Our lives are filled with so much out of our control like illnesses, political decisions, weather, other people’s choices… So what’s a person seeking to live a healthy life supposed to do? Look at each situation in your life and pull it apart, investigate it. What’s really going on? Who are the players? What is their role? Is this something you have absolutely no control over in the happening part of it? Where do you have control?
We always have some control. At the very least, we can control what we are going to do in any situation. If a person has a gun to my head, I can still make choices around my words, my thoughts and my actions. I might end up shot anyway because I don’t have control over the other person. I can dress appropriately for the weather, but I can’t control what the weather does. I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, but I can’t make it be healthy. I can write a letter or call my Representatives in the US government, but I can’t force them to vote how I want.
When we look at and act on the areas where we do have control we get a sense of empowerment, which usually spurs us on to take more action within our control. Remember when exercising control to keep it in the realm of healthy, legal and wise. Very rarely you might find yourself dealing with an oppressive government or situation which might call you to do something illegal. I’m thinking of the underground railroad during the time of slavery. It was illegal to provide shelter and escape for the slaves, but people did it anyway because the law was wrong. Breaking the law was about preserving human decency, not taking it away.
Most of us aren’t, and hopefully will never be, in that type of situation. For now, find the areas in your life where you think you have no control and give it another go. Process through it and find strength in your God-given right to decide how you want to deal with it. 🙂
Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, self care, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, anger, challenges to growth, Control, creating change
In my line of work, I repeatedly help people identify their emotions. For some, a lifetime of shoving emotions away in an attempt to avoid pain creates the belief that they don’t have emotions. Then I come along and challenge that line of thinking and completely rattle their world. A person enters my office because something isn’t working. It’s possible a spouse, family member, co-worker or friend may have suggested they seek counseling but no matter the why, the person has voluntarily entered my office (I rarely work with court-ordered clients). They embark on a journey that has twists and turns, rocks and ravines, steep hills and eventually a place of inner peace and integration. Life doesn’t necessarily get easier, just more manageable. The person has healthy tools to navigate the challenges that will inevitably come.
Integration means the person will now feel the full experience of life rather than run away from or try to bury the emotions they don’t like. At first this is unsettling because it’s unfamiliar. After time, as feelings become more understood, they are easier to accept, acknowledge and process. Now the person experiences inner peace and the confidence to be fully present in life.
I know this journey! I learned to stuff my emotions because I thought only happiness was acceptable. I cut off so many emotions. When I was challenged to fully feel, I had no idea what I was doing. It took years of therapy, coaching and participating in safe groups to get to the integrated place I experience today. I am not saying I have it all together, just solidly committed to this journey of healing and relishing the freedom I experience today.
Do you want peace, confidence and freedom, too? Get help! We cannot do this on our own. Find a therapist, coach or group that will guide you toward understanding and integrating your emotions. Check out Psychology Today or Theravive to find a therapist/counselor near you. If you live in the Denver/Boulder area you can contact me 🙂 Journey Forward
Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, achieving goals, awareness, being real, brokeness, challenges to growth, counseling, creating change, emotional health, freedom, Journey Forward
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
I am human through and through! I have had time to reflect on my “family altercation” last week and realized that all of it could have been avoided had I not stepped in. It seemed to me that getting involved was the right thing to do, to speak for someone who wasn’t speaking for herself. A classic co-dependent move on my part. Although a decision had been made that was ridiculous in my mind, the best action for me to have taken was no action. The decision didn’t involve a life or death situation, just an uncomfortable one that truly didn’t involve me.
So now my mind has moved to wondering how I could have avoided this? Sometimes I can see situations with such intense clarity I sense I am gifted with invaluable insight. At other times I bumble so horribly I wonder how it is I do anything well at all! Such is the life of a human. We are not robots who are programmed to always make the right decision. We are capable of change and making wise choices but we also always carry with us the capacity to blow it. Remember the neural pathways? The unhealthy routes don’t go away, they just get weeds growing through the pavement. They are still accessible. When I’m tired, hungry, in pain, sick, over-extended or ungrounded, I am far more likely to forgo the wise for the unhealthy.
This could easily be a situation where I turn on myself and beat myself up for blowing it. But I won’t. It’s not worth it. Beating myself up never gave me the energy or motivation to change. I’m also not so sure I wish this hadn’t happened. I kind of like my humanity. It keeps me grounded to myself and others. We are all bumbling our way through life. If I ever got to a place where I believed I had arrived, I would lose my compassion for others. I would expect everyone to get where I have gotten. I don’t ever want to be in that space…ever! So, I am embracing my humanity…celebrating it! I love being me, flaws and all 🙂
Categories: Acceptance, co-dependency, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, awareness, being real, challenges to growth, creating change, emotional health, freedom, freedom from shame, healing, recovery, shame
“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
Have you ever been filled with such intense determination to change something that you thought, “OK, this time I really mean it!”? You started out with some success only to be thwarted and end up quitting. It’s the lament of many of us. What is the deal? Why is it so hard to change? The answer: you’re fighting against solid wiring in your brain called neural pathways. We have the life-long ability to lay down new wiring in our brains but if the new wiring is contradictory to existing wiring, the existing wiring has the first right of refusal…and it doesn’t refuse to be first! That’s what you’re up against when you want to change a behavior, action or reaction.
In order to create any kind of change whether it’s a physical movement (think professional athletes) or a behavior, you have to start by laying down new wiring, new neural pathways, by doing the new action or choosing the new behavior. It’s not natural at all because it’s not something you typically do. As you continue to use the new behavior or movement, you get better and better at it but this takes a lot of repetition and a lot of time. The old pathway doesn’t go away so you will feel almost pulled to it time and time again. If you’re not aware of what you are doing, you will go back to the old way. Sometimes even being aware doesn’t stop us! The more you use the new path, the stronger it gets. The goal is to get the new pathway stronger than the old pathway so it takes over on the first right of refusal contract.
Keep this in mind as you seek to change. It’s incredibly hard! It takes a lot of time and intention. If it’s something you really want, you can do it but you will have to work at it every day. We tend to create change more permanently when we enlist the help of others. So, if you are serious about it enlist the help of a coach, counselor or mentor. Being in a group with others who are on this change journey can be incredibly helpful as well. Going it alone is almost always unsuccessful so set yourself up for success by doing all you can to create and strengthen a new neural pathway!
We may not always have this perspective about our struggles, especially when we are going through them! When we get to the other side, this perspective of the challenges we face can bring healing versus stagnation. This view will help carry you through the next challenge. As you embrace each challenge in life as an opportunity to grow and develop the mind ‘muscles’ necessary to take life full on, the challenges begin to take on new meaning. Life is hard. It’s going to continue to be hard. The goal is not to avoid the challenges it is to grow through them!
Categories: Acceptance, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, awareness, challenges to growth, creating change, emotional health, freedom, healing, recovery
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 don’t really mean we can predict what’s going to happen but we can predict there will be winding, unexpected occurrences in our lives. I’m certain you know what I mean because if you are breathing you have experienced some moments or seasons you did not think were going to happen. Sometimes they can be good things…sometimes they don’t seem good at all. The best job you can imagine…a baby…a broken bone…a new house…a free cup of coffee…an accident…a call from a friend…a broken water pipe…cancer…a puppy… I could go on but I think you get the point. We have no idea what is going to happen in the next second, really. We can guess and sometimes our guesses are spot on but we don’t really know. Anything can happen. And you know what? That is life.
One of the biggest dangers we can get caught in is believing we know what’s going to happen. We are making assumptions and you know what they say when we assume? It makes an ass out of u and me. What’s even worse is we set ourselves up for disappointment. We can slip into an emotional downward spiral because we assumed or predicted and we were wrong. One of the best words of wisdom I’ve heard was from a man named Toby Shope. He was preparing me and others for a journey to Afghanistan. We learned how to dress and act to honor the Afghan culture.
Toby taught us to have a blank slate approach to our experience. Just let the canvas be filled in as I take each step of the journey. This concept has helped me so many times since the day I learned it in 2010.
My daughter Anna, whom I have mentioned in many previous posts, has Cystic Fibrosis and received a lung transplant in 2013. She’s experienced so many set back and challenges throughout her life. Just recently she learned she has rejection. At this point it’s treatable so we are hopeful. Learning of the rejection was a reminder that so much in our lives is out of our hands. The less I cling to what I think should happen the easier it is to accept what is happening…to let the blank parts on my canvas of life be filled in as I take the steps rather than having to waste a ton of energy erasing what I thought would happen and then trying to fit what is happening on top of the erased parts. It’s cleaner if I just let it happen…it’s going to happen anyway.
Categories: Acceptance, Depression, Growth, Recovery, Self-Help
Tags: acceptance, awareness, cancer, challenges to growth, cystic fibrosis, emotional health, freedom, lung transplant