I Was Not Created to Suffer

I had at some point early on in my life created and held a belief system around self-punishment that led to forms of self-abuse and ultimately attracting in abusive relationships.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

This awareness came to light as a long-battled eating disorder reared its’ ugly head again after lying dormant for years. With the knowledge I had gained, I was, however, better able to recognize it for what it was this time around and see clearly the destructive thoughts and behaviors I was engaging in with myself. As I examined layers of self-punishing thoughts and behaviors, I uncovered a painful truth: I had attracted, possibly even unconsciously sought out, relationships that were varying levels of abusive because it actually gave me a break from having to do that to myself. It was incredibly humbling to recognize that I could now even identify feelings of relief I’d experienced when I had someone or something in my life that could take over my need to punish myself. I came to an awareness of one of the reasons the eating disorder had resurfaced: I had no outside circumstances currently causing abuse in my life, and my need to punish myself had not been fully resolved, so I started to go back into the self-punishing behaviors that are so commonly linked to eating disorders. Jaw on the floor. Holy cow, is this really a thing?

How is this a thing? It seems crazy. Why on earth would we want to punish ourselves and engage in self-abusive behaviors? It turns out, there are a few reasons that we do. These reasons have been identified and validated through research. Dr. Juliana Breines in her article, “No Pain, No Gain: Why We Punish Ourselves,” identified three common beliefs we hold that have been validated through research explaining why we engage in self-punishing behaviors:

  1. I deserve to suffer.
  2. Suffering will make me a better person.
  3. I’m supposed to suffer.

When we first look at these beliefs, it is easy to dismiss them and deny that we would hold them as beliefs because they are so apparently damaging there is no way we would buy into them. Not so fast. Sit with it. It is mind-blowing how many of us hold at least one, if not all, of these beliefs somewhere inside of us. Our belief systems are created in one of three ways: (1) through our experiences; (2) we are taught them or have them projected on to us by others; or (3) they are thoughts tied to intense emotions that are repeated so many times they are automatized and become beliefs. Regardless of how we come to adopt a belief, they usually have a benefit or pay-off, at least temporarily, which is why we will continue to hold onto them even when they are not in our best interest. Each of the three identified beliefs has associated behaviors and benefits that continue to reinforce them and make them difficult to change. The only way to change them is to become aware of them, make a decision to change them, and do the work of practicing bringing in new healthier thoughts and beliefs to replace them (Brooke Castillo identifies these ways to change beliefs in the podcast, “The Life Coach School” and is a fantastic resource).

First, let’s look briefly at each of the beliefs and their associated benefits.

1. “I deserve to suffer.”  As humans, we will actually work to maintain or even increase bad feelings if we have low self-esteem and/or negative self-perception (found in research conducted by Joanne Wood and colleagues). This supports what is known as self-verification theory, which basically says that we are comfortable with treatment that is familiar and consistent with our self-views. It was found that if people have negative self-views they “were less motivated to feel good because feeling good was inconsistent with their negative self-views, and because they didn’t feel they deserved to feel good” (Breines, 2010). The benefit of this belief is that having our experiences line up with our feelings about ourselves is less painful than challenging those, even when our views are distorted and damaging.

2. “Suffering will make me a better person.” This belief holds deep significance in numerous cultural and religious traditions as a way to purify or cleanse any undesirable or “bad” aspects of the self. There is the conception that if we suffer, we can receive absolution. There was a study conducted by Brock Batian and colleagues in which participants were asked to hold their hands in ice water for as long as they could while thinking either a neutral thought or while thinking of a perceived past moral transgression. Those that were thinking of the moral transgression held their hands in the ice water for longer periods of time and even reported a decrease in the feelings of guilt. When this belief is held, self-punishment can seemingly reduce feelings of guilt, but self-punishment has not been shown to create actual behavior change and can in fact take a serious toll on mental health and lead to mental illnesses such as depression and eating disorders (Breines, 2012).

So while there appears to be a benefit for this belief, it is short-lived and has serious adverse effects. In fact, research has proven that self-compassion is far more effective for behavior change. Braun, Park, and Gorin (2016) review this research and site the famous “Donut Study” that provided evidence for self-compassion being far more effective to create behavior change. They also site Neff (2003), who is a leading researcher in this field and identified the components of healthy self-compassion:

(a) Self-kindness, being kind and understanding of oneself, rather than engaging in self-judgment and criticism, (b) mindfulness, holding aversive thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them, and (c) common humanity, viewing one’s experiences as a natural extension of those experienced by all individuals rather than as isolating and separate (Braun, Park, & Gorin, 2016, p. 118).

Many worry that self-compassion will lead to self-indulgence. This has not been shown to be the case. They are different constructs, and when self-compassion contains the dimensions listed above, it allows us to give ourselves what we really need—not necessarily what we want—and does not lead to laziness nor narcissistic views of ourselves. Experiencing consequences and feelings a guilt when our behavior really is harmful and out of alignment with our highest good and purpose is helpful to create change, but punishment and prolonged feelings of guilt leading to shame do not create positive behavior change and are incredibly damaging.

3. “I’m supposed to suffer.” This belief stems from a view that we either deserve to suffer or that we are being tested to show our ability to endure it. There was a study sighted to support this belief as well. Our brains are wired to do three things: be efficient, seek pleasure, and avoid pain. When pain introduces itself in our lives, we must create a story to justify it (we are wired to do this as a way to process the pain). The stories we narrate either use pain to demonstrate our strength and support the easier handled belief that things happen for a reason, or we begin to narrate our story in a way that makes us out to be the victim, which usually has these core beliefs of deserving to suffer at the base. Breines (2012) clarified that “believing that things happen for a reason can be comforting, but at times this belief may impede efforts to reduce controllable forms of suffering.” Let that sink in for a minute. Our beliefs may actually cause us unnecessary suffering.

It became very clear to me how holding these beliefs had played out in my life. I have engaged in self-punishment in a variety of ways, the most easily identified being behaviors tied to my eating disorder. It really did feel better to punish myself for any misstep or perceived wrong-doing in my life. I found relief there. I must deserve it. Or at the very least, I was expected to endure it. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Yes, I’m screaming this from the top of my lungs. This is so wrong! Is it possible that holding these beliefs could actually bring to us people that abuse and punish so we can support our beliefs? Is it possible that there is another way? Is it possible that we can change and grow in the way we had hoped through self-awareness and self-compassion? Absolutely.

So this is where it begins, as it always does, with ourselves. When we can bravely look at our belief systems and how they may be either negatively or positively affecting us, we can make a different choice. We can slowly change those beliefs to healthier beliefs that will really create positive behavior change and allow more compassion, grace, and love abide. In the simple and profound words of my mother:

With frequently and a little bit,

The candle of change is lit.

Replacing any negative thoughts;

Decide, commit, then do it.

                        –Marilyn Beecher Thaxton

There is a better way. We can decide and begin anew. When I fully recognized and owned my part in my experiences because of my belief systems, I was able to create real change. It is one of the most powerful things I’ve experienced and is without question one of the key aspects of moving me out of victim mentality.

You do not deserve to suffer. You will not be a better person if you suffer. And you are not supposed to suffer.

Just breathe that in for a minute.

It may take time for those to resonate as truths to you as deeply as the prior beliefs, and in the meantime feel really uncomfortable. Let it be uncomfortable. That is normal when we introduce conflicting beliefs to those we currently hold—it is called cognitive dissonance. But if we decide and commit to changing these negative beliefs and are diligent in replacing those, it will eventually happen. When that happens, these new beliefs will begin to feel correct and become as much a part of us as the old beliefs. Can you just imagine what life might be like if you really believe that you do not deserve to suffer? It’s profound. It is worth every effort.

We were not created to suffer. We were created to soar.

 

 

 

Sources:

Braun, T.D., Park, C.L., and Gorin, A. Self-compassion, body image,and disordered eating: A review of the literature. Body Image (17), pp. 117-131.

Breines, J. (2012, April 23). No Pain, No Gain: Why We Punish Ourselves. Retrieved from            https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-love-and-war/201204/no-pain-no-gain-why  we-punish-ourselves

Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/ 15298860309032     Neff, K. D. (2003b).

What Doesn’t Kill Us…

…makes us stronger.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this aphorism.  There is no question it can seem discounting of the real difficulties we face in life and trivialize them with a touch of condescension; but, there is in fact powerful truth integrated into this familiar saying.

There is a universal law, the Law of Opposition, which says two things: “That which we oppose, we strengthen, and whatever is opposing us can also strengthen us” (Halaway, 2017, p. 12).  Universal laws are unchangeable and work whether we know about them or not. Knowing about them allows to act from a place of power rather than to be acted upon.

The Law of Opposition resonates as truth to me, because my life experiences have undeniably proven it time and again. I have learned that when I oppose something or resist it, I am indeed left drained. It is truth that when we put our energy into opposing something, it actually strengthens the very thing we are opposing and weakens us. Now, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up against things that are damaging or toxic, but when we push against them, we are actually not going to get the results we are hoping for. It is more about standing in our own truth and strength, without giving all of our energy to opposition or resistance. Energy is expended through our focus, our time, and our effort. We are far better served by focusing our energy on how we can change, let go, and grow in a way to bring light into dark places. The way we bring light into dark places is by focusing our efforts on expanding the light, not by opposing the dark.

The second part of the Law of Opposition has been the most profound for me over the past few years.  As I experienced difficult things on my life-journey, people and experiences that felt like they were doing everything in their power to destroy me—oppose me and my growth—I felt weak and hopeless on more than one occasion. I compare this to the times at the gym when I’m increasing weights during my lifting practice. When I lift the heavier weights I feel weak, and thoughts of, “you can’t do this,” get louder in my mind. Ironically though, this is where and how I’m gaining my strength. It is indeed true that those things that are opposing us can be the very things that help strengthen us…if we choose. In our book, Victim to Victor, one particular photograph and caption story entitled “Holding” represents just this:

“I progressed against all odds, because of my own strength and because you actually provided the resistance I needed for this growth. I became in spite of you, and in some ways because of you.”

These words are based on experience. They are our truth. And they align with the key truth found in the Law of Opposition: whatever is opposing us can also strengthen us.

So bring it on…

We can choose to take the opposition and use it to find our strength, our voice, and our purpose. We can choose to focus our energy on our growth, not on resistance. We accept and we act. We become…

…stronger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s note:

Much thanks to one of my dear mentors, Dale Halaway, for all he has taught me in relation to this and for the invaluable truths found in his book referenced in this post:

Halaway, D. (2017). Being called to change.  Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press.

 

 

The Power of Okay

I have come to find great power in the ability to know and speak the words, “I’m okay.” It is more than a feeling or a seemingly less than ideal response to the question of, “How are you?”  It is a state of being. The full power of it is accessed when we become aware of the grounding truths contained within being okay.

There are three powerful truths found in the idea of being okay:

1.  First, feeling negative emotions or experiencing difficulties in life does not mean we are not okay.

Life is about change. Period. Our circumstances, experiences, thoughts, and emotions change constantly; yet, we worry so much about needing to be happy or looking like we are doing amazing all of the time. That isn’t reality. We will have days that our response to the question, “How are you?” might be something akin to awful, sad, frustrated, etc. Although we’d rarely admit those, because somehow we have come to believe that if we aren’t doing awesome, then something must be wrong–wrong with us. We have such fear of negative emotions that we do anything to avoid them–medicate them, ignore them, deny them, or project them. We tend to do this because there is often shame attached as a result of our belief that if we are experiencing these negative emotions, something must be wrong with us. It is okay to have these feelings. They are just feelings; they are not who we are. There is, however, important information contained in every emotion, which we can get to if we sit with them rather than run from them. I have learned that by resisting or running from those feelings, I just power them up and amplify them. And the greatest lesson I have learned is this: Even when I’m feeling the most painful of emotions, I’m still okay. This awareness is freeing. I am less afraid of difficult emotions or days when I just feel off, because in those moments I check in and ask myself, “Am I okay?” and nine times out of ten, the answer is a calming, yes.

2. Second, being okay is within our control.

This was not an easy one for me to grasp. I have often felt that things were happening to me and that I had little to no control in certain situations or just in life in general.  When I get in that space of victim energy, the fear and panic rise. I quickly start to feel, not okay. It is true that we cannot always control the situation and we can never control others; however, we can control our perspective, our response, and our action. That is so incredibly powerful. When I really claim this, I can feel the shift immediately–from panic to power. Our thoughts and beliefs shape our reality, which is so empowering when we are aware and begin to consciously act on this truth. We have the ability to go from not okay to okay; but to do that, we first have to accept that it is okay to be not okay. Accepting it without judgment is the first step to shifting it. The second step is to remember our ability to control our perspective and our response. And third, is an understanding that even when we do not feel okay, we are in truth really okay.  

3. Third, we really are okay.

This is a truth I have experienced over and over. We are carried. We are supported more than we can imagine and every moment is orchestrated for our benefit. Life really is happening for us. Even the awful experiences, the difficulties, the moments we wonder what in the hell is happening and who’s in charge…even those are for us. I am still not at the depths of this, but I am learning. This third point is found in faith with the potential to be knowing.  I believe we are loved beyond what we can imagine. I believe grace is woven into the threads of our lives and wrapped around us in the moments we don’t feel okay, reminding us that we are indeed okay.

I’m okay. No matter what has happened or what is in front of me, I’m okay. Yes, there are times I feel fantastic and times I feel awful, but in all those times I can also say, I am okay. The ability to say that and really know it in my soul is a victory that was hard fought and one that has changed my life.

When I get asked how I am, I no longer respond weakly that I’m just okay, but instead I respond with the full power of awareness of the strength and the beauty of what that really means.

I am okay.

There is Magic in Me

Belief is incredibly powerful. It can work to our benefit if we are aware or to our detriment if we are not aware of how it actually works. Understanding how beliefs are born and how they manifest in our lives is vital for us to harness that power.

The power of thoughts was not new to me. I have studied Cognitive Behavior Therapy extensively, and honestly I have read anything I could get my hands on to understand how our brain processes information and experiences. My mother had a great understanding of this, and I had also watched and learned from her early on.  What I had not tapped into yet, is how those thoughts turn into beliefs, and how those beliefs become the foundations that we create our reality on.

When we put the intention out there of what it is we are seeking and wanting to understand, it never ceases to amaze me how supported we are and how that information will find its way to us. I had set the intention and was seeking awareness and understanding as I worked on healing a core issue for me surrounding thoughts and beliefs, but had become frustrated because I felt like I did not have the time to read and research and do the work I knew needed to happen. With school added to my already full plate of work and kids, I have very little time left over to work on healing in the way I have in the past, and I was worried this issue would have to be shelved. Then the magic happened. As I was working on a project for school, I found my answers. The project involved creating a unit lesson plan for a literary book review for students based on a core text. I chose The Secret Garden as my text. Ironically, I had never read it before.  As I read and studied this book, I was overwhelmed with its’ beauty and message. And I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I gained clarity and understanding on what I was seeking.

The truth I was brought to is this: Thoughts that are repeated and attached to emotions will become beliefs. When we think a thought over and over, and strong emotions are attached, the thoughts become ingrained deep within us, and then they become automatized, which moves them from our rational brain to our instinctive, automatic brain.  We are often functioning under beliefs we are not even consciously aware of. For example, let’s say when you were young you were told over and over that you were “naughty” or “bad” when you did something the adult(s) felt was disobedient or not “good.” Maybe you were spanked or attention was withdrawn, so you had strong emotions of sadness and shame. You began to believe these words, and when you did something wrong you would think, “I’m a bad person.” Every time you had these thoughts, you would also feel the emotions that were first attached, and the pattern would repeat until the thoughts became automatized and you began to believe that you were just a bad person. Now this is a simplified and somewhat extreme example, but it shows how the process works. And this is not about blaming anyone else for our beliefs. It is important that we identify where they started so that we can change them, but blame does nothing for growth and change.

The message in The Secret Garden is entirely about our thoughts, how those become beliefs, and how ultimately they create our reality. The young main character, Mary Lennox, was the first to experience this awareness of what love and the power of thoughts can do to shift our reality. She was sent to live with her Uncle in England after her parents died, and it was in his home that she discovered her cousin, Colin. Colin’s mother died shortly after he was born, and his father could not be around him because Colin reminded him of his late wife. Colin was somewhat sickly, likely due to the emotional pain manifesting physically, and everyone taking care of him feared he would become hunchback and die before he reached adulthood. Colin believed in the fears of others and took what had been told to him as truth. Mary was the first person to not believe in what others were saying and spark the hope within Colin that something else might be true. As he finds healing with the help of Mary and Duncan, he begins to believe in the power of thoughts and everything shifts for him. At the pinnacle moment in the garden, Colin stepped into this truth completely and stated:

“The Magic in this garden has made me stand up and know I am going to live to be a man. I am going to make the scientific experiment of trying to get some and put it in myself and make it push and draw me and make me strong. I don’t know how to do it but I think if you keep thinking about it and calling it perhaps it will come….Every morning and evening and as often in the daytime as I can remember I am going to say, ‘Magic is in me! Magic is making me well!  You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever and I think it will be the same with Magic. If you keep calling it to come to you and help you, it will get to be part of you and it will stay and do things” (Burnett, 1962, p. 251).

Belief is the magic. “Magic is in everything, only we have not sense enough to get ahold of it and make it do things for us—like electricity and horses and steam” (Burnett, 1962, p. 250).

It is absolute truth. Belief is more powerful than we can imagine. Belief is magic. What we believe in is what becomes our reality. I followed Colin’s example and I tried the experiment. I started saying, “Magic is in me!” I recognized the power of my thoughts as the catalyst for my beliefs. I became more aware and I harnessed that power. We so often think our moods change because of circumstances and events outside of us, but we miss this truth: “…it is only your thoughts and beliefs which have the power to elevate your spirits. Another person’s approval has no ability to affect your mood unless you believe what he or she says is valid. But if you believe the compliment is earned, it is your belief which makes you feel good. You must validate external approval before you experience mood elevation” (Burns, 1980, p. 256).  It is not anything outside of us that creates our feelings, thoughts, or reality, but our belief in those feelings, thoughts/words, or what appears to be real that does.

With an awareness of the power of our thoughts and beliefs, it is important that we look at those and even challenge them. We can ask: (1) Is it to my advantage to maintain this particular belief? (2) Is this belief really true and valid? (3) What specific steps can I take that will allow me to rid myself of attitudes that are self-defeating and unrealistic, and substitute others that are more objective and more self-enhancing? (You can find more on challenging our distorted thoughts in a previous post.)

We have magic in us. The magic can be positive or negative depending on our thoughts and beliefs. Fear and disbelief are all founded in victim energy. When we recognize our power to shift our reality through our thoughts and beliefs, we move into victor energy. We can harness this power to manifest wonder in our lives. I believe this with every fiber of my being.

 

Resources:

Burnett, F. H. (1962).  The secret garden. New York, New York: J.B. Lippincott Company.

Burns, D.D. (1980) Feeling good. New York, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

 

Three Keys to Unlocking the Power of Positive Thinking

When you’re struggling and feeling really low and someone–with the best intentions–tells you it’s all in your head and to just think positively, it’s a normal reaction to want to punch them in the face. I get it. And let me explain why that’s a reaction. First of all, there is truth to what they are saying, but there’s an important piece missing that I’ve come to understand.

Everything, including thoughts and emotions, is energy, and energy functions at different vibrational frequencies. Positive thoughts vibrate at a higher frequency than negative ones. Sadness is a lower vibration than joy. So here’s the key truth: Thoughts are only anchored when they are tied to an emotion, usually of similar frequencies. Which is why it can feel like just thinking positive thoughts doesn’t actually work. If you are trying to think positive thoughts, but your current emotional state or environment is at a very low vibration, they are so far off from each other that the thoughts don’t stick–they don’t take because they feel untrue in your current state. We are wired for truth. Our body is our truth meter and it can tell when something is untrue or off and it tries to reject it.

There is absolute truth in the power of our thoughts. There is nothing more powerful when we are conscious about our thoughts and challenge our distorted thinking. Positive thinking does work and can shift us in amazing ways if we anchor them in higher vibrational states of emotions and environment. (My next posts will address how to process thoughts and emotions.)

Here are three steps to anchoring positive thoughts in a way that will make the practice more effective:

1. First, look at your physical environment. If you are in a room that is dark or chaotic, and you feel isolated or distracted in that setting, stating positive thoughts in that space will not be effective. Go to a room that is light, a room or space that brings you joy, or go outside so you can feel the sun on your face and the grass on your feet. (Nature vibrates at a high frequency, which is why so many people find it healing and find joy there.) Make sure your physical space supports where you are wanting to shift your thoughts to.

2. Release negative emotions. I will post more about ways to do this, but to start, simply become aware that the main purpose of emotions is to provide us with information. This allows us to look at them without fear or without powering them up. Getting in tune with what your emotions are trying to tell you and what they need will help them move. The book, The Emotion Code, provides some great tools on emotional release that I’ve found effective. You can also visualize them moving out of you, or you could use oils, tapping, or any other way that resonates with you. (Note: Those with diagnosed depression and/or other chemical imbalances may need medicine to help move out of debilitating emotional states.)

3. Consciously choose a higher frequency of emotion. Our greatest power lies in our choice; however, many of us are not accessing it fully because so much of how we think, feel, and act comes from habits and beliefs that are unconscious. So state out loud that you choose to move into gratitude, love, or joy. Gratitude shifts us faster than anything. Think of just one thing you can be grateful for and focus on it. You will start to shift the more you are in that space. Listening to upbeat music, dancing, exercising, or laughing will all shift your emotional frequency higher.

 

vibrational emotional scale

Notice on the chart that a state of quiet is a higher vibrational frequency than the negative emotions. This is why stating positive thoughts during meditation is so effective. You don’t have to be in joy or love before positive thoughts start to work, but you do need to be calm and conscious. You will get to the higher frequencies the more your thoughts and emotions align.

This is an empowering journey. It takes some work, but it is worth every effort. We do not need to be victims to negative thoughts or emotions. We can be victorious.

The Relationship I was Never Enough For

We come into this world so vulnerable and immediately dependent upon others for our care and well-being. This dependency moves from just our physical well-being to our emotional and spiritual well-being also. We learn very young how our behavior affects others, and if we behave a certain way then we get love and approval, but if we do not, the love and approval may be withheld. We become conditioned to looking outside of ourselves for our internal needs to be met. We look outside of ourselves to find validation and to affirm our worth. And yet, the greatest lesson we are to learn in this life is that everything we need on a soul level is found within ourselves and through our connection to the divine. Looking outside of ourselves for approval and validation can land us in a dangerous place.

Somewhere early in my life’s journey, I started to believe that I had to be perfect to be enough. Every time I fell short of perfection, which of course happened, and the validation or acceptance I was seeking was withheld from me by others, the self-defeating thoughts intensified. It is a foundational truth that thoughts that are repeated and emotionalized will become beliefs, whether conscious or unconscious. This became a core belief for me—I believed (mostly unconsciously at the time) that I was not and could never be enough. This propelled me into becoming a pleaser—I would do anything to please those around me, because if I did, then I felt like maybe I was okay and it would ease the deep pain of never feeling enough, at least for a little while. I would ignore my own feelings, deny my needs, and violate my own boundaries in an effort to please another person—to keep them happy, and to keep them in a space where they would provide the attention and validation that I so desperately needed to feel okay.

In this energetic space, I attracted in a relationship (my marriage) that would force me to recognize my worth from within rather than without. Not only was I unable to get the validation and support I needed, my sense of worth and value were often being directly attacked. When I found my strength and finally stood up and got out, I ironically attracted in another relationship that actually turned up the volume on this issue and made it even louder. At first however, it seemed the complete opposite. He seemed so kind and loving and offered the very things I had longed for. I turned over everything to him—my healing, my needs, my sense of self. Apparently I hadn’t learned the lesson on the level I needed to about seeking my sense of worth from within, and I ended up turning myself inside out trying to please him. Everything was my fault. And no matter what I did, it was never enough. Ever.

In my healing work, a mentor taught about the way energy works in relationships and the games that get played. One game is called the “pleaser” game. There are two players: 1) The first player signs up to be the pleaser, and they are driven by a need to please; and 2) the second player is someone who cannot be pleased, driven by a need to be a victim and stay stuck. Here is the most important truth about how energy works: If we need something we are in a lacking energy, and because of the way energy works, the status of lack will be maintained and we will actually push away the very thing that we need. The only way to bring something to us is by moving the needy energy behind it. So, if we have a core need to please, we will attract people in our lives that no matter what we do, we cannot please them. Let that sink in for a minute. When I came to this awareness I just sobbed and sobbed. It was absolute truth. Because here is the lesson: Another person can only meet us at the level we have met ourselves. We are to learn that our validation and worth must come from within and from our connection to the divine, not from outside of ourselves. So we will continue to be given this lesson until we get it—until we understand that until we see our own worth and provide our own validation and internalize that we are enough, we will not get those from another.

The relationship I was not enough for wasn’t my marriage or even the one after my divorce—it was the relationship with myself. I had lost trust in myself by dishonoring my own feelings and crossing my own boundaries. I had stopped honoring myself, moved into victim energy, and allowed others to dishonor me. I had attracted into my space those who would reflect back to me what I needed to learn and find within myself. After the hurt and on the other side of healing, I can truly say that I am so grateful to these men, and others, for showing me what they did. Until I am enough for myself, I will never be enough for anyone else.

This truth is profound and life-changing. With awareness, you can make a different decision. Be aware. What thoughts do you repeat and emotionalize and allow to become beliefs? Are the thoughts/beliefs empowering and supportive of you and your worth? Or are they negative and come from victim energy? Recognize that another person’s reaction is about where they are at, and not about you. Step back and realize that the people in our lives are there to reflect back to us what we need to see and heal within ourselves. When we recognize and own these truths, we begin to shift the dial from victim to victor.

 

The Truth About the Tree that Fell in the Forest

“Silence is golden.”

Well, not always.

I had a recent experience that brought me to my knees, begging for a response—for an explanation, for validation, for understanding—and I got silence.  It caused such intense pain with uncontrollable sobbing that I knew it was bigger than just that particular moment. At this point of awareness, images came across my field of vision like a movie screen showing other times in my life in which I’d been in this same position with the same result. As I was pleading to anything and everything, my mind became clear and a thought was brought forward. The thought was of the philosophical experiment regarding observation and knowledge of reality: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The truth was clear. Just because someone else does not validate our experience, it does not mean it isn’t real. Just because another doesn’t hear us, it doesn’t mean we aren’t speaking truth. Just because another doesn’t honor our feelings, it does not mean they are not valid. In that moment I called my higher-self forward, my “I am” presence, and she listened and validated. Essentially, I validated my own hurt and experience. In this moment of realizing that I do not need another to hear me, validate me or my experience, or believe my  truth—that it comes from me—something dramatically shifted for me.

As I processed this experience more deeply over the days following, I learned more about why silence can be so painful, and why that experience felt bigger than just that moment. I had learned when previously studying about boundaries that not only can there be boundary violations of intrusion, but also boundary violations of distance. This was the catalyst that led to my finding information on a form of abuse called “withholding.” This was a form of abuse I had experienced for years, but at the time I had no idea what was happening. I thought maybe I just needed too much, or had expectations I shouldn’t, or that something was wrong with me. None of that was truth.

Silence, particularly in the form of withholding, can be one of the most toxic and painful forms of abuse. It is a favorite of narcissists and those with anti-social characteristics.  Andrea Schneider (2014), a licensed therapist, stated that withholding “is designed to (1) place the abuser in a position of control; (2) silence the target’s attempts at assertion; (3) avoid conflict resolution/personal responsibility/compromise; or (4) punish the target for a perceived ego slight.”  The intent behind this type of silence is control and avoidance. It allows the person who is withholding to avoid responsibility. It is a cowardice way to control.

When control and/or avoidance is the intent behind any type of withholding—affection, words, attention—it is intensely damaging to the target. Even anger or words of attack feel less painful, because at least there is acknowledgement. Silence cuts to the very core of our sense of worth and existence. We feel invisible. And when we buy into it, we begin to disappear.  We are unable to resolve anything and we are forced into silence ourselves and spin in feelings of fear and abandonment. Boundaries of honor in relationships are violated. What is being taken away is acceptance and approval—core human needs—which is why it is so damaging. It is a withdrawal of approval and can generate real fear. The target often finds themselves groveling and doing whatever to get that approval—to get the silence/withholding to stop. I recognized I had done this in the past, and in this profound moment of awareness, I vowed to never do so again.

When we heal the need behind seeking approval or validation from others, it takes the power away from them to use that as a manipulative form of control. We get our power back.

Yes, sometimes silence can be helpful or even necessary to process and take time to re-center. Again, it is about the intent behind the action. There is always a positive and negative form of every action. We become empowered when we become aware and recognize the difference. When we can see the action for what it is, we can move out of fear and move into truth. We do not need to seek validation from others—especially those who are so unaware and unhealed themselves. Really when we think about it, it is silly that we do.

Internal validation comes from really knowing our worth. We must own that we are enough. If you do not believe it yet, believe in the possibility that you can get there. Begin with positive, empowering statements until they become beliefs (this topic will be explored in another post). State: “I am enough.” “I know my worth.” “I do not need other’s approval or validation to be okay.”

This is truth about the tree that fell in the forest—just because no one was there to see/hear it happen, it does not change the reality that it did fall. Your reality and truth is yours, even if NO ONE validates it. You validate it. You honor you. Take your power back.

 

Resources:

Schneider, A. (2014, June 2). Silent treatment: preferred weapon of people with narcissism. Retrieved from http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/silent-treatment-a-narcissistic-persons-preferred-weapon-0602145.

Speak Your Truth

Somewhere early on in my life, I took on the belief that it is best to smile and keep quiet. Best to keep the peace and appear…I’m not sure, “proper” maybe.  A part of me took this on and yet resisted it at the same time because deep down I knew this was not total truth.

Early in my adulthood, I tried harder to follow this belief, as it appeared to be more acceptable and pleasing, and I so wanted to be pleasing. Then after a personal experience where I had been quiet for too long, I started to find my voice. But in my effort to finally find my voice, I found it in anger. Anger is a higher vibration than sadness or hopelessness, so it does feel better at first, like you are getting some of your power back. Anger does serve a purpose to propel us forward and to stand up when someone or something has been dishonored, but then it needs to be let go of or the holding on to it becomes toxic.  True power comes from speaking your truth from a place of grounding, and not so much from intense emotions. When we speak from intense emotions and from a place of fear and need, we actually give our power away instead of reclaiming it. Taking a moment to process the emotions and get to the truth before we speak is a key way to ensure we are speaking our truth from a place of power.

When we need to speak up, but we keep quiet simply to avoid ruffling feathers or to keep others comfortable, it is dishonoring, to ourselves and even to them. The one time in His life the Savior became angry was when the temple was being dishonored. If we are in fact a temple, the symbol of a vessel that holds the divine, then without question the time to get angry is when we have been dishonored.  I have learned this for sure, that every time we do not speak up when we are dishonored it begins to wear away our soul.  In those moments, we give our power away, and instead of moving closer to our divinity we actually move further away from it.

Another truth I discovered on this journey is that once I found my voice and understood how to use it, I also learned how and when not to speak. I had to learn that it wasn’t weakness to be quiet at times, but another place of strength when you are standing in your power.  There is one amazing line found only in Matthew on the account of Christ that is so profound. There are many accusing Him falsely, provoking Him, and wondering why He will not speak up; and then this line, “But Jesus held his peace” (Matthew 26:63).  So powerful. Sometimes it is best to let the moment play out; to let others rage without joining in the energy or speaking when no one is in a place to hear. There can be great power in holding your peace. Maybe you will speak it later at a better time. Maybe you will hold it and decide it isn’t worth your energy and focus. And maybe watching the events will guide you to hold your peace and walk away for good. I had a profound experience with this that truly taught me there are times where the best way to stand in your power is to hold your peace.

Like all things in life, it becomes about balance. We will learn as we heal and grow how and when to use our voice, but we should indeed use it. We should use it to lift others, give light in the darkness, share love, and stand up by speaking our truth. This is how we stand in our truth and in our power.  This is how we truly honor the Divine, by honoring what He created.

Find your voice.

Stand in your power.

Speak your truth.

Maybe Now Is a Good Time to Close Your Eyes and Go Within

How does this look? We can catch ourselves quite often asking this, or more accurately, thinking it. We worry how we look, how the house looks, how we look as a mother, as a friend, as a saint, as (option to fill in the blank with pretty much anything). Although we may believe this, life is not actually about how it looks.

During a particularly difficult pose in yoga class, the instructor said these brilliant words: “Remember yoga is a feeling practice. This is not about how you look, but how this feels within you. Maybe now is a good time to close your eyes and go within.” My goodness, YES!  So I did just that…I closed my eyes and went back to how this felt within me. I quit worrying about how I looked in the pose (e.g., if my leg was as high as the person next to me) and focused on where I was at in this experience.

We are bombarded with how things are supposed to look. I’m not entirely sure where these ideas of how something is supposed to look originate from, but the real damage comes when we buy into them.  The idea of “perfection” is everywhere, and the idea of “becoming” has been lost. The truth is we are all becoming, and this becoming is the divine perfection.  If we function under the need to appear perfect, it moves us into fear and often results in further disconnect from self and others.  In our connection with others, we often only show the best parts of ourselves, because those are what seem to be acceptable, and we fear if we show any real weakness or faults we will be rejected; and in the very act of denying our true self, we are in fact rejecting ourselves.  This is the opposite of connection because it is driven by fear instead of love.

The greatest tragedy is this: We are so worried about how we appear to others and if we look good to them, we have completely disconnected from self and have no idea how any of it actually feels within us. We, quite frankly, have learned to disconnect from our feelings so completely, we honestly have no idea how we feel most of the time. And if something doesn’t feel good, instead of honoring that, we ignore it. We are masters of ignoring our feelings. Our feelings are there to tell us something—if a boundary has been crossed, if something is honoring or dishonoring, if something resonates with the highest parts of us. In order to really connect with others, we must first connect with self, and the vehicle for that is getting in touch with how things feel within us, not with how they look.

Now, don’t freak out. I find when we talk about doing things based on how they feel, we have an uprising of fear from people with images of evil ways of self-indulgence and debauchery. That’s not the direction I’m suggesting (nor is it truth). We have often been conditioned that we cannot trust how we feel—we are inherently evil after all, right? No, wrong. Yes, we have an ego-self that is often a result of trying to navigate this world—a self that is not necessarily our highest self—but this self has been created to protect us and needs to be acknowledged and honored as we move to creating a deeper connection to our highest self.  We do not need to fear our feelings. We can learn to acknowledge our feelings and honor them; always asking if the direction we are going is in our highest good. When we start to connect with our feelings and honor them, we begin to reconnect with self. This connection changes everything about the way we function and creates an alignment within that brings unimaginable peace and joy.

When we find ourselves worrying about how we look and how we compare, this is the moment to close our eyes and go within. This is the moment we can take a deep breath and ask, “How does this feel?” As we then honor the answer, we will regain our own trust. This allows us to navigate life from the space of what resonates as truth within us, and not from a space focused on how we will be seen. It is the most freeing and honoring space.

Maybe now is a good time to close your eyes and go within.

Be Here

I believe in seeking truth wherever it may be found. I choose to be open in a way that allows that to come into my life in whatever shape or form. That decision has opened a portal that has brought truth into my life in the most amazing and unexpected ways—seemingly small moments that change everything.

One of these moments of awareness and truth came in a yoga class—a statement uttered by my favorite yoga instructor. She is a wise, awake soul. She often speaks little bits of truth that seem to hit me with the force equivalent to an ocean wave crashing on the shore—leaving everything new and different, more real, bright, and in truth than before.  We were moving through the poses and she said, “Be here.” She expanded a little by drawing our attention to becoming completely present, and the importance of the grounding effect that has in each pose. But this truth went far beyond being present in the poses. It was profound.

During a deep search for light during a particularly dark time in my life, I came across this idea of being in the ‘now’ through the insights of Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now.  My life at that time, tied into to my unawareness, resulted in me primarily existing in flight or fight. My life was overrun with stress and fear and uncertainty. My adrenals were shot. Something had to change. I had taken bits of the wisdom from my mother and her learning of the power of “I am” and began to explore and expand upon that. From this space, a door opened to an awareness that shifted my life in remarkable ways; ways I had somehow almost forgotten until that moment in yoga that brought my awareness back to this truth.

Tolle (1999) shed a light on the stress I was experiencing (and had experienced so much of in my life) in a way that illuminated the truth so that I was able to see it clearly. “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there,’ or being in the present but wanting to be in the future. It’s a split that tears you apart inside. To create and live with such an inner split is insane” (p. 84).

When we are in fear and anxiety, we are existing in the future. And how often do we spend precious time ruminating in memories of yesterday? Sad or happy memories, it doesn’t matter. The point is if we are not present in the moment, in the now, we are missing it. We are missing life. When we live that way we are disconnected from what is, from ourselves, and from all that is divine because He exists in the now. In an instant, those words from the scriptures found in Matthew stood out to me and I understood the power of the real truth held within them:  “Take no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself….Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin” (Matthew 6:34, 28).   There is unspeakable peace and power in living in the moment and trusting it with every fiber of our being; it is the pinnacle of faith—the essence of what it truly means.

I have worked on this, becoming aware and present.  It is easy to do when our life is good and the present moment in-and-of-itself is wonderful—like when you are at the beach sticking your toes in the sand. Yes, those moments are easy to be present in. But what about the ones where you are on your knees? When the moment you are in seems unbearable? What then? The truth, my friends, to move through that moment is in fact found by becoming completely present in that moment; the power is found in accepting and surrendering to what is. It is insanity to resist what is. It already is. Surrendering is not weakness. “There is great power in it. Only a surrendered person has spiritual power. Through surrender, you will be free internally of the situation. You may then find that the situation changes without any effort on your part. In any case, you are free” (Tolle, 1999, p. 83).  Freedom comes when we are unattached—when we have no need or fear tied to the present situation. When we are in total faith of all that is; faith in our own divinity and connection to the Divine—this is when we are in our power. This is the power of being present.

One caution, our acceptance of a situation does not mean we are saying that a bad situation is okay, or that we will allow it to continue. We have the ability to choose to change it, but it can only be truly changed by first acknowledging and accepting what it is. Speak up. Create a boundary. Make a change. This is key—otherwise we are a victim to what is and are existing in it while resisting it, which is madness and will literally tear us apart from the inside-out.

“The opportunity that is concealed within crisis does not manifest until all the facts of any given situation are acknowledge and fully accepted. As long as you deny them, as long as you try to escape from them or wish that things were different, the window of opportunity does not open up, and you remain trapped inside that situation, which will remain the same or deteriorate further” (Tolle, 1999, p. 157).

It is difficult for me to describe the power I have found in this truth. Accepting what is and choosing to be present in the now, changes the next moment, and the next, in magnificent ways. This is where peace resides. This is where real joy is found. When I realize that I am existing in the past or projecting into the future, I can state those words, “Be here,” and I shift immediately.

I promise you will experience a shift if you explore this and experiment with those words. This is how we can really live.

Breathe.

Be here.