hands, snapping your fingers, clicking your tongue or patting your thigh. Take a deep breath, and with a forceful exhale and consciously clear your mind and focus on being alert and present. You can repeat this whenever you sense that you are slipping back into a day-dreamy or disconnected state.
Changing up as many things as possible surrounding the activity we are trying to change is also useful. If you normally sit in a certain chair, or smoke in a certain location, move to a different chair or go to a less convenient place to smoke. Eating, or smoking, with your non-dominant hand is a fantastic way to stay conscious about our own behavior.
Put the phone down. Turn off the TV and concentrate on tasting the flavor, texture and temperature of every single bit. Swallow. Take a breath before taking another bite. Notice your hunger level. All of this keeps us awake, alert and out of a state of hypnosis.
Dehypnotizing Our Way Out of Bad Habits
It doesn’t matter if we are trying to quit smoking, eat less, not bite our nails, overcome stuttering, sleep better, study more effectively, declutter or meditate consistently. Learning to dehypnotize ourselves is a powerful and effective place to start.
Wake up! Get out from under your own brainwashing and see how clear you own life can be!
Sadly, making New Year’s Resolutions has become a superficial endeavor. Every year, millions of people resolve to “get in shape and lose weight.” Gym memberships spike for one month, and by February, everyone is back to their same old patterns. Year after year this cycle repeats, and opportunities for personal growth, enlightenment and soul-filled resolutions are lost.
We are multi-faceted beings of light and spirit and when we make decisions, we typically make them with the conscious portion of our brain based on what we think we should want or even what we think others expect us to want. In order for real, deep and abiding change to occur, it is essential that our minds, emotions and spirits all come into alignment with our resolution. Since the subconscious mind never lies, unless we ensure that our resolutions are made on both a conscious as well as a subconscious level, true change can never take place.
It is possible to break out of these dysfunctional cycles and connect to our core being, heal, commit, grow and evolve as we truly wish to evolve.
The first step is to identify our thoughts, beliefs and feelings about the change we are about to be making. Once we have identified what is holding us back, we will be able to commit to our resolutions consciously as well as subconsciously. While working with a skilled hypnotherapist can lead to rapid change, it is possible to do much of the work on your own.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Hypnosis provides access to the subconscious portion of the mind, allowing us to consciously align the subconscious mind with the desires of the conscious mind. This means that we can quickly and efficiently learn and unlearn a variety of behaviors. Of course there is still work to be done in creating the new, desired pattern, but hypnosis makes it significantly easier.
The conscious mind is the logical, reasoning part of our brain that we make decisions with. It represents 11% of our mind’s power. The subconscious mind represents 88% of our mind’s power, so even if we firmly decide something with our conscious mind, unless we bring our subconscious mind into alignment with our conscious mind, it can be very difficult to be successful, because we have 88% of our mind blocking our efforts!
Finding Our Subconscious Blocks
The first step in successfully creating change is figuring out what subconscious blocks may be hindering us. Sadly, because they are subconscious, they tend to be difficult to find.
A way to begin exploring these blocks is to ask yourself the following questions:
• Can I imagine or visualize myself where I say that I want to be? Thirty pounds lighter, in a successful job, as a permanent ex-smoker? If not, how far can I get with my vision? What is scaring me?
• Is there anything in personal history or beliefs that runs counter to my resolution or desire? For example, was I raised in a traditional household where women did not work outside the home, or where divorce was a sin? Even if I don’t believe these things now, how they are still a part of my subconscious programming?
• Are there any stories I can share about bad things that happened to people who achieved what I want to achieve? For example, do I know someone who lost weight, but lost their marriage in the process?
• What am I gaining from my behavior? Do I like having to go out and smoke three times a day at work, breaking away from the stress of the work environment? Will I miss these breaks?
• All relationships change when one person in the relationship changes. How will my relationships change when I am successful with my resolution? Are there any other changes or impacts that I can foresee?
• How do I feel about the current behavior that I wish to change? For instance, how do I feel about being a smoker, or being overweight or underemployed? How do I think others feel about this behavior? How do I feel, about how I think others feel about my behavior?
• How does my resolution feel in my body?
• Does this resolution support my greater good?
This set of questions is designed to elicit insight about your thinking, beliefs and behavior, which are all related to subconscious blocks to success.
Releasing Subconscious Blocks
Sometimes, simply being aware of our subconscious blocks is all that it takes to release them and begin the process of change. Once we are aware of our thinking, beliefs and behavioral patterns, we can consciously create new patterns that serve all of our needs.
If we continue to smoke, because we enjoy fiddling with cigarettes and escaping the office stress by going out to smoke, then we can come up with solutions that meet our conscious need to quit smoking as well as our subconscious needs to fiddle and escape. We quit smoking, but we purchase a squishy ball to fidget with, and we set a timer on our phone and take a quick walk away from the office every few hours.
Successful Resolutions Take Time
All change is a process. All processes take time, and all processes consist of successes as well as failures. The key lies in continual improvement and insight over the long-haul, not necessarily in the short run. Working only with the conscious portion of our mind is not very effective, but when our entire mind is on board, we can’t help but succeed!
PTSD and the Election
Since the election cycle began, I’ve been overwhelmed with clients urgently needing appointments – not because of their weak constitution or their inability to see both sides of an argument, but because their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD has flared up.
PTSD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either one we experience ourselves or one that we witness, resulting in:
1) Uncontrollable Memories: Reoccurring, unwanted, highly distressing memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, intense dreams or severe emotional or physical reactions to stimuli.
2) Negative Thinking and Moods: Feeling negatively about self and others, the inability to experience positive emotions, feeling numb, hopeless or worthless or having little interest in activities or friends. Experiencing memory and relationship problems.
3) Changes in Emotional Reactions: Experiencing irritability, angry or aggressive outbursts or behavior, experiencing overwhelming guilt or shame, feeling on guard at all times, having trouble concentrating, relaxing or sleeping and being easily startled or frightened.
How Common is Trauma or PTSD?
Experiencing severe trauma is not unusual. According to the National Center for PTSD, 6 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women experience severe trauma in their lifetime. Seven or 8 out of every 100 people experience PTSD at some point in their lives, meaning that 8 million adults are impacted by PTSD.
How the Election Causes Anxiety
Several common trauma-inducing topics have been prevalent in this election. Bullying, sexual assault, body shaming, ageism, sexism, racism and nationalism.
Statistically speaking, most Americans have been impacted by one or more of these topics and many Americans experience some level of anxiety or stress, if not full-blown PTSD as a result of these behaviors. Repeatedly having statements broadcast on TV, spoken about by friends or posted on social media that remind us of our traumatic experience means that we are being repeatedly assaulted by that which causes us pain, anxiety and PTSD symptoms and that we are increasingly becoming more and more anxious, stressed and dysfunctional.
Hateful Post-Election Rhetoric
When others say hateful things to us, they are really expressing their feelings of grief and betrayal at their hearts, traumas and experiences not being heard, acknowledged or held with dignity and respect. They are not necessarily attacking us, they are merely begging for compassion and love. And when we say hateful things, we are asking for the same thing from them.
When we share our hearts and our traumas with the world, we expect the world to listen and to validate our story. When others fail to validate us and our pain and instead support that which has caused us pain, we become threatened. We no longer feel safe, we feel that our pain doesn’t matter, that we have not been heard and that we are worthless. We feel betrayed and our PTSD-like symptoms skyrocket. Once again we are placed in the position of having to fight for our dignity and self-worth, and because we are survivors, we fight hard.
Hearing political comments that remind us of our trauma, that show to us that we have not been heard and that others do not care about us forces us to relive the worst moment of our worst day over and over again. It forces us right back int o fight-or-flight mode, and we attack viciously, which does not allow us to heal. All we need in to heal is to be heard. All we need is a little compassion.
This election reminded me of one of my worst fears; that being good and kind and truthful and honest doesn’t pay off and that fear, threats and coercion do, and that no matter how hard I tried to do good, I’d still lose because I am unworthy.
Watching and listening to Trump I was reminded of the big, strong, popular high school bully who assaulted me and threatened to kill me if I didn’t give him what he wanted. I am reminded of my classmates who didn’t believe me and of the principal who told my parents that we better not get a restraining order against him because he would lose his scholarship and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining his life.
When I hear people say that they support Trump, it provokes my anxiety. I am reminded of all of the fears and feelings I experienced in my traumatic situation. I feel worthless and my pain is invalidated. I hear that bullies who use fear and threats matter more than someone who tries to do good and I get afraid that I will be hurt. It doesn’t matter if it’s rational or not, it’s simply what comes out of the subconscious mind when I am provoked.
Rage is Neutralized by Compassion
This is why there’s so much rage this election. It’s not about economic plans or the military or the economy. It’s about the majority of us who have experienced trauma and who are being repeatedly traumatized by what’s being said and done around us that reminds us of our worst day.
It’s about our hearts and our stories and our belief that others may not think we deserve to exist.
For the next four years, when we see hate, let’s stop and remember our worst day. Let’s remember how it felt when somebody we trusted poured salt in our wound and let us recognize when we inadvertently pour salt in somebody else’s wound too. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about listening and allowing each other to heal.
Let’s not question the validity of the wound or explain why we didn’t mean for the salt to hurt the wound or why salt doesn’t hurt our own wounds. Let’s just listen, acknowledge the pain and hold some space so healing can occur.
Let’s be kind. Let’s have compassion and let’s choose to hold every hurting heart that we come across. Holding hearts and having compassion don’t mean we have to agree with anyone. It only means that we gently say, “Yes, I understand, I’m wounded too and I understand that you are experiencing pain.” That’s it. That’s all it takes in order for us to all heal each other together.
Why do we Label Others?
We all get taken in by false labels. At one time or another we’ve all picked up a magazine at the check-out counter based on the cover photo and headlines – Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days! Throw a Halloween Party that will Leave Everyone Cackling with Delight! – and we’ve all been disappointed when the article didn’t live up to its headline.
Labels are quick, convenient and designed to grab attention and trigger action, bypassing critical analysis or conscious thought. Buy Now! Limited Quantities! Don’t Delay! Whether we label merchandise, groups or individuals, labels serve the same function; the ability to quickly sort information without a lot – or any – conscious thought or critical analysis.
The Benefits and Dangers of Labeling People
Police, fire, medical and military personnel all wear uniforms so we can quickly identity the roles they play. In dangerous or life threatening situations it is imperative to move quickly without having to think and analyze multiple pieces of information.
Imagine a catastrophic situation where none of the emergency personnel are dressed in uniform, and how confusing it would be not knowing who served which function. On a societal level it’s good to collectively know and honor certain labels and stereotypes. Emergency personnel are good people who help us in emergencies and it’s in our best interest to collectively defer to their authority, ensuring safety for all.
But there’s a dark side to labels as well, one that causes us to warp and twist facts in order support the label, instead of critically analyzing the facts and changing the labels when the facts no longer support the label. This behavior traps us in a world of self-created beliefs, devoid of consciousness or truth. We no longer think, analyze or reason. We become unconscious and when we are unconscious we become passive players in our own world.
The Negative Effects of Relying on Labels
Being knee-deep in an election season, I recently realized how much the labels of Republican and Democrat impacted my view of the candidates and how unconscious I had become as a result.
As a former lawyer, my method of analysis consisted of knowing the law, knowing the facts, applying the facts to the law in order to reach my conclusion.
In the political realm, this meant knowing the Republican and the Democratic Party Platforms, knowing the facts about each candidate and applying those facts to the party platforms. Of course, this presupposed that I myself fell squarely within one of the party platforms. After reading all 35,467 words of the current Republican platform and all 26,058 words of the current Democratic platform, I confirmed that I was mostly a Democrat, but not 100% so.
It became apparent to me that I was not the only one who had been unconscious and confused by the parties’ labels. The candidates and party leaders themselves didn’t consistently act within the bounds of their own party, nor did the behavior of the general public, claiming to be aligned with a certain party or candidate, reflect their own parties’ philosophy.
My attempt to critically analyzing each candidate devoid of their label made me realize that our political labels were useless at best and misleading at worst, dragging us all into a state of unconscious passivity as a result. It was so much simpler to remain unconscious, seek out information that supported my preconceived notions about the candidates, slap on labels, vote a straight party ticket and call it good.
How to Remain Conscious Despite Labels
The best way I found to neutralize the impact of labels and keep myself conscious was to assign each candidate the opposite label of what they wore. When I labeled Hillary as the Republican, I found myself characterizing her experience as binding her to the status quo. When I labeled Trump as a Democrat, I found myself excusing his comments as being done for entertainment value only, and not being quite as concerned as I had been about his temperament.
Having studied both parties’ platforms and analyzing the facts about each candidate with both a red lens as well as a blue lens, I feel like I’m politically conscious and awake for the first time in my life. I know that the candidate I’m voting for is the one who truly reflects my values, beliefs and priorities, regardless of the label or the party to which she’s been assigned.
Perhaps it’s time we all woke up, before it’s too late.
The Fiction of Facts
We have all seen images like the one above, showing how the same object looks different from different perspectives. Most of us understand and appreciate this concept to some extent, but when push comes to shove, we still believe that our own point of view is the most correct. Life constantly asks us to make judgments and decisions based on the facts at hand, but what we forget is that most of these so-called facts are relative. There is rarely anything that’s universally right or wrong and that no two points of view will ever be exactly the same.
It’s all About Perspective!
I was an attorney for an insurance company for many years. One of my areas of practice was defense litigation. My company sold insurance plans to companies wishing to provide health insurance for their employees.
One type of plan that a company could purchase was a self-funded plan. A self-funded is basically a catastrophic coverage plan. It has a lower premium because the company “self-funds” employee claims up to a certain dollar amount. Once a certain threshold is reached, full coverage kicks in and the plan becomes fully-funded.
Companies would purchase this plan and then immediately sue the insurance company for failure to pay claims. The insurance company was not wrong. It was not supposed to pay claims until the deductible was met. But the company buying the insurance was not wrong either. The company had simply “heard” the terms of the plan differently and didn’t understand what it was buying.
We Only Hear that which Supports our Beliefs
As humans, we know certain facts to be true and we judge everything according to these truths. When we believe something to be true we look for information that supports that belief.
Information that runs counter to what we already know is dismissed as an anomaly. We know the world is round. If we find evidence that the world is flat, we automatically dismiss it. We do not try to assimilate it or change our belief that the world is round.
In my insurance example, both parties automatically filtered out information that didn’t make sense with what they already knew and they looked for information that supported what they already knew.
The company buying insurance might only hear what the agent was saying regarding insurance payments after the deductibles was met and the part about paying all of its own claims up until the deductible was met wasn’t heard because didn’t fit within the schema of what an insurance plan looked like.
Similarly, the agent selling the plan only heard questions in terms of his understanding and could not really “hear” what the company was asking because both parties assigned different definitions to the same language.
The agent was not trying to conceal the terms of the plan. The company wasn’t trying to have the insurance company provide more than what was purchased. Quite simply, both parties were working from their own perspective.
The agent couldn’t see the company’s point of view and the company couldn’t see the agent’s point of view. The result was that two parties would come together and form a contact based on their own experiences and assumptions, without ever seeing things from the others perspective. Neither party was wrong. In fact, they were both right!
Relativism and Truth
Although we understand this intellectually, our world is very black and white and we are routinely called upon to make judgments and decisions based on the facts. This hit home for me this month, when my parents called me from Australia to wish me a happy birthday. They called me on my birthday, but it wasn’t my birthday!
Well, it was in Australia but in Colorado it was the day before my birthday! I could have argued with them until I was blue in the face that they called me on the wrong day and they could have argued that they called me on the right day. We both would have been firmly convinced that we were right and could have pointed to concrete facts that fully supported our arguments. We were both right and wrong, but the facts were relative.
Our challenge is to move from an intellectual understanding of this to a fully integrated practice of this in our daily life. All reality truly is relative, and letting go of our need to assert our own reality awakens us to the infinite other realities that are out there for us to enjoy.
The Subconscious Mind and Why New Year’s Resolutions Rarely Work
If making a New Year’s Resolution really worked, every year you and all your friends would be happier, healthier and in better shape. In reality, most of us always stay about the same.
When we make decisions we make them with the conscious portion of our brain. On a conscious level we fully intend what we decide, but unless the subconscious mind is on board, our resolution can only go as far as our conscious mind can take it. Because our conscious mind is only about 11% of our mind’s power, we are only successful approximately 11% of the time.
The key to making real change lies in the subconscious mind, which represents approximately 88% of the mind’s power. The subconscious mind is like a computer’s operating system, constantly running in the background and impacting all other “programs” installed over it. The subconscious mind stores and remembers everything we have seen, heard, felt or experienced, regardless of whether or not we remember it consciously.
For example, we typically don’t remember too much from our early childhood, but our childhoods influence us significantly.
How Your Past Influences the Present
Here’s how it works. On a conscious level you resolve to lose weight and get in shape. You know that there many health benefits to losing weight and getting in shape and you want to look and feel differently too. You stay on track for about two weeks then you fall off the wagon. What happened? Here’s how the subconscious mind may have derailed you.
Perhaps your parents divorced when you were little and it was extremely stressful for you, even though you don’t really remember too much about it. Because your mother had recently given birth to your baby brother her weight loss coincided with the breakup of the family.
Even though her weight loss wasn’t the cause of the divorce, you subconsciously associated “weight loss” with “losing my family.” As an adult you may not remember much about this time in your life, but subconsciously you believe that your marriage will break up if you lose weight. Therefore, the 88% of your brain that believes this will do everything in its power to prevent you from losing weight.
How to Overcome Subconscious Blocks
Just because a subconscious block exists doesn’t mean you are forever doomed to failure. Subconscious blocks can be removed with a little bit of gentle but persistent effort, like this:
Consciously state your resolution. Can you imagine or visualize yourself achieving this resolution? If not, how far can you get? Note what’s scaring you, no matter how silly it may seem. For example, if you are strapped for money, you may realize that losing weight requires you to buy new clothes. If this expense is not feasible for you at this time, your subconscious mind will make sure that you succeed by failing to drop a single pound.
Explore your personal history and family beliefs. Does your family/culture/religion have a belief that runs counter to the resolution that you are making? In your family are “good mothers” soft and plump? Is love shown through feeding, cooking and eating with each other? If you lose weight, will it change the way you relate to your family? Subconsciously you might not want this to happen.
Is there any secondary gain that you are receiving? What’s the up-side to being heavy or out of shape? Do you enjoy the way people take care of you because of your weight or lack of fitness? If you believe that nobody will come over and help you anymore if you are fit and healthy, your subconscious may block your efforts.
How will achieving your goal impact other important relationships? Is your spouse the jealous sort? Will your job as a taste tester at the candy store be threatened? What other changes will result from you achieving your goal?
Obviously some of my examples are silly, but hopefully they have helped you see just how silly and irrational the subconscious mind can be. Work through these questions in your head or in a journal. Simply identifying and exposing them gives your conscious mind the ability to find solutions. It isn’t going to happen overnight and it does require a lot of honesty but exposing our blocks to the light will always lessens their hold on us.
The Mind Controls the Body – Manifesting Thoughts Into Reality
Have you ever dreamed that you slipped, and jerked so hard you woke yourself up? Have you been so nervous that you jumped in a movie? I cried so hard reading the last chapter of Marley and Me that I was afraid I’d ruin the book! These are my favorite illustrations of the power of the mind. Just like in Star Wars, while The Force may be stronger in some, everyone has the ability to use it to change their lives.
Whether you call it “The Force,” “The Power of the Mind,” or “The Law of Attraction,” it all sounds magical, New Age-y and science fiction. Some popular book titles seem too good to be true: Think and Grow Rich, The Secret and Ask and it is Given. While the content of these books may be accurate, unless you understand the power of the mind in very simple, everyday terms, it is difficult to understand or believe how one can truly grow rich simply by thinking about it.
Practice Makes Perfect!
In learning any new skill, the skill needs to be broken down slowly and methodically, with easier steps being mastered before more difficult steps are shown. For example, we learn our numbers before we learn to add. We learn to add before we subtract and we learn to multiply before we divide. Only after these concepts have been mastered do we move into algebra. We walk before we run.
People fail at using the power of their mind because they jump in and try to manifest sports cars, beach homes and millions of dollars before they have learned the basics.
Your Basic Jedi Mind Training starts right here, today!
Remember the examples above of dreaming, watching movies and reading books? When we dream, a story takes place in our mind. The dream can be positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that our mind is so caught up in the story that our bodies and emotions react. We react to a stimulus that isn’t really there!
We jerk in an attempt to catch our balance, but we were never falling in the first place. We wake up from a nightmare legitimately scared and upset, but nothing has happened to warrant our angst. We are reacting physically and emotionally to thoughts alone. Remember crying at a movie? Or laughing? Or jumping in fright? At no time while we are watching a movie are we in danger, but our belief in the story is so strong that it causes us to cry, feel devastated, get nervous or even jump.
Don’t Try, Do
Your Jedi Mind Training begins by picking something small and positive to get worked up about it. Make up a simple, new reality and practice buying into it. Create a positive new idea or belief and let it take over to the point that you experience positive emotions or actions as a result of your belief.
It’s more than pretending and faking it, it’s believing it to the point that your emotions and body act independently of your conscious thought, in accordance with your new belief. That’s a pretty high bar, but if you’ve ever cried at a movie, been scared by a story or woken from a dream with your heart pounding, you know you are capable of it.
Start Small and Build up Slowly
Start small, practice often and don’t forget to go back to basics when you need to. If you are having trouble creating a certain emotion in your mind, watch a movie that elicits the same emotion you are trying to create. Remind yourself what the emotional and physical connections regarding that new idea feels like, and keep practicing.
No, you may never get to the point where you can feel a sports car, a mansion and a million dollars, but all that means is that deep down inside, those things aren’t that meaningful to you anyway, or you would be able to connect with them. Focus on what you can connect with for now. Feel love, joy, peace, excitement or any positive emotion that you can and go from there.
Think and create using the power of your mind on such a deep level that you react physically and emotionally to your thoughts and creations. Walk before you run, and prepare for all the wonderful changes that you are about to create.
May the Force be with you!
‘Tis The Season to Enjoy Your Food – How to Eat Less and Enjoy it More!
How to Eat Less and Enjoy it More
Ahh, December! The month where you get to eat and drink a bunch of things that are normally not available. Egg nog, Christmas cookies, latkes, peppermint everything. Eating special foods is part of the fun of the holidays, and I am here to encourage you to eat everything you want this. Why? Because you should! However, I’m going to teach you a new way of doing things. I’m going to teach you HOW to eat all of these delectable morsels so you enjoy them more, but eat far less.
Even better, as a holiday present to you, I’m proving a self-hypnosis audio file on using the Three Bite Method. Listen to this file as often as you need, but it is especially useful to listen to before attending parties where tons of yummy food will be available.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not! It’s all based on fact and it’s surprising simple.
Our taste buds are like any other sense organ in our bodies. They get desensitized by too much stimulation. This means that the first three bites of anything that you eat or drink taste the best. For those three bites you are fully able to taste your food. After those three bites, however, you begin losing your ability to truly taste your food. Sure you still taste it, but the subtleties and complexities are gone. If you are truly a foodie, why would you continue eating?
Newton’s First Law of Motion
Ever heard of Newton’s First Law of Motion-a body in motion tends to stay in motion? This applies to eating too. Once we begin eating, we simply continue eating until the thing that we are eating is gone. We literally enter a hypnotic state and we plow through, with little to no thought about how our food actually tastes or how our bodies feel.
If you truly love food, you will love using the Three Bite Rule!
Knowing all of this, your job is to tune in to the first three bites of whatever it is you are eating or drinking. Fully sense the food. Smell it, notice the texture, the sound, the feel of the food in your mouth and on your teeth. Enjoy it, knowing that you only get three bites worth of food before the experience starts to diminish. After three bites, quit eating. Have some water, take a few breaths and choose which food you want to eat next. Remember, you only get three bites to fully experience and enjoy this next food, so make sure they count.
Be sure never to waste those first three bites while you are distracted. Get off the phone, turn off the TV and really taste what you are eating.
Food is sooooo Good!
You will find that you can sample just about everything at the holiday buffet this way and never feel overly stuffed. If you are eating out, you suddenly have the privilege of taking your meal home and enjoying it all over again. If you are eating at home, feel free to go back and get seconds or even thirds of your dinner an hour or so after you have let your palate rest and clear.
From this point forward you will find yourself eating less, but enjoying it far more!
False Expectations, Mass Shootings, the Obesity Epidemic and Chronic Unhappiness
The Land of Opportunity
I recently read that false expectations were one of the reasons why we have mass shootings in the US. The article pointed out that the United States is the “The Land of Opportunity” and that the rhetoric here is that we are capable of achieving “The American Dream” if only we work hard enough.
The article cited a survey of young adults on their expectations for the future. All of them believed that they had what it took to lead successful, happy and prosperous lives. Many of them also believed that they would be famous or very well-known due to their accomplishments.
In contrast, young adults in every other industrialized country believed that they would fight poverty, become ill, face war or extreme political conflict and would not necessarily achieve career satisfaction. Very few believed that they would be famous or well-known for their accomplishments. Regardless of this dour view of life, the overall life-happiness rating of these other countries was higher than that of the US.
The article concluded that unrealistic expectations of what one’s life resulted in feelings of extreme failure and disillusionment, causing a myriad of psychological problems, including the “need” for some to commit mass murders as an outlet of their feelings of disillusionment and as a surefire path to fame.
Happily Ever After…
It reminded me of advice we were given when we were newly married. That marriage was about learning how to be miserable, so get used to it. We were told to expect good times, but to know that a lot of times our marriage was just going to be mediocre and sometimes we were going to be downright miserable.
We were warned that fights or disagreements weren’t always resolved by bedtime and that there would be weeks, months or even years where we didn’t like each other. It didn’t mean it was over, it just meant that we were living a normal life; and that the good parts would be sweeter because of our struggles.
At the time we thought “our love” was better than that, but it wasn’t. In hindsight, we probably stayed married because of that advice. We didn’t freak out during the weeks and months of being disgusted and irritated with each other because we expected it and we knew it was a normal.
What if we knew that we were supposed to spend a life time working to keep their bodies and minds fit and healthy? What if we knew that depression and frustration were normal? What if we expected to sometimes hate our job or be treated unfairly or not know what to do with our kids or aging parents? What if we knew that staying healthy and fit was a life-long commitment that we would constantly have to work at?
Realistic or Cynical?
Cynical? Maybe, but I think we’d all be happier and healthier that way. Comparing ourselves to fitness models and photo-shopped celebrities is cruel. 90% of diet and exercise videos, classes and books fill us with false expectations that set us up to fail. Wouldn’t it be easier to know what to expect? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that falling off the wagon periodically is normal and expected and the only thing that matters is climbing back on again?
I know I’d be happier and better prepared if I knew what to expect.