Choice in Emotion and Beliefs (Healing Part 3)

Once we begin to identify our emotions, we are able to process them. In connection with processing the emotions, we need to be aware of a few of points:

  • Identifying emotional triggers can help shift and even avoid negative emotions.
  • Recognizing how emotions feed off of each other is key to not powering them up.
  • Powerful emotions connected with patterns of thought can become beliefs and we need to challenge those in pursuit of the truth.

So first, we can look at our emotional triggers, which are events in the outside world and thoughts within us that cause emotions to well up. An example of a trigger is a song that makes us sad, or a certain person that makes us mad. Something about that person or situation triggers us. The truth is they do not make us feel anything. Again it goes back to our filter and how we perceive what is happening. Other people and situations are simply mirrors to reflect back to us what we need to heal within ourselves. If we are truly healed, circumstances and people outside of us will no longer be a trigger. We will simply become observers gaining insight and giving love and light.

The positive aspect of triggers is that there are some situations outside of us that can help shift us when needed. A happy song or the smile of a friend can help us move to positive emotions. That is a wonderful help, but not a permanent fix. Ideally happiness will come from within, independent of anything or anyone outside of us.

This begins by realizing we are in control. We can choose our thoughts, our emotions and our reactions to them. When negative emotions come up, we can process them, choose the positive emotion and consciously choose our reaction.

When we feel emotions, we also feel a reaction in our body that is ready to respond to those feelings. At this point, there is a choice. When we feel angry, we do not have to yell. When we feel sad, we still have a choice of how to deal with that emotion. Often those actions can intensify our emotions or create new emotions. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy, they like to say, “Emotions love themselves” (2003). Once an emotion is activated it organizes the person’s mind and body in such a way as to continue the emotion. So when an emotion is fired-up, that same emotion tends to re-fire again and again. By becoming aware of our emotions and the situations that trigger them and then choosing our response to that will give us our power back. Our emotions do not need to control us.

We must also be aware that powerful emotions experienced with thoughts can become beliefs. If we feel unloved, we can begin to believe that we are unlovable. This is an untruth. When we become aware of thoughts and emotions turning into beliefs, we can challenge those and look for the truth while dispelling the untruth.

We know that everything has its opposite. This is true in the healing process: For every negative emotion there is a positive emotion; for every harmful action there is a healthy action; and for every unhealthy belief there is a transforming belief. We can choose what is in our highest good. When we identify a negative emotion, a harmful reaction or an unhealthy belief, we can state with power, “I do not choose ______________ anymore. I choose__________________.” The power of choice is profound.

Choices

Listed below are the opposites of the emotions, actions and beliefs so that we can consciously choose through awareness. This is so worth the effort. Negative emotions and harmful actions and unhealthy beliefs affect our health, our relationships, and our overall happiness. Our divine blueprint was wired for the higher vibrational emotions and actions and beliefs; when we choose those we are more in line with our higher-self. (Note: Sometimes we can feel like we are trying to choose higher emotions, but keep getting stuck in the lower ones. we can then beat ourselves up because we feel like we are failing. Failing is a trick of the ego to keep us in shame–we are not failing. Remember that if an emotion is getting stuck, it may be because we have not learned what we needed to, or we are getting some payoff from being in that energy that we are unconscious of. As we raise our awareness and look in truth, we can help ourselves heal and let go of that negative emotion, where we will find the freedom to choose higher.)

 

Emotions/Thoughts/Beliefs

Love:

The negative emotions: unforgiveness, a feeling of insignificance and resentment.

The positive emotions: forgiveness, significance, compassion and empathy.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: I am unlovable. I am insignificant. I am flawed.

The transforming beliefs are: I am significant. I am whole.

 

The harmful action is: selfishness.

The healthy actions are: Loving myself and others, and being committed to truth.

 

Joy:

The negative emotions are: sadness, depression, feeling inferior, worthless, and flawed.

The positive emotions are: happiness, excitement, exhilaration, confidence, strength, wholeness and self-worth.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: I am hopeless. I am worthless. Life is hopeless.

The transforming beliefs are: I am a person of worth regardless of any circumstances. I have unbounded hope for the future.

 

The harmful action is: self-abuse

The healthy actions are: Self-care. Believing in my power to start each day anew and heal. Trusting in my ability to feel joy.

 

Peace:

The negative emotions are: anxiety, worry, and fear.

The positive emotions are: a sense of peace and restfulness; that indescribable feeling that everything is okay, just the way it should be.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: Something bad is going to happen. The future will be like the past. I am not okay.

The transforming beliefs are: Wonderful things are in store for me. My future is not tied to the past. I am free. I am always okay.

 

Patience:

The negative emotions are: impatience, anger, frustration, insecurity, desire for immediate love substitutes.

The positive emotions are: contentment, satisfaction, security.

 

 

The unhealthy belief is: Something has to change right now for me to be okay.

The transforming belief is: Even though I’m always growing and learning and getting better, I am satisfied and content right now.

 

Kindness:

The negative emotions are: rejection, hurt, fear (fear comes from hurt and rejection).

The positive emotions are: total and unconditional acceptance of myself and others.

The unhealthy beliefs are: People will take advantage of me (if you have been rejected). People are too sensitive (if you are the one who rejects others).

The transforming beliefs are: I love everyone. Everyone is different but we all have worth and value. I choose to honor the divinity in others.

 

Goodness:

The negative emotions are: fear and shame.

The positive emotions are: thankfulness and gratitude.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: I am bad. I am not good enough. I am unforgivable.

The transforming beliefs are: I am good. I am enough. I am forgiven. I am.

 

Trust:

The negative emotions are: distrust and being judgmental.

The positive emotions are: faith in the past, trust in the present and hope in the future.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: People are out to get me. I must be in control. Life is not fair.

The transforming beliefs are: I will receive all good things by surrendering to love and truth. I can lay down control.

 

The harmful actions: Attempts to pull others down.

The healthy actions: Believing in truth and love without judgment.

 

Humility:

The negative emotions are: guilt, shame, wrongful pride.

The positive emotions are: Belief in the true identity of myself and others.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: People must think well of me for me to be okay. I am either better than or less than others.

The transforming beliefs are: I do not have to try to be someone I am not. I stand in my truth, the truth of who I am (my higher-self). We are all of worth and equal.

 

Self-Control:

The negative emotions are: laziness, entitlement, and helplessness.

The positive emotions are: confidence in my true self and my abilities.

 

The unhealthy beliefs are: I can’t do it. I am not capable and others should do it for me.

The transforming beliefs are: I am capable. I can do it. I don’t have to get others to do it for me. I have a say over my life.

 

Action:

When you recognize a belief ask yourself: (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?

Key 1: “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. This validation represents your personal self-approval” (Burns, 1980).

Key 2: Worth is an abstraction. Our worth just is. It is not determined based on what we do or do not do. Rather than grasping for worth we can aim for satisfaction, learning, growth and peace.

Key 3: “Perfection is man’s ultimate illusion. It simply doesn’t exist in the universe. It’s really the world’s greatest con game; it promises riches and delivers misery. The harder you strive for perfection, the worse your disappointment will become because it’s only an abstraction, a concept that doesn’t fit reality. Everything can be improved if you look at it closely and critically enough—every person, every idea, every work of art, every experience, everything” (Burns, 1980). Accepting what is, in gratitude, with an intent to move forward and progress a little at a time is a healthier place to function from.

 

References:

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

Loyd, A. (2011). The Healing Code. Grand Central Life and Style.

Spradlin, S. (2003). Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life. How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control. California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Processing Our Feelings (Healing Part 2)

Just as our thoughts affect our feelings, so do our feelings often create and affect our thoughts. We often associate our feelings with who we are and with what is truth. Burns stated it this way:

You take your emotions as evidence for truth. Your logic: “I feel like a dud, therefore I am a dud.” This kind of reasoning is misleading because your feelings reflect your thoughts and beliefs. If they are distorted—as is quite often the case—your emotions will have no validity” (Burns, 1980).

Other examples:

  • I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Therefore, my problems must be impossible to solve.
  • I feel guilty. Therefore, I must have done something bad.
  • I feel inadequate. Therefore, I must be a worthless person.

Because things feel a certain way, especially when they feel negative, we take that as reality. It is KEY that we challenge the validity of the perceptions that create our feelings. If we learn to change our feelings (remember energy/matter can be altered), we can change our thoughts and experiences in the present. Our feelings are not who we are, they are simply feelings. We do not need to fear them. If we can embrace that truth and create a relationship with our feelings, we can get to what they need and help alter them and/or help release them.

*Remember: Your feelings do not determine your worth, simply your relative state of comfort or discomfort.

 Just as we started working with our thoughts by first becoming aware of them and simply observing them, it is the same with our feelings.  We want to become aware of our feelings and how we relate to them.  Begin observing and recording your feelings. Use statements like, “I notice I feel…” or “I observe that I’m feeling….” Also record the thought(s) associated with that feeling as it comes up for you.

Next, we look at our relationship with our feelings. How comfortable are we with our feelings?

When we experience feelings that are uncomfortable we tend to do anything to avoid that feeling and the physical sensations associated with it.  Dale Halaway teaches that there are five main options we can choose from when these feelings come up. We may use all the options although we usually have one or two that we prefer (or have become automatic).

The five options are:

  • Stuff them (food, gambling, sex, drugs—anything to get an immediate change to a pleasurable feeling)
  • Project them (blame circumstances or people—make it about the other person and in doing so we go into victim energy)
  • Avoid them (get quiet, withdraw, literally run for the hills)
  • React to them (power them up by giving them more energy—drama)
  • Clear them (Become conscious of them, feel them and process them)

Without question only option 5 is in our highest good and the one that leads to a real change in the feelings and allows us to move to the higher vibration emotions like peace, contentment, joy and love. There is no judgment in doing the other four. We all use them from time to time. However, by becoming aware, we have more of an opportunity to choose differently rather than going with our automatic response in unconsciousness. Working at this a little bit at a time, we can chip away at buried emotions and process new emotions providing the opportunity to change them or release them and change our life experience. It is worth every effort.

For more information and practical exercises on how to process emotions feel free to contact me.

 

References:

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

Halaway, D. (2014, October). Transform Your Life. Seminars That Inspire. Seminar conducted from Las Vegas, Nevada.  (See www.seminarsthatinspire.com)

Spradlin, S. (2003). Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life. How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control. California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Our Thoughts (Healing Part 1)

Our thoughts and our feelings seem to work together, one affecting the other. It is sometimes difficult to determine which one comes first…a little like the chicken-or-the-egg. Most often though, our experiences come through our thoughts first, which creates a feeling, and those feelings often create automatic thoughts that can trigger emotions (big shift tied to action) and result in a reaction that can show up in our behavior and beliefs.

It is not that any of these are bad, per say. The issue lies when they are happening automatically without awareness. So to begin the journey of processing and healing, we simply choose to become aware. (State, “I choose to become aware.”)

“Your emotions result entirely from the way you look at things. It is an obvious neurological fact that before you can experience any event, you must process it with your mind and give it meaning. You must understand what is happening to you before you can feel it” (Burns, 1980).

Since our mind (i.e., our thoughts) is what affects how we understand and thus feel, this is where we will start: Becoming aware of our thoughts through mindful observing.

Mindful observing involves focusing our attention and intention. We must choose to become aware of our thoughts. Mindfulness helps us become more aware, intentional and participatory in our own life, and present in each moment. The benefits are profound.

When we begin to become mindful, it is vital that we let go of preconceived notions about self and others and reality. We MUST let go of judgment. Judgment is based on beliefs that have come through our experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and may or may not be coming from truth or from our highest self or source. We simply become an observer—watching without judgment.

When we are able to observe our thoughts without involving ourselves as the thought, then we can see them for what they are, identify them, challenge them, and then change them if needed.

Often times, writing down some of our thoughts helps us look at them more objectively and recognize patterns in our thinking. Keeping a small notebook with you to jot thoughts down as they come up is very helpful.

The next step is to become aware of distorted thinking patterns that have possibly become automatic for us and are affecting our emotions and our actions. Negative thinking can not only keep us stuck, but can also set us on a trajectory that leads us further away from our higher self and our divine purpose.

Here are a few of the distorted thinking patterns that can become automatic and are important to become aware of:

  • Filtering: You take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all the positive aspects of a situation.
  • Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. You have to be perfect or you’re a failure. There is no middle ground.
  • Overgeneralization: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once you expect it to happen over and over again.
  • Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling toward you.
  • Catastrophizing: You expect a disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start “what ifs”: What if a tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you?
  • Personalization: Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who’s smarter, better looking, etc.
  • Control Fallacies: If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control has you responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.
  • Fallacy of Fairness: You feel resentful because you think you know what’s fair but other people won’t agree with you.
  • Blaming: You hold other people responsible for your pain, or take the other stance and blame yourself for every problem.
  • Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.
  • Emotional Reasoning: You believe that what you feel must be true automatically: If you feel stupid and boring, then you must be stupid and boring. (We will discuss this more in the next post.)
  • Fallacy of Change: You expect that other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.
  • Global labeling: You generalize one or two qualities into a negative global statement.
  • Being Right: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness.
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off as if someone were keeping score. You feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

The next step after identifying distorted thought patterns is to challenge those thoughts. Challenge your thoughts and distortions and come to your own defense. Offer a rational response that is more in truth to the highest parts of you and are of a positive and higher vibration.

So here are the steps:

  1. Observe (and record) your thoughts without judgment.
  2. Become aware of distorted thinking patterns and which ones you most frequently experience.
  3. Challenge distorted thinking with a rational response based on truth.

(If you would like charts to help with the steps, just email me and I will send them along.)

This process is the beginning of amazing transformation. Here we go!

 

______________________________________________­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________

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

 

The Process of Healing

The word healing creates different thoughts and responses. We often think of healing in the physical sense—such as a cut that slowly heals and returns to what was “normal” before the injury. When the word is used to describe recovery from an emotional injury, there can be mixed responses with images of lots of talk therapy or holistic “voodoo.” It is easier to grasp physical healing because we can see it, touch it—experience it with our senses—and, thus, understand it. Emotions, thoughts, and anything internal that cannot be seen or touched seem a bit dicey. The truth is, though, that thoughts and emotions are experienced and sensed not only from our inner perspective (feeling body) but often from our outer perspective (physical body), as well.

We understand what it is like to feel anger, sadness, joy, or peace. We understand what it is like to have an idea, a thought, and work toward seeing it manifest. Thoughts and emotions are energy. Everything is energy, including our thoughts and our feelings. They are matter. And according to what physics has taught us, matter cannot be destroyed, but it can be altered. Experiences or events can trigger or create thoughts and feelings. Once we have a thought or a feeling, the energy created is either projected or, often, stays within us. The energy does not just magically go away. When we’ve experienced these thoughts or emotions tied to an event or experience, they are ours to own.

Maybe that seems odd. Once the experience itself is done and gone, then aren’t the emotions or thoughts tied to the experience gone, too? Not necessarily. For example, let’s say someone cuts you off in traffic, but instead of being a little annoyed or not even bothered at all, you become really bothered and intensely angry. The emotional response doesn’t seem to fit the experience. There is a reason for this: If you have angry energy from other experiences that you have not yet processed, it becomes reactivated or triggered by the same emotion. The result is an emotional response that is far bigger than what matches the moment. This can happen with any emotion, but it occurs primarily with the negative emotions. These are the ones that need healing. They need to be processed and must be let go. The positive emotions aid in healing and growth, while the negative thoughts and emotions do not. They keep us stuck. So, how do we heal them? process them?

It is fairly simple. The first step is becoming aware of our feelings and acknowledging them. So often when we feel negative emotions, we do everything in our power not to feel them because they are uncomfortable. We shove them down, project them, or run from them. Again, this doesn’t mean they are gone. They simply need to be observed and acknowledged (this is based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Acknowledged—not judged or feared. This is key in the process. Once they have been acknowledged (and recognized as just a feeling and not who we are), we simply ask ourselves if we can let them go. Most often, we can say yes. When that is not the answer, the emotions are likely there to tell us something. When we do have negative reactions, it is this amazing opportunity to look at something within ourselves that we need to heal.

The next step is to become aware that emotions are usually triggered or reinforced by our thoughts. If we can become aware of distorted patterns of automatic thinking, particularly at the point of negative emotions, we will have gained a powerful tool. There is an entire therapy based on this called Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It has been shown to have remarkable results in numerous cases and situations. Emotions and thoughts tend to work in tandem. Being aware of both and learning tools to change thought patterns and process emotions will change our entire experience.

The third, and profoundly important step, is to become aware that emotions, more often than not, are driven by basic needs. Hale Dwoskin in The Sedona Method (2010) names four core needs: the need for control, the need for security, the need for separateness, and the need for approval/love. Other methods point to many needs that can fall under those four core needs, which may be driving the thoughts and emotions we experience. If we can learn to let go of needing those things, the emotions and thoughts manifested because of those needs change, move, and most often no longer come up. It’s not that having those things is bad; it isn’t. It is the needing them that is the problem. Those negative emotions are a clue telling us a need may be behind them, and, when we release the needy energy, the emotions can shift and can be let go. In truth, all of life is an act of letting go. Living without attachment or need is where real freedom is found.

Processing simply means to allow, acknowledge, experience, and let go. There may be a truth we need to look at in connection to the emotion or thought. Perhaps we feel anger because we have a need for control. This need may have been activated because, at some point, an experience tied to emotion created a belief—an untrue belief—that, unless we are in control, we are not safe. When we acknowledge and become aware of the untruth behind this belief, we can find and state the truth, which shifts everything.

Truth shifts our energy. Gratitude shifts our energy. Love shifts our energy. All of these positive, higher-vibration emotions are healing. But they can’t just cover negative emotions; that does not work, either. Those negative emotions must be processed for there to be real change. Remember: They are energy, and energy cannot be destroyed, just changed. When we acknowledge the negative emotions, look for truth, and give them what they need, they will either change or move out of us. This is healing.

healing photo

Here is what healing is not: Healing is not just talking about our issues; this just brings the energy up and tends to create more issues if we do not have tools to process them and do not change our thoughts and feelings. (It is a helpful first step, however, as it can make us aware.) Healing is not merely hoping they magically go away. And many believe prayer can bring healing. I believe that, as well. We always get divine help when we ask, but there are often lessons we need to learn for our progression that come only in that process of our becoming aware of all of these things and working through them.  As we process and work through our experiences, emotions, and thoughts, we gain knowledge and awareness that empower us in profound ways. This knowledge and awareness actualize freedom and power in our greatest gift—the gift of choice.

My personal beliefs are sacred to me and are something I do not choose to share in detail publicly. I honor and respect the beliefs of others and believe healing can be found from many roads. I do see, however, that those coming from a Christian background often struggle to pursue healing for fear they are not seeking healing at its source, Jesus Christ. In my experience, it is, in fact, the opposite. I first go back to the physical example. We know that if we have a broken leg, we need to get medical help for the healing to begin. It is the same for emotional wounds; we are wise to seek tools and understanding of how to heal the emotional issues, as well. And I point back to the life of Christ: His every act was about healing. Every one. And not just physical healing, but emotional and spiritual healing, as well. Becoming as whole as we can be and connecting to our highest self is the way of progression. If we do our part to heal the emotional issues, then we are able to respond in love and kindness because we function on that level. There is no more anger, fear, or need within us. In the very act of healing, we can become more like Him.

It is a process. It happens in layers. I have sought the best ways to heal and to process emotions and negative thought patterns. Over the next few weeks, I will share the beginning practice of processing and healing. I have put together the best materials from all I have studied and experienced. The more we heal, the more we move into our highest self, the more we can function from love, and the more we will have peace. It is wonderful, amazing, and life-changing. If it resonates with you, great. If not, that’s okay. There are many paths to this end, and I encourage you to find yours. I encourage you to seek healing, whatever that looks like for you, because it will change your life experience in indescribable ways. This is my hope for every being everywhere: to experience a life full of love, peace, and joy.

Love and light.

Resources:

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

Dwoskin, H. (2010). The Sedona Method. Arizona: Sedona Press.

Spradlin, S. (2003). Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life. How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Put You in Control. California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Truman, K.K. (2003). Feelings Buried Alive Never Die…. Utah: Olympus Distributing.

 

Mountains and Bear Hunts

I had a friend ask me if I had ever thought about climbing such-and-such mountain.  It had honestly never crossed my mind. When I get asked something, however, I like to pursue it a bit. Examine it closely and see if there is anything deeper there for me. (Ponders…)

Yep. I have NO desire to climb a mountain.

But why, I wondered. That seems like a great thing to accomplish. And then the thought came into my mind loud and clear: I have already climbed several mountains, thank you.

I have physically done a few hikes up mountains, yes, but I meant something different. I know what it is like to stand in front of a mountain and wish there was a way around it…or better yet, a way to move it. I know what it is like to be so overwhelmed at the climb in front of you that your chest feels tight and tears come in continuous streams. I know what it is like to start that climb despite your fears and reservations and the strength it takes to start to move. I know what it is like to feel like you’ve been climbing forever only to look back and realize the ground is just a little bit below you.  I know what it is like to have moments where every part of you is so tired you can’t see straight; moments where you would give anything to be able to just go back or somehow magically fly to the top. I know what it is like to have the air get so thin you can barely breathe. And I know the heavy thoughts that rise to consciousness and take all your reserve of strength to combat: Please just let this be over. I will never get through this. I can’t do this.

But I also know what it is like to stand at the top of that mountain and feel indescribable relief and joy wash over you. And most importantly, I know what it is like to look at the other side and know that everything that you were meant for is now accessible to you. To not only have thoughts realized that you are strong enough and that you can and did do this, but because you experienced it, they are now deep beliefs you feel with every part of your body and soul. That strength and knowledge is the greatest of gifts from the climb.

I have learned a few things from climbing these mountains. First, resisting the climb does not help. Resisting something that is just creates unnecessary angst and drains you of energy. Surrendering to the process of the climb is vital for success.

Secondly, there is no other way to gain the wisdom and strength that comes from each particular journey other than going through it. This brought to mind one of my favorite children’s books, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I taught dance for years and used this with my little ones as a great activity to explore types of movements and tie it to a visual experience. In the story, the family goes on a bear hunt only to be continually faced with a new obstacle like tall grass, lakes, and mountains.  As they discover each one, the narrator states: “Can’t go under it, can’t go around it, we have to go through it.”  Profound truth indeed. We can actually avoid things. It is always our choice whether or not to do the hard thing that will grow us, or to stay where we are at and stay safe. Our ego wants us to stay safe, because what that really means is we stay stuck. If we never get on the other side of the grass or the lake or the mountain then we never get the experience, wisdom, and strength that comes from that journey. We only have access to the higher parts of us by going through it. Going through the experience moves us from possibilities to certainties; from thoughts or hopes to truths; and from who we can be to who we really are.

I have climbed a few mountains. I wanted to go around them or under them. I wanted to make them move. And even with my awareness of the payoff of going through that experience, when I stand in front of a new one, those thoughts still come. I am learning though, that I can choose to surrender to the climb and I can allow every experience to be a teacher. This allows me to focus on the journey rather than the destination. It is, after all, all about the climb.

In, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, there is another repeating verse that stood out to me. The narrator states, “I’m not afraid! Are you? Not me!” We need not be afraid. We are never alone. And we are ready for the climb or we would not find ourselves at the base of this particular mountain at this particular time. Each previous climb has prepared us for this moment. We are everything we need to be.

I’m not afraid.

I’m going to go through it.

 

 

 

 

Where We Find Our Power

Three things: 1) Experiences in life are an opportunity to learn; 2) the people we meet are our teachers; and 3) the truths we hear, and recognize as such, wake us up. I keenly remember one of those “wake up” moments, which happened while watching the movie Spiderman. The line Uncle Ben shared when talking to Peter resonated deeply with me: “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is truth. My life experiences have taught me there is another deep truth found within those words. I will come back to that.

Why are we fascinated with superheroes? I believe it is because deep down we know there is more to us than what appears on the surface. We are more than our thoughts, feelings, and weaknesses. We are more than this physical form. We want to believe we have superpowers. We want the power to overcome fear and darkness. We want to be limitless. We look for ways to empower ourselves and step into our best self. So how do we empower ourselves? Where do we find our power?

Our power is found in a couple of places. Our power is first found in our honor. When we honor ourselves through love and positive choices that aid in our growth and healing, we reclaim some of our power. When we consciously choose to move from victim to victor, we find who we truly are and step into everything we can be. There is great strength found here. Honoring ourselves allows us to honor others. Honor holds great power.

The next place we find our power is by owning what is ours to own— taking responsibility for our choices and the consequences of those choices.  I heard a quote years ago that has stuck with me: “A person’s self-esteem is in direct proportion to the amount of responsibility they take for their actions.” This was another “wake-up” moment for me. That statement is total truth. I do believe we are more—divine. So when we are imperfect and make mistakes, we often want to hide them. Most cultures induce feelings of shame for making mistakes. When we take judgment out and simply observe, seeing every mistake as an opportunity to learn, it is safer to own. And who’s to say it is even a mistake if it takes us to where we need to be with new insight and understanding?  When we choose to look at the truth, whatever that is, and own it, then we are in our power. We cannot change things about us—we cannot grow—until we honestly own where we are at. It is important to understand that change and growth cannot happen in judgment, only love. This is paramount.

There is a flip-side to this coin. Just as much as not owning what is ours can keep us stuck, so can owning what is NOT ours to own. For example, when we are in a relationship that ends and we take the blame for all of it. This is not healthy, nor is it truth. Each person in a relationship has ownership of their feelings, thoughts, reactions and choices. When we try to own those for the other person, both of us become stuck. We cannot process those for another. We cannot heal for another or grow for another. When we take it on, they lose the opportunity of owning it in truth, which provides the opportunity for them to “wake up” and heal. The key is to own what is ours and let others own what is theirs.

Hiding does not come from a place of power. Running does not come from a place of power. Blaming does not come from a place of power. All of these come from fear and a victim mentality. When we hide or run or blame, we actually give our power away. The truth is that with responsibility comes great power.

So there it is. This is the truth hidden within those words I first heard on Spiderman. With a little rearranging, a profound and life-changing truth is found:  “With responsibility comes great power.”

power

 

 

The Pity Potty and Other Pearls of Wisdom from My Dad

My dad is a quiet man. When he does speak, however, his words are genuine, kind, and wise. Our conversations that have included his carefully worded advice (which he rarely gives because he never wants to intrude or bother) have had a profound effect on me and my life. I often write about my mother and her insightful words of wisdom, which have become dearer to me since her passing, but my father’s words have meant just as much. I have listened and taken note. They are indeed pearls of wisdom and I have chosen my three favorite to share in celebration of his life.

Pearl #1: Make a list of what you want to accomplish in a day and diligently work at it one item at a time.

My entire life my father has worked more than one job. He accomplishes more in a day than most of us do in a week. He was always up at the crack of dawn and was the one to wake me for school (because he was up and ready to go before I’d even contemplated rolling out of bed). He’d come home after his first job around 4:00pm, change his clothes, and head to the next job. He’d usually land home after 9:00pm, and that was if he didn’t have meetings or other obligations besides work that day (a rare occurrence). I distinctly remember the day I asked him how he was able to accomplish so much with everything he had on his plate and without getting overwhelmed. He pulled out a couple of 3×5 cards from his front shirt pocket. On those cards was a list of all the things he needed to do that day. He proceeded to tell me that he just did one thing at a time and kept going down his list until they were done. He said if he didn’t get to it that day, he’d simply move the item(s) to the top of his list for the next day. This simple piece of advice has helped me keep perspective and accomplish what I have needed to. I make lists almost every day, although I prefer small notebooks that I keep in my purse (mostly because I don’t wear shirts with pockets). The concept is the same, however. And it works.

Pearl #2: If you say you’re going to do something, do it.

My father is a man of his word. He honors his commitments and follows through on what he says he’s going to do. If my dad says he will do something, you can take that to the bank. I only remember him explicitly stating the above pearl a few times, but he lived it by example every day. I have not been perfect at this one. But I have never forgotten it and continue to work towards honoring his example by being a woman of my word.

I can count on him. Everyone can count on him. And that is worth more than gold.

Pearl #3: Don’t stay on the pity potty too long.

This one is my favorite. My dad has a wonderful sense of humor, which he often uses when sharing advice to keep it light. So I was pouting (feeling fantastically sorry for myself about something) and he smiled at me and said, “Shantell, it’s okay to feel bad. Sometimes things are crummy. But it is important to not stay on the pity potty too long.”  Now when advice is given but not actually practiced by the giver, it doesn’t hold much weight. On the flip side, when advice is given from experience and example it is profound. My father has had a million reasons to sit on and STAY on the pity potty (refer back to Pearl #1 for starters). He has had a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders with providing for and taking care of our family. He was such a support to my mom and I know it could not have been easy for him at times. But he never complained. Not once. It wasn’t that he just refrained from complaining, because if he had felt like a victim and had the “poor me” mentality, it would have shown up somehow. But he has never viewed himself that way. No matter what has been in front of him, he has always looked for the good. He could have felt sorry for himself being married to a woman with a chronic illness. But all I’ve ever heard him say in relation to this is what an honor it was for him to love her. He could complain about all the times he’s had to step in and help me. Again, he hasn’t. All he’s ever said is how much he loves helping. His humility and willingness to give in love often leaves me speechless.

Thank you, dad, for all of your love and support and for your profound pearls of wisdom.

It is my greatest honor to be your daughter.

 

 

 

The Power of Effectual Struggle

There is a profound difference between struggle and effectual struggle. I was aware of the two concepts independently of each other, but their connection and the importance of that difference became incredibly clear during an experience working with teachers.

I was at the end of day in which I had trained teachers on effective strategies to help struggling readers decode (i.e., break down and read) unfamiliar words. I moved into teaching the teachers how to help students transfer these skills to their reading, and I was introducing the concept of accountable reading. Accountable reading is the idea that once students have skills sufficient to handle unfamiliar words, they should no longer be allowed to just guess at or skip the word (or ask the teacher to give it to them).  They are accountable for what they know and responsible for applying those skills to the task at hand.  I offered steps to help guide a student in this process, which starts by encouraging the student to sound out the word all the way to the end a couple of times, and then if they still don’t know the word they are to apply the skills they have learned systematically.  Once they apply their skills and work with the word, then they are to try and sound it out again a couple of times through. They must do all of this before they can ask a teacher for help with the word. A teacher raised her hand and asked, “So we’re just supposed to let the student struggle with the word?”

I could feel the concern in the teacher’s voice. I recognized the energy of the emotion from my own experiences, and my conditioned response—based on these experiences—came up first and I wanted to say, “No! Don’t let the poor child just struggle!” I had to stop the words in my throat before they reached my mouth. I needed to process for a moment.

In that moment of seeking clarity and truth, all the pieces that I had collected in relation to this instantaneously came together and the full picture come into view.  Those moments still amaze me—moments that happen at the speed of light and yet somehow seemingly in slow motion.

Here is the truth that came from that moment of clarity:

I knew that desire to help all too well. My son, who is dyslexic, would struggle so much when we were reading when he was little. I hated seeing him struggle and I did not know at the time why he was struggling or what to do to help. I did not have the right tools to help him, so I could not give him the right tools. There was no good outcome from the struggle. It was a destructive process that only caused frustration, damaged his self-esteem, and left him feeling powerless. In that case, letting him struggle was not effective and giving him the word seemed like a great kindness. But it still left him powerless.

As understanding flooded in, I answered the teacher with great confidence, “Yes, let the student struggle. Because here is the key: The student now has the tools to work with the word so that at the end of the struggle they will feel empowered because they were able to apply skills and gain something from the process.”

When we have knowledge and tools to apply to our challenges they become effectual, because with those tools we can get to the other side with greater knowledge, confidence and experience. We will be successful when we have tools sufficient for the task at hand.

Tools
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

I realized why watching someone struggle who does not have the tools necessary to get through a challenge is so painful— It will not be an effectual struggle. In those moments, it is merciful to help. I realized that this is what it comes down to as a parent. When our children are struggling, we are to determine if they have the necessary tools to make this struggle constructive or if it will end up being destructive. If it is destructive, we need to step in and help. Our job is to give them as many tools as possible, so that whatever challenge comes in front of them they will have the right tools and can walk into the situation with confidence.

I believe this is one of our greatest missions on this journey of life. We are to empower ourselves with as much knowledge and as many tools possible so that whatever situation comes our way, the struggle within that experience will be effectual. And within those effectual struggles, we often gain new tools that will help us be better prepared for the next experience—more complex tools for complex challenges that yield deeper and more profound growth.

When we continually turn to others to rescue us, heal us, basically ‘give us the word,’ we are left powerless. It is simply a temporary fix that alleviates the pain of the struggle for a moment, but leaves us unprepared for everything in front of us. We often shake our fist at God for not stepping in and helping during our struggles (at least not to the level we’d like). We want the pain to stop. We want it all to be okay. In those moments, I do not believe that God is choosing to exercise His power in a cruel way, but in a beautiful way that allows us the amazing gift of discovering our own power.

It is the highest form of love—allowing another to go through the process to find their power—to allow them to struggle. That can feel ‘off’ at first, but when we understand the difference between struggle and effectual struggle, the greater purpose comes into focus and we can see what sufficient tools can build. Therein lies our power.

Leaving Things Better Than We Find Them

I still remember the moment my mother called me into the bathroom after she’d gotten ready for the day and taught me a very important lesson. She was wiping down the sink and she said, “Shantell, we should always leave things as nice as or nicer than we find them.” She taught this lesson over and over, mostly through her example. I often hear her voice whisper this kind truth to me when I’m staying at someone’s home and I imagine her smiling as I wipe things down.

As with most of my mother’s pearls of wisdom, there was deeper truth to be found beyond the obvious. As I look back at my mother’s life I realize she did this in every interaction. People were left as well off, but often better, than before she found them. Is this possible? In every interaction in our lives is it possible to leave people better off for having known us? I would like to believe so.

Not every encounter or relationship continues, but even in the ending of connections I believe there is a way to keep from leaving them the worse for wear.  When we are committed to honoring ourselves and honoring others and we live by this, there is an element of respect that guides the outcome and makes it one, that even though it might be painful, that won’t be destructive. And if during the relationship of whatever kind, we align ourselves to this highest good of giving to the other person in ways to help build them, then that gift continues even if the relationship itself does not.

The more aware I become and the more I heal and connect to my highest self, the more I am able to do this. It is my soul’s desire upon the realization of this deeper truth found in my mother’s lesson that I am able to leave people (and even better continue with people) better off than when I found them.