“I Have to” vs. “I Get To”

I get to

If you want to make one simple change that can alter the way you move through life, change “I have to” to “I get to.” Stress is caused by trying, feeling put upon, hurrying, and a lack of choice. When you have to do things, you can go through life feeling like a beast of burden. You might feel a lack of freedom and joy. Life can feel like drudgery.

If you change your attitude to “I get to” magic can happen. Here is what I mean.

  • Think of all the people who are unemployed and can’t seem to find a job. If you have a job, you get to work. You get to make money to feed yourself, enjoy nice clothes, have social activities with friends, and do all the things that money provides. How lucky is that? Wow, what a great perk of having a job! If it’s not the most fulfilling or glamorous work, okay, but you still have a way to serve yourself, your family, and the world until something else comes along.
  • Think about all the people who can’t walk. Maybe they are in wheelchairs or live in constant pain. You, on the other hand, can move about freely. You can exercise, run, play sports, and do all kinds of things. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, but a gift.
  • Today is Mother’s Day. Maybe you and your mom aren’t the best of friends. Heck, maybe you aren’t on the greatest terms with your whole family, but if you have a family, you get the choice of hanging out with them today. Some people don’t have that. Some people never had that. Jeez, how lucky you are that you have a mother to honor today.
  • Do you have a pile of work to do? Me, too. That can feel like a lot of stress, but if I look at why I am doing it, then it becomes a blessing. I get to pay taxes because I am productive and making money. I get to bill insurance for reimbursement because I have clients who want to see me. Today I get to clean my house because I have a house!
  • Let’s say that you have depression or anxiety. Whoopie! You get to cope with that. How is that awesome? Well, there are blessings in everything. Think about all the people who are writers, motivational speakers, and healers who have a story of overcoming something and coming out the other side stronger. This could be your big break. We all need challenges to make life worthwhile. So learn something. Enjoy the ride, and have some fun with it.
  • Now think about your blessings. I just came back from a trip to South America. It was a wonderful time. If you also think of the things that delight you as gifts, well, your whole life becomes one big, fabulous wave of good luck.

Most days I go for a walk for exercise and just to be a part of the big, wide world. I often find myself saying thanks that I get to be here doing this. It’s a small thing. It’s just a walk, but so often we walk by people and things without seeing them. Without appreciating them. When you adopt an attitude of “I get to…” those things don’t escape you anymore.

Try it and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear!

“I Didn’t Sign Up For This!”

I didn't sign up for this

There may be times in our lives when we throw up our hands and say, “I didn’t sign on for this!” It’s normal to have a pity party when things don’t go as planned. When the pouting is done, there are three things you can do. Deal with it anyway, walk away, or blame and complain.

So what types of things can make us say, “I didn’t sign up for this”? Here are some examples.

  • your child is born with special needs
  • your partner leaves you
  • domestic violence
  • you or your partner contracts a debilitating illness
  • you or your partner gains a lot of weight
  • natural disaster strikes
  • you get fired
  • you or your partner has a mental breakdown
  • infidelity
  • you or your partner goes to jail
  • addiction

Nobody willingly signs up for these things. They may or may not be a result of our choices, but nobody says, “Let’s see how I can make my life really hard.” When surprises hit, it doesn’t matter who is at fault. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is something that you wanted. It has to be dealt with anyway.

This is your life. Only you can decide what your limits are. It’s up to you to say if you’re going to face life as it comes or walk away. Life is not fair. You may not “deserve” what’s happening, but you still have to do something about it. To think otherwise is to get on a hamster wheel of your own creation and run in place. Lots of people would rather do this than make a decision. If this is you, know that you are avoiding moving forward.

Figure out what you need to move forward. Do you need skills? Support? Money? Clarity? Courage? More information? Blaming and complaining is disempowering. Figuring out what you need puts you in the driver’s seat again.

If all we got was what we wanted or asked for, life would be boring. This thing that you didn’t sign up for could be your biggest blessing. It could be the thing that shows you what you are made of. Challenges make us stronger and solidify our values. So act from your values. You can never go wrong when you are congruent with your values. Whether you accept the challenge or say “no, thank you,” you’re living in the stream of life.

How to Make Every Date a Success

make every date a success

There is one thing you need to make every date a success. It’s not manners, grooming, a hot body, timeliness, nice clothes, or straight teeth. It’s authenticity. Here is how this can help.

You Know Right Away Whether or Not it’s Clicking

If you are focused on authenticity vs. “Does she like me?”, you are going to be more present in your body. So, it’s not about whether someone likes you, but whether it’s a match for both of you. Your body will tell you if you’re digging the other person. Your body will also tell you if they like you. There is no guessing if you’re present. This is a great time saver. If you eliminate people who are not a great match on the first date, that’s a success! You don’t waste time with people who aren’t what you are looking for or who aren’t into you.

You Start Off With Honesty

Honesty and integrity are components of authenticity. When you display it, there is no game playing. This can make both people more at ease and set the tone for future interactions to be honest, too. So many dates are about trying to make a good impression. We do this by donning masks and being nice. This can lead to disappointment down the road when you find out that your date doesn’t really like ice hockey or Neil Diamond. If you go into every date with honesty, every date is a success because you’re always getting information that can either draw you in closer or let you know it’s time to let go.

Authentic People are More Attractive

Studies show that people who are not afraid to show their quirks and speak their mind are viewed as more attractive. They are also more likely to find a good match more quickly. Perhaps this is because when we don’t feel safe to be ourselves, we keep things hidden, play games, aren’t all that responsive, and keep the other person on edge. So things that might exclude us as a matches don’t show up until we’ve invested a lot of time in someone. When you show up as authentic, your date is more likely to reciprocate. This way you never come into a counselors office after the wedding bells have sounded saying, “This is not who I married.”

Being authentic doesn’t guarantee that every date will end in love. It does guarantee that you won’t end up disillusioned because you’re going into it with high self esteem, confidence, and a willingness to let things be as they are. That’s always good for both people. That’s what I call a success.

Argue For Your Limitations and They Are Yours

mindset
Have you ever said, “I can’t because…”
  • the economy is bad
  • my boss doesn’t like me
  • my parents were mentally ill
  • I’m too (insert adjective such as short, tall, young, old, etc).
  • my mom didn’t love me
  • my dad was an alcoholic
  • I’m not (insert adjective like good, smart, worthy, or clever) enough
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” ~Richard Bach
Your mindset is powerful! If your self talk is repeatedly reinforcing your limitations, you will continue to be limited. You are the most powerful part of any change work, so if you aren’t open to a new possibility, it can’t happen. Belief and expectation are powerful. When we believe and expect that nothing will change, nothing changes. If we are open to the idea of change, the door opens. Let’s look at what I mean.
“Sheila” wants to be able to drive over bridges without fear. Her fear started seven years ago when she was in a boat that nearly capsized. Anything that could result in her being in water has her terrorized. She has tried a few things to get over it, but it didn’t help. She now believes that it never will.

Sheila’s fear started in an instant, didn’t it? It wasn’t something that developed slowly or painfully. The brain is really clever like that. It can do things instantaneously to change your reality. For Sheila, this meant that she instantaneously developed a fear of going over bridges to keep her safe from drowning. If Sheila’s brain can work that fast to program her to fear bridges, it can work that quickly to undue the fear, right?

If you look around, you will see people who have the same story as you who don’t have the same limiting beliefs. How many people find financial success in a crippling economy? How many people prevail despite a boss who doesn’t like them? Don’t we all know someone with parents who weren’t the greatest that used that childhood as fuel to do better? What we are and what we do is never about outside influences. It’s always about what’s inside – your mindset.
The fabulous thing is, you get to choose your mindset. So pick ideas that are affirming, encouraging, growth oriented, and open. Let new ideas in. Be curious. Wonder, “What would happen if this were true?” When we entertain ideas like a child, we can have the miraculous growth of a child. We can achieve success. Maybe instantaneously, maybe in small steps, but change not only becomes possible, but probable.

Numbness, Dissociation, and Feelings

numbness

Do you feel asleep at the wheel? Do you miss subtle cues about what’s true or how people feel that other people seem to “just know?” Are you feeling numb, depressed, or just not here? Maybe it’s because you’re numb or dissociated. You can’t have a full, vibrant life if you are not in your body. You can’t feel if you’re not embodied. How would you know if this is you?

Numbness

Numbness feels like the absence of sensation. You’re in your body, but it’s not really responding to stimulus. Perhaps you’re at your birthday party. All your friends are there. There is great food, music, and company – all the things that would normally make you happy. Yet, you’re not really feeling anything. You’re not even all that interested in being here. That’s what numbness is like.

It could also be that you’ve just shut down. Something has happened that has sucked all the juice out of you. You can’t take any more stimulus. Maybe you’re balled up in bed, sitting in the bath, or hiding out in your parked car. You’ve gone here to retreat and shut out the world. There are no thoughts or feelings.

With numbness, you’re still embodied, but you’re not feeling. This is generally situational and temporary.

Dissociation

Dissociation occurs when there is overwhelming stress. This could feel like you’re living in third person. You know what’s going on, but it’s like it is happening to someone else. Or maybe you know it’s happening to you, but you don’t feel what you think you ought to feel in response. It’s almost like you’re not there. Or rather your thoughts and body are there, but your feeling self is not.

Contact with reality can fluctuate. If it’s mild dissociation, you’re fully present, but detached. If it’s extreme, you could have go into full black outs and have complete amnesia. There is a fuzzy, in between state where you just feel zoned out and far away.

Both of these situations occur to keep you from collapsing. The brain is very useful in that way. It has tricks that help you to survive. The problem is that sometimes the things it classifies as dangerous aren’t harmful at all. Or it could turn on the fight or flight signal and then it doesn’t turn off so we’re on high alert for no reason. It takes a lot of energy to do that! In fact, it can be really exhausting.

All this is normal. We all do it sometimes, but if you do this habitually, it could be  sign that you have suffered from some trauma and may need more than just a good night sleep, a conversation with a friend, or to cry it out. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to just bounce back after trauma. Your brain may be stuck on “on” and could need some help resetting. This is particularly true if the trauma was long lasting or very hurtful.

If you think this could be you, check it out with a trauma specialist. Just any old counselor won’t do because they may not have the knowledge to deal with trauma. Trauma is a specialty that requires bypassing talk to reach the deep limbic system and polyvagus nerves. Once these are released and reset, your functioning generally returns to the pre-trauma state. If the trauma happened when you were a child, you may need Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to give you the skills you didn’t learn so that you can function as a healthy adult.

If I can help with either of these, give me a call.

“You Saw Me!”

you saw me

One day I was in conversation with someone who suddenly burst out crying and said, “You saw me!” In that moment it touched me how infrequently that happens. I was also struck by how important it is to be seen. How often do we give that to others? How often do we allow others to see us so that it can happen for us? Think about how much time we spend putting up a shield that says, “Don’t look at me!”

We hide behind our clothes and hair. We hide behind silence, false bravado, lies, distance, withdrawal, and busyness. Then we wonder why we feel so isolated, lonely, weird, and misunderstood.

People are social creatures. We don’t just need each other for division of labor, resources, companionship, and sex. We need to see ourselves reflected back to us in the eyes of others. If we project a false face, how are we supposed to get a real image back? How are we supposed to get that feeling when we think, “You saw me!”

So how do you get this for yourself? You start by seeing the beauty and love inside other people. We are so conditioned to judge and see problems and differences because we live in such a competitive world. We’re bombarded by advertising that tells us we’re too hairy or too smelly. We’re told that if we don’t have the best grades or wear the right clothes, we aren’t acceptable. And we believe it. So, we start to become self conscious of all our potential short comings and see them in others too.

Ooh, what a miserable way to live! It doesn’t have to be this way. What if we started from a place of gratitude, curiosity, and appreciation instead? What if, instead of defaulting to criticism and defensiveness, we approached people with, “Show me who you are in all your glory” and then opened our eyes to see it. If we did that, would they need to hide their faces? And if they felt safe with you, do you think you’d need to hide yourself?

Intimacy and connection starts with safety. When you give that to others, they are more likely to return it. It’s a win win. You get to be seen. They get to be seen, and everybody is encouraged to be authentic, real, present, and honest. Isn’t this what we are all looking for?

Practice Compassion

practice compassion

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. It’s always effective to practice compassion when we encounter someone who is suffering. It heals wounds and spreads love. In the space of all that, humanity thrives.

When You Judge Yourself, Practice Compassion

Pema Chodron said, “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” It’s easy to beat yourself up for failing, not being perfect, or doing things that others laugh at or scorn you for. Don’t. Accept your flaws, your humanity, and practice loving kindness for yourself. Without mistakes and pain, we would not grow. Sometimes the biggest failures are blessings in disguise. If you hide from them, you can’t learn from them. When you let everything be a teaching moment, everything is purposeful and you can live without regret.

When Others Ridicule You, Practice Compassion

It’s so easy to gossip, isn’t it? It’s easy to judge, point fingers, laugh, and make jokes about others. When you’re on the receiving end, why would you turn the other cheek and refrain from blasting them with the same ugliness that they are hurling at you? Compassion. Healthy, balanced people don’t treat other people with contempt. So see past their hurtful behavior and look deeper at the insecurity that must spawn it. Return compassion and you can help to diffuse the negativity so healing can begin.

When Others Exploit You, Practice Compassion

The weapon of destruction isn’t restricted to words. It can be actions too. Maybe someone swindled you out of money. Perhaps you were lied to or betrayed. Remember that what we send out comes back to us. There is no free lunch. You don’t have to be the one who gets justice for what was done to you. You can offer forgiveness and just keep going. Your self worth is never diminished by someone else’s exploitation. Their actions are a reflection of them. When you practice compassion, your heart remains clean and clear. This may seem like weakness to those who don’t understand. It’s strength in the highest order.

When Someone is Hurting, Practice Compassion

Sometimes hurt is falling off a bike. Sometimes it is going on a drinking binge to escape overwhelming feelings or situations. Maybe the hurt comes from being ill used. What can you do to help? Does the person need first aid, to talk, to have some one sit with them, or to get legal advice? When we’re broken, we may not be as resourceful or resilient as we normally are. This can make us vulnerable. Some will walk on by. Some will take advantage of this. Why not be someone who practices compassion?

When you practice compassion, it’s like saying, “I know what it’s like to hurt, so let my words and deeds heal.” This doesn’t mean that you condone  negative things nor does it mean you have to accept them. Healthy boundaries are still a great idea. It just means that you approach the situation with an open, nonjudgmental heart and see the situation through with love.

 

Take Responsibility for Your Sensitivity

sensitivity

Are you one of these people who can just feel everything? You notice when there is a mood shift in the room. You pick up other people’s energy and can’t tell if it’s yours or theirs? You get down when you’re in the presence of people who are also down or just oozing their energy all over the place? Hey! Guess what? You don’t have to get disturbed by that. There is another choice. You can take responsibility for your sensitivity. What does that mean?

Well, when things just happen to you and you go along for the ride, it can feel like you have no control. This can seem like nowhere is safe. If you go in public, heck, who knows what can happen because there is all kinds of energy out there. If you learn how to take responsibility for your sensitivity, it puts you back in the driver’s seat.

Before I talk about how to do this, let me explain a little bit. Let’s say that I am in a cafe and smell hot chocolate. Chocolate is an energy because everything is energy. I know that this is not my energy. I’m not chocolate. Since it’s not me, I don’t have to respond. I can just be in the room with chocolate without it being a thing. In this way, I am sensitive to chocolate, but not reactive. Get it?

Get Grounded

If you want this to work, you have to be embodied and grounded. This feeling of “I don’t know if this is mine or not” probably happens because you’re not embodied. When you are embodied, it’s a whole lot easier to tell whether a feeling is yours or not because emotions are physical. They live in the body. Change your physiology and your emotions will change.

So put your feet on the floor and breathe deeply into your belly so that oxygen flows away from the chest and into the diaphragm. When your belly is opening and closing like a bellows, bring your awareness into your feet. Observe the sensation of your feet on the floor in your mind’s eye until they begin to feel heavy and rooted. Once you have that, bring your attention to body. You can probably tell what emotional state you’re in now.

Observe the Chaos Around You

Once you are grounded, this doesn’t remove any chaos around you, but you can observe it without it becoming a part of you because you now notice that you are separate from it. It’s a “not my circus, not my monkeys” kind of thing.

Another piece of this “observe” skill is to stay in a place of nonjudgment. Okay, so you smell chocolate. So what? It doesn’t have to mean anything. People emote. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. It doesn’t mean you have to rescue them. You don’t have to judge it, try to understand it, or defend against it. If it’s disturbing to you, you could leave. Otherwise, you can just stop “doing” anything. It’s chocolate, nothing more.

Another suggestion is not to label the energy. For one thing, you could be wrong about what someone else is feeling. Another thing is that once we label something as bad, it becomes something that we have to escape from. If you label it as anger or fear, that becomes set in stone. It’s harder to dislodge than just noticing that you’re feeling someone else’s energy.

When you learn how to witness something, it becomes a part of life. I know sometimes that’s scary, but the nature of emotions is that they fade. You can endure it because it won’t last forever. Witnessing also keeps the boundary between what is yours and someone else’s. I witnessed someone get some bad news and felt a rush of energy around that. I could have injected myself into that space and rushed in to soothe what felt painful to me. Instead I observed it. The person took care of himself and that was that. It wasn’t a “thing.” It really can be that easy every time.

Sensitivity is a gift. There is nothing wrong with it. If you want to harness it for the gift that it is, you have to learn how to use it. If you’re reacting to everything, avoiding things, or it’s making you exhausted, it’s a problem. When you take responsibility for it, it can become an asset.

What is “Holistic?”

holistic

I was exhibiting at an event recently when someone came up to me and asked, “What is holistic?” Whoa. I thought that we’d moved into a time where everyone was aware of what it meant to be holistic even if they chose not to embrace it. Apparently I’ve been living in a bubble. For those of you who are still unsure what holistic means, let me clarify that.

Holistic is a term used to describe an approach to life that includes the whole person. When you look at it that way, it seems obvious that we are whole people. You can’t be truly understood or helped without understanding your family, your spirituality, and your values as well as your symptoms, right? But actually that is exactly how many specialties view people. Allopathic medicine treats your symptoms of disease. You see a heart specialist if your heart has symptoms. You see a dermatologist if you have skin problems. It is not just confined to medicine. Trauma therapists treat your trauma symptoms, not you. Lawyers treat your legal problems. Preachers deal with your spiritual problems.

A holistic professional sees you as a whole person. They don’t focus on making your symptoms go away, although that is certainly desirable. They focus on removing the dis-ease by treating the root cause and rebalancing the system so that your symptoms go away and you achieve wellness.

HolisticTreeYou are a blend of your body, mind, and spirit. If there is an imbalance in one of these areas, the others are also impacted whether you have symptoms there or not because everything is connected. Your environment and lifestyle impact your state of wellness so things like having warm friends, eating healthy food, being exposed to sunshine, and having a mental stimulation influence your state of wellness.

There are lots of different people using the holistic title these days and it means different things to different people. Here is what it means to me.

  • I’ll see you as a whole, resourceful, capable being despite how your symptoms make you appear.
  • I will see you as an interconnected part of humanity and the universe, not some lonely, isolated being who needs to be “fixed.”
  • I will do my best to understand all of you, not just your symptoms. You only make sense, after all, in connection to your experiences, personality, culture, knowledge, and desires.
  • I will suggest ways that you can make your environment healthier and will respect your choices.
  • I will make sure you understand all your treatment choices so that you are fully informed and are in charge of what happens.
  • I will go at your pace and never ask more of you than you are prepared to give.
  • I will make sure that you have a healthy self-care routine so that your body has the energy to create and sustain change before embarking on change work. Nobody wants to crash.
  • I will make sure you are fully supported during our work together.
  • I will educate you about prevention and self-care so that you are able to create wellness for yourself and can be a better advocate for yourself should you need help in the future.
  • We will have a two way relationship that has firm boundaries, yet be one that considers the needs, desires, awareness and insight of both parties.
  • I will encourage your autonomy. The goal is to get you to the place where you don’t need me.
  • I will teach by my living example.
  • I will educate you so that you don’t have to rely on osmosis, hope, or guessing to develop skills, insight, and healthy habits.
  • I will accept you just as you are no matter what.
  • If you don’t know something that I do, I will tell you. If I don’t know something, I will also tell you that.
  • I will accept that you are expert on you and your experience.
  • I won’t try to change you or get you to fit into some treatment modality.
  • I will offer you interventions and suggestions that can help you reach a state of balance wholeness.
  • I will refer you to someone else either for all your care or part of it if I am not able to meet your needs.

There is a difference between a holistic approach and a holistic modality. Holistic modalities are things like: dream work, aromatherapy, herb medicine, cranial sacral therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and can even be dentistry. If the practitioner does not have holistic approach, the modality is of limited benefit. Clients and providers alike are dehumanized by any healing modality that does not have a holistic approach because of a lack of time, lack of care, a one-size-fits-all approach, and a focus on symptoms rather than the person. When choosing a path to wellness, it’s most beneficial to consider not only the modality, but the approach. A provider with both is truly holistic.

Not only are you a holistic being, all of nature is holistic. Once you start to understand and live in a holistic space, it opens up the possibility to see people, animals, nature, and the universe in that way. If you can get to a place where you feel the interconnectedness of yourself with all of life, your entire experience of life changes. That’s what a holistic practice is about for me. It’s not just about getting you out of pain. It’s not just about teaching you skills so that you can cope with stuff, avoid problems, or even have a fuller life. I’d like for everyone to experience as much life as they can contain.

For more information on holistic health, see the American Holistic Health Association‘s brochure Wellness from Within: The First Step and Gift For a Better Life.