Tag Archives: Mental health

Everyone can use a little “pruning”…

13 Jan

By the title above and the fact that I live in Florida, you might be led to think this post is about regularity… thankfully (at least from my viewpoint) it’s not!  It’s about making room in your life for new growth, new experiences, new insights – no matter how old you are!  In fact, today is the youngest you’ll ever be again in your life, and if you’re reading this post, it is so much better than the alternative…

It’s probably obvious to you that we’re all born into the world completely pure, unadulterated, fresh, … we are like an oak seedling just sprouted. We are ready for nourishment, sunlight and warmth (love), and ready to take on the world. For most of us at this point, life is good.

By mid-life, we’ve weathered seasons and storms and our branches bear witness to years of events.  Our heads are filled to the brim with memories of experiences, hurts, biases, judgments, opinions of right and wrong, conditions, critiques and rules — so much so that there is barely room for anything or anyone new.

oakWe find that we are now solid oak trees, each of us bearing a customized pattern of branches forged through a unique set of events, circumstances and relationships. These branches bear witness to our life experience and often form a mismatch of uneven projections shooting out in myriad directions. During warm summers (the good times in our life), these imperfections stay hidden, obscured by bountiful leaves and we can fully bask in our beauty.  When winter sets in (the less than perfect times of our life), as it invariably does, our branches and scars are exposed bare leaving us feeling vulnerable and bare.  Over the years, our “branches” build up layers of  moss and hide skeletons of dead wood – emotional baggage – that can impede our natural growth. Sometimes this buildup happens overnight (such as a lightning strike or other stressful event), but more typically it accrues over time, seemingly unnoticeable as we go about our daily routines.  That is, until something jolts us to observe that dead wood and moss impedes our  future growth.

A colleague once told me (after a tumultuous time in my life):  “You really need to prune your life – get rid of the dead branches (the toxic relationships and ways of thinking that no longer serve you) to make room for new growth.”

The analogy was “bang on” (as we say in Canada) and her advice came flooding back to me today as I read the following:

1003924_560500844040225_309166825_nIt hit me – to accomplish ANY of these things means getting rid of dead wood in our heads… taking out the rote programmed reactions and ways of thinking.  Replacing the emotional baggage and dead end thinking with considerate, thoughtful, intentional responses to life.  One at a time…

“Learn to love without condition.”  Wow, this means I need to be conscious of and lower the biases (and judgments) that lead me to love others with conditions.  (The conditions are like a wall intended to protect me from future hurt – but ultimately it limits potentially great relationships!)  I need to consciously CHOOSE to accept and simply love people as they are, without conditions, (just as I would like to have happen to me.)  This sounds like a good habit to adopt.

“Talk without bad intention.”  Sometimes I reassure myself that I already do this, but if I am brutally honest, sometimes the good intentions are skewed when I am talking to someone with whom I have an imperfect past.  If there has been some mal-intention on the part of the other (even perceived) some mal-intention back could occur.  To talk without bad intention requires me to clear my head of judgment, before I speak, so that the words come out pure and the tone is positive.  This gives the other party the chance to simply be and respond without their defenses being up.  Sounds like another good habit to practice.

“Give without any reason.”  If you’ve grown up with a scarcity mentality like I did (there’s never enough money, food, jobs, time, energy to go around), giving can end up being biased and giving ends up with some sort of expectation.  Giving without reason means letting go of the need to get anything back in return (today or any day!)  Giving without any reason, just because I can – this is another habit that will enrich my life!

And “Care for people without any expectation.”  For me, this one hinges on my childhood learning of the “Golden Rule (do unto others as you’d like them <expect them> to do unto you.)”  This learning always set me up for failure because it implied that there would be reciprocity – that kindness begets kindness, generosity begets generosity, and so on.  The reality is that when I expect (not hope) something of others, I am imposing on them MY rules/code of behavior, my background, my need to  control – and that is simply not fair.  Letting go of the dead wood that expectations bring allows me to care for others as I can, while first taking care of my own needs (first.)

Pruning the dead wood in my  life takes concentration and work to properly trim (not chop) so that I remain whole and healthy.  Too much pruning at once or in the wrong season can be worse than not.  Figuring out new habits, such as those above, is a journey to remove the old (negative) habits of judgment, bias, reaction, and reliving old hurts, and replace them with new (positive) habits of acceptance, love, response and openness.

While old habits die-hard – I realize that this old dog can learn new tricks and the added bonus is that my new life is enriched, full, and thriving!

Wishing you a great week!

Carol

 

Positive people are good for you

14 Aug

If you took an inventory of the people in your life, how many of them would you classify as having a positive influence?  Do you feel loved, accepted, and optimistic because of them or do you feel downtrodden, defensive, and inferior?  It is your choice about who to allow in your life as friends, loves, acquaintances – so why not choose those who bring out the best in you?

some peopleWhile it is true that no one can make you feel anything (positive or negative) without your permission – the influence of those who support and love you cannot be underestimated.  When you love yourself and understand that you truly deserve to be surrounded by like-minded positive people, life becomes wonderful.

Below is a slide show of some of the best quotes about positive people and their impact.  Sometimes it’s better to be alone that to settle for people in  your life who don’t appreciate you…

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Put out your intentions to the universe that you want positive, uplifting, optimistic and supportive people in your life – and watch (over time) as the universe delivers!  And remove relationships that are toxic to make room for these new ones.

Wishing you a positive week!

Carol

 

Seeing the world through broken glass… waking up to 20/20 vision

10 May

Do you ever feel like you’ve wasted heartbeats living your life based on what others tell you is true (using guilt, conditional love, coercion, religion, shame, and downright lies) instead of creating the life you want?

I don’t know about your story, but I am slowly realizing that the “fill in the blank” projections of what others told me I need to be (you should be more – fill in the blank; you are way too – fill in the blank; what will other people think of you because of – fill in the blank) are so distorted as to be laughable.  And none of them are true!

My parochial, strict upbringing followed by a quarter century of “love” with a bonafide narcissist, can only be compared to practitioners testing your eyes, prescribing corrective glasses, smashing the lenses, and then forcing you to wear them (with physical and emotional threats) so that you can “see the world properly.”  (Translation: see the world as they do.) 

I must be a slow learner, but only recently did I wake up to see that people from my past would build themselves up by putting me down.   My psyche suffered years of anguish and guilt because I believed the distortions I saw through broken glass.  The perps got to feel superior, earned big financial wins, and were largely successful in squelching my spirit.

After a lifetime of words and insistence that I will never be good enough (for the world), I realize that this is simply not true.  Moreover, I am discovering that I never needed “glasses” to see the world properly in the first place – my perceptive vision is (and was) 20/20.

While my realizations are mostly an inside job, they were bolstered recently by several acquaintances whose words rang true.  Maybe they spoke out because they weren’t looking for personal gain, I don’t know, but I am grateful for what they told me (positive words.)

20/20 vision in comparison…

What makes these words different from the past? They resonate with what my soul knows to be true:  I am a loveable, kind, generous (to a fault), attractive, intelligent, passionate, sensitive, empathetic, and exciting person who has much to give.  (If you already know this about yourself, I congratulate you for discovering it earlier than I!)

My heart sees (and feels) that the positive words are true, but hearing positive words (with insistence) is so rare that I had to have them repeat them.  Even now, it takes an effort to overcome the negative reflections from the past and accept that the love I’ve known was conditional to me being someone I am not.

I now know that my eyesight about the world (and myself) started out fine, but got derailed through emotional attachment to people whose love hinged on me being someone else.  Wearing the broken glasses to please them ended up distorting my vision of the world, of myself, of where I fit in the world.  At times when I glimpsed an uncorrected vision (and liked it!) – chiding would remind me that they knew me better than I knew myself. I believed that love was conditional on me seeing the world as they did. (I still believe that is true, but now I no longer care!)

Today, I love myself (I know that I am loveable) and that is all that matters. I see the world as I see it and the Royal We (me, myself and I) are happy.

Burying the past…except for the Zombies

What distortions came about with the corrected vision?  I heard over and over (by more than one person) that I was too sensitive, too abrasive, took things personally, was not talented enough, unattractive (and reminded that vanity is the work of the devil!), boring, assertive, unlikeable, a bad communicator, a poor mother, had broken intuition and I was downright unlovable.  (The latter point made it easy to convince me that I would never find anyone who could ever truly love me and I was lucky to have found said person!  No wonder I’ve been a people pleaser!)

One would think that it should be easy to bury the broken glasses today.  Unfortunately, people from my past try to prevent me from doing so.  Family members insist that I am doomed to eternal damnation because I don’t adhere to their religious edicts (not my truth).  The narcissist continues to contacts my friends to be his friend (and they call me to say “WTF is his problem!”)  Others continue to try to get me back (to benefit them) years after I stopped the relationships.  I guess that’s the nature of controlling, broken glass relationships – a controller needs someone to control.

20/20 vision is incredible!

Living in integrity (treating myself the way that I treat my best friends) is my truth.  My intuition celebrates that I trust that my perceptions are true (undistorted) and believe that I deserve love.   I am at peace with who I am (and who my friends know).  This makes for a satisfying life of self-love, mutual friendship, and trust in oneself.  It’s finally nice to know that my vision was 20/20 all along.

Have a great week!

Carol

Saying NO to saying yes – a Survival Guide

7 May

There are two types of people in the world – those who say “no” and those who say “yes” as a matter of upbringing, personality, habit, or need for acceptance.

Stereotypically, the people who say “yes” are women who were raised to go with the flow, be service-oriented, don’t rock the boat, and the best one – take care of others before you take care of yourself.  Many of us learned and believed that the latter was our lot in life playing a support role to the world.

One of the most powerful self-care words in the English language is the word “no” (even when your first inclination is to still say “yes”) because it allows one the space to consider our own wants and needs first (which is the way it always should have been) before accepting the needs of another to override.  Much of my adult life has been spent saying yes: yes to children, yes to a spouse, yes to volunteer roles, yes to school, yes to friends, yes to everyone – and, no to myself.

In some ways, it is dishonest (and poor communication) to say yes, when no is what we really need to say (to survive!)

Finally, having read enough survival guides, I realize that “no” is a critical survival technique that should be taught to girls (especially!) and boys everywhere – we only have one life and one person (me) who will take the care to make sure our needs are actually met.  Everyone else wants to make sure their needs are met first!

But for every opinion, there is someone who dissents…

It comes as no surprise that the number of opinions in society at least equals the number of blogs online (gazillions!), but today’s post from a blog I read weekly took me aback.  You can read it yourself by clicking on the image below:

WOW – how completely opposite!!!  (But not surprising when you consider the writer is male.)

When you read the outlined paragraph, it falls along the lines of how I believe that my generation (end of the boomers) in North Americans are raised: boys were raised to take care of themselves, and girls were raised to take care of – well – everyone (except themselves).

In other words females are raised to put others first (in John’s blurb above:  “What’s in it FROM me”) to our detriment.  As a habit, putting others first without consideration of how it will affect one’s own (mental, physical or emotional) health is sheer suicide!  As a matter of survival, saying “no” more often allows us to be 1. Honest with what we can or cannot do; and 2. survivors by saying (finally!) “what’s in it FOR me.”

Having grown up with three brothers, I also saw that the natural tendency was for boys to be raised with the right survival mechanism – in boy scouts the mantra was “be PREPARED” or in other words, take care of yourself first (what’s in it FOR me.)

Why is there gender inequality?  Who knows?  But the best way forward is for everyone (regardless of gender) to take care of their own needs first (see Put on your Own Mask first) so that NO is an option, and not rotely saying YES and regretting it.

What do you think?

Related posts:

I “no” you’ll find a way to have a good week!

Carol

 

 

Walking on Eggshells… Source of Back Pain?

22 Mar

First off, this post is not about physical back ailments, so I apologize if you came here to read about disk failures or arthritic conditions.  The back pain I want to talk about is the pain from having to look back and watch what you say or do because someone else explodes or behaves badly (and blames you)!

You probably have people in YOUR life who expect you to “Walk on Eggshells” (i.e., you have to be careful what you say because they explode if YOU say the wrong thing) – and it causes you grief!

Not only do you have to be careful what you say or appear to say for fear of negative retribution (often explosive) – you have to plan/rehearse/replay what you might say in your head to hopefully avoid a similar outcome. Even then, with careful planning, explosions invariably occur “because of what you said or did”.  Think about this for a moment along with Einstein’s definition of insanity:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So, if makes sense that if you constantly try to do something different (such as saying things in a different way) and you get the same explosive results, maybe the result has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

People who expect special treatment from others are the prima donnas, narcissists, sociopaths, and bullies of our society and invade our work, play, and homes.  If you love someone who does this, you might feel responsible when they explode (especially when they blame you) or treat you badly.  (This is a classic model of abuse: the abuser blames their victim for inciting the abuse.)

Personally, I am at a point where I realize that the “walk on eggshells around me” person is simply unhappy in spite of or regardless of me.  It seldom matters how nice or kind or careful I am because the explosion is not predictable.  (I once asked my ex-significant other what words I to avoid so he would not react badly because it didn’t seem to matter what I said.  His response was “you think you are a good communicator – figure it out!”  The truth was that no words from me could change his behavior – only he could. )

People who use verbal outbursts to get their own way may or may not realize their responsibility for their own behavior.  Or they might have always gotten away with blaming their firework reactions on others!  Why change what works if it gets them what they want?

Is there an alternative to “walking on eggshells”?

When bad behavior is rewarded it continues.  Imagine a child screaming and ranting in a grocery store and the parent rewards them with candy to shut them up.  The same thing happens when grownup children rant and get their own way in board meetings or at home.  Bad behavior is like an addiction – and if we reward the abuser for outbursts (by giving in) we are enabling the behavior to continue.  Easier said than done especially when the other person is a spouse, a boss, a family member or a friend.  It is easier to avoid them or to give in to keep the peace.

I fell for this too many times in my lifetime and today I avoid these people when I can, and if I cannot, I work hard to realize that I am not responsible or a trigger for their outbursts. Still, no one including me, wants to be covered by verbal diarrhea or hit in the face with fireworks – and then be blamed for causing it.

Can you identify with these “walking on eggshell people” I meet or hear about from others?

Fireworks are fun to watch - if they are celebratory!

  • At work I used to work with a guy who huffed and puffed and got red when anyone challenged his authority as a self-appointed expert. Sometimes he even exploded in a room full of people!  I am grateful I no longer have to work with this person.  He eventually named his company after his first name (narcissistic), brags about his religious devotion, yet continues to huff and puff and literally explode when anyone disagrees with him. He is over 65 so one would think he’d have met his match by now, but executives and peers simply watch him pontificate and back away before the fireworks begin.
  • ParentsI see parents everywhere who bully their children into complicity using religious guilt, coercion, and downright  manipulation (“if you loved me/us you would think/feel/act the way we tell you to”).  Parents who are bullies create submissive children who can grow into embittered adults.  While their physical presence is temporary (child rearing years) their damage can be lifelong.  Parents whose behavior creates a “walk on eggshells” environment with their adult children often lose the very respect they “demand.”
  • Spouses/partnersIf you have/had a spouse who tells you that they only said xxx because “you made me say it” you know what it is like to “walking on eggshells.”  Should you dare to suggest that their responsibility for fireworks they ignite themselves, you might be “down the river without a paddle” so to speak.  I can tell you from experience that life can be grander without such a “partner.”
  • Children – We have the chance to influence a child’s behavior to a certain extent (personality weighs heavily here) by not allowing or rewarding tantrum-like behavior.  Even when corrected at an early age, there are plenty of adult children who use explosions and then hold their parents to blame long into adulthood.  I believe that we need to teach children accountability and consequences for bad behavior at a young age.
  • FriendsI have written about the types of friends who explode or behave badly when they do not get their own way (Do Mean Girls Grow up?) – and my solution is to walk away and find new friends.  On rare occasions when I confronted the person, it had  a good outcome, but more often it led to even worse outbursts.  These days I follow the advice of a New York friend who encourages me to say “Next” and move on to the next friendship.
  • People we do not knowIt is painful to witness someone verbally abusing another in public.  I do not believe that it is ever warranted to yell at another adult unless it is to alert others to a threatening situation or assault.  I see this happen all the time and I never know what to do.  When it is an adult verbally abusing a child, I often step in or alert a storekeeper for advice, but when it is adults involved, I am at a loss… I do not want to become a victim by confronting the offender, yet I do not want to show that I accept the behavior by complicity.

If “walking on eggshells” causes (back) pain why do we comply?

Is this an isolated situation confined only to me?

If you have found something that works instead of walking on eggshells, would you share them with me so I can also share them with others?

Wishing you a stress-free week of happy times!

Carol

Living Life Fully… 5 minutes at a Time

12 Mar

Life can be wondrous, exciting, frustrating, passionate, stressful, exhilarating, and sad, and sometimes it can be all of these at the same time! And that can bring on moments where we feel completely overwhelmed and incapable of thinking or moving forward.  When this happens to me, I remember one of the best pieces of advice from a friend:

You only have to make it through the next five minutes – one minute at a time…
and you WILL be fine.

She was right, and I share her wisdom with others when I see someone under stress.  If it works for me, why not for others?

Take a deep breath, inhale and exhale and simply breathe through the next 60 seconds, then 60 more until the magical 5 minute point.  At that point, nothing has changed but the wave of utter helplessness has somehow subsided.  Feeling overwhelmed is like the perfect storm – all things seem to collide at the same time making the negative waves seem like they are drowning us!

When we are overcome by emotion (positive or negative), financial or physical stress, or when something happens that “breaks the camel’s back”, we might wonder if we can make it through life – but we really only have to make it through the next five minutes.

Even 5 minutes can seem like an eternity!

But… when you set aside the massive pile of things that overwhelm you at the moment, and simply concentrate on making it through the next five minutes, five minutes at a time, things often become easier.

Five minutes are akin to bite size pieces of our lives. (Have you heard the famous answer to: How does one eat an elephant?  “One bite at a time.”)

Living life fully is sometimes as simple (and as difficult) as living it in bite sized pieces… five minutes at a time.

Wishing you a low stress, happy week ahead!

Carol

 

We don’t “attract” the wrong people…

23 Feb

I am living proof that the Law of Attraction (Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, etc.) combined with The Four Agreements and other philosophies work! My life is moving in the right direction with the right people around me, but my happiness journey has not been without its detours and potholes.  My divorce was the beginning of the journey, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  After a quarter century with a self-absorbed husband, I found myself alone with an out-of-control 17-year-old son (his father was my ex who moved away immediately), a stalled career, and ruined finances.  I could only imagine a better life – and today, just six years later, I am finding happiness.  My son is healthy and thriving, my daughter has found a great career, my career is back on track, I have found true friends, and life is good.

It has not been a “cakewalk” – my journey is ongoing, frustrating (at times), lonely, enlightening, exciting, and disappointing, but I am happier than I have ever been. Along the way, the books mentioned above gave me great insight about life when taken in moderation.  However, with books like The Secret, there are overzealous supporters who believe (and spout) myths about the law of attraction.  Believing these myths can actually set you back in your quest for success and happiness.  I would like to debunk two of these “myths”:

Myth #1: You attract everyone into your life with your thoughts.
Truth #1: The world is like a pile of metal shavings… you attract who you attract based on magnetism

In the same way that you cannot choose who you fall in love with or to whom you are attracted, you cannot change this in others.  Humanity is like a mismatched pile of metal shavings (people in the world), where some will be drawn to you and some will not. I believe that attraction between people is fundamentally physiological – either someone is attractive to you or they are not; it is that simple.   The adage of “people like people like themselves” seems to prevail.

What we CAN control:  We CAN change our attitude and presentation to the world and thereby increase our potential attractiveness to other types of people, but our inner beauty and personal magnetism will not change.  What this means is that no matter how hard we “wish”, we would still attract a motley mix of good, bad, toxic, sociopathic, kind, narcissistic, damaged, wholesome and mottled people into our lives. Magnetism is not selective, but allowing them to stick to us should be VERY SELECTIVE! (If only we could buy mosquito repellant to keep away dysfunctional people!)

What this means to your psyche:  When you meet someone who says that you are attracting the wrong people into your life, remember that attraction is not a choice, but selecting who you allow into your life IS A CHOICE.

It helps me to remember that the people who are in my life (through either blood or they were attracted to me and I allowed them to take part in my life) do not have a lifetime pass.  It is my right (and choice) to end or suspend relationships with people who have become toxic to me — even if they passed the screening and selection process long ago.  Even if they are blood relatives, if they inject poison (through verbal or other abuse), we need to safeguard our emotional health and keep away.  We all have the right to positive influences and people in our life!

While you cannot change who you attract, you CAN increase your screening and selection criteria for who you allow to be in your life.

 Myth #2:  Life is a culmination of everything you manifested with your thoughts.
Truth #2: SHIT happens to good people all the time, regardless of their THOUGHTS

Another “rabbit hole” that trips up people who embrace the law of attraction is that “everything in your life you made happen through your thoughts”.  What utter rubbish!

For example, I can tell you that I NEVER wished for – or even thought about – having emotional abuse in my life.  I also did not wish for years of strife with a teenage son.  Nor did I wish for an aneurysm at age 40!  Moreover, I know that whatever strife you have in your life is probably not something you wished for or thought about.  Crap happens and you did NOT manifest it into being WITH YOUR THOUGHTS!

Certainly, our life is a culmination of our actions and beliefs, but circumstances, events and “shit” simply happens, regardless of how much we wish and pray and want something else.  Yet there are those who believe they can control the world with their thoughts and want to convince you that you can too (hmm… was not there a German leader who managed to manifest his thoughts of superiority into world domination?).

I met one of these such people several years ago and it was a downright “scary” experience.  “Mark” was an organizer of a self-help cult-style weekend called Landmark. (Note, I did not realize it was a cult until I saw their abusive and brainwashing at work.) “Mark”  convinced me to attend the seminar (against my intuition) and promised to make it more affordable by picking me up at the airport.  When I hesitated, he convinced me that this was my “ego” trying to keep me from growing and learning. When the weekend arrived, my flight was delayed and Mark reneged on his promise to pick me up.  I ended up taking expensive taxis because there were no rental cars available.  When I arrived at the site, he had lost my paperwork and I had to spend an hour completing new forms.  Strangely, Mark “justified” his poor behavior and the missing paperwork because (in his words) I made all of it happen with my thoughts.  WOW!  Somehow, I had the power to delay the plane, tie up all the rental cars, and psychically destroy paperwork.  When I laughed at his audacity, Mark insisted that even catastrophes like plane crashes are the result of “a group of people whose thoughts are harmonically aligned to bring the plane down.”  Can you imagine believing in such crap?  I left the weekend knowing that insanity is available for anyone willing to embrace dysfunctional thinking, like Mark.

What we CAN control: It is said that life is mostly attitude combined with your circumstances – but at times of strife, it can become so imbalanced that we lose control.  (In statistics, an “average” is the sum of all the events (good points + bad points + all in between) divided by the number of events.  As such, there has to be some great wins to balance out great losses to end up with an average somewhere in the middle!)

We cannot control the crap that happens in our life – bad things happen to good people all the time – but we can choose how we respond to it.  We can stand around the “pile of burning crap” when it lands in our life and make a choice!  We can watch it and wail that it is awful as it burns stronger… we can step in it and get covered in it (i.e., it can consume us)… or we can grab a bucket of water and douse the flames… or we can do any number of other actions.  The reaction and response IS OUR CHOICE, the burning pile of crap that landed IS NOT.

What this means to your psyche:  Stop listening to people who tell you that your life is the way it is because YOU CHOSE IT to be. This is NOT true and you know it! People do NOT choose to be unemployed or lose their home or have loved ones die… it JUST HAPPENS.  These things happen to good people all the time!  Change the things you can, wish (and envision) a better future, and adopt a healthy attitude.  It will not stop things from happening, but hopefully what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

I am sorry that the crap in your life happens to you… it is temporary and you have a choice about your future.  Life can always be better tomorrow, and even in the darkest moments, all you really have to do is make it through the next 5 minutes…

Have a great week and do the Royal We (me, myself, and I) a favor and stop allowing crap to invade your psyche.  YOU are a good person who deserves happiness.  We can all choose happiness and success – but sometimes the universe has a convoluted way of bringing it to us.

Carol

New Math: Subtraction can Add Years to your Life!

10 Feb

I love watching the late George Carlin‘s sketch about our Stuff where he describes how all of our stuff expands to fit into larger and larger areas.  No matter how much we upsize, we never seem to have the room we need.  Unless we have a garage sale or decide to downsize, many of us seem to collect until the day we die (and then others have to get rid of our “stuff”.)

I perused through Gail McMeekin’s The Power of Positive Choices: Adding and Subtracting Your Way to a Great Life yesterday where she describes the S in P O S I T I V E  C H O I C E S as the power of Subtraction.  It occurred to me that she is bang on with her assertion that the removal of unproductive factors from our life can be a positive thing.

That led me to ponder that human beings are not just “material” collectors, but also emotional collectors.  We collect people, experiences, and memories during our life – many of which we should have discarded long ago!  If we stopped to take an inventory of the intangible stuff we collect and store in our mental garages (our head), we would probably find a cache of garbage or things we no longer need.  Moreover, we might find things that actually work against us and no longer serve our best interests.

Maybe it is time for a mental garage sale – or even a run to the dump… I realize that I need to learn the new math: subtraction can add years to your life!

I started by taking inventory of my mental garage and here is what I found:

1.   A pile of Toxic Relationships.

For the past six years (I call December 2005 my awakening), I knew that I was hoarding this “pile”.  While it is not as big as it once was, it still resembled a stack of old clothes that no longer fit and served as reminders of times gone by.  These toxic relationships were not always toxic, in fact they involve people who once served a purpose in my life (I understand some of them); some resembled friends or colleagues, while others were family. Nonetheless, the relationships were not mutually beneficial and no longer fit what I could tolerate in my new self-loving life. Typically toxic relationships involve verbal abuse, manipulation, coercion, guilt or other unhealthy factor, or it is parasitic (one being lives off the energy or health of another.)  Regardless, a toxic relationship is at a minimum unhealthy, or even deadly (over time) to at least one of the parties. Unless the terms can be altered to become a healthy relationship, it is not worth maintaining.  In the same way that closet space can be better used for well-fitting new clothes, the space left by removing toxic relationships leaves room for new healthy ones.

 

2.      A wall of old horror movies.

It was not long after finding the toxic relationships that I noticed this emotional space-stealer! The once valuable cache contained hours of painful experience “replays” (from every possible camera angle) dating from childhood to the present.  While these served a temporary purpose while a lesson was being learned, today they are nothing more than cruel reminders of past negative events. The contents ran the gamut of pre-K pants-wetting, taunts of childhood bullies, pain of unrequited love, outbursts of hormonal girls, sports and academic disappointment, scoldings of disapproving parents, and physical and verbal assaults. Some of the actors were no longer even familiar, but reliving the pain was real.  Through the years a particular set may have served a purpose when I hoped to avoid similar screenplays, but realistically their value is mostly horrific. Moreover, by occupying valuable mental “wall space”, there is less real estate available for the happy movies.

Figuratively “tossing out” the wall of movies was empowering and refreshing.  While I realize that each experience taught me something, I do not need to relive them.  It is more important to note how the collection contributed into making me the strong, independent, self-reliant woman I am today.

 

3.      Bookcases of obsolete encyclopedia:

Don Miguel Ruiz talks about how we are “domesticated” with lies during childhood -intended to nurture us into submission as safety-minded, cooperative, giving (and over-giving), “civilized” adults. Many of the agreements we unwittingly entered as children no longer serve us, and need to be severed along with the “encyclopedias” from the past.  Agreements such as “children should be seen and not heard” and “strangers are dangerous” can become debilitating in adulthood unless we rid them from our psyche.  I found several encyclopedia series on my bookshelf – all long outdated – with focuses on religion, geography (now obsolete), and rule books promoting decades old opinions and sexist attitudes. I had no idea I stored so many “textbooks” because they all blended into the mental garage. As I unload them to the trash, I am amazed at the beauty of the wood grain and thrilled to see how much room is left for new beliefs and fresh ideas.

4.      Outdated survival provisions.

Even though I live in a state where we annually stockpile provisions (water, batteries, and canned goods), I was surprised to find a cache of outdated provisions in my psyche.  I found torn “sandbags” intended to keep watershed tears at bay should there be another flash flood (a divorce or death); expired “cans” of justification to feed anyone if they exploit my vulnerability (“you’re too sensitive” or “you shouldn’t feel that way”); an expired “fire extinguisher” to combat verbal abuse (gosh I wish I knew this was when I needed it!); and tins of emotional “mace” to ward off intruders who don’t respect my boundaries.  All of these were at one time fresh and necessary to provide security, but their utility has since passed and they all need to be ditched and possibly replenished.  Wow, I am amazed at the space these took up!

5.      Luggage filled with emotional “stuff”.

When I “travel” outside my comfort zone, I have a few prized bags that serve me well. When I glance around inside my head, I notice so many nearly new pieces of luggage that I might have used once or twice, filled with items that are doubles of what I already have. It is like having a mismatched set of sports bags, suitcases, and backpacks – all beautiful in their own right, but they are “extras” and take up space. As an idea collector, this luggage housed concepts from self-help books, motivational speakers, “gourmet” lifestyle magazines, all good in their own right, but together they create clutter and take up space.  A cluttered mental garage is as dangerous as a real life counterpart – and could be fire starter to a misguided spark.  I commit all these orphaned ideas to the garage sale.

 

Now that I realize how much space emotional subtraction can add – I am on a quest to declutter and clean out my mental garage.

Next on my agenda will be to do the same (again) in my physical environment.   This brings to mind the idea of The 100 Thing Challenge, but that’s the topic of a future post.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Have a great week!

Carol

The top 10 affirmations for 2012… The “Royal We” Checklist

2 Jan

2012 is already starting to be an awesome year – and it’s only two days old!

Instead of having a list of resolutions about what I want to change about myself and my current situation, I want to follow my advice about self-love by practicing what I preach.  In other words, “walking the talk”, doing what I say I am going to do, being consistent and living with integrity – well, you get it.

A bit of background…

I spent most of my life being told:rear view mirror

  • what to believe (a strict no-questions religious upbringing),
  • how to feel (“Carol, you should feel happy about …”),
  • how to dress (vanity is the work of the devil),
  • why I do what I do (“you are purposely making me late so that you will make me embarrassed”),
  • how to be a friend (“you have to be a friend to have a friend” – ignoring the fact that I had any rights in any relationship not to put up with verbal or other abuse!),
  • how much others loved me (“I’m only telling you this for your own best interests because I love you so much”), and
  • how much more they knew about me (“I know you better, Carol, than you know yourself”),
  • and so much more, and the worst part of it all was that

I believed them and allowed these people in my inner circle of life to override my intuition and self-love.

For most of my life, I put more credence into what others purported (and sometimes yelled to insist) to know about me, that I became invisible. In my personal life, I became the amorphous amoeba-like people pleaser that everyone else wanted me to be, and in the process, I fell-asleep to the wonderful, incredible, creative person who is me.

I woke up six years ago (and am happily divorced!) and have been on a path to self-discovery and acquainting myself with the Royal We (me, myself, and I) from whom I have withheld true love since birth.  It has been too long without self-love!

2012 is the Year for Us!

2012 is going to be my year of affirmation and true love for the Royal We, and because of this goal I am already a happier, healthier person.  I share my Royal We checklist with you in the hopes that your journey of self-love can advance to a place where you can become the great person you already are (and just don’t yet know!)

The Royal We Checklist

1. WAKE-UP:  Did I begin the day truly thankful to be in the company of the Royal We?  Did I thank myself for one great characteristic that I am proud to have?

2. GOOD MORNING!  Did I look at myself in the mirror and notice at least one great physical attribute? (I love how my eyes sparkle!)

3. PUTTING ME INTO THE DAY:  Have I planned my day to include at least one totally selfish, self-indulgent pleasure that I can do without anyone else? (It can be as simple as walking down to the seashore for 5 minutes because I live near the water or making sure that I look up at dusk to enjoy the sunsets that I so love!)

4. CHOOSE TO SHARE UNCONDITIONALLY: It is MY choice throughout the day whether or not to share a great aspect of the Royal We with anyone else – to give, to smile, to complement, to help, to be courteous – and if so, it is my gift to the world without conditions or strings attached.  If others choose not to receive or accept graciously, or reciprocate, that is THEIR choice and it has nothing to do with the value of my gift.

5. STOP THE GUILT programming from the past about anything in the present by affirming that the Royal We have rights!  We have the right to our own earned income (the Royal We works hard), good food (yes, we deserve to indulge in our favorite cheese even if it is more expensive), good friends (who respect us and affirm us) and great experiences that  we can afford.  The life I am living today with the Royal We is the only life we have.

6. THE ROYAL WE COMES FIRST!  Remind myself that I am the only one who can or ever should put the Royal We FIRST!  It was a lie that I was taught to put others first and that then others will put me first – it is not the way that life works!  It is a right of life that I should “put on my own mask first” before helping others… and it is about time that this becomes instinctual! (Sidenote: it is not a reflection on oneself when you have to terminate a “friendship” or other relationship that is toxic or off-balance or providing no value… it is a reflection on the incapability of the other person to be a friend to us.)

7. CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY ALONE WITH THE ROYAL WE.  We are on this earth to be happy – to make heaven on earth… yet so many others attempt to make it a living hell for themselves and others!  I choose to be happy today and everyday – content with the satisfaction that I am always in the great company of the Royal We!

8. LOSE THE ANTICIPATION and expectation of anyone outside of the Royal We. While “we” grew up with the Golden Rule and a giving nature, it is not an universal belief.  The only change I can make in life is about me – not about anyone else, and THAT IS OKAY!

9. STAY COGNIZANT THAT WE ARE ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN BEHAVIOR. When others behave badly, as they inevitably will – it is THEIR responsibility (not ours) to clean up the mess without our involvement!  Just as we must take ownership of our own doings, others are responsible for:

  • their actions (yelling, berating, ranting),
  • their words (especially when negative, disempowering, disrespectful),
  • their tantrums (stomping, screaming, pouting, silent treatment),
  • their lack of support, and
  • their judgments!

When the person in question is over the biological age of 2, remember to be thankful that we have the Royal We to hang out with.

 10. LOVE THE ROYAL WE COMPLETELY AND UNCONDITIONALLY!  I am reminded of the mom-ism (a saying from my mother): “remember wherever you go, there you are!”  Finally at this awakened point in my life — I am truly grateful this is true.

WE, (The Royal We, that is) are going to have an incredible year and we hope that you do too!  Happy 2012!

Carol

Put on your own mask first…before assisting others

19 Sep

I am fortunate this week to have the company of my daughter who is down from NYC for a bit of time before she moves overseas to teach English in Asia.  She is one of the most caring and generous people I know and often espouses wisdom beyond her years.

Either yesterday or the day before (my memory is just not as sharp as it used to be), we were talking about the support she constantly provides to others, and how, at critical times of stress, one cannot lend support to others when it is most needed within.  I hope that she won’t mind me paraphrasing her words – but they were along the lines of

“Put on your own mask first… before assisting others.”

As women, I believe that most of us were raised to help others before thinking of ourselves — and, as a result, we support everyone around us, before tending to our own needs.  Often, when we need support, we find that we stand alone.  And, I might add, it is our own fault – we have a flawed belief system!  What gives us the right to expect support from others just because we give it?

Life is not fair (we know this by now) and there is no guarantee of reciprocity!  (I’ve said it before that The Golden Rule is a good theory for teaching children to share, but it seldom works in adult life!)

I’ve talked to several confident and successful women friends who were raised similarly (gosh, one of the Girl Guide sayings when I grew up in Canada was:  “A Brownie is cheerful and obedient – a Brownie always thinks of others before herself” – sheesh !!!!) — and share a diminished sense of self-worth!  When one gives away something that which is still needed (support), it is folly to expect survival.  After years of giving to others, we end up feeling resentful that no one is nurturing us.  The answer is that we need to nurture our own needs first!  This means giving ourselves ample support –be it financial, emotional, cheerleading, physical rest, happy thoughts, encouragement, empathy, unconditional love, etc. — BEFORE supporting others.   (A novel thought indeed!)

I believe that this “oxygen mask philosophy” should be taught to children (and adults who never learned it) everywhere:  Take care to support and love yourself (put on your own mask first); then – and only then – can we effectively help others.

To my lovely daughter – I wish for you all the wonders and love that the world can possibly give you – you deserve it.  I love you and I hope that somehow, someday, you’ll see my love as support and wisdom back to you.  Thank you for YOUR wisdom…

Have a great week!

Carol

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