I had dental work done last week. I generally don’t like going to the dentist. I don’t like poking, scraping, prodding or pain. After the dreaded shot of novocain, the back of my throat felt like it was swelling to the point where I thought I couldn’t breathe. I was not having an allergic reaction but my mind was telling me to panic. I could feel it starting to take over. Then I remembered to think this through. If I didn’t focus on the swelling sensation, I could take a deep breath through my nose. I put my hand on my stomach and began to take slow, easy, relaxing breaths. I told myself, “You can breathe. You are OK.” The swelling sensation was still there but as long as I kept my focus on “You are OK” then I was OK.
Our mind is so powerful but we don’t often spend time thinking about how much control we actually have over it. It’s a potent weapon that, when unchecked, can cause devastating damage; however, when we learn how to manage its potency we become Jedi masters (not like we can make things move with our mind but you get the reference!). We can stop intrusive, unhealthy thoughts. We can shift our focus from grumbling to appreciation. We can recognize and live out our own freedom. Life is full and rich and satisfying when we use our brain’s influence for us, not against!
Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, anger management, anxiety, awareness, brain power, challenges to growth, cognitive behavioral therapy, creating change, emotional healing, emotional health, fear
“If we take responsibility for our feelings, we can use them to make our relationships better. Our anger is often a signal that someone has wronged us. If we feel that the person who has wronged us is responsible for our anger, we are in trouble. We will stay angry until the other person decides to make it better, and that could be a very long time.”
– Dr Henry Cloud
So, this is the quote I opened when checking my email tonight. This might not seem like anything to write about until you know the circumstances. I got into an altercation with family. As my anger rose and I sequestered myself, I thought I would use the time to check my email. I don’t always open Dr. Cloud’s emails because I get one every single day and I usually don’t have a whole lot of time to check my email so his usually just get deleted. When I saw it tonight I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder what Dr. Cloud has for me…hopefully something relevant,” and I got the quote above. It was awesome! So, I am breathing deeply, acknowledging and owning my anger, understanding it makes sense (based on reality not a made up story), accepting my part in it all and working on letting it go (not an instant action but I am on the right path).
Categories: Growth, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, anger, anger management, challenges to growth, creating change, emotional health, emotions, freedom, healing, recovery, relationships
I laugh when the very thing I write about catches me and spits me out! We planned a once in a lifetime trip for my husband’s mother. She is Norwegian but has never set foot on the soil of Norway…or anywhere outside of the United States. My husband had been promising her he’d take her there someday. At 81 someday needed to happen soon! So we decided to take the plunge this summer. The itinerary is planned, tickets purchased and passports are ready to go! Then, the unplanned jumped out and smacked us. My father-in-law’s health plummeted and my mother-in-law needs to stay with him. Go figure!
At first I was understanding. Then this nasty poison crept in. I realized we planned this whole trip for her! What!? You mean we’re spending all this money and taking time away from work (which for me with a private practice means zero income) and she isn’t even going? What?! Visualize my red face, temper rising, anger beginning to leak out all over the place!!!
In church a woman prayed, among other things, to speak blessings instead of cursings…healthy conviction began sinking in…well, after I had a little fit! Now I am amazed at my behavior. Really, Karen? You are incredibly self-centered sometimes. I must give myself grace as I always tell my clients and yet, I do hope that one day I can be more concerned about others than myself. Oh, and roll with the unpredictable a little earlier in the process.
Categories: Acceptance, Forgiveness, Growth, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, anger, anger management, awareness, being real, challenges to growth, creating change, emotional health, emotions, freedom, recovery, relationships
I had the opportunity last week to drive about 8 hours roundtrip in one day. My van sort of died on our way home from visiting family. A few days later, with little explanation from the mechanic, it was revived enough for us to drive it home, a miracle of sorts. You know, the kind where the person’s heart stops beating and everyone thinks she died but then she just wakes up and is fine. That’s my van. It has 196,000 miles on it…one of these days it will die and not come back to life.
This particular day offered me one of those opportunities where I had a choice to make. I could be pissed off at God or my car or whatever that we had to drive back to the place of my van’s pseudo-death and drive it home. Or, I could choose to be content. I chose contentment. I do not say this to win accolades but to reinforce the concept that contentment is a choice despite our circumstances. I recognize fully that my circumstance was a first world problem. My husband and I had to drive together in one of our cars to get the other car. Some people have no car. I get it. But I do live in a first world and this was a problem I (and many others) face.
There’s no magic in choosing contentment. You just consciously, with intention, do it. In my case, I looked at the drive as an opportunity to listen to a bunch of speakers I admire and learn from. Before we left I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown. They are my current favorites. I also downloaded a Story Telling podcast on the topic of addiction. The drive turned out to be intellectually exhilarating. I learned powerful lessons on that drive. Lessons I might have missed.
Every aspect of our lives is rich with meaning and purpose if we are willing to look under the surface and find it. We can! We have the amazing ability to look, to think, to question, to understand and accept. I love this about us!!! So today, how will you approach your circumstances in a way that inspires you toward contentment rather than dread?
Categories: Acceptance, Growth, Recovery
Tags: acceptance, achieving goals, anger management, awareness, being content, challenges to growth, Choosing contentment, codependency, creating change
What I love about these words from Viktor Frankl is the clear communication that we have a choice. We can choose how we are going to respond or what we are going to think or how we are going to act. Now I know it sometimes doesn’t feel like we have a choice but that is an illusion. Unless you have a diagnosable brain malfunction that makes it literally impossible to choose, you can choose. Viktor Frankl survived being a prisoner at Nazi concentration camps in the 1940’s. I think he knows what he’s talking about. Think about your circumstances, how they seem so awful and you think you don’t have a choice about how you respond. Now think about being in a concentration camp where you literally have no visible choices. Dr. Frankl has communicated to us from real life experience that we always have the ability to choose how we will respond in any circumstance.
What is it that you are facing right now that you think you don’t have a choice? Is it true you don’t have a choice? Do you have to yell at your partner because you are so angry that she won’t listen to you? Do you have to believe you are not enough because that’s the message others have told you? Do you have to go on ruminating on everything you have to do because that’s what you’ve always done? The answer to all three and many more is, No! You get to choose. Right now you can choose to believe that you have value and worth. You do. Simply because you exist, you matter. You can choose a healthier way to communicate your frustration with your partner. You can stop those runaway-train-like thoughts. You really can. I know all of these for a fact because I have done each one.
It seems really hard at first to start choosing and not being a victim to the world around you. Don’t give up. Stay with it. If you find you need help, then reach out for it. You may need a counselor/therapist. Go for it! You have a choice there, too. 🙂
Categories: Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Parent-wounds, Recovery, Relationships
Tags: ability to choose, anger management, anxiety, awareness, choice, fear, freedom, freedom from being a victim, neural pathways, relationships, victim, victim mentality, Viktor Frankl
My first thought after hearing about the massacre in France was, tolerance. We cannot change the hate in the world, but we do have the power to change our feelings toward and thoughts of those with whom we are at odds. Each person who does their part creates a ripple effect that can eventually spread throughout the world.
I recently watched Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce and his crusade to abolish slavery. He had few supporters at first. Slavery had become a widely accepted practice throughout the world. Wilberforce knew it was wrong and spoke out against it. He was just one man, but he was not alone. The band of abolitionists grew and of course we know now how it all played out.
We will never change anything in this world as long as the factions are motivated by hate. We will only create change when our motivations come from a tender place within. A place that seeks to understand why a person might think or act the way they do. A place that sees people as individuals not as stereotypes. A place that seeks to mend not destroy. Few of my readers live lives remotely close to Charlie Hebdo’s. We are not on the front lines of political battles. So you might think, “What does any of this have to do with me?” A lot!
Think about the way you react to a post you don’t like on Facebook, a tweet, an email, a comment. How do you respond to people’s views about hot button topics like Gun Control, the environment, abortion, health care reform, immigration? Do you get angry at the person because they don’t agree with you? Next time this happens, step back for a moment. Breathe. Then seek to understand this person and why she believes as she does. Your job is not to force another to see your point of view. You job is to seek to understand. To really listen and to acknowledge you have heard her point.
When we take this stance we remove a lot of the hot anger that can sever a connection with a person. Perhaps it will set the stage for actual dialogue rather than accusations and profanity that are rarely productive. Remember your job is not to change but to listen and understand. It may seem contrary to your mission: to spread your beliefs to perhaps create change. But has anyone been sincerely won over to another way of thinking through anger?
In the world of change, we often hit a wall of sorts. The place where we think, “I can’t do this!” The task or path seems far too difficult and sometimes we quit. There’s a story in the Bible of a man who goes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells the man a few things and the man says he’s done them. Then Jesus says, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” The man walked away with sadness because he didn’t think he could do that…he hit his wall.
What is your wall? Is it setting the alarm earlier so you can exercise, have a little quiet time to yourself or be on time? Is it getting off the couch so you can tackle your pile of paper, clean your house, do your laundry or even cook yourself a healthy meal? Is it ridding your life of alcohol, drugs or unhealthy relationships? In order to create change in our lives we have to take that big step at some point in our journey where we do what we need to do in order to live a healthy, balanced, more satisfying life.
The “can’ts” aren’t real by the way. They are just lies that we believe to be truth. Think about your “can’t.” Now ask yourself why you believe it’s true. Challenge the can’t. I can get up early, I can organize my paper piles, I can stop buying unhealthy food. Look at your history. You have overcome obstacles and can’ts to get where you are today. Build on your strengths to move forward and overcome this latest “can’t” and start telling yourself you can!
You will likely need support in your journey. Get involved with a group of people who are tackling their own “can’ts”. You may need the help of a professional trainer, organizer, weight-loss counselor, coach or therapist. There are many resources out there to help you. Maybe the first step will be getting the support you need so you can create change and get over the wall.
Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships
Tags: addictions, anger management, being real, challenges to growth, creating change, getting over obstacles, healthy living, organization, weight loss
We do it often. We’re driving along and some other driver does something we don’t like so we blame. It’s much easier. It seems as though it’s a reflex we don’t even need to think about. It usually feels good in the moment but it is poison to our body. Does this sound familiar: The car in front of me is going so slow. “What’s wrong with you? You shouldn’t have a license! Idiot!” I yell at the driver in front of me. A person I don’t even know. A situation I don’t fully understand. I make assumptions about this person. Assumptions that could be wrong and assumptions that fuel my anger. In this case, this kind of anger is not helpful. The anger fuels blame. Generally, there is nothing I can do that is both legal and healthy to solve this problem.
So, what do we do? Take a slow, deep breath and stop blaming the other person. If it’s a car that is driving slower than you would like, own that you want to be going faster. If you can’t safely and legally pass the car, then start letting this situation go. You might say things like, “I have no idea what’s going on with the other person but the fact is I must slow down to match his speed. I’m mad because I want to go faster and I can’t. Am I mad because I’m late? I better own that. I’m late. It’s my fault that I didn’t leave early enough to allow for slow traffic.” This will usually calm your heart rate and you will back off from the car in front of you. A slower heart rate is better for your general health and you will arrive at your destination relaxed instead of hyped up on adrenaline.
Whatever the situation, ask yourself if you have any control that is both legal and healthy (beating someone up, shooting someone, ramming into their car or getting super close, yelling profanities at people, blaming, shaming…fall into the category or either not legal and/or not healthy). If you have good options, take them, like waiting for a safe opportunity to pass the car (without staring down or flipping off the driver). Own your anger and let it go. These are often situations where we have little control. They simply aren’t worth losing points on our health meter.
If you are unable, on your own, to stop being so angry with other drivers, it could be helpful to work with a coach or therapist to address your anger.
Last night my husband came home really late. He has been working a lot this week. I have a big day today and wanted to be well rested. The clock read 11:22 when he came in the door. Part of me wanted to lash out at him. I was angry he was interrupting my plan. Then it occurred to me that I could choose to be really angry with him, or I could choose to let it go. When I went into the “let it go” place, I felt my body relax, tension disappeared, my breathing was easy, I felt lighter. When I was feeling angry and resentful, I felt my muscles tightening, my head ache, my breathing was shallow and I did not feel good. I focused on letting it go. I breathed out the anger. I noticed the anger wasn’t helping me and I couldn’t change the situation. I was able to relax into the space of “it is what it is”.
The practice of releasing our anger is incredibly freeing. When we are facing a situation we can’t change, we have the power to choose to let anger take over or release ourselves from it. I’ll tell you from my own experience, I like being in my own skin best when I choose to let it go.